I’ve seen several different sides of a coin that most people believe has only two sides. Religion is a many rooted and many branched tree that continues to grow and thrive in the world culture. But no matter the dominant force there is never only one religion, nor are any of them so correct that you should ignore any of the others. (Unless you are of the mind to ignore them all, but that’s a different blog post.) My once mentor owns and runs a very prominent blog, [The God Article], and is a progressive voice for Christianity. He recently posted a few articles about “Things you can’t do while following Jesus.” They are concise, and true to what I believe Jesus would be getting at if you follow Him. However, the articles also bring up the question of whether morality is possible without religion.
Morality isn’t defined by religion. Religion, like any social function, only perpetuates what is useful for itself and its members with the power to dictate. When we consider that people like Aristotle and Cicero were debating morality before Christ was born, we can safely be sure that morality is not a Christian invention.
For those that would argue that without religion morality would become ambiguous and gray, I think you are wrong. With the possible result of committing an existential fallacy (in which the specific is generalized incorrectly), I would use the example that atheist aren’t the ones committing the majority of crimes; however the statistics suggest I am correct. PEW conducted research where a little over 10% of prison inmates have no religious preference (though that doesn’t necessarily mean they identify as atheists).
So less than 10% of inmates have no religion. We can then see that more than 90% of people imprisoned consider themselves followers of religion, most of that population, Abrahamic religions. If your argument now turns to any version of them being “lost” or “not following correctly”, then I would argue that religion isn’t teaching them correctly. Seeing as circular arguments will get us nowhere, so let’s move from that.
I will concede that morality is subjective to a degree. The “What is good?” debate. However the seven major religions all hold one universal thing in their main tenants: the Golden Rule, or “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This one thing doesn’t come from any one divine thing, if it is we have an argument of an ‘e pluribus Unum’ god (again, fitting for another post/dissertation). Instead, I would argue that it comes out of the human notion that if a person wouldn’t want certain things to happen to themselves nor their loved ones, then they wouldn’t commit those acts on others.
This might make you ask “then why do people commit acts of violence now?” Well, my only sentiment lies in the fact that, in America, Christianity is the dominant force of persuasion, and a broken system can’t fix what a broken system caused. People, like my once mentor, are pushing to change Christianity to make it look something like it probably was meant to. To go farther people need to turn to a humanist perspective of morals, not a divine one. To paraphrase a friend of mine…To do good for the sake of your own soul or divine favor is selfish; to do good for the sake of your fellow, that is right.