That is kind of the key question that a lot of theists come at atheists like myself with. Is there a form of morality that exists without a supreme being to back it up. One of the big thing that Christians seem to like is the fact that goodness is rewarded, while evil is punished. They applaud this system as being so wise, while the rest of us secular people have absolutely no system by which we can claim we get our morality from. This is a debate which has had many great minds weigh in on. Here is my position -
I told my best friend Emily that I believe that I have no moral code. I do not follow any particular code, because I don’t believe in having a code to follow. I told her that my ability to empathize, and gut-feelings tend to guide my decision-making processes. With this in mind, I believe that I do not have a moral code. She contends that I do, because, while I don’t actively accept my system of deciding what is right and what is wrong as a moral code, it is all the same.
I respectfully disagree. I get where she is coming from, but I think that a moral code must be something perceived, understood, written down. For people like me, who generally don’t think too much about the moral implications, just operating on my ability to empathize, it falls a little flat. What I understand about morals are that they are units of measurement, usually with two settings – right and wrong. I totally discard that off-hand, because morally gray is such a vast area, as I have come to understand.
My views on morals is that they are guidelines. Morality is a system of guidelines. These guidelines are usually cultural, though there may be some slight differences for each person. They can also be faith-based. But the fact is that these guidelines tell you how to act.
Think about this – do morals stop you from doing bad things? How many times have people done horrible things in the name of God? How many massacres have been done in God’s name? A lot of people look at Islam and talk about how violent their culture is, and there is a cogent argument to be made there, but think about this – what about all the horrible things that have been done by Christians? Hitler did all of his killings in the name of God. The Spanish Inquisition was a Christian undertaking. Charlemagne killed 2,500 people for refusing to convert to Christianity. This was all done in the name of their God. A lot of people will say that their actions were justified. Many will also say that they were horribly immoral. The line that draws what is right and what is wrong is where?
The fact is that having moral precepts has never stopped anybody from doing anything. Murder has gone on in the name of God. Bigotry has gone on in the name of God. Moral codes often validate these forms of activities that many would find unacceptable. In the Hindu cultures, it is considered wrong to console somebody who is suffering, because they earned that suffering for their actions in a previous life. According to Mormon morals, if somebody leaves the church, you are supposed to shun them, and disown them. The same can be said for a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses. These are moral values that guide the actions of somebody.
I live a life where I have no moral compass guiding my actions. I follow my ability to empathize when it comes to internal debates about what is right and what is wrong. I genuinely believe that it is better to be empathetic than to be moral, because it is clear that morality can be subversive to society, degrading, destructive, and oppressive.
That brings me to my next point – morality is ALWAYS a system of control, always. Think about this – in wolf packs, there is an Alpha male and female. They control the actions of the pack. They are very quick to crack down upon behaviors that they don’t like. Take a look at a moral system. These systems are dictated and led by figures of authority. The secular system that this country has is led by figures of authority. The religious systems like Catholicism are lead by figures of authority. Every single system of morality comes from a place of power, and is given to those without power, to get them to behave in a way that they see as correct.
Examining that critically, the fact is that morality has absolutely nothing to do with how you treat others. It is a system that is given to mankind by those who want to have power over them. Richard Dawkins believes that morality came from the natural urge to group together. His idea has no basis in reality because his theory only pertains to altruistic behaviors. But it is very clear that what humanity does goes well-beyond altruism.
The fact is that the true concept of morality is nothing more than a way for those with power to control those without it. So I disagree with Emily. I get where she is coming from, but the way I perceive what morality actually is inspires me to disagree.
So, can there be morality without God? Well, that’s pretty easy – yes. There already is. Morals that came from God are just systems of control. The systems that gave morals to the cultures that arose before Christianity were just as prevalent, and just as real. Morality existed long before the Christian God, and it will continue long after. It will continue as long as there are those in power who want to control other people.
That’s the ultimate truth – belief in God is nothing more than a system of control. All the decent things that people do are the result of our ability to empathize, what I do every single day. God doesn’t add any morals to the mix that don’t or haven’t already existed. His system is no better than any other system. But empathy, and trying to be empathetic, that is really doing good for the human race. That is really the ultimate truth – if we want to really progress as a culture, ALL forms of morality need to go. We have to embrace empathy.
Morality, Christian and otherwise, has exploited the best and the worst of all of us, and this is what I believe we need to do to be free of it. Freedom, true freedom, comes from not following a system that tells you exactly how you should feel, and instead follow your ability to empathize. For those who can’t, like sociopaths or those with Asperger’s Syndrome, well, that’s too bad.
Get rid of morality, ged rid of religion. Embrace empathy. Religion does nothing good for society, and morality is nothing more than a means to control people. That’s my opinion, anyway.
Until next time, a quote,
“Morality, which has convinced even brilliant men like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris that it is here to help, when it is only here to strengthen our chains of bondage.” -TJ Kincaid, The End of Morality and The Anarchy Of The Soul