Over at Spread Rationality I stumbled upon a post titled “Morality Without God” authored by Kemal Eren. Kemal discusses how morality is a feature that was developed because of biological evolutionary reasons as well as cultural evolution. Many scientists are proponents of this idea, including Richard Dawkins (of course, of course).
I really wanted to add some comments on this post, which, as interesting as it is in taking on the subject of evolution-derived morals, I think it left out a couple of important issues. Since comments were disabled for that post, I decided to write one myself.
Instead of defending an evolutionary approach to morals (where Kemal does a pretty good job), I would like to take a different approach and discuss how God and/or religion could never provide us with the moral standards we currently have -and which are of course continuously evolving. So I will take on the three main arguments that religious people like to proudly present in this matter.
For instance, the story that supposedly shows the courage of Abraham and how blind faith is actually rewarded by God: is this terrible story of Abraham and the sacrifice of his son of moral value? [Painting by Rembrandt]
Of course, here, religious apologetics will say that such stories are not supposed to be taken literally. But then, how do you decide which stories should be taken literally and which not? Obviously you still need some objective moral standards to do this. Therefore, saying that these originate from the holy scriptures is simply unreasonable.
Claiming that these commandments assist in sustaining morality and “good” behaviour is a very, very bad thing in my opinion: when someone refrains from stealing or killing just because God said so or just because he will then burn in Hell this is NOT morality! It is simply one of two cases: fear of punishment, which in no case attaches the property of morality to the person in question, or hypocrisy/sucking up to God so that the person is rewarded in the afterlife. It is like some sort of policing in a way…
Atheism, on the contrary, is not a dogma! It is a lack of belief in God! Usually (but not always) this is accompanied by a large dose of rational thinking and skepticism.
The argument goes by mentioning that both Hitler and Stalin were atheists and, hey, look how many deaths they have caused. Well, lets see why this is not a valid argument.
“[…] I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”
Then again he had said a number of atheist-sounding quotes so nothing is conclusive. But the point remains that he did exploit the religious beliefs of his followers in order to motivate and manipulate them.
Personally, and I want to believe this is also true for most of my friends and family, I do not need God or the Ten Commandments to lead a moral life. I am happy that these properties are hard-wired in my brain, and I am even happier that I was able to activate and make good use of them. If someone needs God in order to have morals, then so be it. But please do not tell me that we get our morals from God or the scriptures because this is just absurd!