This has been in my drafts for a while, sorry it took so long, but this was the last piece in my good without God’s series.
While an argument can be made for atheism being morally dubious, I don’t think it really matters that much, so why bring it up? Simple really, many atheists attempt to use, as an argument against religion (I presume they aren’t silly enough to believe it has any bearing on whether there is a god), the idea that religion causes harmful and immoral behaviour – suicide bombers, wars, stuff like that. This seems to be the bulk of Harris’ argument in The End of Faith. It is true, suicide bombers are inspired by religious beliefs, and some (not as many as atheists would have you believe) wars are caused by religion.
Obviously if atheists are against religion on the grounds that it causes war, they should be against any country boundaries and resource ownership of any kind. Since people have fought wars over various resources like gold and oil, and they continue to do so, Iraq was not about religion, democracy or the imaginary weapons Sadam didn’t have, it was about oil, a valuable resource.
Land is probably the greatest cause of war, solution, the land doesn’t belong to anyone, and everyone can do as they please with it. Let’s see how well that works. Obviously ridding the world of land ownership isn’t going to make it all better, there’ll still be disputes over how land is used, and who gets to decide.
Likewise, ridding the world of religion won’t stop, or likely have much of an impact on war. People will still fight over resources, and they’ll still find reasons to motivate the masses with. While the religious right could be convinced to attack a bunch of impoverished cave dwelling Afghanistanis, with the “holy war against the evil of Islam” argument, any American can be motivated with patriotism and the threat of being labelled “unAmerican” as in Vietnam. Getting rid of religion wouldn’t have stopped any war for resources, and not having religion to motivate people wouldn’t mean that no motivation would be there.
We could keep arguing about this, or we could just acknowledge that every belief system can be misused and thus morally dubious consequences will happen, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. This is now significant, if Islamic suicide Bombers are right about the reality and character of God, then their actions aren’t immoral, since the moral law giver has told them to. Likewise, if Christians are right about the reality and character of God, then many of their prejudices and holy wars aren’t immoral, but moral imperatives. It’s not likely that every religion and non-theism are all correct, it’s possible none are. But, if any religion is true, then it becomes morally defendable.
This may seem obvious, but it is important when looking at atheism. If atheists are right, non-theistic worldviews were selected out by natural selection without the people with those worldviews even becoming literate. No progress to modern science happened because of atheists, sure they’ve added to it now, but they piggy backed on the progress made by theists. If natural selection favoured theism over non-theism once, there’s probably a reason, and to return to non-theism could result in a worse outcome than people being motivated to fight over land under the veil of religion. Thus, atheism is only defendable as morally superior to theism if it isn’t true, for if it is true, non-theistic societies were a dismal failure in comparison to the better evolved theists.
Here’s the point of this post in a nutshell, religions can be immoral only if they aren’t correct. Atheism is an immoral worldview which possibly leads to extinction if it is true, and is thus only morally defendable if it is false. This doesn’t alter the fact that atheism being true could actually be the reality, any more than arguments on moral ground could actually impact the existence of deities or the supernatural. Something seeming immoral, like religion, doesn’t make it false.