If there is no God, then why be moral?

I challenged my fellow conservative blogger over at Porkopolis to answer why I ought to be moral at all, if God really doesn’t exist and there are no such things as objective moral standards. He replies:

With regards to: “There is one question that can never be answered by any evolutionary assessment of ethics. The question is this: Why ought I be moral tomorrow?”
We ought to be ‘moral’ (treat others as we want to be treated) because it maximizes the outcomes (ala Game Theory) for all individuals involved as noted in the study referred to at: Generous players: game theory explores the Golden Rule’s place in biology.

Naughty!  Naughty!That sounds persuasive at first, but it actually misses the point. Porkopolis assumes that I ought to care about maximizing the outcomes for all individuals. That’s begging the question. He’s saying that I ought to be moral because I ought to care about everybody else. I ought to because I ought to, apparently.
What’s with this “ought” talk he’s offering? Why should I care? Let everybody else care about humanity. I want to be selfish and mooch a free ride on everybody else’s concern for me.
In fact, if his understanding of morality is true then I’m being rational by being selfish. I can do whatever I want to advance my own desires, and nobody has a right to claim that what I’m doing is “wrong” because the concept of “wrongness” is nonsense. I get to exploit a loophole in the “rules” that people like Porkopolis refuse to use.
I doubt that my colleague likes that arrangement, so again I ask the question: if there are no objective moral standards imposed by a transcendent Lawgiver, then why ought I behave in a “moral” way at all?
I look forward to his reply.
Update: Porkopolis’ reply, and my rebuttal.


  1. RowTal

    The question you ask is not a religious one but a psychological one.
    The concept of God is one that places the human species in a child-parent relationship. For many people this gives them confidence to live within the boundaries of ‘acceptable’ behaviour.
    In life, maturity allows one to transcend the child-parent relationship and become psychologically independent. In my opinion humanity must do the same with the concept of God. That doesn’t mean denial, as one wouldn’t normally deny they have parents (but that’s personal choice, I guess).
    A person can behave in any way he/she chooses but the comeback comes from the people around them and society, not from a “God”. If you act in a way that is unacceptable to people you will probably end up lacking friends and a life you’re unhappy with. We have to live with the rest of humanity. Other people enrich our lives and allow us to learn more about ourselves and the world around us.
    The reason why many people behave in a moral way to others is because they have empathy for them. Plain and simple. They have the imagination to be able to see things from the perspective of somebody else. Also, one shouldn’t behave ‘good’ because of the fear of reprisal from ‘bad’ behaviour. A person should understand that their behaviour affects everyone around them, so it stems from love and understanding.
    Also, you’re only getting part of the picture if you try and view human culture purely logically and scientifically. Emotion plays a big part in understanding humanity. Not everything makes sense and not everything has a reason behind it. Language and thought, thoroughly incredible things that they are, are limited in the way they can describe our reality.
    This is much too big a subject for me to go into here. If you’re interested here’s a couple of books to start you off:
    The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra.
    Life, and How To Survive It, by Robin Skynner
    Take care