The Morality of Atheism Essay

This essay has a total of 1195 words and 6 pages.

The Morality of Atheism

That there is a difference between religion and morality is uncontroversial. How can
atheism be interpreted as a moral alternative? Although religion and morality reflect
different values, they are deeply tangled for most individuals. In many cases, a person's
moral principles are grounded in religious commitments. In other cases, people find the
source of morality outside of religion, such as the inherent value of all human beings. My
central claim is that atheism rather than a theologically based value system offers the
moral high ground.


Theism is defined as the belief in a God or Gods. The term theism is sometimes used to
designate the belief in a particular kind of god the personal God of monotheism but,
theism signifies the belief in any god or number of Gods. The prefix a means without, so
the term, a-theism literally means without theism, or without belief in a God or Gods.
Atheism, therefore, is the absence of theistic belief. One who does not believe in the
existence of a God or supernatural being is properly designated as an atheist.


Atheism is sometimes defined as the belief that there is no God of any kind, or the claim
that a God cannot exist. While these are categories of atheism, they do not exhaust the
meaning of atheism, and they are somewhat misleading with respect to the basic nature of
atheism. Atheism, in its basic form, is not a belief it is the absence of belief. An
atheist is not primarily a person who believes that a god does not exist; rather, he does
not believe in the existence of a God.


What propels people toward atheism is above all a sense of revulsion against the excesses
and failures of organized religion. Atheism is ultimately a worldview of fear a fear,
often merited, of what might happen if religious maniacs were to take over the world.

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none that does good. (Psalms 14.1)

This passage captures the essence of how the average religious person views atheism.
Atheism is probably the least popular and least understood philosophical position in
America today. It is often approached with fear and mistrust, as if one were about to
investigate a doctrine that advocates a wide assortment of evils from immorality,
pessimism and communism to outright nihilism.


The principal problem with a divinely-based moral system is most obvious with respect to
religious fundamentalism. Religious fundamentalists typically claim that there is one
universally true religion and only one path to salvation. Christian, Jews, Muslims and
others have taken this exclusivist position. The underlying difficulty is there is simply
no rational justification for preferring one religion to another. All religions are based
on faith, that is, a subjective feeling reflecting a personal preference. If faith is the
basis for one's religious beliefs, then no one religion has any greater claim to truth
than another. But from the standpoint of the fundamentalist, articles of faith are
magically transformed into universal truths.


When religious certainty is at the core of one's world view, it is difficult to consider
the possibility that one's judgments are fallible. As a result, religious fundamentalism
provides a breeding ground for arrogance, hatred, and intolerance. The Muslim
fundamentalists who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001 believed they were
involved in a Jihad, an inward spiritual struggle to attain perfect faith, and that their
God would reward them with eternal life. Christian fundamentalist such as, the Reverend
Jerry Falwell, faults the terror attacks on feminism, homosexual behavior and the American
Civil Liberties Union. Jewish settlers in Israel claim land in the Gaza Strip belongs to
the Jewish people based solely on their biblical interpretations. History has shown that
religious differences have been at the heart of numerous disputes for centuries, and that
countless thousands have been killed in the name of the Christian God, Muslim God, or
Jewish God.


Religious fundamentalism builds walls between people given the perception that God will
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