God is divine. God is love, and god is the truth. Or so I was taught. I was born into a Christian family, but I was never a faithful person. I went to church on Sundays and repeated prayers monotonously until I stopped altogether. I don’t know if this makes me a worse person, but I didn’t see the point. The concept of religion didn’t occur to me as straightforward as more rational things. It really bothered me sometimes where people need to rely on god to be a better person I guess. Are humans that wicked, that hopeless and that unethical to need another higher being to set moral standards for them? I know things aren’t looking so great out there, but I don’t think it is time we begin to lose trust in humanity, not just yet. I believe we can be good without god, so hear me out.
But before I start my arguments I would like to define good with this time, the bible as my source. Good determined by the bible is the perception to deliberately distinguish between right and wrong, a consistent resistance of all depravity and evil and choosing to follow all moral good. Reasonable enough.
But the thing is that morality isn’t something implemented into society by god, it is a product of evolution and secular reasoning. Even though religions can promote virtuous behaviors, codes of ethics are already engraved in our genes, passed on for generations since the first Homo Sapiens. In fact, our ancestors evolved into precisely those beings that may develop moral codes, living socially in small, collective groups. When such individuals in a group recognize and interact with each other, they can easily establish some basic ethical disciplines: those who cooperate get rewarded, and those who do not get punished. In fact, a study done in Yale University proved that even babies have the ability to determine and instinctively prefer good over evil. Furthermore, scientists studying animals such as monkeys and chimpanzees identified basic rudiments of morality, including altruism, sympathy, sharing, and even notions of fairness.
Simply put, humans have been realizing morality for nothing more than survival as a group, and we have figured out that setting standards for dos and don’ts is what keeps us alive. Our brains were capable of figuring out that morality means merit by themselves, and this is how natural selection built ethics. Even the great Albert Einstein stated:”A man’s ethical behavior 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 hopes of reward after death.”
And what about other non-Christian societies? Surely, other civilizations might have developed similar virtues with Christianity without God. Take, for example, ancient Egyptian civilizations. Christianity was introduced in Egypt in approximately 33 AD, while the settlement of Egyptians into the Nile Valley began at 7000 BC.
Egyptian morals can easily be observed in the Book of the Dead, an ancient Egyptian funerary manuscript used from roughly 1550 BCE to 50 BCE. Chapter 125 of the particular text has detailed descriptions of ethical guidelines and unacceptable behaviors. These faults include theft, infidelity, manslaughter, profiteering from the weak, causing injury or grief, inflicting pain and even lying and eavesdropping. It is not difficult to notice the prominent similarities these codes of conduct have with Christian tenets, examples being the prohibition of stealing, adultery, and blasphemy. Although the Book of the dead can be as regarded as a religious text, many concepts of basic ethics similar to Christian ones have nothing to do with God.
Actually, the concept of morality resolved by God may be flawed in the first place. Religious people can challenge their beliefs by considering Plato’s question: Do actions become moral simply because they’re dictated by God, or are they dictated by God because they are moral? Without much doubt, the answer is the second choice. If God told his followers to start killing innocent children, that wouldn’t become automatically ethical, would it? Of course, someone can argue that God would never proclaim any orders like that, but that statement itself would be a thought of oneself, independent from God. Either way, it’s pretty evident that God isn’t the authority on ethics but at most a manifestation of already existing ideas of morality.
And we should not forget, religion is a man-made thing, so is morality. Essentially, during humanity’s earliest years, God became the explanation to things we could not understand, religion was the justification to the unknown. It is an unreliable method of gaining insights into our world, and it encouraged people to live in an ephemeral illusion. But now, we have science. We have gotten more rational than to think that God is the reason for everything. Now we know that ethics isn’t a gift from the heavens, it is in our conscience.
Let me add that god isn’t such a model example of morality himself. Some contents of the Bible leaves me to wonder exactly what Christians had in mind when it came to ethics when creating the Bible. Here are some dark and grisly examples: In the 2 Kings 2:23, God sends 2 female bears to maul 42 children who jeered a prophet’s bald head. The Bible is an avid advocate of slavery as stated in the Exodus 21:2. Deuteronomy 17:12 dictates for people who don’t listen to priests to be killed, Exodus 22:17 asserts for witches to be killed and Leviticus 20:13 mandates for homosexuals to be killed as well.
I would like to expand on that idea by suggesting negative impacts religion has on society. A plausible example is religious wars. Wars are possibly the most unethical things that ever happen, and the truth is that religion may be the cause of some of them. An instance is the Crusades, a series of religious wars declared by the Latin Church between the 11th and 16th centuries focusing on assaults to the Eastern Mediterranean in order to capture Jerusalem under Islamic rule at that time.
Although the Crusades may have had progressive impacts on Western civilization, we mustn’t ignore the massacre of a thousand Jews in the process. Such religious wars continue even to this day, such as armed conflicts in Palestine and Israel and Military uprisings between Pakistan and India. And don’t make me get started on 9/11. Religion left many souls dead, and it is distressingly ironic to think about the number of people who have been killed under the name of god.
But I know that is really not the point. I know there may be some people who just need something to believe in, something to accept and someone to trust, to the extent in which it does not matter who God is, what he did or even if he exists or not. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not promoting atheism either. I hold nothing against people who follow god and his ideals. But there are also people, people who can do good who do not believe in god. Many live by their own doctrines without reliance to anything else, and I see nothing wrong with that. I conclude morality is something that comes from humanity, not divinity. It is time we start believing in ourselves too, not just religion.