Who Has the Basis for Morality?: Introduction

Any discussion of morality is not an exercise that can be conducted in neutrality.(1) One cannot stand externally to the question without necessarily assuming certain facts that seem to be axiomatic and necessary. The question then is not, is there such a thing as a morally neutral fact; rather the question is, what moral position is required that can coherently account for the facts. To say that one has knowledge of certain facts requires that such knowledge be justified and true, which brings us to epistemic questions.(2)

Most epistemic questions begin with a simple proposition: S (the subject) knows that p (proposition).(3) The question that such a schema raises is clearly, how does (S) justify (p)? It is not enough to simply assert it. One must have a coherent basis from which that it can be said that (p) is true in order for (S) to make it as a claim of knowledge. The only feasible way that such a statement can be asserted is if there is a shared, one could even say transcendent, foundation that exists between (S), (p), and to whom the claim is being made.(4) This shared foundation grounds the claim that is being made. Moral claims of “good,” “bad,” “just,” and “evil,” in order to be true require a referent in order to be meaningful. Such claims therefore require meaning.

But the question of “meaning” itself poses certain problems. Wielenberg catches upon this in attempting to give an account for meaning for the person who happens to be an atheist: ultimately life’s meaning is determined in ones reflection upon it.(5) However, this does not move one beyond the fundamental presuppositions that are necessary to perform such an analysis.

This is why papers such as Stephen Maitzen’s “Atheism and the Basis for Morality” cannot go unanswered by theists, because it assumes what it does not prove, or should it be more precisely stated, it argues what it assumes to be true but does not prove. (6)


  1.  “One of the most pernicious and evil myths to plague the human race is the myth of neutrality. It is a product of atheism and anti-Christianity, because it presupposes a cosmos of uncreated and meaningless factuality, of brute or meaningless facts. Because every atom and fact of the cosmos is then meaningless and also unrelated to every other fact, all facts are neutral.” R.J. Rushdoony. The Roots of Christian Reconstruction. Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991. p1112
  2.  Maitzen makes numerous claims about what he “knows” that a certain kind of God would do in a situation, and insists that this is true. He uses this repeatedly to argue that, in such a case atheism provides a basis for morality. I disagree firmly and will demonstrate why this view is, in fact, false and that he is in fact depending upon certain inherently Christian contentions for this to be true.
  3.  https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology/
  4. “…a certain theory of evil is already accepted at the outset by whosoever thinks upon the subject. Evil means something for each of us as we begin. We stand in some sort of relation to it. It can be no isolated phenomenon.” Cornelius Van Til. “Evil and Theodicy”, an unpublished work 
  5. Erik J. Wielenberg. Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe. Cambridge University Press. New York, NY. 2005. pp. 18-9
  6. Stephen Maitzen. “Atheism and the Basis of Morality”, as published in What Makes Us Moral? ed. A. W. Musschenga and Anton van Harskamp. Springer Publishing. 2013. pp. 257–269 

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