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Religious VS Atheist Ethics

Posted by on 08/11/2009

This site aims to show that atheists are at least as ethical as theists, and atheism is a good way forward for humanity.

Religion does not appear to hold the key to moral behaviour. Far from it, in fact – the gods that believers profess to be their moral guides are depicted in ‘holy’ writings as violent and jealous gods, and with few exceptions, their prophets (Moses is a good example here) are as deeply flawed, generally violent, intolerant and highly prejudiced sociopaths and  mass murderers as the gods themselves.

Religions admittedly do give people something to believe in, but to believe without critical thinking often leads to unethical behaviour.

Taking a recent example, consider the People’s Temple Full Gospel Church cult led by the Reverend Jim Jones.  That ‘prophet’ led his enthusiastic group to Brazil where, on November 18, 1978,  he persuaded over 900 of them to commit mass suicide.

He may have thought he was doing a good thing, but most people would agree that persuading 900 people to commit suicide is unethical.

But if you take people who have stopped thinking for themselves and will do whatever their religious leader tells them to do, you can persuade them to do anything. The Reverend Jim Jones could have told his tribe to go out and kill babies and they’d have done it. He could have told them to go and hijack passenger jets and fly them into schools, and they’d have done it.

The point is that the ethics of right and wrong do not exist for people who take their beliefs from others, because if you do that you are taking on board the possible twisted ethical beliefs of someone else. Taking your ethical beliefs from religion, or religious leaders, is abdicatiing your own responsibility to decide what is right, and what is wrong. Leave that to rabbis, priests or mullahs and you may find yourself killing or dying in the name of your religion, as millions have done in the past in the name of gods no longer worshipped, and prophets who no longer matter.

Contrast that situation with the critical thinking of an atheist who must decide what is right and what is wrong based on a sense of humanity and common compassion. The great moral thinkers of our day are not, as a rule, religious leaders, but atheists like A.C. Grayling, and Richard Dawkins. And it also seems to be the case that the more religious a person happens to be, the less they are guided by common decency and compassion and the more they are guided by the outmoded morals of the ancient writings that document the dogma they adhere to.

Compare being guided by outmoded morals and ancient murderous and bigoted thoughts and writings, to synthesising the original thoughts of the most sublime and intelligent thinkers of the current day, and choosing what is best from all of them… Even a non-contemplative person should be able to work out which of these options would be most likely to lead to an ethical way of life. That religion encourages adopting the outdated morals of the past, and discourages believers from adopting a system of ethics based on common decency, fairness, and equality for all, is a bad thing about religion.