One popular defense of theism makes the claim that, without god, we would have

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One popular defense of theism makes the claim that, without god, we would have no basis for morals. Let's accept for the sake of argument that there can be no morals absent god. Does the alleged dependence of morality upon religion really evidence the existence of god? Or is the concern about morals actually irrelevant to justifying belief in theism?

The status of morality does have an important role in some arguments for and against theistic belief and it has an important place in developing almost any comprehensive account of human nature, other animals and the cosmos. If indeed there are objective moral rights and wrongs, goods and ills, virtues and vices, we need (at some point in our inquiry) to explore the origin of such values and their implications. From a theistic point of view (common to classical Judaism, Christianity, Islam and theistic forms of Hinduism), such values do not emerge from value-less, non-purposive causes. Utlimately, values (like the cosmos itself) are grounded in a teleological, purposive, good Creator. Naturalism (in most forms today) conceives of the cosmos in fundamentally non-teleological forces and needs to account for how such values emerge. For a constructive theistic moral argument, you might consider the work of Mark Linville, Paul Copan, C. Stephen Evans or see the entry on naturalism on the recent Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis, just published this week. For a sophisticated theistic value theory, see Finite and Infinite Goods; A Framework for Ethics by R.M. Adams (Oxford University Press, 1999). You can find naturlist replies in a book called Good without God.

You write: "Let's accept for the sake of argument that there can be no morals absent [G]od. Does the alleged dependence of moralty upon religion religion really [count as] evidence [for] the existence of [G]od?" If one can back up the assumption that morality does depend on some theistic basis, and one has reason to believe that such a basis is more reasonable than its best alternatives, and one has reason to believe that morality is indeed normative (e.g. one does not dismiss all morality as an error, akin to the late J.L. Mackie in Ehics; Inventing Right and Wrong), then (other things being equal) morality would count as a reason for accepting theism. I suggest, however, that the case for and against theism like the case for and against naturalism is complex and best considered as part of an overall comprehensive weighing of many reasons, and not a matter of only considering one line of reasoning such as the theistic moral argument.

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