If God doesn't exist, is murder still wrong?

Continuing the discussion from Biblical science arguments versus worldly scientific argument:

Hi @maylana,

Thank you for raising this interesting question! I’ve wrestled with it, and I know many others have too.

Here’s one version of the skeptical position, as I understand it:

If God doesn’t exist, we’d still believe murder is wrong. In fact, we intuitively know murder is wrong without even thinking about God. If the only reason we’re not murdering people is a belief in God, we need to evaluate ourselves! We don’t need God to know the difference between right and wrong.

I haven’t recently checked into Shermer’s arguments here, but I’d be grateful for any clarification. It’s a gift to have intellectual challenges to our beliefs, because it provokes us to think, study, research, and talk!

One point of common ground, thankfully, is that we all agree murder is wrong! There’s no need to name-call or insult each other. I’m grateful we’re in agreement on this moral principle.

However, I think there are a variety of reasons to challenge the skeptical position - while remaining friendly and kind towards skeptical people.

First, it assumes that human life is valuable. The best reason to value human life, in my view, is that we each represent God. We bear the ‘imago dei’ or image of God (Genesis 1).

Without God, why believe that humans have something like ‘dignity’ or ‘worth’?

Second, perhaps we have these moral intuitions because we are created by God. If Christianity is true, then as creatures made by God, and made to respond to God’s goodness, and because he cares for all of us, even if we don’t believe in him, he would make all of us with a conscience that is at least somewhat responsive to the truth.

Our moral intuitions themselves can point us to recognize the perfect moral judgment of God, in whose image we are made.

Third, we have the “who says?” problem.

If I say murder is wrong, well, so what? Who am I to you? If you disagree, what appeal do I have? Ultimately, I hope that most people in my society think murder is wrong, and have the capacity to establish laws, policing, jails, etc. to discourage murder, and provide justice when someone does commit murder.

But if God says murder is wrong, well, we have to reckon with that. Because it means that there is divine justice. It’s quite foolish to disagree with God, or to take him lightly. If we soberly consider what it means that God opposes murder (In Genesis 4, the blood of Abel cries out to God!), then we might want to say, “Yes, murder is wrong, and I know this because a God of perfect goodness opposes it.”

God’s authority certainly outweighs any human opinion!

Fourth, how can we even know what’s right or wrong? Perhaps we are merely biological organisms competing for survival and reproduction. Morality is another evolutionary pressure. We can ask ourselves, what helps our species (or my family or me) survive? Maybe murder is effective; maybe it isn’t. But the governing principle is out-competing others.

Within the evolutionary framework, we will often apprehend moral claims as binding upon us. However, as we dispassionately evaluate what is going on, we might perceive these are biological imperatives masquerading as moral ones.

But if we have reference to a transcendent point of view, then we have access to another vantage point. From the Creator’s perspective, who values all human life, he can reveal to our conscience, and via divine revelation, that murder is wrong. As we encounter the reality of valuable human beings, listen to our God-given moral intuitions, and listen to God’s voice, we have a firmer foundation for knowing moral truths.

Of course, many of my secular friends have moral knowledge, make moral claims, and live moral lives. Sometimes, they have superior knowledge, arguments, and lives than me! I’m not arguing for Christian moral supremacy - we have plenty of scandals to own. Rather, I’m suggesting that the best explanation for all of these moral experiences is rooted in God’s goodness, as revealed to us in creation, conscience, and canon (the Bible).

I hope this at least gets the conversation started. I’m curious to hear more from you and others!


@Carson ,

“Ultimately, I hope that most people in my
society think murder is wrong, and have the
capacity to establish laws, policing, jails, etc. to
discourage murder, and provide justice when
someone does commit murder.”

Americans are no less devoted to the pleasure of sin than those who worshiped Ba’al, with our human trafficking, lewd behaviors and addictions. Many in our culture worship the sun and earth as much as those ancient people did; and more so! The ancients sacrificed mere THOUSANDS of babies in worship of Ba’al, while Americans have slain over six- MILLION of ours, naively calling it choice. Indeed, we pursue pleasures endlessly – merely lacking an understanding of the origin of those pursuits.

 "Our moral intuitions themselves can point us 
   to recognize the perfect moral judgment of 
   God, in whose image we are made."

It’s funny that the people who bring up the question of whether an all-powerful Creator can or should prevent evil things from happening are the people who claim to be “atheists”. When you think about it, the question implies a moral judgement – allowing or causing pain is immoral. Yet the idea of morality only makes sense if there’s a higher law to measure behavior against. It requires that there is an absolute definition of right and wrong. The recognition of right and wrong is an admission that a higher law exists, but not only that, it’s a confirmation of the law that is written inside us from our earliest moment.

Even small children know about fairness and that causing pain in someone else is wrong. People of every age know that putting oneself at risk while helping someone else is right and good. These things can’t be explained by evolution or natural selection because it’s the opposite of self -preservation; yet this is a trait seen in every race and ethnicity, every people group.

The Bible shows us that love existed before humanity; love was already at work in the Godhead before there was human life. That’s why Jesus said that love was the greatest command - it’s the ultimate moral law and happens to be the essence of what God is. He wrote it [HIMSELF] into our hearts.

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