The argument is very simple: If you’re not a Christian, then–GASP!–where on earth do you get your morality from?
Aside from being a downright insulting insinuation about my moral integrity, the question is also a clutch-the-pearls gasp of horror about the implied society that would result if everybody abandoned Christianity.
I’ve heard Christians use this exact same argument to prop up their own personal faith, to explain why they stay in something that is demonstrably toxic and untrue, and attack my validity as a person.
I can’t quite be human, can I, if I don’t have a moral framework. I’m something far less than human. I’m an animal. (Except even animals have displayed morality.)
I can’t be trusted to participate in society at all if I’m just some immoral beast. I might not even deserve the right to self-determination.
But the worst part is that the question is actually the culmination of a whole barrage of assumptions, each of which must be demonstrated in order for the question to even be worth examining:
First, we have to have a supernatural being to begin with. Since nobody’s ever credibly demonstrated that anything supernatural is real, much less a deity, that’s going to be quite the hurdle to overcome, but Christians just assume this is true. I do not.
Second, we have to have a supernatural being who cares what humans do. There’s no indication that anybody’s ever actually talked to a supernatural being, nor that we have any reliable records of anything a deity has said it wants or craves, or even just describing that being. Most Christians can’t even really put into words what they mean by a god at all, much less their god, so it’s hard to fathom they’d know how they even know what they insist is true.
Third, we have to have a supernatural being who has a moral framework itself. Since we haven’t actually shown there’s a supernatural being at all, nor that we know what it is even like or wants, it’s hard to imagine knowing what that being’s moral framework looks like.
Fourth, we have to have that being communicating its framework to humans. Again, there’s no record whatsoever that we can trust that communicates anything about any god to anybody, so we certainly do not have any reliable record of any such communications from that being telling humans anything, much less what it thinks about morality.
Fifth, we have to have a moral framework from that deity that is arguably better than anything humans have come up with, and sorry, but in the case of the Christian god’s supposed morality, theirs falls way short as an objective, forever-and-ever framework–unless Christians are going to tell me (and they do, sometimes) that there was some contextual get-out-of-uncomfortable-things-free card that makes it totes okay that the OT condones keeping slaves, treating women like livestock, stoning dissenters, killing rape victims or forcing them into marriage, taking pre-teen sex slaves from war captives, demanding the genital mutilation of half its followers, and murdering entire races and planets full of people for nothing more than being the wrong race or not kowtowing well enough. It’s arguably true that Christian morality has evolved over the centuries since the Old Testament got cobbled and patched together (and thank goodness for that!), but if the Judeo-Christian sense of morality evolved, then I don’t see why it’s a problem for the rest of humanity to have ones that evolved, either.
Sixth, we’d have to demonstrate why people can’t just come up with their own moral framework. Certainly people did; before Judaism, before Christianity, societies had moral frameworks based around not causing harm and trying to behave cooperatively. There are non-Christian countries around the world that manage to get along and be nice to each other, and certainly Christians themselves–despite having this wonderful moral framework given to them by an eternal, ageless, omni-everything Invisible Daddy Figure–aren’t even living up to their own morality. Nobody sensible claims that Christians are, as a group, paragons of virtue or that their morality produces better people or better societies (crime rates alone would disprove that idea, and if I wanted to have a Christians Behaving Badly sort of blog, I could spend every single day talking about just one individual Christian being a horrible person and never, ever run out of blog topics, let’s face it), and only the most toxic of Christians think that non-Christians are somehow less moral people simply by virtue of not having a god-handed-down moral code.
Last, Christians must demonstrate what it is that makes them accountable to this over-arching sense of morality bestowed by their god. I got told today that I’m not “accountable” to anything because I don’t subscribe to Christianity. No, really. I got told that by a Christian who also implied that I don’t care about fairness because of the same reason, and that my morals are “arbitrary.” Really? So what makes the Christian accountable? Fear of Hell? If you’re only doing things because you’re terrified of the penalty for not doing them, are you really a good person? I do them because they’re the right things to do. Amazing idea, isn’t it? I’m accountable to myself, and that’s way more effective than being accountable to an unproven, unprovable deity’s threats and demands. I don’t get to confess and move on with my life all blithe and happy. If I hurt someone, or lie, or refuse to help someone I can help, that hurts me. It makes me unhappy and uncomfortable. I want to make it right. I want to do what I can to make amends. I never felt that way as a Christian, and I certainly don’t see the majority of Christians acting that way nowadays.
The very best thing I could say about the Christian view that morality must come from a god is this: it’s superfluous and unnecessary, not to mention demonstrably untrue. Humans don’t need a god to tell them to be kind to each other or to try not to cause harm to each other.
We never did.
Having a faith in Christianity does not make someone a demonstrably better person. Not having a faith in Christianity doesn’t make someone demonstrably worse.
I’m going to be glad when Christians get over this idea that their religion is somehow the one religion out of thousands and thousands to have morality down pat, that they alone of all people have a morality handed down by a god, or that their imagined morality is somehow superior to the morality that people make for themselves.
If religion didn’t exist, we’d still have morals. And we’d probably be a lot more moral than we are now with religious twaddle making us treat other people like sub-humans because we think they don’t have basic human traits like a moral framework unless they kowtow to our particular flavor of deity. That’s evil. That’s not love at all. And if the toxic Christians acting this way think non-Christians have missed noticing that, they’re totally only fooling themselves.
All we have that we know for sure we’re going to get in this world is how we live and how we impact each other. I am absolutely not going to leave this good dark earth with the shame of having treated other people poorly.