The issue of whether morality is or is not tied either to a belief in God or religious prescriptions has come up time and again, and apparently Christopher Hitchens hears it quite often. Tom Gilson provides a good response to the question, which as he comments might surprise some Christians as well as atheists:
1. Christians are by no means committed to believing that belief in God or gods taken generally is good or leads to ethical actions. The Bible is full of stories of people who believed in a God or gods, and yet sacrificed children, practiced temple prostitution, and more. We believe there is but one God, revealed in Jesus Christ, that contradictory beliefs are in error, and that there is no reason to expect extraordinary good to come from them.
2. This may come as a surprise to some readers, but Christianity is also not committed to the belief that Christians are more ethical than others. The explanation for this comes in three parts. …
Tom’s post is succint, but addresses the question well. It’s worth reading, and I’d appreciate any comments you might have on the topic.
“Christianity is also not committed to the belief that Christians are more ethical than others”?
Tom’s point may be succinct, but in the comments the idea that Hitchens thinks of his children mechanistically is codswallop.
The way that we approach morals is taught through an accumulated and evolutionary social progress of group cohesion and survival. Religion as an institution has been a force to shape those morals, but religion, rather than directing morals from god is an authoritative source created by man.
So, if there are studies that the religious are better behaved than the religious, then perhaps they are more scared of hell.