Feature

Religion

Is morality dependent on God?

As any publishing executive can tell you, said Michael Gerson in The Washington Post, the idea that God doesn't exist has become quite fashionable. Rather than getting sucked into that old and endless debate, I simply have one question for Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, that 'œirreverent trinity' of New Atheists flying high on the best-seller lists: If you were to get your way, and humanity en masse stopped believing in God, 'œwhat would be the effect on human morality?' Admittedly, you don't have to believe in God to be a good person; altruism and morality appear to be hard-wired into our species. But it's also in our natures to be cruel, selfish, and violent. Without God and the fear of his wrath, how are we supposed to choose between Good and Evil? This is the question the New Atheists, amid their smug pronouncements, never get around to answering.

Surely, you are not serious, said Christopher Hitchens, also in The Washington Post. There's something inherently insulting about the proposition that we'd be incapable of choosing right from wrong if we didn't fear that a 'œcapricious despot'' up in the sky would condemn us to Hell. But the biggest flaw in this argument is its assumption that religion does make its adherents choose good behavior over bad. If that were the case, this world'”which is full of believers'”would be a far better place. In God's name, human beings have slaughtered infidels, enslaved women and children from other tribes, burned witches, persecuted gays and Jews, and mutilated the genitalia of defenseless infants. If that's the morality we'd be lacking in a post-religion world, then I have to say I'm all for it.

Gene Weingarten

Washington post.com

Peter Berkowitz

The Wall Street Journal

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