If there is no God, there are no absolute, objective moral values. This is the ultimate extension of atheism, but very few atheists truly perceive this truth. The only way objective values can exist is if there is a God who has set in place standards which exist above and beyond mankind’s shifting opinions.
One of the fundamental problems facing society today is that we have lost all concept of sin. Ahh … but there’s that horrible little word: ‘sin”. It’s not a very popular concept anymore, is it? In fact, our modern world seems to have completely rejected the concept, and anyone who still uses the term is viewed as a narrow-minded fundamentalist. The problem with the term, ‘sin’, for most people, is that it infers the existence of a law-giving god or deity to whom we are ultimately accountable. But when society discards the concept of a god, it also discards the concept of sin, because when there is no transcendent source for defining belief and morality, the concept of absolutes becomes meaningless. Everything becomes subjective. When there is no longer a universal, transcendent standard of absolute right and wrong, morals and beliefs degenerate into varying individual preferences and tastes. When you toss God on the junk heap of outdated ideas, you lose all basis for establishing a universal set of standards.
Let me give you an illustration. Suppose you lived on an isolated island whose small community had never seen a tape measure or a ruler. The population had grown up with books that mentioned various units of measurement like inches and centimetres, but no one had ever seen anything to indicate the exact size of these units of measurement. People speculated as to how tall they all were, and often disagreed with each other about their relative heights, but without an objective means of accurately measuring height, they were only guessing. Then, one day, a tape measure washes up on the shore. Now they have an objective means of assessing their height. It is no longer a matter of debate or opinion. It is no longer one person’s opinion versus another’s. There is now an external, authoritative, objective ruler against which all former measurements and guesses can be compared. Measurement is no longer a matter of subjective opinion; it is now a matter of objective truth.
The same applies to moral values. Objective moral values can logically only exist if there is some absolute set of standards that exist APART FROM the subjective opinions of mankind, against which our various opinions can be measured and compared. Objective moral values are only possible if there is an external, transcendent set of absolute standards which can provide an inarguable, unchangeable ‘measuring tape’ for assessing human behaviour and attitudes. Without such an external, transcendent set of standards, morality becomes relative; a matter of personal opinion or, at best, group consensus.
The concept that moral standards are simply a matter of personal or group opinion is referred to as subjectivism or relativism. Indeed, relativism is the ultimate, logical extension of atheism. If God does not exist, then we can decide for ourselves what we will consider to be right and wrong. There is no one to tell us what to do, so we can make up our own rules and values.
This, of course, is precisely the direction in which our society has been heading during the last few decades as we have gradually abandoned our previous Judeo-Christian roots and embraced secularism (a society divorced from religion). Relativism is now the predominant moral philosophy in our ‘sophisticated’ secular world: a philosophy which proclaims that there are no absolutes, that all values are valid and no one has the right to judge or criticise another person’s values. In removing God from our foundation, we have thrown away our objective measuring tape and now, it appears, almost anything goes.
Some atheist will try to argue that it is still possible to have objective moral values without God. They will argue that things like murder and rape are objectively wrong and we don’t need God in order to perceive that. But they are missing the point! I agree that murder and rape are objectively wrong, but only because horrible actions such as that go against the commandments and the very nature of our Holy God. But if atheists deny the existence of God, there is no longer any solid basis for objective morality, there is only the shifting sands of personal and public opinion.