“If God exists,” goes the argument, “then why is there such evil in the world?”
Some might replace “evil” with “suffering” or “wars” or the like. However, the implication is that the condition is wrong.
Indeed, isn’t that what evil really is? Wrong? And, there then is the problem with the argument. Who is to say it is wrong?
At the end of the day, people don’t like to be told what to do. Even more, though, they don’t like to be told they are wrong. After all, if it is good for them, it should be good for everyone else, right?
Some really do have such a narrow view of morality that they justify everything they do by, “Well, if it doesn’t hurt anyone else, then it’s my business alone.” Of course, the problem with that argument is that it rarely pans out that way. What you do does affect others. If nothing else, a defective and selfish mindset, like cancer, will spread throughout society, robbing us of compassion and mercy and more concerned about our rights than the welfare of others.
Realization of the superficiality of this type of morality has led many agnostics to view morality as the sum total of virtues throughout a culture. However, this really is just personal morality scaled up. If morality is truly relative, then proponents of this view cannot state that Hitler, Pol Pot or Idi Amin did anything wrong. Tiananmen Square was a just and moral act because it was sanctioned by the leaders of the culture. In other words, might makes right. It is survival of the fittest.
However, it takes a fool to not see that this is what leads to war. Unfortunately, war is the normal state of affairs. So, in essence, war is a cultural value of the world at large if you view morality as a collective of values. It is just, right and good by the intercultural standards of the earth because it is the sum total of all of the values of the societies in the world. It is a value of a superculture, which as a superset of the smaller societies takes precedence over the values of a single culture.
At the end of the day, if God does not exist, then neither does evil. “Evil” means something has to be “wrong”. In order for something to be “wrong”, there must be a standard of “right”. In order for something to be “right”, it has to be the way it was intended to be. In order for something to be as intended, it had to be designed and built, which requires a designer and a builder.
In other words, “right” and “wrong” require intent. “Right” and “wrong” require a purpose. You cannot logically have things poofing into existence and then say, “That’s wrong.” No, it simply would be. There would be no right, and there would be no wrong in that scenario.
Therefore, the only left is what one feels is right and wrong. However, by giving labels of “right” or “wrong” with no regard to any deity, one is simply setting up theirself as the supreme ultimate authority in your life, the final arbiter of right and wrong.
But, then, the whole idea of collective morality breaks down again. If I am the final arbiter of right and wrong in my life, then no one has the authority to tell me I am wrong. I’m not making this up. People argue this all the time. Some of those people are in jail, in fact.
Yet, isn’t putting people in jail a violation of their individual morality? In their mind, they had a right to take what they were lacking. They had a right to rid the world of someone that was an offense to them. They saw themselves as being unjustly treated by someone, and so they punished them for their misdeeds. Society imposing their will upon this individual is no different than the individual imposing their will on the surroundings. Therefore, society punishing a criminal must be unjust and immoral if individual morality is all that counts.
…And in circles the arguments go…
The only way to break the circle is to introduce a deity into the mix. Society has the right to impose its will upon its citizens because that power has been granted from a higher power. When individuals fail to fulfill societal values, the society begins to disintegrate. When societies fail to fulfill the expectations of the deity, wars and other manmade atrocities break out.
Relative morality isn’t. Just because something goes against a person’s conscience doesn’t make it immoral, nor does a clear conscience make it moral. There are rules and mores in jail, and even the mob has a code. That makes neither moral, though.