Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Morality is a human virtue - Mmegi

Original here.

Like Don-Martin Takudzwa Whande I don't want to get into a letter-writing argument about atheism and religion.

That wouldn't entertain any Mmegi readers and I seriously doubt that it would help change anyone's minds. He is probably as committed to his beliefs as I am to mine. However his last letter seemed to revolve around one particular point that I disagree with profoundly.

He said that atheism "automatically means that life has no meaning. It simply means everything is permissible because there are no laws and therefore no one is accountable to anyone. However, if that is so,what then is the reason why we now have laws to govern behaviour today unless there was a law giver?"

He seems to believe that because I don't believe in Father Christmas (or any other make-believe people), my life is meaningless and I must have no morals.

Maybe he should get to know me before assuming I'm a sociopath? I am at least as moral as anyone who believes they have invisible friends and my life is just as meaningful as theirs. The difference is that I have found my own meaning, not one that was taken from a book of ancient superstitions. Ironically I suspect that his morality and mine will be remarkably similar. I'm sure that we both oppose murder, theft, rape and deceit. We both believe in honesty, respect and charity.

The difference is that I believe these values to be of human origin, not divine. It's interesting that regardless of which religion is dominant, all countries in the world have adopted roughly the same moral values whether the countries are theocracies like Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UK or secular democracies like the USA and Botswana. The thing all countries have in common is humanity, not superstition.

I think it's also interesting to ask a question of religious folk. Is the only reason you don't go around murdering, raping and stealing because God tells you not to? That's not exactly flattering is it? I don't do these things because I don't want to and because they're all morally wrong. I don't need superstition to tell me that.

I believe that the time has come for secular humanists like me to be more open about our atheist beliefs and morality. They are just as valid as religious beliefs and frankly a bit more practical.

1 comment:

Peter Brand said...

Well said Richard.

The greatest philosophers in history, the ancient Greeks had a religion which was quite free of moral prescriptions. You don't find Zeus handing down commandments. Morality was seen as a issue amongst men and no business of the gods, whose job was to be appeased or appealed to. Foundational thinking of modern society about ethics, morality and government was done by the Greeks, without interference from religion.

As far as religion providing "meaning" is concerned, yes it does provide a meaning, but it is an empty, false meaning. If man is here purely for the gods amusement, then that is not a lofty position. I don't think life has a meaning, but it is extremely meaningful. There is lots in my life that provides pleasure and purpose in life; work, play, love for my family, science, knowledge, art, music... Personal purpose, not the designs of a invisible, intangible, ineffable being.