Arguments for Atheism - Living without religion, with a clear conscience


The Argument | The Refutation

The Argument Back to Top

The Argument from Justice is a variation on the Moral Argument, sometimes known as the the Kantian Moral Argument as it was first proposed by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant in the 18th Century.

Kant first presupposed that moral behaviour is rational and that we should have good reason to behave morally. Then, though, he noted that, looking around the world, we see that in many cases immoral behaviour does often seem to profit more than moral behaviour, and that “life is not fair”. Kant therefore argued that moral behaviour will only be rational if there is more than just this life, and if justice is administered in the next life.

The Refutation Back to Top

The Argument from Justice is really an argument for the existence of a life after death, and not for the existence of God per se. It does not fully answer why, even if it were the case that some kind of moral justice needs to be administered, it should have to be God in particular that brings about this higher good.
A man’s ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.
- Albert Einstein (1930)

Neither does it explain why (to use Kantian language) something should necessarily “have” to be, just because we decide it both “ought” and “can”. There is no good reason to assume that justice must, in the end, balance out in our universe, and the assumption of cosmic justice is at least as questionable as the inital assumption that it is supposed to prove - that God, or at least an afterlife, exists.

A common complaint by many atheists against theism is that the assumption of the existence of some cosmic balance of justice takes away the responsibility to do all that we can in the here and now to ensure that justice is done. It was in this respect that Karl Marx called religion the “opiate of the people”, in that it tends to obscure the true causes of the real problems of the world, and prevents people from taking action to remedy actual injustice. If a believer is convinced that a criminal will get his just deserts in the next life, what motivation does he have to bring about justice in this life? An atheist believes that we have only one life, which makes it all the more precious and ensures a life-affirming, life-enhancing attitude, untainted with wishful thinking, self-delusion or self-pity.

Back to Top of Page | Home | Search | Contact
What is Atheism? | History of Atheism | Arguments | Atheism Quotes | Famous Atheists | References and Links
© 2011 Luke Mastin