Post Author: Bill Pratt
In the first 2 posts of this series, I presented Richard Dawkins’ “answer” to the question “If There Is No God, Why Be Good?” At the end of part 2, I said that Dawkins did not actually answer the question, even though that’s what he led the reader to believe he was going to do. In order to understand why, let’s look back at his arguments.
Recall that Dawkins first argued against the alleged Christian claim that nobody would be good if there were no God to believe in. Fear of divine wrath is the only thing that keeps mankind in check.
What’s wrong with this argument? Well, first and foremost, I am unaware of any Christian scholar that has ever made this argument. Dawkins is tilting at windmills.
I am perfectly willing to admit that atheists are capable of moral actions and I am perfectly willing to admit that Christians are capable of immoral actions. There is no dispute on either point. What Christians do claim is that a person who is dedicated to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will improve morally, but Dawkins doesn’t even mention this claim.
Dawkins’ second argument was against the imaginary Christian apologist who says, in essence, that a person can only decide what is right or wrong by reading the Bible, a holy book which issues absolute moral commands. Without a book like the Bible, there would be no way to decide between right and wrong.
Has Dawkins stopped tilting at windmills yet? I’m afraid not. Again, I am not aware of any apologist or Christian scholar who makes this argument. Why? Because the Bible itself clearly says in Romans 2:14-16 that every person is aware of the moral law, whether they have a holy book or not:
Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.
Christians believe that God has written the basic moral law on every person’s conscience. The Bible certainly contains what I would call advanced moral instruction, but the basics are known by everyone whether they read the Bible or not. In fact, the Bible as we know it today wasn’t even available to Christians for hundreds of years after Jesus was resurrected, so a Christian claim that a person cannot make moral decisions without the Bible would be incredibly strange indeed.
Dawkins’ final argument, as explained in part 2 of the series, is that the Bible’s morality is outdated and “obnoxious.” So, argues Dawkins, if the source of Christian morality is the Bible, and the Bible fails to give reasonable moral instruction, then the Bible cannot be needed for moral decision making. Dawkins concludes that there is a human moral consensus, and that we as humans can make our moral decisions based on that consensus.
What was the question Dawkins set out to answer? “If there is no God, why be good?” I hope you can see that his conclusion completely fails to answer that question. Why be good? Dawkins answers that there is a moral consensus that we can use to make moral decisions. Well, that’s nice, but that’s not the question. We want to know why, rationally, should a person be good if there is no God. It’s great that there is a moral consensus, but why should we follow it if there is no God?
On atheism, Professor Dawkins, give us a rational reason to follow the moral consensus without first just assuming that we should be moral (that’s called begging the question). No such reason was ever offered in The God Delusion. I wonder if Dawkins forgot that he even asked the question.