An old post, from Richard Dawkins forum. Thought might amuse…
As many of you know, I am a Christian. I post on many atheist and sceptic sites, and often discover Christian posters who arrive, post a few Bible verses and depart. On one such forum I became immensely bored by my co-religionists seeming to believe that morality was dependent upon theism. Not so, as a moments thought will suggest. Did Sartre not say that no really pressing moral problem would be solved by the existence of God? Anyway that forum also has a strict “No Preaching” rule, so I decided that flaunting it to make my point, and making a few serious points with bad humour, might entertain. So in my persona as the Rev. Jerome, I offer this little piece, and welcome comment. Don’t bother telling me I will burn in hell, I won’t care, or that I am a theist delusional moron – I’ll just laugh, and remember, I have no morals either.
Should Atheists Have No Morals?
Here is the Rev. Jerome’s Sunday Sermon delivered to the Reformed Church of Dawkens, Mole-Station on the Marsh. near Greater Whittering, Barchester…
“As you all know, gathered here in the sight of the Mods, I have for the last 75 weeks preached upon the classic Anglican axiom, ‘God is Nice.’ I thought this week as I was sitting on a bench watching young skinheads escorting some nice old lady down a dark subway, anxious to assist her with her heavy shopping no doubt, that I would continue on the same theme. However I found some delicious fruit, hops, which well prepared allow one to quaff deeply of the well of knowledge, so after several pints I decided to write a slightly different sermon today.
So today I will preach a bit. I don’t do this often, not least since it is technically illegal, immoral and fattening. Nonetheless I see no real harm in it: what follows is my opinion, a lengthy rant on how I see the world, and an exhortation to righteousness as I perceive it. I would like to begin by noting that if you pay attention to me you are a bloody fool – truly it has been written “Think for yourself schmuck.” Still that does not mean what I say is without value, or unworthy of due consideration. I just have no time for sheep, or i would not attempt the lonely life of a goat herd.
Here at St. Dawkens we don’t much care what you believe about the nature of ultimate reality, so it may come as a shock to some of you that I have spoken out, but there are only so many bloody coffee mornings and jumble sales a minister can stand announcing. We have joined together in the rousing hymn “Oh come all ye Faithless” – now you can listen while I drone on a while — because I have things to say.
We often hear members of the congregation bleat on about theists who say they have no morals because they don’t believe in God. Well, I think they have a point. I don’t think we should have any morals. I strongly suggest you give up on this old fashioned morality nonsense immediately. After all, do Christians have morals? I think we should take a leaf from their book.
In the Good Book (wikipedia: morality) we read that morals are
“…are basic guidelines for behavior intended to reduce suffering in living populations.”
In other words a moral is a rule. There are many commandments, and if you wish to abstain from polycotton blend underwear, shellfish or public frottaging on tube trains, so be it. I am not chap to lead my weaker brethren in to sin. And killing is right out, got it? However, the problem with rules is this: the Law is an Ass. if you set up a code of rules designed to cover any situation, then surely enough following them will lead to disaster. It is wrong to run in the school corridors – but the presence of a maniac with a shotgun immediately leads to a problem – do I break the rule? or get shot? It is wrong to steal — but if you are stealing a terrorists plans for a bomb, is that wrong? In civil societies laws are mitigated by other laws – speeding is wrong, but ambulances may do so to save life. Yet in our personal morality we are enjoined to obey moral absolutes: while none would wish an ambulance speeding them to hospital to travel at twenty miles an hour, we rigidly apply laws to ourselves which lead to moral quandaries of a far more sinister type. While we can apply common sense to our law codes in the State, we seem unable to see that the same inflexible understanding of morality can be deadly if applied to our own day to day existence.
So do I advocate moral anarchy? No at all! Then the centre can not hold. Let us look at what the Good Book has to say about Ethics. (Wikipedia:ethics) “Morals are a practice of different sorts of ethics.”
Think about this a moment. A moral is a practical expression of a principle, the principle being an ethic. I have no morals, in the sense of a consistent inflexible response to all situations. I have ethics however – ethics I regard as deeply important and fundamental to my sense of who I am. A long time ago a Jewish carpenter summarized his ethics as follows —
1. One should love Yahweh with one’s entire heart, soul, mind, and strength
2. One should love one’s neighbour as one would love oneself
Now if you don’t include 1, because you don’t believe in Yahweh, you might not regard 2 as absolutely authoritative – as it is not “given on high”. To this JC bloke 2 followed naturally from 1. However, 2, the Golden Rule negatively defined (not don’t do to others what you would not like done to you”, but a little stronger, is I believe acceptable to most of us. What follows is that we should treat ALL others with compassion, love, and forgiveness. If you are a guilty little turd obsessed with your own sin, ritual impurity, tiny manhood or income tax return, then it fails. I don’t want you if obsessed with guilt and misery and hating yourself to love me as you love yourself – it will prove a rather unpleasant experience. I want you to love yourself, be loud, joyful, confident, and embrace others the same way. This is what Christians call the Kingdom — a place where ******** authority, demeaning self flagellation and the divides of race gender and class are swept way in a full and loving reciprocity.
So my first point: morality stands in the way of all this, if by morality you mean an absolute inflexible code of behaviour. You should adopt good ethics, and apply them in the light of the situation, be all things to all men and women and stoats and breakfast cereal and (skip a bit Brother Maynard…) live by an ethic of love and benevolence and acceptance, not some petty collection of ancient tribal laws. Paul of Tarsus understood this beautifully – what may be loving in one situation may be the complete opposite in another. That is why the Law is an Ass. That is why so many feel utterly unnecessary guilt. I don’t much care if your laws forbid it, as they forbade David and his hungry companions to take the sacred bread from the altar, or purportedly (though I very much doubt it – I think 1st century Jews were pragmatists like most people in history) forebade the aforementioned carpenter from healing a chap with a paralysed arm on the Sabbath. Love as an ethic requires intelligence and personal choice: what free will have we if we are bound to a single prescriptive set of applications?
So I suggest firstly you join me in giving up on morality, lest you become a dogmatic wanker. Love each other, and do as you will, bound by that love.
Still lest I sound like a pacifist facing Hitler and giving him flowers, or like i have decided “all you need is love” and have spent too long on an ashram before i roll away in my Rolls Royce to another celebrity party funded by my rock star lifestyle, nope. I believe there is evil afoot, and that I am a sinner, and so are all of you. I believe those who espouse love uncritically as good sheep will be the first fleeced, and that those who follow shepherds invariably end up in Wednesdays mutton stew. Assuming I am not banned for this preaching, or relegated to the dismal wastes of Off Topic, for despite vague stabs at humour my message is deadly serious as many of you who know me will realize, I will explain further.
For now I simply remind you that taking ideas on board uncritically is an abdication of your Free Will, intelligence and moral responsibility, and encourage you to rip my thought to pieces. Doubt is a great virtue in matters of the head – and Faith in our relationships, as I will explain in my third sermon if I am still among you, MV (mods willing.)
Thank you. We will now sit, rise, do hand stands or whatever else we feel like, and sing hymn 666, “To Be a Sceptic”…