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Becoming A Non-believer Should Change Your Values


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When I tell people that I no longer believe in God, I often get some form of the question, "So where do you get your moral values?" It's a good question, and it deserves more than a pat answer.

 

I think the best way to start is to say that I no longer get them from the Bible (insert the holy book of your choice here). That means I don't think embryos have souls (since there's no such thing as a soul), I don't think it matters what consenting adults do behind closed doors (since there's no omniscient lawgiver to be offended by their behavior), and I don't really think anyone is going to heaven, hell or purgatory (since I have no evidence to believe that such metaphysical places exist).

 

Does this mean that I just go with my gut and do whatever I feel like doing? Certainly not! Actions, after all, have very real consequences.

 

I don't cheat on my wife because I don't want to break our marriage contract or cause her emotional pain. I don't steal because theft always has a victim. And I am upfront and honest in my business affairs because I need to maintain a good reputation in order to be successful. In other words, although I might not strive for moral holiness the way a religious person would, I do set high ethical standards for myself because ethical behavior is just reasonable.

 

Of course, the answers aren't always so obvious. In these situations, the non-believer is at an advantage because all solutions are on the table (he does not eliminate potential solutions simply because they are forbidden by scripture).

 

For example, the United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world (42 births per 1,000 women). Almost everyone agrees that this is a serious problem which can lead to poverty and crime. But what can we do about it? Religious people have sought to teach teens to remain abstinent until marriage: a solution that coincides with several holy books.

 

However, these forces have united in opposition to education about birth and infection control methods such as condoms because they make premarital sex less dangerous. Some of the more extreme groups even oppose the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, which can help prevent cervical cancer. To make matters worse, the religious right has plenty of support from the White House on abstinence-only education.

 

Fortunately, we know that teaching kids about birth control really makes a difference. In Canada and Western Europe where birth control is an important part of the curriculum, teen pregnancy rates are far below that of the United States, and they keep declining.

 

The religious person who buries his or her head in the sand on this issue

may be behaving morally according to a holy book but, despite good intentions, is not behaving ethically. And the list of these issues goes on and on.

 

So examine your faith and see if it really leads you to make the best possible ethical choices. You might be surprised at the results.

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