Hey Atheists! Where do you get your morals from?by Don Lacey on Apr. 16, 2013, under Art & Culture, Atheism, Christian Self-Righteous Arrogance, Christianity, Critical Thinking, Ethics, Faith, Freethought, God & Bible, History, Logic, Materialism, Nature, Question of the Day!, Reason, Religion, Separation of Church & State, Skepticism
By Philip Spacemuseum MacDuff
As an atheist, I’m often asked “Where do you get your morals from?” The implicit attack here is that morals can only come from religion and that, therefore either I have no morals or the morals I do have were instilled in my religious upbringing. I do not intend to write about where I get my morals, beyond simply and quickly saying that my morals stem from a desire to make the world a better place. Instead, I intend to write about where most modern Christians get their morals – and it is most definitely not the Bible. This topic is something I have been thinking about a lot lately, as it has come up over and over in the debate on gay marriage.
Leviticus Chapter 20 Verse 13 has come up repeatedly. It reads as follows (as obtained from BibleGateway.com, the New International Version)
“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.”
Two verses later, in Leviticus 20:15, a similar admonition against sexual relations with animals is delivered:
“If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he is to be put to death, and you must kill the animal.”
These verses are similar to those of Leviticus 18:22-23, but the punishments for these sins are given in the above quoted verses. However, as of this writing, gay marriage is legal in 9 states, and bestiality is legal in 20 (according to www.animallaw.info). Why are there no large-scale protests about bestiality? Why are not more Christians sermonizing on bestiality and how wicked it is, how it leads to the downfall of nations? Should not both biblical statutes carry the same weight in our laws and morals?
More common sins are listed in the previous chapter. Leviticus 19:19 says (quotation marks as in original)
“‘Keep my decrees.
“‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.
“‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
“‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.
Leviticus 19:26 commands:
“‘Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.
Leviticus 19:27 and 28 continue:
“‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.
“‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.
These six commands, and more listed throughout the book of Leviticus, are daily violated by good, upstanding Christians without protest. How is it that these commands can be disregarded so easily, but the single command on gay marriage must be not only upheld, but written into our national legislation? Christian morality is full of hypocrisy. The argument is often made that some verses are to be interpreted literally, while others are merely figurative. How then does one determine which are which? The Bible itself cannot be a guide; it gives no direction on how to evaluate its contents beyond such pithy directives as “Keep my decrees”. Some other source must be obtained to make this decision. The lay people of a church rely on the guidance of their pastors, priests, ministers and deacons, but where do these leaders turn for their answers? There must be some source which is not the Bible for making these decisions of morality.
The act of deciding that some commands in the Bible can be safely ignored while others must be upheld literally, and in some cases, violently, can only be rationalized by two possible courses. Either the decision is made to consciously violate God’s sacred commands, thereby intentionally earning a place in the fires of hell, or the Christian has employed a set of morals independent of and superior to the biblical commands. In either case, the Christian can no longer point to the Bible as the ultimate source of their morals. It may provide a starting point, but as we no longer stone women for failing to be virgins on the day they are married to some lecherous old man who bought them, we clearly have evolved our sense of morality since the Bronze Age.