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I take a small leap here and assume that by “morality” you mean roughly a system of values that embraces the worth of people and the communities in which they live, and which as well respects the rights of other people and communities insofar as they do not attempt to do harm to those unlike them.

A moral life is possible with or without God

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I take a small leap here and assume that by “morality” you mean roughly a system of values that embraces the worth of people and the communities in which they live, and which as well respects the rights of other people and communities insofar as they do not attempt to do harm to those unlike them.

If that, or something like it, is what we mean by the term “morality” then belief in God is not essential to morality.  What is necessary is to realize that fundamentally human nature is very similar across all cultures and times, and that therefore other people at some very basic level are like me, regardless of how much different they might look.  Therefore, since I want to live in some measure of freedom to pursue my own interests, hopes and dreams, I have no business denying that same right to anyone else.  Societies have not just a right, but a duty, to organize themselves in such a manner as to restrict the freedom  of those who would diminish that freedom through violence or the creation of unjust laws and economic structures that privilege one specific group over another.

Most simply put, what is necessary to morality is empathy, the ability to imagine myself in another’s shoes.  With that, moral life is possible whether you believe in God or not.  Without it, moral life is not possible, whether you believe in God or not.

Bill Ellis

About Bill Ellis

Rev. Bill Ellis is dean of St. John’s Cathedral. He has a bachelor’s degree in history, a Master of Divinity and holds an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

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