Here is Irfan Hussain in yesterday's Dawn, Morality and Atheism:
Many have condemned modern Western civilization for its ‘godless’ ways, pointing to widespread cohabitation between men and women, men and men, and women and women. Alcoholism, nudity and drug-abuse are also frequently cited.Read the full article here. As far as the arguments for morality without religion, check out Marc Hauser and Peter Singer here (pdf), Frans de Waal here, and Theodore Schick Jr. here. You can also check out this short segment (less than 4 minutes) from a Marc Hauser talk:
All these lifestyle choices are mentioned in arguments over the superiority of Eastern religions and societies. Yet the firm belief in religion and an afterlife in our part of the world do not necessarily translate into better societies.
In the Transparency International table for global perceptions of corruption for 2009, there is not a single Muslim country in the twenty most honest states. However, seven Muslim countries figure among the ten most corrupt states.
Interestingly, Sweden, the most godless state in Europe, comes in at joint third with Singapore as the least corrupt country in the world.
There is an argument that corruption is a function of poverty, and once societies have acquired a measure of economic well-being, they tend to become more honest and accountable. While there is some truth to this assertion, how to explain the fact that Saudi Arabia, one of the richest countries in the world, is listed as 63rd by TI?
And Kuwait comes in at 68. Clearly, then, there is little direct linkage between religion and morality.
Nevertheless, billions around the world continue to believe deeply in the faith they have grown up in. They derive comfort from following the belief system of their forefathers, and most of them have never felt the need to question it.
Indeed, the poor obtain solace for their wretched condition with the promise of compensation in the afterlife. And the rich in our part of the world try and assuage their guilt by giving alms generously, thereby hoping to buy a place in heaven. If only they would pay their taxes with the same zeal, we might be able to make a better world in this life.
In religiously inclined societies like Pakistan, we are fond of criticising Western materialism, while holding up our supposed spirituality as being superior.
Even the millions of Muslims who have chosen to migrate to the West make the same assertion. However, I have not noticed any of these people denying themselves the conveniences and the advantages of these same ‘materialistic’ societies. And frankly, I do not see too much evidence of our vaunted ‘spirituality’ in our behaviour or attitudes.