The Necessity of Secularism, pgs 74-75

May 9, 2016

“Many religious people cling tenaciously to the belief that God provides an indispensable foundation for morality. However, when one probes this belief, it’s not always clear what the precise content of this belief is. There are at least a couple of distinct ways in which there can be a relationship between God and morality. (Later, I’ll analyze four different ways God may relate to morality, but to introduce the problem, I’ll just stick with two for now.) One way is a logical connection between God and Morality that is, God – and only God – can determine what’s right and what’s wrong. If this connection exists, it exists for both the believer and nonbeliever. In other words, morality is based on God’s commandments, whether or not atheists recognize this.

Another alleged relationship between God and morality is really a relationship between belief in God and moral behavior. Many maintain that belief in God motivates people to behave morally, or at least more morally than they would otherwise. Put simply, people need to believe in God to be good. Often, this alleged connection between belief in God and moral behavior is based on the presumption that people will not do the right thing unless they think there is an omniscient God who stands ready to punish them for misconduct and reward them or good behavior. This presumption – actually a prejudice – has been around for a long time. As we saw in chapter 2, Locke did not extend toleration to atheists because, in his view, they could not be trusted to keep promises. This prejudice is still prevalent in much of the world, including the United States. A 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center determined that a startling 57 percent of Americans think it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral. It could be worse. In countries such as Egypt, the percentage of individuals who believe moral conduct requires a belief in God exceeds 90 percent.”

–Ron Lindsay, The Necessity of Secularism The Necessity of Secularism pgs 74-75


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7 comments on “The Necessity of Secularism, pgs 74-75

  • “there is an omniscient God who stands ready to punish them for misconduct and reward them or good behavior:”
    Yes, a good quarter of a million indonesians experienced that firsthand on the 26th december 2004; they must have been all BAD!



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  • If you are being good because you fear punishment, then you are not really good, just frightened. If you can voluntarily be good, the Supreme Conduct Monitor is irrelevant to morality. This is hardly a fresh concept, but large numbers of people refuse to consider it. Maybe they are afraid that the gods will be angry with them?



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  • To Paul #1:

    “there is an omniscient God who stands ready to punish them for
    misconduct and reward them or good behavior:”

    That of course is what religious leaders want you to “believe.” It is not a “god”, it would be the priests, bishops, ministers, and imams who want you to “believe” that. The delusion of a “heaven” is pure bribery, and a “hell” is blackmail.



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  • @OP One way is a logical connection between God and Morality

    That is an abuse of the term “logical” using it as a fake badge of authority rather than a presented form of deduction!

    that is, God – and only God – can determine what’s right and what’s wrong.

    Which is of course a god-delusion, self-referencing itself, as an exclusive infallible arbiter of morality! This circular thinking may impress the brain containing it, but has no validity anywhere else!

    If this connection exists, it exists for both the believer and nonbeliever.

    Nope! It only exists in the imagination of those possessed by god-delusions!

    In other words, morality is based on God’s commandments,

    Which “gods’ commandments”! There are so many gods and so many conflicting commandments!
    (Do I detect assumed Biblical references to an assumed “default god” here?)

    whether or not atheists recognize this.

    It is unlikely that atheists will accept such claims, but it is very likely atheists will recognise the source of such claims as arising from the indoctrinated preconceptions and circular self-referencing of god-delusions within the brains of believers!



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  • 7
    fadeordraw says:

    The meme that religion (god/gods belief) is a necessary condition for societal morality is a very old saw to raise on this DR web site, even as the site might be now somewhat different. Anyway, the DR answer is the evolutionary development of morality, trust for trade and community, likely far proceeded the evolutionary development of religion. There is no evidence that religious cultures are more moralistic than non-religious ones; and today there are lots of examples of secular governance which induce superior moral behaviour than previous religious cultures. A long time ago, Dostoyevsky in Crime and Punishment, opined that murder was acceptable if there was no god. He brilliantly demonstrated that that was a red herring for considering the matter; look to societal environments, even genes, to understand relatively infrequent amoral behaviour. BTW, it’s relatively infrequent otherwise we would not have our wonderful and various civilizations.



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