Yesterday someone shared an article about morality. It compared Christian ethics against secular ethics. It claimed that Christians should be willing to die for others as Christ died for them. And they know that life does not end in death. Their moral decisions are based on god’s law and Christ’s example, so there are never any moral dilemmas. Atheists, however, must always factor in reason. In the example it was suggested that according to secular ethics, an atheist should have no problem letting a woman drown if the person risking their life to save her is more valuable to the community. They have a choice between selflessness and reason. The author’s conclusion is that the atheist lacks “moral binding imperatives.”
I don’t mind being accused of using rational thought to weigh my options, but I hardly think atheists hold the monopoly on this. I know plenty of Christians who follow a similar process with morality. Not every issue is as obvious as the woman drowning. We still must answer to those around us. If I decide that I am more valuable than someone else, and I use that as an excuse for watching someone die- does anyone believe that those in my community would simply shrug their shoulders or congratulate me? Of course not. Culture and community have always played a large role in morality. For Christians, too. But this article was using this as evidence that Christians have superior morals to atheists. And that argument doesn’t hold up.
If you believe this way of thinking, or you believe that atheists cannot possess morality, do you also believe that people do their jobs well because of a paycheck? For many people a paycheck only inspires them to do the minimum requirement to keep their job. Maybe you have noticed that sometimes Christians are only looking to meet the minimum requirements for god. But those who take pride in their work for other reasons will go above and beyond because of the way it makes them feel about themselves. Or because of the relationships that come from working hard for others and earning respect. It isn’t about belief in god. It’s about who we are and who we want to be in this world.
When I was a Christian I believed god designed humans with the ability to love and to empathize. All humans. Losing faith in god has only increased my faith in people. A belief in god may have offered me accountability while pursuing my goals of morality, but I am still held accountable by everyone around me and by my own standards. If anything, I feel my morality is more intact because I am older and wiser.
Maybe you haven’t lived long enough to discover that for all of our similarities, we are also wired to think very differently. Maybe even if you do live for an eternity, you still won’t understand. It’s a hard concept to grasp. I didn’t really see it until I had a child with autism. And I need reminders every day. It opened up my eyes to just how far apart we all are in processing the world around us, and that I should never make assumptions about another person’s point of view. I still do, of course. It is something I continue to work on, because knowing how others view the world is valuable for human connection and happiness.
Belief in god isn’t a magic pill that grants morality. When you first believed, did you suddenly acquire perfect faith? Did you immediately become a person who would die for everyone in a heartbeat because Christ died for you? It’s a journey. And just like me, you are somewhere between point A and point B. Christians struggle with faith because they, too, are human. They may want to be better people for god, but don’t you know that being a good person is a desirable trait that anyone might seek for themselves? We all like people who are kind and giving. Why shouldn’t we want to be more like the people we admire? There is a reward for integrity and selflessness right here on earth. The reward is immediate and visible.
In my experience moral actions are more rewarding when no one has to tell me to do it. It has more meaning. How I conduct myself affects my relationships with others, which defines my life experience. This is my only life. I want experiences that soak up as much good as possible while I still have the ability to feel things. Most Christians seek morality in their lives for more than just an eternal reward, too. That’s part of what makes us all uniquely human. Christians who only place value on morality because they want immortality are selfish and empty. They are missing something that breaks my heart- and not just because I don’t believe in heaven.
How we define morality may change from person to person and place to place. It will change within those boundaries with time and experience. But it will never exist or cease to exist based on a belief or disbelief in god.