05 August 2011


.... would be a better day than one with religion. "Better", in the sense of improved ethical and moral behavior among humans toward each other, and toward their fellow creatures. This is the tacit thesis of Jerry A. Coyne in As Atheists Know, You Can Be Good Without God. As evidence, Coyne explores the source of morality, and comes to the conclusion that it lies within humans, and does not derive from an external deity. He offers explicit illustrations directly from religious texts to demonstrate that "though both moral and immoral behaviors can be promoted by religion, morality itself ~ either in individual behavior or social codes ~ simply cannot come from the will or commands of a God. This has been recognized by philosophers since the time of Plato.

" .... God cannot be the source of morality but at best a transmitter of some human-generated morality. This isn't just some philosophical rumination, because God ~ at least the God of Christians and Jews ~ repeatedly ordered or sanctioned immoral acts [including slavery, genocide, the slaying of adulterers and homosexuals, the stoning of non-virgin brides, and damning sinners to the torments of Hell -- see the article for specific Biblical citations].

" .... Now, few of us see genocide or stoning as moral, so Christians and Jews pass over these parts of the Bible with judicious silence. But that's just the point. There is something else ~ some other source of morality ~ that supercedes biblical commands. When religious people pick and choose their morality from Scripture, they clearly do so based on extrareligious notions of what's moral.

"Further, the idea that morality is divinely inspired doesn't jibe with the fact that religiously based ethics have changed profoundly over time .... Did these adjustments occur because God changed his mind? No, they came from secular improvements in morality that forced religion to clean up its act.

"So where does morality come from, if not from God? Two places: evolution and secular reasoning .... the conditions under which humans evolved are precisely those that would favor the evolution of moral codes: small social groups of big-brained animals. When individuals in a group get to know, recognize and remember each other, this gives an advantage to genes that make you behave nicely towards others in the group, reward those who cooperate and punish those who cheat. That's how natural selection can build morality. Secular reasoning adds another layer atop these evolved behaviors, helping us extend our moral sentiments far beyond our friends and relatives ~ even to animals.

"Should we be afraid that a morality based on our genes and our brains is somehow inferior to one handed down from above? Not at all. In fact, it's far better, because secular morality has a flexibility and responsiveness to social change that no God-given morality could ever have. Secular morality is what pushes religion to improve its own dogma on issues such as slavery and the treatment of women. Secular morality is what prevents ethically irrelevant issues ~ what we eat, read or wear, when we work, or whom we have sex with ~ from being grouped with matters of genuine moral concern, like rape or child abuse. And really, isn't it better to be moral because you've worked out for yourself ~ in conjunction with your group ~ the right thing to do, rather than because you want to propitiate a god or avoid punishment in the hereafter?

"Nor should we wory that a society based on secular morality will degenerate into lawlessness. That experiment has already been done ~ in countries such as Sweden and Denmark that are largely filled with non-believers and atheists .... In fact, you can make a good case that those countries, with their liberal social views and extensive aid for the sick, old, and disadvantaged, are even more moral than America.

"Clearly, you can be good without God."

And just as clearly, you can be evil with God. To illustrating the humanistic differences between religious and non-religious people, check out More Death Threats From Religious Folks. The commentary is based on a news interview with the communications director for American Atheists, which provoked a firestorm of hate mail and death threats aimed at the director and at atheists in general. Below (click to enlarge) you can view a sample of the vitriol from these loving, tolerant, beatific Christians (or Muslims, or any other fundamentalist sect) who are at ease and secure in their beliefs .... so long as they don't encounter anyone with differing views. At least they're consistent in their intolerance for diversity ~ killing gays, killing abortion physicians, killing infidels. So much for lovingkindness.

No comments:

Post a Comment