Religion is losing it’s footing on the ‘moral high ground’

“Religious believers, once in the public domain, must subject their moral principles and standards to the political test of scrutiny and analysis. This is, after all, the very basis of reasonableness extended into proper democratic discourse: that we provide transparent justification for our beliefs, with the concomitant quality that our justifications are subject to counter-reasons. If this standard can’t be met, the result is straightforward. Their right to continue voicing their views remains, but the rest of us have no obligation to take them seriously.” -Amarnath Amarasingam Nov. 28th 2010 – Huffington Post

I’m sure many of us atheists have heard the same tired argument before. It always goes something like this, “Morals come from God! How can we expect humanity to survive and function peacefully without commandments and a moral compass from the Lord?” Blah… blah, blah, yackety, smackety. First of all, the fact that tens of millions of Atheists get up every morning in this country and go about their daily lives peacefully, and with civility, and do it without “GOD” should be a question Christians ask themselves. How can atheists face life without a divine moral compass? What purpose do they have to live every day if they don’t believe in heaven? What stops them from murdering and raping everyone they see if they aren’t afraid of hell?

Simple… we are moral people too!

I’m really tired of religious people thinking they own the moral high ground. They think that their storybook and their belief system makes them superior when it comes to the conversation of “moral authority”. They honestly feel that without those beliefs integrated throughout society, we would collapse into a state of anarchy. Well, besides them being wrong, there are two things to look at.

1) The bible is far from displaying acceptable moral authority!

I’d hope if you are reading this you already know that the bible is full of horribly immoral things. So, I won’t bore you with a list. But, if you want one… check this out (from Even without that, we can look solely at the Ten Commandments (the prime example Christians use as their “guidebook” for a moral life) and see 3 major problems with it. First of all, it isn’t unique. Hammurabi’s code predates the Ten Commandments and share a lot in common:

1.I am Adonai Your God. (Exodus)
2.Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. (Exodus)
3.You shall not take the Name of Adonai Your God in vain. (Exodus)
4.Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it separate. (Exodus)
5.Honor your father and your mother. (Hammurabi, Code #195 and others)
6.You shall not murder. (Hammurabi Code #210, 214, 229, 230 and others)
7.You shall not commit adultery. (Hammurabi, Code # 129-133 and several others)
8.You shall not steal. (Hammurabi, Codes #6, 8, 9, 21, 22 and many others)
9.You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Hammurabi, Code #1-3 and many others)
10.You Shall not covet anything that belongs to thy neighbor. (wife/property)… (Hammurabi, Codes #6,8,9,21,22, and others)

The only thing that is really different is that MAGIC 10 from the bible start with spiritual principles (kind of selfish of god, don’t you think) instead of civil/criminal ones. See, people can have good ideas without a mythical creator telling us what to think.

Secondly, the bible actually list several versions of the ten commandments… so the ones you hear most often aren’t really the “real” list. Here is a good explanation of the biblical differences from You’d think something as important as the 10 biggest commandment from god should be agreed upon… or at least edit out one version so as not to confuse believers (or give atheists something to laugh about).

Lastly, and most importantly are the things that the ALMIGHTY MORAL GOD left out (and included). So, he only has room for 10 (nice round number)… which to choose and in what order? He must have concluded, “Sure, let’s make the first 40% all about me”.

1) I’m fucking god here!

2) Don’t you dare have any other gods that you worship… or you’ll fucking die (Exodus 22:20: He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.).

3) Don’t say my name in vain, goddammit! (Leviticus 24:16: And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death.)

4) Make sure you kiss my ass at least one day a week… or I’ll stone you dead bitch! (Exodus 31:15: Whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.

Ok, now onto the the other important moral lessons. Talk back to your parents? Die. Have sex with an animal? Die. Homosexual? Die. Cheat on your spouse? Die. Not believe in god. Die. And, according to Malachi 2:1-4, if you are a priests and don’t “lay it to heart to give glory to [god's] name” he won’t kill you, but he “will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces.” Sweet, at least they don’t die. Keep in mind, god doesn’t mean die eventually. In all cases,  he means immediately and typically by the hands of your friends and family in the town (or just outside it… can’t have all those dead bodies polluting the streets) where everyone can watch and even participate, as long as you brought your own stone… and you are a man.

But most importantly, to me, are the fact that things we would consider VERY immoral like rape, child molestation, and genocide were left out of the BIG LIST by the mane with all the answers. Hmmm, curious. Seems like humans have come up with better answers on how to live life since then that trump the ten commandments. We treat women as equals and have abolished slavery… two things the bible wouldn’t have supported. The bible repeatedly makes women unequal to men and supports the owning of slaves. Sad that non-believers had to change those things. Of course, Christians like to take credit for ending slavery. They actually used the bible once to support it and to justify ending it. amazing when you can use the same source to win both sides of an argument… that’s reliable.

2) Science CAN answer moral questions… we don’t need god to tell us what to do!

Sam Harris is an excellent author and speaker and can do this topic more justice in his 15 minute speech at the TED conference then I can. Please watch this.

Science has and will answer much about who we are and why we behave the way we do. Look around the world. We know that religion has been used to commit some of the worst atrocities in the world. Sure, religious people do good things. Studies have even shown that more religious people (by %) help their communities than non-religious people. I think that is mostly because the infrastructure for service exist in religious circles and hasn’t yet been widely available to atheists. It’s easy to go to a church and sign up for some “good deed” program… but they mostly use those as a chance to “witness” to people and convince them to come to church. At least atheists help without ulterior motives. Also, another new study shows that only about 5% of the money that comes into churches goes out to helping people directly (more is spent advertising how much good they do then is spent on actually doing good). Yes, that’s still a load of money – more than the US government spends in foreign aid. But, it’s still a fraction of what could be spent if it weren’t for the ridiculous “country club” style churches that are built and the highly paid preachers who tend to the “flocks” (there are many pastors in America receiving $500,000 or more in yearly salaries – I’ve met one with a congregation of almost 7,000 that take over $350,000 a year). Think how much more good they could do with all that money that they waste on themselves.

Sure, atheists need to step it up more. And we will. It’s inevitable that religion will slowly slip away. As more people come out as atheists, more avenues to do good without god will open up. More people will see that atheists CAN lead normal, happy, productive… and MORAL lives. Christians clearly don’t hold the summit on the “moral mountain”. Atheists need to stand up and shout, “Hey, we are good people too”. Just be careful not to do it on the sabbath… or you might get stoned by a Christian.

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  • Paul Hakel

    I think this article has some confusion; of course atheists can live moral lives, for God has written morality on the hearts of all people. “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”. I think the atheist is deceiving him or herself, for where does the atheist derive his or her morals from? They are likely intuitively pirated from theists. In atheism, there is no moral accountability for doing evil besides one’s own conscience or other people. In theism, God holds each person accountable for every action they make, which challenges theists to always act morally (not to say that they do!). Likewise, in atheism, there is no active/positive injunctions to do good as there are in theism; morality seems to be an afterthought or extra action if an atheist happens to feel like it. In Christianity, for example, there is the commandment to love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, body and soul and your neighbor as yourself. Without loving God, we cannot fully love other people, for the fullness of love comes from loving God.

    Science does not have the same answer as to what is moral as theism does. Science preaches rational self-interest and has no capacity for discerning self-sacrificial choices. Morality is not what is necessarily beneficial or healthy, though I wish it was always, but involves risk of self.

    Since morality for the theist is quintessentially to fully love God, I guess that’s probably why many theists think it’s impossible to have morality without believing in God…

  • Adam

    @ Paul: But, theists are wrong. We CAN be moral without god. Millions of people around the world are good people and don't believe in god. I just found a "church" in St. Louis for Secular Humanist Good people… no god.

    There are many atheists who do things not in their own self-interest. Science does explain that. We are the only species that does this. Morality is a socially defined aspect of humanity. There are cultures alive today that have ZERO belief in god but don't go around raping and killing each other. Why is that?

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