Atheist Reward and Punishment

Atheist Reward and Punishment

Does your diety punish and reward in this life?

KEVIN SMITH is on the board of directors for the Centre of Inquiry, Canada's premier venue for humanists, skeptics and freethinkers.

Go ahead; indulge in that sinfully delicious morsel listed as a banned substance in your holy book. Don’t sweat it if you imbibed too much bubbly on New Year’s. It’s no big deal if you missed your prayers today, or if you only practise the faith on religious holidays, just to keep up appearances. And keep eating those chocolates for Lent; there’s no deity watching you with a scorecard. There is (probably) no God, so don’t worry. Enjoy your life!

Shovelling snow off your neighbours’ sidewalk won’t convince the Creator of the universe to pull any strings for that new job you desire. And don’t be too sure that mailing off that donation to earthquake victims will win you any favours from God. It’s within the realm of possibility that a bus could hit you as you’re walking to the post box.

Rewards and punishments don’t come from the invisible; they come from within society and us.

We do good for goodness’s sake, not for God’s sake. Our morals are innate within us and we’ve possessed them long before Zeus was lighting up Grecian skies. When we do good deeds for people, we feel good inside and the compassion will often be returned.

Sometimes, others will even reward us for them. But when we are bad — and all of us are capable — we usually feel guilt and remorse for our actions. And if that’s not enough punishment, our democratic laws are normally an incentive for good behaviour. Basing our actions on rewards and punishments from a deity is self-serving, concerned more with how we fare rather than the welfare of others.

Secular humanist values are based on the principles of justice, fairness and compassion for our fellow humans.

That’s far more meaningful than anticipating judgment from a God who isn’t there.

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