Right from the top, this isn't my idea but I am going to take liberties and elaborate on another's work.
Let's construct a hypothetical. Assume that you engage three different men (or women) in conversation about whether or not there is a God and whether or not there is such a thing as right or wrong. Further assume that one of the three is an atheist, another is an agnostic, and the last clings to a religious creed that does not include God as Christian's (ought to) think of God. (Don't ask me to elaborate on that last remark just now; I'll do that at some later date).
So the question is this: "If there is a God, does this God set boundaries on the behavior of man or does man set his own boundaries?" Put another way; "Where do our individual and corporate sense of "right" and "wrong" originate? Is is intrinsic to our being, or is it extrinsic?
Assume that while I was in college I went to a record store, and, while browsing the new releases I came across an LP (that means "Long Play" to anyone under age 50). Suppose it was an LP I really wanted; exempla gratia "Les Elgart", and suppose that I slipped it inside the back of my tweed overcoat, and suppose I walked out of this hypothetical store in downtown Walla Walla, Washington with a new "free" record.
I did this in 1956 but you already knew I had done this because there are too many details. (My #3 son still has the overcoat that my mom bought for me in 1955 at Sears in downtown Tacoma, Washington).
Someone ought to be saying (or thinking); "That was wrong!" And this is where I ask, "Why is it wrong?"
In order to understand God and His government we have to understand what it is that causes an action or even a thought to be labeled, "wrong." I can hear someone(s) saying, "Thou shalt not steal."
Right! But what does that mean to the atheist, the agnostic, or someone of a religion that does not admit to the existence of our Protestant/Catholic/Jewish God.
Is it wrong because there are civil consequences if one is caught? Is it wrong because one might go to jail? Civil consequences would be the voice of government and when did government begin defining "right and wrong", and on what basis? On what fundamental authority does one, or a community, or a nation, say, "That is wrong."
Coming from another direction; "Does sin exist apart from being defined by any but God?"
Actually (as Christopher would say), sin exists independent of "reason" because as I said in an earlier "post," if a reason could be given for the existence of sin (the "wrong" part of right and wrong), it wouldn't be sin.
So how is this resolved? It is wrong to steal, fundamentally, because God has declared it to be so. We may try to justify or excuse ourselves but none of these are sufficient to stand as reasons for our misdeed(s). There is a galaxy of side effects that attends each of our wrongs and each has to do with how our malicious act(s) adversely affects others. Each point in this galaxy is in itself wrong, because someone or someones are wronged and we are the ones who must assume the burden of the guilt and the fault. Guilt is a burden; everyone knows that without having to read it in some book or Book, and it is heavy.
Only Satan and his minions (here and in hell) might not feel guilt. For them, their anger is their guilt. I'm not certain which is heavier; anger or guilt. You figure it out and let me know what you know.
Anyway, (as Scott would say) (this is inside stuff folks so don't try to figure it out), four years later I went back to that record store, admitted the theft and handed the clerk a five dollar bill. She stood looking at me (my wife was with me to help me stand straight like a man), and finally said, "Well, I'll just ring this up as a sale!"
Going out the door of the store I knew I'd left a lot of weight behind because somewhere in my "Nephesh" (Hebrew for heart, mind, being, person, myself, soul, etc.) I knew that taking the record was wrong. Sin is heavy. Guilt (I'll opine) is heavier.
God Bless. e.c.