Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Final Report 1: Is It Easier To Be Moral As An Atheist Than As A Theist?

It is often argued by theists that there cannot be any morality without a God. I have been asked many times what reason I have other than legal retribution for not murdering and stealing whenever I please, because atheists have no moral code. I, however, am of the opinion that atheists are generally more moral than theists. True, Christians have their Ten Commandments which instructs them to not murder or steal, but where in the Bible does it say to not rape? Where in the Bible does it say not to enslave those of a different skin color? The Bible actually promotes slavery and misogyny (“If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.” Exodus 20:21; “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” I Timothy 2:11-12). There is a seemingly never-ending war going on right now over which type of Islam is the correct one, and tens of thousands of innocent people are dying over the disagreement. Perhaps the best possible example of how difficult it is to be a moral theist is the idea of hell. Bertrand Russell said, “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching -- an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence.” According to the Bible, anyone who does not accept Christ as their Lord and Savior goes to hell ("Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.......Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them" John 3:18-36). The idea of sending anyone at all to burn in fire for eternity is undeniably cruel. According to the Bible, even the kindest and most selfless people on earth will live in eternal torment simply because they do not believe in Jesus.

Without a holy book of rules, atheists are left to their own devices to come up with a moral code. Some may argue that this is dangerous, because humans are far from perfect and have a bad habit of hurting each other. Regardless of this fact, atheists seem to be doing a fine job of being moral all by themselves. According to a report by the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons released in 2013, while atheists make up 17% of the US population (as of the time of the report), they make up only .07% of the US prison population. Either atheists are incredibly good at not getting caught, or they simply aren’t breaking the law as often as theists. Furthermore, a study from the University of Chicago found that children raised in religious homes are less altruistic than children raised in secular homes. A study from the University of California, Berkeley, found that atheists engage in helpful behavior because they feel compassion for the person, while highly religious people engage in helpful behavior because it is what they are taught to do by the Bible and/or they are concerned for their reputation.

None of this is to say that theists are generally immoral or bad people. Some of the kindest people who have ever lived were theists, and religious nonprofit organizations help millions of people every day. It is simply more difficult to be a moral theist because there is often a contradicting and partially immoral doctrine standing in your way. Many Christians support the gay rights movement, but all of them are ignoring part of the Bible to do so. Many Christians support women’s rights, but they are ignoring part of the Bible to do so. One has to wonder whether the reason why many theists don’t act immorally is that they believe that hellfire awaits them if they do. Meanwhile, atheists, with no fear of punishment and no expectation of reward, continue to act kindly. Perhaps we don’t need to be told what is right and wrong by an old book after all. 

1 comment:

  1. Very nicely put, and documented. To the question why aren't we atheists going out and committing mayhem I always like to cite Julia Sweeney:

    [1:32]…Let’s just try on the not-believing-in-God glasses for a moment, just for a second. Just put on the no-God glasses and take a quick look around and then immediately throw them off. So I put them on and I looked around.
    I’m embarrassed to report that I initially felt dizzy. I actually had the thought, “Well, how does the Earth stay up in the sky? You mean, we’re just hurtling through space? That’s so vulnerable!” I wanted to run out and catch the earth as it fell out of space into my hands.
    And then I thought, “Oh yeah, gravity and angular momentum is gonna keep us revolving around the sun for probably a really long time.” Then I thought, “What’s going to stop me from just, rushing out and murdering people?”
    And I had to walk myself through it, why are we ethical? Well, because we have to be. We’re social animals. We’re extremely complex social animals. We evolved a moral sense, like an aversion to wanton murder, in order for communities to exist. Because communities help us survive better in much bigger numbers. And eventually we codified these internal evolved ethics inside of us into laws against things like wanton murder. So… I guess that’s why I won’t be rushing out and murdering people! …