A recent news article boldly proclaims, “It’s Official: Religion Doesn’t Make You More Moral.” The article claims that “a recent study in Science aimed at uncovering how we experience morality in our everyday lives suggests that religious people are no more moral—or immoral—than non-religious people.” The open-ended study relied on self-evaluation from its 1,200 participants to determine how people view morality in their everyday lives. Now, it’s important to note, as one of our researchers shared with me, that self-evaluations are often unreliable and such studies are hardly concrete. Of course, the results also depend on what questions were asked, how the participants interpreted these questions, and how the researchers interpreted the answers to the questions.
It’s important to understand that even though atheists and agnostics can be “moral,” they have no ultimate authoritative basis for their morality. When an atheist or agnostic calls something “right” or “wrong” or “good” or “evil,” they are borrowing from a biblical worldview in order to make that statement. Think about it: If we are simply the by-product of evolution and no better than animals, then why should anyone behave morally? In that case, what or who defines right from wrong? Ultimately, this kind of thinking leads to “everyone doing what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25), which is exactly where our culture is rapidly sliding.
The only reason that anyone can be moral is because God’s law is stamped on their hearts:
for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.(Romans 2:14–15)This moral law is often masked or darkened because of our sin nature, but the remnant of God’s law is still visible on the hearts of all. Just as everyone knows—whether they admit it or not—that God exists (Romans 1:19), so do they also know God’s moral law. That’s why even those who reject God can lead “moral” lives—God’s law is written on their hearts. This is also why everyone is “without excuse” (Romans 1:20). When atheists participate in some moral things—such as wearing clothes or telling the truth—they are proving the truth of God’s Word and confirming His existence.
So why do we have a concrete standard for morality? Because we have a Creator who made us and everything else. And, since He made us, He alone has the right to define good and evil. The basis for right and wrong is God and His Word. In the Bible we have a clear definition of what is good and what is evil. It is only because of God’s revelation in Scripture and the moral code that He has written on our hearts that anyone—believer or unbeliever—can have any basis for morality.
To learn more about morality and the only basis for it, please visit this topic page.
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This item was written with the assistance of AiG's research team.