Atheism and Morality

Ravi Zacharias, speaking at the University of Illinois, asserted that for the non-believer, for me, life has “no purpose or meaning,” and that “life is for nothing.”

We did not exist prior to our birth, and non-existence awaits us again, it awaits us all, it awaits believers and nonbelievers alike, but it is the acceptance of this nihility that imbues the nonbeliever's life with meaning and inculcates within us a reason to live—it instills the desire to make our lives better.

It is believers for whom: “life is for nothing.” Religion cheapens mortal existence, it devalues it, making it base and secondary, a mere stepping stone toward the nirvana which it portends. It is belief in the after-life that instils the fanatics with the wish to die, to martyr themselves, to carry out pogroms and massacres.

The proposition that really disgusted me however, that really drove me to write this rebuttal, was the claim, an incredibly offensive assertion, that nonbelievers were unable to use moral reasoning. Could the accretion of the human population prior to the provision of the ten commandments really have reached such numbers without being in possession of some kind of moral compass, without there being some agreement of right and wrong?

The cultures that the Christian missionaries proselytized already had a morality, a set of laws that might have seemed strange or even wrong, but they did have a morality. Humanity precedes morality, it is a prerequisite.

Zacharias claimed that because there is no transcendental point of reference without god, there can be no absolute morality without him. But to assert that there is an objective morality within Christianity is absurd. I could write books on the sins committed by churches, by religious men, in the name of god.

The bible itself is filled with moral contradictions and ambiguity. After descending from his soiree with god, Moses finds his people dancing around a golden statue of a calf. Had he taken the time to read the commandments before smashing the tablets on the floor, to digest their significance, to ponder upon the unsubtle and unfaceted meaning of the imperative: “THOU SHALT NOT KILL,” Moses might have swayed from giving the order to:

Put your sword to your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbour. And the sons of Levi did according to the words of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell.

- Exodus 20:27-28.

The atrocities committed in the name of god, and by god himself, in the Old Testament have been well documented, but what is clear is that the morality found in the sacred book is decidedly wicked and blood-thirsty.

In the Quran the immorality is repeated, it is reiterated by the prophet Muhammad, a tyrannical, vicious, paedophile:

I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.” (8:12)

To establish the objectivity of morality, Zacharias puts forward the case of sexual intercourse with a baby. And I answer him with all my heart that it is wrong and immoral and that all the world should agree. The rape of babies is abhorrent and as objective as we are likely to get (unless you are the prophet Mohammed in which case having sex with a nine year old is acceptable (Sahih al-Bukhari 7:62:64)).

Transgressions of morality can be placed on a scale, baby-rape is unreservedly on the objective end of the spectrum, killing is close, it is generally bad but while there are no situations where I can justify the rape of an infant, there are cases where I feel killing can be moral.

But I ask Zacharias if it is okay to kill a baby? God has commanded that the blood of babies be spilled with swords, that they be gutted like animals, and drowned. Zacharias has no right to speak of Christianity as having an objective morality.

If we take it that the bible is not literal, that it is open to interpretation, then we are left with the admission that morality is subjective, and we are, each of us, free to decide our own interpretation of what is right and wrong, a problem currently infecting the muslim faith as ISIS rape and pillage their way across the middle east in the name of Allah.

Morality is relative to time, location, and culture. It is subject to change as conditions alter—a change that is not necessarily for the better but it is an alteration that should be discussed and refined. It should not be abstracted from a book beset with contradictions, that has been rewritten and cherry-picked since the gospels were first penned, a book that describes god as being tyrannical, irascible, petty, genocidal, narcissistic, decidedly immoral, and often completely incompetent.

World history is stained with blood at the hands of the religious. Zacharias has no grounds to speak of an objective morality when his god is guilty of genocide and infanticide. Is it any wonder why the religious, the believers in god, in the after-life, make the most zealous soldiers and harbingers of death?

I say to you, Ravi Zacharias and to all the pious. Who is more moral, a believer who does a good deed because they are commanded to do so, to seek the blessing of god, to avoid his wrath and punishment, or an unbeliever, and infidel, who does something virtuous with no hope of divine recompense?

I forsake all the holy books and all religion, and I am a more moral person because of it.

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