Morality requires God

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It is often claimed by theists that morality requires God, i.e. people only behave morally because of belief in the carrot-and-stick of reward/punishment from God (Heaven/Hell).

This claim is a special case of the claim that morality requires religion.


The clinical term for people who behave decently only on threat of pain and/or promise of reward is "psychopathy". This claim is therefore equivalent to a claim that humanity is generally psychopathic. Studies show, however, that psychopaths actually make up only about 5% of the general population.

This claim is therefore absurd if applied to humanity as a whole or to the overwhelming majority of individual humans.

It may, however, be applicable to the majority of religious leaders, as psychopaths account for a disproportionate percentage of people in positions of power.


If moral behavior requires knowledge of punishment and reward from a being more powerful than humanity, this implies a few things:

  • Humans did not behave morally before discovering/inventing this particular form of God (e.g. ancient Romans, ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians).
    • How, then, did civilization arise, if nobody could be bothered to treat other people decently?
  • Entities who have not received instruction in this aspect of religion do not (or cannot) behave morally.
  • Non-human animals cannot behave morally, since they cannot receive religious instruction.
    • There has recently been some evidence against this...