Columnist Lee Dye made the front page at ABCNews.com yesterday, with a book review titled
Are we moral because we believe in God, or do we believe in God because we are moral?
Frans de Waal argues in his latest book that the answer is clearly the latter. The seeds for moral behavior preceded the emergence of our species by millions of years, and the need to codify that behavior so that all would have a clear blueprint for morality led to the creation of religion, he argues.
Most religious leaders would argue it’s the other way around: Our sense of what’s moral came from God, and without God there would be no morality.
But this is a column about science, not religion, so it’s worth asking if de Waal’s own research supports his provocative conclusions, documented in the newly released book, “The Bonobo and the Atheist.”
Only a year ago you would not have seen such a story, and certainly not worded in this “we’re sure it’s not God” way.
Much as I detest ABCNEWS.com for their Freak of the Week stories, this was a nice sign that atheism, the open doubting of god-belief, is no longer off-limits to mainstream media.
This bit also caught my attention:
[de Waal] is an atheist, although he disparages the efforts of other atheists to convince the public to abandon all beliefs in the supernatural. Religion serves its purpose, he argues, especially through the rituals and body of beliefs that help strengthen community bonds.
“Religion serves its purpose” — if it does — only because most people throughout history haven’t had a choice. My own thinking on Beta Culture convinces me there’s another way to strengthen community bonds — or at least there’s going to be — and one that doesn’t require you to give up your critical mind by giving in to religion.