A very oft used reason to justify religious belief and scripture is that is where morals are learned - this in spite of religious scriptures containing some of the most horrific and immoral events. I argue that people do not get their morals from any deity or scripture but that the basic foundations are evolved and ingrained in most of us from birth.
I stole this from another site about moral dilemmas:
Consider the following three scenarios. For each, fill in the blank space with “obligatory,” “permissible,” or “forbidden.”
- A runaway boxcar is about to run over five people walking on the tracks. A railroad worker is standing next to a switch that can turn the boxcar onto a side track, killing one person, but allowing the five to survive. Flipping the switch is ______.
- You pass by a small child drowning in a shallow pond, and you are the only one around. If you pick up the child, she will survive and your pants will be ruined. Picking up the child is _______.
- Five people have just been rushed into a hospital in critical condition, each requiring an organ to survive. There is not enough time to request organs from outside the hospital, but there is a healthy person in the hospital’s waiting room. If the surgeon takes this person’s organs, he will die, but the five in critical care will survive. Taking the healthy person’s organs is _______.
If you judged case 1 as permissible, case 2 as obligatory, and case 3 as forbidden, then you are like the 1,500 subjects around the world who responded to these dilemmas. If morality is God’s word, atheists should judge these cases differently from religious people, and their responses should rely on different justifications.
For example, because atheists supposedly lack a moral compass, they should be guided by pure self-interest and walk by the drowning child. But there were no statistically significant differences between subjects with or without religious backgrounds, with approximately 90% of subjects saying that it is permissible to flip the switch on the boxcar, 97% saying that it is obligatory to rescue the baby, and 97% saying that is forbidden to remove the healthy man’s organs.
When asked to justify why some cases are permissible and others forbidden, subjects are either clueless or offer explanations that cannot account for the relevant differences. Importantly, those with a religious background are as clueless or incoherent as atheists.