Morals without God?

For the have-nots and for those with truly larger hearts, God still remains the only source of moral value

Aneela Shahzad December 03, 2021
The writer is a geopolitical analyst. She also writes at and tweets @AneelaShahzad

Is it possible for having a secular moral system, void of any idea of God? Is it possible to say that every person has a sense of morals on their own and that there is a code of general moral behaviour that can be jotted out by listing down what things generally bring happiness or harm to an individual and to society? Saying that, presupposes that humanity has an intrinsic moral code, but takes out God as the creator of everything including the moral code, perhaps replacing Him with the ‘evolutionary process’.

The claim that the moral code is already there, we just have to discover it, is parallel to the claim that laws of nature are already there, we just have to discover them — and it is just like starting the story from the middle and skipping the part of where the laws and the code came from in the first place. Dumping all this on the concept of ‘evolution’ doesn’t really help either, as even if one accepts that one species evolved from another, it still does not explain out whether if the pattern of evolution had been thought out by someone to begin with, or not. The idea of getting a set of actualisations that would lead to a progressive evolutionary model from within near-infinite potentialities is also very strong in this regard, as it points to design, pattern of action and a chooser at every point where there is instrumental change, a change that a substance or body is unable to incur in itself by itself.

So, what is there to say of a human species that may have evolved from a set of completely unguided chances, just turning out the way it is, to find out that the only code that led to its existence has been that of the survival of the fittest in a competitive environment of possibilities and actualities. Or, is the universe, in itself, an organism that has finally self-actuated in us, the humans, in which case, we at the epitome of its self-actualisation should celebrate ourselves as demigods to whose pleasure all can be sacrificed?

Objectivism invites exactly such a moral code, wherein moral agents ought to act in their own self-interest, and the difference can be balanced out by utilitarianism. Even though this moral code is based on selfishness and self-centeredness, the same selfishness can lead to the good of the whole society while it is being made pleasurably livable for the individual.

What is the underlying thought of such a society; if one is to cooperate with others just to make a society more comfortable and progressive for one’s own self; form a societal or group defence system to safeguard one own self-interest, one would essentially be in war with all ‘others’, be they other societies or other competitive groups within one’s society or even members of their own society who can be compromised in pursuit of one’s own happiness as long as the society as a whole keeps working. If there is any goodness in such a set-up, it is certainly superfluous, and is certainly a goodness rooted in the bad of selfishness and spite for others.

And this is in complete reverse from a worldview based on the welfare of the whole humanity and altruistic uplift of the downtrodden in general. Connecting with humanity as a whole is a difficult stance to keep if one considers that competition and war are a too commonplace phenomenon to be disregarded, and it seems like one really has to give a fight even for mere survival in such an environment — unless one can contemplate the outside-in approach, not from humanity to the individual human, but from God to humanity to the individual. If we can unite our thought in a God that is pure goodness, who made evil and sufferings only to test us; then they can find the solace they need; and muster the resilience needed to organise themselves as representatives of humanity against the forces that believe in narrow self-preservation and for whom well-being is a zero-sum game, where increasing their own well-being essentially means decreasing it for others. Clearly, the self-centred worldview invites competition and war, whereas the God-humanity worldview invites peace and respite.

Capitalistic exploitative economics goes hand in hand with the self-centred world view, wherein alliances, cartels and organisations are only formed to facilitate the accumulation of wealth and power into narrower and narrower corridors, while the larger part of humanity is pushed more and more towards depravation. The only utilitarian goods that get distributed are those that ensure control and economic superiority of those who already have them and who group together so that their ‘way of life’ remains secured.

True democracy, that ensures the welfare of ‘the people’, is the opposite of capitalism. True democracy means a system wherein wealth and opportunities would be distributed; where basic human rights of peace, health and education would be equal for all; where rule of law would apply same to everyone — inter-group, inter-society and inter-nationally, so that humanity can be in peace. But to keep preaching humanity with your words, yet allowing the use of falsehood, connivance and atrocities to defeat the other; and to fool ‘the people’ with fake-democracy of today’s style wherein the electoral process is designed to ensure the reverse of true democracy, is again the fruit of the ‘selfish gene’, introduced by Richard Dawkins, who bases his moral theory of altruism on the hypothesis that “gene selfishness will usually give rise to selfishness in individual behaviour. However, …a gene can achieve its own selfish goals best by fostering a limited form of altruism at the level of individual(s)”.

To keep stubbornly insisting for demonstrable evidence for the existence of God, when all the complexities that we keep discovering in physics, chemistry, biology and what not, all demonstrate the existence of an extremely knowledgeable maker — and to go at long lengths to find alternate theories for a God-less system — seems to be the urge of the selfish genes of those who need to justify their acts of self-accumulation and self-empowerment that allows them to be their own gods at the epitome of the self-actualisation of an otherwise thoughtless universe.

But for the have-nots and for those with truly larger hearts, God still remains the only source of moral value and strength — the One, unity in whose goodness, can give each one of us the strength to forgo our little comforts, so that His goodness is shared and propagated — the One, loving whom, simplifies our value and ability of loving all.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2021.

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