I was watching an interview with Colin McGinn yesterday where he was being asked about the concept that there can’t be a reason to be moral without God.
His argument was along the lines that if God commands us to do something that doesn’t make that intrinsically right and he gave the following example:
God commands us not to kill. Since we know that killing is wrong we don’t need his command to tell us that it is.
Put another way, if God commanded us to kill, we know that killing is wrong, so God’s command doesn’t change the intrinsic concept that killing is wrong.
So, since killing is wrong, no matter if God commands it or not, then we don’t need God to tell us that killing is wrong. It follows from this that the rightness or wrongness of something is independent of God’s commands or wishes therefore morality is intrinsic to its self and needs no outside authority to validate it.
I’m not a philosopher so I am sure my argument is not very detailed or complete, but that’s the basic gist I came away from the interview with.
In the bible, God tells us that we should not kill, as if this is an absolute, but if you read the bible carefully you will find many numerous passages where God commands his followers to kill. In many cases the killing is done not as punishment for any sin or crime, but simply because he had promised the land of Canna to the Israelites and in order for them to posses it, they had to destroy the people who were living there. These poor tribes in most cases had done the Israelites no wrong, they were just in the way.
This contradiction in the commands of God completely undermines the idea that morality exist only through God.
I’ve written here, here and here before of the many cases of what I would call immorality that is commanded by God in the bible, so I won’t go into it again here. What I really want to impress on you is that morality exists inherently independent of any authority.
Does that mean that you shouldn’t believe in God? No, because that is a personal choice. What it does mean is that we can be moral just because it is right to do so without having to look to some higher authority for guidance.