Upon learning that I am still deciding what form ( my present favourite being the God Particle inside the atom ) , or if indeed at all, I believed in God, a friend in a noisy Oxford tavern the other night asked me, visibly surprised, "so you don't believe in goodness?".
It took me a while to decipher the correlation. Religious people are often quick to point out that anyone who doesn't believe in God must be immoral - the usual argument being that if there is no absolute morality handed over to us mortals from a personal god, there is no source to derive our morality from.
"It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere.... Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death." - ALBERT EINSTEIN
Interestingly Ole Albert would probably be shocked to find out that atheists are discriminated against in seven state's of America's constitutions. For example:
Article 9 Section 2 of Tennessee's State Constitution
"No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state."
Article 6 Section 8 of North Carolina's State Constitution
"Disqualifications of office. The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God."
Not that I ever plan to become a politician, but that's beside the point. I can see that most of this nonsense comes from the popular misconception that only hell fearing religious people can lead a moral and ethical life ("such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefore either in this world or in the world to come").
As the atheist Dave Silverman points out: What a sad world it is when people can seriously say that humans need to fear eternal damnation in order to do good. Atheists do good, not out of fear of reprisal, but because it's the right thing to do.
Its a shame I never had all this contra bar-guement to hand, instead of just a cold foaming pint of ale, and a collage of points badly made, but being a good knight, and in my KMSA capacity of understanding diversity through knowledge, when I got home I prodded around a few articles online that would maybe help me combat such a question again.
Slavery was not only acceptable 200 years ago, it was considered a good deed by many, and defended using the bible. The bible was also used to justify the Holocaust, the Crusades, and the Spanish Inquisition.
As late as the last century, religious Hindus ritually cremated widows alive along with their dead husbands.
Hitler was a Catholic, and Jeffrey Dahmer said grace before he ate his victims. On the other hand, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford were all atheists.
While atheists make up 8-10% of the population at large, they only make up 1% of the population in prison.
It seems then that there are plenty of religious people who are dangerous, thieving, lying, hating, killing, adulterous scum. Not to say that religious people are bad people and atheists are somehow better - all I'm proposing here in the spirit of KMSA debate, is that ethics/morality in a person is not a product of religious belief, it comes from within. Anybody can choose to lead a moral and ethical life, or the opposite, regardless of whether they are theists or atheists.
Madalyn Murray (later O'Hair), wrote a document used in the court case Murray v. Curlett, 1961-APR-27. It reads, in part:
"An Atheist loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. An Atheist knows that heaven is something for which we should work now - here on earth - for all men together to enjoy. An Atheist thinks that he can get no help through prayer but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue, and enjoy it. An Atheist thinks that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment. Therefore, he seeks to know himself and his fellow man rather than to know a god. An Atheist knows that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist knows that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand and love man. He wants an ethical way of life. He knows that we cannot rely on a god nor channel action into prayer nor hope for an end to troubles in the hereafter. He knows that we are our brother's keeper and keepers of our lives; that we are responsible persons, that the job is here and the time is now."
Of course in truth he might just proffer his empty beer glass and say " Its Your Round then "
Sir Dayvd ( ...next week on the D of O channel...can rich people ever be holy?.. ) of Oxfordshire