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Can Ethics Exist Without God?

Today, I was sent a message from a friend who recently went back to college. She has been taking an ethics class and was instructed by the atheist professor that she is to “skip over” the parts about Christianity and God in her textbook.

I found this extremely interesting.

Today, we will be discussing why there cannot be any objective standard for ethics without factoring in the existence of God and the global impact that Christianity has had on morality as a whole.

First, let’s start off with the definition of ethics:

1. Moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the conducting of an activity.

2. The branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles. (1)

Ethics is essentially the study of morality and figuring out what is the right thing or wrong thing to do in any given situation. From an atheistic perspective, this is actually impossible to do unless we are merely discussing subjective moral values. As Richard Dawkins, Oxford biologist and one of the worlds most famous and outspoken atheists states:

“This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous – indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.“ (2)

What would make Richard Dawkins say such a thing? Why would he believe that we need to accept that there is “no good nor evil”?

This is because, without the existence of something beyond the physical universe we all live in, there Is nothing objectively good or bad about anything that happens here. Good and bad have no objective standard to go by and vary from person to person and culture to culture.

If when we die, every bit of our consciousness just fades to black, our earthly death is the literal end of our existence and there is nothing beyond this physical universe, then how could anything be objectively wrong or right? If we are all just a bunch of amebas that somehow evolved into apes through billions of years of blind, unguided “natural selection”, then how do any of us have more value than any mosquito we’ve ever clapped out of existence in fear of being bitten by it?

If at our core, we are just a bunch of atoms bumping into each other, then crimes we as a society consider to be “evil” such as the murder of innocent children or the 6 million Jewish lives destroyed by the Holocaust, are nothing more than one group of smart monkeys taking advantage of another group of smart monkeys. These horrific acts are just nature taking its course, playing out “survival of the fittest” until the inevitable heat death of the universe.

If all planet earth and its inhabitants are is just a small speck of cosmic dust in some insignificant corner of the universe then human life has no intrinsic or eternal value.

This is what my friend's professor is failing to understand. Removing God from the equation removes the possibility for ethics to exist at all. How can someone have an objective standard of ethics if morality is subjective from culture to culture?

How is one group of smart monkeys’ standard of morality “more moral” than another group of smart monkeys’ standard?

What’s also interesting to me is that many atheist professors (and atheists in general) like to dismiss Christian morality and Godly ethics as “not even worth taking a look at” when in fact there wouldn’t even be any universities for these professors to be teaching in if it wasn’t for the impact that Christianity has had on the world. Universities were created by Christians!

The First 9 Universities in the United States:

Harvard University:

Started by Puritan Congregationalists

College of William & Mary:

Started by The Church of England

Yale University:

Started by Puritan Congregationalists

Princeton University:

Started by Presbyterians

Columbia University:

Started by The Church of England

University of Pennsylvania:

Started by The Church of England

Brown University:

Started by Baptists

Rutgers University:

Started by The Dutch Reformed

Dartmouth University:

Started by Puritan Congregationalists

167 of the first 182 colleges and universities in the United States were started by Christians. (3)

The moral high ground this professor believes he is somehow standing on wouldn't even exist if it wasn’t for the impact of the same worldview that he is trying to dismiss.

The world as we know it would be a much different place without Christianity. And by “different”, I don't mean “better”.

Much of today’s social morality that we universally accept as “objective” stems from a Judeo-Christian worldview. For example, caring for the sick isn’t something we as a society always looked at as a moral duty. The sick were usually excommunicated in order to keep them from spreading whatever illness they had. Hospitals are a Christian invention. (4) Nine out of the top ten hospitals in the United States were founded by Christians and the tenth was founded by Jews. (5)

Caring for orphans stems from Christianity as well. Before the time of Christ, children who were unwanted by their parents were literally thrown away. When the ancient Romans would throw them into the river, Christians would pull the children out and adopt them into their families. (6)

Caring for single mothers and widows also stems from a Judeo-Christian worldview. It was extremely dangerous to be a woman with no husband in the ancient near east. To “care for the widows” as the Bible tells us to was extremely counter-cultural at the time. Even in today's society, the places where women’s rights are of the highest priority are in nations with higher populations of Christian. Places like Iceland, Norway, and Finland which are the top 3 places in the world for women’s rights all have a Christian population of over 70% and the top 3 worst places for women’s rights are all in places where Christians make up less than 5% of the population. (7)

Then we have the end of open slavery here in the United States being due to Christian abolitionists. I know that pop-atheism likes to ignore this fact and paint the picture that since professing Christians owned slaves this somehow means that Christianity was at fault for slavery. But just because someone is professing to be Christian, doesn’t mean that they are living up to the ethical values set by Jesus and His apostles. If Christianity was in fact at fault for slavery, then there would have been absolutely no reason for slave owners to create “Slave Bibles”. The slave bibles were bibles that had everything removed from them that could potentially give slaves the idea that slavery was immoral in the eyes of God. (8) Facts that cannot be denied are that the abolitionists’ view of the intrinsic value of every human life stemmed from their Christian beliefs. (9)

I could continue on and discuss Christianity being the reason we have public education, Christianity’s influence on caring for the poor, Christianity’s influence on the scientific revolution, and more, but I’m pretty sure you get the point.

In conclusion, Christianity and God are not something we can simply ignore and skip over. If we choose to ignore the facts and believe that Christianity and God have somehow become irrelevant when discussing morality, that is a choice of either ignorance or stupidity. Ignorance if you have never seen the facts, stupidity if you have seen the facts yet choose to willingly ignore them.

The fact that we have either ignorant or stupid professors teaching ethics to a generation that will eventually become the future leaders of our society is a dangerous sign of where this world is headed.

You can choose not to agree with the morality and ethics laid out to us by the bible, but choosing to ignore the fact that we are all benefitting from its impact on society is dangerous.

Don’t let these professors fool you. Without God, objective morality and ethics do not exist.

Your brother in Christ

-Jon Clash

For more information on the impact Christianity has had on the world, may a recommend the book Jesus Skeptic, by John S. Dickerson

1.Oxford definition of ethics

2. River out of Eden (1995), pp. 131–132

3. Donald Tewksbury, The Founding of American Colleges and Universities before the Civil War(1932), cited in Alvin J. Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 190.

4. Risse. Mending Bodies, Saving Souls. 73

6. De ira, Lucius Annaeus Seneca

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