The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)

It is not possible to have objective moral standards without God.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/8/2018 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 443 times Debate No: 110441
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
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Throughout history many moral systems have existed. Many, but not all, of these systems have been based on the idea of a God. As western society increasingly rejects God and religion, especially in places such as Europe, new moral ideas without emphasis on the existence of a creator have emerged. Many view this as a way to unshackle ourselves from ancient moral systems that often depend on books containing moral advice from cultures with very different standards to our own. However many do not recognise that in doing this they are also throwing away their source of objective morals. Some even consider this a good thing but " as Ray Prebble argues in this article which I recommend reading ( " it leads to many unintended moral problems.

The main problem with moral systems that do not rely on a creator is the is/ought problem. This states that facts about the world (is statements) have no impact on what we should do in a moral sense (ought statements). In the case of religious ethics they overcome this problem with the use of God. On a basic level this can be done using divine command theory, which essentially states that laws in a text such as the Bible are moral commands from God and are therefore what we should do. It can also be used for other types of religious ethics such as Thomas Aquinas" theory of Natural Law. This states that people should take moral action based on their God given purpose, which we can discover using reason. For example it is important for people to have a prosperous society because we are social creatures. Many atheists use this sort of logic for their morals, but without the idea that God created humans to be social creatures and therefore they should have a prosperous society, then it is simply deriving an "ought" from an "is" and is therefore a logical leap that does not make sense.

It seems to me that an objective moral system is preferable, and without God this is not possible.


Morals are a human construct. It is as a society that we have made these ethics through a form of social contract. As developmental research suggest humans are born with empathy. This means its not entirely a learned trait, however, it can be nurtured for better or worse. With the idea that empathy is natural, we can assume ethics and morals derive from our empathetic emotions. "I won't steal your things because I know how much that sucks." This is a crude example of how humans began to define morals.

Humans through intelligent design can formulate ethics and morals that fit our societies. Lets take slavery for example. It is ethically wrong to own someone as a piece of property in our society now. It is also, morally wrong to kill another human being. However, during the age of slavery humans were murdered for, as little as, poor work ethic. Which, was considered acceptable because that's how society, at the time, formulated its morals and ethics. Even The Old Testament is fine with slavery, as it states "If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property." (Exodus 21:20-21) Which, seems to have been a product of the morals and ethics at the time. It is only, later when revisions to the Bible made that we see slavery as evil. "Some people are born into unfair circumstances. Others are brought into them under no control of their own. Slavery is an injustice, but God is just" (James 5:7-9). Suggesting that the morals of society shifted and so too shifted the morals of god. Since, we have observed shifting morals through time like how slavery is morally and ethically wrong in our society. We can suggest that morals are changed and altered by society. Therefore, it is society that creates the moral code at which we live by.

Humans make our own morals and since they differ from unique cultures we can say that objective morality is false. Since objective morality is false, we can conclude that god is a construct used to deliver the moral code humans created. Since god is a construct for morality we can derive that humans are capable of following the moral code without god being necessary.

Debate Round No. 1


First I would like to thank you for your response. However, I feel it fails to properly argue what was intended in this debate and your position of the subjectivity of morality leads to many problems which I would like to address.

Firstly your point that "morals are a human construct" is a fair point to be made. If one were to take the reductionist materialist approach (or another type of belief that rejects God), then we are essentially small bits of inconsequential meat drifting aimlessly through the universe. If this is the case, the position that there are no objective morals seems to be a reasonable. However what I have cause with is the fact that people with this sort of belief system also claim to be able to do right and wrong and to have moral opinions that should be seriously considered.

For example you then argue that we do have "morals" which can be derived from human empathy. While this may be a basis for your ethical system, it is by no means the sole way that moral systems have always developed. Kantian ethics are based upon pure practical reason and absolute moral laws. Kant thought that lying was wrong in all circumstances, whereas in some cases empathy would drive us to tell white lies. The ethics of Confucius are based largely upon a rigid societal order in which people must best fulfil their role in their family or in wider society. You may think these moral systems wrong, but without a standard of objective morality this would be hypocritical as these morals are simply human constructs developed from certain cultures and societies " just as yours are. If one was morally superior than the other then morality would not be subjective. Another example that this would also apply to is Nazism. Their systematic execution of millions of people was obviously not based upon an empathetic moral system but instead on a belief that some races were inherently superior. Yet as a moral subjectivist, I assume you would also not consider this sort of event as wrong (in an objective sense), as yet again it is simply based upon the changing moral ideas of society.

Additionally, your idea about empathetically based morality does not successfully pass the is/ought principle I previously mentioned. Just because we have the ability to empathise with people, this does not mean that we should base our actions around others based on their perceived emotional condition. The sole fact that I understand what someone might feel like when I treat them badly, does not mean I should not treat them badly. The question of why we should act based on our empathy is simply impossible to answer only using facts about the world or logic " otherwise there would be objective morality. While your argument of there being no objective morality does not require morality to pass the if/ought problem, it also makes it difficult for you to persuade others of what to do, or that what they are doing is wrong.

You then use the example of slavery to show that historically the ethics of a society can change and something once considered a normal part of life is now considered morally reprehensible. It is true that society"s general position on moral issues have changed massively and are still changing today. However this does not mean that at each stage in time their morals were equally correct (or incorrect). We now think slavery was wrong. Three hundred years ago many people did not think that. It is possible that we are right and they are wrong or vice-versa.

Your argument about the God of the bible having changing ethical values, while not relevant to the debate, are also not an infallible argument. My argument was not based upon a specific God (however I think the timeless view of the Christian god makes the most sense in finding morality), but instead my argument was based upon the existence of a creator that has moral intentions for humans. Additionally many Christians do not consider the Bible as the word of god and something to be taken literally, allowing for the difference in opinion within the Bible.

It is clear that you consider God false and the idea of God given morals, or morality discoverable in nature due to God"s existence, as simply another human moral system that only pretends to be more correct than the others. However this debate was not about the existence of objective morality. Instead it was about if people without belief in a God could find an objective moral system. While it is clear that you don"t believe in objective morality, it must also be considered that with this belief system criticism of historical atrocities such as the Holocaust is meaningless, and that if a barbarian from a warrior culture were to invade your country then murder everyone you knew, this would not be morally wrong " as saying it was wrong would only be from your own subjective perspective.
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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by canis 3 years ago
But I think every living thing on this earth, (univers ? ) has inherited one "moral"..Its called oppotunism.. without it life would not be possible...
Posted by canis 3 years ago
Objective moral standards do not exist..You can not name one...
Posted by DrAnomaly 3 years ago
Objective morality either exists or it does not. If morality comes from God, then morality is subjective.
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