Can there be good without God? Or, is morality possible without God Or, is morality possible in a naturalistic worldview? Paul Copan, in his essay “Ethics Need God,” in Debating Christian Theism (ed. JP Moreland, C. Meister, K.A. Sweis), argues that Christian theism provides a much firmer foundation for morality than naturalism.
Note this: Copan does not argue that only theists believe objective morality exists, that belief in God is required for morality, that atheists or nontheists are immoral, etc.. He’s arguing that theism offers “a far more likely context than naturalism/nontheism for affirming objective moral values and duties” (85).
His hard-hitting, even polemical, piece includes a list of nontheist thinkers who believe without God there is not moral ground: Sartre, Nietzsche, Russell, Mackie and Dawkins (“no evil and no good”). “The worldview favoring a robust moral world is theism, in which a good, rational, supremely aware Creator makes human beings in his image” (87). One of the more interesting points made in this piece is that because humans are made in God’s image, and because that image provides moral intuitions, nontheists have moral intuitions. Not sure yet what to make of this, but as an explanatory device it makes sense to me.
I find this important: “Naturalism’s inability to get beyond descriptions of human behavior and psychology (‘is’) does not inspire confidence for grounding moral obligation (‘ought’)” (88).
Copan argues that self-awareness/consciousness, reason and the capacity of free will, three elements needed in moral theory, are not as easy to account for in nontheism as they are in theism.
The Euthyphro dilemma (Is what is holy holy because the gods approve it, or do they approve it because it is holy?) requires another option: namely, that what is holy/good is holy/good because God’s is holy/good. So neither the command nor an independent existence grounds morality.