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Morality Without God?

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Some argue that atheism must be false, since without God, no values are possible, and thus "everything is permitted." Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues that God is not only not essential to morality, but that our moral behavior should be utterly independent of religion. He attacks several core ideas: that atheists are inherently immoral people; that any society will sink into chaos if it is becomes too secular; that without morality, we have no reason to be moral; that absolute moral standards require the existence of God; and that without religion, we simply couldn't know what is wrong and what is right.

Sinnott-Armstrong brings to bear convincing examples and data, as well as a lucid, elegant, and easy to understand writing style. This book should fit well with the debates raging over issues like evolution and intelligent design, atheism, and religion and public life as an example of a pithy, tightly-constructed argument on an issue of great social importance.

"In his call for sincere dialogue with theists, Sinnott-Armstrong provides a welcome relief from the apoplectic excesses of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, while also addressing objections to homosexuality and evolution frequently raised by evangelical Christians." --Publishers Weekly

"[I]t is accessible and lively, my hope is that it will be widely read, especially by theists."--Peter Lamal, The Humanist

"... the clarity of this text successfully defuses many erroneous claims about religion and morality, both popular and academic; this volume certainly deserves a wide audience in this increasingly secular and skeptical world." -Choice

"Morality Without God? is an engaging, pithy book arguing against the necessity of God and religion for a robust morality. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has distinguished himself as a leading philosopher in his work on metaethics and moral psychology, as well as books on moral and epistemological skepticism, and in Morality Without God? he commendably succeeds in writing a philosophically respectable introduction to the problems facing religious morality suitable for virtually any audience." --Philosophia Christi

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

With a conversational and commonsensical tone, Sinnott-Armstrong defends nonbelief from accusations of immorality, both at the individual and the societal level by considering surveys and statistics on homicide, discrimination and charity, among other categories. He establishes a moral framework rooted in avoiding harm-opposed to a theistic morality whereby questions of right and wrong are decided by God's "divine command," a moral account he derides for its inability to provide an "independent moral standard." In his call for sincere dialogue with theists, Sinnott-Armstrong provides a welcome relief from the apoplectic excesses of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, while also addressing objections to homosexuality and evolution frequently raised by evangelical Christians. Nonetheless, the oft-stated modesty of his aim to show merely that atheists and agnostics can be moral, coupled with a loose and ill-defined notion of harm, leaves the reader with an account of morality that coheres with the universal disapprobation of such horrors as murder and rape, but provides little demonstration of its applicability to the grayer areas of moral conundrums. (July 10

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Sinnott-Armstrong (philosophy & legal studies, Dartmouth Coll.) is in no doubt about the question posed in his book's title. Not only is morality possible without God, but belief in God is, in his view, harmful to proper morality. Theists argue that without God, we have no reason to be moral. Sinnott-Armstrong writes that morality has an objective basis in avoiding harm to others, and the desire to avoid inflicting such harms gives us sufficient reason to be moral. Divine command theories of morality are arbitrary and do not offer an adequate foundation for morality. Sinnott-Armstrong claims that the Bible contains commands inconsistent with ordinary morality. Historical experience supports these conclusions of moral theory: in practice, atheists are not morally worse than believers and are often better. The book is well argued, although readers who go on to consult the author's more technical Moral Skepticisms may be surprised at the limited nature of his commitment to moral objectivity. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers interested in morality and religion—And who isn't?—David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195337631
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/2/2009
  • Series: Philosophy in Action Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: An Atheist's Progress Chapter 2: Atheists aren't all that bad Chapter 3: Social Corruption Chapter 4: Why be Moral?
Chapter 5: Can there be Objective Morality Without God?
Chapter 6: Against Divine Commands Chapter 7: How to Know What is Morally Wrong Chapter 8: Where Do We Go From Here?
1. An Atheist's Progress
2. Atheists aren't all that bad
3. Social Corruption
4. Why be Moral?
5. Can there be Objective Morality Without God?
6. Against Divine Commands
7. How to Know What is Morally Wrong
8. Where Do We Go From Here?

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