It’s still up to you to decide

Steven Weinberg on living without God.

Around 1100, the Sufi philosopher Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali argued against the very idea of laws of nature, on the grounds that any such law would put God’s hands in chains. According to al-Ghazzali, a piece of cotton placed in a flame does not darken and smolder because of the heat of the flame, but because God wants it to darken and smolder.

Not a very curiosity-inspiring way to think about things. Whatever happens happens because God wants it to. Ho hum. What’s for dinner?

I do not think we have to worry that giving up religion will lead to a moral decline. There are plenty of people without religious faith who live exemplary moral lives (as for example, me), and though religion has sometimes inspired admirable ethical standards, it has also often fostered the most hideous crimes. Anyway, belief in an omnipotent omniscient creator of the world does not in itself have any moral implications—it’s still up to you to decide whether it is right to obey His commands.

Quite. This is what all the futile squabbles about what is or isn’t in the Koran or the Bible miss: it doesn’t matter what is or isn’t in the Koran or the Bible, all that matters is whether the rule in question is good or (as is all too often the case) jaw-droppingly horrible. If it’s the latter, then don’t obey it; that’s all.

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