Everyday we try to be nice, we don’t steal or lie or hurt or make people feel bad, these moralities are common sense. We do this primarily because of our experiences (upbringing, education…etc.) and our conscience. Morality in a religious context is an issue complicated by fear and reward. Religions that use fear and reward to enforce morality lack integrity and the good feeling of moral behaviour based on compassion, love and intellect. Doing good is it’s own reward and science shows this:
Lalin Anik, Lara B. Aknin. Michael I. Norton. Elizabeth W. Dun (45 sources)
Conclusion: The evidence we reviewed is quite supportive: Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).
It’s Good to Be Good: Science Says It’s So: Research Demonstrates That People Who Help Others Usually Have Healthier, Happier LivesStephen G. Post (28 Sources)
Conclusion: The principle has been scientifically established. The welfare of oneself (self-fulfillment) and of others (self-sacrifice) are
inseparable and interrelated components of the healthy human personality in a healthy environment.
The evidence supports that doing good feels good what about motivation? Why is fear of God, hell..etc. an unhealthy motivation? Common sense tells us that fear creates undue anxiety and all its problems. Also using fear as a motivation is the way of bullies and dictators, it also creates resentment in the people being manipulated. Ultimately using fear as a tool enforce moral behavior is unhealthy and can lead to resentment, defiance and loss of control.
Research also shows that we shouldn’t need fear to enforce moral behaviour anyway. Moral Psychology has been separating ethical behaviour from emotion for decades. Empathy has also been shown to be a natural result of our evolution. While it is difficult and sometimes even impossible to separate emotion from decision making fear is most certainly the worst way to make a moral decision.
A question religious apologists often ask of unbelievers is “What is stopping you from murdering and raping and pillaging as much as you want?’ to which we ask ‘Are you saying that without God you would be doing those things?’ Humanists, atheists and other unbelievers believe that the primary motivator for moral behavior should be love itself when balanced with reason doing good deeds is its own reward (see above) and that can be achieved right here and now. It also takes courage to take responsibility for own actions (integrity).
When I’m raising my children, my job is to get my children to act in ways that are moral when there is no fear and no reward, but to do it for the sake of doing it. When you add everlasting life as the reward, and everlasting torment as the punishment, there can be no morality. We need to treat each other well because we love each other, and not for reward or punishment. – Penn Jillette
When one considers religions so often also use guilt as well as fear and that moral behaviour existed long before and despite religion then we see that religion’s grip on morality has been lost. Instead we suggest that we let our love and our rational faculties be the motivator. We can reap the rewards of being good right now knowing that we did it for the right reasons.