Can Morality Be Objective without God?

1. Introduction

Citation Information

Allan, Leslie 2017. Can Morality Be Objective without God?, URL = <>.

This text is a transcript of Leslie Allan's address to the Discussing Religion Respectfully Meetup Group on Thursday 7th December, 2017 at Grace Church of Christ, Wantirna, Victoria, Australia.

Photo by Veit Feger of Pfarrkirche St. Michael, Kettershausen, Landkreis Unterallgäu

By way of introduction, let me say a little about my background. From a very early age, I was very interested in the sciences. My first keen interest was in astronomy, like many young children at that age. Who could not wonder at the expanse and beauty of the universe and all that it held? I then developed a curiosity for chemistry, spending many hours cataloguing which chemical reacted with which other chemicals to produce something new. I next got very interested in electronics after casually picking up a hobby electronics magazine. I then went on to study and eventually work in electronics, it becoming my career for the first three decades of my working life.

In my early years, I was also surrounded by people who believed strongly and sincerely that both our earthly lives and all that exists in the celestial sphere are governed by a superhuman force. I thought a lot about how these two views of humankind and our place in the universe, the scientific view and the religious view, could be reconciled. In my later teens, I had many long debates over this question with a couple of religious friends of mine. These discussions prompted me to enrol in an undergraduate degree in philosophy and history of religion at my local university. Even though I started with a keen interest in the philosophy of religion, it did not take me long to develop an even bigger appetite for two other areas of philosophical enquiry. These were moral philosophy and epistemology. The latter is the formal name for the philosophy of knowledge.

Book cover: Reason and Religion by Rem B. Edwards

I've recently now mostly retired from the business world, which has thankfully freed up time for me to get back to my primary loves; science and philosophy. I'm using that time now to update a number of essays I wrote in earlier times and to publish them on my Rational Realm web site. I am also writing and publishing new material, and this talk tonight is based on essays I've written more recently on the subject of moral reasoning. My time now is also taken up with managing my local humanist organization's web site and social media presence.

The subtitle of tonight's talk is Do we really need a God or religion to define for us what is good and bad, righteous and evil? In exploring this vexed question in my talk, I want to present to you four key ideas. Firstly, I will argue that there is an important sense in which we objectively reason about what's right and wrong in a way that does not refer to God's commands. The second idea is that ethics is neither exclusively 'objective' nor 'subjective'. I want to say that it has both an important objective and subjective dimension. Thirdly, I will propose that the central requirement for moral reasoning is that we reason impartially; that is, without regard for a person's identity, social position, ethnicity, gender, etc. And finally, I want to show how the recognition of this requirement for impartiality has a long and distinguished tradition in both moral philosophy and religious thinking.

Copyright © 2017

You will be interested in

Share This

  • twitter
  • facebook
  • linkedin
  • googleplus
  • gmail
  • delicious
  • reddit
  • digg
  • newsvine
  • posterous
  • friendfeed
  • googlebookmarks
  • yahoobookmarks
  • yahoobuzz
  • orkut
  • stumbleupon
  • diigo
  • mixx
  • technorati
  • netvibes
  • myspace
  • slashdot
  • blogger
  • tumblr
  • email
Short URL:
PDF Download Can Morality Be Objective without God?

Download this essay