Can one be moral in a secular society?

The concept of god was initially created to enforce morality through religious requisites, claiming it was a divine dictation, so that it could not be questioned or tampered with. These requisites, howsoever practical they may have been at genesis, gradually became irrational as human understanding, and thus humanity, evolved. Sui generis nature of the human mind has enabled the course of evolution to develop the ability of deduction, capacitating our species with the power to distinguish between good and evil through gaining experience, and transmitting the evident and substantial experiences to future generations.

Morality, on the other hand, is not a definitive notion, but one open to interpretation. Therefore, as suggested by Johnson (2013) “ethics initially requires an analysis of moral concepts”(1); it entails rendering an interpretation of the concept in preparation for debating it within the context. Kantian perspective determines the innermost intent of an action, that known merely to the executant, as what defines morality (2). Kant further argues that morality is that which is positive and can be emulated (3), a perception widely recognised nowadays. Injecting religious beliefs into a society, ergo, is in contradiction with the aforementioned definition of morality by Kant; for religion, if practiced as dictated, is a negativity that amounts to cruelty. From the Holocaust, to slavery and homophobia, to abusing women and children rights, were and indeed are explicitly promoted by religion. Consequently, individuals only hang on to their religious beliefs inasmuch as they are used to it, and not that they feel the necessity to hold up the conception as did thousands of years ago.

Philosophy of the newly born concept of nonreligious faith in a divine entity (hereinafter, irreligious faith) is also practically identical to its preceding idea of divinity, or god; which itself appeared as a mean to support religion. Thus, in order to succeed, the concept required amongst other distortions, to be a subsidiary to the otherwise unachievable yet consuming desire for the following 4 issues in the human mind: (I) justice and injustice, (II) reason for the unknown, (III) reliance in difficulties, and (IV) eternal life. Similar to every other idea, this substitutional conception also evolved through time, i.e. religion after religion; until it was no longer acceptable to self-identify as a prophet. This historical intersection was a moment of substantial significance in evolution of mind, whereby the consensus gentium shifted towards logic, and repealed dictation. The idea of irreligious faith was consequently initiated to justify similar needs for superficially secular parties whose academic knowledge or social status no longer embraced traditional religious ideologies.

In conclusion, by relying upon the above definitions of morality and religion, it is safe to suggest that morality is only possible within a secular society. As Simon de Beauvoir (1972) rightfully proposed: “If it came to be that each man did what he must, existence would be saved in each one without there being any need of dreaming of paradise, where all would be reconciled in death.”(4)

Pouria Hadjibagheri
30 January 2014 – London.



 (1) Johnson, R. 2013. Kant’s Moral Philosophy: Stanford Encyclopædia of Philosophy. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 29 Jan 2014].

(2) Kant, I. 1873. Kant’s Theory of Ethics or Practical Philosophy. London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer. pp. 87-93.

(3) Epstein, G.M. 2009. Good without God. New York: HarperCollins. p. 112.

(3) Beauvoir, S.D. et al., 1972. The Ethics of Ambiguity. Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press.