"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Atheists Can't Justify Morality
Christopher J. E. Johnson
Published: Feb 24, 2012
Updated: Mar 31, 2014

Atheist Fallacy Contents:
Appeal to Majority
Appeal to Emotion
Appeal to Nature
Appeal to Force
Begging the Question

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections... And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
-Romans 1:22-28

Romans 1 tells us why atheists/evolutionists reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They don't reject it because of their science, they reject it because of their sin. They don't reject it because of their logic, they reject it because of their lust. Thus, when the atheist/evolution gives an argument for morals, they have NO CHOICE but to start with logical fallacy and circular reasoning.
(Many of our podcast atheist guests have stated this live on the show. They know they have no other place to start from.)

This article is designed to help Christians have an understanding of the basis for the "ethics" of the world, and that without the Christian God of the Bible, there is no way to make a logical and reasonably sound argument for morals. Remember that atheism/evolutionism is a materialist worldview (i.e. a way one views the world), and those that adhere to that type of worldview interpret all their actions via their presupposed belief.

There are five basic arguments that atheist/evolutionists will use when talking about their foundation for morality, and each one of them can be debunked very easily. I have had numerous live discussions with atheists/evolutionists concerning moral standards on our podcast show, and they have all been stuck using the following logical fallcies.


#1 - Majority Opinion (ad populem)

"The right to life is pretty easy to understand. Most civilized societies have laws against murder. Each individual has a right not to be killed."
-Thomas Mullen, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America, 2009, p. 7, ISBN: 978-0-578-00683-3 (See Overview of Return to Common Sense for more details)

Mr. Mullen begins his book by arguing from majority opinion. It makes the rest of his book irrelevant, and quite hilarious when you consider that his book is attempting to argue against democratic societies. (i.e. democracies are supposed to decide based on majority, but Mullen is arguing against majority using majority) Let's say, one day in the future, the majority decides murder is acceptable; does murder then become acceptable because the majority decided it was moral? Do people then lose their so-called "right to life?" Arguing from majority opinion falls flat on its face because as soon as the majority is swayed, so too will the morals sway, meaning that there is no standard that everyone has to follow.
(Mullen is an atheist/evolutionist. I invited Thomas Mullen to have a live discussion with me about this subject on our podcast show. He refused.)

When hearing an evolutionist talk about morality, listen for KEY WORDS and PHRASES that identify a MAJORITY argument:
  • Society says...
  • Nations decide...
  • Most people...
  • Laws are made...
  • They come together...
  • Experts agree...
When speaking with an atheist/evolutionist on this topic, you have to listen carefully because as soon as you point out their majority opinion logical fallacy, they will do their best to avoid using the word "majority," trying to phrase it in another way, in hopes others won't catch their error.

One of the most easily addressable topics for this conversation is rape. I've asked atheists the following question: "If our society decides that rape is morally acceptable, then would you say rape is acceptable action?" At that point, they back off majority opinion because they realize that if they follow their argument of majority, then they would have to say that there are instances where rape is acceptable, and they're more willing to change their agument than to suffering any embarrassing blowback in a public discussion for claiming that rape is acceptable in certain situations. Societies that make laws based on majority opinion will end up changing those laws, so long as 51% of the population can be convinced of something, meaning there is no set moral standard, and the argument is logically flawed.


#2 - Appeal to Emotion

"The conscience... makes us feel as if we have done something that's wrong or something that's right. Guilty or not guilty. It is amazing that a process as amoral and crassly pragmatic as natural selection could design a mental organ that makes us feel as if we're in touch with higher truth."
-Robert Wright, The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life, Random House Digital Inc., 1995, p. 212, ISBN: 9780679763994

Often, I see evolutionists (like Mr. Wright) say, "Wouldn't you feel bad is someone did that to you?" This is called "appealing to emotion." If everyone decided right and wrong based on their own personal feelings and perspectives, then there would be constant fighting over what's right and wrong.

I once had an atheist tell me that murder was wrong because someone would experience pain. So I asked her: If someone was paralyzed from the neck down, and they couldn't feel the pain of stabbing a knife in their stomach, is it ok to kill them because they can't feel it? She was dumbfounded by that question, and ended up changing her argument for morality to another subject because, after that question, she realized she had no answer for how "feeling" could account for morality.

Let's go back to the rape issue again because I had another interview with an atheist in Feb 2014, in which he told me that he felt rape was wrong. According to the rapist, rape is acceptable morally, so I asked the atheist, "Who's right, you or him?"

The atheist I was interviewing quickly changed his argument to majority opinion, because he had no way to give a definite answer to why rape was wrong. The problem was that the atheist was looking at the issue based on the feelings in his heart, without considering that others feel differently.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
-Jeremiah 17:9

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.
-Proverbs 21:2

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
-Proverbs 12:15

This is why we Christians are not to look to our own feelings and perspectives for moral guidance, but rather, we look to the Word of God to tell us how we should act.

What the evolutionist does not stop to think about is that before you can claim what is "right" and what is "wrong," you first have to decide HOW you are deciding. If right and wrong is all based on how you personally feel, then everyone doing what they feel becomes good automatically.

When hearing an evolutionist talk about morality, listen for KEY WORDS and PHRASES that identify an EMOTIONAL argument:
  • Harm
  • Feel
  • Well-Being
  • Empathy
  • Sympathy
  • Pain
  • Suffer
When an atheist says we shouldn't cause others to suffer, ask them, "Why it is wrong to suffer?" They generally respond that it causes harm, which begs the question, "Why is it wrong to harm someone?" The answer is that it makes them feel bad, but that begs the question, "Why is it wrong to feel bad?" This line of questioning will ends up back where it started because the entire foundation of appeal to emotion will take atheists back to square one with circular reasoning and begging the question, both of which are logical fallacies.


#3 - Appeal to Nature

This is typically an evolutionary argument:
"Animals possess a sense of morality that allows them to tell the difference between right and wrong,"
-Richard Gray, "Animal can tell right from wrong," The Telegraph, May 23, 2009, retrieved Feb 24, 2012 [www.telegraph.co.uk]

Mr. Gray is trying to argue that morality is something that can be viewed in nature, and attempts to give evidence of that by referring to animals. This is absurd, and a logical fallacy, because for every example given in favor of something moral, there is a counter-example in nature that can be given to contradict it. If the lioness eats her cub (which they sometimes do), is it then acceptable for we as mankind do the same to our children?

Once again, let's turn to the subject of rape, and discuss an instance I witnessed with a friend of mine many years ago as we watched ducks at a pond. About 25 feet away from us, a male duck came over to a female duck, and the male tried to sexually mount her. The female attempted to escape, but the male grabbed at her neck with his beak (we saw blood on her neck afterwards), and forced himself on her, so, if ducks do this in nature, then is it morally acceptable for men to assault and rape women?

Of course, the atheist/evolutionist knows that arguing from emotion is logically fallacious. For example, if a Christian approached the atheist and said, "I FEEL God exists," the atheist would immediately reject the argument because they know truth is not determined by feeling, but hypocritically, they turn around and use the same argument in attempt to justify their morals.

When hearing an evolutionist talk about morality, listen for KEY WORDS and PHRASES that identify a NATURE argument:
  • Names of animals
  • Names of plants
  • Inherent
  • Inherited
  • Natural
  • Evolved
Arguing from nature will get the evolutionist nowhere because there is no solid ground to stand on, but it does provide a better understanding of why America's moral foundation has collapsed in conjunction with the forced teaching of evolution in the past 50 years. If students are taught they are just animals, what will they act like?
(Read "Seeds of Evolution" here at creationliberty.com for more details)


#4 - Appeal to Force (ad baculum)

"Throughout history, it doesn't matter who has the Bible or who believes in the right religion--it's who has the bigger fist and who has the more guns. It doesn't matter who's right, it matters who has the greater might... throughout history it's been proven that the might make the right."
-Josh Singer [Atheist], live on the air in a debate with Gene Cook, The Narrow Mind Podcast, Dec 8, 2008, [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPAnxs6XPcQ&feature=relmfu]

Mr. Singer has not spent the time to look at this logically. Appeal to force can never determine a right or wrong standard.

For example, the last I spoke with Mr. Singer he had a girlfriend, and let's say that her next door neighbor broke into their home, then raped and killed Mr. Singer's girlfriend. If "the might make the right," then the neighbor is automatically right in his assualt and murder of the young lady.

When hearing an evolutionist talk about morality, listen for KEY WORDS and PHRASES that identify a FORCE argument:
  • Might make right
  • Survival of the fittest
  • Any kind of weapon
  • Physical dominance or strength
If a convenient store clerk is held up at gun point by a robber, and the robber gets away with all the money, then the robber is automatically right because, after all, "the might make the right." If the sheriff and deputies show up and overpower the robber, then the sheriff and deputies are automatically right because "the might make the right." The "might make right" phrase is what's called a tautology, meaning a sentence that means nothing, or in other words, whoever is left alive is right automatically, which also means, whatever happens will happen and it's all automatically right.

If might make the right, then Adolf Hitler was right to kill the Jews because, after all, he had the might.


#5 - Begging the Question

In another live atheist interview on our podcast show, the atheist argued that survivability is the basis for morality. He first described well-being (which ends up in appeal to emotion) as the basis for morals, and once asked to define well-being, he described survival. This begs the question: Why is it right for mankind to survive?

As we discussed in our article on how to talk with atheists, the laws of logic must be universal, immaterial, unchanging entities, otherwise they lose their law-like character. So too the laws of morality must be universal, immaterial, unchanging entities, and the problem is that an atheist, who is a materialist, is forced to attempt the impossible task of giving a local, material, constantly changing explanation for universal, immaterial, unchanging laws.

From a purely atheistic/materialistic worldview, why shouldn't mankind just die off and go extinct? A rational answer to this question will not be coming forth from the atheist because there is no rational answer for it. Any answer to this question will leave an atheist on a foundation of circular reasoning.

Begging the question is when one ASSUMES the conclusion he/she is trying to reach. The following diagram demonstrates the problem:
Atheists are attempting to justify the actions of man by using the actions of man as a justification. Because morals judge the actions of men, you can't use the actions of men to justify themselves, otherwise it's completely arbitrary, and any action can be justified to be "right" or "good" based on someone's own personal perspective and opinion.

The atheist's effort to survive is another action that requires moral judgement and standards. Some points to consider in the atheist worldview:
  1. Why is it "right" for mankind to survive?
  2. Why is it "wrong" for mankind to die off?
  3. Lions sometimes eat their children to survive; is that moral action?
  4. If Adolf Hitler and the Nazis had won (survived) WWII, would they be moral?

The Christian God of the Bible is a requirement to justify any moral standard. We need the one who knows everything about the hearts of man, to tell us what is right and wrong. God is the standard for good, and without Him, there is no standard. Without him, no evil can be justified to exist. The atheist does not realize that when I invite him into discussion on issues of morality, and he rejects the Christian God of the Bible, he's already lost.

For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
-Romans 10:3

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
-Pro 12:15

Here are some examples you can reference to get a good idea of what you will hear when you listen to an evolutionist:

"feel bad"
"their opinions"
"You may never hear a good reason why juggling's evil, but if you grow up around people who all react to juggling with disgust and horror, you'll probably feel kinda bad about juggling. So it's worth forcefully asserting your moral opinions to those who disagree, in the hope that they'll instinctively revise their own opinions to match you."
-Anton Mates, "Harking Back to 'What is Scientism?'," response in "Another Round on Morality," by Jason Rosenhouse, Dec 30, 2011, retrieved Feb 24, 2012, [www.scienceblogs.com]

"cause pain"
"Murder is wrong because it causes pain."
-Username: thetangentuniverse, "Why is murder immoral?", July 30, 2011, retrieved Feb 24, 2012, [forums.philosophyforums.com]

"marsupial world"
"I'm just giving you an parallel example of morality in the marsupial world."
-Bill Flowers, "The Evolution of Morality," June 4, 2010, retrieved Feb 24, 2010, [www.youtube.com]

In an atheistic universe (i.e. atheist worldview), there is no logical path to justify a problem with evil. Of course, atheists CLAIM there is a problem with evil, but claiming it is all they can do because they have no logical method with which to justify/verify it.

Can an atheist be moral?

Yes, absolutely, an atheist can be moral. This is an important point Christians need to understand. I'm in no way trying to accuse atheists of being immoral, even though they are under sin just like everyone else. (Gal 3:22)

The problem is that atheists cannot JUSTIFY morals
(good or evil) to exist within the atheist worldview.

Since an atheist is unable to justify morality in his worldview, then if he really believed in atheism, he would abandon moral concepts. However, the atheist hangs on desperately to the concept of morality, despite the fact that they can't find a logical reason to accept it, and that means, in order to argue in favor of the existance of morality, the atheist must borrow from the Christian worldview.

For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, [i.e. Atheists] do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;
-Romans 2:14-15

According to the Bible, atheists desperately hang on to morality because the law of God is still written on their hearts. They are seeking to adhere to the laws of God in moral goodness, but remove God's Word from the equation at the same time, attempting in their arrogance to claim the goodness of God for themselves. This is a love of self that develops into a "god" complex, meaning they seek to be the gods of their own universe, secretly hoping they will never have to answer to the Christian God of the Bible for their lust.

For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away... Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
-2 Timothy 3:1-7

Some of these atheists may be good parents, or have good morals in certain areas (against drinking, against abortion, etc), but the very places that they consider themselves to be good (i.e. having a form of godliness), they reject any notion that the goodness in themselves is bearing witness to the law of God written in their hearts. (i.e. denying the power thereof)

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts... For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
-2 Peter 3:3-7

God's moral law (the invisible things) is demonstrated in the atheists, even when they claim not to believe in him, and that means when Judgment comes, they will be without excuse.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
-Romans 1:20

The following are embedded videos of my discussions with atheists/evolutionists on the topic of morality:

(CLE Podcast #32; Atheist/Evolutionist guest attempts to justify morals in his worldview.)

(CLE Podcast #47; Atheist/Evolutionist guest claims he is more moral than God.)

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