Christians believe that not believing in God is immoral. This is simply based on their religious views of God as lawgiver and the fact that the Bible commands people to love God, which is difficult to accomplish if you don’t believe in God. The question is, could someone make an argument that, from an objective standpoint, atheism is actually immoral?
In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I’d be using social well being as a yardstick for morality as this post explains. I will also be using the Kantian Moral Argument, that morality should be rational in my examination.
The trolley problem, seems to be a useful device for what I’m going to cover here. In the problem, most people will choose to take action and to cause the death of one to save the life of a group. Different variations of the problem yield different results. If the one person is a brilliant surgeon who could save many lives and the group were all violent criminals, one would likely not save the group. If the single person were your mother, or a surgeon who is the only person who could save you from a terminal illness, then you’d likely want to let the group die and would console yourself with the fact that it was inaction, and not something you did that caused the death of the group.
What if the one person you could redirect the trolley towards offered you millions of dollars, which he had access through his criminal network. What if in this case there were a bunch of good doctors. It would be rational for you to choose to take the money, as it would lead to a better life for you, but morally speaking, you should probably save the doctors.
Money is a strong motivator, and can lead to people doing strange and out of character things (just watch Jackass). I have briefly touched on the effects greed could have on the human population and on the environment, which could seriously affect human survival and or social well being. The thing is, without a certainty of some kind of responsibility (countries generally don’t have laws against greed), it pays to be greedy, greed is rational. If that greed would lead to the extinction of human kind, so what? You’ll likely be dead by then anyway, and if you aren’t, you’ll die along with the rest, but death is a certainty anyway, why not line your pockets so you can afford to have a good life while it lasts?
As the Kantian moral argument points out, it should be rational to be moral, but this isn’t always the case, it is probably seldom the case. Atheists are always going on about reason, and how people should be driven by reason. Moral behaviour is influenced by a part of the brain linked to emotion, and this is important to influencing people to do good, even when it isn’t necessarily rational. Kant pointed out that retribution or judgment in the afterlife would make morality rational, even if it doesn’t look rational in this life.
With the combination of no belief in an afterlife, and the drive for rational behaviour, it is likely that atheism could push people away from moral behaviour, but being likely, doesn’t make it the case, so we probably need more.
According to the theory of evolution, the human population would have to have experienced almost no growth for a million and a half years. With the rise of literacy and civilisation, human population started rising. By the time people were literate, they were also theistic, and the pre-theistic ideas that atheism would require to exist seemed to have disappeared. The non-theists seem to have disappeared before they learnt to write, and before society stabilised enough for reasonable population growth to occur. Whether or not this is connected to a lack of belief in the afterlife or not is something we’ll never know. What we do know though, is that no evidence exists of a society that would have never have been tainted by belief in deity. Had such a society existed, it failed horribly, and the human population thrived under theistic ideas.
If we bear this in mind, belief in deity seems to be a huge aid in human survival and social well being. Thus one must ask, would it be morally sound to adopt a worldview, that had it ever existed, was a failure as far as advancement and growth of the human race is concerned.
This obviously wouldn’t prove that atheism isn’t correct, simply that it could objectively be morally wrong. In my next post on this subject, I intend to focus on the issues discussed here, and atheists claims that religion is bad for society, and how that relates to the correctness of the viewpoints.