The moral issue on religion

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Discussion by: VitorFrota

Hello, Friends. First I like to apologize for any misspelling, I'm from Brazil, a portuguese speaking country, although I speak english as well. Just not so well.

 

Well, to the issue: after seeing a number of youtube videos, reading some of Dawkins books like "The selfish gene", "The blind watchmaker", and specially "The God delusion" in this case, among another books from other writers like "The end of faith" by Sam Harris and "God is not great" by Christopher Hitchens, I started to think about some of the arguments, specially the moral argument that says that religion is what gives people a sense of wright or wrong. Atheists have been refuting this claim by saying that we get our moral values from something else, most often evolution.

 

Well, I think the argument is…not flawed, but incomplete. Shallow I would say. And I think that's because atheist have been playing in religion's territory when they don't make any distinction about religion moral standards and society moral standards. Probably because in many ways they look very similar to each other.

 

Here is what I think: Society moral standards comes from two basic thoughts: an evolutionary need of adaptation in social enviroments, thus increasing the chance of survival, like already suggested; but also cultural traces that may or may not be connected to religion. To give an example of this last one: adultery was a crime here in Brazil until a few years back. It's still morally depraved to have extramarital relations, from a society point of view (and religious too), but it's not a felony anymore. Now, our crime laws are made to reflect those things that society not only find wrong on a moral perspective, but also that poses a threat to the well being of others, something like Sam Harris point of view from where our moral standards come from. So, in a way, increasing the chance of survival of the individuals comes first. I'm not saying Brazil is a promiscuous society, but that, from a social point of view, it's wrong to make a crime of something that affects only the private lifes of those involved, even thou it's not accepted as a moral thing from a cultural perspective. Religion might be connected to this cultural aspect in many levels, and that's what I think makes it a bit difficult to understand it as a different thing.

 

But religious moral standards are slightly different. The foundation of religion's moral standards is directly the scriptures, and indirectly god, meaning "we follow the scriptures – god made the scriptures". In a religious point of view god is not capable of evil, but it's not that he's not capable of evil in a common sense of the word (or in a society point of view), is just that god can say what is evil and what is not. Wrath, for instance, is a capital sin on the christian belief, but when someone says "god's wrath" that's not a sin, it's justice. Therefore arguments of objective moral values that philosophers like William Lane Craig like to use to defend the moral argument are just not valid, because we can't know what's good or evil just by taking god as a role model for those things, because god can make evil be good and good be evil as well and we make god as we see fit. Religion is a moral shifting ground, nothing objective about it. At the moment a "truth" is revealed to a prophet and added to the scriptures, moral values can go one way or another, not to mention people can actually choose how they decide to interpret it. I believe that's why in chirstianity, for example, we have so different moral values from the old testament and the new testament. It's like "god changed his mind on the subject". That makes wrong wright, and wright wrong. Is it okay to murder an unbeliever? Depends on what god has to say about it. Nothing to do with increasing the chances of survival of the individuals on a society. Some of the "Meme" theory of Dawkins might explain it's shifting better.

 

This change in perspective does not necessarily follow society's moral standards, because they don't come from god or scripture, but from cultural aspects and the need to preserve a society where individuals can have the most chance of surviving. And I think that's exactly the point where the threat of religion becomes a problem; to atheists the society moral standards are at the top of the respect chain of command; but to theists, god's moral standards are above society's. And this gives room to a lot of things that might look imoral to someone who considers society's moral standards only, but they are good actions if you believe there is some higher moral standard.

 

Religion is capable of so much imoral things because to religious people they are not imoral at all, because they come from a higher standard of morality. That's how you make a terrorist throw an airplane at the World Trade Center or blow himself up killing inoccent people with a clean conciousness. Other muslims might say they don't agree, that's not god's way, but it is one form of interpreting the scriptures. It would do no harm if society's moral standards were above religion's, but they're not.

 

So what I'm trying to say it's that judging a religion based act on a society moral standard its not gonna work because they are not the same thing, even thou they do converge in some aspects. I might be wrong, but I don't remember any great atheist arguing religion's moral standards can't be a base to society moral standards for being two different things. I don't know if I made myself clear enought thou. Any thoughts on that?

30 COMMENTS

  1. Religious morality is defined by what serves the interests of the religion, not the interests of humanity. The religion will always come first. Since religion can’t survive without anyone to believe in it, religion has a vested interest in looking out for the welfare of it’s believers. That isn’t always the case, however. When the interests of the religion conflict with the interests of the individual, it is the individual who suffers.

  2. And further to lampe33’s point of religion setting moral standards in self interest, “Thou shalt not worship a graven idol…” Instantly what is claimed as morality as articulate by the religious, is open to ethical self interest question.

    I suspect this is a “Chicken n Egg” problem. What we call morality developed as a series of practices that enable one to live in a tribal situation, and increase your chances of passing on your genes. Your example of Adultery is a classic. Back in tribal days, if you got you leg over with Ugg’s mate, Ugg’s gonna part your eyebrows with his club. Pretty simple stuff. If you want to pass on your genes, keep your loin cloth clipped. Don’t steal. Be good to your mom and dad. Lying. Cheating. Good evolutionary survival strategies avoid things that will bring down the collective wrath of the tribe upon your head.

    Along comes religion, and writes down the historic rules in what we in the modern world would call Standard Operating Procedures, and claimed authorship and ownership of them. Wrong. They predate religion and writing. Various cultures have codified tribal practice. Hammurabi’s Code of Laws is another example, but that one had the stamp of a ruler, not a god. Same stuff though.

    So religion has had, and still has no place in determining how society lives. Genital mutilation. Subservience of half of humanity. That should be left to commonsense and the educated civilized members of that society. It’s really not very hard. And it doesn’t need a god to tell you what you can do. You can work it out for yourself.

    • In reply to #2 by David R Allen:

      Back in tribal days, if you got you leg over with Ugg’s mate, Ugg’s gonna part your eyebrows with his club. Pretty simple stuff. If you want to pass on your genes, keep your loin cloth clipped. Don’t steal. Be good to your mom and dad. Lying. Cheating. Good evolutionary survival strategies avoid things that will bring down the collective wrath of the tribe upon your head. Along comes religion, and writes down the historic rules

      What we know about tribal people conflicts with what you wrote. Every study of religion and tribal peoples I’ve read indicates Religion didn’t come along after the fact, religious rituals went hand in hand with the definition and enforcement of tribal norms.

      When I say that it’s not to defend that religion now makes any sense. I just think we should pay attention to the science rather than indulge our desire to mock religion at all costs.

      • In reply to #5 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #2 by David R Allen:

        Back in tribal days, if you got you leg over with Ugg’s mate, Ugg’s gonna part your eyebrows with his club. Pretty simple stuff. If you want to pass on your genes, keep your loin cloth clipped. Don’t steal. Be good to your mom and dad. Lying. Cheating. Good evolutio…

        You are right and I worded it poorly. Religion did “evolve” hand in hand. What religion did first was to write it down, and thus, somehow claim ownership of morality.

        • In reply to #7 by David R Allen:

          In reply to #5 by Red Dog:
          You are right and I worded it poorly. Religion did “evolve” hand in hand. What religion did first was to write it down, and thus, somehow claim ownership of morality.

          I mostly agree with how you rephrased it. Actually if you are interested in the topic I highly recommend the book (he could have picked a better title) Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer. He goes into various tribal religions (beliefs of primitive peoples who have managed to avoid contamination from the modern world for the most part) as well as what we know from archeology and history about ancient religions and tries to develop a model for religion that is consistent with evolutionary theory.

          It’s not that he has answered all the questions, far from it, our understanding of the science behind human behavior is so minimal right now. But one of the things he said that I found interesting is that there may have been synergy between literacy and a professional religious class (i.e., people who got great power and wealth by being priests rather than just being the local healer and chanter). His point was that to be a priest as opposed to a shaman (these are my words and I’m paraphrasing something that was more complex) required literacy. The more elaborate the rituals the more you could say (as happens in more modern religions but not as much in tribal ones) that the priest has special access to the spirit world that the average person is incapable of grasping and hence the priest deserves special status.

          And even more so if you have sacred texts that most people (since literacy was at first very rare in the general population) can’t even read that distinguishes the priest class from the common folk even more.

          If Boyer is right (and I think even he would say his hypothesis is just informed speculation at this point) then perhaps religion helped primitive people both define and enforce morality and literacy as well. Which, again, is in no way a justification to continue with it now.

  3. Hi Vitor. I like your question, I think it strikes at the very heart of the difficulties with the mainstream life sciences.

    To clarify, I do not believe in god… in fact, I do not even belief in “good” and “evil”, at least not in the traditional sense. HOWEVER… I do believe in culture. What do I mean by that? I mean that we obtain our identities first from culture, not from genes… genes provide the predispositions, but not the basis, for personality. Because we obtain our identities from culture, it implies that cultural health and what a culture stands for is very, very important to my own health and well-being. So… if I live in culture best described as a lumbering, heaving miasma of stoopid (such as what the world has become under feminism and liberalism), I should rightfully be concerned.

    In this context, we derive a more objective, impartial definition of good and evil, and it relates to cultural health. For this, you do not need to believe in god. The lumbering, heaving miasma of stoopid in which you are immersed will hurt you, even if you are a basement-dwelling, pornfapping, WoWarcraft-playing atheist.

    Nasty habits wire the brain. So do normal habits. So do healthy habits… and it is culture that infects us with its brain-wiring memes. This is why I believe that Richard Dawkins’ field of memetics is potentially so important. The culture in which you are immersed wires your brain, and therefore shapes what you become. No god in heaven or Peter at the pearly gates or angels dancing on the head of a pin required.

    Indirectly, therefore, by virtue of its potential impact on culture, a case can be made for religion having a positive part to play towards maintaining cultural health.

    You could say that my view has much in common with the buddhist perspective.

    REFERENCE:
    Neural plasticity and how experience wires the brain:
    http://www.normandoidge.com/normandoidge.com/MAIN.html

    • In reply to #3 by Jarold:

      if I live in culture best described as a lumbering, heaving miasma of stoopid (such as what the world has become under feminism and liberalism),

      Well, that’s got my attention! They sound like fighting words, or have I misinterpreted that sentence?

    • In reply to #3 by Jarold:

      So… if I live in culture best described as a lumbering, heaving miasma of stoopid (such as what the world has become under feminism and liberalism), I should rightfully be concerned.

      Nitya. This is one more piece of intelligence. One more piece of the jigsaw of Jarold that I am trying to piece together. An attempt to understand his psyche so I can make sense of his posts. The use of the words “Stoopid”, and a derogatory reference to “feminism” and “liberalism” suggests to me that Jarold lives on the far right of American politics, somewhere like the Tea Party, which is a fundamentalist christian abode. People who sneer at “liberalism” which they equate with communism, are usually republicans, that oppose gay rights, environmental action. They support free market as the solution to everything. And anyone who opposes equality for 51% of the world’s population should be resisted. How dare anyone treat women as second class humans.

      But I am getting ahead of myself. Jarold suggested I read this post from another thread over at Retiring Ideas etc. Jarold thought that rather than answer my question in that forum, I would understand his obsession with AXIOMS if I read this diatribe. Sadly, I am still in the dark. I haven’t got a clue what you’re on about Jarold.

    • In reply to #3 by Jarold:

      Hi Vitor. I like your question, I think it strikes at the very heart of the difficulties with the mainstream life sciences.

      So… if I live in culture best described as a lumbering, heaving miasma of stoopid (such as what the world has become under feminism and liberalism), I should rightfully be concerned….

      While you are correct that genes are just the chassis of a human being and who we become is a product of many things, including our culture, it is interesting in light of your statement above, and in the context of this topic on morality from religion or human evolution, that you choose a culture of selfish free market greed and the subjugation 51% of the human population as a moral template for all humanity. You think the world would be a better place if we all agreed and implemented your values. Now let me see. What other cultural institutions of the world share your view that they, and only they are right. Religion per chance??.

      I would invite you to provide a defence to the above statement, arguing your position from a moral and ethical position. You profess to be godless, then how can you come to the above position from any civilized human construct. How can you tell the people of this blog, that you lead a “Good Life”.

    • In reply to #3 by Jarold:

      Hi Vitor. I like your question, I think it strikes at the very heart of the difficulties with the mainstream life sciences.

      …HOWEVER… I do believe in culture…

      Vitor, thank you for the thought provoking topic.

      I abhor morality because of the hit and miss approach of adopting family or community standards uncritically.

      I prefer ethics.

      Reason informs ethics. Parental belief informs most morality, adjusted slightly to reflect popular norms.

      Jarold, I’m grateful to you for supplying such a useful post to analyse the residual faith-based prejudices which are so characteristic of the Judeo-Xian morality you’re attempting to defend, and which is so fundamental to your comfortable culture.

      “Nasty habits wire the brain”

      • “The effects of infantile instruction are, like those of syphilis, never completely cured”

      Many of us reject your nasty memes and the consequent immorality which you feel should be imposed on everybody, everywhere, for your basement comfort.

      Some of us “stoopid” accommodationists are excessively liberal for defending women, who are clearly ruining your once vibrant, healthy culture and threatening your “own health and well-being” so you feel justifiably frightened.

      “even if you are a basement-dwelling, pornfapping, WoWarcraft-playing atheist.”

      Many atheists reject climate science. Many will even scapegoat mentally-ill people for violent crimes committed by religious zealots.

      “a case can be made for religion having a positive part to play towards maintaining cultural health.”

      Negative too. Take the scripture-based morality and unhealthy fear of women which is so characteristic of the culture you promote. You say Buddhism influences your perspective and yet your prejudices are pure biblical standards.

      REFERENCE: Neural plasticity and how experience wires the brain:

      *see the polymath Robert Briffault, quoted above, to appreciate the limitations of neural plasticity or to help understand the faith-based bigotry and Old Testament morality of the Religious Right.

      “The effects of infantile instruction are, like those of syphilis, never completely cured”

  4. That’s not a new observation I’m afraid. See Hitchens and his contempt of religious-based morality (sharia, bible commandments…).

    So what I’m trying to say it’s that judging a religion based act on a society moral standard its not gonna work because they are not the same thing.

    Of course it works, and yes we’ve come to the conclusion that they are not the same thing, and yes, that’s why the secularist / enlightenment movement exists. That’s the fight, to stop these bozzo’s enforcing their archaic rules on society.

  5. RE: “So what I’m trying to say it’s that judging a religion based act on a society moral standard its not gonna work because they are not the same thing”

    I agree but I don’t understand what your position is. Are you saying we should not judge religion?
    That we should not conduct criminal investigations into pedophilia by the catholic church?

    These investigations in Ireland have revealed that far from being isolated and rare some Catholic orphanages were straight out sex camps for pedophiles. As an orphan child in some of these places you would spend every night as either a sex toy yourself or lay there listening to the screams of other boys taking your place. Not isolated cases but absolutely relentless 365 days a year.

    Are you saying we should not have discovered this and that we should not take action against it?

    • In reply to #9 by Catfish:

      RE: “So what I’m trying to say it’s that judging a religion based act on a society moral standard its not gonna work because they are not the same thing”

      I agree but I don’t understand what your position is. Are you saying we should not judge religion?
      That we should not conduct criminal investiga…

      Not at all. I do believe that churches, as everything else, should be bound by law. What I said is that from a MORAL perspective is impossible for an atheist (like myself, I should add) to judge a religious act, because they have different moral standards, and therefore they are not evil on their own view. Most of the women on catholocism, for example think it’s ok that women can’t preach the word of God; muslim women, on the other hand, think it’s the right thing to do to cover their faces in public. Of course I not only disagree with this but also I think it’s wrong, but because they’re wrong for MY standards, SOCIETY standards. That’s the problem. Most atheists believe that this is the only set of moral values, and to me that’s the same mistake theists make when they assume religion’s moral standards is the only standard. I think there are two sets of moral values, one from society and one from religion; the real problem on religious threat is when they are in conflict, which one should prevail. From a society point of view is wrong to throw and airplane on the World Trade Center? SURE! But to religion, is it wrong to do it in the name of god? No. I’m not saying this should go unpunished because this is a violation of human rights, but can you deemed this as an evil act? Only if you judge them by your own moral standards. That’s why I agree to some extent to what I think Jarold meant when he said there is no “good” or “evil”, because these are moral perspectives.

      The abuse of children is not only illegal, it’s imoral even for catholics. I think this is more of a political issue from the church than a moral thing. But I do believe that you can’t excuse yourself from obeying the law because of religion.

      • In reply to #16 by VitorFrota:

        In reply to #9 by Catfish:
        The abuse of children is not only illegal, it’s imoral even for catholics. I think this is more of a political issue from the church than a moral thing.

        Don’t want to twist your words and assume you did not mean to say that “the abuse of children is a political issue” but that is what your comment reads like to me. Actually I do not think you are entirely innocent of this underlying thought because it is a typical example of where we end up with moral relativism

        • In reply to #22 by Catfish:

          In reply to #16 by VitorFrota:

          In reply to #9 by Catfish:
          The abuse of children is not only illegal, it’s imoral even for catholics. I think this is more of a political issue from the church than a moral thing.

          Don’t want to twist your words and assume you did not mean to say that “the abuse of c…

          Sorry, I do think I expressed myself in a wrong way. When I say it’s a political issue I meant the church cover much of this imoral behavior to preserve it’s own image. But you can ask a good catholic person (I’m sure most of them are good human beings) if child abuse is something imoral from his religious point of view and he’ll say definitely. The church actions to cover this kind of behavior is wrong, very wrong indeed, but I don’t believe it’s a moral decision they’re making, but a political one. And you’re right, it IS disgusting.

      • In reply to #16 by VitorFrota:

        In reply to #9 by Catfish:

        Not at all. I do believe that churches, as everything else, should be bound by law. What I said is that from a MORAL perspective is impossible for an atheist (like myself, I should add) to judge a religious act, because they have different moral standards, and therefore they are not evil on their own view.

        Morality is not relative, in my opinion. Religion and culture are not good bases for morality as we can clearly see that many religions and cultures promote obviously evil acts. As an atheist I can, and do, judge peoples morality using my rational yardstick and am quite comfortable ignoring irrational yardsticks.

        We should judge all people by one yardstick: does the moral code they follow encourage justice and the thriving of people? Is their morality based on objective facts like we should not directly harm other people, that all people should be subjected to the same laws and rules.

        There is still lots of room to debate what harm is, or what thriving means. But there is no question in my mind that cultural practises like caste systems, second class status for women, and ritual forced mutilation are wrong.

        • In reply to #26 by canadian_right:

          Morality is not relative, in my opinion. Religion and culture are not good bases for morality as we can clearly see that many religions and cultures promote obviously evil acts. As an atheist I can, and do, judge peoples morality using my rational yardstick and am quite comfortable ignoring irrational yardsticks.

          We should judge all people by one yardstick: does the moral code they follow encourage justice and the thriving of people? Is their morality based on objective facts like we should not directly harm other people, that all people should be subjected to the same laws and rules.

          There is still lots of room to debate what harm is, or what thriving means. But there is no question in my mind that cultural practises like caste systems, second class status for women, and ritual forced mutilation are wrong.

          That’s a fair point I guess. Sam Harris suggested that a good foundation for morality is human well being. That’s a powerfull statement, although I’m not sure if I agree with all of it. I think that’s assuming that there is one true and only meaning of morality, something I think it’s quite difficult to grasp.

          Maybe it’s more of an ethical problem than a moral one. When moral values are in conflict the decision is an ethic based one and doesn’t always have a wright or wrong answer. It’s like the “end of the world button” problem or the “kid Vs. mankind” problem, which suggests you can save a lot of people (mostly all of mankind) with one imoral act, like killing one child or half the people on the planet. Richard Dawkins mentioned Marc Hauser’s ethics test on the God Delusion to speculate that maybe everyone is born with some natural understanding of wright or wrong.

          I might agree with part of this. But maybe the real problem with religious ethics on society it’s that the conflict takes place on two sets of different moral standards, religious and society’s. To those who don’t follow religious morality it might be pretty clear that making women cover their faces on the street it’s imoral; after all, we see no real conflict at all on any moral values to make up our minds. But to those who do follow there might be. Maybe that’s why even among religious people they can’t seem to fully agree with what’s wright or wrong when faced by moral dilemas on “religion vs. society” I think mostly religious precepts end up prevailing based on the belief that they obey a higher standard of morality than society’s. That might be one way of approaching the problem.

  6. Red Dog, I am immediately drawn to your comment regarding a “synergy between literacy and a professional religious class”, in that I have always thought the development of language was enough to get religious or magical thinking going. My point would be that language provides the wherewithal to ask questions. Without the wherewithal to actually answer them, we should expect to see superstition, magical thinking and strange belief systems to fill that void.

  7. So after a long discussion about two algorithms for drawing moral conclusions we finally get to the “don’t judge one by the other’s standards” line accommodationists never tire of using to defend religion against “that’s not empirical enough” criticisms. It doesn’t work with ethics either. A religious activity is no more entitled to a different set of moral standards than is a burglary.

  8. Evolution formed our brains which in turn gives us some of our basic “moral intuitions”, but over the centuries we have tempered these moral intuitions with rational thought about what rules actually help form thriving and just societies. Intuitions like “kill strangers or anyone not like us” are no longer followed. Institutions that survived for centuries and were thought normal, like slavery, have been abolished. The era known as the “Enlightenment” has given most of western culture the current basis of what we think of as just and moral. Even most western religious people use these same secular principles to cherry pick the good parts from the bible.

    What is moral and what is lawful are different because the law is enforced with an unwieldy and blunt tool known as the courts. The law should only deal with serious crimes that require force to rectify. Simply following the law generally doesn’t make you virtuous. Being lawful is the minimum acceptable behaviour from a member of society. One should strive to be much more moral than the law demands; one should strive to lead a good life.

    Culture! Culture certainly forms and influences what is considered moral in a society, but all cultures should be judged by the same yardstick: a rational and enlightened review of what is just; what actually helps form a just society where all members thrive. Culture, no matter how long or hallowed its traditions is no basis for morality.

  9. Hi VitorFrota !

    You raise some interesting ideas about religion and morality. One thing is for sure, no good morality ever came out of a religion, that wasn’t already there in society. I’m an atheist, but I don’t need the Ten Commandments to tell me not to kill people. Who did Moses think he was kidding with his (conveniently lost on the mountainside) Ten Commandments written in stone? And when Moses got back from his chat with God, his people were already so lost, the Golden Calf had grabbed their attention ! What a pile of shite !

    As to the morality of both the Old and New Testament God, how much more amoral can you get ? ( amoral = without morals). Flooding the world and killing most of the organisms in it is highly immoral in my view.

    Even gentle Jesus threatens the likes of me with the fiery lake for eternity for not believing in Him. A truly hideous and immoral idea ! As Hitchens put it the “celestial dictator”.

    And as for the RCC, that truly monstrous regiment of men wearing frocks, who would, given the chance, have the whole of humanity under their thumb. What kind of “moral” lead have they given ? Anyone seeking moral guidance would do well to steer clear of a Catholic priest. Slimy bully bhoys.

  10. Ask anyone on the rule for behaviour between people and you will get the religious Golden Rule. “Do unto others and you would have them do unto you.” This is religions Rule Numero Uno. But lets examine what this rule authorizes you to “do unto others.” Bertrand Russell most succinctly summarized this rule when he said, “What if I don’t like what you are doing unto me.”

    If Jarold was administering this rule to the world, he would “do unto you”, subjugation of women, making homosexuality a criminal offense, making the poor pay for health care or die, letting the free market decide whether burning too much carbon is a problem, etc and on and on. Liberalism. Feminism. Bah. Humbug. The religious golden rule is a license to impose your cultural values (Jarold’s Axiom) on the rest of the world. You can colonize and convert the heathens because you are doing unto them as you would have them do unto you. You can even commit genocide.

    The secular world has superseded the religious bastion of morality with their rule 1, but creating Rule Zero. “First, do no harm.” This can be traced back to the secular Greek philosophers as the Hippocratic Oath. Rule Zero severely limits the actions of religious rule 1. Convert a heathen Amazonian tribe to christianity and destroy their culture?? Fine by rule 1. Prohibited by rule zero. Subjugate women and gays as per Jarold’s Rule 1?? Or accept people as human beings, equal of everyone. Does Jarold harm women and gays by doing unto them what he thinks is moral??

    IMHO, religion comes a distant second when claiming the moral high ground.

    • In reply to #19 by Catfish:

      Have you read or listened to “The Moral Landscape” by Sam Harris? It addresses this issue and more. Would love to hear your review of this book. Found it perfectly coherent myself.

      I’m looking forward to read it. I’m already looking for other books on the subject. I also have yet to read some of Bart Ehrman’s books. They look really interesting.

      • In reply to #20 by VitorFrota:

        In reply to #19 by Catfish:

        Have you read or listened to “The Moral Landscape” by Sam Harris?

        I’m looking forward to read it. I’m already looking for other books on the subject. I also have yet to read some of Bart Ehrman’s books. They look really interesting.

        Bart Ehrman – Christian Antiquity Specialist. Fascinating I am sure :(. I read a few books on Voodoo which i found fun and interesting. Really am not joking. Is good fun. eg. If you are worried about your wife leaving you the solution is to get a pair of her underpants, tie them in a knot and bury them in the back yard.

  11. ola Vitor! Eu concordo contigo. Eu morava no Brasil alguns anos atras e eu adorei meu tempo na sua pais. I would agree with that morals in religion aren’t objective like so many religious people like to think. Religion is a man-made construct and so as societies evolve so does religion. This really does invalidate their whole premise.

    Desculpa se meu portuguese nao e tao bem, faz muito tempo que eu nao falo portugues. Nao tem muita gente que fala na cidade onde eu mora.

  12. Thanks for this reflection, much food for thought.

    If I am right, the typical response of atheism to the question of the source of morality (in place of religion/God) is to say our moral values have biological origins from evolution. You suggest this response is still within religion’s territory as it fails to include cultural sources: and that this view is incomplete because societal standards of morality have both biological and cultural origins.

    I think you are making a point about how, despite fundamentalist claims, cultural changes do in fact affect religious moralities – the change between Old and New Testaments for example – and so in that way religions can (and surely do) conflict with themselves.

    So both ‘hardline’ biological atheist and orthodox moralities might thus fail for the same reason – failing to take account of cultural factors, either as changes over time or transcultural differences between different areas at the same time

    Your analysis would then perhaps account not only for the disagreements between atheist and religious moralities but within religious ones. Pointing out how religious values vary cross-culturally or over time clearly puts paid to religious moral absolutism, which often seeks to deny cultural variation of morality.

    But by the same token it surely also follows that if atheist (or at least secular) morality is a mix of biological and cultural factors (and I agree with that suggestion) there is no reason to think of there being one atheist moral system, since while we have a common biology people live in different cultures. So perhaps this analysis only takes us so far, in that while it might account for local, maybe even national moral systems, it is not clear how ideas of international laws, moral values or universal rights might be rationally justified, unless one can show that there is enough common culture across all peoples to build them upon.

    • In reply to #27 by steve_hopker:

      Thanks for this reflection, much food for thought.

      If I am right, the typical response of atheism to the question of the source of morality (in place of religion/God) is to say our moral values have biological origins from evolution. You suggest this response is still within religion’s territory as…

      Oh, I like where this is going. I think that’s a great observation. I like to reflect upon it a little bit more.

  13. Religion is one framework for thinking about morality. But since there is no God, morality cannot possibly emanate from such a being. Morality, and religion, for that matter, are social in origin. What more can be said?

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