If God does not exist, are humans nothing more than ‘just animals?’

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William Lane Craig — in premise one of his moral argument — argues, “If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties to not exist.” He reasons that morality simply is illusory — and quotes some philosophers who happen to agree — if God does not exist. ” Additionally, Craig argues that absent God, we are ‘nothing more than animals.’ Outside of the debating and academic world, concerns like this aren’t so uncommon amongst lay theists. Are these conclusions warranted? Is God needed to ‘redeem’ us from such a ‘lowly status?’

Some theists believe that since humans are made in the ‘image of God,’ humans are ‘special.’ If God doesn’t exist — according to some theists — all sorts of sentiments seem to follow: humans are ‘nothing more than animals,’ there are no good reasons to behave well, and there is no meaning to life.

Despite atheists insisting that this is simply not the case (and very often explaining why it is not suggesting that secular paths to morality and meaning are viable ones), some theists keep repeating these statements. Although the burden of proof is on the theist to demonstrate why these sentiments would follow if God did not exist, atheists can answer these charges regardless.

Persons who say ‘we are nothing more than animals’ are taking an overly simplistic view of humans. For example, humans, unlike many animals, can produce art, write, ponder abstract ideas, ponder the consequences of their actions, identify with those who are different, and so much more – thus ‘setting us apart’ from animals without the need to appeal to a supernatural being.

Why should a ‘special status’ of being made in ‘God’s image’ give us the only reason to behave well? As an atheist, I can look at other humans and come to a realization that many people have similar wants and desires as I do, value their own lives, want to be given opportunities to succeed, and would like to live a life with as little suffering as possible, etc.

Not believing in an afterlife with God, additionally, it seems, gives atheists even more reasons [or enough reasons] to behave well because this is the only life that we believe exists. Perhaps we should simply not treat our neighbors how we would not want to be treated? We need not appeal to a ‘special status’ of being made in ‘God’s image’ in order to make sense of morality.

Many theists believe that the purpose of this life is to serve God and follow God’s will. Without God, some think, life is utterly pointless and not worth living. Contrary to this sentiment, I have never heard a story of a former theist who committed suicide because he/she realized there were no good reasons to believe in God.

While this obviously doesn’t falsify this claim, it is quite telling and should produce great cognitive dissonance in the minds of theists because persons believe life is worth living even if there are no good reasons to believe God exists.

Meaning can be found on a subjective level based on what persons derive enjoyment from or find important. If “life’s objective,” as the song “Sensorium from Epica says, “is to make it meaningful,” persons can do so this quite easily by finding something they enjoy and/or find important. We need not appeal to a god for this.

While it can be very easy and attractive to ‘send our hopes to the skies’ and simply point to God or the conclusions of many religions in order to answer some metaphysical questions or confer some ‘special status’ upon ourselves instead of engaging in deep reflection about various topics, such “glittering gems, baubles, promises, dogmas, and creeds,” as philosopher Richard Taylor explains, “are worth no more than the stones under one’s feet.”

Taylor says, “Many persons spend their lives in a sandcastle, a daydream, in which every answer to every metaphysical question decorates its many mansions. […] They find, in other words, a comfort born of ignorance.”

Humans can make sense of meaning and morality while identifying that which shows we are not ‘just another animal’ instead of looking to an alleged god for some quick and easy answers which ultimately fail [regardless of whether God exists].


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