An eternal debate this one. Like the nature/culture debate, the atheism/morality debate is a never ending one. The entry is a result of a recent debate with one of the students who is also a vociferous supporter of atheism. Well, my professor used to say "No atheist is a real atheist." I cannot agree with him more on this as many atheists whom I have spoken to are either anti god or anti theism. Both do have a subtle difference: The former is against god and the latter is against religion. So much so, the band of agnostics also border themselves somewhere in the anti god anti theism circle.
Now the question: Do atheists lack morality. Now all moral/ethical grounds base themselves in religion. Good/evil, right/wrong and all such demarcations have their foundation in religion. And religion creates a set of rules rather instructions to ensure that a certain harmony pervades in the society. But where do atheists fit in this framework? Are they not part of the society. Well, they are. But I would further like to categorise atheists into mini sub groups: a) Strong Atheists b) Not so strong atheists c) Meek Atheists and d) Shallow Atheists. The last two kinds are relatively harmless as they keep their beliefs to themselves and allow themselves to run along the lines of society without causing much murmur. But the forst ones are the vociferous ones who talk the post modern language and try breaking down every form of conformism. But then the society still goes on. Why? It has seen people of these kind and chooses to accept them without causing any uproar.
Now coming to the question of morality. Do atheists follow morality or do they break down every code arguing that it is the bane of religion. Or do they follow a form of atheism when they are young enough to defend themselves and slowly become shallow atheists as they grow older. Well, morality is something that should not be considered as part of religion. I guess its rather a set of principles that are to be followed by individuals to maintain a rather sane living in the society. But then what makes the society?
The post remains unfinished . . . for I am not clear on this one. Reader, thy help is sought.
I would like to treat the two separately. I mean, presence of one does not automatically guarantee presence of the other. Why? Because I can be a complete atheist and still maintain high standards of morality. On the other hand, I can be a believer and be grossly immoral in my acts. I know people of both kinds, in fact!ReplyDelete
I think morality is a much larger framework of 'how to live (and what not to do)' than any particular religion. Consider this - as a human being I am expected not to cheat, steal or murder; irrespective of whether I am Hindu or Muslim or Christian or any other.
The problem lies in defining morality. Who decides if something is moral or not? E.g. I know a Jesuit priest who smokes. Now - is smoking immoral per se? Or is smoking immoral IF you are a priest?
I suppose in old days, moral lessons were learnt 'through' religion. So a school would teach a child that 2 plus 2 is 4. But who would teach the child that smoking is a sin? The priest, of course. And later if the child was caught sneaking a puff, the mother would admonish the child by saying 'if you behave like this, then God will punish you.'
So yes, morality and religion have got mixed up due to the way we are brought up.