There is a kind of argument for God that seems very common amongst the “New Apologists” that is called the “Argument from Morality.” I am bothered by this argument for a couple of reasons, and I’ll spell them out here. This argument runs something like this:
1. There is objective morality.
2. A law-giving God is the only thing that could ground an objective morality.
Hence, God must exist.
Built into this is an unstated premise, that being that no person’s opinion is adequate to ground an objective morality as all opinions are merely subjective. Sometimes this is made explicit, but often it is not. So, if someone were to ask why people merely getting together and agreeing that something was moral or immoral would not suffice for grounding an objective morality, this would be the core reason. If it is true that all people’s opinions on morality are merely subjective, then an objective morality would never be possible. Subjectivity never gives you objectivity, no matter how many people agree. Even if everyone agreed, that would never cut it, and that’s just because it’s still just opinion and not moral law.
This unstated premise is important as it provides the reasoning behind the premise (2). I want to grant this without issue. I think it’s fine, and I am happy to let it stand. However, that’s the only thing which I am willing to concede to this argument. Beyond that, it looks like it fails on all fronts. That is, both of the stated premises just seem ridiculously problematic. Certainly, they are not the kind of thing that can be taken as self-evident.
Starting with premise (1), we see that this is just a bald assertion with little genuine support. Is there any such thing? Maybe. But, if there is, it is not obvious. Even worse, it’s not obvious what the laws of such a morality would be. Indeed, moral laws appear to vary from community to community, and this is simply indisputable. I do not think much time needs to be spent on this. Suffice to say that if there is an objective morality, what it is, how it works, and what justifies it are subjects of great debate. As such, this premise cannot be taken to be the starting point of any proof for anything, much less something as controversial as God.
The above said, I think the problem is much worse than that. Even if we granted (1), it is not clear why (2) is true, and this, I think, is the big issue. The idea here is that all we mere mortals have is a subjective opinion, and, as stated above, this never gets us to objective law. But why should we think, then, that pushing the problem back to God solves this issue? This is what I do not get about those who push this argument. If tastes and opinions are all subjective, why isn’t God’s opinion subjective? Does He not have a perspective? Presumably He has some point of view, and that necessarily means He sees things from that vantage, that he has some perspective that is peculiar to Him. But that means that his views are just as subjective as everything else’s, and, as such, His tastes (Tastes?) do not amount to objectivity, either. Rather, what He has is some particular set of values, and He wants those values (Values?) respected and accepted. But this is no different than anyone else. Certainly, I want my values accepted by everyone else as well, but that does not make my values in any way objective. So why does it work that way for God?
One possible response is that God’s values are objective because God created everything. But how does this follow? What is it about creating something that means that the creator’s values are what counts over and beyond any other entity’s values, including those of the creation? For example, if I created a robot, and that robot was so sophisticated as to be sentient, would my values count as objective in relation to that entity? So, if I thought it was a good thing for that robot to be tortured and caused to suffer for my own pleasure, would that be “good” for the robot? Would it be morally obligated to suffer? I cannot see why such would be the case. But that seems to call into question the idea that a creator’s tastes count as objective moral imperatives for the creations. I just do not see how this could work for me, and, as such, it does not look like it works for any creator, even the Creator.
Another response might have to do with God’s power. That is, God’s values are objective and apply to all because His power is infinite. But that seems to directly contradict our intuitions about morality. It does not seem that if some really strong guy, say Superman, came along and wanted to impose a different morality, then that morality would become objective, and we would all be obligated to obey that “law.” So, if Superman wanted you to kill your kids, that does not seem like his wanting it would make it good. And if we imagine a Super-Superman, it does not look like it would work for him, either. So we just extend that all the way out to omnipotence, the Super-Super-Superman, God, and it does not look like we are warranted in saying that His will has any more obligating power just because He happens to be infinitely strong. Certainly, He can harm anyone who fails to live by His tastes, but that does not seem to make His tastes objective. Rather, it just means that he can harm someone who does not do as He wishes. As such, it might be prudent for us to follow His orders, but it does not appear that we are morally obligated to do any such thing.
The big point here, then, is that this argument cannot demonstrate the necessary existence of God just because positing God is not a solution to the proposed problem. That is, even if we allowed for the first premise of the argument to be true (which, as I’ve already shown, we have no reason to do), the second premise in no way explains the first premise given that the unstated premise, that subjective opinions will never grant objective law, holds for God as well. As such, the conclusion cannot be reached: God’s existence cannot be deduced from this argument.
In the end, this argument seems to suffer from the same flaw from which so many other arguments for God suffer. That is, those pushing it attempt to make God necessary by suggesting that everything of which we are aware is insufficient to do some particular job that supposedly needs to be done. This is most obvious in the various cosmological arguments for God. God becomes the Prime Mover, the First Cause, etc. This is even a similar problem for the teleological argument that supposes that everything requires a designer. The issue for all those arguments is why the thing they propose as a solution is exempt from the problem they are attempting to raise. If everything needs a cause, what caused God? If everything requires a designer, what designed God? In each case of those arguments, God is supposed to have some special property that makes Him different from everything else, but in allowing for such a property, the proponents of those arguments undercut the supposed necessity of something like God. If it turns out that not everything needs a cause (since God does not), then we no longer need a First Cause. If everything does not require a designer, then we no longer need a Designer. And, in the same way, if it turns out that something’s subjective tastes are sufficient for an objective morality, namely God’s, then the claim that subjectivity never gets us objectivity is completely undercut.
By proposing a solution to the problem of morality, the “New Apologists” only succeed in showing that they do not believe the most important premise of their own argument, thus negating the power of the entire thing.