Tom Krattenmaker says that atheists can be good without God. His article in USA Today (“Good Boy Scouts Don’t Need God,” May 13, 2013) attempts to make the case that atheists are good people. They don’t believe in God and yet they perform good deeds. No they don’t and they don’t do bad deeds either.
If there is no God, there are no morals for anyone. There is neither good nor evil. Whatever a person does cannot be evaluated in moral terms. Evolution knows nothing about morality. Let me be clear. I am not saying that atheists are immoral people. Most atheists do not murder, steal, and rape. But if they did, given the nature of the atheistic worldview, if they were truly consistent with their materialistic operating assumptions, there wouldn’t be anything morally wrong with killing people for whatever reason, or raping to advance the species, or stealing to grow the evolutionary model.
The atheist borrows morality from the theistic worldview. He does the same with logic, love, and laughter.
Atheists admit as much, even though they are not consistent with their operating assumptions. Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1886–1961) wrote:
“I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.”1
A materialist can measure the temperature of a corpse, determine the approximate time of death, and how the evolved entity’s life was extinguished, but there is nothing inherent in the atheist’s worldview that can say that there is any moral difference if the bullet to the meat bag was murder, self-defense, or suicide. Death is death, and there’s nothing beyond the cold corpse. The after death future of the world’s greatest philanthropist is no different from that of the world’s greatest genocidal maniac.
The atheist has to go outside his matter-only worldview to find any moral light. An atheist cannot find moral certainty in the atoms of matter-only worldview.
Atheist William Provine, historian of science and of evolutionary biology and population genetics, has concluded that “modern science directly implies that there are no inherent moral or ethical laws.”2 In a debate with Intelligent Design (ID) advocate Phillip E. Johnson, Provine admitted that there are “no ultimate foundations for ethics.”
Christian philosopher Norman L. Geisler states:
How would you know that the Holocaust is ultimately wrong unless you knew what was ultimately right? If you don’t have an absolute standard for right, you can’t say that [the Holocaust] is absolutely wrong. That’s just your opinion, and somebody else’s opinion could be, the Holocaust was the best thing in the history of mankind.3
This is why an atheist must act in a clandestine way as an “interloper on God’s territory. Everything he uses to construct his system has been stolen from God’s ‘construction site.’ The unbeliever is like the little girl who must climb on her father’s lap to slap his face. . . . [T]he unbeliever must use the world as it has been created by God to try to throw God off Hs throne.”4
Robert Bork, in the Preface to Herbert Schlossberg’s book Idols for Destruction, recognizes the “borrowed capital” principle:
“Some few years ago friends whose judgment I greatly respect argued that religion constitutes the only reliable basis for morality and that when religion loses its hold on a society, standards of morality will gradually crumble. I objected that there were many moral people who are not at all religious; my friends replied that such people are living on the moral capital left by generations that believed there is a God and that He makes demands on us. The prospect, they said, was that the remaining moral capital would dwindle and our society become less moral. The course of society and culture has been as they predicted, which certainly does not prove their point but does provide evidence for it.5
So then, atheists are only good in so far as they evaluate goodness in terms of a universal standard. Atoms, electricity, gravity, DNA, mud, sand, or whatever cannot supply the basis for even the category called morality.
If the Boy Scouts give up God, there is no basis for goodness or badness. Atheism is like setting one’s sails “for the island of nihilism. This is the darkest continent of the darkened mind — the ultimate paradise of the fool.”6
- Erwin Schrödinger, Nature and the Greeks (Cambridge University Press, 1954). Quoted in Henry F. Schaefer, Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence? (Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 2003), 8. [↩]
- William Provine, “Progress in Evolution and Meaning in Life,” Evolutionary Progress, ed. Matthew H. Nitecki (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 47–74. Quoted in John Byl, The Divine Challenge on Matter, Mind, Math and Meaning (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004), 39–40. [↩]
- Quoted in Carey Kinsolving, “For Christian Apologist, God Speaks in the Voice of Reason,” The Washington Post (July 3, 1993). [↩]
- John A. Fielding III, “The Brute Facts: An Introduction of the Theology and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til,” The Christian Statesman 146:2 (March-April 2003), 30. [↩]
- Robert H. Bork, “Preface” in Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and Its Confrontation with American Society (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway,  1990), xvi. [↩]
- R. C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts That Shaped Our World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), 171. [↩]