The question is this – Is it possible to be of good moral character while not believing in God? Looking at the definition of morality as defined in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy the term morality can be used descriptively or actively. A] to refer to some code of conduct put forward by a society or some other group such as religious. Or put forward by a society and is acceptable to an individual for his or her own behavior. B] to refer to a code of conduct that, given specific conditions would be put forward by all rational persons.
Morality appears to be separate from religion and although not spoken of or referred to as such there are different groups of moral persons, not all are viewed as good or just. Some examples may include Christian morality, Nazi morality, Greek morality etc. At times etiquette is included as part of morality. Hobbs expresses a standard view when he talks about manners. “By manners I mean not here decency of behavior, as how one man should salute another, or how a man should wash his mouth or pick his teeth before company and such other parts of small morals, but those qualities of mankind that concern their living together in peace and unity.
” (Hobbs, 2010). The laws and our legal system is distinguished by a moral system that includes having written laws or rules, penalties and officials to make the laws and enforce God and Morality pg. 3 the laws and then penalize. Laws are often evaluated on moral grounds. Moral critisism is often used to support a change in a current law or to design a new law. Religion differs from morality or having a moral system. Religious morality is based on stories or events that are past. These stories and events are used to justify the behavior that religion prohibits or requires.
At times morality is regarded as the code of conduct that is put forward by religion. Morality is thought by many to need some religious explanation or justification. However, just as with law some practices and precepts are critical on moral grounds. Morals provide us with a guide for conduct, where as religion is always more than that. The definition and description of morality tells us that morality is a belief system that follows the rule of “goodness”. It is similar to a “blanket” over society and is separate from religion. Even in these times morality is always in question.
In an article written by a Baltimore Sun journalist titled “The Morality Brigade. ” The writer expresses his opinion onto his readers stating that “We’re still legislating and regulating private morality, while at the same time ignoring the much larger crisis of public morality in America. ” (Reich, R. 2013) He continues on to back up his accusations. He writes that legislatures in North Dakota passed a bill banning abortions after 6 weeks. (At which time a heart beat is detectable) as well as approved a fall referendum that could ban all abortions by defining human life beginning at the time of conception.
He continues on that these same legislatures God and Morality pg. 4 “worry about fetuses but they show little concern for what happens to children after they are born. They and other conservatives have been cutting funding for child nutrition, health care for infants and their mothers, and schools. ” (Reich, R. 2013). This is just an example of American Morality. So it seems that at this point I have defined what morality is and how it can be applied. I have also touched on Religion and Morality being a very separate entity.
Now I will discuss God and Morals. It is very possible for a person to not believe in God and posses high moral standards. Understanding that the person being moral is not due to their belief in God, it is independent of that. Having a belief in God is dogmatic to say the least. There is no rational way to say that God exists. To believe in God one must bypass reason and embrace faith. This is ok if believing in God gives a person comfort and security, although if we tie God to morality it may become problematic.
Something as important and influential as morality should not be based on a dogma. If there is no proof that God exists beyond a shadow of a doubt than why do people still believe? Indoctrinate plays more of a role than rational and clear thinking. Religious indoctrination caters to our psychological insecurities and needs, not to reason. Think of some things that we know do not exist. An example would be the tooth fairy or maybe unicorns. We are proud to be skeptical and disapproving, however religion tells us when it comes to believing in God, faith is a virtue. God and Morality pg. 5.
Morality is an autonomous human virtue that is independent of God. Otherwise, it would not be possible that atheists behave with impeccable moral standards and so many God believers do not have any morals. Let it also be noted that the great moral traditions of the world do not bring God into morality. Two of the most recognized and adored moral traditions in the east, Confucianism and Buddhism do not believe in God. The roots of morality in the west are in the idea of ancient Greeks, especially Plato and Aristotle who based their morality on reason alone, not on any dogma.
It appears that religions who originate in the Middle East have a pronounced inclination to base morality on God. These same religions are also the most violent ones in history, killing many in the name of God. There is no evidence that theists are more moral than monotheists. Physiological studies have failed to find a significant correlation between the frequency of religious worship and moral conduct. An example is that convicted criminals are much more likely to be theists than not. With this being said it is a clear assumption that good people do good because they want to do good.
It is not because they personally benefit from the good they do or because they are being forced. Fundamentalists perceive that the universal moral standards are required for the proper function of a society. Philosophers as diverse as Plato, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, George Edward Moore, and John Rawls have demonstrated to us that it is possible to have universal morality without having a belief in God. God and Morality pg. 6 As is stated by Paul Kurtz “One needs no theological grounds to justify these elementary principles. They are rooted in Human experience. ” (Kurtz, P.1996)
Now we will discuss that morality and God are linked and that religious beliefs are linked to the morality of each and every person who chooses to live their life in a moral way. If God does not exist, says Dostoyevsky’s Ivan Karamazov, “everything is permitted,” which means that we as humans can make choices whether they are good or bad, hurtful or nice. The direction in which society is going in suggests that people have lost their “way”. Too many bad things happen due to human badness. God is no longer allowed in public places, schools, government agencies, etc.
This argument suggests that because God has slowly disappeared from our day to day lives society is going downhill at a very fast pace. Does this mean that God is linked to morals in our modern society? Fundamentalists claim that all ill’s in today’s society such as aids and out of wed lock pregnancy are a direct result of a breakdown in morality and this breakdown is due to a decline in the belief in God. The view that God created the moral law is often called the “Divine Command Theory of Ethics” According to this view is that what makes an action right is that God wills it to be done.
All standards that we live by have consequences if not followed or adhered to. There is the fear of punishment. If we speed in our car we are given a ticket. If we God and Morality pg. 7 Sin our souls will spend eternity in hell. Heaven and Hell are often construed as the carrot and the stick that God dangles in front of to make us tow the line, to keep on the straight and narrow. Heaven is the reward and hell is the punishment. Would society be able to function correctly and morally if these rewards and punishments were not in plain view?
We have lawmakers and peacekeepers all over the world to help make and enforce the laws so that people know there are consequences. Morals are no different. They help define a person’s goodness and worthiness of the ultimate reward, eternity in heaven. Moral standards without moral sanctions just simply do not mean much. Any person who thinks that it is sufficient to have relative standards that are based upon what groups or individuals feel is right or just cannot see a connection between God and morality.
Moral principles such as don’t steal, don’t murder etc.must be objective and practiced by all putting aside any personal conflicts. When people accept moral principles without having a reason to they do not hold these principles as closely as someone who believes in God simply because there are no carrot or stick to hold them in place where they need to be, rather a personal belief or a mandated belief by societal rules in what is right or wrong If we recognize that God does exist than we recognize that God created the world and mankind in his own likeness. For this argument it makes sense to say that God controls the world which justifies ethical obligations.
To deny God’s existence we God and Morality pg. 8 Are ethically obligated to what exactly? We typically learn morality from our parents and from those we love, we are conditioned to follow a morally righteous path in life, however to have such a standard of moral obligation can only be granted by God, binding every person and demanding such impeccable respect. By letting God into our lives we are accepting good instead of evil, we are consummating the fact that we are moral and ethical. By allowing God’s teachings and praise into our lives we are promised a more enriching morally accepted life.
My view prior to doing any research was that Yes! You can lead a moral life without having a belief in God. I was raised Catholic, I even went to Catholic school, however, I have questioned my own religion over the years and now I have turned my back on it. I do bring my children to church which allows them to draw their own conclusions about God. I want them to have that choice in life and of course I would never condemn them for believing in God. It is just my personal choice. I live in the Bible belt and I always get asked the question, “where do you go to church?
” I typically tell them that I do not go to church, which is similar to having the plague. It is not that I am not a good person. I feel that I am. Any morals and values that I have my parents have instilled in me. I also believe that the “rules” or commandments of God are simply a guide established at the time the bible was written to keep society in line. I absolutely agree with the fact of you do not have to believe in God to be moral. I make choices everyday and my choices are based on God and Morality pg.
9the things that I believe to be the best choice for the people I love, people I do not know and myself. I have never had any problems reaching out to help another person whether I knew them or not. I also feel that I go above and beyond at times helping others when I need to. Living a good moral life is a choice and I do it for no other reason than to be there for someone else. I do not do it for glory or self righteousness, or because someone is looking, I do it because for me it is all about treating others the way I wish to be treated. God and Morality pg.
10 References Baumin, S. (2008) Antitheism and Morality. Philosophical Forum retrieved March 27, 2013 from http://dx. doi. org/10. 111/j. 1467-9191. 2007. 00282. x Frame and Poythress. A debate between John Frame and Paul Kurtz. Do we Need God to be Moral? retrieved March 25,, 2013 from http:// poythress. org/do-we-need-god-to-be-moral/ Gert, Bernard. (2012) The Definition of Morality. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edward N. Zalto (ed. ), retrieved March 27, 2013 from http://plato. stanford. edu/archives/fall2012/entries/morality-definition.
Merrill, K. R. (2012) Spectres of False Divinity:Hume’s Moral Atheism. Retrieved March 25, 2013 from http://search. proquest. com. proxy-library. ashford. edu/docview/1288432167. accountid=32521 Reich, R. B. (2013)The Morality Brigade retrieved March 27,2013 from http://baltimoresun. com/opinion/bal-the-morality-brigade-20130326,0,146487 God and Morality pg. 11 Schick, T. Jr. (1995)Morality Requires God…. or Does it? Retrieved March 25, 2013 from http://www. secular. humanism. org/index. php? section=library&page=schick_17_3.