God and Objective Morality – William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Craig and Sinnott-Armstrong are primarily interested in discussing the relationship between God and morality. Craig maintains that in order for morality to be objective, God must exist. He points out that it is possible for both theists and atheists alike to endorse such a claim, and many atheists have done just so. When an atheist maintains that objective morality does not exist unless God exists, she is thereby denying that objective morality exists. Craig offers several considerations for thinking that the only thing that could ground objective moral values is God. First, he argues that an atheistic evolutionary account of human moral values denies their objectivity. If moral values developed for evolutionary reasons, he argues, then they did so because they are socially advantageous. But, if our moral beliefs exist as they do merely because they are socially advantageous, then there is no reason to think that there is something deeply wrong about murder, for example. We only think that murder is wrong because having that belief was somehow fitness-enhancing; but that’s incredibly implausible, Craig thinks. Next, he considers the atheist position of maintaining the moral values just are objective, and that nothing further explains their existence. Craig says that this view is incomprehensible; he cannot imagine what it be like for moral values simply to exist without explanation. Further, he argues, such an account cannot adequately explain moral duty. This is because he maintains that a duty is something that is owed to someone; but if objective moral values just exist, then to whom are my duties owed? He argues that the only way to make sense of having a moral duty is to suppose that someone created the moral laws, and that it is to that being that we owe our moral duties. Presumably, such a being would have to be God.

Against these considerations, Sinnott-Armstrong argues that it is perfectly reasonable for an atheist to maintain the existence of objective moral values. First, Sinnot-Armstrong contends that Craig has committed the fallacy of equivocation in his argument that, if our moral values depend on biological evolution, then moral values cannot be objective. He argues that Craig problematically relies on two different senses of the term “moral” in this argument, rendering it invalid. Next, Sinnott-Armstrong argues that the atheist does have a plausible way of explaining the wrongness of rape – namely, the harm it does to the victim. In fact, he maintains, the atheist can rely on everything that the theist can rely on in explain the wrongness of rape (for instance), except for God. Most importantly, though, Sinnott-Armstrong relies on the Euthyphro dilemma in order to show that there is good reason to think that God couldn’t possibly be the foundation of objective moral values. For, if God commands as he does for no reason, then his commands are arbitrary. If, on the other hand, God commands as he does on the basis of reasons, then it is those reasons, and not God, that ground the objectivity of morality.