In today’s relentlessly progressing society, there lies a general consensus that science is slowly but enviably stripping away the functions of religion one by one. Previously unexplainable phenomenons thought to be the work of divine celestials are now easily explainable by the laws of physics. People no longer have to turn to the respective deities to fulfill their wants and needs that science can now so easily satisfy.
Take for instance agricultural farmers – who unlike their ancestors that prayed to the gods for rain, now instead look to irrigation and atmospheric chemistry for answers. Or perhaps consider the priest who was once seen as the only medium capable of curing diseases and illnesses – now replaced by the medical doctor armed not with scriptures but an array of knowledge and medicine.
Ethics and Morals
Despite all this, religions have continued to stand prominently in society nonetheless with its last, most immovable pillar that science has yet thus far failed to substitute: ethics and morals. Regardless of it being due to divine laws or religious cajoling, few can substantiate an argument against the fact that religion has on the whole helped to create a healthier and morally upright society. Yet, even this last bastion protecting religion as still a viable aspect of life today is being under attack by perhaps the most ironic opponent it can face: Atheism.
While many in the past have associated atheism with anarchy, this outdated belief is horribly misguided in today’s context. While anarchy in general goes against the system of governments in search of absolute liberty and personal-freedom, atheism is simply “the faith of there being no real faith” that is, in basic terms, the belief that there is no god.
Thus, while ages ago when religion and the government was one entity this generalization was perhaps plausible (for example, the Roman Catholic’s Church having unquestionable authority during the 19th century), it certainly is no longer relevant in these modern times.
The main argument of morality between atheism and religion lies here: behaving morally purely due to divine laws – while under threat from holy judgment from almighty beings should one fail to abide – is not really morally correct at all. In fact, crudely, it can be called thoughtless submission.
Atheists (or non-believers), however, behave morally because they choose to. They do not feed the poor because the Koran commands them to. Neither do they refrain from stealing because Moses said God commanded it. Instead, when they do a good deed or something moral in general, it was a free choice made from personal experience which did not come with the (ulterior?) hope of eternal life or salvation. Thus, when one behaves morally because one chooses to, and not because religion dictated it, it was done from the bottom of the heart with real sincerely, and the ethical value of that value can be said to have increased exponentially!
Two questions to consider are these:
Do we still live in the primitive age where perhaps the only way of controlling the masses to behave ethically on a macro scale was the threat of eternal damnation in the fiery depths of hell should he fail to abide by God’s rules? Or has society progressed far beyond that point to a situation where the average individual is matured and intelligent enough to realize he should behave morally simply because it is the right thing to do?
One may argue that essentially the two are the same since both acts are ethically correct, but he should also note this is perhaps true only in today’s context. Should tomorrow the third commandment “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” becomes unacceptable in society and seen in the same context as rape and murder, which approach then should we use?
The power of the atheists’ approach of free choice lies here it is based on the modern context of reality, not merely what was applicable two thousands years ago. Look at the case of ideas such as patriarchy and animal sacrifices although in the past strongly advocated by the Church, they are now seen as sexist and animal abuse.
Thus, while religious beliefs and teachings while still morally correct today may become outdated in the future, the approach of being morally correct due to choice will never fail. And this is an extremely powerful approach to use, as being perpetually based on modern conditions means society will never fall short of benefiting.
Hence, is even religion’s last bastion of moral values being undermined as well? Yes would certainly be the answer, and choice would be the culprit! Already we see areas where the religions such as the Church has relinquished control in favor modern society’s moral perceptions and demands. It is likely that in the years to come, as society progresses further, more and more of ethic values taught in religions today shall become seen as wrong or irrelevant and be forced to change – with homosexuality already a hot topic.
We are living today in a new information age that which our ancestors have never even came close to experiencing. Societal progress over the last hundred years have been at a much faster pace than ever before, and one can only anticipate this trend to accelerate exponentially. Hence, while in today’s world of globalization and scientific advancement it may yet still be too early to proclaim religions obsolete and outdated, one cannot help but anticipate that day arriving. Will such a religion-free society be ultimately a bane or boon to its people? Despite all arguments, only time will tell.