Socrates said, “Philosophy begins with wonder” and nearly all human beings at all times have looked at the world around them and, given its beauties, powers, and complexities, asked if what they saw was designed by a mind for a purpose.
I think it is vitally important to think hard about God. Whether or not you are a committed atheist, a believer in God, or something quite different—knowing why you come down where you do is a mark of a good character, of a thoughtful soul, of a person who cares about what reality is like.
So Question: Do you find these arguments compelling? Does the argument give you pause, or actually sway your thinking? Do I pitch the argument well, or could you state these arguments in a more compelling way? And of course the real question—Am I getting the list right?
#10 Moral Truths.
Here’s two formulations of the argument.
(P1) Either theisms or materialism is true.
(P2) Some actions are always wrong.
(P3) “Wrongness” cannot be established by a material universe (“You cannot derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’).
(C1) Therefore, Theism is true.
A more complex version might be:
(P1) Morality requires both (1) a motivation to be moral and (2) an objective, ontological grounding of moral truths.
(P2) Only a being of immense power that cares for us, could save us from ceasing to exist when we die.
(P3) If we cease to exist when we die, nothing we do will benefit us after death.
(P4) If (P3), the choice to be moral or immoral will not benefit us after we die.
(P5) Some immoral choices can benefit us (murder, torture, cheating, successful bank robberies).
(C1) If we cease to exist when we die, some people would have more beneficial lives by making more immoral choices.
(C2) If (P2) and (C1), a being of immense power that cares about us is necessary for the motivation to be moral (1), and this being we call God.
(P6) Moral truths exist only in minds.
(P7) Some acts, like torturing little kids for fun, are wrong at all times.
(P8) If moral truths are objective and ontologically grounded (2), there must be a mind which contains such moral truths at all times.
(C3) An eternal being with a mind is an adequate objective, ontological grounding for moral truths (2), and this being we call God.
(C4) Given (C2) and (C3), only God belief provides both a motivation, and an adequate objective, ontological foundation for morality.
(C5) Given (C4), God-belief is necessary for morality.
For me, there is an easy out. One simply needs to deny that there are moral truths, which—if one is a consistent materialist—shouldn’t be that hard. Societies create laws that promote the most happiness for the most people, and that is often enough for us practically. If practically we can establish morality, why should we care about if something is wrong “objectively”? There’s no reason to require something above and beyond that verifies what we have discovered through experience: suffering is bad; happiness is good; we prefer societies that maximize happiness.
However, if we hold to the reality of morality then moral truths are an anomaly for materialism and at the very least they make the existence of a God more likely (as atheists like Sartre and Nietzsche have both argued), if not prove that God exists.
JEFF COOK teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado and is the author of Everything New: One Philosopher’s Search for a God Worth Believing in (Subversive 2012). He pastors Atlas Church in Greeley, Colorado. www.everythingnew.