It’s clear to every padawan that some things are wrong. For instance, it is wrong to steal from your parent’s wallet. Now, this seems to have nothing to do with whether there is a God or not, and yet some religious people say without God there can be no right or wrong. Why? They say god is in charge, so things are right or wrong because God says so. In other words, without God’s stamp of approval/disapproval, on whose authority, for instance, do we know that stealing is objectively wrong?
A long time ago, a thinker named Immanuel Kant explained this very well. He said we exist in such a way that our minds unconsciously give us the rule that we morally accompany all our actions, unlike lower animals such as dogs who, with the intellect of a two year old, are not morally responsible like we are. If the dog chews up the couch, the dog is not evil, because it doesn’t know any better. This is also true of certain mentally challenged people. This unconscious rule we follow makes human ethical experiences and judgments possible. A thinker after Kant named Schelling said it is our ability to be evil that is what is unique in humans among the animals. We have evolved in such a way that we all have a circle of friends, however small, that we act in a caring way toward because we like them and this is how we would want to be treated. This is the golden rule, which has been known and applied across place and time throughout human history, regardless of religious or secular context.
So, it’s not God saying so that makes morality possible, but rather the evolutionary combination of reason with the drive toward a circle of friends is eventually realized in the idea of universal human rights. We are all innately benevolent to some extent because we inherently like friends and understand you treat friends with kindness and are being a better friend if you play the game your friend wants to rather than the one you want to – and you’re being a bad friend if you steal your friend’s girlfriend.
- Is it possible for a God to exist and act responsibly if he is not unconsciously obeying the same moral responsibility rule humans obey?
- Can you make criteria to evaluate that the terrorist airplane attacks on 9’ll were evil, even though many Palestinians at the time felt they were tremendously good?