Can You Be Good Without God?

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By Brandon Withrow

“If God did not exist, then we would have to invent him,” said the French philosopher Voltaire. His point: that without a divine being to check right and wrong, any number of atrocities are possible and could go unpunished.

A recent study (of more than 3,000 people in 13 countries) published in the journal Nature Human Behavior echoes Voltaire’s maxim. Looking at intuitive thinking—presumptions drawn by individuals through unconscious biases—researchers led by Will M. Gervais, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, discovered that most individuals intuitively conclude that a serial killer is more likely to be an atheist (approximately 60 percent) than religious (approximately 30 percent).

While this assessment may resonate with many religious individuals, it undoubtedly is far from the conscious conclusions of most atheists, who find social prejudice difficult to overcome.

The idea that atheism is a gateway to moral anarchy, for example, is not new. Other studies on public views of atheism indicate that 40 percent of Americans disapprove of nonreligion and 27 percent see atheists as not sharing their values.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. whoever is the more ethical, humane, loving

    and for whatever reason

    right now a whole people is about to be exterminated – on ethnic grounds

    by a religion of “peace” (Buddhism) while the world just ignores it because the genocide is of the poorest, least educated, least empowered people on earth – who happen to be Muslim

    so, if you dear reader consider yourself to be a moral, ethical being

    what are you doing about it?

  2. Rodriguez Emanuel Blatt #1
    Sep 6, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    what are you doing about it?

    Getting some proper information and historical perspective, before blindly jumping into an ethnic, propagandist, or religious war, would be a wise move.
    Especially when that other “religion of peace” (Militant Islam) is involved!

  3. @Alan4discussion

    I guess you have all the inside guff on the Rohingya right?

    These people are so dirt poor I doubt they own a copy of the Koran let along any other books.

    And you – defend the killing by simply claiming because they are Muslims they are therefore terrorists and therefore are legitimate targets of genocide.

    Shame on you. Disgusting lack of humanity. Shame.

  4. Rodriguez Emanuel Blatt #3
    Sep 6, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    I guess you have all the inside guff on the Rohingya right?

    I don’t! I have conflicting accounts from different sides, but these suggest killings by representatives of various groups. That’s why I said acquiring proper independently sourced information was important!

    These people are so dirt poor I doubt they own a copy of the Koran let along any other books.

    Most of the fundamentalist religious, don’t read their books anyway. They just listen to preaching and tales from their families and neighbours, and often demonise outsiders from other religions or social groups.

    And you – defend the killing by simply claiming because they are Muslims they are therefore terrorists and therefore are legitimate targets of genocide.

    There you go jumping to conclusions based entirely on bias and preconceptions! The very activities which make enemies and aggravate and polarise disputes.
    Would that be the killing of the police on check-points or the killing by those seeking reprisals?

    Shame on you. Disgusting lack of humanity. Shame.

    There is no shame in seeking honest reliable information!
    There is a great deal of shame in making false allegations without any evidenced basis!

  5. Your armchair defence of yourself is transparent.

    The feeds are out there to appraise if only you take some time to look – in stead of succumbing to the propaganda of the Myanmar state.

    My FB feed shows many atrocities a day – but of course these are Muslim feeds so you never see them.

    As for reprisals – just because some powerless, barefoot, teenage boys in desperation seek reprisal does not legitimise what it is they fight against. To suggest it does further undermines your claim to ethical position.

    If we atheists are to be counted humanitarian and ethical then it is for us to stop being lazy, consumers of what is dished out to us and to seek answers actively ourselves and the act accordingly

    If tens of thousands are butchered and their carcasses left to rot and the world starts crying woe how did it all happen

    I will come back and ask you again

    where is your humanity?

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-06/myanmar-on-brink-of-genocide-un-expert-say/8879858

  6. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-40011437

    Myanmar’s military has rejected allegations by the United Nations that it committed atrocities during its crackdown on Rohingya Muslims last year.

    The crackdown began after insurgents killed nine policemen in attacks on border posts between Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, and Bangladesh in Rakhine state. Reports then emerged that the military were targeting Rohingya indiscriminately.

    Tensions between Rohingya Muslims and Myanmar’s Buddhist majority have been rumbling for years.

    The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar, which views them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They face routine official and public discrimination.

    Tens of thousands of Rohingya live in make-shift refugee camps after being displaced by communal violence in 2012.

    Some 65,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh as the military searched for those behind attacks on police border posts.

    Many of those who fled described rapes, killings and other abuses by the army.

    But the military said its own investigation found the claims were “false and fabricated”.

    “Out of 18 accusations included in the [UN human rights body] OHCHR report, 12 were found to be incorrect, with [the] remaining six accusations found to be false and fabricated accusations based on lies and invented statements,” Myanmar’s state media quoted a report from the military as saying.

    The military said it interviewed 3,000 villagers and 184 military officers and troops.

    Soldiers were disciplined over two cases, for stealing a motorbike and beating villagers with sticks for failing to put out a fire, the military said.

    The UN report in February – compiled from interviews with those who fled the violence – accused the military of abuses including gang-rapes, savage beatings and murder.

    It described incidents in which children were killed as their mothers were raped by groups of soldiers, families – including pregnant women and the elderly – being beaten and houses set alight as people sheltered inside.

    The evidence for what United Nations officials are calling “crimes against humanity” is overwhelming. Witness testimony from hundreds of Rohingya, satellite images of burnt villages and video of charred bodies to name just a few.

    And then there’s the small matter of explaining why more than 65,000 Rohingya decided to flee their homes and risk their lives crossing the Naf River into Bangladesh. Some of the men have gunshot wounds, scores of women have sought treatment for sexual violence.

    We are looking at a long term conflict between two dogmatic opposing religious groups! It is unlikely that either side would welcome foreign mediation or intervention, unless it met their immediate political objectives.

    It is very likely that there are armed groups from both religious groups who are operating on a tribalistic basis beyond the control of any responsible government.

    The disastrous effects of foreign powers barging into “repressive regimes” with half-baked “liberation” plans, are well illustrated in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria!

    There has been a lot more damage to civilians from foreign bombings, invading troops, and foreign armed militias, than from indigenous state attacks on communities who were sheltering terrorists!

    The poorly trained police and military in third-world countries, are very unsympathetic to those who kill police or military personnel, or those who shelter the killers! They don’t have the resources to carry out extensive investigations, or contain large numbers of uncooperative prisoners!

    Knee-jerk responses to sensational news stories usually turn out to be unhelpful!

  7. @OP – Can You Be Good Without God?

    While it does not enhance the virtues of being “good without gods”, – the inter-religious conflicts in Burma, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt Palestine, Syria, Libya, and several other states in Africa, do currently show just how bad people can be when driven by their gods! – not to mention the history of the crusades, the Inquisition, the Aztec human sacrifices, etc.!

  8. The persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar is about as bad as it can get. In 2015 the UN described the Rohingya as “the world’s most persecuted people”, and the head of its refugee agency in the region has stated that the ultimate goal of the persecution is “the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority in Myanmar”.

    There have been calls for some time for the Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Ky – herself a Nobel Peace Prize winner for her years of resistance to the former Burmese military junta – to intervene and do something to prevent more violence, but so far, very disappointingly, those calls have fallen on deaf ears:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/burma-rohingya-myanmar-muslims-united-nations-calls-on-suu-kyi-a7465036.html

    The Burmese/Myanmar military does not have such a shining record that we can accept its denials at face value, and certainly not in the face of reports such as this one, issued by the UNHCR in February this year. Be warned: it is extremely distressing:
    http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56103#.WbEdBIrkW9s

    According to a report in today’s Independent, the UN has increased its estimate of the number of Rohingya fleeing the violence, from 120,000 two or three days ago, to up to 300,000 now: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/burma-rohingya-crisis-latest-un-300000-flee-bangladesh-military-crackdown-violence-persecution-aung-a7933616.html

    As individuals, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal we can do, other than lend our voice to campaigns to keep up the pressure on our leaders to exert the appropriate diplomatic pressure on Myanmar, and to donate to emergency appeals if we are able.

    The UNHCR has also set up an urgent appeal for donations to help provide emergency shelters and core relief for those who have fled. Donations can be made via this link:
    https://donate.unhcr.org/gb-en/rohingya?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2MGmieuS1gIVjpztCh2X6A4cEAAYASAAEgJo0PD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

    Rodriguez, I totally share your horror at events in Myanmar and have myself donated what I am able to the UN fund; but I would just point out that no one can do everything, and there are appalling horrors going on all around the world, all the time. There are also other, highly moral causes that many people devote their free time and their resources to supporting: raising funds for cancer research, for example, or to give kids from deprived backgrounds more opportunities in life; or donating to relief efforts after natural disasters such as earthquakes or, topically, hurricanes. I could easily pick some other pressing need at random and accuse you of lacking humanity or not being a moral person if you are not doing anything to assist in that particular case, but I’m sure you can see that, given the fact that it would be humanly impossible to take on every good cause, it would be highly unreasonable to do so. We all have to do what we can, where we can, but given the scale and the range of the need, it is both natural and appropriate that, as individuals, we focus our efforts on projects that resonate with us particularly or that reflect our interests or expertise. It’s the only way the widest possible spectrum of need stands any chance of being met.

  9. I can’t believe we’re still having this conversation.

    Which God? Can you be good without Yahweh? Can you be good without Allah?

    Well, I guess if everyone’s honest you can only be -so- good with God. To be all good you’ll need to go one step further and choose my god.

    Can someone who’s only -so- good really be considered good?

    –let’s consult the scriptures–

    -hehe- Sorry, it’s just so crazy really.

  10. Sean_W #10
    Sep 7, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Which God?
    Can you be good without Yahweh?
    Can you be good without Allah?

    Ah! But can you be “good” without Venus, Aphrodite or Bacchus? 🙂

  11. @OP – The idea that atheism is a gateway to moral anarchy, for example, is not new.

    For those who are puppets of their god-delusions and priests, the concept of humans thinking through codes of conduct and moral issues, is assessing complexities waaaay beyond their simplistic thinking!

    Other studies on public views of atheism indicate that 40 percent of Americans disapprove of non-religion

    When the dogmas of “MY tribe”, are indoctrinated as the be-all and end-all of morality, any departure from these on the basis of evidence and “arrogant” reason, rather than blind “faith”, is regarded as a matter for disapproval!

    Ignorant and proud of their ignorance, is the badge of religious “superiority”!

    and 27 percent see atheists as not sharing their values.

    Indeed, anyone who is prepared to update their views in the light of evidence about consequences for fellow humans (rather than the mindless acceptance and promotion of dogmas and gods), is bound to have differing values.
    The usual “No True Scotsman” fallacy, takes care of any other views they have of differing values within their groupings!

  12. Rodriguez, are you trying to turn people away from your cause as so far you have done little but insult the members of this site. As Marco pointed out no one can do everything, we all have limited time and resources and many of us do what we can. I understand you feel strongly about the situation in Mynamar as it is appalling and the government should know better considering the years of oppression they faced under the previous regime but there are far better ways of highlighting the atrocities there and appealing for help.

    Sean W, totally agree this is a particularly annoying topic and quite a bore, unfortunately I feel it is one we have to keep addressing as it is a major method religionists use to try to prove the worth of their particular brand of god, especially as the ridiculous notion that atheists are less moral can have quite dramatic effects. If I can find the article I will post it, although it may have been on this site as well. It was about the need for a secular oath in all courts to replace any religious oaths as these could often sway a jury. The study was worth looking at as it was not just looking a possible bias against atheists but also bias against various religions as well. While a secular oath is a no-brainer to all of us it is, sadly, not considered relevant by many.

  13. I definitely can’t be good without Aphrodite. She watches my every move, reads my mind and if not for that I’d be wreaking havoc on society.

  14. We need to improve our game. Things are getting dangerous now as the religious right gather their strength for their last hurrah. Moral dogma makes morality dull witted and sub-optimum and a non-metaphorical god is a continuing detriment to the moral discourse in the US and other theocracies and proto-theocracies.

    You can of course be good without god, but a hundred years of growing experience has shown us you will more likely be rather better.

    Not only is the pen mightier than the sword, but the carrot is mightier than the stick.

  15. phil rimmer #15
    Sep 7, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    Not only is the pen mightier than the sword, but the carrot is mightier than the stick.

    But only in societies where there are open minds, and minds which are allowed to be open!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/03/saudi-arabia-sentences-a-man-to-10-years-in-prison-and-2000-lashes-for-expressing-his-atheism-on-twitter/

    To the deluded indoctrinated ignorant, brute-force and stupidity is the standard formula!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2013/07/dubai-pardons-woman-sentenced-to-16-months-in-prison-for-reporting-her-rape/

    A 24-year-old Norwegian woman is now free to leave Dubai after officials in the country dropped the 16-month prison sentence she was given as a result of reporting her rape to police.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/05/muslim-mob-in-egypt-strips-70-year-old-christian-woman/

    A Muslim mob stripped a 70-year-old Christian woman and paraded her naked on the streets in an attack last week in which seven Christian homes were ransacked and torched in a province south of the Egyptian capital.

    According to the local Orthodox Coptic church and security officials, the assault in the Minya province village of Karama on Friday began after rumours spread that the woman’s son had had an affair with a Muslim woman – a taboo in conservative Egypt.

    Christian men cannot marry Muslim women in Egypt unless they convert to Islam first, but Muslim men can marry Christian women. An affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman is almost certain to cause a great deal of trouble if the couple are found out, particularly in rural areas.

  16. Rodriguez Emanuel Blatt #5
    Sep 6, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    If we atheists are to be counted humanitarian and ethical then it is for us to stop being lazy, consumers of what is dished out to us and to seek answers actively ourselves and the act accordingly

    Now that there are some more reliable figures on the scale of the exodus, aid, money, and resources from overseas, should be provided in co-operation with the Bangladesh government, to set up refugee camps with proper water, sanitary, and medical facilities.
    Any foreign actions which are likely to escalate the conflicts, should be avoided.

    It should also be born in mind, that much of the poverty within Burma, is the result of foreign imposed sanctions with have been imposed for several years, because the military government had resisted the foreign exploitation of the country’s resources which has ravaged the environment in some of their neighbours! .

  17. The fact that some people can be good “with God” is proof that one can be good “without God”; that is because there is no God.

  18. Rodriguez Emanuel Blatt #5
    Sep 6, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    Your armchair defence of yourself is transparent.

    The feeds are out there to appraise if only you take some time to look – in stead of succumbing to the propaganda of the Myanmar state.

    Propaganda is used by more than one side in a war situation, so simplistic, or partisan views are usually misleading!

    Rodriguez Emanuel Blatt #3 – Sep 6, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    I guess you have all the inside guff on the Rohingya right?

    I don’t!
    I have conflicting accounts from different sides, but these suggest killings by representatives of various groups.
    That’s why I said acquiring proper independently sourced information was important!

    So now having a more realistic appraisal, the civilians have been caught up in a religious war between rebels, the government forces and groups acting independently along religious divisions!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-41216527

    Rohingya Muslim insurgents in Myanmar have declared a one-month unilateral ceasefire to ease the humanitarian crisis in northern Rakhine state.

    The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) said the truce would start on Sunday, urging Mynamar’s army to lay down weapons as well.

    Arsa attacks on police on 25 August led to a ferocious military response.

    About 290,000 Rohingya are said to have fled Rakhine and sought shelter over the border in Bangladesh since then.

    The UN says that aid groups urgently need $77m (£58m) to help Rohingya who have fled Myanmar.

    There is a desperate need for food, water and health services for new arrivals in Cox’s Bazaar, the UN added.

    Rohingya residents – a stateless, mostly Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Myanmar – say the military and Rakhine Buddhists are waging a brutal campaign against them, burning their villages.

    Myanmar rejects this, saying its military is fighting against Rohingya “terrorists”.

    Those who have fled Rakhine describe village burnings, beatings and killings at the hands of the security forces and Buddhist youths.

    The Myanmar government says it is the Rohingya militants and the Muslim villagers themselves who are burning their own homes and attacking non-Muslims – many of whom have also fled the violence.

    But a BBC reporter in Rakhine state on Thursday saw a Muslim village being burned, apparently by a group of Rakhine Buddhists, contradicting the official version of events.

    So there are rebel militants, government forces, and independent gangs, involved in what has become a lawless situation due to the polarised religious conflict.

    There is no sign of gods, or belief in gods, making the Myanmar situation any better!

  19. Meanwhile, as those who maintain a facade of being “good with God”, disparage atheists, the evidence of their underlying abusive activities behind the facade of kindness and “goodness”, keeps coming to light!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-41273549

    ‘I was abused by nuns for a decade’ at Smyllum Park

    I think the name “Smyllum Park” for an abusive religion based institution, really does spell it out!

    A former resident of a Scottish orphanage run by Catholic nuns has described the sexual, physical and mental abuse she suffered at the home.

    Theresa Tolmie-McGrane told the BBC she was sexually abused from the age of eight at the Smyllum Park Orphanage, Lanark, in the 1970s.

    The care home, run by the Daughters of Charity Order, closed in 1981.

    A spokesperson said the order was “shocked and saddened” by the allegations.

    Ms Tolmie-McGrane, who is now a psychologist working in Norway, arrived at the South Lanarkshire orphanage in 1968 when she was six years old.

    She told BBC Stories: “Every child was beaten, punished, locked in a dark room, made to eat their own vomit and I would say that most of us had our mouths rinsed out with carbolic soap.”

    Ms Tolmie-McGrane said she was first sexually abused at the home by a priest when she was eight.

    “I had a little part-time job cleaning the pews in the church and this particular priest would arrive early and he would ask me to go into a particular room with him and he would ask me to sit on his lap and fondle him.

    “He tried to fondle me and I just pulled away.”

    She also recalled how in one “horrible incident” one of the nuns had walked in on the priest abusing her.

    “Instead of being angry at him, she got really angry at me. She yanked me by the left arm so hard and flung me across the room and called me a whore and told me to get out of there.

    “I didn’t know my arm was broken at the time. It was only the day after that we realised.”

    She added: “I think in some ways it was worse than just sexual abuse because I was punished with the broken arm for doing something a priest had forced me to do.”

    Ms Tolmie-McGrane told the BBC she had suffered years of “systematic abuse” at Smyllum Park, including being hit on the head with a wooden crucifix.

    She said the psychological abuse started after she started at secondary school when one of the nuns had tried to “break” her down.

    “She almost made it such that I didn’t get to university. She did everything she could to sabotage,” Ms Tolmie-McGrane said.

    “I’ve never met someone who tried to destroy another person in such a systematic way. Thank God she didn’t succeed.”

    Ms Tolmie-McGrane left the home when she was 17 and went on to study at the University of Glasgow.

    Ms Tolmie-McGrane’s account follows a recent BBC and Sunday Post investigation which found that the bodies of at least 400 children who died there may be buried in a mass grave at the home.

    Research into death records of children who lived there showed that most died of natural causes, from common diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and pleurisy.

  20. Not only can we be good without God – we can be better without him.

    Better individuals

    Better parents

    Better citizens

    Better leaders

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