I have to sheepishly admit that some of my teenage daughters’ lingo is rubbing off on me. After reading James Peron’s awful attempt to answer Dr. Michael Brown’s question of why marriage should only be between two people, I said out loud, “epic fail!”
Outside the same sex marriage debate that still continues to rage in the news, you have other moral issues pushing front and center these days. For example we’ve just been treated to a Planned Parenthood doctor casually saying she doesn’t “crush that part” while referring to how she does her best to preserve a child’s vital organs while she commits fetal homicide. Another PP official stated how she needed to make money off fetus body parts because she wants “a Lamborghini”.
Other recent moral news highlights include the website Ashley Madison admitting that its database of 37 million members, who sign up for the sole purpose of finding someone with which to commit adultery, was hacked. According to Bloomberg, the company had sales of $115 million last year, is looking to IPO soon, and estimates its valuation at $1 billion.
Such stomach-churning episodes bring to my mind Isaiah’s words that he wrote over 2,700 years ago: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Is. 5:20). But they also cause me to wonder how much further we have before society hits moral rock bottom.
In truth, these things and more are beginning to necessitate that we up-level the questions being asked from whether abortion is right/wrong or same-sex marriage is morally OK to one that I’m becoming increasingly afraid to hear our “civilized” culture’s answer: Is there anything wrong with anything (hereafter referred to as the Big Question)?
Looking to the Source for the Answer
If you’ve spent any time studying moral philosophy or ethics you know there are many proposals on the table for how to distinguish between right and wrong moral conduct. Further, if you’ve studied law, you understand there are complicated twists and turns in determining where a person’s rights begin and end.
However, the United States, in its inception, clearly indicated the source behind understanding both moral right/wrong and an individual’s rights. Our Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” You won’t find a statement made by any other nation like this – moral benefits and rights based on a divine creative act.
While the value of such a thing is understood by Christians, it is consistently overlooked by non-Christians who have forgotten their history and who should remember that (1) a government big enough to give you your rights is big enough to take them away, and (2) morals not grounded in God devolve into pure opinion. This is why those who helped give birth to our nation aimed higher for their Source of rights and morals.
These facts typically produce howls of protest from those like Mr. Peron, but let me show you why even prominent atheists don’t disagree with what I’ve said.
Why Atheists and Christians Agree
When Frederick Nietzsche ruled God out of his picture, he was honest about what that meant from a moral perspective: “You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, it does not exist.” Oscar Wilde viewed moral choices as, “Nothing is good or bad, only charming or dull.”
Today’s heavy-hitter for the atheist crowd, Richard Dawkins, has said the same thing: “life has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” Regarding how one attempts to distinguish between “charming or dull”, the atheist Bertrand Russell gives us his opinion in an answer he delivered to the Jesuit philosopher Frederick Copleston during one of their debates: “On the basis of my feelings, what else?”
Atheist and biologist William Provine describes how Darwin and naturalists in general see the issue of ethics playing out: “When Darwin deduced the theory of natural selection … He understood immediately that if natural selection explained adaptations, and evolution by descent were true, then the argument from design was dead and all that went with it, namely the existence of a personal god, free will, life after death, immutable moral laws, and ultimate meaning in life”
I could provide more examples, but there’s no need as the above showcases well what leading atheists know about removing God from our moral picture. They’re absolutely correct and, again, likely what those framing our country knew, which is why they grounded our source of rights and morals in God.
Here’s the Rub
So how does a nation answer the Big Question if God is not considered? Here’s where it gets messy because only four options remain and none work.
The natural universe cannot provide an answer because you can’t get moral grounding from amoral matter; it’s metaphysically impossible.
The democratic process cannot provide an answer because we have seen too many times that those demanding their rights apart from God feverishly work to overturn the majority opinion (e.g. Proposition 8; Roe v. Wade) in order to move their agenda forward. Add to this issue the fact that there are multiple cultures in the world and what one may deem morally correct another could reject.
Science cannot provide an answer as Einstein noted: “You are right in speaking of the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn round and speak of the scientific foundations of morality.”
Individual opinion cannot provide an answer because most all people live in a society where individual opinions clash every second of every day.
But the worrisome thing is, apart from God, opinion is all that we’re left with to answer the Big Question.
We Know Better
While those who reject Christianity admit morals without God are just matters of opinion, they also admit – and most importantly act like – morals are not just matters of opinion. Yes, you heard me right.
Listen to what atheist philosopher Louise Antony says about morality being objective and not mere opinion: “Any argument against the objective reality of moral values will be based on premises that are less obvious than the existence of objective moral values themselves.”
In other words, the fact that morals are grounded in something more than opinion is much more obvious than anything put forward against that fact. In essence, they agree with the first two philosophical points below but staunchly remain obstinate in denying the third:
If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
Objective moral values and duties exist.
Therefore, God exists.
Where Does This Leave Us?
As Christians we know that only God can ground moral values and duties into something that is objective and not opinion – something that can answer the Big Question with certainty. We also know that God does not wish that any civil right become a pathway to a moral wrong.
Without God, we see abysmal attempts such as Mr. Peron’s to draw lines between moral right and wrong using only opinion and terrible arguments that won’t hold water against behavior he deems personally unacceptable. Minus a transcendent source, he cannot achieve with any confidence what C. S. Lewis wrote: “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line” because his “straight line” is one that he draws without any objective standard in sight.
As our nation slides further away from God, the rejection of the Creator referenced in our Declaration of Independence puts us at the mercy of only the government to protect our rights and oversee moral behavior. With no way to answer the Big Question with any clarity, it leaves us in a position described in the Old Testament book of Judges very sad ending: “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
Without question, a very scary place to be.
 The first openly lesbian member of the Massachusetts state senate and one-time president of the Human Rights Campaign.
 CNN Crossfire (February 24, 2004), Transcript #022401CN.V20.
 Owen Gingerich, “Dare A Scientist Believe in Design?” in Evidence of Purpose: Scientists Discover Creativity, ed. John Marks Templeton (New York: Continuum Press, 1994), 30, my emphasis.
 William Lane Craig, On Guard (David Cook: Colorado Springs, 2010), pg. 129.