This was one of the major questions I struggled with when I was reading “The God Delusion”. Dawkins, of course quoted extensively from the Bible to make the point that wherever we get or morals from, it’s most certainly not from that book. He might be right. I haven’t read the whole testament, but what I have read, i.e. the first few books up to Job, don’t disprove his claims in anyway. The Old testament god seems to be a rather jealous, vindictive, and violent deity. And he eggs on his followers to do the same. Time after time before they enter the promised land, the Israelites are reminded to show the original inhabitants there no mercy and massacre the lot. But there are exhortations to act morally too, even if only with one’s religious kin. There are, however, numerous examples that bear out Dawkins’ claim. But he doesn’t delve further into it and lets it go at that.
Be that as it may, I still think morality had its roots in religion. Not the bible per se but in various interpretations of it. God was merciful, at least in his later iterations. There was talk about goodwill towards all and helping your fellow man, and more importantly on good acts. We would all have to pay for our sins come judgment day! Of course Hindus believed in rebirth and that your past sins would come to haunt you in the next life. But in every case, it was the idea of balance in nature that a belief in god and a cosmic order brought about that made man moral. And I come back to the same question. In the absence of that cosmic order, why be moral?
Or to strike even deeper, why define morality like this? Who’s to say what action is moral or immoral? What’s right and what’s wrong? On what basis do you ground your basic ethic? How do you define that basis? How can you defend it? Morality become nothing more than a set of common rules that we agree upon to play fair, and the person who can break those rules without getting caught is the most successful. Which brings me back to square one. I’m tired of thinking in circles and yet I can’t seem to find a way to break free from it.
Of course, no matter how much I want to believe that the existence of god would make some sense out of this chaos, it doesn’t make it real. I forget who said, “If God did not exist, mankind would have found it necessary to create him.” True words, indeed.