One day when I got lost in a multitude of useless trivia in the Internet I accidentally came across a thought-provoking sentence by a British writer Arthur C. Clarke who said that "one of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion."
After that, I started to think about this controversial matter. As a young Polish student, raised in the Christian tradition, in a country where according to WIN-Gallup International's research, more than 80 % of Poles declare themselves as religious, should I disagree with this quotation?
The main problem with morality is to define it specifically. Although, it is obviously difficult to investigate scientifically, "The Oxford English Dictionary" describes it as "principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour" Of course, religion imposes certain rules which helps believers to differentiate between good and evil. By obeying them, they build their moral system, but in that case, don't atheists have a moral compass?
Many philosophers and scientists including Charles Darwin assumed that morality is a matter of evolution, especially in the case of social species such as humans. There is also an endless number of books which show how people's emotions like empathy, kindness, altruism or friendship have been evolved since the times of the first man. Even in the previous era, cooperation and sharing ensured better chance to survive. In that way, it may be considered that moral system was created instinctually and as a result it gave birth to numerous religions.
The roots of moral conscience we can also detect in people's upbringing or society they live in. Religion is hardly ever people's free choice, in most cases it's foisted by our ethnicity. There is no doubt, it goes hand in hand with our ideals and perception of the world, however I wouldn't count it as the main factor which determine morality. The thing I am trying to prove is that you can be raised in a family or society of non-believers and still become a good person. Let's consider how many people would agree with the statement "treat other people the way you would wish to be treated." I bet a significant majority of them would. Why? It just comes from basic empathy that most people usually have and also as parents instill in their children regardless of their religious views.
At the end I should admit that although many scientists and philosophers claim that morality can exist without God, they certainly don't mean to attack any religious believes. The main purpose for writing this essay was my strong will to debunk the stereotype that everything is either black or white. Morality, as a changing construct, which has developed over the years, is very subjective and often depends on people's personal preferences. Therefore, we can always encounter an atheist doing good things as well as a Christian or Jew who behave wrong. The most important is just to live according to certain rules which don't harm other people - then we can consider ourselves as a moral person.
Nowadays religion plays an underlying role in many people's lives. Moreover, it's often treated as an oracle for morality. But one day I came across a thought-provoking sentence by a British writer Arthur C. Clarke who said that “One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion. So now people assume that religion and morality have a necessary connection. " This quotation forced me to start thinking about this controversial matter.