Ethical Realism

February 12, 2010

Everyday Arguments that Morality Requires God

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:10 am
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Whether or not morality requires God is a popular topic of conversation to laymen. It is worth considering arguments given by laymen because philosophers should stay close to real life and try not to drift into armchair abstraction that lacks real world application. Laymen argue about what matters to them based on everyday assumptions and concerns. I will take a look at some arguments given by laymen that morality requires God. In particular, an argument given by Ray Cotton, Marvin Olasky, and Luke Pollard. I will describe their arguments and I will explain why I do not find their arguments to be persuasive.

Ray Cotton’s Arguments

Ray Cotton seems to assume that the only people who would ever think morality without God would be possible would be an atheist, but that is simply false. If I found out that God exists, I still wouldn’t be sure that his existence is the source of intrinsic value (objective value). However, he does present several objections to the belief  that morality could exist without God1:

1. Atheism is dangerous.

Cotton tells us that atheism is dangerous. Atheism leads to dictatorships and so forth.2

My objection: There is two problems with this argument. One, the problems that might arise from atheism wouldn’t prove atheists to have false beliefs. Two, no good argument is put forth to make me think that atheism will lead to horrific behavior anymore than religion already does. Fanatical suicide bombers wouldn’t exist without religion, for example.

2. What is ethics without God? Relativism!

Cotton suggests that without God, we would end up creating moral principles because there couldn’t be moral facts separate from our opinions.3 For example, morality could be based on our instincts.

My objection: This argument begs the question. We need to know: Do we need God to have intrinsic value? Cotton seems to just assume it is impossible. However, I believe in intrinsic values, but I don’t think God has to exist for there to be intrinsic values.

3. Morality must come from creation!

I believe that Cotton wants to argue that God made everything, and morality is part of the universe.4

My objection: I agree that if God created everything, then morality would be part of it. However, we should stay away from such armchair abstract concerns when possible. I believe we have no more reason to talk about God creating the universe to explain morality than we need to refer to God creating the universe to explain lightning. We are interested in the everyday causes of morality and lightning, not just the extremely abstract cosmological problem of the beginning of the universe.

4. We couldn’t know how to be moral without God!

Cotton assumes that we have been corrupted somehow through “original sin.” I don’t know what that means. However, he also argues that God is the ultimate source of knowledge, so we couldn’t know much about morality without his help5:

So the question of right or wrong has everything to do with the origin of our belief, not just the substance of it. No matter how sincerely I believe I am right about some moral decision, the true test is in the origin of that belief. And God is the only universal and absolute origin to all morality. (ibid.)

My objection: The problem with this argument is that we seem to know a lot about morality through personal experience, and we seem to know almost nothing about morality from the Bible. Buddhists in China know just as much about morality as Christians despite not reading the Bible. (Most people probably don’t read the Bible, even if they are Christians.) Instead, everyday experiences seem to be enough to know quite a bit about morality. For example, my experience of pain seems to be enough to know that it is wrong to cause people pain.

5. There is no plausible worldview that could explain morality without God.

Theists could possibly explain that morality comes from God, but Cotton only finds one other worldview, which could provide for an explanation of morality without God: Naturalism, which is the view that science can explain everything. Apparently naturalism is the only other worldview worth mentioning, but Cotton assures us that it’s an implausible view, (despite being widely accepted by the experts).

What sort of explanation for morality has been developed by naturalists? An explanation based on evolution:

To these naturalists, all humans are born with a moral sense which becomes a habit of virtue as we practice comradeship and work through our common struggles. It is merely the result of a social instinct born within us. (Ibid.)

Additionally, he argues that naturalism is not plausible because it states that only a material world exists when our minds are not material.6

My objections: There are at least three major problems with his argument:

  1. Inadequacies with naturalistic explanations must be contrasted with inadequacies with theism and other worldviews. It is quite possible that naturalism is the best worldview, even if it has inadequacies. (All worldviews might have inadequacies.)
  2. The view that evolution can fully explain morality is merely a rejection of intrinsic value. Again, he begs the question by assuming that naturalists can’t explain intrinsic values. In fact, some naturalists do believe in intrinsic values.
  3. Not all naturalists reject the existence of mental phenomena. He seems to assume that all naturalists are reductionists and only believe particles are real. That is not the case. Mental and moral elements of reality could be irreducible but emergent parts of the universe that exist when certain material conditions cause them. The brain, for example, seems to cause the mind to exist.

6. What about the Bible?

Cotton asserts that the Bible is an important source of moral knowledge because it comes straight from God.7

My objection: I simply don’t experience the Bible as an important source of moral knowledge. Many people even think the morality found in the Bible is atrocious. Ethical philosophers have always been some of the world’s moral experts and they continue to be. They have generally found that reference to God does not help them provide us with good explanations or arguments.

Marvin Olasky’s Argument

A college professor said that abortion should be legal (and paid by health insurance) because he was an atheist. Therefore, atheists can’t be moral.8

Olasky seems to give nothing more than testimonial evidence that atheists can’t be moral. The college professor admitted that abortion might be wrong (cause too much harm), but it should be legal (and covered by a company health plan) because we don’t know for sure.9 He then seems to think all atheists must think this way, and must allow all sorts of immorality until proven to be wrong.

My objections: I have the following two objections:

  1. I suppose Olasky could take the professor to be an “expert,” but this would certainly be a fallacious “appeal to authority.” Why? Because the professor is certainly not representative of all atheistic philosophers.
  2. I highly doubt that any ethical philosopher would have such a simple argument for abortion’s legality. More likely is that Olasky failed to understand the arguments or failed to represent them properly.

Luke Pollard’s Argument

Pollard argues that we experience ourselves as having moral duties, which must ultimately be to God10:

But aren’t we also obligated to [be moral]? We feel guilt when we go against the “good”; if we steal something from a shop, or lie for no good reason. And guilt is only felt when some obligation or duty is broken. So we do, it seems, have a duty to the “good”.

A duty, then, is defined as being held to account for our actions. But surely only a personal being can do that. For instance, I cannot have a duty to, say, a rock, but I can to a human being.

Hence, it would make sense to say that this objective “good” is not only unchangeable, but that he is also personal, because we are obligated to him. This, I believe to be a suitable candidate for the label that is “god”.

In this short article, we have established a choice; on an over-all level morality is either relative or objective. We have to make a decision, but relativism leads to infinite practical problems to the point that it is unworkable. So we chose the view that does appear to work – objectivism.

But we also have a duty to this objective “good”. When we go against it, we feel guilt, which we can only have towards a personal being. So, the “good” is alive, and interactive. We have a personal duty to an objective “good” being, so, it seems that he is deserving of the name “god”. (ibid.)

I don’t quite understand Pollard’s argument. I would think we have duties to other people. When do we have a duty to God but not a duty to anything else?

I suppose Pollard might be referring to the old idea that laws require a lawgiver. If there are moral laws, then someone must make the laws. Well, either that is true, but we might make our own moral laws based on our interest in benefits and harms, or there might not need to be a lawgiver at all. Moral laws are merely requirements that must be met in order to treat people well. What determines if someone is treated properly has more to do with helping them avoid pain or giving them something of intrinsic value, such as happiness or survival.

Pollard seems to transform the word “good” into God because we are taken to be held accountable and given obligations by it. Well, I think pleasure is something good, and I think that is quite relevant to my moral obligations. However, I feel no need to say that God is somehow making the pleasure good, or that God is the good found in pleasure.

Conclusion

Everyday arguments that morality requires God are not persuasive. The most relevant possibility is that God created everything including the moral part of the universe, but this issue is beyond our grasp of reality and is not relevant to our everyday concerns.

I suspect that the most relevant issue to everyday life is the possibility that atheists will be immoral, but I see no reason they would be. I suppose we could suspect that those who don’t believe in intrinsic values might be more immoral than usual, but atheists can believe in intrinsic value.

1 Cotton, Ray. “Morality Apart From God: Is It Possible?” Leadership U. 11 February 2010. <http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/god-ethi.html>.

2 “The U.S.S.R. tried to build an empire on godless atheism, and it failed miserably. Today in Russia we still see the results of the ethics of atheism. You would think that the Russians, having suffered so much under a totalitarian regime, would strive to do the right thing in appreciation for their new freedoms. Many have, but Russia today is torn apart by crime, greed, lawlessness, and immorality. Why? Was it merely too much freedom too soon, or are they still reaping the rewards of the ethics of atheism?” (ibid.) He also said, “If we don’t believe we are created by God, but simply highly evolved animals, and if we believe we have accountability only to society, then there is no end to the depths of depravity that we can go in our search to justify our actions. Corrosion of morals begins in microscopic proportions, but if not checked by a standard beyond ourselves, it will continue until the corrosion wipes away the very foundation of our lives, and we find ourselves sinking in a sea of relativity..” (ibid.)

3 “From the time of the Greeks, there have been many philosophers who have sought to prove that it is possible to have a universal morality without God. There have been many arguments presented to support this position, and in theory they may be right, depending on what one means by the word universal. They would say, all you have to have is a consensus on what is considered right and wrong behavior.” (ibid.)

4 “God is the creator and sustainer of all things [sic]. We would not even be self aware, let alone aware of right and wrong, if God had not created within us His image, and therefore the ability to make moral distinctions. The truth is we have no reference point for all this discussion about morality except as God reveals it. For us to argue with the source of morality is for the clay to argue with the potter.” (ibid.)

5 “The second problem with these arguments is that they fail to recognize the nature of man. If man were not fallen, i.e., not corrupted by sin, we would have limitless potential to create from within ourselves a universal moral code. But, we are a fallen lot, every last one of us, and therefore incapable of fully knowing what is good (Rom. 3:23). We are even incapable of carrying out what we do know to be good (Rom. 7:18-21).” (ibid.)

6 “As Christians, we recognize that man is more than just material; there is a lot more to us than just the physical body. We see this in our ability to mentally stand back and evaluate our lives, our ability to know right from wrong, and our self awareness and personality that make us unique from the rest of God’s creation.” (ibid.)

7 “Because of our Christian perspective, we are interested not just in the physical evidences to the realities of life, but in the metaphysical evidences as well. For example, we have this book called the Holy Bible. It obviously is physical in nature because we can hold it and feel it and read it. But is there valid evidence that this book contains a message from God? Yes, in fact there are countless other books writtAen to affirm that there is, in the pages of the Bible, a metaphysical message from the Creator of the Universe. The historic testimony of the ages confirms to our satisfaction that this book is the very communication from God to us. Can we prove this with scientific experiments? No. But, we have experienced countless testimonies and evidences that this book is more than just physical in its nature.” (ibid.)

8 Olasky, Marvin. “Morality Without God?” Townhall.com. 11 Februrary 2010. <http://townhall.com/columnists/MarvinOlasky/2009/11/11/morality_without_god.>

9 “WSA suggested in his book Moral Skepticisms (2006) that since we don’t know whether abortion is morally wrong, it’s unfair for employers to insist that health plans not pay for abortions.” (ibid.)

10 Pollard, Luke. “Does Morality Point to God?” bethinking.org. 11 Februrary 2010. <http://www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=305>.

15 Comments »

  1. Moral arguments for the existence of God are the most blatant form of begging the question there is. There is no place from which to evaluate whether or not morality is objective or subjective, and to argue for subjective morality suffers from the same logical fallacy. The person that believes in objective morality presupposes its existence and takes everything as evidence for that idea and discards the rest. So does the person arguing for subjective morality.

    As for demonstrating morality is objective, theists like to point out that raping children for fun is something people generally feel is wrong. Therefore it would also stand to reason that when I have other types of feelings that most people share, any of those types of feelings are objectively true. For example, if I think mincemeat pie is good, then there is an objective place that comes from because most of us agree that poop tastes bad. That means that since most people agree on one aspect of flavor, then taste is objective and mincemeat pie is good.

    I like to say that objective morality looks identical to subjective morality. Without an evaluative domain from which to determine it either way, any conclusion is circular.

    As for atheists being pro choice, I have to disagree. I am an atheist, and I think I have a rather well thought argument about why abortion should be illegal, and it doesn’t rely on anything supernatural. I wrote about it in my post Why the abortion debate should be so divided.

    Needless to say, arguments from morality are the weakest arguments for the existence of God in my opinion, merely because objective morality can’t be demonstrated to be more than opinion.

    Comment by Godlessons — February 13, 2010 @ 12:03 am | Reply

    • Godlessons,

      You have some good points. What do you mean by objective and subjective morality?

      I think morality is epistemologically objective (we can reliably find out what is true), and I think values are real, but they might rely on subjective reality (such as pain and pleasure). Certainly morality without any sort of mind would be strange.

      I don’t agree that morality is a “matter of taste.” If something tastes bad, then you have a reason not to eat it. It would be wrong for people to force you to eat it just to torture you. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to think it tastes bad.

      My main concern is: Do intrinsic value require God? If you want to dismiss intrinsic values altogether, then you might agree with certain others who believe that in that sense morality requires God. Without intrinsic values, I don’t think morality is as interesting or profound, and I think many religious people feel the same way. They would prefer to believe in God if that would help them keep a more profound sense of morality.

      As I have said elsewhere, I do believe in intrinsic values and I don’t think they rely on God. If you want me to show you my arguments, I can give you some links.

      Comment by James Gray — February 13, 2010 @ 1:30 am | Reply

  2. What I mean by objective and subjective morality is, for example, whether or not murder is either right or wrong. We can make reasons based on opinion to justify why it is right or wrong in our minds, and look to those reasons as justification of our belief, but saying either that those subjective reasons absolutely must be the source of morality or that there is some source for morality other than our own opinion, is stepping outside the boundaries of what can be shown to be true without speculation.

    People get a little mixed up when we speak about objective vs. subjective. When we say something is objective, it means it is true or false, right or wrong, regardless of personal opinion. When we explain something in an objective manner, that means by using evidence of a type that can be understood to be true or false by everyone, or at least most people. These have similar meanings, but people often misunderstand them in application.

    The latter suggests to some people that something that is objective is understood by most people, and that is where I believe the misunderstanding happens. Everyone can understand that raping a child for fun is wrong, but the source for that position is the thing that we are talking about. Is the source within ourselves, or does it come from something external? If it comes from within ourselves, it is subjective and only pertains to individuals. That is why the idea that if there is objective morality, god is the source comes in. It is next to impossible to imagine a non-intelligent source for morality, and if it’s not our own intellect, it must be something or someone else’s intellect.

    I know that some people think that the Bible is the objective source for morality, but there are many problems with that too. I could go on about that idea for a while, but it would be slightly beyond the scope of what we are talking about. Suffice it to say, the bible is one of those things that I feel is the strongest evidence against objective morality.

    Now, the reason I used the taste analogy is because I tend to believe that moral values are matters of opinion. I was showing that there are other types of opinions that the majority of people hold to be true, but we can’t say that they are objectively true or false, and if we did, people would have a cow. In other words, the ad populum argument doesn’t hold water when trying to show that taste is objective, so it shouldn’t hold any more water with something that seems a bit more nebulous like objective morality.

    I can’t prove to anyone that morality is subjective. The reason for that is the same as the reason they can’t be shown to be objective. There is no source that can be pointed to that would show without doubt that it is the source for morality. Because of this, objective morality looks, acts, smells and tastes indistinguishable from subjective morality.

    As for intrinsic value, I know we put a value on life and the well being of others, and there are many explanations as to why we might do that from an evolutionary/memetic standpoint, but even there we enter the realm of speculation, and there is much to disagree with on all sides. I have found that these things are interesting to ponder from a philosophical/epistemic perspective, but until there is some way to show exactly where and why we come to the conclusions we do, it’s just impossible to say. I would imagine that it won’t be possible until about the same time that determinism is proven to be true.

    Comment by Godlessons — February 13, 2010 @ 7:02 am | Reply

  3. Godlessons,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond. I will let you know my take on things.

    What I mean by objective and subjective morality is, for example, whether or not murder is either right or wrong. We can make reasons based on opinion to justify why it is right or wrong in our minds, and look to those reasons as justification of our belief, but saying either that those subjective reasons absolutely must be the source of morality or that there is some source for morality other than our own opinion, is stepping outside the boundaries of what can be shown to be true without speculation.

    Speculation is necessary for just about everything. If there could be a science of morality, it would require speculation. The main interest in science is that it seems difficult to have a science of morality without bias.

    People get a little mixed up when we speak about objective vs. subjective. When we say something is objective, it means it is true or false, right or wrong, regardless of personal opinion. When we explain something in an objective manner, that means by using evidence of a type that can be understood to be true or false by everyone, or at least most people. These have similar meanings, but people often misunderstand them in application.

    The main confusion lies in objective ontology versus objective epistemology. Something can exist in the mind and be real.

    The latter suggests to some people that something that is objective is understood by most people, and that is where I believe the misunderstanding happens. Everyone can understand that raping a child for fun is wrong, but the source for that position is the thing that we are talking about. Is the source within ourselves, or does it come from something external? If it comes from within ourselves, it is subjective and only pertains to individuals. That is why the idea that if there is objective morality, god is the source comes in. It is next to impossible to imagine a non-intelligent source for morality, and if it’s not our own intellect, it must be something or someone else’s intellect.

    I agree that agreement or common opinion is not objectivity.

    If the source is within ourselves, that only means it is related to mental content.

    Not sure what you mean by the “source” having to be external to ourselves to be “objective.” Minds are not external to ourselves, but minds are perfectly real. Minds do not need a source outside of ourselves to be real.

    I know that some people think that the Bible is the objective source for morality, but there are many problems with that too. I could go on about that idea for a while, but it would be slightly beyond the scope of what we are talking about. Suffice it to say, the bible is one of those things that I feel is the strongest evidence against objective morality.

    I made it clear that I agree with you about this already.

    Now, the reason I used the taste analogy is because I tend to believe that moral values are matters of opinion. I was showing that there are other types of opinions that the majority of people hold to be true, but we can’t say that they are objectively true or false, and if we did, people would have a cow. In other words, the ad populum argument doesn’t hold water when trying to show that taste is objective, so it shouldn’t hold any more water with something that seems a bit more nebulous like objective morality.

    That makes sense.

    I can’t prove to anyone that morality is subjective. The reason for that is the same as the reason they can’t be shown to be objective. There is no source that can be pointed to that would show without doubt that it is the source for morality. Because of this, objective morality looks, acts, smells and tastes indistinguishable from subjective morality.

    I think intrinsic values can be shown to be epistemologically objective and “real.” We know about what is good and bad because we experience it. We aren’t deluded that pain feels bad, for example.

    As for intrinsic value, I know we put a value on life and the well being of others, and there are many explanations as to why we might do that from an evolutionary/memetic standpoint, but even there we enter the realm of speculation, and there is much to disagree with on all sides. I have found that these things are interesting to ponder from a philosophical/epistemic perspective, but until there is some way to show exactly where and why we come to the conclusions we do, it’s just impossible to say. I would imagine that it won’t be possible until about the same time that determinism is proven to be true.

    Knowledge without speculation is asking for too much. I don’t think intrinsic value knowledge requires “wild speculation” about magic or supernatural entities. It is pretty ordinary and seems approximately as plausible to minds being real.

    Intrinsic value and philosophy of the mind: https://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/searles-philosophy-of-the-mind/

    My argument for intrinsic values: https://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/an-argument-for-moral-realism/

    I have spent about a year studying the literature that involves “moral realism” (what I think of as a belief in intrinsic values). Most experts agree that some sort of moral realism is probably right. (Some philosophers disagree, and are anti-realists). I am not crazy for thinking moral realism is a good view. I have spent some time arguing that intrinsic values are real and defending such a belief from objections. A lot of my arguments are in my free ebook: https://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/free-ebooks/

    Comment by James Gray — February 13, 2010 @ 8:25 am | Reply

  4. I hope you don’t believe, from what I’ve been saying, that I don’t think there is a source for morality. There is obviously a source, I’m just not sure what that source is, and whatever the source is, it appears to have a subjective aspect to it. In other words, people’s opinions and beliefs are able to help shape their morality, even if they have experienced the same source for their moral values.

    As for a discussion about moral realism, I have to admit ignorance on the exact definition of that. I have tried before to get information about it, but I found it either lacking, or too difficult to understand from the particular source I was reading. I also have to admit not reading your links you posted yet. It’s kinda late here, and I will have to get back to it later.

    When speaking of the epistemology of morality, you have to ask the question of why we worry about other people at all. Where does empathy come from? It’s easy to understand why one would find it necessary to feel that bad things shouldn’t be done to them, but why should I care if someone steals money from you? I don’t believe this comes purely from the necessity of caring for children, which is the most common thing to blame, so there has to be some other reason. Now, we get into some extremely complex reasons, and I think that is why it is so hard to pin down. Reasons may be the necessity of societal welfare for one’s own welfare, desire to be safe from certain wrongs, necessity of caring for children, and any number of other things that may be so obscure that nobody has ever thought of them. Because of this, I remain agnostic about the source of morality. By agnostic, I mean I don’t think the source can be known. I am not confident enough with any idea I’ve pondered or heard to say for sure that it is correct on the reason we have moral values.

    Anyway, I do find these kinds of things interesting to think about, which is strange since up until recently, discussing philosophy was one of those things I just hated to do. It bored me to tears. Lately though, it seems that’s all I ever blog about.

    Comment by Godlessons — February 13, 2010 @ 9:28 am | Reply

    • I agree that psychology can be relevant to morality. A genuine interest in other people or morality in general could be necessary to motivate moral behavior. I just don’t think that “value” means something like “motivational force” or “pro-attitude.” Plato’s Euthyphro makes the general point: Is something good because it is liked or is it liked it because it’s good?

      To simplify my view of what “moral realism” means, I pretty much just define it as the view that intrinsic values exist. Some philosophers might think that “intrinsic value” is saying too much and it might be possible to be a realist without intrinsic value belief, but I am perfectly OK with just “cutting to the chase.” Talk about values seems to help communicate things quickly. Aristotle’s idea of “ultimate ends” (or “final ends”) is the main idea.

      A more precise definition of moral realism and intrinsic value can be found in the early chapters of my ebook.

      Comment by James Gray — February 13, 2010 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

  5. “Cotton asserts that the Bible is an important source of moral knowledge because it comes straight from God.”

    How does he know that the Bible comes straight from? He is just speculating. There is no scientific evidence (or any other credible evidence) of God’s existence. When I say God, I mean Biblical God that Cotton is refering to.

    Comment by Srebrenica Genocide Blog Editor — February 14, 2010 @ 3:36 am | Reply

    • I agree. I never said I agree with him. I gave my own objection to his assertion as well.

      Comment by James Gray — February 14, 2010 @ 4:38 am | Reply

  6. To make this topic more impossible, I posted a question to you at this blog:
    http://theidealmuslimah.blogspot.com/2010/02/argument-from-evil-why-it-actually.html

    The question is impossible to answer.

    Comment by Srebrenica Genocide Blog Editor — February 15, 2010 @ 4:02 am | Reply

    • I replied to the question. The question, “How can you prove God does not exist?” might be impossible to answer if certainty is required, but there are objections to belief in God. This is too complected of an issue to answer in a few paragraphs, though.

      You might want to take a look at what the stanford encyclopedia of philosophy says about the problem of evil: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/

      It makes it clear that the word “evil” is unnecessary for the argument to work.

      Comment by James Gray — February 15, 2010 @ 10:27 am | Reply

  7. quoting:Two, no good argument is put forth to make me think that atheism will lead to horrific behavior anymore than religion already does. Fanatical suicide bombers wouldn’t exist without religion, for example.” actually must religions have boundaries and if you cross them you can are no longer from that religion and in all the religions i know so far don’t regard fanatics as one of thier people. so you don’t get religous fanatics. And it is a fact that if you are givem rules to obey you can do as the rules say. But if you have no rules then you are are more likelyy to do what you like and you can call that independant but that gives tou less moral than that of a pious believer

    Comment by zarah — March 28, 2010 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

    • Religious fanatics aren’t the only non-atheists who do horrible things. There are religious and atheist idiots who also do terrible things. Were the crusades fought only by religious fanatics? Probably not. People do stupid things with or without religion. Philosophers tend to be relatively well behaved whether religious or not.

      Some religions are more violent or oppressive than others. There is no guarantee that a religion will approve of proper moral behavior. To say that someone isn’t religious just because they are uninformed, stupid, or fanatical is little more than a dispute with semantics. If you think Christianity of one type is the only “true” religion, then a great deal of justification and argument will be required. Most people think their religion is the one true religion that understands morality perfectly and everyone else is wrong.

      I agree that morality is itself important to be well behaved. However, “moral rules” written in books tend to be over-simplified guidelines that don’t help much. Additionally, atheists can accept morality just as much as anyone else.

      Comment by James Gray — March 28, 2010 @ 9:48 pm | Reply

  8. People do stupid things with or without religion. Philosophers tend to be relatively well behaved whether religious or not. i agree a little with this sentence but you do get followers of religon who are devouts (not fanatics) and their religion might strive them to god and to help others and in the past had example of thoses peoplee i.e. muhammd, bhuddha, jesus etc. so that sentence 8is not particularly true, humans are constantly doing stupid things but i think having a set of rules limits you to some extent. but i completely disagree with you here ‘Some religions are more violent or oppressive than others’ i have studied religion and i do not think that hardly any religions are opressive there might be a minority but most religions are about love of god. please give me an example of at least five religions to support this claim. and actually i find that:However, “moral rules” written in books tend to be over-simplified guidelines that don’t help much.’actually i think that religion is an oversimplified guidline because my religion, islam, says what i can and can’t do clarly in balck and white and it is not oversimplified as i believ it has stayed the same from the day it was sent down, but i do agree to the statement’Additionally, atheists can accept morality just as much as anyone else.’ i didn’y say they couldn’t but i was making the point about fanatics(not called religous fanatics, cause you don’t get tyhem as explained before) and i have some atheists friends and i do find that they are honest and kind people

    Comment by zarah — April 2, 2010 @ 4:52 pm | Reply

    • What do you mean hardly any religions are oppressive? Do you not think that advocating slavery is oppressive? If you do, then the top two world religions are oppressive. Do you think that you should kill unruly children? Same thing. Then we can get to the things people don’t realize they are being oppressed by. In Christianity and Islam, if you use your brain and don’t believe, you go to hell. If you masturbate, you are evil and will go to hell. If you just lust after someone, you are doomed to suffer the same punishment also. This punishment also happens to be the same level of punishment you get for murder.

      Now, whether or not they practice such things may be argued, but the truth is, they should if they follow their book to the letter. And since it is in the book, there is a possibility that someone will follow it. The oppression is in the teachings.

      Comment by Godlessons — April 2, 2010 @ 5:16 pm | Reply

    • When religions oppress people is going to be controversial to some extent. People tend not to see their own religion as oppressive. However, the Catholic church has oppressed children by helping priests get away with child molestation, many “heretics” have been killed for having the wrong beliefs, people decided that they should be allowed to declare war because God wants them to, and people have thought they have the right to take land from others because their religion said so. Additionally, anti-homosexual, anti-sodomy, and anti-premarital sex attitudes have lead to violence, oppression, and guilt.

      Concrete examples:
      1. Catholic church: Inquisition
      2. Islam: Women can’t drive.
      3. Hinduism: The poor aren’t allowed to move up their social class.
      4. Judaism: The “holy land” belongs to them and can be taken away from others.

      I am not a scholar, but it is pretty well known that every major religion has used religious beliefs and commitments to encourage violence and justify wars. I heard that this is even true about Buddhism.

      These oppressive examples are not examples intrinsic to the religions. They are merely ways religion has been abused. It might be that each religion has a pure truth at some level that people don’t understand.

      It does seem likely that “organized religion” tends to be corrupted by people in power who want to use the religions for their personal advantage. That means that it will be very common in religion to oppress people to the extent that they must “agree” with the religion. People’s beliefs are being forced upon them.

      Additionally, religions are often used to “brainwash” people insofar as faulty reasoning is used to get everyone to agree to the religion and children are often sheltered from other religions and kept ignorant of science.

      I think you said you agreed to what I said about moral rules being simplified, but it wasn’t entirely clear. I will clarify what I am thinking. Moral rules are not so clear cut. “Rape is wrong” looks simple enough, but there are gray areas. Is it only rape if she fights against it, or can it be rape even if she doesn’t say a think given her body language, and so on?

      “Murder is wrong” looks simple enough, but when is killing someone murder? Is self defense always a justified reason to kill or only sometimes? When exactly is it? Is it OK to kill if it is necessary to protect the lives of others?

      We have many moral rules and values, but they often clash. Sometimes the rule against “letting people die” and against killing others can clash.

      Comment by James Gray — April 3, 2010 @ 8:44 am | Reply


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