The moral argument

This is an argument for the existence of God.

This argument can be found in a number of writings, including those of the author and theogian, C.S. Lewis (1898 - 1963).

What is the moral argument?

The argument states that all people have an instinctive sense of what is right and wrong. Even remote tribes which have limited contact with the outside world still have a sense of morality.

The argument claims that because all people have this sense of what is right and wrong, such a sense must have come from someone or something outside ourselves.

While it can be argued that morality is learned from our parents, we must acknowledge that the first people had to have gained that sense from somewhere or someone outside themselves - ie God.

C.S.Lewis claims that nature cannot provide a basis for morality, especially if you believe nature is a random event - ie it comes from the Big Bang (the scientific theory that the universe began with a huge explosion about 13.7 billion years ago).

The suggestion that we gain our moral code from some external or higher being requires a belief in a God.

Strengths of the argument

The argument supports some things that theists already believe. The Bible teaches that God is good, expects certain standards of behaviour, will judge people and will also forgive them when they admit to doing wrong. A believer will understandably want to trace the origin of morality back to God.

Weaknesses of the argument

  • Those who reject this argument claim that morality is a social convention, learned through experience and upbringing.
  • The evidence against a universal moral code is that some people, eg a murderer or rapist, has no sense of morality. Therefore, there is no sense in which all people have a common moral code. Furthermore, in some parts of the world bribery and corruption are acceptable, while in other parts of the world it is not, which suggests there is no common agreement on what is or is not morally acceptable.
  • There are many alternative explanations for morality that have nothing to do with God. For example, conscience might be entirely a product of the brain. If conscience is the voice of God, then why are there differences of opinion about issues such as abortion and euthanasia?
  • Not everyone believes in God, yet atheists and agnostics seem to understand the difference between right and wrong and to live good lives.
  • The moral argument might suggest the existence of some sort of lawgiver, but it cannot prove the existence of God as traditionally understood.