J. Warner Wallace, author of “Cold Case Christianity”, explains why it can’t.
Here’s just one of the three troubles with naturalism:
If naturalism is true, morality is nothing more than a matter of opinion. All of us, as humans, have simply come to embrace those cultural or personal mores that best promote the survival of the species. There is no transcendent, objective moral truth. Instead, cultures merely embrace the values and moral principles that “work” for them and have resulted in the flourishing of their particular people group. If this is the case, one group of evolved humans has no business trying to tell another evolved group what is truly right or wrong from a moral perspective. After all, each group has successfully arrived at their particular level of development by embracing their own accepted moral standards. Arguments over which moral truths provide for greater human flourishing are simply subjective disagreements; there is no transcendent, objective standard that can adjudicate such disagreements from a naturalistic perspective.
Click the link to read the other two!
I think that the most odd thing about naturalism is that they think that all moral statements are true or false depending on personal preferences. For example, slavery. On naturalism, owning slaves or not owning slaves are both equally moral options, depending on whether most people decide that it’s right in a particular time and place. Some societies in some places and times allow it, and others don’t. And that’s what makes it right or wrong. Naturalism has nothing at all to say about which view is correct, because there is no objective design for humans on naturalism – no way we ought to be. Every view is as good as any other, because there is no one to decide. If Richard Dawkins lived in a time where slavery was accepted, then Richard Dawkins would be perfectly justified, on atheism, with owning slaves. He has no source of objective moral values that can judge slavery as wrong. Right and wrong, for an atheist, is “whatever my colleagues will let me get away with”. Perhaps Dawkins next book will be entitled “The Morality Delusion” – because morality is a delusion on atheism. It’s just cultural conventions and personal preferences.
Anybody can be good when it’s easy. Being good when it’s hard requires that being good is reasonable. Naturalists don’t have that in their worldview. After all if morality is basically like traffic laws and taste in food, then why would you “do the right thing” – comply with arbitrary customs that vary by time and place – when it goes against your self-interest? It makes no sense. It only makes sense to do the right thing when it goes against your self-interest if it is part of your objective design as a human being – if there is a plan for how you ought to be.
When a naturalist says “I’m a good person without God”, you have to understand that they are making that statement as a statement of preference. On their view, there is nothing right or wrong with anything, as a matter of fact. They have determined themselves what counts as good for them, based on the arbitrary conventions of the society they live in and their own personal preferences. And they are in compliance with those conventions and preferences, then they are “good”. That’s what they mean by saying “I’m good” – they mean “I file my tax return every year and I don’t eat broccoli because I don’t like broccoli”. So you can have an atheist defending infanticide or adultery in one breath and then in the next breath claiming that he is a good person because he drives at the speed limit, recycles cans and doesn’t eat veal. The standard of morality is their standard of morality. It’s just made up. And yet they expect you to give them respect for this.
It’s very important to make clear to atheists when you are talking about morality that they believe that there is no objective truth about slavery. Make that clear. They love to tell you how good they are because of this position or that position, but it’s your job to say “the real issue isn’t your personal preference, it’s that you think that a person in a different time and place who practiced slavery could be as justified, morally speaking, as you are now in opposing it”. That’s the point you’ve got to make clear to them. They think that morality is like picking what to have for desert. If the action required by the moral law was difficult or dangerous to them, and their own self-interest, you can bet your bottom dollar that they won’t risk a thing to do the “right” thing. On their view, right and wrong are illusions.