Previously I touched upon what it felt like to be called an immoral Atheist. Now I want to touch on a very common criticism of Atheism. That being that without a vengeful god watching over our shoulder how can Atheist have any morals at all? In my case it is simple. Libertarianism.
Libertarianism, at its core, is the concept that the individual owns himself and that noone may deprive another individual of their property. From that core concept springs a framework of ethical behavior which rivals, indeed surpasses those of the major religions. Since I was raised in the Catholic faith and live in a nation commonly misidentified my theists as a Christian nation let me compare this simple concept to the morality present as the core of those two brands of the same faith.
1. I am the Lord your God, You shall have no other gods before me, You shall not make for yourself an idol
2. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God
Not much in the way of morals here. Basically this says, “I’m right, they’re wrong, and if you question me, you’re immoral.” I don’t think that questioning things is immoral and you’ll note not addressed by libertarian morality.
3. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
I don’t know how working or not working on any given day makes one moral or immoral. However the proscriptions on what to do if someone doesn’t follow this one does. More on that later.
4. Honor your father and mother
Again, questionable suggestion of morality. Treating people honorably, in general, is a good thing. Why only your progenitors are mentioned here makes it less than it could be. Of course libertarian morality does contain within it the foundation as to why one should deal honorably with others.
5. You shall not kill
If you own yourself, the other guy owns himself, and neither of you can deprive each other of property then killing is right out as that is depriving the other guy of property, his own life. Of course the Bible is full of exceptions to this rule. The most telling is the one that refers to commandment #3. Sabbath breakers shall be put to death. Which is probably why keeping the sabbath holy is #3 while not killing is #5. Of course examples of breaking any of the other commandments is rife with proscriptions of stoning or genocide.
6. You shall not commit adultery
Adultery is, at its core, lying. Lying, at its core, is depriving someone else of their just due. Refer back to cannot deprive others of their self as they own themselves. That includes entering into and breaking deals with them. However, if a deal is made that husband and wife can see other people, is that adultery? They wouldn’t be lying to one another. So by breaking it down to the core principle of self-ownership and not depriving others of their property (which includes themselves) then, no, it isn’t. So here we’re a tad more flexible but no less moral since we’re still dealing honestly with one another.
7. You shall not steal
Depriving them of property. Sensing a common theme here?
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
Refer back to lying under adultery.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife
Because covet leads to stealing. Refer back to Adultery.
10. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor
Depriving another of property. Already covered.
So that one core principle which lacks a god, provides a more consistent compass on how to treat your fellows fairly. Furthermore it has only one exception, unlike the Bible which is rife with exceptions for excluding, murdering, enslaving and otherwise breaking every one of the 10 rules mentioned above.
The exception to not depriving another of property? For defense or to rectify an error. It is moral to defend oneself from being deprived of property and moral to defend others from being deprived of property.
Defending self and others vs. killing someone for daring to work on Sunday. There’s just a slight difference in the degree of those exceptions, don’t you think?
Again, I’ll take my godless morality over those who would impose their version based on a spiteful, genocidal god.