Is morality better with or without religion

I know due to the social leanings a good deal of this board most will pick the latter, but I’m hoping some will pick the former philosophy and explain their reasoning.

I pick the latter because I like reading about natural selection and evolution. Even though religion does do good for the world like charities, tithing to give to the poor, brotherly love, etc. I feel that when you understand the brutality and pointlessness of natural selection you are more inclined to feel compassion for your fellows. When you understand how vulnerable we all are, how it could easily be you with a disease or born in a dictatorship 500 years ago and feel that there is nobody in the sky looking out for us you realize its up to us as a species to try to improve things.

Another problem I have with religious belief and morality is I feel it creates a sense of complacency with suffering. If suffering is part of God’s plan then I don’t think people will fight as hard to eliminate it, in fact several religions incorporate suffering into Gods plan as a way of spiritual growth, karma or penance for misdeeds. But if people feel that suffering is a side effect of a brutal & unconscious process of natural selection I feel it gives people more motive to stop it. In the book ‘obedience to authority’ Stanley Milgram found most people will engage in and tolerate immoral behavior if an authority figure was the one recommending it. If God created the world we live in I think this mentality would also apply and people would feel more prone to go along with the world rather than try to change it.

So I would say better without. Even though religion does do good, alot of the good of religion can be accomplished without it as well. And I worry about religion creating a sense of complacency with the horrors of the world by attributing them to Gods plan.

If you can be a moral person without faith based beliefs, is it not a greater achievement?
No promise of Heaven, Paradise or a higher stage of reincarnation is involved .
Being a moral person for the sake of being a moral person is a very high achievement in my point of view. You are just trying to do the right thing with no expectation of reward. Striving towards such a goal is very admirable.
To be a moral person for fear of hell, or returning as a slug seems slightly tainted to me.


Yeah. being a good person because the cops are watching is not really something to be proud of. Nonetheless, it does have a role in this discussion because a world where people feel they are being watched 24/7 and act accordingly would be a more moral world than one where massive cruelty is committed by the same people.

I agree with your conclusions, to a certain extent, although not so much with your reasoning. I figure, a truly good act is one that’s totally selfless, that’s done with absolutely no expectation of any sort of reward - including the high regard of other people. One could argue that any act of charity that is not totally anonymous is tainted to some degree by self-interest. But if you believe in God, then such total anonymity is impossible. God always sees what you’re doing, if no one else does.

I am not sure if I am reading this right, are you saying the world is a more morale place because of religion? If so, I believe the balance of wars over doctrine and belief at least offset the good that religions have done.


I’m saying it could be if it came down to people being moral and helping the poor because they thought they were being watched and that that would be better than a world where the same people were acting cruel instead. However that is not really the reality of the situation and religion is no guarantee of moral behavior.

This objection is only valid if you’re talking about a religion that explicitly teaches, or at least promotes the feeling that, the horrors of the world are part of God’s plan and that people have no urgent obligation to ameliorate them.

On the other hand, thinking in terms of natural selection can be twisted into “social Darwinism” in which we have a “duty” to compete and try to be the fittest who survive.

This is interesting. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I think some (not me) would say that the brutality of nature is something that cannot be overcome and so why bother? I lean more towards the “you simply don’t do bad things because doing bad things is well…bad. For you and everyone else” school of thought. I belive nothing good can come of negative, hurtful actions, and so try to avoid them.

The problem I see with Christianity and morality is the whole forgiveness thing. Not that forgiveness is bad, per say, but many seem to see it as a get-out-of-jail-free card–do what you want to do now, ask forgiveness later. I am sure many don’t think like this, but I know many who do. I find it revolting.

Religions that emphasize some sort of karma are a bit better with this, imho.

Frankly, I think that religion has an overall negative impact on the world, doing far more harm than good, teaching morality included. I feel it is much more valuable for people to feel that they have control of their lives and the world around them (and everyone has some control if they want it.) If you can control it, you can make it better.

I’ve long thought that morality with no hope of reward or fear of punishment is somehow more “pure”. I have no problem with religion per se. Still there is something about doing the right thing simply because it is right, shows a certain strength of character.

But where does the sense of “right” come from? This is a tough question for me, as I firmly believe that morality should be divorced from religion, but I just as firmly believe that my sense of morals would not be what it is had I not been raised Catholic.

In my opipion, religion is not vital for a moral person. I do not believe any relgion, and I just do what I think it is right. The aim of the religion is to normalize man’s behavior

This is not usually difficult for me. The “golden rule” usually covers it. Generally, if you are hurting anyone by your actions, they are not so good. Of course the problem comes with how far you are willing to carry it. Do you only buy clothing made in a way that doesn’t involve child labor? What about animals? Are you (general you) vegetarian? Mostly I just try not to dirrectly hurt the people around me, and I will go out of my way to help someone as long as it isn’t a massive inconvience.

It might be a better world, but not a more moral world; doing the right thing because you are under threat has nothing to do with morality. After all, is a rapist more moral if he lets a victim go because she whips out a gun ?

That being said I see no evidence that religion makes people more moral at all; in my experience in is either a motivation for evil or an excuse to commit it. The few scientific studies that I’ve heard of that attempted to compare morality/ethics among religious catagories have always shown that religion makes things worse, not better. Here’s the one I can find at the moment. Some highlights :

Bolding mine.

I agree with the folks here that having a strong sense of morality without some promise of heavenly reward sounds better. In this nation how do we seperate our moral code as a society {if we even have one} from the effect of religion in America. Wouldn’t you say even atheists are at least influenced by it?

Everything affects everything else in a society, so yes.

In what way, I am agnostic. While I do not live up to my own moral code, I do not think I am unduly influenced by religion.
I can see an argument that the 10 commandments in particular influence morality but as most non-religious/non-Christian people only share some of the 10 commandments, I am not sure your point is valid. Do we even share a common moral code?
Do not kill others, *unless you are in the service or the police and it is in the line of duty. * Some believe being moral would be only “do not kill others”, I go with the rider I included.
Do not lie, * unless it is a little lie that will prevent hurt and harm or unless lying is for the greater good *
For me the little lie is okay but not the big lie.
**Do not Steal ** * unless your family will starve if you do not *
For me it is do not steal but I have never been put in the position to need to steal to survive and I hope I am never tested on it.
**If you choose to marry and be monogamous be monogamous ** * some few people seem to be able to handle non- monogamous relations, more power to them, but all involved should share the belief *
**Once you have kids support the kids throughout their childhood regardless of marital situation ** but it was an accident and I never agreed to have kids
Sorry in my belief having sex is the agreement but I am sure many would disagree.

What are some more moral codes to live by? These are a few of mine and the discrepancies I recognize.


I think one problem with the morality of religion is that there’s a tendency for religious people to have more moral rules that they live by; killing is wrong, causing harm is wrong, etc. Atheists (and people of some religions) are more likely to judge a situation by it’s own merits, rather than follow a definite law. While there are certainly atheists who are as convinced that one actions, such as killing, is always wrong, from what i’ve seen it’s to a lesser extent. I’d argue that non-adherence to specific laws is “better” morally.

True; following the rules just because they are the rules really isn’t moral at all. Taken to the extreme, you end up with people who will kill without guilt or hesitation because the rules say so.

We are affected by our surroundings as we grow up and form our ideas about right and wrong. You are an agnostic. What about your parents? What about theirs? What about other people in your life who influenced you? Perhaps a religious person or two? I think given how the history of religion is interwoven with the history of mankind in general it’s hard to not be influenced. Our individual histories might be more specific.

I do agree that our moral code as a country is pretty varied and there’s certainly not one that we all share. I was referring to some kind of median around which the bulk of the population might agree.

That is my view too. That is why I think natural selection is better, once you understand that nobody is looking out for us and we have to watch out for each other and understand how brutal the system is you find yourself to be more moral and considerate just out of empathy for the pain of others.