Oh! The morality!

The argument is very simple: If you’re not a Christian, then–GASP!–where on earth do you get your morality from?

Aside from being a downright insulting insinuation about my moral integrity, the question is also a clutch-the-pearls gasp of horror about the implied society that would result if everybody abandoned Christianity.

I’ve heard Christians use this exact same argument to prop up their own personal faith, to explain why they stay in something that is demonstrably toxic and untrue, and attack my validity as a person.

I can’t quite be human, can I, if I don’t have a moral framework. I’m something far less than human. I’m an animal. (Except even animals have displayed morality.)

I can’t be trusted to participate in society at all if I’m just some immoral beast. I might not even deserve the right to self-determination.

But the worst part is that the question is actually the culmination of a whole barrage of assumptions, each of which must be demonstrated in order for the question to even be worth examining:

First, we have to have a supernatural being to begin with. Since nobody’s ever credibly demonstrated that anything supernatural is real, much less a deity, that’s going to be quite the hurdle to overcome, but Christians just assume this is true. I do not.

Second, we have to have a supernatural being who cares what humans do. There’s no indication that anybody’s ever actually talked to a supernatural being, nor that we have any reliable records of anything a deity has said it wants or craves, or even just describing that being. Most Christians can’t even really put into words what they mean by a god at all, much less their god, so it’s hard to fathom they’d know how they even know what they insist is true.

Third, we have to have a supernatural being who has a moral framework itself. Since we haven’t actually shown there’s a supernatural being at all, nor that we know what it is even like or wants, it’s hard to imagine knowing what that being’s moral framework looks like.

Fourth, we have to have that being communicating its framework to humans. Again, there’s no record whatsoever that we can trust that communicates anything about any god to anybody, so we certainly do not have any reliable record of any such communications from that being telling humans anything, much less what it thinks about morality.

Morality

Morality (Photo credit: joel duggan). It’s a sign!

Fifth, we have to have a moral framework from that deity that is arguably better than anything humans have come up with, and sorry, but in the case of the Christian god’s supposed morality, theirs falls way short as an objective, forever-and-ever framework–unless Christians are going to tell me (and they do, sometimes) that there was some contextual get-out-of-uncomfortable-things-free card that makes it totes okay that the OT condones keeping slaves, treating women like livestock, stoning dissenters, killing rape victims or forcing them into marriage, taking pre-teen sex slaves from war captives, demanding the genital mutilation of half its followers, and murdering entire races and planets full of people for nothing more than being the wrong race or not kowtowing well enough. It’s arguably true that Christian morality has evolved over the centuries since the Old Testament got cobbled and patched together (and thank goodness for that!), but if the Judeo-Christian sense of morality evolved, then I don’t see why it’s a problem for the rest of humanity to have ones that evolved, either.

Sixth, we’d have to demonstrate why people can’t just come up with their own moral framework. Certainly people did; before Judaism, before Christianity, societies had moral frameworks based around not causing harm and trying to behave cooperatively. There are non-Christian countries around the world that manage to get along and be nice to each other, and certainly Christians themselves–despite having this wonderful moral framework given to them by an eternal, ageless, omni-everything Invisible Daddy Figure–aren’t even living up to their own morality. Nobody sensible claims that Christians are, as a group, paragons of virtue or that their morality produces better people or better societies (crime rates alone would disprove that idea, and if I wanted to have a Christians Behaving Badly sort of blog, I could spend every single day talking about just one individual Christian being a horrible person and never, ever run out of blog topics, let’s face it), and only the most toxic of Christians think that non-Christians are somehow less moral people simply by virtue of not having a god-handed-down moral code.

Last, Christians must demonstrate what it is that makes them accountable to this over-arching sense of morality bestowed by their god. I got told today that I’m not “accountable” to anything because I don’t subscribe to Christianity. No, really. I got told that by a Christian who also implied that I don’t care about fairness because of the same reason, and that my morals are “arbitrary.” Really? So what makes the Christian accountable? Fear of Hell? If you’re only doing things because you’re terrified of the penalty for not doing them, are you really a good person? I do them because they’re the right things to do. Amazing idea, isn’t it? I’m accountable to myself, and that’s way more effective than being accountable to an unproven, unprovable deity’s threats and demands. I don’t get to confess and move on with my life all blithe and happy. If I hurt someone, or lie, or refuse to help someone I can help, that hurts me. It makes me unhappy and uncomfortable. I want to make it right. I want to do what I can to make amends. I never felt that way as a Christian, and I certainly don’t see the majority of Christians acting that way nowadays.

The very best thing I could say about the Christian view that morality must come from a god is this: it’s superfluous and unnecessary, not to mention demonstrably untrue. Humans don’t need a god to tell them to be kind to each other or to try not to cause harm to each other.

We never did.

Having a faith in Christianity does not make someone a demonstrably better person. Not having a faith in Christianity doesn’t make someone demonstrably worse.

I’m going to be glad when Christians get over this idea that their religion is somehow the one religion out of thousands and thousands to have morality down pat, that they alone of all people have a morality handed down by a god, or that their imagined morality is somehow superior to the morality that people make for themselves.

If religion didn’t exist, we’d still have morals. And we’d probably be a lot more moral than we are now with religious twaddle making us treat other people like sub-humans because we think they don’t have basic human traits like a moral framework unless they kowtow to our particular flavor of deity. That’s evil. That’s not love at all. And if the toxic Christians acting this way think non-Christians have missed noticing that, they’re totally only fooling themselves.

All we have that we know for sure we’re going to get in this world is how we live and how we impact each other. I am absolutely not going to leave this good dark earth with the shame of having treated other people poorly.

About Captain Cassidy

I blog over at Roll to Disbelieve about religion, culture, cats, and tabletop RPGs.
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10 Responses to Oh! The morality!

  1. David Holmes says:

    It has now been proven that herds of animals don’t ‘follow’ the biggest and baddest of the herd, they follow the majority. Yep, natural democracy. Hierarchy is manmade. Careful filming showed a herd of elk went to a particular watering hole when over 50% looked in that direction, they didn’t follow the biggest elk like has been assumed for so long, there is no leader of the herd. In fact the biggest elk usually stared dumbfounded and were last to follow the rest. Same with lions and even directions birds fly in. I mention that because I really got a kick out of it, and I also think morality is a part of our natural state. The most compassionate among us are also the most evolved. In fact, if you’re being good just out of a fear of going to hell, you’re actually probably not a nice person to begin with. That’s like not committing murder only because you fear getting caught! Poor Xtians, the world is waking up and coming alive and they don’t know straight up. Karmageddon is happening, but ‘I don’t care if it rains or freezes, as long as I got my plastic Jesus, sittin’ on the dashboard of my car…’ ;P

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    • Damn skippy!

      I know way too many people (all men, but I suspect women might feel this way too) who don’t commit crimes because of their stated and explicit fear of being raped in prison. The first time I heard Biff say that I was shocked, but by now I just nod and say that does sound scary. Apparently this fear is the only thing holding them back from X act (in Biff’s case, bombing an abortion clinic, and I’m not kidding).

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      • David Holmes says:

        OMfG, that’s really kinda scary. Bomb an abortion clinic because killing is wrong… But that fear of rape is a lil bit funny. I don’t even know why, just makes me chuckle. Maybe the way you wrote “nod and say that does sound scary” lol Oh Lardy, what a world.

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        • Hang out around Christian men, and you’ll soon enough hear them say something like this as though it’s the ONLY THING stopping them from breaking the law. They’re more scared of prison rape than they are of Hell–probably because nobody knows for sure if Hell is real, but they know that prison rape happens. :(

          (I don’t condone prison rape. It’s just how I’ve heard a shocking number of Christian men talk, is all.)

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          • David Holmes says:

            I’ll pass on the Christian men thingy. Sounds utterly boring. I know a couple guys who’ve been to prison and they say it happens a lot more in movies and TV than in real life, maybe to scare people, but I don’t want to find out. Disclamer not needed, I know rape and violence is not something you’d ccondone and that’s not what made me laugh. I’m just in a silly mood I guess. This was a very good article btw, well written and I really appreciate you articulating these things.

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          • I know, it’s okay, the disclaimer was more for anybody happening onto the blog and not having any context. :) It’s interesting to think that prison abuse doesn’t happen quite as often as people maybe think it does. Lends credence to my suspicion that maybe the myth is allowed to persist to increase people’s fear of going to prison.

            And you’re very welcome, and thanks for keeping me company this evening.

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      • Mau de Katt says:

        This might be a big reason why more isn’t done to stop or prevent prison rape. If TPTB (who are quite often of a professed “Christian” bent) actually believe that “fear of prison rape” has a preventative effect, they’ll view it as a feature instead of a bug. Also, it fits into the same sort of Retribution Fantasy as Hell — “just wait till they get there, then they’ll get theirs!.”

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        • Considering how often that fantasy of Hell includes rape by demons, I’d say you’re chillingly on point there. It’s downright creepy how often Christians (men only, now that I think of it; I don’t think I remember a Christian woman talking this way) focus on sexual assault as an element of the punishment they imagine I’ll get.

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  2. Psycho Gecko says:

    Sorry. I was elsewhere catching up on an update to a story I read.

    The other thing about their system that shows it isn’t all that immoral is that someone could theoretically go and do the most horrible things they could imagine. They could beat women to death with their own babies and beat men to death with their own dead, baby-beaten wives, and then get shot to death, but as long as that man who beat everyone sincerely repented in his last moments prior to the gunshots, he would go to heaven.

    And if the family doesn’t believe, they go to hell.

    If Hitler’s speeches are to be believed, he thought he was doing the work of God. Plus, his victims were Jews. Even if Hitler wasn’t Christian but instead repented in his bunker, he could be up there in heaven while the Jews he had murdered burn in hell.

    This doesn’t make sense as a system of morality.

    Another aspect is the idea of infinite punishment for a finite crime. Since we aren’t immortal, no sin or wrongdoing we could ever do would ever justify punishment that lasts beyond the scope of human imagining of time.

    One of the basic reasons Christianity offends me (oh noes! Atheist offense at Christianity!) is that it almost always is the sort of Christianity that says I deserve to be tortured forever merely for what I believe or don’t believe, with no thought to my morality, or if I’m trying, or what I actually do.

    Even if I don’t like a religious person and I think some really bad things ought to happen to them, I’ve never once expressed a desire to see them tortured (sorry, enhanced interrogated) forever. They often do, whenever you hear that stupid comeback “Well we’ll see whose right when you die.” or whatever other BS they start saying about “You’ll wish you’d repented when you’re burning in hell.”

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    • Too true. That god of love turns into an abusive prick pretty quickly, doesn’t he? Toxic Christians need a club to beat you up with, and hell is the perfect one really, isn’t it? No way to verify either way and it plays upon humankind’s biggest fears of the unknown. AND BY WILD COINCIDENCE, the Christian happens to know the way out of that predicament.

      If the people I know who are non-Christians are going to hell, I don’t mind going there with them. I’d hate to be the kind of person who willingly worships and bows to a being who’d condemn good people to torture.

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