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Religion and morality do not depend on one another, and our society has ethical values that do not depend on religion.

For example, nobody needs a deity to tell us stealing and murder are wrong. Most human and animal social groups consider it wrong to take things that belong to other members or harm other members of the same social group, and many societies from various religious backgrounds have included laws against stealing and murder in their code of laws long before the advent of the modern major religions.

Furthermore, religion has had plentiful opportunities to demonstrate higher, more ethical values during historical periods in which religions had absolute authority.

Rather than prove itself an important source of enlightened ethical values in an unenlightened and unethical world, religions have instead largely proven themselves to be full of prejudice and despicable values.

Christianity, for example, had nearly a millennium of almost absolute power in which it could have demonstrated that Christian values are more ethical and better for humanity than other religions or no religion, but that period of time in Europe is known as the Dark Ages and gave rise to unparalleled levels of ignorance, a decrease in education and scientific knowledge, religious inquisitions, holy wars, violence and poverty.

One could argue these negative effects were the result of institutionalized religion rather than religious values; however, if the values espoused by these religions are not even sufficient to improve the institutions that claim to follow them, how can they improve society as a whole?

Furthermore, the unethical influences of religion on society are not only due to the inability of religious people or their leaders to follow their own values, but also are the result of unethical, detrimental values that religions promote as good. Among these values are divisiveness, sectarianism, sexism, racism and homophobia.

Our innate values allow us to have a society that can live in harmony despite all the differences we have. The Pirahã, an indigenous tribe from Brazil, does not believe in any deities and is able to maintain a harmonious society.

We can live good, harmonious lives without gods and religions, but not without moral values. If our values depended only on religion or the Bible, for instance, how can we draw the line and pick and choose which religious values should guide our lives? Can we really trust in a book filled with contradictions and divinely inspired genocides and atrocities written millennia ago? The answer is short and simple: No we can’t!

Christians will say God exists; that he is a loving God who created us to worship him; that his word, the Bible, is true; and that his teachings are the only true teachings. Christians also will attempt to say that the values we have in our society are the result of the values taught in the Bible, such as the Ten Commandments. They argue that we must follow the perfect values given to us by the creator or our societies will collapse and violence will reign supreme.

None of these arguments is supported by evidence. No one has ever provided proof of the existence of any of the many thousands of deities people have imagined since the dawn of time.

Science has proven the universe does not require supernatural explanations for its existence. Scientific evidence of natural phenomena has consistently replaced the claims of supernatural religious phenomena. If these religions are wrong about the nature of reality, how could their imaginary deities correctly determine proper ethical values within that framework? If God is such an amazing being that teaches the highest of ethics, should society follow the Bible and once again allow slavery?

Perhaps we should abhor homosexuals and kill them as the Bible says in Leviticus 20:13, “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”

Perhaps women should submit to their husbands as the Bible says in Ephesians 5:24, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should be submissive to their husbands in everything.”

Maybe we can all have slaves, as long as they are from neighboring nations as the Bible says in Leviticus 25:44, “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.”

Perhaps we should follow the examples of patriarchs of Judaism and Christianity and practice polygamy again.

The values religion teaches people often are despicable and should not be considered a guide. Societies do not depend on religion to be moral; on the contrary, we are better off progressing beyond the unethical values espoused by the Bible or any other holy book that encapsulates the outdated and harsh cultural norms of millennia-old societies.

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Raysa Everett is a member of the La Crosse Area Freethought Society.

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(27) comments

Molon Labe

Wow, she's a peach! What poor soul is going to marry this goofball.

Mr Mojo Risin


All religions are a waste of time. Superstitions and folklore only promote fear and lies. People, with their ego and fear will cling to any promise of an afterlife. Listen to your heart. Most people have a moral compass by which to guide them. I am so disappointed by what intelligent people freely swallow.

Opus

"Christians will say God exists; that he is a loving God who created us to worship him; that his word, the Bible, is true; and that his teachings are the only true teachings."

You had me until your last clause. Once again, a Freethinker lumps all Christians into one grouping. Conservative Christians would agree with your statement, but Liberal Christians would vehemently disagree with you.

Sadly, the interpretations of scripture you state are based on literal interpretations of the Bible that are not normative for lots of Christians.

Gran2

Wow, she has a lot to learn about many things. Poor child.

Buggs Raplin

No, poor you Gran2; I'm assuming you were indoctrinated into Christianity and told you would go to that horrible place and be tortured forever and ever unless you believed in sweet Jesus when you died. Yep, a fear-based religion. Take away the threat of eternal damnation and watch the churches empty.

Gran2

Sadly, 'Free thinkers' are not Free thinkers, they are relying on 'blind faith' to believe that everything was made of nothing and that monkeys turned into men. Both of which there is no scientific 'proof, but they are too blind to see it. So much more to this than what atheists see - there is not enough room in a newspaper.

Buggs Raplin

Gran, I think it's the Christians who are operating on "blind faith" not the freethinkers.

Dayeiter

Great job! many of tte concepts in societes of what is right and wrong had nothing to do with any religion. In eary history of human develoment, so called morals and concepts of what was right and wrond were a great example of evolution in process. Again, you are right on. Dave Yeiter

Sharknado

Most "animal social groups" will abandon or kill the weaker members to survive. I think you have been watching too much Lion King.

Jobaba

Philosophy and theology have been arguing both sides of this coin, on both sides for many years.

I think this is a good letter. It contains some missteps and some very astute comments. Overall it is better than it is bad.

It never hurts for people to be exposed to thoughts that conflict with their own, and it takes courage to put it out there like this.

Good job!

Sal Yodada

Maybe the just solution is to have the atheists and religionists fight this one out...the world would be a better place with a lot less of each!

We could call the war the Neo-Crusades!

wishsciencerules

Whoa, Sal, no war, I think the children will eventually grow up and out their need for santa, gods and tooth fairies, especially if they are exposed to logic in doses equal to the amount of religious nonsense they are fed. Hey, even 1:10 wouldn't be bad!

Sal Yodada

Stalin and the Soviet Union are a perfect example of a non-Christian, atheist government establishing a code of moral law.

Those in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks.

Jesus said those of you without sin may cast the first stone...see how that works?

Neither source of moral code is necessarily better at establishing just laws than the other. There are plenty of benevolent and malevolent examples of each throughout history.

Malevolent rulers/governments just change the laws to make them fit their ideas of values and morals regardless of what is right or just. From Caligula to Hitler to Saddam Hussien, rulers find their own ways to break moral codes and make it "legal" . Righteous and just influential people from Jesus to Ghandi to Mandela often come in conflict with codified law and are persecuted, jailed, and even killed for challenging laws that are immoral or unjust. Neither atheists or religions corner the market on moral behavior, nor are they free from corrupt moral behavior

Tiger

This freak is going to have an unhappy life. I pity her.

Bill Payer

Raysa, you start off arguing for universal, objective morals ("nobody needs a deity to tell us stealing and murder are wrong") but you don't offer any explanation for how these transcendent morals came to be. Then later you seem to be arguing for moral relativism by comparing morals from the ancient Near East society to today. Again, no explanation of what makes one view right or wrong. Very confusing.
Then you go off on Christianity, which adds to the confusion. If you are claiming that non-Christian, or non-religious, societies are better off, then I suggest you try living as a homosexual in Russia or North Korea, where women are treated fairly and slave labor is not tolerated...Oops, that doesn't quite fit your theory on non-religious moralism does it?
Here's another thought. Maybe we all are created with an innate sense of right and wrong from our creator. Certainly that would apply to the Piraha tribe as well as you and me. And yes, religion can be bad. Jesus hated religion.

wishsciencerules

lack of an apple will not produce an orange; lack of religion will not automatically produce a better world; it is something we have to plan and work for, free from systems based on superstition and totalitarian that have traditionally discriminated against, and killed people who actually want to approach issues with logic.

Buggs Raplin

Did you even read her editorial? I construe your comment as a defense of the indefensible-Christianity. Then you the throw in Russia and North Korea, as if anything in those country's religious views matters in terms of Raysa's wonderful editorial.

descheneaux

Raysa, your observations are as correct as we humans can be when examing history. The underlying point that I feel you make is that humans decide what religion will teach and that can be bad or good. Tribalism and the eternal mysteries lead to humans designing their beliefs (religions/philosophies) to mirror their underlying cultural assumptions. The thesis that man creates his/her Gods and Goddesses to support his/her beliefs is the most valuable message in your opinion piece. My opinion ........

Monteee

Raysa, the term "Dark Ages" is rarely used by historians anymore, as it is inaccurate and misleading. Also, historians have often cited the Christian Church as the "glue" which kept Europe from total disaster after the Roman Empire fell apart.

The Church, as flawed as it was, did keep the peoples of Europe from falling into total anarchy and ruin after the Roman Empire and its infrastructure disintegrated. People turned to their local pastor or bishop for guidance. Education, culture, and scientific knowledge were preserved in monasteries and cathedrals, but the average European was too busy dealing with foreign invaders, plagues, highwaymen, and feeding his family to partake in higher education.

The Church did not have near-absolute power in the early medieval period. Invading Germanic/Viking tribes, feudal lords, and the occasional emperor wielded most of the power. The Church did the best it could to maintain some sort of society during a very unstable time.

wishsciencerules

what if, during the "superstitious" ages our ancestors had made a list of their goals, problems and possible solutions rather than sinking into the pit of cruelty and nonsense that we are still trying to climb out of today ? Perhaps if their guiding priests had evolved above superstition we would be in a better place today...instead I would guess those logically talented had to hide out in the woods.

wishsciencerules

Raysa, this is wonderful!, well written and long over due. Many of us remain silent when faced with the abysmal ignorance required to view religions as more than cultural artifacts. Thank you!

Truthsayer

Fantastic letter Raysa.....the force is strong in you.

Tiger

[quote]"nobody needs a deity to tell us stealing and murder are wrong"[/quote]

But you authoritarian democrats gleefully have government agents steal from your neighbors at the point of a gun (try not paying your taxes) to finance your great social-engineering ideas.

Publius

Or does she believe that abortion is not murder, but a woman's right to choose?

Truthsayer

Tiger.....another gossip girl drama queen.

Buggs Raplin

Raysa, of all the "freethinker" op-ed pieces, this is the best. Thank you. I'd only add that the basis of Christianity is the belief that Jesus died to save sinful mankind, but if you don't believe that after being exposed to it, you are condemned to everlasting torture. Now, that's about as immoral as you can get.

bradley

amen

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