This is a post I wrote recently on my blog, http://www.teenageatheist.com , I figured it would be interesting to get some feedback from an atheist community.
A common Christian response to atheism is: "What's the point of being moral without God?
"... It fails, miserably.
By asking such a question, the Christian is stating that the only reason why they bother being good to other people is because they crave reward and fear punishment. It's pathetic. They are saying that the only reason why they're not out raping, murdering or committing genocide is because of them being fearful of God or lust for
immortality. That is not
morality. That is a selfish and cowardly position devoid of sincerity and genuine compassion.
So why bother being good?
I'm an atheist, so why am I not out raping and murdering for the giggles? I mean, I don't believe in God, so that means I don't have to worry about being judged. Right? Nah. I'm good to others because I realise that this life is not some sort of rehearsal for the big show. This is it. And I don't want to waste mine or anyone else's being an ass. I care about other people and do to others as they would like to be treated (well, I try). I don't need a God to tell me what's right and wrong. I use my own judgement and do what I believe to be right. I may be fallible, but I'm not a jerk.
And to the people that claim that our inherent understanding and recognition of basic morality is a reason to believe in God, well, that's simply not the case. It's a purely naturalistic concept and it isn't confined to humans. Nonhuman animals are known to demonstrate altruistic behaviour, ie, Chimpanzees feeding Turtles, social play, empathy, mourning etc.
A naturalistic explanation:
Humans are social creatures. We constantly rely on external forces and peoples in our own survival. In order to depend and interact with others, we must have an inherent comprehension of what's acceptable. Thus, our innate sense of morality is not of divine origin. It's a biological drive that's a direct consequence of natural selection. A society that tolerates murder and lying is severely unstable. Simple principles of right and wrong help strengthen a community and allow for growth. It's the glue that ties and unifies a population so that we can live in a cohesive and viable environment.
Overall, our reliance on groups and abstract way of thinking has allowed us to define and acknowledge morality. Because of our intelligence, we can account for other people and "put ourselves in their shoes
". Immoral behaviour is detrimental to society, especially if it is commonly done. Ergo, it isn't unreasonable to say it's a simple byproduct of natural selection.
So what of the other things that we typically attribute to humans, such as love?
- We use language so we can communicate; lying distorts and defeats this purpose. When someone yells "run!", you need to be able to trust them. Lying negates this.
- Murder can't be tolerated. It destabilizes the population and conflicts with other desires.
- Rape can't be tolerated. It's unbottled sexual desire and aggression and conflicts with the part below.
- Demonstrating empathy and practicing compassion is rewarded as it is beneficial to the society as a whole.
Love is a biological construct. It's the result of the way we're wired up. Once again, it ties in nicely with natural selection. A child has a higher rate of survival if both parents are together and are working in a combined effort for the child. This enables the child to survive and grow until he/she can reproduce, too. If a man has multiple children with multiple women, the mother is then forced to raise the child alone, and thus, the child's chance of survival decreases. Hence, some sort of binding force is needed to keep the parents together. Out comes
I realize this is a stripped down synopsis and quite a simplification, but you get the gist.
Overall, our sense of morality is dictated by what works for society. Our emotions and attachment to others serves as a biological function to maintain harmony and to allow for group dependence. Nurture plays a part by refining and reinforcing these intrinsic values. I live a good life not out of fear of damnation or because I desire
eternal life, but for goodness' sake alone... which I believe is the only genuine way to live, with or without God.