10th Grade Honors Literature
Morality: With Whom does it Exist?
Many people believe that Atheists and non-religious people do not have a clear understanding of moral behavior because they are not guided by a religious text; however, recent research indicates that morality is not directly correlated with religion.
Irreligion often has a negative connotation. Stereotypically, anyone who is unguided by a religion is labeled as immoral, untrustworthy, or a ‘devil worshiper.’ Although they remain harsh, these labels have become a lighter form of insults. In recent years the prejudice towards non-religious people has been worsening. In study done where over 700 participants were to choose from a rapist teacher, an atheist teacher, or an unlabeled teacher, “The participants, who were from religious and nonreligious backgrounds, most often chose the atheist teacher” (Winston) when asked which of the three was most likely to steal money from a wallet in a parked car. The conductor of the experiment stated, “People find atheists very suspect…They don't fear God so [people] should distrust them; they do not have the same moral obligations of others. This is a common refrain against atheists. People fear them as a group” (Winston) as his reasoning as to why more people chose the atheist as opposed to the rapist. It is common knowledge that stereotypes are usually exaggerated; for example, all Asians being superior in intelligence. However, prejudice towards irreligious people still continues and is not commonly used in a sense of humor; rather, a sense of hate. Based off previous research, it has been proven that morality and irreligion are not necessarily correlated.
More often than not, people assume nihilism and irreligion are directly correlated, which has been proven to be incorrect. Nihilism is the rejection of all religious and moral principles, and it’s a common misconception that non-religious people are ‘devil worshipers’ and contain no concept of morality. However, according to the United States Census Bureau, there are 315,395,649 people in the United States (U.S. & World Population). Of those, only about 15 percent are considered to be non-religious (On Morals). That is more than 45,000,000 people in the United States alone who are non-religious when calculated. In a study done by the ARIS, there were only about 4,000 citizens of the United States who considered themselves satanic or nihilistic. The number was so miniscule that it wasn’t qualified to register as a religious group (Lee). The ratio between irreligious people who are satanic and/or nihilistic and those who aren’t is so extreme in difference that it would be incorrect to assume that all non-religious people worship the devil and reject all moral principles. Contrary to belief that Atheists are immoral, one just needs to look at crime rate statistics to determine that this is not the case. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the top two out of the top 20 religious groups in prison across the United States were (and still remain to be) Catholics and Protestants; atheists were sixth to last (Mehta). Also, it has been proven that Atheist predominant countries have significantly lower crime rates as opposed to a religious country. When comparing crime rates of the United States versus Germany, a predominantly Atheist country, the United States out ranked Germany in homicides with firearms and total crimes by 88 percent (Crime Stats). Due to the fact that religious people have mostly affiliated with crime rates and prison populations, one cannot assume that irreligious people are generally immoral. Despite the lack of a religious moral text, there are many famous non-religious people who do altruistic deeds on a daily