by D.M. Murdock

Freethought Examiner
April 6, 2010

from Examiner Website

A friendly Muslim fellow of the Ahmadiyya sect likes to post videos and blogs on my Facebook page that highlight the "kinder, gentler" side of Islam, which is something the Ahmadiyyas specialize in.


His recent post asked,

"Is Belief in God Morally Imperative?"

Without spending much time on the subject, my immediate response was, "No."

Although I do not consider myself a "hardcore atheist," in the sense that I have rejected all possible phenomena beyond the third dimension and five senses, in all my experience investigating religion over the past several decades, I have not seen any evidence that one must believe in an anthropomorphic god of a particular gender or ethnicity in order to be "moral."

On the contrary, there is much evidence that such fanaticism without serious scientific evidence is actually the cause of much immoral behavior, including the murders of hundreds of millions of human beings over the millennia in the name of God.


As concerns the supposedly "atheistic" movements such as Communism, Nazism or "Pol Potery," a case can be made that the leaders of these cults were influenced by religion - for good or bad - and were not devoid of religiosity in their thought processes; nor were they specifically acting on behalf of "No God."

Although I have encountered people calling themselves "atheists" who were every bit as unpleasant as many theists I've also "met," I cannot say I know a single person who is atheistically inclined but who has been immoral because of it. Most people are simply human beings making their way through life as best they can, seeking - and hopefully finding - answers to a variety of issues on planet Earth.

For example, on a glorious day when one is feeling great, it may be easy to conceive of a God of one sort of another, such as a wondrous "being" that pervades the universe. Or even as a Father, which is the sexist fad of the past few thousand years or so. Before that, Mother Goddesses were quite popular, and rightly so.


This religiously induced misogynistic imbalance is at the root of many problems in our "modern" world.


Is secularism more moral?

In addition to the unending warfare and assorted other atrocities in the name of religion, there exists anecdotal but significant evidence of the fallaciousness of the notion that a religious culture is more moral than a nonreligious one.


Here I refer specifically to the European nations of Denmark and Sweden, for example, which are known to be very secular - although not necessarily "atheistic" per se - but which have some of the highest rates of human rights in the world.


On the opposite side are the fanatically religious countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, which have some of the worst human rights records globally.

A long-term study of these Scandinavian countries published in 2008 by sociologist Dr. Phil Zuckerman demonstrated a couple of very important facts, as related in a New York Times article entitled "Scandinavian Nonbelievers - Which Is Not to Say Atheists":

Anyone who has paid attention knows that Denmark and Sweden are among the least religious nations in the world. Polls asking about belief in God, the importance of religion in people’s lives, belief in life after death or church attendance consistently bear this out.

It is also well known that in various rankings of nations by life expectancy, child welfare, literacy, schooling, economic equality, standard of living and competitiveness, Denmark and Sweden stand in the first tier.

Well documented though they may be, these two sets of facts run up against the assumption of many Americans that a society where religion is minimal would be, in Mr. Zuckerman’s words,

“rampant with immorality, full of evil and teeming with depravity.”

Which is why he insists at some length that what he and his wife and children experienced was quite the opposite:

“a society - a markedly irreligious society - that was, above all, moral, stable, humane and deeply good.”

The fact that these two nations rank among the highest globally in human rights and civil services, while their citizens are among the least religious in the world, cannot be emphasized enough.


Indeed, it highlights a fundamental fact, which is that religion can often lead to tyranny - especially the intolerant, monotheistic variety of faith - while secularism appears to increase tolerance and acceptance of all people as human beings worthy of respect and dignity.

Critics like to point out that Sweden also has a high suicide rate; however, rather than being a result of disbelief in organized religion, this statistic may be due to SAD or "Seasonal Affective Disorder."


Detractors also like to point out that Dr. Zuckerman is a "vocal atheist" and therefore biased; yet, his Scandinavian subjects themselves "balked at the label 'atheist,'" thus suggesting that it is not their lack of belief in God causing them to commit suicide.


As the NYT article states:

Mr. Zuckerman emphasizes that his interviewees were in no way despairing nihilists but “for the most part, a happy, satisfied lot” who “generally live productive, creative, contented lives.”

Indeed, while the Scandinavians didn't like the label "atheist," they also shrank from using the word "God":

"In Denmark,” a pastor told Mr. Zuckerman, “the word 'God' is one of the most embarrassing words you can say. You would rather go naked through the city than talk about God.”

One man recounted the shock he felt when a colleague, after a few drinks, confessed to believing in God.

“I hope you don’t feel I’m a bad person,” the colleague pleaded.

It is possible that such individuals feel the word "God" has been sullied by its association with the Abrahamic cultus and its brutal record. Yet, perhaps the Scandinavians possess subconscious appreciation for their pre-Christian religion with all its Valhalla glory.


Can we be too tolerant?

Unfortunately, in a world populated by so many who are either conditioned or naturally possessed with religiously fanatical inclinations, this type of enlightened society can become prey to the rabid megalomaniacs who exemplify the immorality of belief in an anthropomophic, giant male god person somewhere "out there" separate and apart from humanity.


Such a belief in the Creator as completely and utterly separate from the creation is a cause of or justification for major sociopathy, including murder, rape, pillage and wholesale robbery of resources. In past times, it was much easier simply to murder all the inhabitants of a desired land than it was to negotiate with and resettle them, as the latter required more time and money.


Thus, religion was born in which each tribe had a "superior" god under whom his "evil" enemies would be vanquished.


We are obviously still at the mercy of this, "My god is bigger and better than yours" barbarism, unhappily.


Which brings us back to the enlightened secular nations, which a study may show have suffered much less violence and warfare, with an increased acceptance and incorporation of the variety of cultural influences. In many instances, this multiculturalism has been highly rewarding - as is the case in the "melting pot" of America - but in some instances, especially in Europe these days, such renowned tolerance has led to the acceptance of decidedly immoral practices based on "freedom of religion."

What is worthy of protecting - such as the ethics of these secular nations - must be preserved, and what is clearly immoral - such as the rampant misogyny and hatred of nonbelievers in religious groups - must be rectified.


The world has much to learn from the European nations, including that secularism is a superior governing system, in terms of human rights and social services, but also that this very same tolerance and acceptance can be used against these cultures in order to usurp and dominate them.

In the U.S., adherence to the American Constitution as the law of the land mitigates many of these issues - so long as it is followed. And we must be ever vigilant to make sure that it is upheld, not allowing foreign "laws" - including and especially those which are anti-women and anti-human rights - to override the Constitution.


Included in this secular "sacred text" is the right of freedom from religion and from belief in a God made in man's image.


The priority of maintaining the wall between church and state could not be more pressing in this day and age when religious tyrants continue to attempt to roll back the clock and roll out a New Inquisition.