Morality. That word though. So nebulous and malleable—a favourite of American Christians, in describing what they have that non-believers simply cannot. A moral guideline. You see, according to many prominent and vocal Christians, to be an atheist is to be morally deficient. For who can be good without moral guidelines such as the bible to go from?
The first thing an Atheist will say, which is a great question, is—are the ‘moral guidelines’ of your bible the only things keeping you from being a bad person? Is it the ink on the biblical pages the only thing that stops you from raping and pillaging and murdering willy-nilly? Most atheists agree, that if that is the case, you are a morally questionable person—and you don’t get to preach to anyone about morality.
You see, Christianity, or religion as a whole, does not own morality. Furthermore, morality is, going by the bible (and sometimes other religious texts), questionable. Let’s face it, the bible and its various kin are anything but bastions of morality. The bible alone suggests that while to kill is a mortal sin that it’s okay to sacrifice your children; and throughout the holy books, murder and sacrifice are rampant. The bible will tell you that being an adulterer is forbidden, that it is acceptable for the characters of the many biblical allegories, to marry as many wives as needed, to rape indiscriminately, to marry and lie with children, or to sleep with siblings’ wives and husbands are okay. The bible is filled with morally reprehensible acts, and the foundations of these stories are supposed to be the moral guidelines that Christians live by.
God, is anything but infallible on morality. I mean, to start with, the all-knowing, all-seeing word of god is so set in stone, that he had to revise his words in the New Testament—so exactly how reliable is the dogma if that’s the case? Books riddled with contradictions, which are meant to represent the word of an infallible god? Not exactly something to live by. Unless you pick and choose whatever sounds suitable to your narrative from the book. So if morality can be picked, and chosen, it is really morality? And more so, if your moral guideline is made up of carefully selected tenets, is it really a reliable guideline?
What does this all mean for the countless civilizations that existed without Christianity? And who somehow muddled through the centuries surviving, living wholesome lives, coexisting in communities with other people, raising children, building towns and cities, and doing so utterly bankrupt of Christian morality? Does the existence of Christianity negate all this history? Did morality not exist before Christ was ostensibly born and spent his short, hippie life preaching love and peace? Life did not begin when Christianity was born, and it will not end when Christianity does.
Morality has some very basic aspects that pretty much every civilization understands—with or without the imposition of some kind of overarching religious dogma to reinforce it. Pretty much anyone in the world is born with empathy. Pretty much everyone in the world, regardless of religion, knows to murder is wrong. Pretty much everyone in the world enters it with a desire to be thoughtful and kind to others. It is the programming of the immediate environment that fine-tunes how a child will grow up. And the society in which you are raised will determine, ultimately, who you are going to be. Children have shown, again and again, that acceptance and kindness is just part of their natural spirit. It is often the families themselves that teach that child whether to be accepting or not to; it is the family themselves that teach a child that it’s okay to hate. And it is the how those families choose to act and believe that will shape their prejudices. Whatever society and religious background you end up in, you may likely reflect whatever those norms are. Morality, at least the very foundation of morality; is inherent. Whatever else is placed upon you by your upbringing. And what one people think is moral, might be repugnant to another. Morality is mostly relative.
An extremist always believes he or she is the pinnacle of morality. Those ISIS guys, they’re not going around telling themselves that what they are doing is amoral. They believe that they are representing the purest of moralities when they murder and destroy. When Christian extremists attack or protest, they believe they are the defenders of moral behaviour, and they are showing the rest of the world that this is how one should be.
Most atheists are humanists. If you don’t know what a humanist is, let me define it for you (per google): Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition.
Most human beings of their own agency, are moral. Most human beings don’t kill one another. They don’t harm, they don’t steal. Most human beings of their own agency are kind. They share. They heal. They provide. They soothe. They show empathy. There are infinite numbers of people who are these things without once ever being told to by a religious doctrine.
Atheists are in no way different. In fact, Atheists are often willfully empathetic, and kind, and accepting because that is the way they choose to be. Choosing not to take part in a collective delusion does not in any way affect how they are as moral beings. In fact, they are less likely to be amoral, because they do not have any overarching guideline that tells them they should be. They don’t have views that make them ‘moral extremists’, as let’s say, ISIS, or the Evangelical Christians, or the KKK. Westboro Baptist Church and its mentally deranged acolytes truly believe they are morally superior when they protest a veteran’s funeral with hateful signs and threats of fire and brimstone. Atheism does not seek to impugn anyone for not sharing their version of morality. Atheism does not threaten hell or damnation for those who don’t align their beliefs with theirs.
The moral high ground: Who’s got it?
Well, sad to say, it isn’t Christians. Especially these days. Historically, Christianity has shown itself to be anything but moral. From the serial, almost systemic abuse of children in the churches, to the consistent oppression and belittling of the women in its ranks, Christianity seems to be better suited to demonstrate amorality than anything else.
Presently, Christianity has become almost willfully and malevolently amoral. As it has attached itself to the right-wing political movement, Christianity has twisted into something even more despicable and horrible than it ever was. Promoting and supporting self-centric behaviour, supporting the idea that every person should have the right to be police, judge, jury and executioner in their promotion of firearm ownership, in the endorsement of things like the death penalty, in the cutting of resources for the poor, the old, the infirm and the ill. And it doesn’t stop there. Christians overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, and various congressmen and women who have made some terrible moral choice, and continue to stand by them. Trump’s offenses are almost too many to count. Offenses, that if imposed by any other person centered on the political spectrum, would have been tarred and feathered for. Roy Moore, a man who serially abused teenaged girls, received an outpouring of support from the Christians in the nation—and he too stood for the idea of Christian morality, while trying to excuse away his molestation of children. Yet these people, like Kim Davis, are morally corrupt by every definition, even by the ill-defined tenets of the bible, still have the stones to stand up and preach morality to people in books and speeches, as if they are somehow ordained to do so, in spite of being some of the most morally questionable people on earth.
Christians are besieged by their own hypocrisy. And that is a problem. Hypocrites don’t get to dictate how other people should behave if they themselves cannot abide by their moral beliefs. It has become almost painfully evident just how hypocritical Christianity is, since it became synonymous with politics. Christianity’s stance on abortion would probably be more impactful if the larger part of women seeking abortions weren’t Christian, or if the churches would do more to fight on behalf of the millions of unwanted, unsupported children in the world. Christianity’s rigid views on homosexuality would probably have more footing if pastors and priests weren’t consistently hiding homosexual activities. Christians would be better respected, if they took a hard stance on the pederasty that is endemic in the churches, and didn’t fight so hard to hide the problem rather than confront and stop it. Christian women would probably be taken more seriously, if they didn’t stand for their own subjugation and oppression. Christians would benefit from re-examining its condemnation of adultery when adultery and divorce were not part and parcel of the Christian community. Christian charity would be more valued if it didn’t always come with a side of indoctrination. Kindness should not come with conditions.
Many Christians will argue that no Christian is perfect, and that is part of their spiritual journey. But the response to that is simple: We don’t expect perfection. What we do expect is that a person who claims moral superiority as a Christian, to actually BE a Christian as they claim. To abide by those moral guidelines they set for themselves, and cherry-picked from the bible, and to stop twisting their moral guide to suit whatever madness they choose to pursue.
So who has the moral high ground? What we do know, it’s not Christianity. It’s not Islam. It’s not Judaism. All belief systems are morally questionable. Atheism, as it is not a belief system, simply makes conclusions on what’s there. Atheists seek only to trust their own agency in what is good and what is bad. And atheists seem to be doing a good job of it. Does that mean atheists have the moral high ground? Who knows? What I do know is that atheism has no ulterior motives. The only thing most atheists want is to have a reasonable, rational world where what’s best for humanity is taken into consideration first—where the quality of life takes precedence over some idealized idea of the afterlife. Where we take care of other human beings and always seek progress as a species so that we can achieve greater things. Atheism does not want to hinder progress, to stifle man’s potential, to cure, to build, to forge paths into the future, to educate, to enlighten, and to learn. Religion has, historically, always stood in the way of these things, for whatever reason.
Atheists are reviled for one reason alone: theists are filled with doubt. The only thing that reinforces their beliefs is to be surrounded by others who support that belief. Atheists stand to dismantle that comfortable delusion with pragmatism, and that is dangerous and threatening to a theist. It fills them with fear because it would force them to understand the world in a completely different way. That is why atheists are accused of being amoral. Because there is nothing scarier than someone who punches through the overarching dogma to see the world for face value, and not for the fantasy created by religion, and who functions with kindness, empathy, and acceptance without being told they must or how to.
Religion is not morality. It’s narcissism.
How self-centered does a person have to be to believe that god is watching over them and not others? The other day, I was in a discussion with a woman who told me with no small amount of gushing alacrity, that Jesus was with her. Through her trials and tribulations, through a crisis with her son, that took her to California and back, “Jesus was with me. All the way,” she effused with her hands clasped. “He was with me in the car driving down to California. He changed the radio stations as I went along, in a way to inspire me,” she declared (never mind that she might be shifting from one broadcast signal area to another… c’mon). I sat there, watching her rapturous exclamations, and thought to myself: What about those Christians that were made to kneel on the edge of a large pit by extremist Muslims, shot in the head and buried in it? Or the children being murdered and raped and dying of disease all over the world? What about them? Jesus cared about what radio station you listen to, but who the hell cares about the innocents being slaughtered? Would god only look after certain Christians? Different denominations? Or is the the Mormons who have it right? Which one? Yours, naturally.
It is an exercise in narcissism to be religious. To believe that a god loves you more. Who cares about where you left your car keys, but who lets entire cities be destroyed. Prayer is just a way of turning any issue into something about you. And religion lets you believe that all of this is a moral way to behave. To be so selfish. To be so absorbed in yourself and your journey to the afterlife living in the clouds playing softball with the apostles.
So my suggestion to all Christians, before you start condemning others for amoral behaviour and attacking people for not sharing your beliefs; look in the mirror before you open your mouths. Look at what's scowling back at you. And learn to accept that it's ugly, or learn to be your own agent of morality, and rise above your dogma to be a better person.