Twenty years ago now I had a public debate with a local god-man.
Here is one of my contributions:
I thought Reverend Atkinson had said his last word on the relationship between morality and religion some time ago. But he cannot seem to let go of the notion that religion is needed for morality. As I argued before, religion is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality — it’s a different discipline entirely.
In his June 12 column, he asks the rhetorical question: “What else (besides God) can explain our sense of moral order?”
Actually several answers are possible that do not require God at all:
1. Human nature: see David Hume
2. Reason: see Immanuel Kant
3. Human freedom: see John Paul Sartre
4. Practical knowledge: see Aristotle
5. Evolution: see E. Wilson
6. The principle of utility: see John Stuart Mill
Religious moralists usually tell us we must do what God or the gods say or we will be punished. Do good and go to heaven. Do bad and go to hell.
But basing one’s actions on the promise of reward or punishment is not to act on moral grounds at all!
It is simply to act on self-interest.
Robert D. Lane,