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Mandeblind's avatar

What would morality be if religion didn't exist?

Asked by Mandeblind (425points) April 24th, 2012 from iPhone

Do you think there would be total chaos, or somehow human would manage to live in harmony? What would their reasoning be?

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26 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

It would be exactly the same. Morality develops from the way people live together. And guess what? Religion also comes from the way people live together. A lot of people seem to think that religion created morality, but that’s not the case. Religion is the marketing arm for morality. It was invented elsewhere.

ragingloli's avatar

I would go further than that. I say morality would be more developed, as religion tends to retard moral progress by advocating and enforcing bronze age morality by threat of force and hell.

poisonedantidote's avatar

There are some people who believe in a god, and if they did not believe they would indeed go out killing and violating and doing what they please. I think if we removed religion from those people that they would cause trouble, but they would be a minority.

The world is total chaos anyway, so other than that it would not change much at all. There are people who would like to live in anarchy, but I think that is what we do now anyway. If you removed all law and all government, then the mobs would take over. Eventually the biggest mob would impose their rules on the world and become the new government. Cavemen did not have any laws, we started with anarchy and this is what it lead to, a world with rights that can be taken away when convenient by the big mob.

To me, religions are just mobs, the government is the biggest mob, but religions are there ready to grab power if government falls, if we do away with religion we would probably just end up shifting power to some other mob further down the scale.

I my self am an atheist, so my morals have nothing to do with religion at all. If we do away with religion people would attribute their morals to something else, but they would still have the same morals. The only thing that can change peoples morals would be if we changed their needs.

JLeslie's avatar

We learn our morailty from our parents, people around us and life experience. We see how treating others well, helps ourselves and helps society. As I said on your other Q, I was raised as an athest, my morality does not come from religion, it comes from understanding how I would want to be treated, having empathy for others, and being a part of society. This happens without God and religion.

tom_g's avatar

It’s all been said above, but you might want to ask yourself the question, “What is morality?” Period. Once you’ve contemplated this for a minute or two, you’re stuck with trying to figure out how religion would fit into this in any way. In other words, “What would morality be if peanut butter sandwiches didn’t exist.” would be a similar question.

Qingu's avatar

@Mandeblind, morality has little if anything to do with religion in most Western cultures.

Consider that the Bible says slavery should be legal (Leviticus 25:45, 1 Tim 6:1).

It says that nonvirgin brides must be stoned to death on the doorstep of their father’s house (Deuteronomy 22:13), and that unbetrothed rape victims must marry their rapists (Deuteronomy 22:28).

It says that if anyone tries to convert you to another religion, even your own family member, you must kill them “without mercy.” (Deuteronomy 13:6).

The Bible says that genocide is not only an acceptable method of warfare, but also a mandatory one for cities that convert to other religions (Deuteronomy 13:12) and for all tribles living in the holy land (Deuteronomy 20:16). The book of Joshua is, in fact, just a catalogue of repeated god-ordered genocides, victoriously described.

Notice how nobody in Western culture, even supposedly religious Christians, believe any of this is morally acceptable? That’s because morality doesn’t come from religion. Religion freezes a given culture’s morality at a given point in history. It also offers phony justifications (god said so) for a given culture’s morality.

JLeslie's avatar

Religion tends to ask for people to be moral so God will be happy and thank them in the afterlife. Atheists, and some religions, tend to think of morality related to life on earth, and how we interact with each other, and the results of those actions here, not in some pay off after we die. A pay off, life after death, that cannot be proven or guaranteed. Because of this, many times those who control their behavior because of religion are controlled by external forces, especially the threat of punishment, and so they may never learn doing something because they internally see why it is right and good, when they are likely to get away with a bad act, they might go for it, lacking the social consience to not act selfishly. Those who are moral because they internalize the reasons, see the logic, and truly believe something is good for good’s sake, they are more likely to do the right thing in all sitautions, because they always have to live with themselves and their sense of right and wrong. I think the ability to reason and having a conscience is way more effective than the wrath of God.

Mariah's avatar

Ah, the classic “if there’s no eternal reward/punishment, how will anyone be motivated to differentiate right from wrong?!”

Thing is, there are already plenty of atheists in the world, and we’re not all lying, cheating, murderings scumbags, are we?

Think about it, the atheist believes that our time here on Earth is all we have. And wouldn’t it be great if everyone could enjoy this time as much as possible? We are well aware that a society without regard for the welfare of others would be a miserable one, so we do what we can to avoid that. And that means playing nice.

Zaku's avatar

Well many misguided American Christians I have encountered seem to think morality comes from their God™ and than without it, people are at risk from their Devil™, but that is horse hockey.

Without misguided Christians, I think people would tend to be much better to each other.

Without Buddhism, I think people might tend to be more cruel to each other.

Without any religion, but with spirituality, and without child abuse, and without cultural abuse, I think fundamental human nature is to be loving and cooperative towards each other, more often than not.

Coloma's avatar

Eastern philosophies that were in existence for thousands of years pre-christianity parrot the same wisdom that has been served up across the board. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that doing unto to others in a manner which one would like done unto them is a sound philosophy and “morals” are simply part of that.
If you do not wish to be robbed, killed, harmed or otherwise mistreated, do not behave in these ways. We get farther with kindness, cooperation and respect than we do without.

downtide's avatar

Human beings are naturally social animals, and in order for a community of social beings to survive, they must co-operate, or die. Watch how a rebellious wolf is ostracised and driven from the pack – wolves have no religion but they have a sense of what is right and what is wrong for their community, even if it is only on an instinctive level. Humans have the same instincts (unless they have a sociopathic disorder). Atheists do not become crazed murderers when they give up religion – generally the only “moral” issues they let go of are silly ones like homosexuality is evil. I think without religion the rate of chaos and anarchy would be about the same.

marinelife's avatar

The same as it is now. It can and does exist independently of religion.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

In some cases, much better off.

LostInParadise's avatar

I just can’t imagine that there are many religious people who are substantially more moral because of their religious beliefs. If someone is nice primarily in order to gain entry into heaven then I think the person has serious problems.

ucme's avatar


ninjacolin's avatar

This is the best I can figure on the matter, @Mandeblind: Without religion, humans would be like robots or insects.

That is, Religion is no more than the diversity of beliefs possible about the universe and about how people ought to act in it. Some people believe in a God. Some people believe in aliens. Some people believe in hell. Some people believe in chaos. Some don’t eat meat, some won’t ever put a leash on their child, some will vote red.

Cockroaches just don’t seem to have the capacity for as great a diversity of beliefs about the universe as our species is capable of. That’s why they only seem to have one religion compared to ours, the religion of being gross! As long as you’re gross and disgusting, you classify in the cockroach church.

Us on the other hand, we have a million different religions because we just have so many things to think about, get confused by, and discuss. There’s so many options without a clear path that we end up often not choosing the same ones and each of us being fairly confident that we’re taking the best possible path.. and frankly, we wouldn’t want to do what some of those other people are doing.. after all, they don’t know what we know, right?

I think morals are the complex product of reason that takes into account all of what we believe is real in the Universe. I think the growth and popularization of sets of morals between groups of people eventually make them distinct from one another. So we start labeling them: christian, muslim, humanist.. etc..

That labeling is a byproduct of an already necessary system. So,.. I really don’t think morality and religion can be separated.

Charles's avatar

There might be more morality if religion didn’t exist.

What does “moral” mean anyway?

In most cases, whoever has the most guns is the most moral.

Qingu's avatar

Correction: whoever has the most gun enforces morals.

A law is an enforced moral.

Religions often contain both morals and laws. Religion is also tied into groups’ ability to possess guns (or swords)

Haleth's avatar

Morality comes from empathy. We try to do the right thing because we understand how our actions affect other people, and how that would feel.

Mandeblind's avatar

If we go back to before bible was made though, it was quite a chaos.

ragingloli's avatar

Other cultures had codified laws long before the first word of the bible was written down. There was no more chaos before the bible than afterwards, contrary to what the noah myth (which is plagiarised from the epic of gilgamesh) would like you to believe.

Qingu's avatar

@Mandeblind, it was chaos during and after the Bible is made. If the Bible is to be believed, the Hebrews committed multiple genocides on the inhabitants of what is now Israel because their god told them to.

I would rather have lived in Babylon or Persia than in ancient Israel. And by the way, most of the good morals in the Bible—don’t kill, don’t steal—predate the Bible. They were written in the Code of Hammurabi.

JLeslie's avatar

@Mandeblind I am not sure exactly what you mean by chaos? I would say societies overall, as an average, have become progressively less violent, but after the bible there was still chaos and violence. The Catholics in history at one point forced people to convert or leave the country. The Christians in Germany went along with killing millions of Jews and disabled people. The Christians who protested, or helped Jewish people wound up dead too. The Russians, mostly Christian, during the Pogroms killed and injured many Jews. In the US during the Salem which trials women were burned at the stake by Christians, because they believed in some sort of evil. Christians explained deadly illness with evil, if we had left everything up to that explanation we never would have learned about viruses and bacterias.

The clash of the religions, and religions that think killing in the name of God is ok kills a lot of people. Not too far from me Christians set a Muslim mosque and community center on fire. And, of course we have seen Muslim radicals do terrorist acts.

whitenoise's avatar

Morality is not something exclusive to religious people. It is not even exclusive to humans.

Take a look at this clip from with Professor Frans de Waal talking about observations of basic moral conduct with various animals.

In al honesty… Your suggestion is so suggestive that I find it bordering insulting.

Paradox25's avatar

I would think that this is rather simple to answer, to treat others as you would want to be treated. Morality isn’t dependent upon religion, rather it is dependent upon how each of us choose to behave as individuals.

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