Was Saddam Hussein wrong when he ordered the gassing of innocent people in Kurdish villages in the late 1980’s? Were the massacres of innocent people in Bosnia and Rwanda wrong?
“Well, yeah. Of course those things were wrong.”
Why? Why are those things wrong?
We know there are fundamental moral standards that teach us that things like murder and rape are wrong. We know it’s wrong to steal from someone. But why do we know this? What is the source of these moral standards? If there are universal standards of morality, then there has to be a Primary Source for that morality.
What if, as some say, there is no God, and we are all here through random chance and billions of years of evolution?
If that is the case, there are and can be no universal moral standards. If there is no supernatural being governing our lives, there can be no universal standard of morality to guide us. This is because the source for any moral code would be the imaginations and beliefs of individual people or groups of people. One group of people may believe that killing innocents is wrong, but another might believe it is perfectly fine.
If there is no God, how can we declare that the actions of Nazi Germany were absolutely morally wrong? We can’t, because the moral code of the Nazis and the moral code of the Allies are simply different standards brought forth by different groups of people. There is no objective way to compare the two.
If there is no God, there can be no absolute moral standards. Instead, there are only competing human values. We cannot declare that Adolf Hitler’s morality is superior or inferior to Mother Teresa’s morality unless we have an objective higher standard to compare them to. An atheist on a forum I used to visit recognized this when he said that the Holocaust was not fundamentally evil because there is no absolute right and wrong.
This is not to say that “morality” cannot exist in a godless world. Individuals can live by personal moral standards, and groups of people can agree to a set of moral standards to live by and perhaps even enforce by law, but they cannot declare anything to be fundamentally good or evil.
But if there is a God, we can point out what is universally good, or what is universally evil. This is because we have a Primary Source of morality to look to and measure ourselves with: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. II Timothy 3:16-17
I am a Christian, and therefore I believe there is a universal standard for right and wrong: the Bible. I can declare that the Holocaust was fundamentally immoral because it violates the laws that a Supreme Being has put in place for His creation. I appeal directly to a Higher Power that holds ultimate authority over all mankind, regardless of culture, national history or anything else.
An atheist cannot do that. An atheist can say he personally despises the killing of innocents, and he or she may even argue that killing innocents goes against established human morality. An atheist cannot argue, though, that the Holocaust was fundamentally immoral, because there ois no objective standard to say that his morality is superior to the morality of Nazi Germany. It is a horrible way to live.