Section 12: Summary
Believers claim that only religion offers humanity absolute moral values. Is this true?
1. Morality distinguishes between good and bad. Actions which sustain or promote human welfare are good; actions which harm human welfare are bad.
2. Religious morality does not fit this basic definition. Scriptures privilege some people over others - an immoral stance if all people are considered equal. And God (both the Judaeo-Christian Yahweh and the Muslim Allah) often breaks his own moral laws by harming his creation.
3. The basic moral code that applies in every situation is "be nice to people", but not to the extent that our own welfare suffers.
4. Morality applies in every human situation, but is most invoked when referring to sex. The principle is the same as in non-sexual situations: do no harm.
5. Apart from the Commandment "do not commit adultery", sexual morality in the Bible is complicated and confusing. Furthermore, both the Bible and Quran base morality, not on mutual respect between sexual partners, but on the idea that men can control women's sexuality.
6. Because sex is complex, true sexual morality responds to specific situations . It does not impose universal regulations, except in specific cases such as sex with children (never acceptable) and prevention of disease and unwanted pregnancy (mandatory in every sexual encounter).
7. Morality mandates comprehensive sex education to all children. Giving young people sex instruction ("do this; don't do that") or giving them limited information is immoral because it restricts their ability to protect themselves.
8. Legal abortion is regrettable, but it is more moral than the alternative.
9. The death penalty is immoral and ineffective.
10. Each of us has the right to die with dignity - and it is immoral to deny others that right.
11. Because our moral code promotes wellbeing and happiness, individuals should have
the freedom to take recreational drugs as long as they do not harm themselves or others.
12. We should do good to others for its own sake, not because a fictional god tells us to.
Are atheists immoral?
Religion makes a strong claim to morality - only God and faith,
apparently, keep us moral.
It's a nice idea, but it's false. Religious morality is frequently harmful; only humanist values
guarantee a truly ethical approach to life.
What's good for us?
6.2: God's morals
... leave much to be desired
6.3: Morals and ethics
From the abstract to the actual
6.4: Sex: what is it good for?
Whatever you want it to be
6.5: God and sex
Confusion and control
6.6: Sex: a broad spectrum
6.7: Sex: Tell the children
Educate and protect
An ethical approach
6.9: Humane justice
The death penalty is immoral
6.10: Suicide and euthanasia
Dying with dignity
6.11: Recreational drugs
A moral issue?
6.12: Do good...
... for goodness' sake
How do you live when you realize that religion is false?
Do you descend into despair? Lead a life of crime and
The opposite, actually. Atheists appear more likely to live
moral, happy lives than those who are stuck in superstition.