Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Does morality need God?

There is a post by Scot McKnight entitled "Do you need God to be Moral?" which i found interesting given the nature of the post. He asks this question "How do traditional Christians explain places where there is very little religious belief but there is a clear presence of good, respectable morals and civility?"

I presume many have this idea where a place/ context/ society will become morally bankrupt if they don't have God in the picture. There is some truth to this. It is true that religion does play a big part in the belief systems of people. But i would say now that to be moral one does not need a belief in God.

To me, being moral, having a sense of right and wrong is inherent in all human beings regardless of what one believes. So regardless if one is religious, atheist, agnostic or whatever, being moral is an inherent nature in human beings. Somehow we have this sense of right and wrong.

So how would i give some sort of answer to the question posted by McKnight? Well, the possibility of a place having little religious but having a clear presence of good, respectable morals and civility is possible because we are humans that have a deep sense of right and wrong-morals. So to me it is a belief system in us that conjures up an image of society. Even the people who say that they live by no rules also ascribe to a system of beliefs that talks about how one should live and that too entails a right and wrong way to live, to put it bluntly.

What about religion. Is it bad then? Do we need it? Yes, we still do. Is being religious bad for humanity? Yes and no. I do believe that some religious beliefs suppress how we live. I would not state which though. Let me point to my tribe for example, the Kelabits. As one of the peoples group living in the jungles of Borneo, like any tribal people were animist, beliefs in spirits. Their way of life centered around this belief system. It was an oppressive belief system and gave damaging effects to the conditions of living for them. But when missionaries came they taught these people a new way of life. Teaching them proper hygiene for example. They also taught them about Christianity. In turn as life progressed, my people were living much better after they disassociated themselves from their old belief system.

What i wanted to convey was, it is the belief systems that determine the way of life we all are part of. Being religious ascribes us to a certain center, as well as the atheist system. But inherently we all function under a bigger system that is we all have an inherent moral center. Because of that we are able to live good, happy and peaceful lives.

But although I say this, I do believe that there is a bigger center that guides what we have inherently as human beings. And it is determined by following the center of human and universal existence.

Well, these are just some thoughts that I have. I don't think I have a strong argument here but it's just something worth posting i guess.


Mason said...

"morals and civility is possible because we are humans that have a deep sense of right and wrong"

I think that this poses an interesting dilemma. I have no problem affirm that there are numerous places with very little focus on God but a high level of morality when it comes to crime and social justice (certain parts of Europe come to mind).

However, one might ask why do humans have an inborn sense of right and wrong as you observed? I would argue that it is a part of our being created in the image of God, it is simply a part of who we are even if we fail to acknowledge why.
Unless that sense of morality is derived (knowingly or unknowingly) from God, I don’t see any real reason that we should get so hung up on it.

If the narrative of naturalism is true, survival of the fittest, matter is all that exists, etc, then to be honest there is no reason to see morality as anything but a social construct that I have no real reason to follow except fear of punishment.
The logical conclusion of life without God would seem to be some sort of nihilism, whereas a moral godless society seems to be a result of unacknowledged features of humans as created beings.

Tremonti said...


I think you nailed it there. The initial construction of my ideas would be towards the position you mentioned. The letter to the Romans comes to mind when i read your comment. I like what you said here:

"I would argue that it is a part of our being created in the image of God, it is simply a part of who we are even if we fail to acknowledge why."

Anyways, i did not think i did justice to the post but posted it when the thoughts came to my mind.

theholywild said...

i dont think we need god to be moral. in fact i would say based on the genesis account that its the exact opposite. we need morality bc we discarded god.

think about it. before they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they didnt have the knowledge of good and evil - they just had a daily relationship with god. but when they took from the tree they traded their relationship with god for the knowledge of right and wrong and were thereby enslaved.

i think morality is the mechanism of our oppression and an obstacle to a relationship with god.

Tremonti said...


Your comment just caught me by surprise. It had not occurred to me of thinking of this in the way that you commented above. It is an interesting take on this-morality and God thing.

Hopeful Theo

My photo
OIL TOWN, SWK, Malaysia
I'm a student of Theology (currently and will always be one). I'm a student of culture and a student of music as well. I guess you could say life is a never ending journey of learning. Because of that we never stop being students. Just a little something about this blog: Deconstructing The Monkey is all about being a safe space for emerging conversations