Monday, 30 December 2013

Atheism Produces Better Morality than Religion Does

Sent to The Star, Johannesburg, Sun 22/12/2013 22:36, and published Mon 30 December 2013, minus the parts in blue, as “No atheist likely to become a suicide bomber”.

Justin Steyn (“Atheism has to come up with cogent concept of morality”, The Star,Letters, December 20) either didn’t read my letter (“Atheism is the most honest approach”, The Star, December 17) or, having read it, didn't understand it, or, having understood it, didn't believe it.

As I clearly said, few atheists say categorically that no gods exist.  We say that there is insufficient evidence to believe that gods exist.  Unlike the “faithful”, we are prepared to change our minds, given reasonable scientific proof.

Mr Steyn talks about forming a common consensus.  This indeed is what happens in science.  Based on experimental evidence, the vast majority of scientists agree on such things as heliocentric theory (the earth revolves around the sun), that HIV causes AIDS, and the reality of anthropogenic climate change.

Notice that this does not happen in religion: There is no sign that religions are converging to a common understanding.  This is because religion ignores evidence.  This wilful blindness is even hailed as a virtue, as proof of faith!

We are simply talking about what is real.  We apply standards of rationality and evidence to most aspects of our lives: Why not to religion?

Mr Steyn believes that religion is necessary for morality.  He must have a low opinion of himself if he thinks he would behave immorally if God were not watching him.

However, he is wrong.  Humans have in-built morality, put there by evolution.  It should be obvious that a group will do better than an individual will, and that a tribe is more likely to survive if its members cooperate.

Statistics show that nations where atheism is highest have lower crime. Studies in the USA show that states with more religion also have more crime.  The percentage of atheists in prison is well below the percentage of atheists in the general population.

Humans are not the only moral animals either.  Chimpanzees, for example, show altruism and public service to members of their group.

In fact, it is religion that hijacks our morality and turns it to evil ends.    No atheist will stone you for collecting firewood on the Sabbath, or not being a virgin.  No atheist will murder a doctor for performing an abortion.  No atheist will blow himself and you up to get into heaven.

If we look at issues like contraception, abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research, it is the atheists who adopt a “live-and-let-live” attitude, and the religious who are hell-bent on imposing their sectarian views on others.

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