VictoryInTruth wrote:I have come across several people who say that it is only by believing in a creator God that one can be a moral person. They took it a step further and asked what is the origin of morality in Buddhism, from where did this concept of a morality come from if not from a creator God?
Then I'd say that you've come across several people who probably haven't given this question serious thought.
While I accept that one can make a rational argument logically demonstrating the independence of God and morality (e.g., Euthyphro
), I'm a little surprised by theists who attempt to argue that it's only
through a belief
in a creator God that one can be a moral person. For one thing, we can empirically observe the fact that there are many moral people who are atheist and completely non-religious, so we can conclude that simply believing in a creator God isn't a requirement to being a moral person, i.e., someone who lives by a particular standard of what's right and wrong.
Moreover, we can empirically observe the fact that there are many religions
that have strong ethical and moral principles without being based on the idea of a creator God, many of their adherents being moral people. From this, we can conclude that theism isn't necessarily the only theological/philosophical basis for morality. Whether or not a theist accepts the validity of these systems is irrelevant.
As for the basis of Buddhist ethics and morality, which I'd say is ultimately empirical and pragmatic in nature rather than 'revealed,' the underlying principles are kamma
— the idea that certain actions produce pleasant, painful or neutral feelings/results — and the principle of ahimsa
or harmlessness. (If you're interested, you can find more of my thoughts about Buddhist ethics here
And since Buddhist morality is centred on the efficacy of actions and the intentions underlying them, a Buddhist can be a moral person even without a belief in God simply by constantly reflecting upon their actions of body, speech and mind, and whether they lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others or to both (MN 61
I guess it all comes down to why should a Buddhist be good and moral if all is illusion? Wouldn't the need to moral person be a futile effort if everything is illusion? How should I respond to a theist concerning the topic of morality and a creator God.
Personally, I don't think the Buddha ever said that everything is an illusion (i.e., unreal or empty of substance), especially when it comes to actions and their results
. In my opinion, this is most likely a misunderstanding of what the Buddha says in place like SN 22.95
, which people sometimes try to apply to everything, including the principle of causality
That said, sometimes the best response is none at all, especially if it avoids a pointless dispute (Snp 4.13