Morality, science and religion go hand in hand. Most religions make us believe that there is a God, specific to that particular religion. Science teaches us how to be rational and there is a lot of morality involved in science, which is also called ‘ethics’ in the scientific language. The question about being moral and not believing in God, is arguable. However, there is no concrete, scientifically reproducible proof for the existence of ‘God’; hence with dead certainty, one can be moral and still not believe in God.
We encounter incidences in our lives which cannot be explained in terms of its cause or reason. This is the common reason for individuals who have an inclination towards strong belief in God. They however do not realize what ‘God’ is and they tend to often close their eyes and pray, in search of their blessings. This is because they ‘believe’ that there is something or somebody which is above us all, some believe it is a force, some believe it is an idol and some feel it is the soul itself. When we say belief in ‘God’ over here, we refer to the people who believe in an idolized form of God and also to the people who believe that God is apparently someone who watches over us all the time [And therefore, they think that their morals and actions must be always clean]. It would be really ridiculous to label an atheist as an ‘immoral’ person just because he has the freedom of choice to not believe in God and he chooses to take that path. A person who isn’t causing harm to anyone intentionally and whose motives are harmless to other individuals, ethically, socially, physically and mentally would be an ideal moral person.
“I do not believe in the immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.” (Einstein A)
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for a reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.” (Einstein A)
This person may or may not believe in God. He can have the above good qualities in him without sparing time in the day to worship the Almighty.
I believe everything about being moral is reflected by the actions of that individual. And the actions of that individual are driven by his thoughts. Thoughts are in turn driven by his cultural upbringing and surrounding. Therefore, the belief in God hardly has any relevance to one being moral or not. It is sad that it has been somewhat a ‘tradition’ to believe in God. Most parents and elderly person preach holy and divine thoughts which highly influence their children and their own beliefs, belief in God, because at many instances in his life, he cannot find solutions to problems and he conveniently blames God. In many instances in his life, he is lost and needs help and he conveniently prays and remembers God specifically at these times. Most of the society members are therefore inclined towards preaching God and also teaching the same to the next generation which may vary the morality of the coming generation, but generally keeps the belief in God constant [Hence, fewer Atheists exist]. The entire belief in religion and God and morality being under scrutiny due to it is simply a result of man’s intelligence. Rather, I’d say man’s stupidity to think that he’s intelligent enough to set norms in the society as per his beliefs.
“You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, intelligent enough.” (Huxley A)
Huxley said it too, that the belief of God is only restricted to the human species. A person could hence not believe in God and live like an animal, a social animal with his morals intact. This scenario has been seen in people of many religions, since more and more young individuals are encountering the highly debatable topic of the ‘existence and belief of God’ in recent times which is making them brood deeper into this phenomenon, with their morals at their place, of course.
The existence of the counter-argument to such a claim is very intense. Claims have been made that once the faith in the existence of God is shaken; man loses his moorings and is thrown at the mercy of all kinds of evil forces, within and without, thereby not being moral anymore. Be truthful and cheat nobody, love all and harm nobody. Be kind to all, for God dwells in all is what is propagated. These virtues and propaganda makes a person moral, only because he believes that God is the most superior power and he dwells in every soul, which is why he would not hurt anybody intentionally. It is said that it is only the faith in God and the consequent God realisation through meditation that can give us real, eternal happiness and free us from all kinds of fear and worries which torment us at every moment. This is strongly supported by great saints like Buddha, Swami Vivekananda, etc. who attained ‘Samadhi’ – the highest level of consciousness, through which his soul is said to leave the world in peace. Swami Vivekananda was a man of morale and highly spiritual.
Also God is said to be the all-pervading Power that governs this universe and keeps it in perfect order and God is the reason why His believers do not indulge in immoral, pain inflicting acts. If the great saints have made it certain in many Holy books of religion that good is omnipresent and in the name of God we shall act only in certain manner which is not causing harm to anyone, then this only makes a man more moral. If there is none above the humans, no Creator, no omnipresent power or force, then there would certainly be no more ‘hope’, no more ‘faith’ and no more teachings to man and control over him.
When we talk about hope and faith, these are extremely important virtues as the world is imperfect. Swami Sivananda in his research tells us that those who have no faith in God do not know what is right and what is wrong. They have lost the power of discrimination. They are untruthful, proud and egoistic. They are given to excessive greed, wrath and lust. They hoard up money by unlawful means. They become men of demoniacal nature. They commit various sorts of atrocious crimes. They have no ‘ideals’ for their lives. They are thrown into the lowest depths, deluded, birth after birth.
However, having said all that, the criticism that atheism has an adverse influence is unwarranted. Theists often claim that atheists have a lower moral character because they do not have an ideal. The problem with atheism, however, is that even if a person has a very high moral character, he can offer no plausible rationale for his moral actions. This is why theism always tends to win when it comes to morality, but I strongly believe that one does not have to necessarily be a believer of the phenomenon of ‘God’ to use that as a reason for his high moral character. If it is all about actions, which are derived from thoughts, it is not very difficult to not indulge in the demoniacal tendencies of lust, hatred and self-pride. If there is a compartment in the brain which works highly on logic and visual experiences and it says that there isn’t any God, then so be it, at least till the time the brain solves this mystery. The morals can still remain the same, as the thoughts in the other compartments of the brain, remain clean while the other compartment still struggles to solve the mystery, or simply denies the belief in God.
Another intriguing concept is the perspective of ‘morality’ itself. We are bound by rules laid by our society and culture with respect to what is good and bad; moral and immoral. Logically speaking, even though the self-conscious would prick while doing something considered as ‘wrong’, there is no concrete proof to label something as ‘moral’ or ‘immoral’; ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Morality as we define it is more like a set of rules which are made by none but humans, the imperfect social animal. They lay down these rules, they believe in God and they call themselves moral, so conveniently criticizing the ones who do not believe in God. In some religions, it is considered holy to kill animals as an offering to God and this is obviously supposed to be an act of morality for them. This is another perception, which may be different for different individuals. I would say that the people who are against such offerings by killing animals, a part of mother Nature, are the ones with true morals, regardless of them believing in God or not. This is why, believing in God just doesn’t make you moral, for the morality is defined by you, the belief is defined by you and you are not perfect, nobody is. From a different perspective a moral individual is the one which ensures harmony in nature, by causing no disturbances and harms to its components, including the people around. This person again, does not necessarily have to be a believer of God.
All may be lost, but hope should never be lost. Hope and faith in what? A person may keep faith in the cycle of nature itself, in the force of the nature, in the events and the unpredictable future and still be moral. One may be influences by profound spiritual and religious books and choose to be the so called ‘moral’ as described by great men and still choose not to believe in something or someone he has never seen or felt – God.