And He (Allah) revealed to it (conscience) the ways of evil and the ways of righteousness – He, indeed, prospers who purifies it (conscience), And he is ruined who corrupts it. (Al Quran 91:9-11)
The characters in Shakespeare drama Macbeth are based on real life historical figures. Macbeth thought that if he could be the king he would be really happy. But, when he had killed the king who had been kind and generous to him, he was filled with horror. It was not the horror of one who fears discovery. When he heard one of the men awaken from sleep and say, “God bless us,” he could not say “Amen;” for his vivid imagination presented to him the dryness and choking of his throat as an immediate judgment from heaven. He heard a voice that first cried “Macbeth has murdered sleep,” then, a minute later, denounced him in his three names, as if the three names gave him three personalities to suffer in the doom of sleeplessness:
Glamis had murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor
Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more.
The severity of his crime, jolted Macbeth in a dramatic fashion. However, more often than not, when we cheat someone or lie for some reason, we are invariably able to rationalize it, so the short coming generally gets unnoticed by our conscience and consciousness. However, when someone else double crosses or cheats us we get upset, angry and even mad at times. We think that it was wrong for anyone to cheat or deceive us. Why should we get mad if everyone is working to advance oneself one way or the other? When on the receiving end we clearly feel that humans are supposed to be moral. We are not supposed to cheat, lie or say things which we do not mean! What is the basis of our intuition about morality and human ethics?
To argue against the slippery slope of relativism, apologists for theism, have lately precisely defined objective moral values. What are the objective moral values? Neil Shenvi has encapsulated it for us, borrowing from different philosophers, especially Prof. William Lane Craig:
Objective moral values are moral values that are true independent of the belief of human beings. For this reason, philosophers who affirm the existence of objective moral values sometimes speak about them as moral facts. A purported fact can either be true or false, but it is qualitatively different than an opinion, which is a matter of personal preference. So when we say that objective moral values exist, we mean that a statement like, “Murder is evil,” is making a claim about some objective moral reality in precisely the same way that the statement, “There is a chair in my kitchen,” is making a claim about objective physical reality. In contrast, a moral relativist claims that a statement like, “murder is evil,” is a subjective claim about our (or our society’s) preference. The statement, “murder is evil,” expresses a subjective preference similar to the statements, “curry is tasty,” or, “bluegrass is the best musical genre.” If obje ctive moral values exist, then statements like, “the Holocaust was evil,” can be objectively true. If objective moral values exist, then this statement would be true even if the Nazis had won World War II and had convinced every human being in the entire world that the Holocaust was good. In contrast, the position of moral relativism commits one to the proposition that moral statements like, “the Holocaust was evil,” are subjective. If some person or some society, like Nazi Germany, believes that the Holocaust was good, then the Holocaust would indeed be good “for them”. There would be no objective moral standard to which their assessment could be compared.
Because we all feel a strong abhorrence against rape, incest, holocaust and even against smaller crimes when we personally are the victims, there are objective moral values and therefore there is a Law-Giver, a God. If there is no God and we accidentally arose out of animals similar to chimpanzees, then there is no clear cut reason to believe that the jungle law is not the ultimate reality. As a believer in both evolution as well as revelation, I think that our conscience has roots both in our evolution as well as revelations over the millennia to the Prophet of God by All-Knowing God. Our conscience cannot be explained if we take revelation out of the picture and try to explain it purely on the basis of naturalism or scientific materialism.