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Morality without God?

By: Fr. Engelbert Recktenwald

Whoever says, that all morality collapse without God, quite often causes outrage. The response this assertion often provokes is that, God is not needed for high standing morals.

But then I encounter such slogans, like the one pro-abortionists held against the Berlin March of Life: "No God, no state, no patriarchy". Here God appears as an annoying obstacle for the "right to abort", which means the right to kill humans. Where God no longer serves as life’s guarantor, the human being becomes fair game, at least that human being who is not able to fight back and articulate his rights.

If the human person no longer bears the likeness of God’s image, but is merely an improved version of an Ape, talk about his dignity becomes mere rhetoric, which would be readily sacrificed in favour of human interests of all kinds. Without God, man is a wolf to man (Thomas Hobbes). The wolf’s call to his right of self-determination in order to overturn the right to life (as somewhat held by Jochen Taupitz), is cynical. This right already finds its limit with regard to property as nobody would take away this justification from a thief. But if it is about the right to life, should this right to self-determination suddenly take priority?

Such an aberration is only possible on the basis of atheism. Because if God does not exist, there is also no sanctity of human life, no inviolable dignity und absolutely no legitimacy in prohibiting the killing of innocent children. Then man makes himself God and arrogates unto himself the authority to define who can be regarded as human and who cannot; who is allowed to live and who is not.

Without God even those legally protected rights become a plaything of interests, which are under the protection of the constitution - yet these people demand: "No state"! Although the state protection already has no effect, the constitutional recognition of the right to life itself is for them a thorn in the side. Without God, morality collapses: the slogans of the pro-abortionists truly manifest this to us!

Yet atheism does not necessarily destroy morality. Of course it is also possible to act morally without having faith in God. Even the atheist has a conscience; he also has an idea of dignity and values, and he can distinguish between good and evil. Catholic theology speaks about natural law, which natural human reasoning has access to, and St. Paul speaks of the law of God, which is written in the heart of the human being (Romans 2:15).

The only problem is that every naturalistic explanation - and no other explanation is available to the atheist - interprets morality in an eliminative way. For Nietzsche, morality was an invention of the weak in order to protect themselves from the strong. For evolutionists it is a trick of nature in her fight for survival. For psychologist it is a product of education. In all these cases the voice of conscience is turned into something else rather than what it truly is: It is no longer the outflow of an objective obligation but a product of nature, education or society. The moment it is understood as such, it loses its binding force and the question as to whether I disregard it or not, becomes a question of solving a calculus problem. In other words: every naturalistic explanation stands in conflict with moral evidence.

If therefore atheists act morally, then it is only because they are inconsistent. Thank God they are! In practice, the moral evidence is after all stronger than every naturalistic explanation. Only a form of atheism which is well thought through destroys morality. However, the reverse can also be the case: the morality which is well thought through destroys atheism! The proof for the existence of God can be made using the famous argument of Dostojewski. According to him, if God does not exist, everything is licit and allowed. But now, one may add, not everything is allowed. This is what moral evidence tells us day by day. God therefore exists.

Translation by Agnes Jovic

The article in German


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