Morality: Human Trait or Divine Standard?
“…the morality of atheists is in a sense more noble by definition than the morality of theists. While theists believe that god will punish them for immoral acts and reward them for moral acts, atheists have no motivation to be moral other than their own innate sense of morality. It is morality for its own sake, not out of fear for punishment or desire for reward.” (http://www.askanatheist.org/morals.html)
I often hear Christians talk about how morality comes from God. Supposedly, without God, there is no morality; the world would descend into chaos and corruption if people stopped serving him. Without this unchanging moral standard called the Bible, there would be no justice or kindness. Here are a few assumptions about morality that I would like to address.
“Christians have an unchanging moral standard.”
This is not true- not by a long shot. If it was, then what was wrong 300 years ago should still be considered wrong today- but the opposite is true. If you look back through history, you can see dramatic changes in what Christians deem “moral”. For example, Christians in the past century believed that slavery and repression of women’s rights was not only ok, it was God’s natural order. In the Middle Ages, the Crusades and Inquisitions ravaged their part of the world- torture, murder, and suppression of other ideas was the norm. And it was accepted by the majority of Christians at the time as “moral”. Even today we can see major differences in how Christians interpret the Bible: in many African countries today, Christians are oppressing and murdering gay people and conducting genital mutilation in the name of God, Christians in the US refuse to grant gay people equal rights (which causes a lot of harm), and modern modesty standards range from Amish clothes to Brazil’s racy skin-tight garb. There is very little that is the same across the board for Christians; even major doctrines are debated, with scripture being used by all of them.
Now, you might say that these cannot be “true Christians”, that they must not truly understand God’s heart because they don’t follow Christianity the way you do. But one has only to read the Old Testament and the description of hell to see how easily these horrible actions could be justified by believers. You can’t say that anyone who doesn’t follow this book like you do is not a “true” believer, because how do you really know? All of these people firmly believe that they are following God’s wishes; who knows for sure which group has it right?
Ironically, Christians have an incredibly diverse range of “morality standards” throughout history and even today. You can easily see how morality has evolved for humans in general, Christians as well as atheists. Saying that they have a single, unchanging moral standard is not only not true, it’s a bit ridiculous and rather insulting to any intelligent person!
“Atheists have no morality.”
Again, given the range of moral standards Christians have, this is very insulting. Atheists most certainly have morals. In fact, it could be argued that atheists actually have a better moral standard than Christians:
Christians do good because they’re hoping for reward in Heaven or because they’re afraid of Hell. Atheists do good simply for the sake of doing good. Christians rely on an ancient text that has been interpreted hundreds of different ways over centuries; atheists use logic, reason, and empathy to determine their actions and beliefs.
For example: If I asked you whether killing a child was right or wrong, most people would say it’s wrong. But what if God told you to kill that child? Most Christians respond with “Well, he is just and kind so he wouldn’t ask me to do something wrong like that.” You say this because you know that killing a child is wrong, even if he told you to do it. But according to the Bible, he HAS asked people to kill innocent children- more than once. Abraham was asked to kill his son, the Hebrews were commanded to wipe out nations including children, disobedient children were executed, and so on. If this bothers you, and you still would not kill a child, then you have your own inner morality that contradicts your religion. If you think you would kill that child if God told you to, then you have no business saying that your morality is better!!
“If a country is not governed by God’s laws, it will revert into chaos.”
Our world today shows the exact opposite. Countries that are highly religious rank much lower on the scale of the best places to live, while countries that are less religious top the lists in good education, economy, healthcare, and low crime and pregnancy mortality rates. Even in the US you can see the difference: the states in the “Bible Belt” aren’t doing as well as the states that are less religious.
This doesn’t mean that religion is bad, nor that atheism automatically means a nation will succeed. However, it very effectively destroys the myth that a country (or people) cannot function properly without God. When a country is built upon equality and promotes knowledge and kindness, that society will succeed whether it’s religious or not. When religious values are valued above those things, a society will suffer.
There are good and bad people on both sides. There are wonderful Christians and wonderful atheists, horrible atheists and horrible Christians. Morality does not come from religion, it comes from within human beings. Now you can say that perhaps god created us with this inner morality, and that could be true; but either way, I do not need to follow your religion to be a kind, good person. Saying so is very arrogant and hurtful to those of us who live our lives to help others, with no religious motivation.
Thanks for listening to my rant. This is a major peeve of mine, sorry it’s long! If you want to read more on this subject, here’s a great resource: http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismmyths/p/AtheistsMorals.htm