Morality in the Absence of God
Submitted by Charles Knighton
In the Nation of January 12, Mark Boyce in an article called Time We Let Go Of Flogging pointed to Sweden as a place that has abolished flogging and is a better society, with less theft, drugs, rape, murder and so on. But he didn’t mention that the Swedes have almost completely driven God out of their lives.” Be Our Guest column “In favour of corporal punishment by Daley Reneldo Reece, January 22.
We can always be sure of three things whenever a writer favours corporal punishment:
The claim will be made that no causal effect exists between corporal punishment and subsequent aggressive behaviour exhibited by the victim of said punishment.
We will be reminded of Proverbs 23:13-14.
The writer will declare that despite the “hot licks” received as a youngster, he or she became a citizen of good character.
What these individuals seem unable to grasp is the known fact that similar stressors in life affect people differently. It has been estimated that approximately 23 percent of US military personnel who served in the Iraq and Afghan wars suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Even though experiencing similar stressors, about three-quarters don’t demonstrate PTSD symptoms and go on to lead productive lives. Knowing that, can we not assume that a percentage of those victims of corporal punishment will come to display deviant behaviour, while a large majority will not? If such an outcome is even possible, corporal punishment should cease.
As to the Eurobarometer poll cited in the same article, that just 18 percent of Swedes believe there is a god, I say bravo to their becoming doubly enlightened. I continue to read in the papers and hear on the radio good and anxious people asking how we would teach morality in the absence of God. This question has two implications. It first shows a lack of confidence among believers, as if they half know that faith is weak, and suspect that morality might also be so. Second, it insults unbelievers, as if we infidels might at any moment give ourselves over to slaughter and pillage.
The working assumption undergirding such a question is that we should have no moral compass if we were not somehow in thrall to an unalterable and unchallengeable celestial dictatorship. What repulsive nonsense. Such a question constitutes a radical attack on the very concept of human self-respect. It does so by suggesting that one could not do a right action or avoid a wrong one, except for the hope of a divine reward or the fear of divine retribution.
While the Swedes may seem avant-garde to many, they have actually reverted to the long-held belief of many philosophers: Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.