Hello Mr. Gerson,
I read your article on WashingtonPost.com entitled "What Atheists Cant Answer."
But I would like to point out that your question in the article is itself begging the question.
If you are to argue in favor of a God, you should ask yourself "If God exists, what of morality?"
You see, if God exists and He dictates morality, then there can be no true good and bad in any absolute sense. Morality would be reduced to the whim of a super powerful being. Whatever he decides is right, is right. So how does God, in this case, decide what is right in the first place? Where is His standard?
Of course, He would have no standard. Or, rather, He would be His own standard, which is completely circular and even worse than having no standard at all.
Have you ever heard of Plato's Euthyphro dilemma? You would do well to familiarize yourself with it, as your article seems totally ignorant of this timeless, classic, and profoundly important dialogue about the moral nature of god.
Now, let us turn to your question. What of morality if there is no God? IS this truly a question that atheists can’t answer?
I think not, and I daresay that you stacked the deck when you declared in your very article that the question cannot be answered, before you even asked the question!
I would love to explain to you in detail how morality can only be founded on natural properties of existence, but this is somewhat beyond the scope of my email (and would require a time commitment that I cannot spare today). I can, however, give you a quick and simple answer, and if you are interested in a more detailed explanation, I would love to receive your response requesting one, at which point I could set aside some time to answer you in greater detail.
Reality shows us that we humans are all separate sovereign conscious beings. I am me, not you. You are you, not me, etc. I can control my body with my thoughts, but I cannot control your body with your thoughts, etc. Simply put, I can morally justify pursuing my own goals myself, but I cannot morally justify compelling anyone else to pursue my goals. In other words, I cannot morally justify forcing my values onto another, nor can another justify forcing their values onto me.
Another fact of reality is that there are only two ways for two or more people to interact: through mutual agreement, or through force. These are the only two ways that people can interact. Well, one of these is moral, the other is immoral. And when judging these two choices of interaction in light of the above mentioned facts of identity, we can see that only the voluntary and mutual version of interaction is justifiable, for it is the only way to interact without forcing ones values onto another.
Immoral acts are essentially rebellions against reality. When someone steals, or lies, or cheats, or kills, they are trying to negate the brutal fact that another’s values do not match their own. They try to overcome through force or lying the fact that they can only control their own bodies, and can only justifiably pursue their own values using their own resources.
Now, this is a simplified explanation, due to my current time constraints. If you really are looking for an answer from atheists for your article, then you do well to reply to me and challenge my explanation, and make me justify it in greater detail. You would do well to find out whether or not my claim that atheism can account for morality, while GOD HIMSELF cannot account for it, is valid.
But if, as I suspect, you are only interested in attacking a strawman of atheism, and declaring that an atheist cant answer your question before you even present it in some mad dash to convince yourself and your like minded imaginary friend lovers that your fairytale mystic worldview is somehow necessary or justifiable, then I suggest that you delete this email. Indeed, you should pretend that I never wrote you, that you never read this, and then you should simply get down on your knees and pray. Pray with all your might and for as long as you possibly can. For talking to yourself while pretending that a part of your own mind is actually some outer being (that’s what all imaginary friends really are, after all) will be the closest you will ever get to some kind of internal satisfaction of the validity of your beliefs. Attacking atheist strawmen will not provide you such comfort, for there will always be intellectually armed and highly motivated atheists such as myself to call you on it. There will always be powerful challenges to articles like this.
And, after all, isn’t it painfully obvious through your writing that you are not trying to convince anyone of your claim so much as you are trying to convince yourself? Well, talking to the imaginary friend in your head (prayer) is the closest you will get to being convinced.
UPDATE: Zachary Moore of Goosing the Antithesis weighs in.