In a new study from an online journal, there is evidence that atheism is held as morally suspect, even by fellow atheists. Their findings include this: “across the world, religious belief is intuitively viewed as necessary safeguard against the temptations of grossly immoral conduct, and atheists are broadly perceived as potentially morally depraved and dangerous. Viewed differently, people perceive belief in a god as a sufficient moral buffer to inhibit immoral behavior.”
The researchers use an example: if we take a serial murderer, is that person more likely to be an atheist or a religious person? Well, much to the discomfort of the researchers, the study found that “people are overall roughly twice as likely to view extreme immorality as representative of atheists, relative to believers.” These results were not found in the American Bible Belt or among Korean Presbyterians, but was found in the Czech Republic, China and the Netherlands, some of the most secular societies in the world. Across a variety of societies, religious and non-religious, these results largely held up.
Even when they upped the ante from a murderer to a pedophile priest, “people intuitively assume that a priest who molest young boys for decades is more likely to be a priest who does not believe in God than a priest who does believe in God.”
“In summary, participants intuitively assume that the perpetrators of immoral acts are probably atheists,” the report states. “These effects appeared across religious diverse countries, including countries with Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and non-religious majorities, showing that intuitive moral prejudice against atheists is not exclusive to Abrahamic or monotheistic majority societies”
“To the contrary, intuitive anti-atheist prejudice generalizes to largely secular societies and appears globally evident even among atheists.”
As a man of faith, I am not particularly surprised. Atheism tries to do the impossible, to live without absolute commitment of the sort most of mankind finds necessary.
But why does atheism fail so greatly to inspire moral action? Well, because religion has been the most powerful motive for us to act morally. This is especially true of monotheisms. The ethics of Eastern religion-philosophies, Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, stretch from utter self-destruction to the preservation of an ancient status quo. None of them possess the idea of revelation of moral teachings to the degree of Western religions. According to sociologist Rodney Stark, it is monotheism which has proven to have greater moral force than polytheism, or Eastern mysticism.
Now this study demonstrates a clear bias against atheism where moral matters are concerned. The researchers complain that, “the resilience of moral prejudice against atheists revels a potential barrier to the full acceptance of this growing segment of the global population….Even as secularism reduces over religiosity in many places , religion has apparently still left a deep and abiding mark on human moral intuitions.”
They do not seem to consider that there is a reason for this bias. One atheistic writer complains that, “Why is the idea of morality synonymous with religion, when no one should have to be driven by gods, faith leaders, or fear to simply be charitable, decent people?”
It’s because morality is most firmly grounded in a belief in God. Christians obey Christ out of love for Him, to show that they are His disciples. Jews will keep God’s mitzvot (commandments) to show that they are among the Chosen People, in accordance with God’s covenant with them. A Buddhist will obey the Eight-Fold Path….because Buddha, a man, says to.
Atheism cannot stand on its own. It wants to assert an existence for which it cannot give an account. Why is there something rather than nothing? Atheism fails to say. Why should we be good, and what is good? Canadian atheist Kai Nielsen has lamented, “We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view, or that all really rational persons should not be individual egoists or classical a-moralists. Reason doesn’t decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me . . . . Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.”
Atheists love to assert that religion kills people. And that is true. Men have committed heinous crimes in the name of God. Christians burned Jews in the name of a Jew. Muslims have slaughtered in the name of Allah. Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs have all committed violence in the name of their faiths. These all occurred while the religious held power.
It took atheists to truly up the ante for death tolls. For all the religious blood spilled in the West by the faithful over a millennia, atheists matched them in a few decades of the last century. It was not Christianity that built the gulag, Jews did not operate the Lao Gai, nor did Hindus operate Buchenwald. These crimes of reason gone mad were the crimes of atheists.