I thought I’d take some time to write a more personal blog post today because of something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. This is an issue I feel pretty strongly about that I think needs some clarification. It is not my intention to attack anyone, I just want to get people thinking – and not even rethinking their own position, I actually don’t want to make anyone change their mind right now, but just thinking about how they treat one another.
Lately I’ve come across a lot of comments on YouTube videos or blogs, etc. from Christians and other religious organizations arguing that Atheism has no morality. The idea being that without a belief in the Bible, humanity has absolutely no reason to follow any sort of moral code and everyone should just run around doing whatever they want because there are no consequences.
This is really, really dumb.
But I used to think this way too, so I understand where they’re coming from. Why bother be good if there’s no ultimate consequence? Why not just kill people for sport if nothing happens after you die? Why bother being healthy? Why not just do drugs all the time and have rampant sex and do whatever makes you feel good?
These are silly questions, but somehow Christians can’t seem to wrap their heads around this. *(obviously, other religions ask these questions too, but I’m not as familiar with other religions as I am with Christianity, and I don’t want to do them the disservice of misrepresenting their religion just because I’m not familiar with it, so I’ll leave them out for now)*
First of all, morality is not dependent on an ultimate supreme being. Just because there’s no ultimate punishment system in place does not mean morals cannot exist. Hypothetical parallel: If calories weren’t a thing and you couldn’t gain weight by eating food – that is not necessarily a good reason to only eat chocolate cake. You could still decide to eat healthily.
Second, the key word here is ultimate consequence. There are still consequences for our actions. Kill someone, go to prison. Eat nothing but sugar, risk your health. Morality does not depend on the existence of hell in order to be relevant to humans. We as a society have established a system of morality that we try to live by.
Third, morality is not simply an adherence to rules because of fear of the consequences. Morality is derived from the desire to do good and help one another. Bo Burnham said it really well:
“You shouldn’t abstain from rape just ’cause you think that [God] wants you to. You shouldn’t rape because rape is a fucked up thing to do.”
(video at 1:14 for quote)
So please, stop asking Atheists the question, “if there is no God then where does morality come from?” because it’s a silly question.
Now, let’s flip this around and discuss the morality system of Atheism in the same regard.
First of all, if there are no ultimate consequences to our actions, then we should be even more concerned with the way we treat one another. If nothing happens to you after you die, then we should be kind to one another so as to make this life actually count. I will do what I can to make life happier for you so that you can enjoy it more because once it’s over, it’s over. A lack of ultimate consequence actually works in the favour of morality.
Second, without the constant fear of absolute punishment, we are free to love ourselves better. We can accept our flaws and strive to be better without the constant sense of guilt that looms over us every time we make a mistake. We can eat healthily, quit smoking, get exercise, because we can make life better for ourselves without needing the “reward” of a heaven. In fact, I would argue that needing an afterlife actually encourages laziness and an unhealthy lifestyle because there’s no reason to value this life over the afterlife.
Third, we can finally stop arguing about whose morality is the right morality and start actually helping one another out of the simple desire to help one another. After all, there are many different moral codes based off religious texts, but the trick is that ALL OF THEM ARE BASED OFF RELIGIOUS TEXTS. They disagree with one another all the time, so how do you know which one is the right one?
That’s not rhetorical, by the way. I don’t want you to tell me that yours is the right one, I’m just trying to point out that if everyone believes their morality is the right morality (and consequently everyone else’s is the wrong one) then how do we, realistically, decide? But if you take a system of morality that isn’t based off a religious text, and is instead based off of something we can all agree on – say, basic kindness – then we’re moving towards a way of behaving toward one another that actually benefits everyone. It is unbiased morality.
This is a pretty basic summary, obviously, but I’m tired of hearing people ask where morality comes from if there is no God. It’s not so much that I disagree with these people as I wish they would give it a little thought before assaulting Atheism for being “immoral” (as though that even makes sense).
I want to have an open discussion about things. I don’t want people to shut up, I want people to stop calling each other names and doing hateful things, especially in the name of morality, because seriously, this shouldn’t be so difficult.
What do you think? Are you Christian? Atheist? Another religion (I would love to hear from people with different religions, because I don’t know very much about them and I want to learn)? Do you consider yourself to be a moral person?
Let me know in the comments!