Morality Without God
posted on 02.14.2006 at 1:46 PM
I'm currently teaching (conveniently and not-coincidentally) a seminar on The History of Disbelief.
Last week we discussed the slippery slope down which Jesus seems to lead in the Sermon on the Mount. There ain't much credit, He notes, in doing good "before men, to be seen by them." Instead, our charitable deeds, He insists, should be done "in secret." Then "your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly."
But -- and here's where the slipperiness of this particular slope becomes clear -- what credit is there in doing good just to be seen by God, just for that promised "reward"?
Kant, I have just learned (in a "text" by Jacques Derrida), ventures further down the slope arguing that (in Derrida's paraphrase) "in order to conduct oneself in a moral manner, one must act as if God did not exist." We should, in other words, do good without expectation of heavenly "reward."
Hmm... Isn't this saying we'd be more moral without God?
[Note: The depiction of Jesus in this entry is non-satirical.]