Food for Thought: Morality
I am always genuinely interested in any article regarding faith, theism vs. atheism, and moral philosophy, so I decided to write one of my own. I read an article the other day entitled 6 (Unlikely) Developments That Could Convince This Atheist To Believe in God, in which an atheist put forward scenarios that would successfully convert them. The point of the article was to emphasize the fact that religious theists occupy a completely unfalsifiable position: that is, NOTHING will get them to stop believing in God. I am not one of those theists.
I can concede that there are perfectly scientific reasons for Earth’s formation (I’m not one of the crazies that think Earth came about 6000 years ago). I can concede that organized religion has been one of the more destructive forces in human history. I can even concede that Jesus was probably a hippie and maybe not the divine son of God. But one riddle that atheism has trouble solving is the origin of morality in humans.
For instance… If there is no punishment to keep me from stealing from another person other than jail (which I can avoid by not being caught), why shouldn’t I do it. Robert Dawkins, author of The God Delusion (great read by the way), when asked why not kill and steal, said that not doing it because you believe in God is a pretty contemptible reason, and I agree. He then said that the reason he doesn’t do bad things is because he would rather not live in a society where others choose to do bad things, and I in my experience, this is the rationale used by many atheists.
But there is a problem with this rationale, one that even Dawkins himself acknowledges. If I steal my neighbors wallet, society is not going to become one in which stealing becomes acceptable, so what is the REAL reason I don’t do it. Why shouldn’t I take what I want? Because the person I take it from will be upset? But that person is a stranger, whose future I have no personal stake in. I may not want him to take something from me, but why should that keep me from taking something from him, especially without his knowledge? This “I wouldn’t do it because I wouldn’t want other people to” argument is completely irrational. For those who use it, good news…just because you are bad doesn’t mean other people will be, and that fact is obvious. I am aware that in an evolutionary sense, humans and animals steer clear of senseless violence to preserve the species, but we humans can operate using logic. In a completely logical sense, there should be nothing wrong with it.
But why does it FEEL wrong to take something from someone else. Someone you don’t know. Someone you will never meet again. You might say empathy. But I KNOW they will feel bad, but why does that keep me from doing it? I’m a logical person. I know that if everyone used that mentality the world would be a horrible place to live, but why not take advantage of the fact that everyone else doesn’t have that mentality?
The point is this. I will stop believing in a higher being if rationality, logic, and science can explain to me why there is anything WRONG with stealing or killing, keeping in mind that it cannot be logically concluded that doing either of those things will make everyone else in the whole world do them.
Atheism is founded on logic. It’s premise is that things that are not observable by any means (such as sight, mathematics, electron microscopes, or other instruments of perception that humans haven’t even invented yet) do not exist. So why let emotions get in the way of stealing the wallet of that tourist you saw walking aimlessly down the street, especially when you rely completely on rationality to form you’re system of belief.
I believe in a higher being because I don’t know scientifically why there are so many good people. If morality is simply the manifestation of a million year old Darwinian impulse, it should not carry any greater weight than any other urge, such as a sexual urge. If an objective standard of good and evil does not exist outside the natural world, then choosing a preferable moral philosophy over another becomes as arbitrary as choosing you’re favorite flavor of Gummi-Bear. If there is no objective sense of morality, then it doesn’t matter whether “God told me to” or because “I wouldn’t want to live in a bad society.” It becomes easy to defend a contemptible moral philosophy because you have no objective standard with which to measure the validity of one over another.
So then. I guess I’m not trying to convert atheists or discourage “believers” (like I said some so-called believers are completely moronic and not even good people) I’m just trying to get you to think.