Continuing with the general theme of exploring the concept of morality, I’m going back to some old arguments and responding to them with new ideas. Specifically, I am addressing an argument frequently put forward over at Blogging Theology – namely that atheism is a bloodthirsty, immoral philosophy.
The (mis)representation of atheism is that it’s a religious belief in its own right, a form of morality that’s actually very immoral, and that as a result atheism has contributed to countless deaths over the centuries. You might be wondering how – well, the popular misrepresentation is to equate atheism with communism, a social and political experiment that yes, has wrought much destruction and suffering upon the world. This misalignment misses something important. Atheism is no more than the absence of a belief in God. Atheism is not a system of morality and it ks not a code of conduct for how to live our lives. It is not a political system, nor a religion.
It’s entirely possible to be an agnostic or an atheist and live a life of good standards by any reasonable metric. Seeking to be kind and helpful to those around you, being honest, not stealing, hurting people or killing, not being cowardly or cruel – these ideas are not unique to the religious, and sometimes the deeply devout are the ones who fail to conduct themselves in such a manner. The false equivalence arguments made over on Blogging Theology (and elsewhere) to suggest atheism should be synonymous with communism ignore certain uncomfortable truths. As an aside, those who argue that atheism is morally bankrupt also conveniently overlook the actions of the religious right throughout history, and seek to change history by overlooking the true beliefs of people like Adolf Hitler.
This is obviously not to say that religion = bad person, because that isn’t the case. I have personally known Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus who have all been absolutely lovely. I’ve attended Church services where I have found a loving, welcoming community. I just don’t subscribe to the school of thought that having religion automatically confers a strong good sense of morality, and that the absence of religion automatically entails a lack of morality. There are many examples of some terrible actions being carried out in the name of God. In previous conversations and posts I’ve listed some of them. In some cases some truly horrifying actions have been directly attributed to God, if we are to take the Bible as a literal document, yet we are not meant to question God’s morality.
Returning for a moment to something put forward on Blogging Theology, we have this sweeping notion that atheists believe murder can be ok, due to subjective morality. I’m not aware of anyone who has suggested murder is ok, but I am aware of several Biblical passages where victimless crimes are punished by death. There are quotes in both the Bible and Quran that speak of the destruction of entire civilisations for not believing in God. We are led to believe such wholesale slaughter is justified and morally right, yet when asked if they would carry out such acts if commanded to, the devout often refuse to answer. I wonder if any of my usual sparring partners will explain how the numerous violent acts of God in holy texts can be considered beyond redoubt, but not believing in God can automatically qualify someone has a supporter of murder?