Morality Without God? (Philosophy in Action)

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Some argue that atheism must be false, since without God, no values are possible, and thus "everything is permitted." Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues that God is not only not essential to morality, but that our moral behavior should be utterly independent of religion. He attacks several core ideas: that atheists are inherently immoral people; that any society will sink into chaos if it is becomes too secular; that without religion, we have no reason to be moral; that absolute moral standards require the existence of God; and that without religion, we simply couldn't know what is wrong and what is right.

Sinnott-Armstrong brings to bear convincing examples and data, as well as a lucid, elegant, and easy to understand writing style. This book should fit well with the debates raging over issues like evolution and intelligent design, atheism, and religion and public life as an example of a pithy, tightly-constructed argument on an issue of great social importance.

"In his call for sincere dialogue with theists, Sinnott-Armstrong provides a welcome relief from the apoplectic excesses of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, while also addressing objections to homosexuality and evolution frequently raised by evangelical Christians." -Publishers Weekly
"[I]t is accessible and lively, my hope is that it will be widely read, especially by theists."-Peter Lamal, The Humanist
". . . the clarity of this text successfully defuses many erroneous claims about religion and morality, both popular and academic; this volume certainly deserves a wide audience in this increasingly secular and skeptical world."

Product Details

  • Series: Philosophy in Action
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (December 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199841357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199841356
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.8 x 4.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.3 ounces

Customer Reviews

He ends up discussing what more needs to be investigated in coming to a better secular morality

 on July 14, 2017
By Steven Williams
Walter Sinnot-Armstrong argues in this book that the basis of morality can be found without god, as the subtitle states. In addition to this he argues for why morality based on god, in particular the Christian god, can not form a basis for morality. His basis for morality without god involves the concept of harm. Those who harm another, or fails to prevent a harm when possible, commits a moral wrong.


2 people found this helpful.
 on September 27, 2009
By Lornett Vestal
Prof. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong makes many outstanding arguments for a non-religious type of morality. This is one of the basic arguments that theist pose to Atheist, Agnostics, and non-believers;”Without god what will give humanity there moral foundation?” Sinnott-Armstrong addresses this major question in a book that is easy to read and covers a lot of ground about this question. Not has dense has Richard Dawkins, or Christopher Hitchens books;Sinnot-Armstrong takes a less hostile approach towards those with beliefs. He is critical of people on both sides of the god vs. no-god debate, he poses that both sides consider eachother ignorant thus there can never be any true debate. Although, I strongly agree with the position Richard Dawkins take about people being in free and contemporary societies not giving religion a “special” pass from being challenged or analyzed critical. Prof. Sinnot-Armstrong makes it a point to be critical of religion without going to the low blows and sensationalism of Hitchens, or Dawkins when countering religions beliefs. Any person whether they are a devout Christian, passive observer, or stance Atheist will be enlighten by the ideas of a rational based theory of morality. Anybody who has pondered the question of where do our morals come from,or has been challenged by theists about humans their having morals dictated to them from an omnipotent being will benefit from this book.

An honest and loving call for dialogue

30 people found this helpful.
 on July 9, 2009
By Bobby Bambino
First, let me say that I am a practicing Catholic, very committed to my faith. However, this book is very well written, fair, balanced, and honest. Never does Professor Sinnott-Armstrong use ad hominum attacks, make wild assertions, or neglect to show care and concern for theists. I felt nothing but love for his fellow theists while reading this book. This does not, however, mean that Professor Sinnott-Armstrong compromises his position.Of course, there are still arguments that the author makes which I disagree with, but I think Professor Sinnott-Armstrong is a much needed addition (or voice, I suppose) to the growing body of intelligent, kind, and rational atheists (including John Lofton and David Ramsey Steele among others) not driven by malice, unlike the new atheists (yes, I have an axe to grind with the new atheism).

Honest approach

 on June 28, 2013
By Hamilton Carvalho
Professor Sinnot-Armstrong makes a very compelling case to conclude that we can have moral without God. The arguments are very solid and the theists will have a very hard time refutting them (I doubt it). Overall, the book is a well written (in a lay and accessible way), successful piece of good philosophy. I deeply recommend it.

Argues that atheists and agnostics are just as moral as theists

11 people found this helpful.
 on October 2, 2009
By Dennis Littrell
It has been assumed in most societies since the dawn of history that humans cannot be moral without God and religion. Sinnott-Armstrong, who is a Professor of Philosophy and Legal Studies at Dartmouth College, presents in this extended essay the modern view to the contrary.

Should be widely read

3 people found this helpful.
 on April 13, 2010
By J. Davis
It’s unfortunate in 2010 that this book has to be written, but I’m glad it was. Every religious person who’s prejudiced against atheists needs to read this book. Professor Armstrong demonstrates, through rational and calm argument, that atheists and agnostics are just as moral as believers. He uses statistical evidence and arguments as far back as Plato to back up his case. He even takes a swipe at the Golden Rule! I would make one small criticism: I don’t think he’s fair to the opposition to stem cell research. Nevertheless, this is a terrific book.

A very good book that lacks the most important part.

 on April 28, 2013
By Manfred Schieder
An utmost important book with, within the scope of the areas covered by the author, very well reasoned arguments.

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