How does the Moral Argument address issues of moral relativism?

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The Moral Argument for God's existence is a profound philosophical proposition that asserts the necessity of God as the foundation for objective moral values and duties. In addressing issues of moral relativism, this argument becomes particularly significant. Moral relativism, the belief that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (such as that of a culture or individual) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others, presents a challenge to the concept of universal moral truths.

Understanding the Moral Argument

The Moral Argument is structured around a few key premises and a conclusion that suggests God must exist to ground objective moral values and duties. One common formulation might be as follows:

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

This argument is compelling because it taps directly into our intuitive understanding of moral facts. For instance, we universally accept that certain actions like torturing children for fun are morally wrong, not just subjectively distasteful. Such intuitions support the existence of objective moral values and duties.

The Challenge of Moral Relativism

Moral relativism argues against the second premise of the Moral Argument by denying that objective moral values and duties exist. According to relativists, what is considered morally right or wrong varies from society to society, and possibly even from person to person. There is no absolute standard of morality that transcends culture or individual preferences, which implies that our moral intuitions and judgments are conditioned by cultural, social, or personal factors.

Addressing Moral Relativism through the Moral Argument

The Moral Argument addresses moral relativism by challenging the coherence and the consequences of adopting a relativistic view on morals.

Coherence of Moral Relativism

Firstly, moral relativism struggles with issues of coherence. If all moral claims are relative, then the statement "all moral claims are relative" would itself be a relative claim, leading to a logical inconsistency. This self-defeating nature questions the validity of relativism as a coherent moral system.

Moreover, if relativism were true, it would be impossible to criticize the moral beliefs of other cultures or individuals from any objective standpoint. For example, one could not objectively criticize practices such as slavery or genocide in different cultures or historical contexts, as these actions might be considered morally acceptable in those particular frameworks. This implication is deeply unsettling and counterintuitive for most people, suggesting that some moral standards might indeed be universally applicable.

Consequences of Moral Relativism

The consequences of adopting moral relativism can be quite severe. Without objective morals, the pursuit of justice becomes problematic. Justice inherently requires a standard that is impartial and universal; without these, it becomes nothing more than a tool of prevailing power structures, susceptible to manipulation. Martin Luther King Jr., in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," argues effectively against moral relativism by pointing out that just laws align with the moral law or the law of God. He states, "A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law."

Empirical Support for Objective Morals

Empirical observations also support the existence of some form of objective morality. Across diverse cultures, certain moral imperatives hold universal regard, such as prohibitions against murder, lying, and theft. These commonalities suggest that human beings are inherently aware of certain moral truths that transcend individual subjective experiences.

The Role of God in Moral Objectivity

The Moral Argument posits that if objective moral values and duties exist, they must be grounded in God. This grounding is necessary because moral laws imply a moral lawgiver whose character is definitive of what is good. Attributes such as love, justice, and mercy are not just abstract ideals but are rooted in the very nature of God.

Scriptures support this view extensively. For instance, 1 John 4:8 states, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." This passage indicates that the very essence of moral virtue (love) is grounded in God's nature.


In conclusion, the Moral Argument provides a robust challenge to moral relativism by highlighting the need for objective moral standards and the role of God in grounding these standards. While moral relativism may appeal to cultural diversity and individual autonomy, it fails to provide a satisfactory explanation for our deepest moral intuitions and the universal pursuit of justice. The Moral Argument not only reaffirms the existence of objective moral truths but also underscores the necessity of a moral lawgiver, ultimately pointing towards the existence of God as the source of all morality.

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