Kai Nielsen, an atheist philosopher who attempts to defend the viability of ethics without God, in the end admits:
We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view, or that all really rational persons, unhoodwinked by myth or ideology, need not be individual egoists or classical amoralists. Reason doesn’t decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me . . . .
Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.
Kai Nielsen, “Why Should I Be Moral?” American Philosophical Quarterly 21 (1984): 90.
Objective morals are those morals that are based outside of yourself. Subjective morals are those that depend on you, your situation, your culture, and your preferences. Subjective morals change, can become contradictory, and might differ from person to person. This is the best that atheism has to offer us as a worldview.
Think about it.
If the atheistic premise that there is no objective morality because there is no objective law maker holds true then no one can say, even with pure practical reason, what is morally right or wrong or make a moral judgement against anyone else for any reason, in any situation.
Because when you remove God from the equation, you remove the standard by which all moral truth is established.
In other words, atheism simply leaves morality up for grabs.
To an atheist, lying, cheating, stealing, not harming others, and maximizing utility have to be reduced to mere phenomena that can, if the atheist so decides, have subjective moral values assigned to them. Yes, atheists can say that we all should want to help society function properly, and that it does not benefit society as a whole to lie, cheat, steal, harm others…
But, this is weak intellectual reasoning that always falls apart.
For example, I think everyone reading this, including those who shun objective morality, would agree that a judge sending a man he knew was innocent to prison would be wrong, especially wrong if you consider that prisoners often suffer needlessly horribly at the hands of other prisoners.
Although they would have a hard time substantiating it with their godless worldview, an atheist could happily use subjective values they think everyone should objectively accept to condemn a judge who not only lies in order to send an innocent man to prison but also ensures that an innocent person will endure suffering.
But, what if the scenario were mixed up a little? Would the atheist’s position that harm should be reduced, harm is wrong, lying is wrong, and maximizing utility is right change any?
What if the objectively innocent man whose fate was in the hands of the judge were a white police officer who was accused of wrongfully killing an unarmed black teenager?
What if the judge knew that not lying to send the innocent man to prison would ensure violent race riots would ensue resulting in significant damage to property and the injury, suffering, or death of many innocent people?
Would lying to ensure only one person is harmed because such a lie would benefit the greater good by guaranteeing the happiest and most peaceful outcome then be considered a moral act?
If you agree that the judge should lie, then you condone lying. If you say you don’t condone lying, why don’t you, especially in a situation where it is cleary the best thing to do to minimize harm? If you say that lying is wrong but, in this case it’s a good choice, how do you maintain, sans objectively morality, that lying is indeed wrong if it can be a good choice?
If you agree the judge should harm one man to ensure many won’t be harmed then harm is not always morally wrong and is therefore, not a good basis for moral beliefs.
If you agree that achieving happiness and peace is a good basis for morality then you have to also agree that the suffering and unhappiness of one man is a moral choice as long as many are spared.
Long story short here is that the slippery slope of morality sans God should depress any reasonable person.
*Note: It would be arrogant and ignorant to suggest that people who lack a belief in God cannot live good and moral lives, that is why no such claim was made or implied here. Objective morality has nothing to do with belief or lack thereof.