The concept of absolute morality fits very well with religion because the afterlife becomes the venue in which rewards and punishments are finally handed out. Without heaven and hell, life on earth becomes very unjust. Many people violate the moral law and prosper, and many who abide by the moral law come to grief. Is this really the end of the story? In Hinduism you get your comeuppance through reincarnation. If you act badly in this life, you may be a cockroach in the next one. In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam there is no reincarnation but there is a Last Judgment in which all earthly accounts are settled and cosmic justice is achieved. Within the religious framework, violations of the universal moral law are also held to be violations of God’s law, and they are given a new name: sin.Not only are moral laws easily integrated into a religious scheme, but the existence of a universal, absolute morality is also a powerful argument for the existence of God. If there are moral laws that operate beyond the realm of natural laws, where do these laws come from? Moral laws presume a moral lawgiver. In other words, God is the ultimate standard of good. He is responsible for the distinction between good and evil that we universally- perceive as binding on human action. The fact that these standards are distinctive to human beings implies that there is something special about us, and that God has a special interest in how we live.

So the existence of absolute morality poses a supreme challenge for atheism. Leading Darwinians like Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, and Richard Dawkins have sought to meet this challenge. They do so by attempting to explain morality as a product of evolution and natural selection. Human beings do good and act altruistically, and on the face of it, this altruism seems counter to the evolutionary principle that creatures act self- interestedly to survive and reproduce. Dennett and Dawkins draw on the work of evolutionary pioneers like R. A. Fisher, W. D. Hamilton, and Robert Trivers to show that what appears to be altruism is actually a long-term strategy of survival and reproduction that has been programmed into our genes.