[more on my recent podcast interview]
Part of our discussion on Wednesday touched upon morality. At one point, I ended up talking about where I find a basis for morality, since I no longer believe in a divine moral lawgiver. I’ll readily admit that I’m not a philosopher, so talking about objective vs. subjective morality not an easy discussion for me to have. (part of me thinks believers get off a little too easy when it comes to answering these kinds of complex questions, because they can just say “God.” and be done with their answer.)
I ended up talking about the ethic of reciprocity, and how most ethical systems can be boiled down to this principle of doing good to others, because you would like to have good done for you. I don’t think my answer was too radical of a concept, but then our conversation drifted into implications of individual selfishness and reciprocity. (ugh)
Well, I wish I could have steered the talk of morality in a different direction. I wish I could have brought up Psalm 14:1, and asked them about what they thought of the verse. Psalm 14:1 reads:
The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
Now here’s a verse most atheists will recognize, because it’s one usually hurled in our direction. It’s the last part of the verse I would have wanted to talk about — the notion that the godless are corrupt, full of vile deeds, and up to no good. There aren’t many Christians out there who would admit to agreeing with the last half of the verse — but I know many people who still hold onto the idea that god is a necessary prerequisite to being good. But is it true?
Not according to evidence.
Part of my reading prep for the interview involved me reading the peer-reviewed article “Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions” by Phil Zuckerman. This article compared different societies’ levels of religiosity to their levels of violent crime, happiness and well-being indexes, health care services, standards of economic equality, education, and several other categories. The result?
… societies with higher percentages of secular people are actually more healthy, humane, and happy than those with higher percentages of religious people.
The author was sure to point out that the amount of secularity doesn’t necessarily cause these positive factors in society, but being irreligious does not seem to be a hinderance to having a good and happy life.
I guess this brings me back to another point I wish I could have pressed the two Christians on — why do I need to be a Christian? If evidence shows societies to function just fine (if not better) without religion, why do I need to be religious? If I can find meaning and significance in the natural world around me, why do I need to add a supernatural belief on top of it? If I can be good without god, why do I need Christian faith?
Still waiting for the answers to these questions.