Ethics and morality without religion

There are two tactics believers take in regard to the ability to act ethically and morally. The most common is to say that one needs God and/or religion in order to do so. It’s a weak argument that is easily defeated again and again. For instance, Japan has reported rates of atheism near 64%. Another 20% on top of that claim no religious affiliation. Yet they act far and above what we see in many other parts of the world, including the hyper-religious US:

The earthquake and tsunami that walloped Japan left much of its coastline ravaged, but left one thing intact: the Japanese reputation for honesty.

In the five months since the disaster struck, people have turned in thousands of wallets found in the debris, containing $48 million in cash.

More than 5,700 safes that washed ashore along Japan’s tsunami-ravaged coast have also been hauled to police centers by volunteers and search and rescue crews. Inside those safes officials found $30 million in cash. One safe alone, contained the equivalent of $1 million.

The other tactic is to say, why, of course people can be good without believing in God or having a religion. After all, God has instilled within all of us a seed of morality. Believers then usually cite some noise Scripture as proof. It’s a vaguely clever argument in that it gets around the issue of being proven wrong so incredibly easily, but that is the real problem: it can’t be falsified. It is based upon the Bible and is therefore necessarily a faith based claim. Since the Bible provides no internal methods for deciding if what is says is true or not, not to mention the fact that there is no evidence for a key ingredient to the argument anyway (God), this is just a random claim that carries with it exactly zero weight. It’s not even an argument.

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