Being good without god


There was a fascinating Twitter exchange yesterday about Stuart Broad's refusal to walk after clipping an edge and (to his full knowledge) being caught out. On the one hand were those who thought this sort of gamesmanship was perfectly legitimate, particularly in light of the fact that the Australians, given the chance, would have done exactly the same. On the other hand, were those arguing this was bad sportsmanship and not the 'decent thing' to do in the circumstances.

Richard Dawkins was on the side of the decent thing brigade, making the point that:

"If you find somebody's wallet and nobody (no umpire) sees you pick it up, you don't keep it, you walk to a police station & hand it in".
I have to say that I agree with Dawkins wholeheartedly. Too often, even in schools, this sort of poor sportsmanship is laughed off with a wink and a nod. Why is it that otherwise upstanding teachers (and parents) accept dishonest behaviour in the name of sport? The odd stamp here, the odd appeal there is seen as fair game.
I won't have any of it, and neither will Dawkins. It is significant that Dawkins, as a vociferous atheist, takes the moral high ground here. Many religious people opine that those without belief in god have no reason to be good, honest and upright.

But this is conspicuous nonsense. It suggests that the only reason for being honest is to avoid being caught out by the 'great surveillance camera in the sky'.

Most people, believers or not, would accept that the best reason for Stuart Broad to have owned up would be because of his belief in the inherent rightness of doing so, not because of a fear of retribution, perceived or otherwise. Neither does conception of this 'rightness', flagged up by an active conscience, need to have come from an divine source. Indeed, as is pointed out here you should be wary of turning your back on anyone who claims this in the event that they ever abandon their faith...


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