Atheism requires conscious moral thought

by Michael Crawford, University student

A common assertion I have encountered is that one cannot have a moral code without a god. I would actually assert the opposite: You cannot have true morality with a god. This is not to say that religious people cannot be good. I am merely asserting there is no conscious morality in religion. In terms of personal morality, it is a set of principles someone has come to consciously, through experiences and critical thought.

The Ten Commandments say, “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” etc. But why do people follow these rules? Does the act of following these principles automatically make a person a moral being? No.

If a person just follows these principles (which I agree are good principles) because he or she was told to follow these principles or because he or she is afraid of biblical punishment, this person is not moral. This is the performance of obedience or the intentional avoidance of punishment. This completely fails the requirement of conscious and critical thought. If a child shares a toy against his or her will, does that mean the 2-year-old desired to do good or the right thing? Absolutely not.

Another example: The Bible says, “Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof,” (Genesis 19: 4-9). The Family Research Council cites this passage as a biblical argument against homosexuality. This is absurd. No one should look to this passage for moral instruction. The father actively asserts that the rape of his daughters is preferable to the rape of men who are staying at his home.

True morality, from one secularist’s perspective, requires the desire to do good for the purpose of doing good. Again, I agree with the aforementioned Commandments. However, this is because my conscious and critical belief that violating these principles harms others. That is why it is immoral, not because a god says so.