Religion and morality – no link!

I was supposed to write this thing for school the other day…about…something. So I chose to write about religion and morality. Basically, that I don’t think religion has anything to do with morality. I figured I might as well share it. It’s probably crap, but whatever. :P

Religion, Atheism and Morality
It is a common misunderstanding that religion and the existence of god are the basis for all human morality, and that without god life is meaningless, and all sense of what is right and what is wrong will be gone. For this reason, many religious people view atheists as amoral and untrustworthy. Religion is fast becoming less and less important in modern Western society, and many religious people worry that this will lead to moral decay and that society will fall apart. I disagree. I believe that morality is a natural human phenomenon, and based on very fluid social mores and expectations, rather than any particular religious texts.

Too many different religions and cultures exist for us to pick one as the ultimate right one. Humans have been roaming the Earth for a long time and we know very little of the social behaviour of early humans. We have developed many different religions and different sets of social rules, and gone through many stages of development technologically and socially. Despite this there are millions of people who believe their religion is the only true one and that the rules laid down in their religious texts should apply to all. There is no way to determine who is right and which moral code should be the one followed. There is clearly no proof that the way we behave in our daily lives and the laws and regulations we follow can be attributed to one religious or cultural source.

Human social rules and conventions for the most part probably have no particular source. They have developed and evolved as needed. Many of the rules we follow are never written down or discussed. I believe most have risen as a way to maintain peace and balance. We behave the way our environment dictates because it is the only way to function properly. Those who do not are social outcasts. These rules are not set in stone either. Things that once were considered bad are now normal, such as interracial marriage. Things that once were considered right are now wrong, such as slavery. Society will therefore not fall apart without religion. Some of the richest, happiest nations of the world are also the least religious, such as in Northern Europe. I believe that by putting less emphasis on religious attainment these nations have been able to move on from prejudice and old ideas that no longer apply, and put more focus on human rights, equality, and general wellbeing.

Rules do however not exist independently; they can be created and changed by powerful people and social groups as a way to control the masses and further their agenda. Religion has often been used in this way through the ages. Many of the rules listed in religious texts have likely been written for that purpose, but are today outdated. Much of what is written in the Bible for instance has been deemed wrong or inapplicable in today’s society. If it is no longer right to treat women as men’s property, why is it still considered right to discriminate against homosexual people? How can we look to the Bible for moral guidance when even Christians do not fully believe in it? I suspect that this same question applies to many other religious texts. If the word of god were absolute, then human behaviour would not be so varied. Religion is a human construct, used to control and lead the public.

This is changing today. We understand ourselves better and have come to see that there is for instance also a physical component to our sense of morality. We are not born with full knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. It is something we learn. And yet there are people who never learn. They were once thought evil, today however we know that they are sick in some way. Empathy is a strong part of why we do what we do. Most of us do not hurt other people, not because we would get in trouble or because the law says we are not allowed, but because our sense of empathy and our conscience stop us. Psychopaths lack empathy and a conscience. It is not because they do not believe in god but because they are sick. Even healthy people can lose their sense of right and wrong due to brain damage. In other words, morality is a social and physical phenomenon.

While religion and religious texts have no doubt had a great influence on society, they are not the basis for humans’ sense of morality. Social rules and mores have evolved with the human race, both socially and physically. They are not constant or based on any ultimate truth, rather simply a way for humans to live with each other peacefully.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. timbayer
    Jul 18, 2009 @ 05:19:20

    Thanks for your post. It challenges my way of thinking. Because, you’re right – religion and religious texts have had great influence on people and have in many ways shaped society and social norms. However, how does the human conscience shape morality? In other words, I’m fascinated and am learning more and more how the conscience is formed and develops based on nurture and environment. It’s not completely innate. What do you think?

    And I would agree, religion is a human construct used to control and lead the public. Sad how religious institution and structure has corrupted how we understand God. Religion and morality are only connected in that religion has really messed up our understanding of morality.


  2. kalldoro
    Jul 19, 2009 @ 13:15:08

    I think our conscience is very much a mixture of nature and nurture. I honestly haven’t read much about it, but I feel rather intrigued now.

    Religion and morality are only connected in that religion has really messed up our understanding of morality.

    I agree. If anything I think religion often gives people permission to behave in ways that actually go against social norms. It allows prejudice and discrimination.

    Thank you for your comment.


  3. timbayer
    Aug 07, 2009 @ 05:53:01

    I wonder if people knowingly have constructed religion as a set of social norms to improve their self image (which allows prejudice and discrimination). Or, has religion become something religious leaders never really intended. Even deeper, has it become something that they don’t even see or understand?

    And do you think that there is a distinction between a personal faith and religion as a structured system or set of constructed norms?


  4. Samuel Yaw Buabeng
    Oct 26, 2009 @ 22:56:13

    I thank all of you for your views but please how is morality seen as a religious phenomenon.


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