© 1999 Karen Selick
Morality Without Faith
An edited version of this article first appeared in the July 7, 1999 issue of The National Post.  If you wish to reproduce this article, click here for copyright info.


Morality Without Faith

For the second time in recent months, the National Post has treated us to Professor Ian Hunterís view that morality and virtue can be derived only from religion  ("Losing our moral judgment", June 30).

I am an atheist who leads a life that most devout Christians would consider exemplary.  I donít drink, smoke, or use mind-altering drugs--I even avoid caffeine.  I donít squander money on gambling or read kiddie porn.  Iím not promiscuous.  Iíve never had an abortion. I donít lie or steal.  Iím never violent.  I work hard.  I donate money and time to worthwhile causes.  

I behave this way not because some person in a pulpit tells me to every Sunday, or because I fear burning in hell if I donít.  I do it because reality dictates that this is the surest way to achieve a happy, healthy life within a peaceful, prosperous society.  To reach this conclusion, I  applied my powers of observation and rational thought to the world around me.  

Professor Hunter deplores the fact that people are unwilling to exercise judgment these days.  I quite agree.  However, I believe the religious mindset, far from promoting sound judgment in its adherents, actually hinders their ability to exercise it.  

Religion, after all, tells its adherents that the universe is not as they perceive it.  There are entities such as a deity and a host of angels who existence can be neither seen, heard, felt, smelled, tasted, or deduced from any other logical evidence.  The faithful are supposed to abandon the evidence of their senses and their reason, and simply believe in these beings because someone else tells them to.  

Whenever theists encounter an event that makes no sense according to their notion of a benevolent and merciful God (for instance, the murder of innocents at Columbine High School) their ready platitude is "God works in mysterious ways.  Accept, donít question."  In other words, abandon logic, accept contradictions, donít draw your own conclusions, wait until some "authorized" representative of God tells you what to think.  

In these ways, religion continually undermines the ability of the faithful to draw rational conclusions and make independent moral decisions.  Ultimately, this leaves both a moral gap and an impaired judgmental capacity in peopleís minds which the churches have traditionally filled with their own version of morality.  Historically, their methods have included procuring the co-operation of the state to engage in such delights as torturing and burning infidels.  

While religious leaders in modern Canada have, fortunately, abandoned such extremes, they should not be surprised that their perpetual denigration and rejection of reality, reason and the human mind has destroyed the average personís sense of intellectual responsibility and left a moral vacuum in his head. 

The churches are merely reaping what they have sown.  In this, at least, the bible is correct.


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January 19, 2001