We have been invited to debate in the coming months, below are my arguments against the Christian standard argument from morality that I used in our mock debate.
Christians and other religious people will often argue that without religion how can you be moral? Where do you get your morality from if not from God above? I am here to argue that not only do we get our morals from elsewhere, but that being moral without God is actually a higher good.
It is said we get our morals from the bible, but this is patently not true. The bible endorses slavery, (Leviticus 25,45, Exodus 21, NT: Ephesians 6:5, 1 Timothy 6:1-2), murder (http://www.evilbible.com/Murder.htm) and all of the so called seven deadly sins. Even where it makes moral judgements they are not moral. Of the Ten Commandments, only 2 are actually against the law, and these are only punishable by the civil gaol time in Australia, not the death sentence that most of the commandments call for.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, is a nice thought and a damn site better than the 10 commandments, but it has a huge flaw. What if the person living by this law is a sadomasochist deriving pleasure from others pain, or even enjoying pain being inflicted on themselves? I don’t want to be cut and tortured but they wouldn’t be breaking this golden rule. The better version of this rule; do unto other as they would have you do unto them.
What about turn the other cheek, again excellent sentiment. But something that wouldn’t get you far if you practised it against an invading force.
Love your neighbour as yourself, is lovely as well. But it devalues your own worth, and doesn’t cover the aforementioned issue of an invading force made up of people you may consider your neighbours. It also doesn’t put more emphasis on kin, is it moral to save your 20 year old fit and healthy neighbour from a house fire over your helpless 6month old child or invalid parent? Regardless who would begrudge a person saving their wife or child over a stranger?
Evolutionary psychologists will say that morals developed so that we could survive as a species that lived in communities. If you are a criminal and everyone knows you are a criminal, then come winter when you and your children are hungry, your neighbours are less likely to give you some of their food and thus you are less likely for your possibly criminal genes to pass on. This can be seen as moral actions can be performed by animals of lesser intelligence than us. Dogs are known to defend and tolerate children's rough behaviour. Dogs have also been seen to risk their own life to rescue a dog or person they don’t even know. Piranhas one of the most vicious of fish, even during a feeding frenzy will not attack other piranhas. Ducks that sometimes eat fish have been known to feed them a share of their bread or grain. All these are animals, according to Christian religions not imbued with a soul and not capable of determining right from wrong. Yet somehow they act kindly and morally.
There are some cases were being amoral are of benefit though. Look at the Mongol hoards, or early warring tribes. If you lacked empathy the very definition of a psychopath then you would do very well in one of these cases, thus having a likelihood of passing on your genes. But society now frowns upon violence and crime, we have built up laws to defend the weak and punish the criminal. Psychopaths still exist though and have been shown to show no empathy for their actions to another human being, only seeing them as barriers to getting what they want, these place a challenge for the argument of morality coming from God as Psychopaths can be shown from birth to lack empathy and thus have no moral compass that one would imagine should be imbued by the divine. David Koresh (Waco TX), Timothy McVeigh (OK Bombing) and Marshall Applewhite (Heavens Gate) are all examples of people that have been posthumously claimed as having Psychopathy and using religion to further their goals.
Morality that has been built up over time and can be seen in our current legal system here in Australia and similarly in most developed countries. Guidelines such as innocent until proven guilty, the right to a fair trial, evidence beyond reasonable doubt. All of these guidelines have been built up through trial and error, developed from earlier legal systems. These tried cases then build up our body of law, if an event occurs that is not illegal and brought to a court of law and tried and found to fail the test of law then a precedent is set and it can only be repealed through further cases to prove the act was not immoral.
There is a famous dilemma called Euthyphro’s dilemma. Is something good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good? Either answer has issues; if God can change what is Good then all of a sudden he can deem infanticide good, as he did with Abraham before reneging and Jephthah (Judges 11:30-40) where he followed through. If God only does good because it is good, then morality and good are outside of God and there is morality above and beyond God.
Let’s take the example of two young Children. One knows his parent is watching and is gentle and kind, sharing their toys with their younger sibling, oh how sweet you say. The other child doesn’t know their parent is watching and is sweet and kind to their sibling in the same way. I put it to you that the greater good is the child who does good while no one is watching, with no possibility of reward or fear of reprisal. So it is with non-believers who don’t believe there is anyone on high watching them and keeping score as they work in their community to make the world a better place, volunteer their time and money to educate or help people with their lives.
So I say we are moral not because of religion but despite it.