Can Morality Exist without God?


Rethinking the Paradigm
Can Morality Exist without God?
“No quality of human nature is more remarkable, both in itself and in its consequences, than that propensity we have to sympathize with others, and to receive by communication their inclinations and sentiments, however different from, or even contrary to our own.” –David Hume (Of pride and humility)

Are there no worthy alternatives to living a good life without the added idea of God?  One of the largest misconceptions that I usually hear about atheism and secular humanism is that it doesn’t motivate people to goodness.  All I can say is that when we look at the primarily secular countries and societies of our world like that of Sweden, Denmark, and Japan we tend to find a contradiction entirely opposite the popular religious opinion that faith based institutions do the most for humankind. 
Often times it is the secularly run charities, like the Red Cross, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,[i] and Unicef[ii] which do just as much, if not more, than religiously regulated ones.  n a recent study it showed that American Christians are particularly stingy when it comes to donating to charities and giving their time—apparently only a small minority of believers feels obligated or compelled to uphold their Christian duty to try to reach out and help.[iii] Granted there is a small minority of active gun-ho missionaries who feel called into the field, but the rest sort of ignore their God given duties hoping one of the more driven religious acolytes will pick up their slack. 
So the question remains, why are the religious so willing to cite this as a deficiency on behalf of the atheist or secular person when clearly the aforementioned secular groups are putting in equal time to charity if not more so than their sporadic Christian contemporaries? The argument that atheists are less moral than their Christian neighbors because they seemingly don’t make a show off their charitable acts, or boast of their greatness for making an altruistic gesture like the religious, and aren’t as loud in expressing their convictions seems a rather weak argument when considering the facts.
Presumably the demonization of charitable secular persons makes the religious organizations look that much more charitable, thus that much more sympathetic, but this pretentiousness can only be seen as self aggrandizing since it amounts to little more than posturing in which the religious institutions set themselves up to lord over their rivals as if to smugly say, “Look at us, look how good we are, our goodness comes from God,” only to quietly add, “Your goodness is just a bad imitation.” Diminishing the goodness of their secular neighbors and calling them morally deficient, if not a totally insincere and bankrupt way to impose religious codes of conduct (behavior not morality), is the popular tactic of those who most adamantly wish to tear down anything which attempts to compete with their sacred, holy, or (presumably) divinely sanctioned beliefs. 
Yet we might be quick to remind those full of self-righteousness that it isn’t about which group or whose institutions do more charity or aid work, but rather point out that it is human nature in general, and whether or not our beliefs impede or compel compassionate behavior. To think of it like this, suppose that a religious person can be good or bad depending on how he or she is compelled to act determined by what elements of faith they let influence and motivate them.  And these elements are always shifting and irregular. To the contrary of what believers profess (i.e. to have access to a higher form of morality—either by God directly or through their holy books), picking and choosing from the “moral grab bag,” as the secular writer Ruth Green once so aptly put it, while weeding out the bad from the good of what their religion teaches is a prime example of humanism working against such claims of supernaturally communicated morality instead of for it. Philosopher Daniel C. Dennett clarifies things by adding some philosophical wisdom:
Philosophers and theologians have often debated the question of whether acts are good because God loves them or God loves them because they are good, and although these inquiries may make some sense within a theological tradition, in any ecumenical setting where we aspire for “universal” consensus we have to choose the latter presumption.  Moreover, the evidence of history makes it clear that, as time has passed, people’s moral sense about what is permissible and what is heinous has shifted, and along with it their convictions about what God loves and hates.[iv]  
When we examine the entirety of faith based practices and compare it to secular humanism, we can see that the religious claim is attempting to over compensate for the lack of disparity between believers and nonbelievers when it comes to ethical standards and practices. In other words, it is exactly because there is no “universal” consensus to moral conduct, no absolute source of morality, which religion can be so flexible in what it accepts as permissible. But maybe that thing which one religion finds allowable according to its credos may not be tolerable for others? This is why it stings our moral sensitivities when one religion or another pronounces that theirs is the only true creed for achieving ultimate goodness (whatever that may be). 

Picking and Choosing: An Indicator of Humanist Morality
The desire to avoid pain and suffering may be our biggest motivator for striving toward a more ethical way of life, although it may not be the only explanation either.  Reminiscent of Albert Einstein, I too believe in the innate altruistic human desire to do good.  And to a greater extent, this innate human characteristic to do good for goodness’ sake lends itself to a natural humanist morality which does not stem from religion or unseen forces but comes directly from us. 
In the end, we may find that this altruistic ethical tendency within our human nature may end up being just as unexplainable as human consciousness, since as it turns out, we at least know human consciousness exists and still have yet to explain it adequately. Religion, on the other hand, does a fine job of not explaining anything at all. There is no evidence that God should be the reason for human consciousness or even our innate human tendency toward enacting kindness or having empathy. And even if there were such evidence we’d have the newly arisen challenge of proving how this divine influence works and in what capacity, because any real world effects would have real world consequences that would need better explaining. 
As such those who read the Bible bring their precedential goodness with them only to, time and time again, pick out the loving and kind verses–showing that indeed they are using their innate human morality to cipher out the bad and dogmatically capricious religious gobbledygook in an attempt to limit the negative aspects of religion while retaining only the good. 
Yet what about religious experiences? Aren’t they evidential proof that religious faith is real?  Well, anthropology, psychology, and modern neuroscience are investigating this area of religion extensively. We’ll have to wait and see what new insights they bring. Meanwhile, we might ask what’s to suggest that the feeling Billy gets at a new age Pentecostal Sermon is any different than the sort of feeling Susie gets at a moving Celine Dion concert?  Something is missing in the reasoning of those who confuse the spiritual experience for empirical evidence, projecting their desires for the experience to contain hidden or deeper meanings. If Susie were to come back from a rock concert and sincerely state the music had touched her, moved her soul, and that she had a deeper understanding of the world all around because of these new sensations, we’d all smile and let her mature from the experience.  It’s only natural, after all.  But when Billy comes back and says that God touched his spirit and spoke to him, and that God wants him to boycott the day after pill and detonate an abortion clinic in order to safeguard the sanctity of life (by apparently murdering doctors), we’ve suddenly skipped a rational process of discerning between one’s individual emotions of experience and seemingly having confused them with whatever collective emotional desires and influences are being amplified by those faith based convictions which are compelling Billy to act out his beliefs legalistically, literally, not to mention in often detrimental ways to society. 
Obviously being spiritual, believing in the supernatural, having a divine book, and being devout in one’s faith doesn’t necessarily improve one’s moral sense any. On this point Dan Dennett quips, “There is also the factual misconception to correct: plenty of “deeply spiritual” people—and everybody knows this—are cruel, arrogant, self centered, and utterly unconcerned about the moral problems of the world.”[v]
When called on this misconduct which is exhibited by the most zealous religious practitioners, moderate believers often backpedal and throw every good verse of scripture they can find at you in an attempt to defend the merit of their core beliefs. Often times they use this strategy to counterattack the harsh fall out of religious criticism and scrutiny, by citing that their critics are simply being biased by taking religion at face value, by somehow misunderstanding the deeper spiritual complexity of faith, by taking Holy Scripture out of context, and reading too much into the bad verses or actions of those they, in turn, deem either sinful or heretical. Well aren’t these the same verses which those extremist fanatics have also been reading? Why defend them or the fact that there are some undeniably God-awful bits of scripture in almost every religious text? 
Thus the message the religious want to espouse is that religion’s value in society depends not on how good or bad its ideologies are but on how good or bad the people who practice them are. This is only partially accurate however. If a religion’s ideologies should compel loving and kind people to act otherwise, as Steven Weinberg once pointed out, that if a core ideology of religious faith makes an otherwise  good person behave badly then we could reasonably agree that such a religion is chiefly defunct. Getting defensive about it, by stating the skeptics and critics have simply misunderstood the value of the text and shrug off the blame by making the unfounded accusation that it’s the sinner who is at fault (rather than the faulty text), doesn’t solve the religious dilemma; you can quote all the good verses you’d like–it still doesn’t make the bad ones right.
Anybody can cherry-pick from the best their religious works have to offer and put up a mental partition and block out the bad stuff if they want to.  Ignoring the negative aspects of your holy text, however, is not the best way to provide a reliable justification to the problems at hand, and is a flawed practice.  Instead of quote-mining for just the best verses we should be cutting out and illuminating the bad or harmful verses altogether, as a consequence creating a better moral text just as Thomas Jefferson created a more practical text when he went to town on cutting out the superstitious and mythical verses of the Bible. Mark Twain, one of America’s most eminent satirical writers and most infamous atheists, once ironically stated:
It is not well worth of note that of all the multitude of texts through which man has driven his annihilating pen he has never once made the mistake of obliterating a good and useful one?  It does certainly seem to suggest that if man continues in the direction of enlightenment, his religious practice may, in the end, attain some semblance of human decency.[vi]
A sardonic tone abounds, yet these are my thoughts exactly. The day we can stop making our religions and religious holy books an excuse to do bad, and start acting humane by relying on our instinctual, that it to say natural, moral goodness then we may one day get past the barbarism of our historic religiosity and begin to live more humanely. 
Obviously cherry-picking is a way to salvage the faith without having to throw out the baby with the bath water, but then why not just get rid of the harmful elements of faith completely, once and for all? Is it perhaps because it would change the landscape of religious belief altogether? Such a concept is directly in opposition to what most of the majority of conservative faiths espouse, indeed, for a person of faith calling a sacred cow by any other name won’t do. As the author Salman Rushdie once pointed out, for many, to change the sacred is equivalent to a crime. So in order to keep their sacred beliefs intact believers must work vigorously to weed out the bad and separate it from the good. The thing is, however, no amount of cherry-picking ever fixes the problem. As long as there are noxious, pernicious, and dangerously harmful ideologies woven into and contained in a person’s articles of faith—then that religion has the potential to become a vehicle, even a catalyst, for the worst kinds of atrocities known to humankind..
Exploring the euphemism “to cherry-pick” we find that the analogy itself is not so far from the truth. Many berry lovers have been known to take only the best, most ripe and delicious berries from the bush. Those who gorge themselves only on the good don’t see the harm growing on the other side of the bush where the shade has fallen and all the rotten berries have grown to infestation. If you were to take the Bible for all of its worth, not delegating higher merit to one verse over another, but treating it respectfully as one whole compendium reflecting the word of God—the rotten parts have certainly grown to infestation and rooted themselves in the meat of the text.  If you take it in all at once, as one who attempts to greedily devour their whole cherry tree—the sour, rotten, along with the ripe—one is sure to get an unfortunate stomachache and become ill. 
In choosing wisely and picking discreetly from the text, believers find the surest way to avoid poisoning themselves with all the putrefaction—in this case morally abject putrefaction which the majority of holy texts are infested with. Reasonably, cherry-picking is the only way to avoid not getting sick off of scripture full well knowing that God’s word in its entirety is bad for your health—both physically and spiritually.
Even as the religious rely more and more on their liberal interpretations of scripture to better allow their own morality to override the harmful teachings of their faith, it would appear that not all religious people have the same moral sense. Some sects, such as Jainism, try to refrain from bad altogether while others of other faiths prefer more bad than good. If we are to look to today’s religious believer’s behavior we see many discrepancies and weaknesses in their claim to have a moral source of greatness. 

Is Everything Permitted Without God?  Which God?
If an everlasting morality stemmed from God, religious people would be on a road to loving more aptly, but this, we do not find in religious circles or in the religious climate of the contemporary world we do live in. Which leads us to only one conclusion, even the vilest atheists are less despicable if only because they never lied about where their morality comes from.

Possibly the best-known and most attributed Fyodor Dostoevsky passage is widely believed to be from The Brothers Karamozov, and maintains that,  “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” This quote is popular among religious activists who campaign that morality implies an external source, presuming God is that source. David E. Cortesi perfectly articulates the appreciation of such an impression when he states:

This sound-bite sentence has propagated widely into popular religious debate… Like any good sound-bite, it neatly encapsulates the fears and hopes of a diverse audience: the believer’s fear of, and the nonbeliever’s hope for, a secular moral system.[vii]
 
Although this theme is certainly present in the early chapters of The Brothers Karamozov, the quote itself is apocryphal as the main character Ivan only ever states that if there is no God then there is no immorality thus imploring us to make the logical conclusion that minus one God (i.e. the assumed source of universal morality), “everything is lawful.” Again, the argument begins from the religious assumption that morality cannot exist without God and it negates any alternatives, so we are led to believe that without God then anything is permissible. Like Elizabeth Anderson, I fully disagree with this proposition that without God anything goes. Ironically, the opposite seems to be true:
This objection is as old as philosophy. Plato, the first systematic philosopher, raised it against divine command theories of morality in the fifth century BCE. He asked divine-command moralists: are actions right because God commands them, or does God command them because they are right?  If the latter is true, then actions are right independent of whether God commands them, and God is not needed to underwrite the authority of morality.  But if the former is true, then God could make any action right simply by willing it or by ordering others to do it.  This establishes that, if the authority of morality depends on God’s will, then, in principle, anything is permitted.[viii]
If god exists then everything and anything is permitted—for the believer. And this is exactly the case the majority of religions make when they invoke the name of God for the total of their human endeavors.  Our real evidence is plainly shown by the fruits they bear. We can judge that on average the religious proponents of faith, and the goofball characters running it, are not very friendly to anyone let alone one another. Their endeavors have often been to subjugate, control, oppress, divide, and conquer in the name of God and they have gone through about every excuse in the book to make it permissible. When called on their heinous actions they always fall back on the declaration that God allows it, or at the least forgives them for it, and so they are pardoned to act as they will. Ex-minister Dan Barker phrases it this way:
If morality means anything, it means that we are accountable to others.  Christians believe that we are accountable not to people, but to God.  Since God is nonexistent, then they are accountable to no one.  Even if god does exist, they are in practice not directly accountable to anyone in the real world, which amounts to the same thing.  Since bible believers are accountable to God and not to humanity, they can ask for forgiveness from God for any crimes they commit against humanity.  In other words, they can act with impunity.[ix]
A criminal atheist cannot play the faith based trump card and pass off or excuse his actions in the name of God and get away with any such criminal misconduct as that which many mainstream religions get away with daily. This is why many freethinkers offer that humanism is not only better than religious morality, natural humanism is in effect the only way we can be moral. Unlike the religious who frequently appeal to a “higher” authority, however, nonbelievers have no such lofty excuses to fall back upon since the secular humanists must hold his/herself accountable for their own actions, must obey human laws, and strive to work together towards a lasting human solidarity. This is not a goal shared between the various faiths of God when they hold everyone but themselves accountable for the consequences of their baleful behavior. 
Unremitting excuse making often gives the theist a way to avoid having to accept real world responsibility for their heinous actions or hurtful words. Or else, they may opt to idly sit by as others within their faith become extremist and violent—allowing them to use the excuse that it is their zealous friends who are fanatical fundamentalists, not them, and that they are merely sweet innocent moderates thus weasel out of the horrible aspects of their faith based beliefs by shifting the blame.  It’s easy for people to despise a terrorist suicide bomber who blows up innocent old ladies, children, mothers, and countless innocent others–but don’t you dare claim they had a religious motivation for their acts–that would be blasphemy. Even so, it’s easier to denounce such atrocious acts as an extremist act and not a mainstay faith-based one, but the truth is eerily the opposite. The irony is, it is the religious beliefs which give them the idea in the first place. Yet many practitioners of faith often times impose an equal disgrace upon themselves by their indifference to those violent radicals within their own faith.

If religious adherents become too extremist as that of, say, a Muslim terrorist suicide bomber or child murdering witchdoctors in Africa, the devout love nothing more than to deny these cretins status as genuine practitioners of faith. In other words they will revoke their zealot comrade’s status as a quote unquote “believer” in ad hoc fashion, but why? It may have to do with the embarrassment of admitting that genuine believers are acting so disgracefully, and so frequently, which would, consequently, disprove that faith is a saving vehicle of moral redemption. Perhaps this is why Evangelical Christians still haven’t taken a stand against the witch burnings in Africa, in parts of Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria and elsewhere.[x] Because of this refusal for believers, whether Christians or Muslim, to see a link between faith and faith based acts compelled by the tenets of religious faith itself, Sam Harris has said that, “Religious moderates are, in a large part, responsible for the religious conflict in our world, because their beliefs provide the context in which scriptural literalism and religious violence can never be adequately opposed.”[xi]

Moreover, to neglect to stand up against the religionists abusive behavior and reprimand them for  not living up to the ideal religious principles, which they know so well (since they habitually cherry-pick the moral codes right out of their holy books to defend their faith and fend off criticism), is a lamentable form of apathy. And this unconcern for human decency or to hold people to accountable for their actions simply because they are part of the same faith based club can be just as dangerous as the most extreme forms of violent religious expression. Indeed, this is why the sex scandal in the Catholic Church deserves our scorn. Not only because of the abuse of defenseless children, although this too, but also because they tried to cover it up, hide it, and save the reputation of the Church instead of taking the responsibility for the acts of a few of their acolytes and trying to address the problem with the proper jurisprudence. Turning a blind eye makes the Church authorities that much more guilty, since they were aware of the abuse yet did nothing! They acted un-Christian, and failed to live up to those lofty principles they so love to espouse, and therefore lose all credibility when they say these principles have any meaning. Why should we believe them? They don’t seem to practice what they preach, and won’t hold others within their congregation to do so either, and such patent hypocrisy does little to impress those skeptics who are already critical of religion in the first place.

Next off, the second most painfully obvious question for the rational person, not so easily swayed by theological arguments of the ontological kind, would be to astutely inquire as to which God or gods might we subtract to make this hypothesis that without God all is permissible work for the believer?  I highly doubt the Christian would agree that it meant the belief in almighty Zeus, do you? Perhaps lord Vishnu, the ancient god Dionysus, or Baal? No, okay, so we can scratch these deities off the list. Already we have a few less gods to consider. I’m sure we could cut right through the pantheon of Greek deities and move onto the pantheistic and pagan ones. No more Amon-Re, no more Adonis, no more Odin, no more Isis, and so on.
Yet what if you’re not a Christian? What if your God is Allah? Okay, let us cut out that nonsense about a Trinity and multiple co-eternal deities. Muslims know very well that a Son of God is impossible because Allah does not beget sons. To believe such nonsense would make a mockery of their faith. Religious believers are quite easily able to get rid of other people’s gods and goddesses whenever they have seen the absurdity of the other’s equally far-fetched religious claims. The only difference here is that where religious backers of one particular faith are perfectly comfortable deleting excess gods left and right, all but for that last one, atheists have no such qualms. The last one is just as erroneous as the first few hundred thousand or so. The atheist is simply willing to go one step further and subtract just one more ridiculous god, and as a rational thinking person they don’t necessarily need the juxtaposition to see the nonsense come shining through in all faith based declarations in God—although such perceptive comparisons help the case along splendidly. 

Are Believers more or less moral than Unbelievers? 
Often is asked whether believers are more moral than unbelievers? But practicing codes of ethics is a choice. So we must look at what influences and persuasion factor in actively compelling people to behave or act the way they do. Yet I will proffer that religion does not induce people to behave better. In fact, I think we often find the opposite to be the case. 
If God’s existence were genuine, and he turned out to be as morally just as every person of faith proclaims him to be, then this would be reflected in the actions of God’s so called “chosen” peoples of faith. But this doesn’t seem to be the case. Those religious adherents who practice intolerance towards homosexuals and infidels, however, rely equally on the bad and corrupted elements of their religious texts for the very reason that they believe ardently that God’s word to them is a guide on how they should act and behave in regards to the world around them. It is by choice that they choose to behave badly or not. It is by choice that they use their faith to excuse their bad behavior, or else, to defend God’s goodness by their own acts of kindness. On this, Elizabeth Anderson correctly observes:
The spiritual world everywhere reflects the hopes and fears, loves and hatreds, aspirations and depravities of those who believe in it.  This is just as we would expect if beliefs in the supernatural are, like Rorschach tests, projections of the mental states of believers, rather than based on independent evidence.[xii]
                                                                                                                                                       
Basically, what I am suggesting is that unlike the theist and countless people of faith, the secular person has found no good evidence to stake the claim that moral goodness stems from a benevolent God of any kind. 
Meanwhile, the popular theist statement which claims to know God is compassionate, just, and loving doesn’t at all reveal the least insight into God’s true nature if he were to exist. Where are they getting their information? The Bible? The Qur’an? Are these books even compatible with an ethical or moral world view? It begs the question, is the Holy Bible, another sacred book believed by millions of believers to be a source of goodness, any better than any of the rest with regards to morality? Think about this: the word “moral” appears nowhere in the Christian Bible. Neither does the terms “morality,” “ethics,” or “ethical” which should tip us off that the Bible is more considered with behavior by edict, regulation and ritual, adherence to custom and religious law, and not ethical standards of conduct. As Dan Barker insists, “To inquire if the bible is a good moral guide is to ask a question that originates outside of the bible.”[xiii]
The thing to keep in mind is, no matter how great one thinks religion is, or how perfect they declare it is, most religion falls into this category of imperfection and inadequacy. No religion has ever proven to be infallible, perfect, or in the long run, not even all that advantageous. And stating it is, contrary to the observable and empirical evidence, certainly doesn’t make it so.
Positing that God is in somehow a moral mainstay, and deriving our information from a text which doesn’t even touch upon the subject matter of morality,[xiv] we might as well assume that the sun burns brighter on Wednesdays than Thursdays, and take it on faith. But I dare say that wouldn’t be sufficient enough to offer as a conclusive argument, especially when there is evidence in opposition to my claims. Additionally, if I went as far to say the sun is not merely plasma and fiery gas but claim that it has a moral character as it is also compassionate too, proclaiming that the sun is not merely a moral entity but the wellspring of all morality too, might this compel you to say I was going too far with it? It is apparent that the religious have gone too far with what they can presume to know.
To claim God is compassionate, loving, and benevolent is to make unfounded claims about the nature of something impossible to define the nature of. Those who categorically profess that our dimwitted minds could never comprehend God’s greatness would be keen to agree with such a statement, except for the fact that here they are hypocritically professing to know God is compassionate, loving, and benevolent when they full well know they can never prove it. 
The bottom line is this: if God was at all a source of goodness and justice, of any legitimate morality whatsoever, then the three monotheistic faiths who believe in this supreme God would offer a better example of upright and ethical behavior, which they don’t, which causes us to be highly skeptical of anyone who claims that religion offers a better model of morality. All the same, for the religious to then to conclude that atheism, secularism, or skeptics of God are somehow supporters of immoral behavior or otherwise lacking in morality is a contemptuous and baseless accusation. Those who concede to the fact that non-believers can be moral but still think God is a driving force of goodness in the world rightly need to get a reality check. Those who think the Bible offers moral advice need to learn how to read a little more critically their vituperation filled Bibles.
This criticism might sound like fighting words, but to me it is merely being a rationalization and a challenge for Christians to consider the need for the basic requirements and prerequisites of objectivity and critical thinking, realize these are necessary in determining whether or not your faith is what you claim it is. In this case, God and religion both appear, by any estimation, NOT to be good sources for morality. It’s only sensible to think before we speak, after all, and this is what I am asking Christians to do. My philosophy is that anything worth believing in should be able to stand up to scrutiny. Maybe if more Christians would practice this, and investigate their faith more thoroughly, instead of making baseless claims and unfounded assumptions we’d have less wily Christians saying contradictory and unfounded things based off opinion instead of anything which resembles and inkling of the discernable truth. Come now friends, let’s be truthful, but more importantly, let us reason together.


[i] Please visit the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation website for more information concerning how we can all play our part: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Pages/home.aspx
[ii] Please visit UNICEF at: http://www.unicef.org/
[iii] Andrew Santella, “Are Christians Stingy?  When believers don’t believe in giving,” Slate online: http://www.slate.com/id/2207176/  Retrieved: 2008
Also see: Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money, by Christian Smith, Michael O Emerson, and Patricia Snell.
[iv] Dan Dennett, Breaking the Spell, p. 267
[v] Dan Dennett, Breaking the Spell, p. 305
[vi] Mark Twain, Bible Teaching and Religious Practice, from: Europe and Elsewhere and a Pen Warmed Up in Hell.
[vii] See: David E. Cortesi, “Dostoevsky Didn’t Say It: Exploring a widely-propagated misattribution,” available online: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/features/2000/cortesi1.html
[viii] Elizabeth Anderson, “If God is Dead, Is Everything Permitted?”  See: The Portable Atheist, p.335
[ix] Dan Barker, godless, p.202
[xi] Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p.45
[xii] Elizabeth Anderson, The Portable Atheist, p.344
[xiii] Dan Barker, godless, p.161
[xiv] What about the Ten Commandments?  What about all the verses of scripture which talk about good?  The thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to scripture (i.e. “God’s word”) that the commandments themselves are not dealing with ethics.  Rather they are dealing with the superiority of God.  When a person of faith states that something is “wrong,” it is because it has been decreed wrong by God, not because there is a good ethical reason coming from the text.  Take for example, the first commandment, “Thou shall not kill.”  It sounds nice enough, but the moral question remains, “Why shall I not kill?”  Instead of dealing with the moral issue at hand, the Bible sets down the law through edict instead of offering higher principles independent of authority.  Thus when we agree with the first commandment that it is correct in stating that murdering should not be allowed, we are projecting our own axiomatic moral standards onto an edict rather than the edict supplying us with good reasons for why killing is wrong.
               A major problem unique to religious holy texts is that they often counter act their claims on morality by issuing immoral decrees. A genuine source of morality would not then turn around and call for immoral behavior as well, but both the Qur’an and Bible do exactly that. On this issue Dan Barker made the observation, “But any version of a “holy book” that contains barbaric decrees cannot be entirely palatable to the modern world.  Perhaps it could be argued that some parts are still relevant, but the bible as a whole is undeniably flawed.” Humanism seeks to work toward a morality that is without flaws or contradictions, and this is why I feel that it is superior to any “holy book.”

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