Atheist Debates – Do we need God for Morality? Matt Dillahunty, John Ferrer Oct 2018

Part of the Atheist Debates Patreon project:

Recorded at Texas A&M University in October, 2018. Matt Dillahunty and John Ferrer discuss whether or not we need God for morality…specifically, is God required to have a foundation for morality.


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26 Responses

  1. EvolvedPrimate says:

    This guy John Ferrer has mastered using a lot of words without actually saying anything.

  2. Sandy Kay says:

    Carousel of apologetic circularity.

  3. Ben Barredo says:

    I have a really hard time listening the Christian side because it's so nonsensical. How can people whose belief system is based on something that they cannot touch, taste, or demonstrate to be true in any way to anyone else be so freaking arrogant about their belief system?

  4. avi8r66 says:

    God's history even according to the bible is abysmal on morality. They condition us with chants like "God is good, god is great" yada yada yada…. But the stories where he took a direct hand in anything are just horrific. They will point to stories like Abraham being allowed to not sacrifice his son after telling him to do so (Genesis 22), but then later God lets Jephthah go through with offering up his daughter as a burnt sacrifice (Judges 11). The 10 commandments (either list) could have contained good moral rules, but instead it spends a lot of time demanding you suck up to god, and never addresses basics like 'don't own people', 'don't rape', etc. It's a horrible book, with horrible characters, no morality in it as a whole. You can cherry pick a few good ideas out, but this means you already know what is good in order to filter out the bad, so toss the book and write a new one, one without a supernatural being at the focus.

  5. Cloudy Cloudi says:

    Did this guy with his first sentence of rebuttal just argue that permitting slavery is ok? What the hell man. Yea I think promoting slavery is wrong, but permitting isn’t any better jackass.

  6. ryaugn says:

    How can you point to the necessity Of an objective source of morality, while saying the morality of an action depends on the historical context?

  7. lascius - black says:

    "Do we need God for Morality"? There has never been a time in "civilization" nor primitive societies where you find "morality" in absence of a HUMAN BEING having created a "God/deity". Human – Create yourself a "God/deity", than act out as you please. Just say, "God told me"! There is no "supernatural mind".

  8. Darren Nicholls says:

    Good debate, but religion inherently is a weaker position because there's zero evidence that any religion is true. And slavery in the Bible is a total ender.

  9. A Montreal Paul or Other says:

    Short answer: no

  10. Tera 1 says:

    This is a bad debate format which harks back to the 1800’s. You’d think we could improve on format by now peeps…geesh.

  11. Buckie Smalls says:

    Rumor has it, John is still trying to figure out how to get out the bathroom.. But he keeps using his mind and not his brain..

  12. Charles P. says:


    Matt’s answer here is a lovely little tap dance in painting himself in gracious intent instead of the simple truth: ”when I’m debating in person, I’m not in a position of authority so don’t have the power to be an asshole without consequence anymore.”

    Enjoy the guy greatly, Matt’s an articulate brainiac, but this answer was a load of utter horseshit if I’ve ever heard it. Some peoples’ first exposure to atheism could be watching your call show also, Matt, and you know it. You are often an asshole on your show for no other reason than feeding your ego and because you CAN be. You can’t in debates where you no longer hold the power.

  13. Andrés Real says:

    He was SO PUMPED when slavery came up, thinking he'd be the first apologist to "win the case for the christian views on slavery" against Matt… He even had slides prepped up beforehand!

    Bless his heart. That was almost adorable.

  14. jerry heeg says:

    Whoever decided on the structure of this debate needs a new job

  15. M. G says:

    I keep hearing this how christian values abolished slavery, no my fu*kin idiot friend, the nations with christian values were among the last ones that abolished slavery. How much of an idiot do you have to be to see as America abolishing slavery as ahh see christian values and morality strikes again abolishing slavery after slavery, while like 90% of the rest of the world didn’t have slavery and had either abolished it long ago or even some places never had slaves to begin with. Think a minute before you talk.

  16. Metal Man says:

    16:10 1) wash hands a bit so you don't get shit on the doorknob, 2) open door, 3) Wash hands again, 4) leave the bathroom. It's only an endless loop if you're a moron.

  17. Kiab Vaj says:

    If the son sets you free, you are free indeed and then if you are free man, you are a slave of Christ. You are either a slave to sin which leads to death or a slave to righteousness which leads to life. According to their scriptures, you are always a slave to something or someone.

  18. Endo The One says:

    Free will is an illusion. I luv telling people that, they don't like the idea that their choices are not really theirs, or what does "their choice" really consist of

  19. Endo The One says:

    Morality in religion, sacrifices are good for god, need more blood

  20. KlaxonCow says:

    Yes, Christians were involved in abolishing slavery.

    Their involvement was to stop enslaving people.

    In the same way that Hitler was responsible for bringing Hitler's evil to end, when he killed himself. Or that a serial killer, who reforms and stops killing people, is responsible for bringing their own reign of terror to an end. Because they stopped doing it.

    It really doesn't morally recommend you to steal all the office stationery and then claim "I ended the theft of the office stationery… when I stopped being the one responsible for it all in the first place".

    Like, you don't get a pat on the back and gold star for that one. What a moral exemplar to us all.

    "I am a good person, as I've ended all the rapes that were occurring in the local neighbourhood… because I stopped raping people".

    So, "Christians were involved in abolishing slavery" would only work *IF* Christians hadn't been amongst those – but not exclusively so, I'll grant you – doing all the enslaving in the first place.

    And this isn't really "being moral" in a more objective sense, it's more "I used to be deeply immoral… now I've knocked that on the head and am merely amoral". Like, not enslaving people is not a positive moral action. It's just the lack of a negative moral action.

    When I stop stealing the office stationery, I'm not actually improving the office stationery situation but merely returning it to the normality that it always should have been, had I not been an immoral agent in stealing it all. That is, not stealing the office stationery means that the number of pens in the stationery cupboard is now no longer going down… but it does not contribute to the numbers of pens in the stationery cupboard going up.

    Indeed, one could look at the moral landscape of American slavery and the Civil Rights movement and say "yes, you stopped enslaving black people and then stopped legally segregating black people"… but that's just no longer committing the crime. Are black Americans now economically equal to white Americans? Nope.

    You used to smack people around with a baseball bat. That was immoral. You've now stopped doing that. This is merely amoral. If you're going around and helping and healing your previous victims, that's moral.

    Like, enslaving people is negative morality. Not enslaving people is neutral or zero morality. But actually helping and doing good for those you once enslaved, that's positive morality.

    If your moral rap sheet reads like "I don't kill people. I don't rape people. I don't steal things. I don't oppress people" and so forth then it's excellent that you're no longer immoral. But all you're describing there is moral normalcy. What should be, for any moral being, the default position.

    "I haven't killed anyone this week" doesn't make me moral, just not immoral. But if it's "I saved lives this week" then now I'm actually being a moral agent. I'm positively increasing the morality in the world, not merely stopping being the one who was stealing all the morality away.

    Charity is a moral action. Listening to people's problem and helping them out is a moral action. Feeding the hungry is a moral action.

    But merely saying "well, I haven't killed anyone this week" is not being moral. It's just not being immoral. It's being what one would hope all could agree is "being normal". The default amoral position, not to be doing evil.

    Like, yes, not doing wrong things is a good start. But it only becomes a positive moral position, when you start doing good things. Merely not doing anything at all, one way or the other, is amoral – zero morality – neither immoral nor moral. Just sitting on the fence and letting things be.

    E.g. Matt tearing the defence of slavery apart is a moral act. He's not just not enslaving people, but actually trying to step in and convince others to not do it either, through persuasive argument. Let us hope that he succeeds. That's morality.

    But merely saying "I don't enslave people… but here's the defence of why slavery was just fine and dandy back then (and potentially could be claimed to be just fine yet again in the future, by similar standards)" then that's, at very best, merely amoral. And it absolutely does not recommend you.

  21. KlaxonCow says:

    Here's another angle.

    If we need God for morality, then why the hell did he ever give us free will?

    At best, that seems deeply irresponsible. But, more over, isn't that the most evil act imaginable?

    I am God. I know, omnisciently, that this is all going to go horribly wrong and, without me, you will sin and murder and commit evil acts. I have the omnipotent power to easily prevent all of that.

    But, no, do as thou willst. Knock yourself out.

    So every single evil act ever committed thereafter is down to God's decision to just let it happen. In the name of "free will".

    But, from God's perspective, knowing the consequences that'll result, why would you ever do any of this in the first place? He knows, omnisciently so, that "free will" will unleash every single evil act that will ever happen through all time… and then carries on.

    Ergo, that is the most evil act possible, as it equates, by definition, to every single evil act that ever happens thereafter combined. As it is, in effect, the implicit invention of evil.

    God is morality, but given the opportunity, he shirks that responsibility and says "not my problem". It's down to you miserable sinners to sort your own shit out, even though, being omniscient, I know full well that you'll fail and I won't lift a finger to prevent any of it.

    The greatest monster in all of fiction. Even before we get to the Biblical body count, directly at his own hand.

  22. freddan6fly says:

    Oh yes, we need a god to motivate us for mass murder, child rape and whatnot that has been done in the name of god.

  23. Gurvinder Parmar says:

    A small bit pick of this debate – The theist when beginning his rebuttal on slavery clearly said it was allowed in the Bible but not promoted. That is a bold lie. The Bible goes into details on how one can trick a person into becoming their slave for life. It continues to advocate for slavery and the relationship between owner and slave by telling slaves to never complain or go against their masters.

    He also used the tired old pathetic argument that it was a different time then. If that's the case, why follow a book meant for the world two thousand years ago today? It's a outright crime that PhD degrees are offered to fools who study fictional books that have zero evidence of anything or even original copies. Might as well start offering PhDs for Lord if Rings and Harry Potter too.

  24. Ben H says:

    Live a life where you can create the least amount of harm to others including non human animals.

  25. Harrie Meijers says:

    If slavery is not moral but in another period, why do you want to bring other parts from that book back in this time? If you don't know who wrote the Bible why do you think it is true? Everything in that book is brought in and altered for about 1500 years by the Catholic Church. They went to great lengths to hide original scripture to avoid other explanation than what they put in it. Still not two christians do think the same about what is in these books. No other book has changed in the past as the Bible and still lots of people want to take every word literally.

  26. Stu Boyd says:

    I really don't understand why Christians feel the need to speak on behalf of their god.

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