“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”
One of my favorite quotes. How true it is. Otherwise we would have a bunch of deranged babies running around with teeny tiny axes trying to kill us in our sleep. =P
Seriously though, could you imagine a world where there was one singular source of morality? No other place to learn right from wrong, your own experiences didn’t actually teach you anything about how to treat others or live your life.. You had to have a preacher of some kind tell you how to be a good person. What a scary, scary world!
I definitely do not discount the positive effects that religion can have on people. There are some very loving, compassionate, and humanitarian themes in the bible, for example. Most religious books echo those same themes. I also do not discount the negative effects that religion can have. Religion is not immune from the tendency to turn people into arrogant, self righteous blow hards who rationalize the beliefs they choose, and how they choose to live those beliefs, as just another reason to look down on anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Of course, this innate ability to put others down in an effort to feel better about themselves is not unique to religion. It is part of human nature, a survival instinct morphed by the evolution of the social constructs humans have created as society has progressed. In fact, I attribute being able to recognize that the failings of the human race as not unique to a single sub-sect of humanity to my Atheism. I’m sure it is possible to come to that conclusion without being Atheist, but for me, that realization hit home during my personal crisis of faith. I do not have a supernatural belief system to attribute all things good and right and holy to, making anything bad into a specific result of the lack of belief.
It strikes me as very silly that to I am the one with no morality because I have no religion, yet it is because of my personal lack of belief that I do not demonize other people for behaving as all humans behave. Holy paradox batman!