Morality only exists if we believe in God; therefore if God doesn’t exist there is no morality. There have been so many evil acts committed in the name of God that it is difficult to maintain that a belief in God equates to morality. There are situations that happen every day where decisions are made based off of human rights that contradict the word of God. Morality comes from within, it is an understanding of right versus wrong and the ability to choose what is right. Knowing all this a belief in God is not a requirement for a person to be moral. (Mosser, 2011)
We are taught that morals are basically the difference between right and wrong. A child may be taught that stealing is wrong because it hurts the store owner and can ruin the child’s reputation. Or the child may be told that if they steal they will be punished because God is always watching. The child has learned the fundamental difference between right and wrong, even if the reasoning is different. This will allow the child to make moral decisions when they grow up whether it is based off of human compassion or fear of God. If we accept that the child understands right from wrong regardless of their reason, we accept that God is not a requirement to be a moral person.
If a person observes an act of violence or torture, they are morally required to stop it. In biblical times these acts were not only accepted but encouraged by the bible. Today, a person would not ignore these things simply because they did not believe in God. There are human rights that we believe each person is entitled to and someone with good morals would help out another person in need because it is the right thing to do. If it turned out that God does not exist, violence and torture would not suddenly become acceptable. (Mosser, 2011) Mass acceptance of a belief does not make it right. Ancient religions that believed in numerous gods have been pushed aside as fairy tales, for the more widely accepted belief in a single God. During their time those gods were prayed to just as fervently as today’s God. What was accepted as true back then is now known as a fable, and the laws of the day have been wiped away and replaced with our modern laws. These laws were put in to place to punish people who do wrong to others. They have become the moral balance. If you do wrong you will be punished, if you continue to do what is right you will live unmolested and enjoy your freedoms. God is not a requirement for someone to act morally, because there are earthly punishments for crimes.
There is no right or wrong without God because He determines what is right and wrong. Moral standards cannot be enforced without God to ensure that we are punished or rewarded for our acts. Someone who does not believe in God may change their morals to whatever suits them at the time. We have been given guidelines by God on what is morally acceptable, and informed of the punishment that comes with being immoral. When an individual does not believe in God they cannot be a moral person, because they have no moral standards. (Millard, A. 2000)
The Ten Commandments give us a basic understanding of what is right and wrong. These Commandments along with various scriptures from the bible determine which acts are moral and which are immoral. An individual who witnesses a crime but does not believe in God can simply decide that they are not responsible for stopping the crime. This may lead one to believe that if a non-believer does something right that they have morals. This is not the case, because they could just as easily do wrong and their conscience would have been just as clear. They have no moral compass to tell them that this act is leading them astray from God. (Riskin, S. 2007)
If one does not believe in God they cannot know right from wrong and cannot do what is right because they do not have the understanding. The lack of a belief in God means that rules do not have to be followed. If you do not fear the wrath of God, there is nothing to stop you from committing immoral acts, or any crimes for that matter. Any situation can be overlooked because there is no fear of punishment without a fear of God. Only a person with a firm belief in God can be considered moral because they fear His punishment and desire his reward. God is the only person great enough to enforce moral standards, without his guidance there can be no binding morals. Moral standards come from God and without Him a person cannot be moral.
When we talk in absolutes we ignore possibilities that exist outside of our beliefs. There are many examples of individuals that believed in God who acted immorally, as well as examples of people who do not believe in God acting with good morals. Their beliefs do not determine their morality, their acts do. If we are to base morality solely on a belief in God then which believer do we follow? Do we follow the believer who commits crimes, or only the believer who is an upstanding member of society?
Adolf Hitler was raised as a Catholic, and in his adult life spoke of his religious beliefs. He wanted to create a pure Germany, through a religion known as positive Christianity. Positive Christianity removed the Jewish elements from the standard Christianity doctrine and replaced them with Nazi philosophy. More than six million Jewish people were killed during the Holocaust in the ideal of positive Christianity. Bill Gates is noted as saying he does not know if there is a God or not, yet he donates billions of dollars to Charity every year. The foundation he formed with his wife to address extreme poverty and poor health in third world countries has brought attention and relief to millions of people across the globe. These acts were not done in the hopes that they would be rewarded, but instead to help the human condition. A general concern about the welfare of our neighbors is not exclusive to God.
Not every action is based solely off of a person’s morals. There are many reasons people decide to do things and we cannot judge a person’s moral standing off of a single action. We do not look at Adolf Hitler and say that he is a great moral figure because he believed in God. On the same note we do not look at Bill Gates, a non-believer and say that he is immoral. We look at their actions over time and determine whether or not they acted morally. We know that killing millions of innocent people is immoral; just as we know that helping sick and injured people is moral.
Which God you believe in determines what you consider to be moral. Muslims agree that polygamy is acceptable. Protestants and the Jewish believe divorce is acceptable if certain conditions are met. Catholics are strictly against both polygamy and divorce. Which God is morally right? All of these groups worship the same God, so perhaps it is the translation of the word of God that is in question. When we look at this we begin to have a better understanding that God’s contradictory words could bring the thought of what is moral crumbling down.
There are many controversial moral endorsements in the bible that are accepted today. There are also commands given that are ignored because they are no longer socially accepted as truth. Exodus 20:13 says we must not kill. However, Leviticus 20:13 tells us that if a man lies with another man he must be put to death. There are many debates and arguments over whether homosexuality is moral, but we overlook the second part of the scripture because it is no longer held as a valid punishment. The times have changed and we cannot murder or we will go to jail. Leviticus 19:19 says it is a sin to wear clothes made from two different types of material. You will be hard pressed to find anyone backing up this claim today. (King James Bible)
Many religious people have chosen scripture from the bible to suit their lifestyles over the years, but ignore things that are no longer socially accepted as immoral. They hold others to strict standards on matters that they do not agree on and use verses from the bible to support their viewpoint. If everyone used the internal right versus wrong approach to morality there would be less confusion on which standards we held each other to. It is unfair to condemn someone for something using half of a statement from the bible, and then ignore the rest of the statement because it does not agree with current beliefs.
Our faith, lessons from our parents or even witnessing other people’s actions are different reasons to decide what we believe is moral. All three have flaws that can lead to differing views on the same subject. However, at the end of the day there are certain things that everyone accepts as morally right, or morally wrong. These are situations where it does not matter how you learned it, you just know it. Biblical teachings tell us that certain things are acceptable, while others are punishable by death. But in the legal society of America acting on the acceptable things will land you in prison, and the immoral sins are inalienable rights. Every day decisions are made across the world without having to consider if we will be punished by a higher being. These things prove that a person does not have to believe in God to act morally. A moral person is someone who not only understands the difference between right and wrong, but also does what is right. The lack of God in someone’s life doesn’t make a person immoral just as the presence of God does not make someone moral. Morality is not proven by a belief in God.
King James Bible
Millard, A. (2000). How reliable is exodus? Biblical Archaeology Review, 26(4), 50-57. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/214908737?accountid=32521 Mosser, K. (2011). Logic an introduction. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Riskin, S. (2007). Ten commandments audience? Washington Jewish Week. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/220857354?accountid=32521