Can One Be Moral and Not Believe in God?

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Can one be moral and not believe in God?
PHI 103
September 26, 2011

The argument set forth is best understood by the first line given by Hamlet in Act 3, Scene 1 in this 1600 play, “Hamlet,” written by William Shakespeare (1600). “To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?...”
Believing in a spiritual entity or a supernatural supreme being can play a role in one’s moral beliefs, but it is not necessary. The argument will start with breaking down what it is to be moral with the definition of moral, which is “of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior,” (ethically speaking) “conforming to a standard of right behavior.” (Merriam-Webster, 2011) With that in mind now, one can be moral and not believe in GOD, because it is up to the person to choose to be moral, hence “To be, or not to be…” This argument will consist of a brief history in a few religions, church and state, moral education, ethics, and Plato's and Aristotle's take on living morally. Again, believing in God is not necessarily needed for one to be moral; all that is needed is good ethics, belief in oneself, and knowledge.

The origin of religion, experts think, arose from the fear and wonder of natural events (i.e. storms, earthquakes, and the how babies were born). Experts believe that the explanations of death were the outcome of supernatural powers greater than one's self and the world around them. Religious activities, prehistorically, involved the most essential elements of existence, like adequate rainfall and or a successful hunt for food. Prehistoric people were also believed to have performed rituals intended for good fertility of women, for animals, and for succeeding in hunting as well as making sacrifices for all good fortune. The major religions of today may have been originated between 1500 B.C. and A.D. 600. (Fontaine, 2011) As time progressed, there came a new understanding with religion being involved in one's life. The justification by faith, the actions of an individual can be justified by their faith as it assists moral goodness and faithfulness to duty. Through Christianity, Christ died for their sins to sit before God's judgment in their place so that they cannot be found guilty. As an example of justification by faith, believers are led to be more loving towards God, their neighbors and to do good works. For instance, treat others the way you would like to be treated. The understandings of justification by faith, good acts towards others, are justified by people using their faith as justification for their actions. (Edwards, 2011) Religion also has a code of conduct, a set of moral teachings and values to uphold when conducting the business of living. From these morals and values, one should treat others how one would like to be treated, whom one may marry, what jobs may be held, how to dress, and what foods may be eaten. (Fontaine, 2011)

Now let us look at church and state. The understanding of church and state is that each should not be involved in the others development. In other words, government should operate non-religiously and churches should operate outside the boundaries of the government system. This was disagreed by many, because many believed that religion improves the moral character of citizens and should be actively promoted by government. Many others believed that government should support and fund some religious activities so long as any religion is not favored over another. From these oppositions, arose intense debates in the United States of America for issues involving prayer in public schools, government funding for religious schools, government support for religious charities, and the display of religious symbols on government property. (Ivers, 2011) The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution...
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