Monday, 27 July 2009
God Knows I'm Good
Read a thing that annoyed me in one of those free papers that litter the tube the other day. It was an opinion piece by some gimp-about-town that said that Christians would find it harder to be successful working in the City because of their moral consciences, unlike atheists who would find it easier to bullshit and make a profit at the expense of others; apparently a prerequisite for the job.
I found this mind-bogglingly offensive. An absence of God does not not not equal an absence of morality. Atheists are not liars and cheats; indeed, the whole idea of atheism is about avoiding those who claim things to be true without evidence. It’s about as offensive as somebody saying that religious people are only being ‘good’ because they have been instructed to do so by their God via his human-transmitted holy handbook; that their ‘morality’ is merely a question of choosing between the carrot of heaven and the stick of hell; that they are only pretending to be nice in order to (quite literally) get into God’s good books; that were it not for God and his threatening list of dos and don’ts, they would all be quite happily murdering, raping and stealing without hesitation.
Clearly this is not the case. This is because morality is not the unique product of religion; it’s how we are brought up, the society we are brought up in, what behavioural norms are established. Religious morality is merely a re-iteration of social conduct memes which evolved as a necessary part of the progression of human civilisation. Empathy is also hard-wired in by evolution; great apes can't read the Bible but still act kindly towards each other. Conscience is not God-given; God is simply the first answer people thought of to the question, ‘Hey, where does our sense of right and wrong come from?’