jump to navigation

Is Religion a Pre-requisite for Morality? May 13, 2010

Posted by jetson in Personal.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Here I go again, assuming there is a god, in order to have a discussion! Anyway, let’s take a look at this question and see where it leads. I have heard from many Christians who believe that God provides them with a moral base for their lives. Some even go as far as practically admitting that without God, they would be unable to act morally? I find that almost impossible to believe. Although, I have had two otherwise normal friends, who said that if God asked them to kill a baby, they would do it. To be fair, they had no choice but to assume that their “real” God was “really” asking them to do such a thing, and thus, they chose to submit. How they can distinguish a real God command from their own imaginations is beyond me.

I like to ask believers if there is anything good that a Christian can do, that cannot also be done by a non-believer. The intent of the question is to challenge them on human acts of kindness, as an example. So the challenge would be to name an act of kindness, or goodness, that physically cannot be done by one who has no god belief. I have yet to hear a single response outside of some things that are done as part of a church ritual or service, which the non-believer could easily do, but chooses not to be involved in church services. However, even those actions don’t hold anything morally superior over others outside of that belief system.

Non-believers are free to take any action they choose, without regard for specific church rules or restrictions on such actions, so you could almost argue that there may be some actions that a non-believer could do, which would be frowned upon by some churches. However, if the church deems it a bad thing, or inappropriate in some way, they would never acknowledge the act being good if done by a non-believer. What if an atheist was handing out condoms in a poverty-stricken area of Africa, resulting in fewer cases of aids through heterosexual contact between married couples? The Catholic church has deemed this a sin, and tells these people that the use of condoms is a sin. No matter what your church leaders say, they simply cannot continue to ignore the fact that using condoms saves lives in these areas.

I think I can argue that religion is not a pre-requisite for morality. Even if a person gains a set of morals through religious indoctrination early in their life, if they drop their god belief, or switch to a completely different religion, they do not automatically start behaving immorally. I have directly challenged some progressive Christian friends on this issue. They have no basis whatsoever to claim that I am less moral than they are, yet they argue their case as though they do have that superiority. They know me, and they know that they cannot directly challenge my morals simply because I claim no god belief. Yet, I sense that they silently claim victory.

The truth is, there is simply no credible evidence that non-believers are less moral. Unless non-belief itself is categorized as immoral, then we have to also consider that moral sets from one religion to the next are not the same, so each religious group gets to claim moral superiority over everyone else! This is an issue that comes up a lot in internet discussions, and it saddens me to think that modern humans still believe that people can’t possibly behave without religion.



1. bradley - May 13, 2010

Never a dull topic, especially with new people…

In hopes of avoiding running around in circles, I’ll say morality is a relative term. And, at the risk of sounding redundant from other topics, I’ll say regardless of our perspective the result of our actions never really change… however, the value is also relative.

It’s hard to really argue this without everyone just walking away totally right to themselves. Perhaps we could get closer if, instead of looking at morals only as a scalar, we look at it as a vector? It’s rather true to life… after all, we pass our morals on to our children… we influence those we encounter… and we absorb what is sold to us. So, if we can project the results of our morals, we can be better judges of the value. If we can agree on the value of the outcome, maybe we can accurate measure morals. Does that make any sense?

jetson - May 13, 2010

It makes sense, but what about the changing morality that has occurred over time? Human morality, depending on the society, has changed. So it does seem to go through some form of evolution.

If there exists a set of morals, then why would those morals change over time?

bradley - May 13, 2010

Well sure. That’s what I’m talking about. Evolving indicates direction, whether it’s toward a niche with less competition(idk if that works for this, but I’m thinking of master/slave morality), or toward an Ideal, or even de-civilizing in a way… perhaps strictly going on impulse/ instinct. The standard of morality will head in any number of directions. I think we can control that direction. We need only to look at the value of the final destination for each path to determine which way to go.

“If there exists a set of morals, then why would those morals change over time?”

I think for the most part, experience. As we experience things we judge them. As time passes, the impact of the experience wanes, and the reason for certain behaviors is forgotten. I think this would go on indefinitely, unless there was a way to record the behaviors, the rewards, and the results of not adhering… something like a book… just a Good Book is all we need. 😀

But, that still doesn’t work, because then people just talk about how idiotic those of us are for following it… like it will make the content untrue. 😉 But… “those that don’t know history” and all that…

2. Adam - May 13, 2010

I think you’re right – religion is not by any means a pre-requisite for morality. Morality existed before religion did and examples of atheists behaving better than theists are so easy to find, I’m surprised people still try and claim the contrary.

For me, I’ve had a difficult time trying to answer a more meta question when it comes to morality – why be moral? We have evolved moral impulses, but that’s no reason to follow them. When I was a non-believer, I led perhaps an even more moral life than I do now, but my decision to do so felt arbitrary. Whether you find God as the answer or not, it seems as though some choices have to be grounded in something more than an arbitrary desire.

That might be close to what some of the people you’ve been talking to are trying to articulate.

jetson - May 13, 2010

Maybe it is arbitrary – but is that bad? I wonder if humans just have a need to have their morals “grounded” in something such as God?

3. Arius - May 14, 2010

Morality-it would seem is a conglomeration of subjective ethics-sewed into the fabric of society by an oligarchy. Even if religion was non-existent, a form of government would assume such a responsibility-authority generally does.

jetson - May 14, 2010

It seems like more of a collective thing, where it gives the maximum benefit to the most people? Somewhere upstream, in our evolution as humans, we figured out that cooperation was beneficial, and that stealing from each other, or killing each other, weakened our collective.

I don’t know, maybe it’s time I looked into this a bit deeper, because it is important that humans don’t revert backwards with exclusive moral sets designed from ideologies, as opposed to natural benefits for the larger good of society.

I’m willing to learn more…

4. Tim Cooley - May 28, 2010

I would go on to state that religion, if anything, reflects the “morality” of its time.

Note the transition from the Old to the New Testament.

5. bradley - May 28, 2010

Yeah… love is so outdated.

6. Kiera - September 28, 2014

After looking into a handful of the blog articles on your site,
I truly like your way of writing a blog. I bookmarked it to
my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon.
Take a look at my website as well and tell me what you think.

7. Muay Thai training camp - June 5, 2016

It’s great that you are getting thoughts from this piece
of writing as well as from our discussion made here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: