Can Moral Objectivism Do Without God?

The most discussed moral argument for God’s existence is currently the argument concerning the ontological basis for objective moral values:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist
2. Objective moral values do exist
3. Therefore, God exists[1]

Although consistent atheists must avoid accepting both premises of this logically valid syllogism, it’s not hard to find atheists who endorse either premise. Hence, this argument can be defended by quoting exclusively from atheists. After sketching a defence of both premises, and dealing with the frequent confusion between epistemology and ontology amongst its critics, this paper will focus upon defending the first premise against two objections from atheist Russ Shafer-Landau’s otherwise excellent book Whatever Happened to Good and Evil? (Oxford, 2004).

Premise One: ‘If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist’

Traditionally, atheists have acknowledged that God is a necessary condition of objective moral values (i.e. the sort of moral truths that are discovered rather than invented by humans and which are "valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not"[2]). For example:

• Jean-Paul Sartre: "when we speak of 'abandonment' – a favourite word of Heidegger – we only mean to say that God does not exist, and that it is necessary to draw the consequences of his absence right to the end. The existentialist is strongly opposed to a certain type of secular moralism which seeks to suppress God at the least possible expense. Towards 1880, when the French professors endeavoured to formulate a secular morality, they said … nothing will be changed if God does not exist; we shall rediscover the same norms of honesty, progress and humanity, and we shall have disposed of God as an out-of-date hypothesis which will die away quietly of itself. The existentialist, on the contrary, finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with Him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven. There can no longer be any good a priori, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. It is nowhere written that 'the good' exists, that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now upon the plane where there are only men. Dostoevsky once wrote: 'If God did not exist, everything would be permitted'; and that, for existentialism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself."[3]

• Paul Kurtz: "The central question about moral and ethical principles concerns their ontological foundation. If they are neither derived from God nor anchored in some transcendent ground, they are purely ephemeral."[4]

• Julian Baggini: "If there is no single moral authority [i.e. no God] we have to in some sense 'create' values for ourselves ... [and] that means that moral claims are not true or false… you may disagree with me but you cannot say I have made a factual error."[5]

• Richard Dawkins: "The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose [i.e. no God], no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference."[6] Dawkins concedes: "It is pretty hard to defend absolutist morals on grounds other than religious ones."[7]

By distinguishing between various different properties of ‘the moral law’, philosophers have put forward a variety of independent reasons to accept the first premise of the moral argument:

The argument from moral prescription

Beyond its objectivity, what is sometimes called the ‘moral law’ is not analogous to the scientific concept physical ‘laws’. When I trip up, falling is something I am caused to do, not something I am obliged to do! The ‘moral law’, on the other hand, prescribes (but does not cause) actions that I am obligated to do or to refrain from doing. While I never fail to ‘obey’ the ‘law’ of gravity, I often fail to ‘do the right thing’. A physical law describes what is the case, and can be used to predict what will be the case, but it doesn’t prescribe what ought to be the case as does the ‘moral law’. Now, as Francis J. Beckwith and Greg Koukl observe: "A command only makes sense when there are two minds involved, one giving the command and one receiving it."[8] If an objective moral law has the property of being a command that we receive, then there must be an objective, personal, moral commander beyond individual or collective humanity. As G.E.M. Anscombe affirmed concerning an objective moral law: "Naturally it is not possible to have such a conception unless you believe in God as a lawgiver; like Jews, Stoics, and Christians… you cannot be under a law unless it has been promulgated to you…"[9]

The argument from moral obligation

Francis J. Beckwith observes how "our experience indicates that moral obligation ... is deeply connected to our obligations toward other persons."[10] I have moral obligations, but since I can’t be obligated by anything non-personal (e.g. the evolutionary history of my species), I must be obligated by something personal. Since there are objective moral obligations that transcend all finite persons (or groups thereof), there must therefore be a transcendent personal reality to whom we are most fundamentally obligated. As H.P. Owen argues:

On the one hand [objective moral] claims transcend every human person... On the other hand we value the personal more highly than the impersonal; so that it is contradictory to assert that impersonal claims are entitled to the allegiance of our wills. The only solution to this paradox is to suppose that the order of [objective moral] claims ... is in fact rooted in the personality of God.[11]

Richard Taylor agrees that the idea of a moral obligation or duty more important and binding than those imposed upon us by other individuals or by the state is only intelligible if we make reference to a person who transcends us all:

A duty is something that is owed... But something can be owed only to some person or persons. There can be no such thing as duty in isolation... the idea of an obligation higher than this, and referred to as moral obligation, is clear enough, provided reference to some lawmaker higher... than those of the state is understood... This does give a clear sense to the claim that our moral obligations are more binding upon us than our political obligations... But what if this higher-than-human lawgiver is no longer taken into account? Does the concept of a moral obligation... still make sense?... the concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart form the idea of God. The words remain, but their meaning is gone.[12]

The argument from moral ideals

We appear to apprehend and to measure ourselves against a moral ideal. But it’s hard to conceive of this ideal as an impersonal, abstract reality: "It is clear what is meant when it is said that a person is just; but it is bewildering when it is said that in the absence of any people, justice itself exists. Moral values seem to exist as properties of persons, not as mere [Platonic] abstractions..."[13] Hence A.E. Taylor argued that:

were there no will in existence except the wills of human beings, who are so often ignorant of the law of right and so often defy it, it is not apparent what the validity of the law could mean. Recognition of the validity of the law thus seems to carry with it a reference to an intelligence which has not, like our own, to make acquaintance with it piecemeal, slowly and with difficulty, but has always been in full and clear possession of it, and a will which does not, like our own, often set it at nought, but is guided by it in all its operations.[14]

The argument from moral guilt

Beckwith argues that a non-personal ground of an objective moral law that transcends human subjectivity "is inadequate in explaining the guilt and shame one feels when one violates the moral law. For it is persons, not rules or principles, that elicit in us feelings of guilt and shame."[15] As Paul Copan asks: "Why should we feel guilt towards abstract moral principles?"[16] Since it would be inappropriate to feel guilt or shame before an abstract (impersonal) moral principle, and since it is appropriate to feel guilt and shame before the objective moral law, that moral law cannot be an abstract moral principle. In other words, objective moral values must be ontologically grounded in a transcendent personality before whom it is appropriate to feel moral guilt (it's worth noting that the possibility of objective forgiveness for moral guilt is equally dependent upon the moral law having a personal ground).

These four arguments form a powerful cumulative case for the first premise of the moral argument.

Premise Two: ‘Objective moral values do exist’

Whilst no one who accept the first premise of the moral argument can consistently remain an atheist unless they reject the existence of objective moral values, as John Cottingham observes: "To everyone’s surprise, the increasing consensus among philosophers today is that some kind of objectivism of truth and of value is correct…"[17]

For example, drawing upon the ‘principle of credulity’, atheist Peter Cave argues that: "whatever sceptical arguments may be brought against our belief that killing the innocent is morally wrong, we are more certain that the killing is morally wrong than that the argument is sound… Torturing an innocent child for the sheer fun of it is morally wrong. Full stop."[18]

Indeed, to think that any argument against moral objectivism is compelling would be to embrace the self-contradictory position that (a) there are no objective moral values, and that (b) one objectively ought to accept subjectivism! As Margarita Rosa Levin comments in a related context:

Even the enemies of objectivity rely on it... the skeptic states a position that cannot possibly be sustained or rationally believed [because] he is in effect asking you not to apply his assertion to his own position, without giving any reason for exempting his own words from his own general claim. His position is futile and self-refuting; it can be stated, but it cannot convince anyone who recognizes its implications.[19]

Ontology not Epistemology

Writing in his fascinating study of Ethics, Evil and Fiction (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), atheist Colin McGinn affirms:

When I assert 'this is good' or 'that is evil', I do not mean that I experience desire or aversion, or that I have a feeling of liking or indignation. These subjective experiences may be present; but the judgment points not to a personal or subjective state of mind but to the presence of an objective value in the situation. What is implied in this objectivity? Clearly, in the first place, it implies independence of the judging subject. If my assertion 'this is good' is valid, then it is valid not for me only but for everyone. If I say 'this is good', and another person, referring to the same situation, says 'this is not good', one or other of us must be mistaken... The validity of a moral judgment does not depend upon the person by whom the judgment is made... In saying that moral values belong to the nature of reality... the statement implies an objectivity which is independent of the achievements of persons in informing their lives with these values, and is even independent of their recognising their validity. Whether we are guided by them or not, whether we acknowledge them or not, they have validity... objective moral value is valid independently of my will, and yet is something which satisfies my purpose and completes my nature...[20]

Since McGinn accepts the first premise of the moral argument, he suggests that it is possible "to detach moral objectivity from any religious worldview – so that we do not need to believe in God in order to find morality both important and binding."[21] Here McGinn exhibits a common confusion, in that he conflates the argument for God as the ontological basis for objective moral values with the un-biblical epistemological claim that belief in God is a necessary condition of knowing the difference between right and wrong (cf. Romans 2:14-15). As J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig caution:

The question is not: Must we believe in God in order to live moral lives? There is no reason to think that atheists and theists alike may not live what we normally characterize as good and decent lives. Similarly, the question is not: Can we formulate a system of ethics without reference to God? If the non-theist grants that human beings do have objective value, then there is no reason to think that he cannot work out a system of ethics with which the theist would largely agree. Or again, the question is not: Can we recognize the existence of objective moral values without reference to God? The theist will typically maintain that a person need not believe in God in order to recognize, say, that we should love our children.[22]

Rather, as Paul Copan explains, the moral argument urges that although "Belief in God isn’t a requirement for being moral... the existence of a personal God is crucial for a coherent understanding of objective morality."[23] In other words, although the non-theist can do the right thing because they know what the objectively right thing to do is, their worldview can’t cogently provide an adequate ontological account of the objective moral values they know and obey.

Russ Shafer-Landau on objective values without God

Atheist Russ Shafer-Landau does an excellent job of defending moral objectivism in his book Whatever Happened to Good and Evil? (Oxford University Press, 2004):

some moral views are better than others, despite the sincerity of the individuals, cultures, and societies that endorse them. Some moral views are true, others false, and my thinking them so doesn’t make them so. My society’s endorsement of them doesn’t prove their truth. Individuals, and whole societies, can be seriously mistaken when it comes to morality. The best explanation of this is that there are moral standards not of our own making.[24]

Shafer-Landau acknowledges that many people think there is a connection between objective moral value and God:

This includes theists, many of whom believe in God precisely because they believe in ethical objectivity, and see no way of defending this idea without God. But it also includes all those atheists who embrace moral [subjectivism], just because they believe that the only escape from it is through God, whom they reject.[25]

According to Shafer-Landau, the position of many atheists can thus be expressed in the following ‘argument from atheism’ for moral subjectivism:

Premise 1) Ethics is objective only if God exists.
Premise 2) But God does not exist.
Conclusion) Therefore ethics isn’t objective.[26]

As a case in point, the late J.L. Mackie acknowledged that objective moral values would be evidence for God:

if we adopted moral objectivism, we should have to regard the relations of supervenience which connect values and obligations with their natural grounds as synthetic; they would then be in principle something that a god might conceivably create; and since they would otherwise be a very odd sort of thing, the admitting of them would be an inductive ground for admitting also a god to create them.[27]

Mackie sidestepped the moral argument by embracing the ‘argument from atheism’ and rejecting the objectivity of moral value: "if we adopted instead a subjectivist ... account of morality, this problem would not arise."[28] Unlike Mackie, Shafer-Landau isn’t prepared to reject moral objectivism, so he rejects the other premise of the moral argument, saying that "both theists and atheists can (and should) reject"[29] the 'argument from atheism'.

On the one hand, since its second premise is "just an assertion of atheism"[30], theists will naturally reject the argument from atheism:

It may be that God really does not exist. But unless the atheist can provide compelling argument to that effect, then you theists out there are within your rights to reject the Argument from Atheism. And agnostics are pretty much in the same boat [because] they’ll neither accept nor reject its second premise ... and so will refrain from endorsing its conclusion.[31]

On the other hand, Shafer-Landau thinks that atheists can and should reject the ‘argument from atheism’. Since the ‘argument from atheism’ is logically valid, and since Shafer-Landau accepts its atheistic second premise, he rejects its first premise (which amounts to denying the first premise of the moral argument). To justify this denial, Shafer-Landau tries to rebut what he mistakenly takes to be the only line of thought that ties moral objectivity to God’s existence:

In my experience, people tie objectivity to God because of a very specific line of thought. The basic idea is that all laws (rules, principles, standards, etc.) require a lawmaker. So if there are any moral laws, then these too require a lawmaker. But if these moral laws are objective, then the lawmaker can’t be any one of us. That’s just true by definition. Objectivity implies an independence from human opinion. Well, if objective moral rules aren’t authorised by any one of us, then who did make them up? Three guesses. In a nutshell: all rules require an author. Objective rules can’t be human creations. Therefore objective rules require a nonhuman creator. Enter God.[32]

Shafer-Landau thus reduces the premise that ‘If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist’ to the premise that "all laws require a lawmaker". Even if he can rebut the latter premise, it doesn’t follow that he has rebutted the former premise; but let us examine each precondition of success in turn.

Shafer-Landau’s question-begging rebuttal of Premise One

Since the justification for the moral argument’s first premise, according to Shafer-Landau, is the belief that "all laws require a lawmaker", he concludes that atheists:

must either reject the existence of any objective laws, or reject the claim that laws require lawmakers. Since they can easily accept the existence of some objective laws (e.g. of physics or chemistry) they should deny that laws require authors.[33]

Of course, Shafer-Landau is correct when he says that "If you are an atheist, you do, in fact, believe that all objective laws lack a divine author."[34] But the question here is not what atheists do believe, but rather what they can and should believe. As a rebuttal to the premise "all laws require a lawmaker", the mere observation that atheists believe in the laws of physics without believing in a creator is lacking (obviously relevant theistic arguments are simply being ignored here[35]). The reason atheists believe in objective laws without a lawmaker is that atheists don’t believe in an objective lawmaker: "Who made the second law of thermodynamics true? No one. If these laws are objective, then we certainly didn’t create them. And if God doesn’t exist, then, obviously, God didn’t make them up either. No one did."[36] Here we clearly see that Shafer-Landau’s rebuttal of the moral argument is based upon the question-begging assumption that God does not exist. Landau is offering "just an assertion of atheism"[37], an assertion that theists and agnostics will naturally reject: "It may be that God really does not exist. But unless the atheist can provide compelling argument to that effect, then you theists out there are within your rights to reject [this rebuttal]."[38] Shafer-Landau answers the moral argument like so:

If objective ethical rules require God, that’s because (i) rules require authors; (ii) therefore objective rules require non-human authors; (iii) therefore objective moral rules require a nonhuman author; and (iv) that must be God. Each of these steps follow naturally from the preceding one. Atheists reject the conclusion (iv). Therefore they should reject the initial claim that got them there: (i).[39]

Theists and agnostics will hardly be impressed by this mere "assertion of atheism".[40]

Equivocation is illogical

Shafer-Landau sportingly allows the theist another move; namely, the claim that:

normative laws – those that tell us what we ought to do, how we should behave – do require an author... Even if we concede the existence of scientific laws without lawmakers, we still need some reason to think that moral rules, which are obviously normative, are also authorless.[41]

Shafer-Landau questions any development of the moral argument based upon the distinction between normative and non-normative rules, since "The best reason for thinking that moral laws require an author is that all laws require an author. But that reason, as we’ve seen, is mistaken. What other reason could there be?"[42] Of course, his reason for rejecting the premise that all laws require an author is question-begging, so he’s not off to a good start here. However, he does launch an independent counter-attack upon taking the normative nature of the moral law to be significant:

Not all normative laws require lawmakers. For instance, the laws of logic and rationality are normative. They tell us what we ought to do. But no one invented them. If you have excellent evidence for one claim, and this entails a second claim, then you should believe that second claim. If you are faced with contradictory propositions, and you know that one of them is false, then you must accept the other. If you want just one thing out of life, then you ought to do what’s necessary to achieve it...[43]

Unlike the example of the laws of nature, theists can agree with Shafer-Landau that no one, not even God, ‘invented’ the laws of logic. However, when Shafer-Landau writes that "If you have excellent evidence for one claim, and this entails a second claim, then you should believe that second claim"[44] he equivocates between moral and pragmatic senses of the word ‘should’. Logic qua logic has nothing to say about what objectively ought to be the case morally speaking. Logic can tell us that if we want to accept whatever conclusion is validly deducible from certain premises, then such-and-such is the conclusion that we should accept. But this is a pragmatic (if-then) ‘ought’. Logic can’t tell us that we have a categorical moral obligation to ‘be reasonable’ or to value truth over falsehood. Why not agree with Nietzsche that "The falseness of a judgment is to us not necessarily an objection to a judgment... The question is to what extent it is life-advancing, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps even species-breeding..."[45]? The fact that we can distinguish morality from logic shows that logic isn’t normative in the moral sense of the term. As atheist Kai Nielsen acknowledges: "Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality."[46]

Shafer-Landau’s reductionist strategy

Shafer-Landau response to the moral argument is to reduce the premise that "If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist" to the proposition that "all laws require a lawmaker", but his rebuttal of the latter claim begs the question. He then attempts to rebut the modified premise that "all normative laws require a lawmaker" by committing the fallacy of equivocation. But what of his overarching strategy of reducing the premise that 'If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist' to the premise that "all laws / normative laws require a lawmaker"?

First, although Shafer-Landau’s reduction of the first premise is clearly in the same ballpark as the argument from prescription, it is at best ‘sitting on the bench’. We must be careful to distinguish between positing a moral prescriber as an explanation of the fact that objective moral norms are experienced as prescriptions, and positing a moral prescriber as an explanation of the objectivity of moral values. While the moral argument posits God as the ontological ‘ground’ of the existence of objective moral values per se, it doesn’t employ the concept of prescription for this purpose. The problem with employing the notion prescription in this way, as Shafer-Landau points out, is that it gives the false impression that the moral law is contingent and arbitrary, in that (like gravity) it only exists because God happens to have created it (the terminology of a moral ‘law-giver’ is especially susceptible to this misleading interpretation). Instead, the concept of moral prescription relates specifically to our experience of moral values as facts that prescribe our behaviour. To put the argument from moral prescription another way (by replacing the terms in Shafer-Landau’s own sketch of the moral argument):

(i) a prescription requires a prescriber; (ii) therefore objective prescriptions require non-human prescribers; (iii) therefore objective moral prescriptions require a nonhuman moral prescriber; and (iv) that must be God.

Since Shafer-Landau admits that "Each of these steps follow naturally from the preceding one"[47] when the argument is framed in terms of rules and rule-givers, he ought to admit that each of these steps follows naturally from the preceding one now that we have simply replaced the terms.

Second, Shafer-Landau’s reduction strategy simply ignores the premise-one-supporting arguments from obligation, moral ideals and guilt that we examined above. In effect, Shafer-Landau critiques a straw man.

Euthyphro non sequitur

In Plato’s Euthyphro dialogue, Socrates asks: "Is what is holy holy because the gods approve it, or do they approve it because it is holy?"[48] This question is often taken to entail that ‘God’ is a redundant explanation for the objectivity of moral values. On the one hand, if we ground morality in God’s commands, morality becomes arbitrary (if something is good simply because God commands it, he could just have easily commanded the opposite). On the other hand, if we don’t ground morality in God’s commands, morality must be independent of God’s commands, and thus (so it is frequently but mistakenly urged) independent of God. As Bertrand Russell argued:

if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, you are then in this situation: is that difference due to God’s fiat or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good. If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God’s fiat, because God’s fiats are good and not bad independently of the mere fact that He made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God.[49]

Shafer-Landau uses the Euthyphro dilemma to argue that: "ethical objectivists – even the theists among them – should insist on the existence of a realm of moral truths that have not been created by God."[50] I agree. To say that God ‘creates’ moral truths by merely issuing contingent prescriptions entails the self-contradictory claim that objective moral truths are contingent and arbitrary. However, Shafer-Landau jumps from the need to reject the ‘arbitrary’ horn of the Euthyphro dilemma to the conclusion that "even if you believe in God, you should have serious reservations about tying the objectivity of morality to God’s existence."[51] Here we have a simple non sequitur that equivocates between (a) the conclusion that the objectivity of objective moral values is not grounded in God’s commands and (b) the conclusion that the objectivity of objective moral values is not grounded in God’s essential nature.

As has already been noted, we must distinguish between positing a transcendent moral prescriber as an explanation for the prescriptive nature of objective moral values, and positing a transcendent person as an explanation of the objective existence of moral values. While the moral argument posits a personal God to account for the existence of objective moral values per se, it doesn’t employ the concept of God qua moral prescriber for this purpose. Rather: "God’s commands are good, not because God commands them, but because God is good. Thus, God is not subject to a moral order outside of himself, and neither are God’s moral commands arbitrary. God’s commands are issued by a perfect being who is the source of all goodness."[52]

As Keith E. Yandell warns: "The Euthyphro argument nicely raises some issues, but it does not settle anything. There are alternatives in addition to the two that the Euthyphro argument considers. The argument would succeed only if there were not."[53] The Euthyphro dilemma destroys the ‘Divine Command Theory’ according to which "actions are right because (and only because) God commands them."[54] Shafer-Landau is therefore right to say that "the best option for theists is to reject the Divine Command Theory"[55]; however, he is wrong to conclude from this that the moral argument is therefore unsound, because the moral argument simply doesn’t depend upon Divine Command Theory. As William Lane Craig observes:

Plato himself saw the solution to this objection: you split the horns of the dilemma by formulating a third alternative, namely, God is the Good. The Good is the moral nature of God himself. That is to say, God is necessarily holy, loving, kind, just, and so on, and these attributes of God comprise the Good. God’s moral character expresses itself towards us in the form of certain commandments, which become for us our moral duties. Hence God’s commandments are not arbitrary, but necessarily flow from his own nature.[56]

This understanding of the relationship between God and Goodness, which side-steps the Euthyphro dilemma, is called ‘essentialism’ (because it sees Goodness as part of God’s ontological essence).


While many atheists grant the existence of a connection between objective moral values and the existence of God, and therefore accept moral subjectivism, a significant number of contemporary atheists endorse moral objectivism. Atheists who endorse moral objectivism have to take issue with their fellow atheists over the first premise of the moral argument, despite the powerful cumulative case that supports it. Atheist Russ Shafer-Landau ably defends moral objectivism, and (unlike certain other atheists) he understands that the first premise of the moral argument is ontological rather than epistemological in character. However, in attempting to avoid the conclusion of the moral argument, Shafer-Landau attacks a straw man by begging the question, equivocating and drawing a non sequitur from a false dilemma.

Recommended Resources

Recommended Books on the Moral Argument,


William Lane Craig v. Sam Harris, ‘Is the Foundation for Morality Natural or Supernatural?’,


Peter Kreeft, ‘A Refutation of Moral Relativism’,

Peter S. Williams, ‘The Meta-Ethical Argument for Theism’,

Peter S. Williams, ‘Meta-Ethics and God’,

On-Line Reading

Robert M. Adams, ‘Moral Arguments for God’,

Francis J. Beckwith, ‘Why I Am Not A Moral Relativist’,

J. Budziszewski, ‘Can We Be Good Without God?’,

Paul Copan, ‘God, Naturalism and the Foundations of Morality’,

Paul Copan, ‘Morality and Meaning Without God: Another Failed Attempt’,

Paul Copan, ‘Can Michael Martin be a Moral Realist?: Sic Et Non’,

F.C. Copleston v. Bertrand Russell, ‘A Debate on the Existence of God’,

William Lane Craig, ‘The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality’, [requires log in to the Reasonable Faith site for access]

William Lane Craig v. Richard Taylor, ‘Is the Foundation for Morality Natural or Supernatural?’, [requires log in to the Reasonable Faith site for access]

C.S. Lewis, ‘Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Heart of the Universe’,

C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man,

Mark D. Lindville, ‘The Moral Argument’,

Steven Lovell, ‘God as the Grounding of Moral Objectivity: Defending Against Euthyphro’,

J.P. Moreland, ‘The Ethical Inadequacy of Naturalism’,

Michael C. Rea, ‘Naturalism and Moral Realism’,

Peter S. Williams, ‘The Abolition of Man: Reflections on Reductionism with Special Reference to Eugenics’,

Peter S. Williams v. Carl Stetcher, ‘Morality and the Biblical God’,


[1] William Lane Craig, God? A Debate Between A Christian And An Atheist (ed. James P. Sterba; Oxford, 2004), p.19. See also: William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, third edition (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2009) & On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010).
[2] Ibid, p.17.
[3] Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism (New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2007), p.28,
[4] Paul Kurtz, Forbidden Fruit (Prometheus, 1988), p.65.
[5] Julian Baggini, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2003), pp.41-51.
[6] Richard Dawkins, ‘God’s Utility Function’, Scientific American, November 1995, p.85, my italics.
[7] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (London: Bantam Press, 2006), p.232.
[8] Francis J. Beckwith & Gregory Koukl, Moral Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1998), p.166.
[9] G.E.M. Anscombe, ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’, Virtue Ethics (eds., Roger Crisp & Michael Slote; Oxford, 1997), pp.31 & 39.
[10] Francis J. Beckwith, ‘Moral Law, the Mormon Universe, and the Nature of the Right We Ought to Choose’, The New Mormon Challenge (ed. Francis J. Beckwith et al; Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2002), p.230.
[11] H.P. Owen, ‘Why Morality Implies The Existence Of God’, Philosophy of Religion: a guide and anthology (ed. Brian Davies; Oxford, 2000), p.648.
[12] Richard Taylor, Ethics, Faith, and Reason (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985), pp.83-84.
[13] J.P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP, 2003), p.492.
[14] A.E. Taylor, Does God Exist? (London: Fontana, 1961), p.107.
[15] Beckwith, op. cit., p.230.
[16] Paul Copan, True For You, But Not For Me (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House, 1998), p.62.
[17] John Cottingham, ‘Philosophers are finding fresh meanings in Truth, Goodness and Beauty’, The Times (June 17, 2006).
[18] Peter Cave, Humanism (Oxford: OneWorld, 2009), p.146.
[19] Margarita Rosa Levin, ‘A Defence of Objectivity’ Classics of Philosophy Volume IIIThe Twentieth Century (ed. Louis J. Pojman; Oxford, 2001), pp.550 & 558.
[20] Colin McGinn, Ethics, Evil and Fiction (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999).
[21] Ibid, p.vii.
[22] Moreland & Craig, op. cit., p.492.
[23] Copan, op. cit., p.45.
[24] Russ Shafer-Landau, Whatever Happened to Good and Evil? (Oxford, 2004), p.viii.
[25] Ibid, p.75.
[26] Cf. Shafer-Landau, ibid, p.75.
[27] J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford University Press, 1982), p.118.
[28] Ibid.
[29] Shafer-Landau, op. cit., p.76.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Ibid, pp.75-76.
[33] Ibid, p.76.
[34] Ibid, p.77.
[35] Cf. John Foster, The Divine Lawmaker: Lectures on Induction, Laws of Nature, and the Existence of God (Oxford, 2004); Alexander R. Pruss, ‘The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument’; William Lane Craig, ‘The Kalam Cosmological Argument’ & Robin Collins, ‘The Teleological Argument: an exploration of the fine-tuning of the universe’ in The Blackwell Companion To Natural Theology (eds. William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland; Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009); William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, third edition (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2009); Bruce L. Gordon, ‘Balloons On A String: A Critique of Multiverse Cosmology’, The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science (eds. Bruce L. Gordon & William A. Dembski; Wilmington: ISI, 2011).
[36] Shafer-Landau, op. cit.
[37] Ibid, p.76.
[38] Ibid.
[39] Ibid, p.77.
[40] Ibid, p.76.
[41] Ibid, p.77.
[42] Ibid.
[43] Ibid.
[44] Ibid.
[45] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (aphorism 4),
[46] Kai Nielsen, ‘Why Should I Be Moral?’, American Philosophical Quarterly 21, 1984, p.90.
[47] Shafer-Landau, op. cit., p.77.
[48] Plato, Euthyphro, 10a, Plato, The Collected Dialogues of Plato, (trans.) Lane Cooper (eds. Edith Hamilton and Huntingdon Cairns; Princeton University Press, 1961), p.178.
[49] Michael Peterson et al, Reason and Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford, 1992), p.85.
[50] Shafer-Landau, op. cit., p.79.
[51] Ibid, p.78.
[52] Beckwith, op. cit., p.232.
[53] Keith E. Yandell, ‘Theology, Philosophy, And Evil’, For Faith And Clarity (ed. James K. Beilby; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), p.240.
[54] Shafer-Landau, op. cit., p.80.
[55] Ibid, p.83.
[56] William Lane Craig, God, Are You There? (1999), pp.38-39.

© 2011 Peter S. Williams
This paper appeared in Norwegian in the Scandinavian apologetics journal Theofilos ( and appears on by the kind permission of its author.