cover image Morality Without God?

Morality Without God?

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, . . Oxford Univ., $24.95 (172pp) ISBN 978-0-19-533763-1

With a conversational and commonsensical tone, Sinnott-Armstrong defends nonbelief from accusations of immorality, both at the individual and the societal level by considering surveys and statistics on homicide, discrimination and charity, among other categories. He establishes a moral framework rooted in avoiding harm—opposed to a theistic morality whereby questions of right and wrong are decided by God's “divine command,” a moral account he derides for its inability to provide an “independent moral standard.” 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. Nonetheless, the oft-stated modesty of his aim to show merely that atheists and agnostics can be moral, coupled with a loose and ill-defined notion of harm, leaves the reader with an account of morality that coheres with the universal disapprobation of such horrors as murder and rape, but provides little demonstration of its applicability to the grayer areas of moral conundrums. (July 10