I've already blogged in Xeno's Religious Paradox about how this notion is simply untenable and leads to conclusions not supported by reality. The plain fact of the matter is that human morality is more of an argument against gods than it is for them.
Let's go back to the plains of East Africa to the early childhood of mankind; to a time when our ancestors had moved out of the forests (or maybe due to climate change, the forests had moved away from our ancestors).
Here we were, a rather puny ape, walking upright and able to throw sticks and stones, maybe even sticks with stone points tied to them as simple spears. We were surrounded by predators like lions, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards, crocodiles, pythons and poisonous snakes and out there in the grasslands was food a-plenty on the hoof, if only we were big enough to catch and kill it and not get caught and killed by something else out looking for dinner. If not, we would have to depend on foraging for insects, lizards, roots and berries in season; more gatherers than hunters.
We were never going to succeed as a species unless we worked together as a team and we were never going to work together as a team unless we all understood the first rule of team-work - trust.
Trust means you can depend on other team members to play their part and they can depend on you. Betrayal of trust would have meant exclusion and almost certain death. To be in the team you had to do your bit. That might have meant simply being a look-out for predators looking to catch their dinner. It might have meant being a beater who drove the gazelle towards the spear-throwers. It might even have meant being the one who made the spear tips and tied them on the sticks. Or it could have been the ones who stayed behind and looked after the children.
Trust meant you got your share of the kill because you had played your part. Trust meant that the handful of people who actually made the kill didn't make off with it and keep it all for themselves. We are still the only ape which shares food!
A successful group would have been the group which understood the basic rule of treating other people the way you would want them to treat you, and the most successful groups, by definition, would be the groups which left the most descendants. The most successful groups would have been the ones who understood that you succeed by doing least harm and that generosity pays off in the long run. The most successful groups would have been those groups who cared for one another and gave a helping hand when one was needed.
The most successful groups would have been the altruistic ones because altruism produces more survivors who carry the genes for, or the cultural idea of, altruism.
In short, the most successful groups would have been the groups with morals and ethics and they would have taken the land formerly occupied by those without them. Groups with morals would have been the survivors. The survivors were the ones who cared for one another.
And then we evolved religion and created gods. In our primitive understanding of the world, in which the unexplained was explained by magic, and magical forces were reified and given human-like characteristic, those things which caused bad things to happen were bad spirits; they were the ones who you didn't want in the team. The ones who caused good things to happen were the good ones. They were the ones you would want in the team and so they must have had good team skills. They must cause good because they care about us!
But, they were powerful gods weren't they? They were gods who could cause magic and control a world in ways far beyond the capabilities of mere humans. How could they possibly have got these morals from humans? Obviously, they must have given them to us! How could it be otherwise?
And that mistake set us up for the sucker punch.
That set us up to fall for the notion that 'good' must have come from a god; that somehow 'good' was whatever a god said was good. And who told us what the gods said? The priesthood, of course.
And so we abdicated responsibility for our own morals and handed them over to the priesthood. It seemed so right at the time and so much easier too! All we had to do was gather together to be told what was right and what was wrong; what was good and what was bad. And the priesthood used our naive gullibility for their own ends and took control of our society and set kings and rulers over us to help in that control in an unholy alliance designed to control the people. Our caring and sharing cultures had succumbed to a parasitic class, facilitated by the memetic parasite of religion; a parasite of our own naive creation.
And so we believed them when they told us to kill the Canaanites to take their land, to enslave the Africans and take their countries to teach them 'morality', to slaughter foreigners by the tens of thousands with machine guns for a few yards of territory, or to kill the Jews because God didn't like them, to destroy the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbour for the God-Emperor, to drop atom bombs on the Japanese to teach them civilised ways, or to fly planes full of people into buildings full of people to show them how great Allah is.
And we told ourselves we were being good because God said so, or so the priesthood and the theologians told us...
|Would you buy a used car from this man?|
And so we now have the knowledge and understanding to take back our morality and to develop it with us as we progress instead of it being used to control us and to hold us back in some imaginary world of magic spirits and all-powerful deities who dispense morality to us through the priesthood and whom the priesthood has declared immune from enquiry.
We are now capable of looking back at our history and, with a shake of our head, conclude that if religion told us that was right, religion was wrong.
No wonder then that the political right employ craven lick-spittles like William Lane Craig and other religious apologists to bamboozle the ignorant, the credulous and the intellectual indolent into continuing to abdicate moral responsibility and allowing the priesthood to keep it.
No wonder then that self-serving charlatans are advocating a creed of greed and selfishness, division and discrimination - the very antithesis of what our morals first evolved to give us and which made us succeed against the odds in a hostile environment. A society based on caring, compassion, teamwork, cooperation and a willingness to lend a helping hand to those down on their luck or suffering misfortune. A society which values all its members and not just a small, powerful elite who require us to be primitive in our understanding in order for them to get away with it and make off with the results of the kill and keep it for themselves.
Religion is an abdication of moral responsibility and an abandonment of our humanity.