Does the world think religion is necessary for morality?

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  • Tekakaromatagi Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    March 24, 2014 11:29 a.m.

    If morality evolved when people started living in groups then why is it so complicated compared to logic? Logic would have evolved earlier so that people in the stone age could survive. It is not as complicated as morality.

    I asked a Buddhist friend if it was good to care for the poor. He answered, "Tes." Then I asked, "What if I do it only to be seen of others?" He replied that it was not. In his morality motives are just as important as they are in Christian societies.

    Logic does not care about motives. If you get the right answer you survice another day. Morality cares about the motives, because it is a reflection of the true person that you are which is the person that you will take with you when you enter into the eternities. Like I said, a lot of ancient civilizations were built on slave labors from slaves taken in slave raids. The Hebrews who had morality tangled up in their worship did not have the longevity of oppressive societies like the Romans or Egyptians. If morality builds cohesion in a society, why did oppressive, immoral societies last so long?

  • Tekakaromatagi Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    March 24, 2014 11:21 a.m.

    @Tyler D: "Religion is necessary for morality in the same way Zeus is necessary to explain lightning."
    I can explain lightning based on charge, (assuming for a moment that we know what charge is -- and we don't but that is another issue). Ok, Explain that there is an absolute standard of behavior without referring to an omnipotent creator outside of space and time.

    Morality is not a social construct required for societies to function. A lot of the ancient civilizations were based on slave labor. They had no morality and they did pretty good. Then the Hebrews seemed to have done OK for a few hundred years and they had in their law the statement that stealing a man was an abomination and whoever did it should die. Why did the immoral societies last so long?

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    March 22, 2014 5:40 p.m.

    There is a fallacy going on here, I think.

    Religion does not necessarily equal God's influence. So, honestly, I would have to say that, yes, there can be morality without a formal religion, and that religion in and of itself does not necessarily lead to morality. (I further believe that non-believers and irreligious people have often used the masses' belief in a a particular religion to achieve otherwise immoral political and personal goals.)

    Can there be morality with God? No.

    Can immorality be justified in God's name? Yes. (See the above.)

    Can individuals choose their own brand of morality, and can that individual brand of morality coincide with what God would consider moral? Yes.

    Do individuals regularly do that? In a general sort of way (ie, "live the Golden Rule"), yes. In particular ways (defining sexual immorality, for example, or even murder), usually no.

  • Stormwalker Cleveland , OH
    March 22, 2014 5:25 p.m.

    "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" is a golden rule found in virtually every society around the globe.

    The god of the Bible destroyed entire cities, ordered his followers to murder every man, woman, child and cow in conquered cities and, according to the myths, drowned every single person living on earth except 8 people.

    He proclaimed punishments for those who eat the wrong food, work on the wrong day, wear the wrong clothes or have the wrong kind of sex. The worst punishments, however, were reserved for those who don't give full and saccharine adoration to the very god who wrote the rules.

    The god of the Bible comes across more like the psychopathic dictator of North Korea, and those who claim we are only "good" because of that God sound like North Korean party faithful.

    Me? I prefer the Dali Lama's take: "This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness."

    Treat others how you want to be treated, not how the biblical God treats them.

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    March 20, 2014 9:22 p.m.


    All the examples you mentioned are example of people not living by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but by the living of ideologies and by the acts of men in violation of Gospel principles.

    So again I ask: "What terrible ill was ever caused by those living the gospel of Jesus Christ?"

  • dtlenox Olympia, WA
    March 20, 2014 1:41 p.m.

    This is a typical case of taking a very complex concept and over simplifying it by making it into a loaded "yes or no" question. To elaborate: what is meant exactly by "morality"? Is there a difference between simply believing in God and then acting on those beliefs? What kinds of actions are associated with a given belief in God? How do these kinds of beliefs and how they translate into action vary from person to person? All these, among many other concepts, need to be taken into consideration. Also, it can be a matter of degree: it can be argued that some people (including myself), benefit from a belief in God that translates into a greater desire to be a virtuous person. In most cases it is likely not so clear cut but more a matter of degree rather than a "yes" and "no" answer. Also, why not survey those who believe in God and ask them if said belief helps them live more virtuous lives? I for one would answer with a resounding "yes".

  • Open Minded Mormon Everett, 00
    March 20, 2014 12:07 p.m.

    I'm curious...

    What "Religion" do Chimpanzeses attend?
    All Great Apes have exhibited "morals".


    It seems to be previlant through out the Animal Kingdom among species living in "Scoial Orders".
    so, it appears God made higher thinking species "socialist", by nature.

    BTW -- Apes have also been observing making clothing in the wild [no human contact] --
    aprons/skirts made from cover their nakedness.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 20, 2014 10:47 a.m.


    RE: Health - further, do we need God or a Bronze Age book to tell us what good health means (since you imply without God everything is meaningless) in order to be confident that we have a fairly good (objective) idea of what it means to be healthy?

    And how is this different than the definition of objective morality I stated earlier?

    The fact is, there is no body of knowledge that is self (or transcendentally) justifying in the way you dubiously claim to require. Even something as obvious as 1+1=2 requires conscious beings to agree on laws of logic and basic mathematical propositions for that to be counted as knowledge.

    If you say that we can objectively prove 1+1=2, I would assert that we are equally solid epistemic grounds when we assert that all conscious being suffering for as long as possible is objectively bad.

    And as I already said, there is no “good” and “bad” with respect to non-conscious beings (i.e., the Universe). This is a red herring and demonstrates nothing (though you seem pretty convinced it does).

    Reached comment limit…

  • illuminated St George, UT
    March 20, 2014 10:30 a.m.

    "If you or anyone truly believed that, we would say you were brain damaged."

    Who cares what you believe of me. If I don't believe in God, you're just a sack of water, bone and flesh with fingers that can move on a plastic computational device. If I don't believe in God, you and your opinion is no more important than a rock on the dark side of Pluto.

    "There is no planet where acting on such a belief would be good."

    So geocentrically naive. You've got it all figured out then, don't you. It's "bad" because you say so. Right. If I don't believe in God, I say, "suffering as long as possible is good", and your personal opinion is worth nothing. If I don't believe in God, then the universe doesn't care about any opinion or any definition of good or bad.

    By your definition, how much "bad" has non-religion done over the eons of the multiverse? Has it led to the deaths of 1 billion, 100 trillion, 1000 quadrillion?

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 20, 2014 10:09 a.m.

    @illuminated – “What if I say, "if all conscious being were suffering for as long as possible, this would be good"?

    If you or anyone truly believed that, we would say you were brain damaged. There is no planet where acting on such a belief would be good. If you think otherwise, or think it’s an opinion as worthy of consideration as any other, I would submit you simply do not understand what the words “good” and “bad” mean.

    And keep in mind, in no other area of our lives do we (claim to) require a transcendental justification for determining what is right and wrong (even in the scientific sense of correct and incorrect).

    Is it a worthy opinion if I say “good health means having gangrene in all my limbs and vomiting constantly?” And is it an arbitrary construct to see this view of health as bad?

    That is precisely what you’re implying with respect to objective morality (i.e., the well-being of conscious beings).

    And I agree – the Universe doesn’t care. Stars and asteroids don’t care about well-being; only conscious beings do, and that’s enough.

    March 20, 2014 9:57 a.m.

    Patriot says, so again where did all of these societal principles originate from??? One place - Jesus Christ.

    If you will do just a modicum of research, you will find that the principles taught by Jesus were hardly new. They had been advocated for centuries by such teachers as Buddha, Confucius, Plato, even the Egyptian Pharoah Akeahton.

    You do not build up your worldview by tearing down those of others.

  • illuminated St George, UT
    March 20, 2014 9:40 a.m.

    If you don't believe in God, the word, "Bad" means absolutely nothing. It is simply sound waves passing out of a collection of cells and atoms in our vocal cord, or it is a collection of pixels from light on a computer screen. Without God, there is no meaning to anything. The universe means nothing, just randomly organized matter and non-matter.

    "And by the way, in terms of duration of psychopathic behavior, the brutal thugs you mentioned don’t come close to the 500 years religious authorities in Europe were torturing & burning people at the stake for “theological crimes."

    And how many quadrillions of creatures were murdered throughout the universe in the billions of years before human beings or religion existed on Earth? How many microscopic and non-microscopic organisms are dying right now throughout the universe without the hand of religion? It is absolutely ludicrous to believe that non-religious creatures have done less "bad" than religious creatures.

  • illuminated St George, UT
    March 20, 2014 9:31 a.m.

    "if all conscious being were suffering for as long as possible, this would be bad. Any actions that move us away from this state is morally good, period."

    That's your opinion. What if I say, "if all conscious being were suffering for as long as possible, this would be good"? We both have just set up an arbitrary construct to support OUR version of morality. As far as the universe is concerned, neither one is right or wrong, they are arbitrary.

    Without God or a higher power defining right and wrong, the universe doesn't care what happens to anything.

  • NFritz Morgan Hill, CA
    March 20, 2014 9:26 a.m.

    RE: Hank Pym
    Yes .... from Jesus

    Here are scriptures that show Jesus (The Messiah) was the LORD of The OLD TESTAMENT:

    Isa 44:24; also 48:17
    "Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that
    maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens”

    Isa 54:5
    “The Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth”

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 20, 2014 9:02 a.m.

    @Jamescmeyer – “… morality is… an arbitrary human construct.”

    This is false…

    Here’s the only thing anyone needs to grant to establish objective morality without a transcendental justification (i.e., God) – if all conscious being were suffering for as long as possible, this would be bad. Any actions that move us away from this state is morally good, period.

    If you think “bad” in this context is simply a human construct, I don’t know what you’re talking about. If bad means anything surely this qualifies. If it does not, then the word has no meaning.

    @Coach Biff

    I think you’ve created some red herrings of your own - atheism was incidental to the psychopathic dictators you mentioned.

    If you want to see what atheism/agnosticism looks like (and the consequences of it) when it organically comes to be the prevailing view of a society, just look at the countries I cited earlier.

    And by the way, in terms of duration of psychopathic behavior, the brutal thugs you mentioned don’t come close to the 500 years religious authorities in Europe were torturing & burning people at the stake for “theological crimes.”

  • Coach Biff Lehi, UT
    March 20, 2014 8:11 a.m.

    The non-religious and anti religious will oft times point out the horrors committed in the name of religion, and where they have a point to a certain extent, it ignores the fact that the the worst holocausts in human history were committed by those whose tenets espoused atheism (or whatever ism you want to call it) I'm talking of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. The comparison isn't even close. The red herring of New Hampshire or Vermont being the lowest crime rates in the nation is a complete red herring. Do non-religious folks act morally? Of course. Do religious folks act immorally? For sure. The question is, where did the ability to act in a moral manner come from? Also, how is that learning passed down to the next generation? Religion fills that need better than any other method.

  • Testimony Philadelphia, PA
    March 20, 2014 7:35 a.m.

    TheTruth asks, "What terrible ill was ever caused by those living the gospel if Jesus Christ?"

    Quite a few, my friend. The problem always comes down to who's doing the "living."

    The Christian banner has brought us:

    Antisemitism, which persists unto this day. Discrimination, persecution, ostracism, exile from entire countries, pogroms and even industrialized slaughterhouses where millions died at the hands of an ostensibly Christian nation.

    The Crusades, which even though the Christians lost, incensed our Moslem brothers, establishing a persistent excuse for retaliation, in the minds of some.

    The Inquisition, in which hundreds of thousands were forcibly converted, tortured, exiled, or put to death.

    Witchcraft trials, in which Colonial townspeople tortured and killed, mostly women, for offenses such as practicing herbal medicine, or extramarital dalliance.

    Primitivism, rejection of science and modern medicine, parents allowing their own children to die of easily curable ills through blind belief that God directly cares for the faithful. (Meanwhile, God was screaming at them to call the doctor, but they refused listen.)




    I could go on. Faith can lead to incredible ill when practiced by absolutists or opportunists.

  • Jamescmeyer Midwest City, USA, OK
    March 20, 2014 7:29 a.m.

    It's not necessary to be religious to do good things, but without God in the picture, it is impossible to assert that those things are in fact "good". You might argue, for instance, that something such as personal liberty or privacy, or abstaining from harming others, are good things... But if there is no form of divine law or standard, you can't argue that those things are actually "good", as morality is at that point an arbitrary human construct.

    For example, if someone believes that some form of "God" has instructed mankind not to eat meat, then they don't eat meat-doing so would be evil. If a person doesn't believe in any specific divine presence or law and insists on being vegetarian, however, there is no basis upon which they can insist that their choice is in any way morally or ethically preferable to any other dietary choice. The right to own property, raise children, or even live are all subject to this. Outside the decree of a loving God, there simply isn't any absolute, "self-evident" concept of personal rights.

  • Ranch Here, UT
    March 20, 2014 6:29 a.m.

    The majority of people once said the Earth was flat too. They were also wrong.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    March 20, 2014 5:52 a.m.

    The question that was asked was if a belief in God is necessary to be moral. Answer: No, but as others have said before me, a belief in a god or a religion is often what leads moral people to do immoral things.

    @ the truth: "My prospective is people not living their religion has caused ills, not religion itself."

    When I think of some of the things to be found in holy books, I am exceedingly grateful that people don't live their religions. I wish they'd live even less of them than they do.

    @ patriot: I've never understood why the 10 Commandments are so revered. The first four reveal a self-centered and insecure being. The next five we already knew or we wouldn't have survived long enough to learn to write. And the last one creates thought crime. All together they don't paint a picture of a very impressive god. They do, however, reflect what you would expect to find in a rather immature human being.

  • Dennis Harwich, MA
    March 20, 2014 5:35 a.m.

    Religion has failed humanity since it's humanly inception.
    Not unlike many others religion failed me in many ways.
    I'm a nice guy. I treat humanity, the ecology, animals and the environment with care and respect. That comes from me, not from magical hats, clothing appearance. Not from books, guilt or devotion, just from me.
    The culture of religion is for some, not for me.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 19, 2014 9:55 p.m.

    Religion is necessary for morality in the same way Zeus is necessary to explain lightning. That said, it is a sad fact of our species that many still seem to require the promise of eternal reward or (more likely) the threat of eternal torture to follow their own moral intuitions.

    But there is hope – all we need to do is look at the happiest countries in the world (based on measurements including low crime) - countries like Sweden, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Japan, Norway, Australia, etc. - and contrast them with most religious countries in the world, to see clearly the relationship between belief in God (or more specifically, pre-modern books proclaiming to issue divine commands) and ethical behavior. Hint - the two are inversely correlated.

    @the truth – “Without a bedrock from which build your morals, your morals will no stronger than the shifting sands.”

    I agree, and the most solid bedrock we have is to avoid unnecessary suffering for as many conscious beings as possible. All our moral intuitions, ethics and codes of conduct simply work backwards from this basic axiom.

  • Tolstoy salt lake, UT
    March 19, 2014 9:23 p.m.

    sorry that should be, were created by men

  • Tolstoy salt lake, UT
    March 19, 2014 7:13 p.m.

    since mythologies and religions creation by men they have always been one of the vehicles used to transmit social values and have been used to maintain (sometimes to brutal ends) social order, but they are not the source of social values. The risk associated with modern religions is there inability to adapt to the changing world and our understanding of it. If religions continue to fail to respond to the changing needs of people to understand and respond to their world, then they will stop being relevant in peoples lives. The question is how much harm do those religions that fail to respond to the needs of modern society do before they fade away?

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    March 19, 2014 6:29 p.m.

    Without a bedrock from which build your morals, your morals will no stronger than the shifting sands.

    My prospective is people not living their religion has caused ills, not religion itself.

    What terrible ill was ever caused by those living the gospel if Jesus Christ?

  • A Quaker Brooklyn, NY
    March 19, 2014 5:42 p.m.

    @patriot: I think you're missing the fact that most of those codified teachings about morality codified notions of morality that already existed. We're a social creature, descended from other social creatures, with a strong tendency to form bands and tribes. The cohesiveness of any social group depends on agreed-upon behavior and relationships. The ability to live, forage, and hunt in a group, and support each other, gives great survival advantage when you're surrounded by predators, or when food is scarce. We see this in bands of primates, and even of simians.

    I realize many people don't believe in evolution, and will be insulted by, or at least scoff at the parallels, but the primatologists who have studied this make a pretty good case for it. Cooperation, respect, and caring about your neighbors is the difference between a bunch of competitive, squabbling individuals, and a strong, cohesive community.

    When we formulated religions, to some extent it was to rebuild those bonds that we lost when we moved into agricultural communities that were less immediately dependent on each other. One way or another, we're still tribal.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    March 19, 2014 5:37 p.m.

    Re Joe Blow

    Morality isn't that hard to define. Its the golden rule .. as practiced by a wise person.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    March 19, 2014 3:39 p.m.

    "U.S. respondents were much more likely to say that belief in God is necessary to be a good person"

    How did that notion get put in someones mind? Possibly by their religious leaders?
    Pretty sad actually.

    And a great followup question would then be, which version of God throughout the world is required to be a "good person".

    There are many acts that fall under the umbrella of "moral" but differ by religion.

    Is it morally wrong to

    Eat meat on Friday during lent?
    Drink coffee or wine?
    Play golf on Sunday?
    Not fast during Ramadan?

    Do moral rules change based on your religion?

    It is an uphill battle to defend the notion that morality does not exist without religion.
    One must first define what is moral, and who the rules apply to.

    Good luck with that.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    March 19, 2014 3:25 p.m.

    Religion can be a powerful force for good or ill. When kids to Sunday school and are taught to be kind to others and to be honest this helps a lot. When adults are taught to forgive likewise. When religions place needless burdensome restrictions on people, this is a needless hindrance to quality of life. Religions have done worse than this. Its a mixed bag.

  • Hank Pym SLC, UT
    March 19, 2014 2:58 p.m.

    re: patriot

    I'll see your observation & counter with...

    Whatever the role of religious moral imperatives... (its) a “Johnny-come-lately” role that emerged only as an addition to our natural instincts for cooperation and empathy. - The Bonobo and the Atheist by Frans De Waal

    p.s. The 10 Commandments originated w/ Jesus???

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    March 19, 2014 2:44 p.m.

    America and the rest of the world routinely prove that, since God is an entirely subjective concept, not only can we lead a moral life without it, we do, and that much of the worlds' problems and violence are enabled and encouraged by it. Morality originated because we are capable of learning and passing on knowledge either culturally or genetically, and we learned what was necessary for us to survive. We developed a sense of respect for one another, and a revulsion to killing one another. Protecting our young is innate in all species. It is unwise, and arrogant, to claim we have exclusivity to morality and therefore to enforce it externally.

  • Janet Ontario, OR
    March 19, 2014 2:30 p.m.

    The question is pretty meaningless. Of course there are people who have no religion who still have moral principles. We LDS explain that as having "the light of Christ." There have been striking examples of people who have committed everything from fraud to genocide in the name of religion. The Pharisees of Jesus' time were religion personified, but Jesus was unimpressed. What matters is that we can examine our own faith and conscience and, as President Hinckley used to counsel, "be a better people."

  • Schnee Salt Lake City, UT
    March 19, 2014 2:26 p.m.

    State with the highest rate of atheism? New Hampshire
    State with the lowest violent crime rates in the nation? New Hampshire.

    Religion is not necessary for morality. (By the way, I'm not going to use that one state to try and claim the inverse either, looking at all 50 states there's pretty much no correlation. I have no interest in trying to prove religion increases immorality anyway since I am a Christian myself; I'm merely arguing that claiming atheists are immoral is a bigoted claim).

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    March 19, 2014 1:54 p.m.

    Where did the notion and principles of morality orignate from? Darwin? The Romans? The Egytains? Maybe the cavemen or the dinosaurs? Where did the following priciples originate from ???

    *the 10 commandents ...thou shalt not steal or kill or covet or bear false witness etc..
    *Love thy neighbor as thy self
    *Be kind to those that hate you and use you
    *Turn the other cheeck
    *Protect the innocent including little chidren
    *Pull the moat out of your eye before citisizing what is in your neighbors eye
    *Be honest and truthful

    and the list goes on....

    so again where did all of these societal principles originate from??? One place - Jesus Christ. Yes other religions taught some principles but no where near to the degree that Jesus taught them.

    so do away with Jesus and do away with morality and say goodbye to society ....say hello to Sodom and Gomorrah...which by the way you can visit by simply going to New York City or Chicago or LA....

  • liberty or ...? Ogden, UT
    March 19, 2014 1:19 p.m.

    Unfortunately, the world has tried this before thinking they could invent their own morality. The french revolution was supposed to be new age of reason and a new morality, it became an immoral nightmare, Mussolini and the other socialists of the early 20th century rejected relgious moral authority as well or tried to hijack it like the Nazis or turn it into a tool of the state like the communists again the nightmare followed. We embraced the 60s new morality only to see our crime rate shoot through the roof are family units fall apart poverty sky rocket and a moral apathy that advocates freedom w/out responsibility with a new nightmare of PC thought control dictated by mobs. Thomas Paine made the same mistake thinking morality could exist w/out God only to realize that Franklin, Washington,and Adams were right all along. without a supreme authority and eventual accountability to a higher power mans morality is as constant as trying to hold water in your bare hands. Morality is only defined by the times and whims of men to be embraced or disregarded at will. Or as washington said no God no Morality