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Secular vs. Religious Morality
is having faith more moral than secular morality
In a previous hub, I evaluated an equation for determining the immorality of the god posited in the bible, based on answers to questions that I had posed to believers. Now, however, I want to take things a step further and consider the ramifications of a personal faith in that deity or in others. Ultimately, I have to concede the point that having faith in something doesn’t necessarily have to equate to immorality and that in large part it depends on what you have faith in. For the three (or technically four) major religions of the world, however, I feel confident in asserting that faith equates to immorality and it is therefore more moral to live a life without faith than it is to remain faithful.
The Foundations of Faith:
While I may expand on this in greater depth in a future hub, I need to point out the fundamental flaw in religious morality when it comes to Christianity specifically. Christians use faith as an escape-clause that allows them to not deal with blatant discrepancies within their own belief system. When their beliefs are questioned or threatened either internally or from an external source, the bottom line often comes down to faith. They claim over and over again that faith is the reason they believe, and that if things don’t necessarily make sense, they don’t really have to. After all, god knows best. All they have to do as followers (see sheep) is to have faith that god is in control. The rest is out of their hands. This logic is foundationally flawed in and of itself because Christian faith is based on one of two possibilities.
1. Faith out of Fear:
A lot of Christians cling to their religious ideology for one reason, and one reason alone. Despite the evidence to the contrary, despite the conversations they’ve had repeatedly, despite the billions of other god claims out there in the world, they believe in the god of the bible out of fear. They fear the consequences of what will happen to them if they don’t.
While the days of the inquisition are long past and it’s no longer tantamount to a death wish to disagree with a tenant of church doctrine, fear has never ceased to be the main tactic used by televangelists, pastors, priests and Sunday school teachers for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Sure, modern Christianity no longer rips people away from their homes and their family, subjects them to torture of all shapes and sizes and ultimately burns them at the stake for having an unpopular or heretical idea – but the psychological aspect of fear is still present. You hear it in nearly every conversation you have with a believer. The psychological fear is ingrained from a very young age and it never goes away, as long as you remain in the faith.
This is abundantly clear when you stop to consider Pascal’s wager – whenever a Christian asks a non-believer “what if you’re wrong?”.
Of course the fear that I’m talking about is in reference to hell. If you don’t believe in the Christian god and you don’t try to do everything he commands, then you’re going to burn in hell forever. All you need to have to prove that the fundamental concept of Christianity is an immoral system is the concept of hell. There is no crime on this earth that deserves a sentence of eternal torment – especially if you live a good life and your only crime is to use the brain that god supposedly gave you and refuse to believe baseless claims that simply have no evidence.
You cannot have a moral, omnibenevolent deity that needs to create a hell to punish people who refuse to acknowledge or worship him. A god that would do that is simply immoral. He’s a dictator, a totalitarian tyrant, and he’s simply not a god that is worthy of praise or worship. If god’s ultimate goal was for everyone to go to heaven, why create hell at all?
Ironically, the god of the Old Testament never talks about hell. Most Jews (at least depending on the sect) don’t believe in a heaven or hell that is commonly believed by their later cousins the Christians. Jews believe in a place called Sheol, where all souls go after death that is neither specifically a punishment nor reward. Later traditions clarified this point and acquiesced to the idea of a purgatory of sorts where less-than-perfect souls can go to be purified. Only the most evil, horrific people on earth, however, would be left to suffer forever. The rest would ultimately undergo their purgatory and eventually ascend to heaven to be with god.
Christianity is the only religion that I know of that believes in an eternal hell that will swallow up and torture every single person who does not accept Jesus as the savior. Even Islam’s hell is temporary for most of the people who end up there, with exceptions made for the purely evil. Not only do Christians believe in an eternal lake of fire hell where nonbelievers are doomed to spend eternity, according to one of Jesus’ own teachings, Christians will be able to look down into hell and view the suffering of their friends and family members who didn’t make the cut. I imagine it’s going to be heavenly entertainment for when the singing and praising the name of god gets old. I wonder if they’ll serve popcorn.
If the god of the bible is truly as loving, merciful and forgiving as Christians like to claim, no one would go to hell. It’s a Christian idea that the decision has to be made prior to your death as well. For me personally, I don’t think I would choose heaven – even in the afterlife. I cannot fathom worshiping a being who gave me the mind that I have – but would condemn me forever for using it. That being does not deserve my worship – in this life or the next.
2. The Promise of Reward:
As if the fear of hell wasn’t enough to convince simple-minded people to follow god, they’re also promised a reward if they do. The New Testament (which is just as immoral as the old, btw, if not WORSE due to the hell concept, the idea of substitutionary atonement and the belief that persecution and suffering are not only necessary but something to be thankful for) is full of the promise of heaven where all of god’s good little children go, while the rest of us are going to be burned alive forever. Heaven is described in multiple places, but doesn’t really explain what eternity there will be like.
If Christians accept Christ and do their best to follow his rules, they’ll get to go there, though, and there will be harps and singing and angels and more singing and they’ll get a front row seat for the apocalypse as the rest of the evil world falls into chaos and eventually implodes. Talk about an improvement to IMAX! The surround sound has got to be incredible. And hey, if that gets boring, they can always pop over to the edge of heaven so they can watch the suffering of their loved ones in hell. Hopefully, heaven has marshmallows. That’s going to be one hell (no pun intended) of a bonfire.
I once spent a lot of time with a Muslim family when I was in my second year of college. At the time, I was only just beginning to question my Christian upbringing, and I was discussing religion with my friend’s father, who was devoutly into Islam and the teachings of Mohamed. We were sitting around the dinner table, and I thanked him for being so polite, kind and understanding to let me share their meal. He turned and looked at me and said “Allah commands me to be nice to you”. I’ll never forget that moment my entire life. Does that mean he really wanted to wring my neck and throw me out of the house, but Allah was physically restraining him? Was it that hard to be nice to someone of another faith?
Regardless of where you believe morals innately come from, the idea that you behave in a good way to either achieve a celestial reward or to avoid eternal suffering is grossly immoral. Not to mention the fact that the Bible is hardly the “good book” it claims to be. It’s full of genocide, sacrifice, murder, mayhem, slavery, rape, incest, not taking accountability for your own shortcomings and much, much more. This is a book that is given (in its entirety) to children. This is supposedly the holy word of god, and it’s fundamentally EVIL.
I don’t need to read a 2-3000 year old book to tell me that it’s wrong to kill someone. I don’t need a book to tell me that cheating on my spouse is not a good thing. Just because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean that I go out raping, pillaging and killing people because I have no morals without the Bible. The thought is ridiculous to an extreme, but it’s unfortunately not that uncommon.
A lot of believers find it impossible to accept that morality is something innate in the human species and that it doesn’t exist because of a bronze age set of rules (that they also want to chuck right out the window if they claim that the Old Testament somehow doesn’t count anymore because they were caught not following the law) says so. The fact of the matter is that many of the “10 Commandments” existed long before the Jewish people did, and they’re hardly unique to the Jews. In fact, early records put parts of the 10 commandments hundreds of years before the Jews were around. They’re simply basic human principles.
You don’t have to think too hard to understand the principles for an overall morality. You see evidence of it in the animal kingdom, so it’s not something that is strictly exclusive to human beings. Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Wolves, Dolphins, Whales and other high-brained animals all exhibit some forms of societal morals, and it’s for the same reason that humans do. As humans evolved, they recognized that survival was much more likely if they came together as groups. In order to function as a group, certain things had to be understood. Basic human morality stems from the idea of avoiding harm and collectively focuses on the good of the group instead of the will of an individual. The idea of individual property that belonged to one specific person didn’t evolve until much, much later. The tribe communally owned things and shared them as needed with others. They didn’t kill each other because they depended on each other for their very lives. The infant mortality rate was so high in some areas that they avoided intentionally killing children. It’s the foundation of human morality completely separated from the concept of an overpowering god. God simply did not create human morality – humans created religious morality – and ironically the laws attributed to god tended to follow the customs that were already in practice by the people who dictated them, and they demonized the behavior of that particular culture’s territorial enemies. Isn’t that ironic?