Must be Christian to be Moral?

So I’m within hearing distance of a recording of preaching by Beth Moore, in her very expensive set of lessons called “The Patriarchs,” and she said that one thing that drives me crazy: “I would sink into the depths of depravity if not for God.” And I thought “How sad is that.” And it started me thinking about the whole objective morality thing again. How so often I hear from fundamentalists that they must act morally because God tells them to. That morality is handed down by God.

What does that say about a person, when they imply or even come right out and say, that the only thing stopping them from not being a moral person with values is God (viz a vis fear of hell?) How tragic and sad and, well, untrustworthy and scary of a person is that? Why is it they can’t be a moral person valuing other people just because? Because it’s the “right” thing to do no matter what your mythology? It’s the right thing to do to help the world be a better place? The right thing to do, if for no other reason, than because it helps you out to treat others with honor and be honorable yourself?

Let’s say, hypothetically, that there was irrefutable proof that God either didn’t exist or does but the Bible had no “divine” connection at all. Would you suddenly stop loving your family and friends? Would you really start thinking it was a good idea to be cruel and harm people? Would stealing or raping or murder or even simply lying suddenly become appealing? I would hazard to say “no.” And if it does, then you’re a pretty sorry individual and in my opinion not fit to be human.

There’s two types of “Christian morality,” Biblical and spiritual. Or, Old Testament and New Testament. I’m going to be nice and completely ignore Old Testament morality, because it’s at best psychotic. Read the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament.) It’s impossible to count all the instances of God ordained/approved/commanded murder of enemies, murder of innocents, kidnapping of virgins, forced rape, forcing women to marry their rapist so long as the rapist pays her father, forced sterilization, selling daughters, keeping slaves, killing family members, incest, genocide, on and on. And I COULD give verses like Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Exodus 21:4, Numbers 31:1-18, Deuteronomy 21:11-14, 2 Samuel 12:26-31 (OK, that’s not part of the books of Moses,) Exodus 20:5-6, Genesis 38:6-10, 1 Chronicles 13:7-11, Genesis 19:12-26…
Just read the Bible. Don’t skip the boring parts, don’t jump around, sit down and read it. If nothing else, just the first 5 books, and tell me the God depicted therein is not a psychotic, murderous, blood-thirsty, unreasonable, anti-merciful, hateful God advocating some of the worst morality ever seen. And because of the absurd depiction of morality in the OT, I’ll skip that and just continue on with the NT and general “spiritual” Christian morality.

OK, read the NT now. Just the Gospels, and maybe Acts. They’re short. You can probably read them in one day no problem. Tell me that Jesus isn’t an angry, impatient, condescending, insulting man. Smiting fig trees for not having fruit on them because he was hungry. No message, no parable. The Bible said he was hungry, and mad because the fig tree had no fruit. He’s constantly calling his followers “fools,” and insulting them for not understanding his parables, constantly showing impatience and anger.

Now Paul’s letters (of which only 5 are really his own writings.) Here we actually start hearing about love and mercy and patience and understanding…conditionally. OK, let’s get off the Bible altogether.

If only God provides morality and values, and one is moral only because of God, then that has to mean one thing: If you’re not a believer in God then you have no values and are immoral.

Now, question: What does that mean to the 16,000+ years of humans that existed before Jesus lived? Or, if you’re also counting Judaic morality, the 12,000+ years before the first tribe of Judah existed? Does that mean all those millennia of humans were completely amoral?
Another question: Only 1/3 of the world today is Christian (http://www.religioustolerance.org/worldrel.htm), does that mean 2/3 of the world are murderers, rapists, thieves, liars, adulterous, hate their kids and parents?
What about from 1 AD to 400 AD when Christianity was only a small, fringe cult in the Middle East and and only beginning to infuse itself into Rome? Was 99% of the world at that time completely amoral?
Today, only half of England, Germany, France, and the Netherlands, and Japan consider themselves Christian, yet they have lower crime rates than the U.S., where 80% of the population considers itself Christians. Ironically, these half and less-than-half Christian modern nations considered the war in Iraq to be immoral, but the Christian U.S. with its “Christian” president lied and contorted facts in order to go to war with a country that posed no threat to the U.S. What’s the message from that?
The Code of Hammurabi predates Mosaic Laws. Buddhism and its beliefs of moderation, personal integrity, and the goal of ending suffering and strife predates Jesus. As does Confucianism and its focus on responsibility to your family and personal honor. Hinduism is quite ancient and focuses on empathy and selflessness in both actions and thought. Even Wicca (despite my disgust for this made up religion (but aren’t they all?) I’m mentioning because it’s becoming pretty popular in the U.S. and is a good example of modern “paganism”,) also believes in personal integrity, truth, loving the people around you and respecting the Earth itself. I know many agnostics and atheists who have a well developed sense of morality and values.

So, Christianity does not have a monopoly on morality and ethics. What does that mean for the argument that without God there is no morality?

Only one conclusion then, if that statement is true: God must not be the God of only Christians, and all religions and even no religion involves the same God that Christianity holds claim to. Lack of belief in the Christian God does not mean God does not provide morality to all humans.

How can it be otherwise? If you state that ONLY God provides morality, and it’s proven that the same morality (the positive good morality most Christians believe is “Christian” and not the psychopathic murderous morality of the Bible,) is practiced by most humans since recorded history by all faiths, cultures, regions, religions, then it must follow that God is present in/to ALL people. You don’t have to be Christian to be moral and ethical.

Here’s another thought, a scary thought to Christian fundamentalists: What if Christianity and Judaism and Hindu and Islam and Confucianism and Wicca and all of them, are all mythologies that try to explain the same God that created the universe and gave rise to the concept we have of morality that is shared by 90% of the world regardless of faith?

Finally, what if “morality” is simply a biological aspect of survival of the species, developed in humans over the eons because to do anything other than to “treat others as we would want to be treated” would mean an end to the species?

Personally, I believe in a mix of the two theories.

11 thoughts on “Must be Christian to be Moral?”

  1. Interesting look at morality.

    I would be curious to know where YOU get your morality…?

    To me, the way each of us arrives at our morality speaks volumes about how we arrive and determining the source.

    Thoughts?

  2. “I would be curious to know where YOU get your morality…?”

    That is a VERY good question. And one I think everyone should ask themselves. Constantly perhaps. If we did, that might make people THINK more about moral actions and being better people making better decisions.

    I admit that a lot of my moral foundation very likely came from a Christian background. Sunday school from pre-school age through High School, years of Youth Group, an entire youth of moderately conservative Methodist church attendance. There’s no way that all that did not affect my development.

    But then so did growing up with Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, non-religious PBS shows that taught moral lessons and decision making, and countless sci-fi/fantasy books that usually have some moral message about values and honorable decisions.

    There’s no denying that most moderate Christian environments puts a great focus on the right things: selflessness, generosity, forgiveness, humility. You pretty much have to read the Bible yourself to get all the negative moral lessons.

    However, I know a LOT of people who have grown up in very conservative and fundamental and evangelical Christian environment who had been taught arrogance, pridefulness, judgementalism, hatred, intolarance, and in extreme cases have been indoctrinated to believe that people who do not believe as they should be removed from society. That gays “get what they deserve” if they die of AIDS or get beaten to death, that maybe they wouldn’t do it themselves (so they say in public), but a bombing of a women’s clinic resulting in deaths is the work of Jesus. (By the way, all attitudes when are condoned often in the OT and somewhat in the NT if you look at the right verses.)

    Conversely, I know people who grew up in non-Christian environments (atheist, agnostic, Wiccan, in addition to Hindu and Muslem) who have the very same morality as moderate Christians: humility, selflessness, generosity, valuing love and forgiveness.

    I think the point is, and the evidence supports, that valuing other people, valuing life, treating others at least as good as you yourself would want to be treated, is not uniquely Christian. It’s human. If the same majority of Muslems, Hindu, Buhddist, and non-theists within their own religions/cultures grow up believing the same values as most Christians, it’s obvious Christianity is not the be-all end-all of morality.

    And the fact that most non-theists (agnostics, atheists, deists, pantheists) also value the same concepts of morality as religious people: life, love, selflessness, indicates that simply being human provides most people the ability to make good moral decisions and BE moral people.
    There are as many people who are hardcore “Christians” who are murderers, rapists, adulturers, not to mention simply prideful, unforgiving, selfish, and arrogant.

    I grant that indeed morality may be instilled by God. That quality that allows humans to indeed value love and concepts of truth and honor, may be God given. But I believe that you don’t have to be “Christian” to be given that gift of humanity from God. You only have to be alive (and not born to be a sociopath. As long as you’re not that, even someone raised in a horrible, amoral environment can KNOW the “right thing” even if they may not be capable of doing so.

    In fact, there have been MANY cases of children raised in VERY amoral environments, very un-“Christian” environments, are are still loving, caring, selfless kids and grow up to be fine adults. How does that happen? How CAN that happen? The only way, I feel, is either a) “absolute morality” is a general human biological trait, or b) it’s given by God but not reserved only for Christians, or even religious people.

    I go for B. Which, yes, I do believe is completely within the realm of Deist belief of a “divine watchmaker.”

  3. Who are you to judge why someone is sad or tragic? Beth Moore said “I would sink into the depths of depravity if not for God.” She did not claim, as I admit others have, that humanity itself is depraved without God. She was saying that God is her Rock, her Strength when she doesn’t feel strong enough to handle the storms we all face from time to time. And thank the Heavens above (and around) that we have a God who is willing to be that Rock, for anyone who needs it and calls upon His name. God knows us, He knows we are weak at some times and strong at others, He knows we are diversified, He knows we are intelligent and curious…He made us that way! He sent us out to the world to explore and experience, and is right there for us when we get in over our heads.
    I do not agree with Christians who say they are the only ones who have a bead on God and who He really is. In the depth of our knowledge, none of us have the tiniest inkling about the vastness and wonder that is God. How can any of us say, God is this way, or that way, when we know only a fraction of Him. But here is what I do know: He is Love, He is with me, I am his child (although not the only one…and as my mind opens, my family grows), and His greatest requests of us were to love Him and love each other.
    So don’t judge Beth Moore because she has found God to be trustworthy, and is trying in her own human way to guide others to that. And try to not walk around with a chip on your shoulder, waiting for some Christian to say the wrong thing so you can jump all over them. God is Love…YOU be Love! Grant all passages to heaven, from any and all religions, and encourage anyone who is following a righteous path in this life, because your actions of respect and love speak much louder than the bitter tone of your words to condemn another’s belief. And that way you can let them go, love them anyway, and leave the judging to God. And you will find yourself closer to understanding Him, which is the whole reason we are here: to use our brilliant, curious minds to seek Him in all of His many, many facets.

  4. Interesting look at morality.

    I would be curious to know where YOU get your morality…?

    To me, the way each of us arrives at our morality speaks volumes about how we arrive and determining the source.

    Thoughts?

  5. “I would be curious to know where YOU get your morality…?”

    That is a VERY good question. And one I think everyone should ask themselves. Constantly perhaps. If we did, that might make people THINK more about moral actions and being better people making better decisions.

    I admit that a lot of my moral foundation very likely came from a Christian background. Sunday school from pre-school age through High School, years of Youth Group, an entire youth of moderately conservative Methodist church attendance. There’s no way that all that did not affect my development.

    But then so did growing up with Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, non-religious PBS shows that taught moral lessons and decision making, and countless sci-fi/fantasy books that usually have some moral message about values and honorable decisions.

    There’s no denying that most moderate Christian environments puts a great focus on the right things: selflessness, generosity, forgiveness, humility. You pretty much have to read the Bible yourself to get all the negative moral lessons.

    However, I know a LOT of people who have grown up in very conservative and fundamental and evangelical Christian environment who had been taught arrogance, pridefulness, judgementalism, hatred, intolarance, and in extreme cases have been indoctrinated to believe that people who do not believe as they should be removed from society. That gays “get what they deserve” if they die of AIDS or get beaten to death, that maybe they wouldn’t do it themselves (so they say in public), but a bombing of a women’s clinic resulting in deaths is the work of Jesus. (By the way, all attitudes when are condoned often in the OT and somewhat in the NT if you look at the right verses.)

    Conversely, I know people who grew up in non-Christian environments (atheist, agnostic, Wiccan, in addition to Hindu and Muslem) who have the very same morality as moderate Christians: humility, selflessness, generosity, valuing love and forgiveness.

    I think the point is, and the evidence supports, that valuing other people, valuing life, treating others at least as good as you yourself would want to be treated, is not uniquely Christian. It’s human. If the same majority of Muslems, Hindu, Buhddist, and non-theists within their own religions/cultures grow up believing the same values as most Christians, it’s obvious Christianity is not the be-all end-all of morality.

    And the fact that most non-theists (agnostics, atheists, deists, pantheists) also value the same concepts of morality as religious people: life, love, selflessness, indicates that simply being human provides most people the ability to make good moral decisions and BE moral people.
    There are as many people who are hardcore “Christians” who are murderers, rapists, adulturers, not to mention simply prideful, unforgiving, selfish, and arrogant.

    I grant that indeed morality may be instilled by God. That quality that allows humans to indeed value love and concepts of truth and honor, may be God given. But I believe that you don’t have to be “Christian” to be given that gift of humanity from God. You only have to be alive (and not born to be a sociopath. As long as you’re not that, even someone raised in a horrible, amoral environment can KNOW the “right thing” even if they may not be capable of doing so.

    In fact, there have been MANY cases of children raised in VERY amoral environments, very un-“Christian” environments, are are still loving, caring, selfless kids and grow up to be fine adults. How does that happen? How CAN that happen? The only way, I feel, is either a) “absolute morality” is a general human biological trait, or b) it’s given by God but not reserved only for Christians, or even religious people.

    I go for B. Which, yes, I do believe is completely within the realm of Deist belief of a “divine watchmaker.”

  6. Who are you to judge why someone is sad or tragic? Beth Moore said “I would sink into the depths of depravity if not for God.” She did not claim, as I admit others have, that humanity itself is depraved without God. She was saying that God is her Rock, her Strength when she doesn’t feel strong enough to handle the storms we all face from time to time. And thank the Heavens above (and around) that we have a God who is willing to be that Rock, for anyone who needs it and calls upon His name. God knows us, He knows we are weak at some times and strong at others, He knows we are diversified, He knows we are intelligent and curious…He made us that way! He sent us out to the world to explore and experience, and is right there for us when we get in over our heads.
    I do not agree with Christians who say they are the only ones who have a bead on God and who He really is. In the depth of our knowledge, none of us have the tiniest inkling about the vastness and wonder that is God. How can any of us say, God is this way, or that way, when we know only a fraction of Him. But here is what I do know: He is Love, He is with me, I am his child (although not the only one…and as my mind opens, my family grows), and His greatest requests of us were to love Him and love each other.
    So don’t judge Beth Moore because she has found God to be trustworthy, and is trying in her own human way to guide others to that. And try to not walk around with a chip on your shoulder, waiting for some Christian to say the wrong thing so you can jump all over them. God is Love…YOU be Love! Grant all passages to heaven, from any and all religions, and encourage anyone who is following a righteous path in this life, because your actions of respect and love speak much louder than the bitter tone of your words to condemn another’s belief. And that way you can let them go, love them anyway, and leave the judging to God. And you will find yourself closer to understanding Him, which is the whole reason we are here: to use our brilliant, curious minds to seek Him in all of His many, many facets.

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