Morality needs religion?

It is often said by theists that religion is necessary, else a person cannot have any morality. Leaving aside, for the moment, the fact that many atheists lead very moral lives, often better than their religious counterparts, what is it about religion that is supposed to provide this morality?
For Christians the guidance apparently comes from the bible. Even when the sheer barbarity of some of the stories therein are pointed out to them, the usual answer is “well, it’s metaphorical, you’re not meant to read that bit literally!” Of course, they can never say definitively how one is supposed to identify which bits to read metaphorically, and which literally!
Let’s allow them one example of a story that, if taken as literal fact, is one that hardly inspires confidence in the goodness of the two main protagonists, God and Abraham. God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac’s life; to murder him, in other words. Abraham sets about this task, without any reluctance apparent in the text, and has Isaac on the sacrificial pyre with a knife at his throat, when God sends an angel to stop him.
Now if we are expected to believe that story as literally true, then Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, should be released at once. Who are the police and the courts to say that the voices in his head telling him to kill women weren’t real?
Of course, most Christians aren’t so deluded, and don’t read the story as literal truth, but in that case it must be a metaphor. What is it supposed to mean though? What is the moral of the story? That one should always obey God, no matter what He commands? How is that any different from the literal interpretation? However you read the story, it’s horrible, and as clear a case of child abuse as ever was documented.

No it is, like many other bible stories, a remnant of humanity’s barbaric infancy, and ought to be discarded. Sadly for Christians, the early church fathers chose to include the Old Testament, even having Jesus saying, in the Gospel according to Matthew, (5:18) “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. ”
(5:19) “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Sorry Christians, you’re stuck with the whole bible, even the nasty bits.


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