A teacher in a philosophy class asked his students to write a term paper on a topic discussed in class. One boy wrote his paper on the question of how morals are determined. He insisted that each person decides what is right or wrong. His paper argued that nothing is absolute – it just depends on how you look at it. When he gave his instructor the paper, he was surprised when it was returned with a big “F” on the front. He went straight to his teacher and wanted to know why he got an F. The teacher replied, “Because you put a blue cover on your paper.” The student was stunned. Why would the color of the cover have anything to do with his grade? Besides, he had worked hard on this assignment. “What’s so bad about the color blue?” he asked. “Nothing,” his teacher replied. “You said in this paper that everything depends on how each person looks at right and wrong and that nothing is absolute. I don’t like blue, so I gave you an F.”
Do you think the teacher was right in giving him an F just because he didn’t like his blue cover? Was this fair? But how could the boy who wrote the paper say it was not fair? His opinion was that this was unfair; his teacher’s opinion was that it was fair. If what is fair or unfair is just a matter of how each person sees it, then who is to say that what is fair to one person ought to be fair in the eyes of another? Of course, the teacher really didn’t give him an F. He was just showing him the logical consequences of his paper.
This is a problem no atheist or agnostic can answer. If there is no God, then there is no real right and wrong. A person can say this is right or this is wrong, but if there is no standard of morality higher than man, then there is no way to say that something is right or something wrong for everybody. If there is no God, then anything goes in ethics – ANYTHING. If God doesn’t exist, then we are just matter in motion. We are just animals without a soul. There is no heaven or hell and no God to whom we must answer. If there is no God, “right” and “wrong” really don’t have meaning.
People say things that might seem alright until you apply them in the real world. People say, “Every person should decide for himself what is right or wrong. We shouldn’t judge other people’s choices. As long as a person feels in his heart that what he is doing is right, then it is right for him.” If people said this about what kind of car a person chooses to drive or whether he is a vegetarian or not, this thinking would be okay. But when they apply it to moral choices, it is not true. It cannot be true, and they have to admit this eventually if they are honest. What do they say when someone lies about them? Do they say, “I’m not going to say that was wrong because I don’t believe we should judge”? What happens when a person steals from them? Do they say, “Well, I think stealing is wrong, but that’s just my opinion”? What do girls say when a boyfriend cheats on them? Do they say, “If he thinks cheating is right, who am I to say it is wrong?” We know better than this. Lying, stealing, and cheating are not wrong merely because we think they are wrong. We don’t decide these questions. No human being does. They are wrong because God said they are wrong.
Let’s think about some things that are even more serious and hurtful. If everyone has the right to decide what’s right for him, then what about a person who shoots and kills innocent people? What about a man who rapes and murders a seven-year-old girl? What about terrorists who use bombs to kill men, women and children? Is it right to judge them and say they are wrong? After all, they were doing what they thought was right. And, to press the point further, what if something like this were to happen to someone atheists love deeply? What if a criminal murdered a close family member or friend? Would they say, “I personally feel this was wrong, but if he thought it was right then it was right for him”? Of course not.
Skeptics and atheists might get upset and say, “You’re being ridiculous! Everybody knows these things are wrong.” But here is the question: how do you know they are wrong? Why are these things wrong? Most people never think about this. They never stop to consider what makes a thing wrong. They don’t realize that murder being wrong, for instance, is more than just a law against it or a feeling someone has against it or a tradition about it. The whole idea of right and wrong goes deeper than that. Either man decides what is good or bad or God decides. If man decides, then nothing is settled for everyone. One person may say something is wrong and another person may say it is right, and there is no real answer unless there is a law above human beings. Since God determines what is right and wrong, what He says is final. When God says it is wrong to lie, it is wrong regardless of what mankind thinks or says about it.
There are two words about ethics that college students often hear: relative and absolute. Relativism in ethics means that morals are relative to a particular person, place, or time. Absolutism says there are some things that are right or wrong for all people in all places and at all times. The tragedy is that some college professors are relativists. Some of them even make fun of the idea of absolutes in morals. But they are never consistent. If someone breaks into their house, they get upset and say what happened was wrong. And, if you were to ask, “Don’t you mean the person who broke into your house was ‘wrong’ only in a relative sense, that is, for you and your situation, but not for the robber” the teacher would probably say, “No! I mean he was wrong regardless!” But in so doing he would be saying some moral matters are absolute! And, the only way to have absolutes in morals is to have a standard above human thinking, and that standard has to be from God!