Reason 1

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.


  1. Part of the complaint I hear from theists is that if morality does not come from God then it is fluid and anything goes, this seems to scare them a lot, they want it written in stone.

    It's easy to point that morality has changed many times, slavery being a perfect example. The bible has nothing against it, it even has instructions on how to treat your slave, which seems like approval to me. Yet today all modern societies have firmly rejected any form of slavery as morally repugnant. Seems odd that God didn't know slavery was bad, doesn't it?

  2. Thank for posting Kevin.
    I agree, and furthermore, what they "believe" is God's moral position, is actually what was written down by humans, a large number of whom don't even claim to have met or spoken to God or Jesus directly. Funny how Jesus never wrote anything down himself (must have been illiterate).
    Even these third and fourth hand accounts were subsequently revised and edited by the various Church authorities over the ages.
    So they can't seriously have any certainty that they know anything of their God's morality.

  3. Jesus probably was illiterate. He lived long time ago. I see nothing "funny" or otherwise unusual about that.

  4. Steve, I don't think you go back far enough in time. Humanity as now developed in body and brain is in excess of 100,000 years old so any concentration on the last 2000 years is to ignore everything that went on before. Unfortunately, we can not know in detail how we behaved towards each other prior to the invention of writing just over 5000 year ago by the Sumerians and ancient Egyptians. Nevertheless, the latter left the so-called Negative Confessions from about 4500 years ago when they started building pyramids and wrote down what people should and should not have done in their lives. Their morality was the same as ours today. See if you can get hold of a copy of 'chapter' 125 of the Papyrus of Ani, (3500 years old)which consists of a set of declarations of innocence, that is, spells that rendered the speaker innocent of the crimes spoken of. Murder, theft, adultery and lying are all condemned and giving to others, particularity children, and being responsible for the welfare, emotional as well as material, of others are advocated.

    You might also find Donald Brown's Human Universals interesting. This describes, among many other things, the morality found in all cultures.

    You may also be interested to read Moral Minds by Marc Hauser, which describes the evolutionary pressures to develop our universal sense of right and wrong.

    By the way, morality does not change much over time despite the claims of those who point to the abolition of slavery. Some people have always exploited others and still do. Only the methods have changed. Slavery, (sometimes accompanied by prescriptions as to how to treat them decently), the appalling working conditions and poor wages of 19th century factories against which both Dickens and Marx wrote and today's huge discrepancies of income between the directors and senior managers of large western corporations and the third world factory workers who make their goods are all different forms of the same thing.