What we would like to do in this article is to review these arguments and point out the common sense problems with them:
Religious people are no more moral than those who are not religious. The first problem with a statement like this is that its factual base is erroneous. Atheists will point to religious people they know or public figures in religion who have been caught in immoral acts and claim that morality is no greater among religious people than anyone else. One could argue that nonreligious people are more experienced in immorality, so they do not get caught as often. That is an interesting theory, but like the atheist statement there is no way to verify it.
The fact is that there is no way to get reliable factual data on this statement. What can be done is to get a common sense response to what religious and nonreligious people will logically do. If I believe that I will ultimately be judged on the basis of what I do in this life, am I more likely or less likely to live morally than someone who believes that there is nothing after this life? My personal experience was, as an atheist, if I had an opportunity to do something wrong that I was sure I would get away with and which would bring me great pleasure I usually did it. You can say I was just unusually weak, but the fact is that my response was a common sense response. Why should I pass up a pleasure if this life was all I had?
I suspect that if we had complete and accurate data, we would find that there is a difference between the morality of atheists and people of faith. We will never know for sure if that is true or not, but the common sense question of why we would or would not be moral is answerable.
Evolutionary explanations of the origin of morality do not involve religion. Cultural evolution proponents will usually suggest three principles to explain why morality exists in human populations:
A) Societies with rules are more likely to succeed than societies with no rules.
B) Organization within a culture promotes that culture's survival.
C) Organization and structure based on rules is what leads to morality.
There are multiple problems with this type of explanation. All animal populations have rules, organization, and structure. Watch the Discovery, National Geographic, or Animal Planet channels on television and you will see wolves, elephants, lions, bees, ants, dolphins, and geese all showing rules, organization, and structure. Who among us would maintain that ants have a sense of morality?
Morality goes far beyond survival rules. Sociobiology tells us that whatever promotes an individual's genes is what the individual does. A male will eat its mate's cubs, and that is explained as a means by which the male insures his genes are the ones carried to maturity in surviving cubs. Much of what is moral in humans does not promote survival or the passing on of one's genes. Not lying can be fatal. Caring for orphans means someone else's genes are being enhanced in the population. Most of the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 would not do what sociobiology suggests.
Humans are too complex for the deterministic explanations atheists want to promote. I heard of a missionary who was working with a primitive tribe and who told the story of the betrayal by Judas and the death of Christ. The tribe applauded Judas because their culture valued cunning and deception and had no sense of the value of human life. All one has to do is to look at what various cultures of humans around the earth teach as acceptable morality and you can see how complex the issues are--polygamy, polyandry, cannibalism, slavery, human sacrifice, women's rights, racism, human experimentation, war, terrorism--the list is endless. Trying to explain how each of these practices become acceptable morality on the basis that they have rules and structure does not make sense. Each of them violates a segment of society and generates strife and fragmentation and lessens the chance of that society surviving. Evolutionary explanations of morality fail on a common sense level because they are overly simplistic and fail to realize that humans are far more complex than laboratory rats.
The better educated people are, the more they see the need for order and rules in society for survival. My son Tim has an IQ of less than 50. He lived for years in a group home that had four men and four women with comparable IQs living together, eating together, traveling together, and sharing a four-bedroom house. At Indiana University the dorm I used to live in is now co-ed, with men and women living on the same floor in separate rooms. These are successful university students with IQs above average. All of these adults are the same age. Which of these groups would you guess has had the greatest number of incidences of violence, promiscuous sex, substance abuse, theft, and forced entry? There have been several accounts of top scientists working on the nuclear weapons programs who engaged in a variety of immoral acts (see "Getting Physical," Seed, February/March 2006, page 36-37). As long as you are dealing with fallible human beings, these kinds of incidents are going to happen.
Again, the evidence does not fit the theory.
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, NovDec06.