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Morality does not require the existence of a god

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/21/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 649 times Debate No: 65634
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (1)




Morality is an evolved concept created solely in the mind of humankind. It does not exist outside of human thought and interaction. The claim that morality was given to men by some god outside of them is disprovable.
1. The concepts of good and evil do not exist outside of human interaction.
Where there are no humans, no actions could be described as evil. A lion killing a lamb is not an evil act. A human allowing a lion to kill a lamb could, under the right circumstances be defined as evil.
2. There is no basic action that can be taken that is always evil. Stealing must be defined by local property laws. Killing can be condoned by different circumstances. Rape must be defined by the willingness or lack thereof of the victim. Not one of these acts, in and of themselves are evil. The evil must be defined by humans judging intent and desired outcome.
3. All of the supposedly immutable laws of supposedly omniscient and omnipotent gods have been left behind as not moral enough by today's standards. For example, no laws against rape or slavery in the Bible. The modern human is far more moral and sensitive to right and wrong than any generation previous.
4. The fundamental concepts of morality are present in the higher mammals we can observe today. The mammalian order owes much of its success to its evolution of the desire to nurture its young, warn its family of danger, form bonds with like creatures and so on. Contrary to the reptilian tendency towards independence, for example.


- I must begin by thanking Rickenbacker 4001 for a well thought-out argument. I will argue each point individually, just as it was presented.
I agree that morality is always evolving in the sense that it is being more and more defined by humankind. However,my argument is this: the idea of morality and morality itself would not exist without a god. To clarify, I am speaking of god in the way that all gods of every culture would be included. And for a bit of a reciprocal argument: The claim that morality was "not" given to men by some god outside of them is also disprovable.
1. While the definitions of good and evil are not spelled out so effectively by other animals, they do have a code of conduct which they are governed by. The idea that a lion killing a lamb would not be considered evil is only true if that action affects no other animals. If lion(B) goes hungry because of the lion(A) that ate the lamb, then lion(B) would likely think the act "bad". Morality is defined as "a code of conduct put forward by society". Whether or not that society is human matters not at all and would also differ from society to society. For example, the morality of a pack animal would differ greatly from the morality of a solitary one.
2. Insofar as there are no inherently evil actions, I tend to agree; with the exception of the golden rule. I put forward that it is inherently evil to all rational persons, that breaking the golden rule is in every circumstance evil to that individual person. Additionally, the golden rule or at least a form of said rule has appeared in virtually all religious texts including some of the earliest societal rules to include the Code of Hammurabi (purportedly given to him by the patron god of Babylon named Marduk).
3. Saying that all of the immutable laws of omniscient and omnipotent gods have been left behind, I disagree. While our modern day society has gone much further in the definition of morality, it has not changed in that people continue to adjust their interpretation of those laws. For example, while the bible does not specifically say, "do not commit rape" it does say, "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.(Matthew 7-12 ESV)" This clearly states that if I do not wish to be raped then I should not rape others. We modern day humans have simply elaborated where elaboration should be unnecessary.
4. The fundamental concepts of morality that have been observed in other higher mammals sound very much like instincts that allow the survival of a species. It has been seen in higher mammals (chimpanzees) that are raised away from the wild that will reject their own children simply because they have not been a part of the society from which they originate.

My final point is that the earliest codes of conduct that have been unearthed, "The Code of Ur-Nammu", the aforementioned "Code of Hammurabi" and several others in the same time frame have all been attributed from their authors to have come from a god. Therefore, without these initial laws that were given by god, and subsequent laws given by god(s) later, morality as we know it would have no basis for existence short of that which further perpetuates the existence of our species.

I look forward to your response.

"The Definition of Morality", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <;.

Matthew 7-12 ESV
Debate Round No. 1


First of all, thank you Semper ad meliora for joining me in this debate. My first time, too! This is a subject that fascinates me and I appreciate very much the opportunity to test my ideas against an opponent.
Secondly, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service to our country. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for all of our servicemen. You have my full support, stay safe.

ok, down to the debate:

1. Your expanded interpretation of the lion/lamb analogy seems to prove my point. Your lion "B" in your example would, indeed, think it bad to go hungry. This actually happens with some frequency in lion prides. But the lions going hungry accept this as a social norm. There is a hierarchy to lion prides and other animal social groups that they all buy into. This is instinctual. It has evolved to allow the strongest to thrive. It is not considered evil by anyone. A person would put different feelings on the situation due to our multi-layered and more highly evolved and intricate concepts of morality and social responsibilities.

My point being that the morality that we posses today is the result of evolved instincts to which we add the layers of language, social and intellectual drives and all the cultural complexities that humans have. NOT an immutable law handed to us from a higher being of some sort. This is an explanation that is supported by observable facts.

You state that "Morality is defined as "a code of conduct put forward by society". Whether or not that society is human matters not at all and would also differ from society to society. For example, the morality of a pack animal would differ greatly from the morality of a solitary one." That is the truth. That seems to support moral relativism. And rule out moral objectivity. This further supports my argument. There is some confusion on moral objectivity. Morals are not objective in the same sense of the laws of gravity or the speed of light. They do not exist outside of human perceptions. They ARE objective in the sense of the rules of baseball. As long as everyone involved understands and plays by those rules, everyone gets along well. The problems arise when interpretations of said rules differ.

2. Your example of the golden rule, I feel, also proves my point. If a god had handed the golden rule, alone, to mankind, it would be very difficult to dissuade people of its authenticity. It would feel RIGHT. It would work well. However, that is not what happened. The ten commandments were handed to mankind, allegedly, by god. These are outdated and confusing to modern man. The commandment to allow no graven images, or rest on a sabbath day, or have no other gods seem rather useless to a modern society and are largely ignored.
There is no law against rape or abusing children. These weakness' seem to indicate a rather human origin. The fact that men CLAIMED that these rules came from god just seems to be par for the course for men attempting to persuade other men to follow the rules they made up. After all, literally every single civilization has these laws and claims about their own widely varying laws. Incidentally, as you mentioned, the code of Hammurabai predates the ten commandments by 500 years. The christian god seems to be guilty of plagiarism.
The golden rule, by contrast came along much later. It was obviously hammered out by the wisdom of men AFTER thousands of years of conflict and upheaval between societies. It was the finest distillation of social morality yet advanced, and it was not advanced by GOD! It was put forth by a man who some CLAIM was god. All of this seems to indicate that our morality is an evolving thing that changes dramatically with our culture and circumstances, NOT an immutable, hard bedrock of a foundation handed to us by a god with the express purpose of solidifying our civilization.

3. This one was poorly worded by me, apologies. I do not believe that ALL laws have been left behind. My point is simply that the rules which seemed eternal to the ancient people who worshiped these gods, seems to be strangely antiquated by today's standards. This should not happen to an objective, defined morality bequeathed by a creator to his creations. Your acceptance of the fact that we are continuing to adjust our interpretation of these laws seems to add fuel to my fire.

4. Yes, precisely. These are instincts that guide the higher animal lifeforms that we can observe all around us, every day. The obvious extension of which, is that as soon as these animals achieve more complex language and societies, they will also develop laws and codes which will have to be defined and handed down to their offspring. Observe the already complicated social lives of elephants and dolphins, crows and wolves. What god or gods gave them this morality? A god of elephants? of crows? It seems rather obvious that we are witnessing the evolution of morality right before our eyes. Just as it happened to us hundreds of thousands of years ago.

...and to your last point, the fact that ancient men claimed that the rules they wanted their people to obey came from gods is pretty clearly a ploy that worked. STILL works. How many cult leaders, faith healers, charlatans and politicians have played on this weakness in the psyche of humanity? If Moses had said to the Israelites "hey guys, I have some really good ideas that we can apply to our lives to make a better society for everyone", he would have been shouted down and laughed at. (the existence of Moses and the actual story of the ten commandments are most likely complete fabrications, by the way). In short, the belief in morals being handed down by the gods HAS improved their acceptance by the common man. This does more to show the herd mentality of the human animal than to actually prove the existence of god. OR the existence of an objective code of morals given to us by a god.


Again, a well devised reply. My thanks for your support as well.

1. I take your response here to mean that modern day morality is nothing more than the evolved instincts that were at one point essential to the survival of our species. My counterpoint is that without the idea of God, in one of its various forms throughout time, the evolved morality that we enjoy as a Human society would not exist. I believe that without the introduction of that which is higher than human, ie god, the society would not have adopted the social norms that we have come to depend upon. I say this because no human truly believes that a king or ruler is smarter or has better ideas about the way society should be. For example, the authors of the code of ur-nammu and the code of hammurabi both claimed that the laws were decreed by a god. Whether or not an actual deity gave these laws to the rulers is not relevant. What is relevant is that both rulers knew that the society as a whole would require a divinity figure in order to accept these rules.

I concede the point that morals are not objective. However, I maintain that no societal rules were handed down by rulers and were instead attributed to gods. Societies from the beginning have required god to make their rules because they don't trust their leaders to do so. Our modern day society has attempted to change this by giving trust to leaders but only in two or four year periods; the end of which time the society as a whole can change the leader in order to change they way they are governed. This is perhaps indicative of a change in where society now puts its' faith. However, the current laws and morals sprung directly from the religious upbringing of the leaders involved.

2. While the term"golden rule" or "golden law" did originate in the 1670s, it is found in virtually all religious texts. The passage in the bible that was put forward by Jesus was just an example, the golden rule or a form of it if found in Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and early Christianity. You stated that "The fact that men CLAIMED that these rules came from god just seems to be par for the course for men attempting to persuade other men to follow the rules they made up." This further demonstrates my point that without the widespread belief in a god figure, none of the aforementioned sets of societal laws would have been accepted by society.

3. I certainly see your point that the writings of all bygone eras seem to be antiquated. However, this effect does not usurp the reality that humans utilized these laws that were set forth by one god or another to live by and raise their children by. Even if the children professed that god did not exist, their belief in what is good and bad was developed based on the teachings of the now non-existent god. Therefore, their morality would not exist without god.

4. I agree that the extension of instincts will naturally be morality in the higher lifeforms when they evolve. My counterpoint is that in order for one of those newly evolved societies to standardize acceptable behavior, they will be forced to invent a god figure and attribute those laws to the new god. This is due to the supposition posed in the first point. ie. " I say this because no human truly believes that a king or ruler is smarter or has better ideas about the way society should be." Simply replace human with any of the other higher lifeforms and the point is still made.

I will conclude by quoting you, " In short, the belief in morals being handed down by the gods HAS improved their acceptance by the common man." In this phrase you make my argument for me. The actual existence of a god handing down laws is not our debate in my mind. It is instead the fact that humans would not have developed their standard morality with "thinking" that an omnipotent being gave us these laws.

I hate to think of myself as being part of your "herd mentality" but the truth of the matter is that for a society to move towards a common goal, ie lawfulness, the herd must agree with the rule maker. To achieve the agreement, rulers have put forth laws that were from "god" so that the common man would accept these rules. Therefore, morality would not exist without god or at least the idea of god.
Debate Round No. 2


Ok, let me see if I can tie everything together here and finalize my argument:

My original premise was an attempt to counter the following widespread belief, that the human race would not have morality if it were not sourced from a greater being in one form or another. It seems to be prevalent in all the major religions as well as generally accepted by a large number of agnostics. This seems to be the last bastion of religion, the only thing left that science has not taken away completely.

I must insist that we hold to the initial wording of the debate. You seem to be changing it to whether or not people BELIEVE in a god. I want to prove that morality can, and in fact does, exist without any Supreme beings.

Your counter claim seems, to me, to be the same as claiming that generosity, familial closeness and love exhibited during the final week of December would not exist were it not for the belief in Santa Claus. I think it is a spurious claim.
Many cultures have celebrations of family and closeness, and also value generosity without the myth of Santa Claus. It seems to indicate that there is something deeper in our psyche that draws us to those values. Santa is merely a focus point, not the progenitor of those feelings. In the same way, I am postulating that our current moral system is not merely an instinctual urge, but that it is that as well as a multifaceted, complex system layered with our evolved language and societal constructs. Although you are correct that believing in a god AIDS in supporting the values of a moral system, that is by no means necessary for the original principles. Those principles, namely, helping similar creatures instead of harming, were hammered out by millions of years of evolution. They are proven to WORK in the real world. They do not need to be fabricated by gods and handed to men.

Another example: Let us imagine you walk into your living room one day and find your eldest son helping his sibling clean up a mess that the younger one made. The elder son, say 10 years old or so, did nothing wrong and is helping out his little brother without any direction from anyone else. You say, "Thanks son, I am proud of you for helping out!" He turns to you and says, "Of course dad, I want to get good presents from Santa this year!" Well, I think it is natural to feel a little let down. The sign of a mature, civilized adult is to help someone without outside threats or rewards. You hope, as all parents do, that he will outgrow this need for Santa's gifts to encourage common decency.

So, too, I feel that the christian attitude of being good in expectation of the reward of heaven or the threat of hell is that of a not yet fully evolved or civilized human being. And much like the domesticated animals we keep in our societies, we have need of the trappings of religion to prevent these immature people from harming themselves or others.

To sum up, Morality is a constantly evolving and fluid thing. NOT an ironclad, immutable foundation that was set in stone by any god or gods. The most common complaint I hear from christians about this fact is that if morality is relative than no one is BOUND to obey anyone else's idea. This is true. Welcome to freewill. This complaint of not HAVING to adhere to any laws made by men is akin to complaining that the mastery of fire was not actually given to men by the gods after all, so therefore I can treat fire in any way that I wish. The rules of morality work. They make society better. We do not need any more than that.


semper_ad_meliora forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Rickenbacker4001 2 years ago
I am sorry, too, Semper. But thanks for a great debate anyway. Look forward to hearing your opinions again in the future! Stay safe!
Posted by semper_ad_meliora 2 years ago
My sincerest apologies to RIckenbacker4001. I was caught unawares by work requirements this week and was not able to post a third round debate. I will most definetely give Rickenbacker4001 my nod of appreciation for his arguments, which were well formulated and certainly difficult to combat. I took on this debate as my first even though I agreed with the initial premise (PRO) in order to get a feel for the process here. I have really enjoyed it and hope to be a more available opponent for my next debate.
Posted by cheyennebodie 2 years ago
No , it does not. But eternal life does.
Posted by semper_ad_meliora 2 years ago
I appreciate your points and will take them into consideration while formulating my future responses. This is my first debate so I suppose I will be in need of the "good luck" you have wished me. Thank you Mister_Man
Posted by Mister_Man 2 years ago
well nevermind, good luck semper
Posted by Mister_Man 2 years ago
The first civilizations were formed around the belief in multiple Gods, leading to a morality because of their God. After time "God" seemed less reasonable, yet the immense amount of time that passed while having these morals evolved with the human race, and stuck. I don't feel like going into more detail so I won't accept but if nobody does for a day or two I might.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by o0jeannie0o 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: Con did not refute the "morality is ever changing" matter. Things written years ago do not apply today yet we have morals and certain things that where immoral years ago are perfectly fine today (such as being gay). The golden rule is not in every religion although it is a moral code. For example: Satanism constantly challenges the golden rule but to many (even on this site) it is a moral and ethical religion. Atheists can have moral children argument was left without debate. miscommunication on the "saying god said it" argument. although this argument was probably unnessisary