30 June, 2010

Can there be a system of morality without God?


Some months ago, in one of the Atlas Sunday Meets, we started discussing Atheism and the necessity of it to be an objectivist. There were a few present who didn't belong to that fold, so we all debated. We discussed for long. As usual, there was no conclusion to the discussion regarding ‘existence of God’. We left, with more thoughts to be sorted and more ideas to sort these thoughts.

To, take this discussion to the next level and to concretise the arguments, we invited Father Anthony to come and speak on the topic “Can there be a system of morality without God”. We thought, who better than a God’s man to come and present His case. From the objectivist perspective, we had our own Jerry Johnson to put his thoughts. Deepak was moderating the discussion.


All others who were present, were either atheists, agnostics or with a different belief system than the conservative religion.


The date was set as Sunday, the 20th of June 2010. With the rains pouring down on Mumbai with a vengeance, we all reached the venue slightly drenched trying to evade the raindrops. The discussion started with Father’s opening comments suggesting secular morality. Here is my account of what transpired.


He said that secular morality is a morality which has come of age through the generations and at present is something which can be defined and re-defined. He presented examples of such a morality for propagating love between people and to make relationships stronger. Morality according to him was, to accept values of other people. The art of doing things for others was to spread love in the world. When you do something unconditionally, you also motivate the same action from the ‘acceptor’. And so, this cycle continues to a stage where there is a world of peace and contentment.


Jerry answered saying that loving everybody is not possible. And that’s what religion demands. Religion demands one to love God , without any evidence or substantiation. Love is not an empty principle to base religious morality. One cannot love a person who is harming oneself. One cannot love an enemy. To expect such a love is itself immoral. When a person loves someone, it’s because of the values. So, if the other person doesn’t have any values, you cannot love him/her.
With the same argument, it’s not possible to love God for which there is not verification of such a value-addition.


Father Anthony further responded to Jerry’s comments. There were others present who were passionately presenting responding to either of the takes.


As a conclusion, we had a discussion which perhaps opened our minds to either of the systems of morality due to the direct comparisons. However, those of us who already belong to the “selfish” morality find it difficult to digest the other kind. Same applies to the believers of God. Hence, as useful as it is to have these debates, they will hardly convince the one of the other. So, in the end, we all parted to “agree to disagree”.


*ps: This above is my account of the event. If anybody feels misrepresented, please feel free to comment on the same.