Wayne Holland: Nothing in Particular

A Truly Moral Act

where has all the courage gone?


As counterintuitive as it may at first appear, it is nonetheless true that only the atheist may ever be in a position to act morally. The defense for this (admittedly )strange argument is fairly simple.

First, we must adopt a proposition, one that is equally simple. The premise consists in the firm conviction that morality and courage go hand in hand. If there is no courage involved, then there is no morality in play.


Suppose you were to find a wallet with money in it and return it to its owner. On the face of it this seems an indisputably moral thing to do. But the simple act of returning the wallet is not in and of itself moral. The motivation has to be taken into account.

Suppose the place you were at when you found the wallet was blanketed with security cameras, and you knew that your act of finding the wallet would be recorded.

That would make your gesture of returning the wallet not so much moral as prudent.

But suppose there were no cameras in play, and you knew that as well. If you were to return the wallet under those circumstances, then your act might indeed be a courageous (i.e., moral) one.

Except for the belief, or faith, factor.

If you believe in the Almighty, then it is likely that you also believe that He is in constant watch over you, in the same way that you believe He is always observing everyone. The act of returning a wallet because you believe He might punish you if you do not return it (or reward you if you do), is not an act of courage, and therefore unqualified to be listed as moral. It is actually an act of cowardice, no matter how good and decent it may appear on the surface.

Only an atheist could act in a manner that we might honestly designate as legitimately moral.

Only an atheist could return a wallet to its rightful owner with an attitude of unblemished moral compunction, not out of any apprehension for a camera, or a god, observing him/her, but only because he/she believes it the proper thing to do.

But even an atheist would not be acting morally if they acted in the hope of receiving a reward for the act. That too would be cowardly. The atheist could only act morally if they returned the wallet, and never let it be known that they had done so.

Now that would be an act of courage/morality, and only an atheist might ever be in a position to behave in such a manner.

February 26, 2018


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