Morality is fundamentally based upon how we define the words ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, or ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour. Of course, like any word we can, and often do define these terms subjectively – however this does not mean that morality itself is subjective. Morality for me is emphatically objective despite the criticisms that you cannot have objective morals without God. How is this so? Well it’s all about how you define those aforementioned terms. The following are how I would define ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – and I am sure that most people would agree upon these definitions:
Right – an action that promotes happiness and well-being, or health, or that relieves suffering and does not cause unnecessary harm or loss.
Wrong – an action causes unhappiness, suffering, and causes unnecessary harm or loss.
In light of these definitions stealing something, for example is objectively wrong because it causes unhappiness, suffering and loss. These states of mind related to happiness and unhappiness can also be objectively measured. If you hook up someone to an EEG machine when they were experiencing happiness and pleasure different parts of their brain would be active to if you measured them when they were sad or anxious etc. These are real states that we can objectively measure and have some real basis in fact, rather than just being arbitrary and subjective.
Of course if someone wants to define right and wrong differently then they can derive a different morality from it, but this is about how I define those terms to arrive at an objective moral standard that does not require God – something which a theist would deny to the death.
Morality doesn’t have to have cosmological significance in order to be objective. Just because the actions I carry out in this life do not reverberate through eternity, does not mean that they have no worth and should be abandoned. There are plenty of reasons to be good. If you invite a guest to your home you would expect them not to be rude and obnoxious, and to respect your property – there is no reason then to act in such a way when you are a guest in someone else’s home. Treat others how you wish to be treated. This is perhaps the oldest principle in moral philosophy; the Golden Rule.
We all want to be liked, we all want to be the kind of person that we would want to hang around with. There are plenty of good reasons to be a moral person – God is not necessary for this.