Being Good Without God Is Natural

I walked away from religion when I was 12. While it took me almost another 2 decades to become and accept that I am an atheist, I have basically lived without god for a long time. In fact, I've been an atheist for about 9 years and in that time, I have managed to refrain from killing anyone, stealing anything, cheating on my husband, and many other bad behaviors.

I do still drink copious amounts of coffee and swear a lot, but hey, nobody's perfect. :P

I've met christians who have said they would kill, rape, steal and basically go on a rampage without god watching their every move. I'm very glad those amoral people are afraid of burning in hell because they have no moral compass like most of us do. Those few people who think they need god to be good need to stay religious. They have a screw loose.

Apparently research is finding that being moral is part of our evolution. Recently I've been hearing of studies that show morality in other animals. And awhile ago I read about E. Coli and how it sometimes sacrifices itself for the good of the colony. Basically, working within the framework of your given society is beneficial in fundamental ways, and that's been with us and many other creatures for eons.

Still, religions think they have some kind of monopoly on morality. But if you actually read their "holy" books, you'll find rampant murder, religious wars, rape, killing of women and children, wholesale slaughter of people who believed differently, and on and on. Recently I read the first part of God Hates You, Hate Him Back by CJ Werleman which goes through every book of the bible. I was reminded how much god hates everyone, even his chosen people, and how much he kills people and has his people kill people, children and animals. It's heart-warming mind-numbing. That's the main gist of the old testament. (the other main theme is how the chosen people aren't worshiping god correctly, how they are worshiping other gods - wait, isn't there just one? even god admits there are others! - and generally being bad followers and need to be punished. It's very loving crazy-making to read it.)

The bible and other religious texts also say that morals are fixed and unchanging, but the easiest way to refute that is simply to look at slavery. The old and the new testament both promote slavery and tell people to be good slaves if that is their lot. Yet we learned some time ago that slavery is morally wrong and in all civilized places in the world it is rejected as unethical.

Also, look at how women are treated in the bible and the quran while in our modern, civilized society women are becoming fully equal in stature. We still need to keep working on it, but it would be so much easier if people would stop turning to a dusty old book from the Iron Age. In some parts of the world women are subjugated to status lower than dogs, but in every culture I can think of, religion plays a huge part of why that is still the case.

Another point to make is that people from all walks of life, with different religions or no religions at all, have the same basic set of morals. Of course there are differences for each culture, especially over time, but in most societies murder and stealing are wrong. If only one religion had the corner on morals, everyone else would be barbarians, would they not?

Of course, look at islam which condones rape, killing your own children even today, and many other reprehensible ethics. This is where religion is most definitely not on the high ground. As an atheist no prophet or god tells me I have to kill my daughter or son if they convert to another religion. No god or "holy" book tells me I have to hate my parents and my children if they don't follow jesus either. Face it, religions are barbaric and amoral.

If you read the 10 commandments, the only really good ones are "don't murder" and "don't steal". Most of the rest of them are self serving to the jewish/christian god. And those two moral concepts have been around since long before we were even human, and certainly in every culture.

I was listening to some old Point of Inquiry episodes and found a short three part series called Can You Be Good Without God? where Paul Kurtz explores:

  • POI Jan 6, 2006: the  real origin of morality. (go to 30:06 in the podcast which you can get on iTunes through the link)

  • POI Jan 13, 2006: defending godless morality. (starts at 37:05 in the podcast)

  • POI Jan 20, 2006: the specific ethical ideals secular humanists cherish.(starts at 42:09)

Some studies that might interest you:

  • Morality Research Sheds Light on the Origins of Religion: (Feb. 9, 2010) — The details surrounding the emergence and evolution of religion have not been clearly established and remain a source of much debate among scholars. Now, an article published by Cell Press in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences on February 8 brings a new understanding to this long-standing discussion by exploring the fascinating link between morality and religion.
    ...Citing several studies in moral psychology, the authors highlight the finding that despite differences in, or even an absence of, religious backgrounds, individuals show no difference in moral judgments for unfamiliar moral dilemmas. The research suggests that intuitive judgments of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments.

  • Why Powerful People - Many of Whom Take a Moral High Ground - Don't Practice What They Preach: (Dec. 30, 2009) — 2009 may well be remembered for its scandal-ridden headlines, from admissions of extramarital affairs by governors and senators, to corporate executives flying private jets while cutting employee benefits, and most recently, to a mysterious early morning car crash in Florida. The past year has been marked by a series of moral transgressions by powerful figures in political, business and celebrity circles. New research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University explores why powerful people - many of whom take a moral high ground - don't practice what they preach.

  • Why Saints Sin And Sinners Get Saintly: (June 28, 2009) — To many, New York Gov. Eliott Spitzer's fall from grace seemed to make no sense at all. But a new Northwestern University study offers provocative insights that possibly could relate to why the storm trooper of reform -- formerly known as the Sheriff of Wall Street -- seemingly went from saint to sinner overnight.

So while a lot of us were raised on the 10 commandments, we are faced with many grey area issues in our daily lives that we need to decide, what is right or wrong here? What are your 5 top morals and where do you feel you got them from? If not from religion, then from society or perhaps from your own innate sense of right and wrong? Have they changed as you've matured? I'd love to hear what you have to say about it all.


  1. Your posts are great. This is really interesting again. I love coming back to read your blog via your twitter updates.

  2. Thanks, Bobby. I'm glad you are enjoying them. :)

  3. The people who claim they'd turn into raving serial killers without their religion to keep them in line scare me. Morality under threat of eternal punishment from a sky-daddy isn't morality at all, but merely self-preservation. And who wants to be near these individuals if their faith is tested, or lost?

  4. Exactly, Buffy! They are scary!