In the course of the Crusade of King St Louis, Yves le Breton reported how he once encountered an old woman who wandered down the street with a dish full of fire in her right hand and a bowl full of water in her left hand. Asked what she was doing, she answered that with the fire she would burn up Paradise until nothing remained of it, and with the water she would put out the fires of Hell until nothing remained of them, ‘Because I want no one to do good in order to receive the reward of Paradise, or from fear of Hell; but solely out of love for God.’ The only thing to add to this is: so why not to erase God himself and just do good for the sake of it? No wonder that, today, this properly Christian ethical stance survives mostly in atheism.
Fundamentalism do(what they perceive as) good deeds in order to fulfil God’s will and to deserve salvation; atheists do them simply because it is the right thing to do. Is this also not our most elementary experience of morality? When I do a good deed, I do not do it with a view to gaining God’s favour, I do it because I cannot do otherwise- if I were not to do it, I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror. A moral deed is by definition its own reward. The eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume, a believer, made this point in a very poignant way when wrote that the only way to show a true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God’s existence.
Violence, Slavoj Žižek.