Can you be Good Without God? You don’t have to be religious to be moral


Haley Wagner

Sophomore Kendall Gardner


A mail man carrying boxes slips on the icy sidewalk across the street, tumbling to the ground. Without a moments notice, you are by his side. After disregarding traffic and your own safety on the ice, you help the man with the last of his packages. With a parting smile, you go your separate ways.

This undeniable instinct is compassion caused by morality.

Though acts of morality often do come from religious people, morality itself could not come from any one God.

In my sixteen years of life, most of the people I’ve known have associated this quality with religion. They say people who are religious are holy, more charitable and that they have “better” morals.

Somewhere along the line I lost my faith, but that is not what I’m here to write about. I’m here to write about the looks I get when I tell people that I am an agnostic atheist.

I tell them “I do not believe in any one God or religion, but I cannot lay claim to whether a God exists or not.” Before the last syllable is out of my mouth, people generally have a confused/horrified look on their face. When I ask them why, I get the same answer, usually in a scatterbrained manner as they try not to insult me: Atheists are immoral because without religion, there’s no basis for morality.

I disagree with that statement because acts of morality are acts of instinct. Before humans knew anything about disease, weather, and other things, they needed a reason where there was none. Myths were made. But science has proved many of these myths wrong. In the same type of situation, the Catholic church had a list of books that were banned. As secular movements came and went, the church dismissed their list of books but not because God told them to, but because social standards had changed.

Humans, being the most evolved species on this planet (although that can be argued), have come to their understanding of morality through evolutionary processes. Whether that be Lamarkism (development of new characteristics become inheritable) or Darwinism (small changes are acted upon by natural selection). Either way, what is socially acceptable as right and wrong are passed along, leaving the offspring more intricately developed.

A study by Vern Bengston, a USC professor of gerontology and sociology, has shown that children who grow up without religion commit less crime than those who have a religious upbringing. Though acts of morality often do come from religious people, morality itself could not come from any one God.

Ask yourself this: Do actions become moral simply because they’re dictated by God, or are they dictated by God because they are moral? The latter sounds better because it is. If the former is true, then acts of a God, at least that of Christianity and Judaism, like slavery (Leviticus 25:44-46), genocide (Deuteronomy 7:1-2, 20:16-18), the killing of those who are homosexual (Leviticus 20:13), and the stoning of non-virgin brides (Deuteronomy 22:20-21) are all moral actions under the grace of said God.

Although those who follow a religion are generally good people, people who do not follow a religion are often seen as, for lack of a better word, evil. But many of the most charitable people in the world are devout atheists. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and George Soros top the list with a lot of time and money donated.

So please, next time you meet someone whose religious beliefs do not match yours, don’t jump to conclusions.