To believe or not to believe?: The Humanist answer to the question of morality without religion.


I admit, I struggle with the concept of a personal “God.” I always have, and chances are I always will. I am not above admitting that, while I hope there is an infinitely wise and compassionate being out there that cares what happens to us, I honestly do not know if there is a “God.” This is why it is called “faith,” because it exists in lieu of evidence and requires one to suspend logic and reason in order to believe in its existence. Why do I say this? Simple, I was raised to love “God” and believe in “God” while simultaneously being encouraged to think and learn and question. Though I cannot bring myself (yet, who knows what the future holds) to completely abandon belief in a “divine being,” I also cannot reconcile the existence of a personal “God” with my own rational, logical mind. Here are a few key problems with the belief in a personal “God”/religion as a whole:

1) I hear religious people praise “God” for the most mundane of things, from finding their keys to getting the winning bid on E-Bay, and honestly it’s more than a little insulting to me as a human being. What “God” would involve itself in the lives of people enough to let one person “win” at buying another person’s junk, but do nothing to end world hunger or climate change? There’s no love there. There’s no mercy there. And there’s certainly no logic there. If there is a “God” and that “God” was truly compassionate and interested in our lives, then that “God” would make food grow in the desert and make lakes spring up from the ground so that none of “his” children would go thirsty or hungry. Supposedly, the answer to this is that “God” helps those who help themselves, if so then what is the point to praying or believing at all? Which brings me to problem number two…

2) Free-will: The religious like to tell me that free-will is a testimony to “God’s” love for us. Really? From my view, no it’s not. Not when that free-will is used to molest children or rape women, or when it’s used to be an alcoholic or a drug addict or to make billions of dollars at the expense of the health and welfare of other humans and the planet. A compassionate loving “God,” like any parent, would step in periodically and correct the bad behavior of “his” children. Free-will is little more than a thinly veiled attempt at excusing dead-beat parenting. What “God” ignores the pleading of a child who wants their parent to stop drinking? What “God” does not step in when a child is being molested or abused? There is no logical way to justify this level of neglect. Yet despite this glaring neglect, I am told, by the Christian Bible itself, that all I need to do is ask and I shall receive. This brings me to problem number three…

3) The religious claim that the Torah/Bible/Qur’an/(insert other holy book here) is THE truth/word of “God.” While I respect these documents as historical works which help us to better understand how people of the past thought of/worshiped “God,” their existence does not prove that “God” is real, it only proves that people believe “God” exists. If any of these texts was the truth/word of “God” then there would only be one text, firstly, and, secondly, there would be no discrepancies or contradictions therein. The Bible alone, the text to which “Christians” turn for everything is fraught with contradictions: in Genesis, for example, there are two creations of humankind, two different accounts as to how many animals Noah took on the Ark (and that’s just one book). Furthermore, if any of these texts was the word of “God,” then there would be no room for question or doubt; for example, from where did Cain’s wife come? If incest, then “God” is either really bad at planning out things or people, who had no scientific understanding of the natural world, made up such stories as a means by which to explain what they had no other means of understanding. Moreover, each of these texts tells us to be kind to each other, yet each also tells us to kill those who are different from us or to allow people who are not contributing to society to go without food; this brings me to problem number four….

4) The religious claim that morality only exists because of “God.” Really? That’s more than a little ethnocentric; plus, it requires a rather large measure of denial of all of those things in the holy texts that aren’t exactly moral. Furthermore, what is morality? If morality is an agreed upon code of ethical behavior meant to make the lives of people living within a society better, then we have problem with the claim that morality exists because of “God” because each religion/culture varies in many ways from each other as to what are those agreed upon codes of behavior. Secondly, in order to agree upon what it is to be moral, we must first agree upon what it means to sin. Every religion, every culture has different concepts of what it is to “sin.” In some religions/cultures sex outside of marriage or with a member of the same sex is considered a sin, in others it is not. In some religions/cultures capitalism would be considered a sin, but in others it is not; and, these differences in opinion often result from different interpretations of or passages within the texts of  a single religious tradition.

For these reasons, and a number of others I chose to not discuss for the sake of time,  I cannot truly believe that there is a personal “God” nor can I accept that there is only one religion which reveals the infinite wisdom and compassion of said “God.” But, can morality exist without religion/belief in God? In my summation, yes it certainly can and does. In my studies of various religious traditions I have found one common thread: the Golden Rule, which tells us to treat others as we would wish to be treated. The existence of this rule indicates an innate desire within human beings, throughout time and across distance, to care for and be cared for by others. It indicates an innate morality, a human ethical principle which exists independently of any one religious belief. It indicates that morality exists because humanity as a whole, via a natural drive to preserve our species, endeavors to prevent bad actions by encouraging good actions so as to create a better society for all. We do not need “God” or the threat of heaven and hell to coerce us into doing what is right, we need only to recognize that we are all humans and that what is good for one is good for the whole. This is the humanist answer to morality without religion, to treat each other with same respect and a level of compassion with which you would want them to treat you.

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