One of the difficulties of atheism is that when you deny God’s existence, you leave yourself with no real basis for making moral decisions. Norman Geisler, in the book The Intellectuals Speak Out About God, tells a wonderful story about a philosophy student and his professor that illustrates the moral dilemma of atheism.
“The student wrote a research paper arguing that there is no God; consequently, he went on to argue, there can be no objective or absolute moral principles. Judged by the paper’s research, scholarship, and argumentation, most would have agreed it was easily an A paper. The professor, however, wrote these words on the paper: F – I do not like this blue folder.
The student stormed into the professor’s office, waving his paper, protesting, ‘This is not fair! This is totally unjust! Why should I be graded on the color of the folder? It should have been graded on its contents, not its color!’
Once the student had settled down, the professor asked quietly, ‘Was this the paper which argued that on the basis of the godless universe in which we live, there are no objective moral principles such as fairness and justice? Did you not also argue that everything is a matter of one’s subjective likes and dislikes?’
‘Yes … yes …’ the student replied hesitantly. ‘Well then,’ said the professor, ‘I do not like blue folders. The grade will remain an F.’ Abruptly, the face of the young man changed. It struck him that he really did believe in objective moral principles such as fairness and justice. As the professor changed the grade to an A, the student left with a new understanding of the objective nature of morality. It is easy to proclaim that there is no God, but it is impossible to live consistently and honestly within the resulting atheistic framework.”
The moral dilemma of atheism is only one of the issues discussed in the book, which is a collection of essays by leading philosophers and scientists. It was published by Gateway in 1984 but is still available on Amazon.
— John N. Clayton © 2020