To Provide a Moral Code
I assume that theists believe that without God and his/her now ancient rules for living, society would be reduced to the law of the jungle, with nihilism and hedonism being the only world order.
The historical record evidences that after all of these Gods were created there was plenty of immorality (including by the highest leadership of some of these religions); and before their discovery there were already very sophisticated secular societal moral and legal codes which were developed, studied and debated in great depth by leaders and great philosophers like Socrates and Plato.
I contend that history proves that current societal morality has little to do with a set (or many sets) of divine rules handed down to (and by) various tribes of humanity, even if society was at any time actually following them. As an illustration, the Catholic Church no longer deems it moral to torture and burn people for practicing witchcraft. Nor would Western society deem it acceptable if it still did.
Most progressive Jews and Christians today deliberately choose to reject most of the divine morality written down in the Old Testament, citing it as ancient, uneducated behaviour “civilised” society has moved on from. It’s interesting that God hasn’t chosen to update his moral manifesto to take that into account though.
It’s fair to assume that there are millions of Jews and Christians who can’t even stick to the ten most important rules (lucky the Catholics have a get out of gaol free card).
It appears that many of the Islamic flock remain much more accepting of brutal physical punishment and murder, should one stray from ancient divine rules; but even here there are examples of more moderate Islamic societies, who espouse quite different moral values.
Now I can already hear the theists justification that God isn’t responsible for his/her follower’s past (or current) behaviour, because all humans are sinners and therefore by definition aren’t following all the rules to the letter (or in some cases not even close).
That’s a convenient excuse for the past “sins” of society, but it doesn’t explain why society’s moral compass has clearly shifted over time whilst the divine rules (as written) remain exactly the same.
If God himself hasn’t changed his/her moral code to be more “progressive”, who has? I put to you that it’s the human beings within our society; great leaders , activists, philosophers and educators, and those who supported them. Some of these people may have been theists, but that doesn’t mean they were following the “word of god” when seeking changes to societal behaviour.
This progression of morality has occurred (at least in the developed world) with the number of citizens actually practicing a religion (as opposed to just being signed up by their parents) substantially falling.
Finally, even if one were to accept that the morality of today’s society is based on God’s word (which God is another question) from thousands of years ago, today’s moral code can be readily identified and is communicated in places such as the media, the education system, the legal system, general etiquette and manners, and hopefully in one’s “family values”. No need to go ask God again.
It is not necessary for anyone to believe in a God to learn, understand and follow the accepted moral code of the society in which they live, nor to seek progressive changes to it. To suggest otherwise is to suggest that every single human not exposed to the religious teachings of this or that God is a totally immoral nihilist and generally reprehensible human being (yes I know some of you theists believe this).
Is God necessary for a moral code? Only if you want to follow 2000+ year old morality (again, I know some of you want to, it’s just that you can’t according to today’s laws).
As an atheist I follow the generally accepted moral code of the society I was born into. On the whole I see no problem with it, just that a few don’t follow it.
It causes me no pain and does not effect my life one iota (except in the positive) that this moral code is not delivered or administered by a God.