In other words, there is no natural justice. That is unfortunate, but it is reality, and it is a more honest view of life than fairy-tale stories of Heaven and Hell.
Believers who turn to God for justice and morality are
deceiving both themselves and others.
Earlier in this chapter we saw that religion helped primitive humans to develop a sense of morality.
From those early beginnings the idea persists today that our sense of good and bad comes from God.
4.6a Punish the wicked, reward the good?
Many people base their faith on the idea that only religion stands between civilisation and anarchy. They are convinced that without God's laws nothing would stop us from killing, stealing from or having indiscriminate sex with each other.
These laws are transcendant. Good and evil - meaning bad in a religious sense - existed even before the human race appeared and will continue to exist even if the race dies out.
They also compensate for human failings. Although good should be rewarded and evil punished on this earth, sometimes the opposite is true. To ensure final justice, therefore, the afterlife will see the righteous in Heaven while the evil spend eternity in Hell. (That's the Jewish / Christian / Muslim scenario; bad Buddhists, Hindus and others are repeatedly reincarnated until their souls become pure.)
4.6b No natural justice
This idea - that God must exist because evildoers must suffer - is heartwarming, but false. As we will see in
morality is a very human concept. Our sense of good and bad did not come from God, but God emerged from our early attempts to define morality.
In fact true morality is better than the religious version because it focuses on people's welfare, not God's demands (see Chapter Six). What true morality cannot do, however, is guarantee justice. Murderers may never be caught; victims of fraud may never receive compensation; the child-abuser may never face trial; and so on.
The deep roots of belief
Despite reason and evidence indicating that God does not and
cannot exist, billions of people across the world continue to
worship him in one of his many forms.
Belief in God draws its strength from a wide range of sources
and provides a sense of security and wellbeing for many.
Transforming that belief into an understanding and respect for
rationality takes time and much effort.
4.1: The origins of religion
Where did faith come from?
4.2: In the genes?
Are we programmed to believe?
4.3: Community and identity
Defining ourselves through faith
4.4: Peer pressure
Faith as fashion
4.5: Death and despair
There must be a better world
4.6: A sense of justice
Evildoers must be punished
4.7: God and meaning
Religion gives us a purpose
4.8: The power and the glory
They reflect on us too
4.9: Against the tide
Converts and natural-born rebels
4.10: Nature calling
A glimpse of God?
4.11: Pick 'n' mix
What are your reasons?
Finished this chapter? Move on to
Faith in action
People create God in their own image.
What happens when they not only believe in God but put their
faith into action?
The results are predictable: good people do good things in the
name of religion and bad people do bad things. They act in
God's name but God is irrelevant.
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The longing for moral certainties may lie at the heart of many people's faith, but
those who turn to God for justice and morality are deceiving both themselves and others.
Chapter Four: Section 7
God and meaning
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If God existed, he would...
admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create
recognize that eternity is meaningless
deny both heaven and hell
disown all men and women who speak in his name
denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"
help the human race to thrive without him
If God existed, he would be an atheist.
What is the difference between science and faith?
science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything
faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing
Which do you trust?
"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"
Check the answer