“But without religion, there can be no morality!” This is something that I actually hear quite often, although it’s unbelievably naïve and ignorant. In fact, to say that there can be no morality without magical fairy-tales to back said morals, is not only an insult to those of us who reject religion for various reasons, but is also an insult to a person’s own system of reasoning. After all, what has religion given us by way of reality? It has given us a nationalistic thought pattern where it’s own personal value against scrutiny or judgment has won ultra right wing conservatives elections solely based on a religious title. It has caused people to give fanatical devotion to an entity with the highest real state holdings of any business or corporation in the world, yet it’s indigent members still remain poor. It has given us about four-thousand years of insufferable war and hostility, that we still live with today. It has given us justification for the relinquishment of civil liberties of many minorities in American and around the world. It has left our World Trade Center buildings in rubble. And it’s given racially discriminate people a biblical foundation for not only their beliefs in a racial hierarchy, but also a justification for slave trading.
Looking at this list, one might deduce that there cannot be morality where religion is present. However, I won’t play their game and make such a claim, although the facts seem to definitely point to one over the other. What I will say though, is that without religion, we would not have had many catastrophes of our past and of our present. And there are many who theorize an unbelievably grim future of this great country if religion maintains its power over our lands.
Morality is a very enigmatic thing. It is truly in the eye of the beholder, with few exceptions. However, the argument that religion makes that tends to justify murder, rape, and slavery, tend to lean toward those moralities that are anything but enigmatic. After all, can we not all agree that murder is wrong? I think we should be able to, but we can’t. Can we all agree that theft is wrong? Although I would love to say yes, the answer, as is evident in recent events, no we can’t. I think we could all agree that to rewrite history to improve the conditions of a current faith based agenda is wrong. Well, no we’re not all in agreement on that. In fact, the rewriting of history has seemingly become quite the lucrative industry of religious faithfuls. I.E. The New Lie.
What is it that religion offers us that we wouldn’t have in a world without it? I guess the better way to word that is this: What positive things that we have now, could we not have without the institution of religion? That question has been answered on many of occasions. John Locke argued that man would have no law or moral barriers without the institution of religion. My argument against that is that it seems Locke has absolutely no faith in the powerful mind of man. After all, is it only a religious circuit in our brains that turns on to tell us not to do things that we might think are wrong? Or is he trying to tell us that we wouldn’t know right form wrong if it not for religion? I really can’t tell. I read further in the writings of Locke and found that there were many things about him that I just couldn’t decipher. The main one is whether or not the he was condoning religion. This is because he mentioned so many things in his structure of the law of god that I personally thought were incredibly negative, but a theologian might think completely opposite in regards to.
I later found my answer, and it truly was that Locke was saying that we would have no idea of the difference between right and wrong without religion. Now, my problem with this is that there seems to be far less war in secular countries throughout the annals of time than there have been in heavily religious ones. It seems that most serial killers tend to come from Christian upbringings, with very few exceptions. Therefore, looking at these facts, one might argue that a person who is not taught religion, but just morality alone, would seem to have a better grasp on the difference between right and wrong. I’m not going to say that there have never been sociopaths who were not religious people, but there have been very few. And after all, sociopathy can effect anyone no matter what their upbringing because it is a legitimate chemical deficiency in the brain, that causes you to truly not feel, therefore not care what is wrong from right. Psychopaths, on the other hand, just don’t know the difference. But let’s keep in mind that not all serial killers suffer from either one of these, and that many only have the urge to kill because of an addiction or a hunger for power. And a hunger for power is something that religion seems very comfortable with.
The matter is, though, that most of these people who suffer from these afflictions seem to be either religious or form a religious upbringing. Why is that? Well, I stated earlier that it would be hard, due to the Theo-glitch, to separate fact from fiction when you’re taught stories of people living in whale’s bellies and you’re taught of the existence of magical water that washes your sins away, to be fact, and you’re told that DNA and dinosaurs are myths; it could be hard for the rest of your life to separate fact form fiction. Therefore, why would it not be hard to separate wrong from right. After all, these people believe that perception is reality.
It appears that Locke believed that we don’t have the power to distinguish wrong from right by only our parents telling us the difference, but that God is the only way to know. This is a pretty dangerous claim (especially from a man on whom so many liberal and secular ideals are based). Simply because it seems that secular countries who live widely without religion have less crime, less teen pregnancies, higher graduation rates, and completely trump us in technology. Therefore, what was the basis for his claim? I still have to figure that out. However, being the inquisitive person that I am, I sought the answer from other people who seem to believe in the same thing. I spoke with a youth pastor in my area simply through luck, as I happened across the catholic school on my way to visit some family on the very day I started writing this paragraph. And if you’re thinking I was only walking past the catholic school to look at the girls, you’re wrong. That was only part of the reason.
I opened up by telling him what the book and section were about and asked him if he feels the same way as most religionists, that the world would be basically void of morality without religion. “Actually, yes I do,” he responded. “How can you really have morality or know right from wrong, without a structure to distinguish from birth, the difference?” I responded by informing him that there are many more philosophies in the world that aren’t of a religious basis, and that don’t teach morality with all the bells and whistles of religion. His response, “Yes, there are, but even all of those philosophies stem from Christianity,” was, I thought, s circular diversion to avoid the question. My natural response was that they didn’t stem from Christianity, as they are actually much older than the dominant religion of our country. What I was referring to was more of the eastern schools of thought. He said, “Okay,” as if to claim to miss my point. So, I elaborated again that morality can be taught without religious stories and mythical beliefs. I elaborated that, “Many of those Eastern religions use folk lore and stories to teach their lessons, but they don’t try to pass these stories off as fact. They understand that the stories only exist as fictional tales.” He again responded as to miss my point by flat out asking me what my point was. “My point is very simple,” I retorted. “I need to know why you believe that without religion there can be no morality.” “Well, without God, how can you know if what you’re doing is right or wrong?” he responded, completely negating everything that I had just explained to him.
The circular reasoning continued as I asked him if he really thought that without religion, there can be no trigger inside of a person’s head letting them know that what they’re doing just might not be wrong. “Of course,” he responded again. “What would tell you that you’re committing wrong without God?”
“We seem to be moving in circles here,” I responded, getting a little flustered by trying to hide it, as I didn’t want this calm debate to turn into an angry argument. “I’ll jump to a hypothetical. Let’s say that I’m in my bedroom repeatedly stabbing a hooker. According to what you say, if it were not for religion, I would think that what I’m doing is okay. However, the fact of the matter is that I’m a devout atheist, and there would still be a trigger in my head saying, ‘Hey, that probably hurts, and you know she’s going to die eventually. Shouldn’t you probably not be doing that?’” his response was only that it would, because there was probably a religious influence growing up.” When I informed him that I really didn’t, aside from my grandfather’s negative religious opinions and racism based upon such views, he tried to turn my atheism into an aversion to religion based on bad examples of it. I expect this when talking to these people, as they always try to go there.
“Look around you in the state of this country today,” I responded. “Anyway, you can read my book when it’s done if you really want a comprehensive list. I’ll shoot you a free one. But I’m not here to debate religion, I just really want an intelligent answer to my question, because I need to know why you feel that mankind is not, in itself capable of making up its mind when it comes to morality.” His response was only that “I have no answer to that other than the one I’ve already given you.”
We continued to go in circles for a while. I informed him of the statistics of secular countries and their superiority from crime rates to obesity. He doubted the validity of the statement as I expected he would, in that very Hannity like way, even though I had the sources right in front of me and showed him. What I said next is that I believe that most of mankind, left to its own devices and without religion especially, would be easily able to come to an agreement on the basic morality of goodness. I also made it clear that I said the word most, because there will always be evil people who do evil things with or without faith, but there would be far less good people doing evil things without biblical justifications for doing so. The circles continued as he only asked why I didn’t see his point, and in a very nice way I said that he hadn’t really made a point, he had only been refuting any acknowledgment of my points. This was more apparent in his closing statement, “Alright, I see. But either way, I really don’t have another answer for you, and I’m sorry I couldn’t help.”
So, the fact of the matter remained and I still didn’t have an answer to my question. Aside from the fact that he just tried to run me in circles and didn’t actually give me an answer to my question, I can say nothing bad about the pastor. He was nice, polite, honest and respectful, and didn’t even wink an eye even though I was completely honest as to what my book was about. I still can’t help but to be irritated that these people don’t have an actual answer for their complete misjudgment of mankind. I just cannot fathom how they truly believe that without God, there can be no morality.
I’m just going to come out and say it: of course there can be morality without God. There is morality and there is no God, although, I attribute the lack of morality in about half of the world to the fact that man made up God. But let’s let the numbers speak. I’ve brought up Japan as a secular country that far surpasses religious countries such as our own by almost every means of study. But what about our own states? I recently read a study regarding the most religious state in the country, which is Alabama, and the least religious state in the union, that being Oregon. Alabama has the highest rate of admitted church going religionists in the country, whereas Oregon has the lowest at with twelve percent. One might call this specious reasoning, but when you see this same argument made over and over again, one must start to wonder if religion does have something to do with it. Alabama, again the most churchgoing and religious state in the union—the only one with religious texts outside of their court houses—ranks forty-first in per capita income. Almost half of Alabama’s incoming ninth-graders actually graduate high school and a fourth of its children live in poverty. This is only added to the second worst obesity rate in the country and one of the highest rates of uninsured citizens and smokers as well. This may seem bleak, but to add to that, the life expectancy over the last forty years has actually decreased.
When we turn the page and take a look at Oregon, again that least religious state in the union, what we see is a completely different story. What we see is a higher per capita income than Alabama, one of the best obesity rates in the country with under 1/5, less than 1/5 of its children live in poverty, and are better taken care of because of the more liberal and progressive assistance programs, more than seven out of every ten entering ninth-graders graduate high-school and it has one of the lowest on the job death rates in the country.
What is going on here? After looking at the crime, obesity, death, life expectancy rates, graduation, unemployment and so many other social aspects between secular versus religious countries, we’re seeing the same trend in secular versus religious states.
Let’s take a look at other states. We can establish a line where the religious population clearly ends and the secular population begins. This same line tends to separate red states and blue states.
o Minnesota leads the country in medical research, whereas Texas leads the country in executions.
o Connecticut leads the country in college education, whereas Mississippi leads the country in the rate of citizens with Gonorrhea per capita
o New York leads the country in literary publishing, whereas South Carolina led the country in 2006 for violent crimes.
o Massachusetts leads the United States in prenatal care, whereas Florida leads the US in women’s clinic shootings and ranks #4 in violent crimes throughout the country.
o Ohio ranks last in the country for illicit drug use and convictions, whereas Tennessee leads the country in disorders related inbreeding and is #2 in violent crimes in the country.
o North Carolina came in fourth in a rank of the highest unemployment rates in the country in March of 2009
o New Jersey is among the top ten in average per capita income, whereas Kentucky comes in at one of the lowest in the country for persons over twenty-five with a college bachelor’s degree or higher education. And its neighbor too the north, Missouri, is among the lowest in the country for businesses owned and operated by minorities.
o Vermont is the second safest state in the union in the case of gun-violence, whereas Oklahoma is among the worst in the country in its percentage of students rated above proficient in fourth-grade reading, writing and math. Oklahoma is also among the worst in the country in eighth-grade math, reading and science.
o Pennsylvania has the second lowest rate of illicit drug use in the nation, whereas West Virginia is among the lowest in per capita income.
o In the ’06-’07 Smartest State Award, Maine ranked fifth, whereas Louisiana ranked forty-fifth. Louisiana’s equally religious and even further right-wing partner Alaska scored an amazingly low -11.25 in the Best Educated Index of the same year, and leads the country in illicit drug and alcohol use and convictions
o New Hampshire scored a 5.90 in the Smartest State Award in 2008, whereas Utah scored in impressive -6.3
o Oregon leads the country in smoking cessation, whereas Alabama leads the country in high school drop-outs.
Let’s take a look at the education index for a moment. It is ranked by state with the best overall education results. At the number one spot, we see Vermont, a highly secular and liberal state. At the very bottom, we see Arizona, a highly religious and conservative state. The trends clearly follow the guidelines that I’ve previously set out with Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maine and Minnesota at the top six spots on the list. Let’s look at the southern states that are heavily religious to see Arkansas at #37, Oklahoma at #39, Georgia at #40, Tennessee at #41, Alabama coming in slightly higher this year at #43, Louisiana at #45 and Mississippi at #49. Another state that ranked in their well is the conservative and newly religious state of Alaska at #44, and a state that used to come from a secular foundation until recently, Arizona at #50.
Again, we can see the same exact pattern forming between more right-wing Christian states and secular ones. Why is this? I’m not necessarily here to answer that question, I’m only providing evidence that seemingly always points in the direction of a better philosophical unity between citizens of secular sectors as opposed to more religious ones. I could bring countries into this where religion is a more prevalent part of government as opposed to secular ideals, but it just might be unfair to compare secular countries like Japan, Holland and France, to religious ones like Iran, Palestine, Pakistan, Israel and the United States. The statistics are almost too cruel to cite.
So, with this knowledge, let’s think for a second and contemplate just how it is that, without religion there can be no morals. I’m not going to say that just because a state’s educational system is better than another, means that their more moral than states whose education leaves quite a bit to be desired. What I will say is that these states obviously have their priorities straight. Much like the fact that whether prenatal funding is high or low doesn’t prove morals, it just proves priorities. Such as Ray Suarez wrote in his page turning non-fiction piece, The Holy Vote:
“All it demonstrates is that spending for prenatal and perinatal care is more likely to bring down the infant mortality rate than just praying about it.”
But I will say that high crime rates, high women’s clinic bombings and shootings and high teen pregnancy ratings would paint the picture of a low morality, and not just a lack of priorities. Within the statistics I just showed you, I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to figure out what states I’m talking about. The fact of the matter is that the lack of morality seems to be taught by the religious foundation of the states. After all, teen pregnancy can easily be attributed to the Catholic Church’s teachings against birth control and abortion. The high rates of violence against abortion clinics are a clear specification of the religious view that murder is wrong unless it’s in the name of God. I assure you that it’s not seculars who are bombing women’s clinics. High racial turmoil, which is so apparently prevalent in the south, is certainly not the doing of seculars who fight harder and harder every year for racial equality. It may just be specious, but could it have anything to do with the story of The Tower of Babel and the splitting and confusion of the races? Truthfully, the racial turmoil of the south seems to be coming from somewhere, and the KKK sure loves its Neo-Lutheran Christian Identity faith.
Another interesting statistic that I have just found indicates a counter point to the argument that with or without religion, there would be an equal amount of crime, or, for that matter, less with more religion. I previously thought about the percentage of Americans in the penal system. Now, we have the highest amount of criminals in the penal system per capita, when compared to any other nation. In fact, the nation (America) that holds only five percent of the world’s population is home to almost twenty-five percent of its incarcerated. I wondered what the religious statistics would be in prison, and needless to say, I wasn’t shocked by the outcome, only by the severity of the outcome. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the amount of religionists in prison is at 99.79%, a vast majority at 83.761% of them are Christian. Compare this to the obvious remainder of .21% that is atheist. Now compare that to the almost 16% of Americans who deny religious affiliation according to the census, and we’ve got a pretty lop sided statistic here. If there can be no correlation between religion and crime, then wouldn’t the amount of the incarcerated at least be close to the total percentage of the population? But it’s not. There is a clear spread, which I think clears up any specious accusations that will surely come from the right after this statistic is popularized.
One could formulate that the religious practice doesn’t directly correlate with the desire to commit crimes. Obviously, as all nation-wide statistics show, atheists have the highest percentage of highly educated people per capita. Well, criminals are, much more often than not, poor. Low incomes are usually the result of low education, little college, no college or not even graduating high school. So, we could formulate an argument that education is the culprit here, as atheism is the result of education and crime is the result of a lack thereof, and religion seems also to be the result of the lack of education. So we could just say, atheism is correlated to education and crime is correlated to education, therefore, why would there be a high amount of atheists in prisons? Why? Well, according to the religious wrong, without God, we would all be rioting in mass child molestation on the street, as Jerry Falwell so eloquently insinuated (a Freudian remark if I’ve ever heard one). I think Sam Harris cleared this up, although rather antagonistically, when he said at a live speech to the FFRF, “The truth is, to return to this notion of morality and its relationship to religion; the truth is we can find good reasons to treat other human beings well without believing anything preposterous. We can become sensitive to the suffering of other human beings and realize that our own happiness is in some sense dependent upon acting upon that sensitivity. One problem with religion is that it actually gives people bad reasons to be good where good reasons are actually available. It’s worth pointing out that it’s rather more noble to go to Sub Saharan Africa to help people merely out of concern for their suffering, than to go because you believe the creator of the universe wants you to go, or will reward you for going, or will punish you if you don’t go. But there are other problems with this linkage between religion and morality. This idea that we get our goodness out of faith should suggest that atheists will be profoundly misbehaved. If you take an organization like this, or something like The National Academy of Sciences, 93% of them who reject this idea of a personal god, we all and our Nobel Laureates on chemistry and physiology should be raping and killing and stealing with abandon. Now I don’t know of anyone who’s done a study on our behavior, but I think we can all be skeptical that we are now all in a room filled with distinguished criminals. What are the chances that our Nobel Laureates in chemistry and physiology are raping kids with the frequency of Catholic priests?”
So, if people like Locke and Kant are correct that there can be no morality without a book to differentiate right from wrong, and a religion to enforce other-worldly rewards for being a good person, then why is it that there is so much violence in the religious world and so little in the secular one? Could it have something to do with secular morality coming from experience, education and trial and error, as opposed to religious morality coming from demands made by ancient books? Well, I know where my morals come from and how I came to the rather complex system of values that I proudly hold true in life. Can a religionist say that without merely quoting bible verses? And if all a person does is quote bible verses as their moral system, aren’t they more likely to either question, confuse or misinterpret them, than would be a person who came to morals and values on their own?
In the end, we can look at secular societies and theocratic ones and it doesn’t take very long to determine where the morality is high and where it is low. Sweden and Japan lead the world as the most irreligious countries and Iran, Jordan, Palestine, Israel and others in that region are the MOST religious. Now tell me which place a woman would less likely be stoned in a public square for doing nothing more than leaving your house without a man with her. Or better, which place are you likely to have your head cut off (an action condoned and even carried out by government officials) for being homosexual or starring in a pornographic film or having a tattoo? Better yet, compare the contributions of these countries to Sweden and Japan. Compare their infant mortality rates, rates of mental retardation, medical care, high school graduation rates, college graduation rates, crime rates, violent crime rates, murder rates. Seriously, Japan’s violent crime rate sky-rocketed in 2009 to an astonishing 14 incidents of violent crime. There’s more than that carried out in the “moral” state of Texas before noon on any given block!
So I’m going to end this with a smile. Since my country has abandoned secularism and all of its secular people, please, Japan, let me become a citizen of your country. Please! I don’t have enough faith that Sarah Palin won’t become elected in 2012, and I know that would never happen there. And if America were to get uppity with you again, just remember what you did to us last time. Look, I already changed my logo to accommodate your wonderfully colorful and vibrant culture. Won’t you consider me? Don’t make the Smiling Atheist frown 😦
Thanks for reading and don’t forget the people of Haiti are still in need. Just because it goes off the airwaves doesn’t mean it’s not still happening. Check the previous blog for sites and also visit I’m With Coco on Facebook where you can purchase a new I’m with Coco wristband with all of the proceeds going to Haiti.
Thank you again for Smiling and Profiling into hell with me, my lovely fellow sinners and heathens.
The Smiling Atheist (The Smiling No-God Man as I’ll be known in Japan)