Gov. Kasich Invokes the “You Can’t Be Moral Without God” Argument

This past Tuesday, Ohio Governor and Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich did a sit down “town hall” interview with Javier Palomarez, the President and CEO of the U.S Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. During the interview, Palomarez asked Kasich to elaborate about his previous stated position that he opposed same-sex marriage but that he would accept the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling and whether or not the Republican Party, as a whole, would be wise to do the same in light of the fact that the majority of the American people supported it.

Ohio Governor John Kasich
Ohio Governor John Kasich

Kasich essentially sidestepped the question by saying that it was settled law and that he had moved on. He did say, however, that this was an appropriate time to address another issue he felt strongly about. If you wish to watch it for yourself, the question and his response begins at the 43:31 mark of the video linked in the previous paragraph. However, I am still going to include his statement here:

“There was an incredible article in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, in the review section of the paper, about the growing drift of the West towards a secular society and how people are always trying to pursue happiness and wealth and comfort, and what we’re finding is that this aggressive search for a secular society isn’t working, Javier, ‘cuz you know what? Embedded in all of us is this sense of meaning. Now, I’ve mentioned God and faith several times, um, I think the Pope did it best when he said we should focus on the do’s and not the don’ts and that’s why people got so excited in America about the potential of religion, which is about grace and hope and purpose and living a life beyond yourself.

But there’s a bigger issue here. When the West becomes a fully secularized society, how are we supposed to operate in a free society when we don’t have…when everybody wants to pursue things their own way. With two guys walking across a bridge, who gets knocked off? What is the appropriate way for us to be able to guide ourselves with an absence of laws? And if we become a secular society without a sense that there is a set of expectations…morals that are set on high that should guide us, then who’s right and who’s wrong becomes completely subjective. I don’t happen to think that’s how we would have the best society. I don’t think hispanics would believe that. Because I think they believe, and I think that most Americans…there’s a change going on in America. All I’m suggesting to you is this:

If we become secularist when we face a radical Islam that is the farthest thing from secularist, and when we can’t unite with our friends in the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian community to espouse a set of values that is the true way for human beings to conduct their lives and live their lives, we will be in a very severe crisis point, Javier. So, I don’t want anybody to try to read into…well, they will…I’m just saying to you that the sense of right and wrong that comes from the great religions is something that the West should begin to pay attention to and not continue to drive towards a totally secular society. I think it’s very dangerous for our children and for our culture.”

Did you notice how he made a weak attempt at providing himself an out towards the end, when he said that people would read into his statement? Well, I am not going to “read” anything into his statement, other than precisely what he said – which is that he thinks that it is dangerous for American children and American culture for our society to continue to become less religious because religion is where we get our sense of right and wrong.

This is a very common argument that theists will try to make. They insist that if people didn’t believe in a god, particularly their god, then everyone would just be running around raping and killing people. While Kasich worded it differently, the central message is still the same – religion, and thereby god, is the source of morality. Not only is it one of the most popular arguments theists like to employ, it also happens to be one of their weakest and is easily refutable by anyone who simply analyzes it logically.

John Kasich is a Christian and Christianity is one of the Abrahamic religions (along with Judaism and Islam), which is a reference to the character of Abraham mentioned in the Book of Genesis (chapters 11-25), who is a central figure in all three of these religions. One of the most prominent parts in this story of is that God orders Abraham to kill his son, Isaac, in order to prove his loyalty to God.

When mentioning this story, Christians will immediately point out that God stopped Abraham from going through with it and he ended up sacrificing a ram, instead. But that doesn’t change the fact that God still ordered Abraham to murder his own child, nor does it change the fact that Abraham was going to go through with it before he was stopped. Is the willingness to kill your own children at the behest of God a good thing or a bad thing?

That is just the tip of the iceberg, however, as God sanctions slavery and provides the rules governing it to Moses, according to Exodus. He orders the death penalty to be given to anyone who works on the Sabbath, as well. In Leviticus and Deuteronomy, God also orders the killing of any man who has sex with other men, women who are not virgins on their wedding day, children who curse their parents, promiscuous daughters of clergymen, blasphemers, apostates, and non-Christians. Is it good or bad to kill people for these things?

Now, it is inevitable that some Christian will attempt to brush aside all of this by declaring, “But all of that is in the Old Testament and it was mean for the Jews. The New Testament is what applies to Christians.” Really? The famous 10 Commandments are found in the Old Testament. Does this mean that Christians can ignore them? Also, Christians proclaim Jesus to be the Messiah but the details regarding the Messiah are found in the Old Testament, as well. If the Old Testament is only for the Jews, then Christians lose their entire justification for anointing Jesus as the Messiah. Not to mention that without the Old Testament, Christians would also loose the story of original sin – which is put forth as the entire reason for why Jesus had to die in the first place.

In spite of all that, the real problem with this case of special pleading – which is a logical fallacy, by the way – is that the idea that the Old Testament doesn’t apply to Christians is contradicted by the New Testament itself. Matthew 5:18 claims that Jesus said:

“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.”

Furthermore, the vast majority of Christians are trinitarians – which means that they believe God and Jesus to be the same entity – and that God is immutable, which means he is unchanging. As Hebrew 13:8 says:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Either the Christian dismissing the Old Testament is wrong or the New Testament is wrong.

Here’s the point of all of this, though. If Christians get their sense of right and wrong from their God and, by proxy, the Bible, then how is it possible for them to find anything contained within it to be wrong? God sanctions slavery, murder, rape, incest, genocide, infanticide…pretty much every single human atrocity you can probably think of. If a Christian’s capacity for determining right from wrong was dependent upon the Bible, then that Christian would be incapable of considering any of those things to be wrong, according to divine command theory.

This is not the case, however. Many Christians do consider slavery, murder, rape, incest, genocide, and infanticide to be wrong. Their ability to make this determination helps to demonstrate that their sense of morality isn’t dependent upon the Bible. It transcends the Bible. If it didn’t, then they wouldn’t be able to determine that killing children or owning slaves is bad, if God commanded it.

Also, consider this: Judaism is the oldest of these Abrahamic religions and it originated sometime between the 6th and 5th centuries BCE (600 BCE – 401 BCE). The Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest surviving set of laws we know of and it predates the founding of Judaism by approximately 1,450 years. Contained within the Code are laws against murder, robbery, rape, and assault, just to name a few. Humans considered these actions to be bad long before the existence of any religion that is still being practiced today.

We do not get our morality from religion. Religion gets its morality from us.