A quote from an interview with Penn Jillette by The Blaze (NLA);
You can’t be moral and believe in God.
Occasionally Penn Jillette asserts that “you can’t be moral and believe in God” thus turning the opposing Christian argument (that there is no morality without God) on its ear. He usually says it with an obvious tongue-in-cheek affect and does eventually concede that in his understanding of morality even believers can be just as good as anyone else that belief in God has nothing to do with it. However, on another level he really does have an actual rationale to back up his controversial assertion:
The premise for this assertion, of course, is rooted in the fear that people have when they consider that a higher power is watching over their every move. Rather than finding motivation in doing the right thing simply for the sake of it, individuals may find themselves acting simply because they are being observed by God. This, in Jillette’s view, strips away the morality.
“My definition, for my children, for instance, is that I don‘t want my son to not hit my daughter when I’m watching, because he’s afraid of being punished,” he proclaimed in his booming voice. “I don‘t want him to not hit his sister when I’m watching, because he’ll be rewarded. I want him to not hit his sister, because hitting people is wrong.”
I have always appreciated Jillette’s candor and believe that he is actually trying to identify what is best for all and really does believe that atheism is the way to a better future. However I believe that his understanding of some kind of a ‘universal’ morality’ without God is entirely mistaken when it comes to the origins.
My problem with Jillette and others who proclaim that morality is ‘universal’ is that they assume in that assertion that morality is not derived from any divine source like the Christian God or the Bible for instance. But from a Christian perspective, nothing could be further from the truth. It has long been a biblical teaching that all humanity was given by the Creator an innate ability to discern ‘right from wrong’ which is the foundation of all human morality and the actual source. So if there is some kind of ‘universal’ morality to be observed than the Creator was the ultimate source rather than some kind of cultural evolution.
In fact, theories about social and cultural evolution (something I studied extensively in college) contradict the possibility of any kind of ‘universal morality’ that is reflected in every human culture in the world. They teach that every culture defined their own separate mores, values, and codes of conduct quite different from what we find in the Western world. However it is my contention that the Western nations ended up dominating the entire world politically, technologically, militarily, and economically because Western civilization was built upon values, morals, and beliefs that actually work and can be universally applied. Also, I believe that the Western world including America is now in decline as a direct result of turning its back on the religious foundation (Christianity) that defined those very values that made it great in the first place.
It is a Christian understanding that The Creator defined all of the physical laws and properties of the universe that science observes but also instilled within creation spiritual laws and principals to live by. The sun shines upon believers and non-believers alike and the physical laws of the universe work the same for everyone.
There are also universal spiritual laws decreed from the foundation of the world that define what works in interpersonal relationships and what doesn’t. Love is one of those spiritual properties that is universal and cross-cultural and also works for believers and atheists alike. It works because it was part of the program God installed at the very beginning of creation.
Christian theologians for over 1,500 years have held that ‘seeds of faith’ and morality were hidden by the Creator in our very make-up and every human culture is waiting for the truth of it all to be revealed and released as the Gospel –’the Good News’ -reaches out and is finally preached in every nation, people, and tongue. Many new converts to Christianity observe that in the Gospel of Jesus Christ they find a faith and a reality that reflects something that they have always innately believed for their entire lives.
The point is, that any kind of ‘universal morality’ is not outside of God but part and parcel of his plan for all creation –for believers and even non-believers alike.