Is God necessary for Objective Morality?

In a lot of societies there is the conception that religion deals with leading the moral life. Many religious people will claim that without God there can be no objective morality. In fact, many countries still use the divine commands of God in order to enforce their moral ideas, using the religious texts in order to shape the morality of their lives. Even though, some of the texts are immensely outdated as we don’t allow slavery anymore, while this is proposed in the Bible or Quran for example.

            An ancient question that keeps coming up when we talk about the stature of religion pertaining morality, is the Euthyphro dilemma. In the dialogue Euthyphro of Plato, Socrates has a discussion about what it means if we define ‘right’ or ‘good’ as whatever God commands. The problem is then: is something good because God commands it, or does God command it, because it is good?

            Both interpretations have its problems. If something is good because God commands it, isn’t that then arbitrary? God can make anything it wants good. But why does it make certain things like slavery acceptable, but other things like homosexuality not? To just dogmatically trust in God would not be a rational decision and it’s not an argument which will convert atheists as well.

            But what if God just commands it, because it is good? Well, then that good stands outside of God, and then we don’t need God to know what the good is. We can just find it on our own. There is a standard of what is good which is completely separate of God. We still have no answer why that thing is good. We can see here that both conceptions aren’t really a great guide for morality.

            God, however, created the world. And as he is all-good, he created an all-good world. With this conception, which is called the theory of natural law, people believe that God created this world with a purpose and that everything which is natural has a certain purpose. There has to be a reason why God created this in the first place. This is also famous in Aristotle’s teleological conception of the world, which came into Christianity with the help of Thomas Aquinas. The purpose of teeth is to bite with them. The purpose of a knife is to cut with it.

            But again, we are pushed against a wall here. There are many things in this world we don’t regard as good, even though they are natural. A case we all know is the coronavirus. Even though this virus is a natural occurrence, we don’t think this is a good thing or that it is good that it exists. The same goes with earthquakes. Nearly everyone would rather have it that there are no longer any earthquakes. And even though someone might say that they don’t mind, then it only has to happen to them to change their tone.

            We don’t see everything in nature as something good. So, by saying that whatever is natural is good, would be to contradict ourselves. It seems that we don’t really need God in order to be moral. We could even argue that we just take God in the equation to justify what we do instead of doing it because of God. Religion doesn’t have the authority on morality which it might claim. Having a God within your moral system doesn’t make it more objective, it just makes it more dependable on that metaphysical entity. You can only use that because you believe in it, but maybe it’s time that we believe in the fact that we ourselves are capable of creating our morality.

By elenchusphilosophy

Philosophy student from Ghent, Belgium. I write about what I find interesting which is about nearly anything. Though my guiding question in life is how to be a good person.

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