Monday, 1 February 2010

I don't need a morality guide book

I have already written previously on the subject of morality in relation to Atheism, but due to the high degree of polarity amongst theists on the subject, it is worth writing about it again.

I have seen and read many articles and posts from theists, from a variety of religions, and there definitely seems to be a consensus that only they can be moral people because they have a sacred text that teaches them about morality. The general agreement amongst theists is that without a moral guide book to tell you what is right and wrong, it is not possible to be moral.

What complete nonsense!

I would find the concept of spoon fed morality to be risible if it were not taken so seriously by theists. If you see a woman being mugged, do you really need to quickly get out your moral guide book and check whether or not you should help? If you see a starving animal being beaten by its owner, do you have to flip through your sacred text to determine if you should intervene?

These may be extreme examples, but the point being made is the same nonetheless. Morality is instinctive, it has nothing to do with the teachings of any sacred text. Sacred texts may reinforce positive messages and highlight good and bad behaviour, but they do not instill that founding sense of right and wrong that we all share and which is universal across our species.

I donate to charity regularly. In fact, just today, I donated to a children's cancer charity outside my local supermarket. Being atheist means that my act of kindness had nothing to do with sacred texts or from fear of a vengeful deity. I performed my act of kindness for the very simple reason that it was the right thing to do.

It's not as if theists can claim any high ground in terms of morality, when they have been known to perform such acts as flying planes into buildings, murdering physicians who perform abortions and slitting the throats of conscious animals (Halal and Kosher).

Another question that is raised from the superficial belief that morality comes from a book is where did we learn morality before we had religion? Christianity has its origins around the 4th century, during the time of the Roman Empire. Islam has its origins around the 7th century.

Are we seriously to believe that before these religions emerged and spread, that we were all brutal savages? Of course not. I think this in itself is conclusive proof that morality does not spring forth from a book.

Morality is innate. We are all born with the same universal predisposition towards good behaviour.


  1. Hi Dominic. I agree with you up to a point. But I think what is innate is not morality, but compassion - the ability to empathise with another being (whether it be human or other animal). Compassion works on a very instinctive level, whereas morality is something created on an intellectual level.

  2. I think the two are so interrelated that it is probably difficult to see where one ends and the other begins. Each is very closely aligned to the other.

    I think morality is instinctive, in the same you think compassion is instinctive (and for which I agree). I would venture that it is the same part of our brain that is responsible for both. As morality and compassion tend to be found together in any given individual, then this may add weight to my hypothesis.