I had an interesting Facebook conversation with someone who is very open and smart regarding the existence of God. Not a light subject, eh? She respects my non-believer status, but questioned the issue of morality, i.e. what is it within a person that points out right and wrong? She claimed it is God that gives us our "inner voice" of reason or morality. She brought up C.S. Lewis and his argument that God must exist because we are moral animals, that God is our moral template. My argument is there is no requirement for a superbeing in order to behave with moral intentions. I think morality evolved as an aspect of the complex social structure required for mammals living in dependent and cooperative family and tribal groups. Long discussion ensued. Thought I'd bring it up here and see what scholarly folks think.
What can I say? This person has just accepted this axiomatically. It seems unlikely that any argument will matter. They've just arbitrarily assumed that morality is of God. All they've done is push back the assertion one tier. Rather than assuming that a god exists, they've just assumed that morality is indicative of a god and used it to "prove" its existence.
It also seems to be a non sequitur to go from "Morality exists" to "Morality can't exist without a god."
The thing about non sequiturs is that, if they are accepted by either party, anything can be proven by that argument:
p: Morality Exists
q:Morality can only exist by will of sentient tacos
Therefore sentient tacos exist
I had a friend in school that brought up the same argument and my instant reply was "You mean to tell me that I need a book to tell me that I don't want someone to steal my stuff, kill my friends and rape my family?" He had no reply.
Also, other social animals have a sort of social morality. Chimpanzees will ostracize another one from the group if he or she breaks an important rule (I have no references to back this up, but I recall hearing it from Dawkins) and wolves will banish another wolf from the pack at times (not sure if this has more to do with a will to survive or a moral standpoint).
I've had this rather frustrating argument with a friend on MySpace (funny enough). His argument (the same one your friend gave you) was that an atheist morality had a "metaphysical deficit" - it lacked an absolute foundation for value, so without that then all value is just relative to other values, with nothing to support the whole structure, meaning that value was essentially baseless! I of course pointed out to him that his entire metaphysical construct (with god or three, angels, mircales, etc.) was a huge metaphysical superfluity, since everything that has any reality is explainable naturally. But this morality problem did throw me for a loop, so I really understand your frustration.
My further argument (which I hope helps you out somewhat, but I'm afraid it will only make things more confusing and certainly won't convince your friend), is that value must always be for some expereincer of values. It makes no sense to ask whether a thing is good without asking who is it good for. Religious people must accept this much as true, since it applies for every value they hold. The only need to introduce god here is to justify the whole system from the outside. This is just like in epistemology, where we can't say we have absolute knowledge of anything, because we can't go outside the system to find absolute support for the system, because then that would be part of the system, itself requiring justification from another outside source, ad infinitum. The religious solution for this problem is faith! In other words, its not a solution at all. I would be willing to bet that your friend is like mine in this way too, that when pressed on epistemological questions she tried to undermine reason and all beliefs through skeptical means, thereby opening the door for faith and making it seem as if her beliefs were just as jutified as yours. You might point out (if this is so), that where she feels the need to completely undermine all epistemological structures, she feels the opposing need to support the structures of value. This has the convenient effect of putting the argument just where she wants it, which is in the much murkier waters of subjective value judgments rather than judgments of what is objectively true of reality.
The problem with convincing religious people on this point is that once you tell them that value really is relative and not purely objective (though there is plenty to be said objectively about even a relative set of values, one which meshes quite nicely with how we actually feel about ethics), they automatically are repulsed by even the thought. This is, I think, because it removes the comforting support they had for their own beliefs about their own self-worth! With no objective set of values which conveniently tells them that they really are a good person, now they have to actually be honest with themselves about how to think about what makes any person, them, their family members, friends, etc, actually valuable. And they have already reached the conclusion as well, which is that with no objective set of values, nobody can really have any value at all! Not in any absolute, objectively real, lasting sense. Dealing with this problem aint easy. Its why there is existentialism, for one thing. You may have some good arguments for me as to how you justify a belief in your own "goodness". I have my own very complicated answer, but it probably wouldn't be able to satisfy any religious person. Anyway, keep me informed! I'd love to hear about how your own thoughts have progressed, and of course if your have any success with your friend, though I seriously doubt that you will (just from my own experiences). Good luck!
Morality can't possibly originate in god. For the following reasons:
If morality originates god then anything god commands you to do must be moral. Well god commands you to do a lot of things that we know are immoral like killing people who violate the sabbath, killing disrespectful children, killing homosexuals and on and on. How do we know these commandments of god are immoral? Something is telling us that they are that is obviously outside of god.
Religion apologists are going to do some real logical gymnastics to get around this argument but they are all attempts to evade the truth of the matter - morality is independent of god and probably evolved as the most efficient way to get along with other members of our species. See:
The following article is from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 17, Number 3.