Religion and morality

Asif Munir, Missionary, New Zealand

Recently, we concluded a trip to the South Island of New Zealand. We visited numerous towns and cities, interacting with people from diverse backgrounds. Throughout our tour, we observed a prevailing trend towards atheism.

During our conversations, many philosophical and moral questions were thrown at us. One particularly striking question was posed: “If I am a good person and perform good deeds, why do I need religion?” This question reflects a common viewpoint among atheists, who often argue that morality can be separated from religious belief.

However, this view raises a profound issue; that is the foundation of morality itself. In atheism, the basis for determining the right or wrong of an action, such as murder, appears to lack reasoning. Without a universal moral compass, society’s interpretation can vary, leading to moral relativism, which is “the idea that there is no universal or absolute set of moral principles. It’s a version of morality that advocates “to each her own.” (“Moral Relativism”,

Despite this, many atheists adopt ‘The Golden Rule’, “treat others as you would like to be treated”, as a guiding principle for ethical behaviour. Yet, without a deeper moral foundation, this principle can face challenges in complex situations. For example, when you see a thief and decide not to report the thief because you wouldn’t want the thief to report you if he or she saw you stealing. In such cases, the application of the Golden Rule can become problematic.

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra offered insightful commentary on this matter by stating that morality and religion are two sides of the same coin:

“Religion, morality, and man’s physical and material requirements are so closely intertwined that it is difficult to distinguish between them. One who believes in religion cannot separate morality from religion. Neither can he say that through religion he is self-sufficient and independent from the world and devoid of any necessities. If a person harbours the notion that, ‘I do not need anything anymore from the world’, then the wheel of material progress will come to a halt. So all these aspects are closely linked to one another – religion, morality and material progress. However, despite this commonality, there are also differences between them. Non-believers in religion try to liberate themselves by saying that good morals and material progress are needed by man. But a true Muslim will say that religion is also necessary, since it shows one the path to reach God.

“Hence, there are differences in how one perceives these three aspects and how we link them with one another. While all other religions are dying, Islam is the only religion that proves the interconnection between these facets. Yet the majority of Muslims fail to understand the reality and true nature of religion and have erroneously connected certain moral characteristics with materialism – and they have greatly transgressed in doing so. Rather than presenting religion in a beautiful manner and attracting others towards it, they have turned people away from religion. Leaving aside prayers and fasting, when it comes to morals and worldly needs, while establishing an institution or organising a gathering for example, Muslim clerics generally say that this is all part of Islam in our view and the one who does not partake in it is a disbeliever and an apostate.” (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 17, pp. 462-463)

Hazrat Hakim Maulvi Noor-ud-Deen, Khalifatul Masih Ira, narrated a conversation he once had with a thief. He once asked a thief if he was feeling some restlessness by spending the money that he stole from others. He answered that if he acquired the money after great effort, why would he be uneasy about spending it? Then Huzoorra inquired how many people were involved, and what he did with the gold he stole. So the thief replied by stating usually three or four people are involved and he gives the gold to the goldsmith. The First Khalifa then inquired, very brilliantly, what if the goldsmith steals your gold in secret? Upon this, the thief replied, “If the goldsmith stole it from us, then we would beat up such a dishonest person.” (Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmadra, Hasti-e-Bari Ta‘ala , p. 57)

This interesting dialogue alludes to the fact that despite being immoral and indulging in such a vice, the sense of right and wrong is still in every person’s heart because this is something God Himself embedded within every human. God Almighty describes this in the Holy Quran by stating:  

وَ نَفۡسٍ وَّ مَا سَوّٰٮھَافَاَلۡھَمَھَا فُجُوۡرَھَا وَ تَقۡوٰٮھَا

“And by the soul and its perfection – And He revealed to it what is wrong for it and what is right for it.” (Surah Ash-Shams, Ch.91: V.8-9)

So this intrinsic nature of every human being is evidence for the existence of God Almighty because it indicates to the fact how every single human is created so precisely, which leaves no room for questions of an ‘accidental occurrence’.


Since the dawn of humanity, humans have questioned traditional religious beliefs, and alternative moral philosophies like humanism have emerged, not only to establish their ethical philosophy but also to disprove the existence of God Almighty. Humanism emphasises that “their ethical decisions [are] based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals” (“Humanism”,

Under humanism, individuals become their own moral authorities, which, some argue, can lead to moral relativism. However, this autonomy in moral decision-making can lead to justifying even heinous acts, like genocide or murder, if there’s a logic behind them, according to the wrongdoers. And this is what we see in history, where cruel leaders like Stalin and Hitler justified atrocities based on their own ‘morality’. You can rationalise anything without a universal moral framework. And the universal moral framework is ultimately religion itself.

In essence, humanism’s reliance on one’s own interpretation challenges the idea of objective morality. When everyone decides what’s right, morality becomes subjective, potentially justifying anything. Hence, it becomes impossible to determine what is wrong. 

However, many people are being affected by this moral philosophy, so much so that “most in Western Europe say belief in God [is] not needed to be moral” and the statistics are shocking. According to an article written by the Pew Research Centre, 54% of Americans say God is not necessary. 73% of Canadians say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral. Then you have the UK, with a percentage of 79%. (“The Global God Divide”,

Looking at this data, one may naturally ask whether it is possible to be moral without believing in God. The Promised Messiahas explains this in the following words:

“A person who denies the existence of God can yet exhibit good moral qualities, such as to be humble of heart, to seek peace, to discard evil and not to resist the evil-monger. These are all natural conditions which may be possessed even by an unworthy one who is utterly unacquainted with the fountainhead of salvation and enjoys no part of it.”  (The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, p. 27)

As it has been established, the concept of morality is deeply rooted within humanity, often attributed to a divine source. This connection between morality and God alludes to the fact that separating the two is nearly impossible.

Religion offers a subjective morality, whereas, in contrast, secular morality can be subject to change over time, as the values of society evolve.

Consider the historical example of New Zealand granting women the right to vote in 1893. Before this historic decision, women endured systemic injustices, lacking fundamental rights such as property ownership and voting. The shift in societal attitudes and subsequent legislative changes in ‘morality’, reflect how important religion’s role is in moral decisions. Religious laws are perceived as immutable, providing a stable foundation for moral guidance. (“The Women’s Suffrage Petition”,

To truly resolve the debate on morality, one must believe in God and follow His commandments, rather than solely relying on the human disposition that God Almighty placed in us to distinguish between good and bad, as this is what makes the most sense. Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra beautifully states:

“Once we believe in God, it becomes obvious that as man did not come about by himself, he need not work out his own moral standard and try to determine what is good for him. Having been created by a Higher Being, it stands to reason that he has no model worth following other than that Higher Being and no moral objective other than reflecting the attributes of his Creator and Master.”  (Our God, p. 172)

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