Ethical Dilemma

dassercha
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Ethical Dilemma

Fundy's will argue that our society has declined b/c of secularism. Your comments?

The argument goes, for example: wouldn't life be better if everyone was on the same page, believed in the same imaginary Santa in the sky to, say, A) save innocent lives (the guy last year who shot up the Amish school might not of if he feared eternal damnation, etc). B) keeping idiots (the "great unwashed") and/or people who justify "doing what they want b/c they can" away from ethical/thinking folk who know better.

The things that keep me up at night. Smiling

EDUCATION! EDUCATION! EDUCATION!


Hambydammit
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The Myth of Secular Moral

The Myth of Secular Moral Chaos

Sam Harris

 

 


 

One cannot criticize religious dogmatism for long without encountering the following claim, advanced as though it were a self-evident fact of nature: there is no secular basis for morality. Raping and killing children can only really be wrong, the thinking goes, if there is a God who says it is. Otherwise, right and wrong would be mere matters of social construction, and any society would be at liberty to decide that raping and killing children is actually a wholesome form of family fun. In the absence of God, John Wayne Gacy could be a better person than Albert Schweitzer, if only more people agreed with him.

It is simply amazing how widespread this fear of secular moral chaos is, given how many misconceptions about morality and human nature are required to set it whirling in a person’s brain. There is undoubtedly much to be said against the spurious linkage between faith and morality, but the following three points should suffice.

  1. 1. If a book like the Bible were the only reliable blueprint for human decency that we had, it would be impossible (both practically and logically) to criticize it in moral terms. But it is extraordinarily easy to criticize the morality one finds in the Bible, as most of it is simply odious and incompatible with a civil society.

    The notion that the Bible is a perfect guide to morality is really quite amazing, given the contents of the book. Human sacrifice, genocide, slaveholding, and misogyny are consistently celebrated. Of course, God’s counsel to parents is refreshingly straightforward: whenever children get out of line, we should beat them with a rod (Proverbs 13:24, 20:30, and 23:13–14). If they are shameless enough to talk back to us, we should kill them (Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18–21, Mark 7:9–13, and Matthew 15:4–7). We must also stone people to death for heresy, adultery, homosexuality, working on the Sabbath, worshiping graven images, practicing sorcery, and a wide variety of other imaginary crimes.

    Most Christians imagine that Jesus did away with all this barbarism and delivered a doctrine of pure love and toleration. He didn’t. (See Matthew 5:18–19, Luke 16:17, 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 20–21, John 7:19.) Anyone who believes that Jesus only taught the Golden Rule and love of one’s neighbor should go back and read the New Testament. And he or she should pay particular attention to the morality that will be on display if Jesus ever returns to earth trailing clouds of glory (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9, 2:8; Hebrews 10:28–29; 2 Peter 3:7; and all of Revelation).

    It is not an accident that St. Thomas Aquinas thought heretics should be killed and that St. Augustine thought they should be tortured. (Ask yourself, what are the chances that these good doctors of the Church hadn’t read the New Testament closely enough to discover the error of their ways?) As a source of objective morality, the Bible is one of the worst books we have. It might be the very worst, in fact—if we didn’t also happen to have the Qur’an.

    It is important to point out that we decide what is good in the Good Book. We read the Golden Rule and judge it to be a brilliant distillation of many of our ethical impulses; we read that a woman found not to be a virgin on her wedding night should be stoned to death, and we (if we are civilized) decide that this is the most vile lunacy imaginable. Our own ethical intuitions are, therefore, primary. So the choice before us is simple: we can either have a twenty-first-century conversation about ethics—availing ourselves of all the arguments and scientific insights that have accumulated in the last two thousand years of human discourse—or we can confine ourselves to a first-century conversation as it is preserved in the Bible.

     



  2. 2. If religion were necessary for morality, there should be some evidence that atheists are less moral than believers.

    People of faith regularly allege that atheism is responsible for some of the most appalling crimes of the twentieth century. Are atheists really less moral than believers? While it is true that the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were irreligious to varying degrees, they were not especially rational. In fact, their public pronouncements were little more than litanies of delusion—delusions about race, economics, national identity, the march of history, or the moral dangers of intellectualism. In many respects, religion was directly culpable even here. Consider the Holocaust: the anti-Semitism that built the Nazi crematoria brick by brick was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity. For centuries, Christian Europeans had viewed the Jews as the worst species of heretics and attributed every societal ill to their continued presence among the faithful.

    While the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed itself in a predominantly secular way, its roots were undoubtedly religious—and the explicitly religious demonization of the Jews of Europe continued throughout the period. (The Vatican itself perpetuated the blood libel in its newspapers as late as 1914.) Auschwitz, the Gulag, and the killing fields are not examples of what happens when people become too critical of unjustified beliefs; on the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of not thinking critically enough about specific secular ideologies. Needless to say, a rational argument against religious faith is not an argument for the blind embrace of atheism as a dogma. The problem that the atheist exposes is none other than the problem of dogma itself—of which every religion has more than its fair share. I know of no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

    According to the United Nations’ Human Development Report (2005), the most atheistic societies—countries like Norway, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom—are actually the healthiest, as indicated by measures of life expectancy, adult literacy, per-capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate, and infant mortality. Conversely, the fifty nations now ranked lowest by the UN in terms of human development are unwaveringly religious. Of course, correlational data of this sort do not resolve questions of causality—belief in God may lead to societal dysfunction, societal dysfunction may foster a belief in God, each factor may enable the other, or both may spring from some deeper source of mischief. Leaving aside the issue of cause and effect, these facts prove that atheism is perfectly compatible with the basic aspirations of a civil society; they also prove, conclusively, that religious faith does nothing to ensure a society’s health.

 

  1. 3. If religion really provided the only conceivable objective basis for morality, it should be impossible to posit a nontheistic objective basis for morality. But it is not impossible; it is rather easy.

    Clearly, we can think of objective sources of moral order that do not require the existence of a law-giving God. In The End of Faith, I argued that questions of morality are really questions about happiness and suffering. If there are objectively better and worse ways to live so as to maximize happiness in this world, these would be objective moral truths worth knowing. Whether we will ever be in a position to discover these truths and agree about them cannot be known in advance (and this is the case for all questions of scientific fact). But if there are psychophysical laws that underwrite human well-being—and why wouldn’t there be?—then these laws are potentially discoverable. Knowledge of these laws would provide an enduring basis for an objective morality. In the meantime, everything about human experience suggests that love is better than hate for the purposes of living happily in this world. This is an objective claim about the human mind, the dynamics of social relations, and the moral order of our world. While we do not have anything like a final, scientific approach to maximizing human happiness, it seems safe to say that raping and killing children will not be one of its primary constituents.

    One of the greatest challenges facing civilization in the twenty-first century is for human beings to learn to speak about their deepest personal concerns—about ethics, spiritual experience, and the inevitability of human suffering—in ways that are not flagrantly irrational. Nothing stands in the way of this project more than the respect we accord religious faith. Incompatible religious doctrines have balkanized our world into separate moral communities, and these divisions have become a continuous source of human conflict. The idea that there is a necessary link between religious faith and morality is one of the principal myths keeping religion in good standing among otherwise reasonable men and women. And yet, it is a myth that is easily dispelled.
  2.  

    Sam Harris is the author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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dassercha
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Thanks for this piece!

Thanks for this piece!

Again, coming from a "Fundy Family" upbringing, having to argue/debate with my "Fundy Folks," I can hear them retort, something like the following:

 "Growing up in our era (40s/50s) we had certain moral precepts that were generally accepted. Not everybody followed the rules, but hey! look at what we have now. Rampant promiscuity, STDs, kids having kids (which, by the way, most cannot afford to raise), etc. The 60s brought us the "do what ya want/ I'm-just-doin'-my-own- thing,-man" philosophy, and so people did just that.

Again, look at kids who grew up in the late 60s to today's 20-something & under crowd*compared with ours*. The "post-1950s" group reacted to society at large's general acceptance and promotion of hendonism which has resulted in a bunch of kids having kids, STDs, etc. Oh and by the way, how do you get HIV/AIDS? By having a) sex with a carrier, or b) sharing needles, both sins. What are secularists/atheists doing to stop this? Why should we be 'tolerant' of this kind of behavior when it is a CHOICE on behalf of the individual who knew the consequences of said behavior?"

So that leaves me thinking to myself: "Yeah, you know, if every dumb kid in America had this fear of an 'Angry-Dad-in-the-Sky' guy who would send you to Hell for being irresponsible, who cares? If they figure things out later in life and start questioning things, well great! At least the taxpayer has some relief and we've saved society from having to put up direct consequences of the idiot factor."

 I guess the bottomline for me is this: what do we as ethical responsible folks do to get dumb-dumbs from being dumb? 

 

 

 

EDUCATION! EDUCATION! EDUCATION!


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dassercha wrote:

dassercha wrote:
Fundy's will argue that our society has declined b/c of secularism. Your comments?

They need to read some history books...

Quote:
The argument goes, for example: wouldn't life be better if everyone was on the same page, believed in the same imaginary Santa in the sky to, say,

Quote:
A) save innocent lives (the guy last year who shot up the Amish school might not of if he feared eternal damnation, etc).

Well maybe if they forget about all the deaths religion has caused in the past and is causeing today...

Quote:
B) keeping idiots (the "great unwashed&quotEye-wink and/or people who justify "doing what they want b/c they can" away from ethical/thinking folk who know better.

Wait what? Now the great sky daddy is just a tool to keep people in line? Is that all they have left to justify the irrational?

Quote:
The things that keep me up at night. Smiling

Yes, moderates who just think everything will work out if you do nothing worry me too, but I also worry about the people who know people don't want to do anything.


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I live in the most secular

I live in the most secular countries in the world, ergo -speaking from experience- ROTFLMFAO. The more religious a country is, the more messed up things are is virtually an axiom.

~Let us be reasonable~

You want to claim there's such a thing as "the supernatural"? Fine. I hereby declare you to be "paracorrect" in doing so. 


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dassercha wrote:Fundy's

Quote:
Fundy's will argue that our society has declined b-c of secularism. Your comments?
What decline is he talking about?

The incident where the man who shot the amish girls might have happened reguardless as well as the many other "etc's". That shooter had mental problems.

Quote:
keeping unethical people away from ethical folk who know better. The things that keep me up at night.  
This argument is an insinuation that if one does not believe in the fundamentalists' morals then you are immoral. The fundy will have to prove his morals are superior and that you do not have any. I sometimes tell people who say this that if I did not have any morals I would be beating him over the head with a pipe or something and "as you can see I am not doing that. What is stopping me?"

 

btw I take Ambien

People who think there is something they refer to as god don't ask enough questions.


Jutter
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Regarding references to

Regarding references to regimes like that of Pol Pot or Stalin as an excuse to stick to Christianity, and ignore the pleads of the secular rationalists...

....that's like saying we should use heroin because crack has caused people harm. 

~Let us be reasonable~

You want to claim there's such a thing as "the supernatural"? Fine. I hereby declare you to be "paracorrect" in doing so. 


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i dont think so much that

i dont think so much that things are getting worse by any means in our society as it becomes more secular, but i think there are two things that amplify the amount of 'evil' and 'immoral' acts that are made public:

 

1) one big difference between the presence and the 1950s is the freely available information offered via the television and the internet. how many new s stories do you see on the evening news about the positive and good things that are happening in the world? instead our minds are filled with rapes, murders, wars, bad weather and the like whenever we choose to watch tv or read the newspaper. the advertising agencies have realized they get alot more ratings shouting armageddon then showing some environment-friendly people donating food to the hungry or planting trees.

this, i think, makes alot more people believe the world is going down the shitter, when in fact they are just showing you all the bad stuff so you stay to watch the commercial break...

(ever notice how before they go on the commercial break they always grab your attention with "Your vegetables could kill you, find out how after this break!&quotEye-wink

 

 

2) if there is a change in society, i dont believe its necessarily a turn for the worse, ethics and morality change much like fashion, there are no set rules for what is right and wrong, objectively speaking. socially acceptable and unacceptable acts continually change as the society grows. at the beginning of the twentieth century women were frowned upon if they showed their ankles, now however they are free to choose what they expose. (which is not necessarily a good OR bad thing.)

as people get older they always look on the younger generation and judge, its kinda a part of becoming older lol. i'm sure their parents thought that the 1950's swing dancing was obcene and a sin!

 


Vastet
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dassercha wrote: Thanks

dassercha wrote:

Thanks for this piece!

Again, coming from a "Fundy Family" upbringing, having to argue/debate with my "Fundy Folks," I can hear them retort, something like the following:

 "Growing up in our era (40s/50s) we had certain moral precepts that were generally accepted. Not everybody followed the rules, but hey! look at what we have now. Rampant promiscuity, STDs, kids having kids (which, by the way, most cannot afford to raise), etc. The 60s brought us the "do what ya want/ I'm-just-doin'-my-own- thing,-man" philosophy, and so people did just that.

Again, look at kids who grew up in the late 60s to today's 20-something & under crowd*compared with ours*. The "post-1950s" group reacted to society at large's general acceptance and promotion of hendonism which has resulted in a bunch of kids having kids, STDs, etc. Oh and by the way, how do you get HIV/AIDS? By having a) sex with a carrier, or b) sharing needles, both sins. What are secularists/atheists doing to stop this? Why should we be 'tolerant' of this kind of behavior when it is a CHOICE on behalf of the individual who knew the consequences of said behavior?"

So that leaves me thinking to myself: "Yeah, you know, if every dumb kid in America had this fear of an 'Angry-Dad-in-the-Sky' guy who would send you to Hell for being irresponsible, who cares? If they figure things out later in life and start questioning things, well great! At least the taxpayer has some relief and we've saved society from having to put up direct consequences of the idiot factor."

 I guess the bottomline for me is this: what do we as ethical responsible folks do to get dumb-dumbs from being dumb? 

 

 

 

Point out the priests who raped little boys. That should cover it.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.