Morality needs religion; like the sea needs Poseidon


TheWarOnFaith-MP-ChristianMoralityIsBarbaricSupreme Court Nominee Judge Robert Bork, nominated by President Reagan in 1987, once gave his rather insulting explanation as to how Atheists can live a moral, decent life, as follows;

We all know persons without religious belief who nevertheless display all the virtues we associate with religious teaching…such people are living on the moral capital of prior religious generations… that moral capital will be used up eventually, having nothing to replenish it, and we will see a culture such as the one we are entering.

It is a rather curious comment from Bork on a couple of levels. Firstly, Bork is suggesting that Agnostics and Atheists are living off of the back of religious teaching as a guide to our moral existence, whether we chose to believe in the dogma or not. Without that religious backbone, people like me, would be robbing, raping and murdering all over the place. For Bjork, morality preceded life. It was kept in Heaven, before it was handed to us, in the middle of the desert, around 198,000 years after humanity evolved. And then a new set, handed to Muhammad, that directly conflicts with the old set, and caused, still causes, and continues to cause misery and destruction. He is suggesting Moral rights and wrongs existed before humanity, but were not possible to know, until God very generously intervened in human affairs to tell us we were all born sinners, and according to his game, will be violently punished unless we now do exactly what he says. Without this, we would be awful people. He is suggesting that despite all the research and studies into the structure of our minds and how it affects empathy and other key components for moral decision making, it was in fact, Jesus. He quite conveniently ignores the question of why religion has been able to play such a central ‘moral’ role in society for the past 2000 years; this usually involves a lot of violence, oppression and vicious silencing of dissent. Even now, draw an insulting cartoon of Christopher Hitchens, and draw an insulting cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad…. and you watch which group provides the more morally respectable response.

And secondly, because the very reason he is in the position he currently enjoys, is because of the secular nature of the Constitution. He is supposed to be protecting that secular nature. Religion should not play a role in his public life, nor in his public rhetoric. The fact he is in a position of secular power, means he is living off the back of secular reasoning.

He always seems to be under the impression that Christian ‘morality’ is 1) Objective (it isn’t) and 2) Unchanged (it hasn’t).

Bork’s comments stem from the notion that there cannot be a sense of morality, without Religion. This often repeated idea from the Christian community, is embedded in Christian thought. Psalm 14:1:

“The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.”.

- It is a theme that runs through Christian ‘thought’. Any sort of free thinking, any rational inquiry, and kind of curiosity and questioning is punishable, because in a show of circular reasoning, the Bible says so, and so the Bible must be right…. because the Bible says so. It is odd that a God would endow us with critical faculties, and then punish us for using them.

This isn’t morality, this is very heavy dictatorship based on fallacy after fallacy. You mustn’t question, you must be silent, and worship. You are punished, for thought crime. It is made clear right at the point of the ‘fall’, as we are told that the Devil urges Adam and Eve to eat from the ‘tree of knowledge’. God, obviously did not want humanity to think, or to question. Our natural curiosity as a species, is punishable. God wanted blind obedience. He wanted pawns in a very devious game. The Devil seems to get a bad reputation, for simply inspiring free thought. He certainly isn’t as vicious, and as punishing, as genocidal, and as discriminatory as God of the Bible. Nor is he as obsessed with Muhammad’s sex life, as the God of the Qur’an. As i’ve previously argued,The Devil, in the Bible, represents Enlightenment. The enemy of religion.

Bork’s words were echoed yesterday, when Mike Huckabee of “execute Julian Assange” fame (interesting, given that Assange isn’t bound by American law), claimed that the reason the tragic shooting in Newtown took place, was because God was missing from lessons. Call me cynical, but the last time the Church mixed with children, the outcome was a systematic covered up child sex scandal, that still hasn’t been dealt with. I’m not sure I trust Christian teaching, and children to be in any way connected. If we take the recent Hebrew lessons taught in schools in Palestine as dictated by the Hamas leadership; we note that it isn’t for reasoned dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis, it is to teach, and I quote:

“Expanding (Hebrew) teaching comes as a result of our plan and meeting greater demand by students to learn Hebrew. They want to learn the language of their enemy so they can avoid their tricks and evil.”

- It is to further perpetuate hate, and suspicion. Nothing more. There is no Human value to it. It is further indoctrination of children, to create a further atmosphere of tension, at a young age.

Back to Huckabee: Why wouldn’t a God intervene to stop a brutal massacre like Newtown? Christianity is clear; God is immanent. He answers prayer. He flooded the Earth. He can intervene if he wants to. A tiny school that doesn’t base its values on Christian Theocratic principles is not an obstacle for a God that has already wiped out millions before. And yet, he didn’t intervene this time. Why? Simply because the US is a secular Nation? That’s his reason for allowing mass slaughter? He seems to be able to intervene in order to commit genocide every so often, but not to stop a massacre. Keep your God, he’s insane.

I have blogged previously on the Pope’s rather ludicrous claims that non-belief leads directly to Hitler. The Muslim speaker Hamza Tzorzis in practically every debate, insists Atheists ‘lack of moral basis’ can lead to all sorts of atrocities, like Hitler (Hamza’s main talking point in debates, seems to be moral anchors; along with old, long discredited Cosmological arguments) Their suggestion is quite possibly the biggest slippery slope fallacy I have come across, and ignores the very fact that Hitler professed his pro-Christian, anti-Atheist credentials whenever he saw fit, was endorsed by the Catholic Church, and used centuries of anti-Jewish sentiment screamed by the Church, to promote the need to destroy them. In my previous article, I note:

In 1939, Cardinal Orsenigo was sent by Rome to celebrate Hitler’s birthday. Pope Pius XII started an annual birthday celebration tradition for Hitler in fact. The Catholic Church each year would send “warmest congratulations to the Fuhrer in the name of the bishops and the dioceses in Germany”.
Hitler in 1922, said this:

My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. .. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison.

Hitler in 1933, said this:

“Today they say that Christianity is in danger, that the Catholic faith is threatened. My reply to them is: for the time being, Christians and not international atheists are now standing at Germany’s fore. I am not merely talking about Christianity; I confess that I will never ally myself with the parties which aim to destroy Christianity.”

Hitler, also in 1933, said this:

“We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.”

Hitler in 1934, said this:

“National Socialism neither opposes the Church nor is it anti-religious, but on the contrary, it stands on the ground of a real Christianity.”

Now, compare Hitler’s speeches above, with the Islamic Palestinian Political Party Fatah today:

Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims. “Let the eyes of the cowards not fall asleep.”

Compare Hitler’s motives for a Empire by conquest, with Hamas today. Hamas member “cleric Yunis Al Astal”:

“an advanced post for the Islamic conquests, which will spread though Europe in its entirety, and then will turn to the two Americas, even Eastern Europe.”

- So do not tell me, that non-belief creates an atmosphere that leads to parties like the Nazis being morally acceptable. It is absolutely the religious claim on ‘objective morality’ that both motived Hitler, and motives those like Hamas who wish to emulate him entirely. Religious ‘objective morality’ permits acts that we non-believers find abhorrent, by stigmatising groups based on culture, gender, sexuality and race. It is religion that does that, it is religious that creates a hateful atmosphere by creating an Us VS them mentality and claiming divine right to do so. Never trust, nor pay attention to anyone who claims divine right to tell you how to dress, how to talk, what to think, or who you may or may not fall in love with. They are totalitarian poison.

Back to the point. So, the Theist’s are suggesting that morality comes directly from God. An anchor, as Hamza often puts it. A moral anchor, lodged firmly in the setting of bronze age tribal desert people, who took slaves, sacrificed people, and where women were created simply as a companion for the man, whilst gay people are treated to the death penalty.

It is illogical to claim objective morality based on ‘revealed’ texts. The very essence of revelation, is individual to every major religion. Mohammad was apparently given moral revelation, in a cave outside of Mecca. Therefore, the objective truth pertaining to morality, is objective to him only. To everyone else, it is secondary hear-say. No one is compelled to accept it, and therefore, it is subjective morality. It is absolutely irrational to claim an objective anchor for your morality, when it is second, third, fourth hand ‘revelation’.

To begin to suggest “objective” morals from divine source, you need to do a few things first. Your starting point, would be to prove a creator. This implies something ‘outside’ of everything. Everything encompasses itself. Which is impossible. And also logically absurd, because it demands a being that can exist outside of the confines of time. So, to prove a creator, first you must prove that something can exist outside of time (to have created time). Prove it, not philosophically suggest it. Actually prove it. If your faith is to have any power over the lives of others, you have a whole lot of proving to do.
Then, once you’ve proven that something can exist outside of time, you have to prove that the creator is all good. Why not an all evil creator? Or two creators? Or a creator that created everything, and then stepped back? Or a creator who created the universe in a final act before dying?
Then, once you’ve proven something can exist outside of time, and successfully dismissed all other possible creator attributes other than ‘all good’, you then have to prove that the creator, is the God of your particular religion. I wish all Theists the best of luck in that.
Once you’ve done all of those things, proven everything above, then, and only then can you speak of ‘objective’ morals. Otherwise, you have a subjective base for your morality, that you claim is ‘objective’ because someone once wrote it down.

So it is of course, ludicrous for anyone to suggest morality is anchored to religious texts. Not just for the limitations of revelation, and lack of anything even close to ‘proof’ on any of the above points, but also what those ‘revealed’ moral statements enforce at their core. We are also told by anyone insisting that to have a God, is to have ‘objective morality’ that their texts are open to masses of interpretations. Hamza Tortzis of Islamic Public Speaking fame is insistent that to be Muslim, means to have an anchored set of moral principles. Yet when challenged on the brutality that the Qur’an and Hadith have inflicted upon the World, and continue to inflict, he weasels his way out of it, by claiming a multitude of interpretations for those specific ‘objective morals’. The contradiction is glaring.

The Qur’an and the Bible are both excellent examples of what we would consider vast immorality and totalitarianism. It is, for example, very ‘morally’ dubious, for Abraham to have agreed to sacrifice his son, purely to glorify God. Though God stops it eventually, he is happy enough to put Isaac through the horror of believing his own father is about to sacrifice him. Is anyone happy to say that this is morally acceptable? That this represents an all loving God, rather than a very needy God? This test of faith, is disgusting. Islam is no different, and in many ways, far far worse. The Hadith is quite clear on what the punishment for leaving Islam should be;

‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.’ – Bukhari (52:260)

‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.’ – Bukhari (84:57)

“A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu’adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu’adh asked, “What is wrong with this (man)?” Abu Musa replied, “He embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism.” Mu’adh said, “I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His Apostle” – Bukhari (84:58)

- Most Muslims do not accept this any more. Why? I’d suggest it is because killing people simply for saying “I’m no longer Muslim” is a moral evil. Therefore, those Muslims have absolutely no right to claim a ‘moral anchor’. Unless of course they only claim a moral anchor, with the Qur’an…. which is one big war manual, as well as a guide for Muhammad’s sex life.

And we know the purpose of death for apostasy. As Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood said:

“If they [Muslims] had gotten rid of the punishment for apostasy, Islam would not exist today.”

- Islam, like Christianity, spread it’s “moral” message, through force. Nothing else. Yusuf al-Qaradawi was using the quote above….. as reason to allow death for apostasy to continue. One of the leading Islamic Theologians in the Middle East (and also, admirer of Hitler) was advocating death simply for leaving a religion. Is this your Islamic morality? Keep it.

Now, I am convinced that Muhammad invented the Qur’an to satisfy his own desires for power, wealth, and women. So therefore, to me, the ‘moral anchor’ given by Islam, is simply a man made concoction, with billions of people clinging to the ‘morality’ of a power hungry womaniser. It seems that Allah didn’t actually wish women to be veiled originally. But Muhammad’s friend Umar ‘wishes’ it, and suddenly Muhammad gets another call from Allah, and women are to be veiled for the most mundane reason:

And as regards the (verse of) the veiling of the women, I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I wish you ordered your wives to cover themselves from the men because good and bad ones talk to them.” So the verse of the veiling of the women was revealed. (Qur’an 24:31)

- Unless Muslims can absolutely prove beyond any doubt that 1) A creator exists. 2) He’s infinitely good (a creator could also be infinitely evil, or he/she could be a creator that kick started creation, and then walked away, or there could be multi-creators) 3) The creator is the God of Islam and 4) Muhammad didn’t make it up….. until they can prove all of those points, then we have no reason to accept that the Qur’an is a moral anchor, any more than we must accept that the Chronicles of Narnia offer a moral anchor.

Similarly, we are aware, in the 21st Century that a grown man should neither marry, nor have sex with a child. We know that to be wrong. Yet, for all the revelations for irrelevant reasons (which way to pray, acquiescing to veil wearing ‘wishes’ of Muhammad’s friends), Allah doesn’t see it necessary to insist that having sex with a child, is wrong. If we are to presume the morality of God is unchanging (which we must, to consider Islamic morality to be ‘objective’), then we must assume that abusing children, is not something God cares too deeply to prevent…. but praying toward Jerusalem instead of Mecca, he feels it necessary to correct. I am not sure I like this God or this ‘objective’ morality. Most Muslims of course abhor child abuse, in the same way as the rest of us do. This is in spite of their Prophet, and in spite of Allah’s tacit acceptance of it. They have evolved a sense of morality alongside the rest of us, shunning the more vicious and frankly, despicable verses that supposedly bind all morality for eternity. The evolved sense of morality is a combination of biological and neurological traits for survival and nothing more. Natural selection is the key.

The very idea of faith; blind acceptance of a system of morals (and I use the word ‘morals’ in its loosest possible form), offered by second, third, fourth hand sources, all of whom based their accounts (if we take the gospels as an example) on second, third, fourth hand sources, edited and revised over the years…. on fear of punishment ….. is a disastrously immoral notion, especially when it is forced onto children.

Let’s assume there is a God, and He commanded us to be good – which suggests we are born sick, having been given no choice in this state of being – by providing a system of anchored morality. This is incoherent. Because if God has an actual reason for us to be good, then we don’t need God. The reason is apart from God (unless it’s simply, to get into heaven, in which case, it is no longer good for the sake of good…. it is now for the sake of reward – and unless he hasn’t revealed the reason to be good – in which case, why should we be compelled to do good?), and so the REASON stands on its own, and does not need someone to give us those reasons. Or maybe God doesn’t have a reason. In which case, there is no longer an anchor. God could say “be kind!” and so if there is a reason to be kind, then humans do not need God. The reason is apparent. Again, unless the reason is hidden – which, means the basis of your morality is a God that you have no evidence for, having a reason that he wont tell you about. If there is no reason for Him to say “be Kind”……. then there is no anchor. Hugely insecure basis. Inconsistent. Irrational. Dangerous. The stuff of children’s story books.

A sense of right and wrong, of course does not have to come from a divine dictator. There does not have to be a supreme idea of perfection, of beauty, of morality, for a sense of those ideals to exist. They are perceptions that have evolved, and appear in different degrees, to different people, in different cultures. We build those ideals ourselves, we are conditioned by society, by our family and our friends, by the injustices we see, by putting ourselves in the shoes of others, and through this, I can quite happily say my sense of right and wrong is due entirely to the evolution of our minds and the course of human events that has shaped perception. Morality is the result of rational minds debating, rationalising, and coming to conclusions based on thought, and evidence available at the time. Sometimes we get it wrong. But we learn, we evolve and we advance. The basis for Atheist morality, is trust and belief in humanity to act justly.

The Bible and The Qur’an are simply reflections of the workings of social cohesion at the time they are written. We tend to ignore the most brutal ‘morals’ because they are no longer permissible. Society has outgrown some of the ‘morals’ set out in these texts. Like the picture at the top of this article. It is absolutely morally wrong to stone someone to death for working on a Sunday. But, if we are to accept that God’s rules are absolute, and binding throughout time…. then why aren’t Christians advocating stoning people for working on a Sunday? We have out grown it. Therefore, morality is an ever evolving idea, it isn’t anchored, it doesn’t require doctrine, and it certainly doesn’t require a vicious God. Religion rides the wave, and claims it as its own.

You do not abandon moral relativism, just because you claim to have God on your side. In fact, you embrace it more than anyone.

I have noted in a previous blog, that the Ten Commandments (arguably the backbone of Christian morality) is clearly stolen from the 42 Principles of Ma’at, from the Kemet tribe of Ancient Egypt. Does this mean that Christians are simply living off the moral capital of the Kemet tribe?

The Ten Commandments of Exodus 19:23 is quite the questionable source for morality also. What we see from the Ten Commandments, is a couple of useful tips for life, but then nothing more than a rather jealous God threatening his followers. Instead of “Do not have any other gods before me”, a seemingly useless commandment, why not “Do not rape” or “Do not molest children“? Why is God using the most important set of rules in human history, to put his own jealousy ahead of much more important guidelines for life? He appears to have abandoned the idea of suggestion, and telling us that in order to live a moral existence we MUST believe in him. And so, we have no choice. It is not a matter of free will. If I were to tell my child that he either love me, or I’ll cook him in the oven, he’s going to tell me that he loves me regardless of how he actually feels. It is simply a form of control, not a form of love. This is evident in the fourth commandment “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” It’s a carrot mentality, in that you will be rewarded for honouring your mother and father. But religion goes further; it tells you what you must think. It convicts you of thinking “wrong”. That in itself, does not promote morality.

Do we know what moral capital Bork is living off? Well, the foundations of his life, can be traced back to his ancestors, who made it possible for Bork to exist at all, as the Christian Puritans from England fled, taking over land with a rather ambiguous moral crusade of slavery, forced removals and the systematic destruction of the natives. Ward Churchill, Professor of Ethical Studies at the University of Columbia has estimated that between 1500 and 1850, 12 million Natives across America soon became less than 237,000. David Stannard at the University of Hawaii refers to the genocide as “The worst human holocaust the world had ever witnessed, roaring across two continents non-stop for four centuries and consuming the lives of countless tens of millions of people.” And this was all in the name of a brand new Nation derived from Christian ideals? Shouldn’t the argument be “is morality sustainable WITH religion?

We could go into the deep corruption and evil the Catholic Church has spread over the Centuries. The blood that has been shed in the name of Christ. The money that has been squandered from the masses in places like Germany during the early 16th Century to provide funds for the building of St Peters. The Crusades, the holy wars, the immense loss of life. We could also mention Islam’s autonomous ideology of hate, racism, and death-for-apostasy/adultery/homosexuality/insulting the Prophet with words. We could question the horrendous practice of child genital mutilation in the name of religion. We could go into all of this, but I think history speaks for itself. Christianity has survived, not primarily because it offers hope (although, that certainly does play a part), but mainly because it has thrived on fear and murder and indoctrination of children, to the point where we now ingrain it’s teachings (much of which, is far from what I’d describe as “moral”) into our education system, and another generation is disturbingly brainwashed.

Countries that have abandoned the conjoining of Church and State, for a secularist future, are all a huge improvement on the Theocratic hellholes that Christianity carved out when it had the smell of power. I attribute the moral problems we face today, to economic hardship, to the idea that there is no such thing as communities, and only the individual can help himself… perhaps secularism has helped perpetuate that problem by inevitably occupying a middle ground, and introducing a sort of money and Nation state worship. Though, Interestingly, Weber suggests this idea of rampant individualism and materialism, is very much rooted in 16th Century Protestant thinking.

But it stands. Secular liberal democracy, even with its faults, is far superior to anything offered by religion.

It seems unquestionable to these people, that humanity could possibly have a sense of right and wrong without religion. Their trust in humanity is pitiful. They doubt we can be thoughtful, and rational enough to build our framework for morality, without the idea (not proof of, just a very weak idea) of a divine overlord.

From my point of view, our sense of morality has been shaped over millions of years; our minds have evolved and adapted to the constant shift of culture, society, expectation, and interaction. We as humans have a wonderful sense of empathy; a trait that studies suggest has absolutely nothing to do with how we ‘ought’ to feel or act based on religious conviction, but is in fact hardwired in our genetic make up. To suggest morality is dependent on Religion, is as ridiculous as to suggest that the sea is dependent on Poseidon. Religion seems to have a transcendent nature, that opposes progress, until it can no longer sustain itself, and then it changes and updates. It is, in this respect, autonomous – by which I mean, not completely dependent on the social or political context of the day (though certainly influenced by) – I’d go one step further and suggest that if your motive for a moral existence is a Heavenly reward, then you are not acting morally at all. You are acting selfishly. Whereas, if an Atheist were to perform a moral act, he is doing so for utterly selfless reasons, and so by definition, is a virtuous human being.

Morality should not be linked to heavenly consequence. The entire nature of religious morality, is based on Pascal’s Wager. You should do what the Bible says; because it might be true. How irrational. How immoral. It seems, as long as we say “…oh, and you’ll get a reward when you die” we suddenly have an ‘objective’ basis for our morality. How childish. Not only that, but morality is not objective. Even when suggesting a religious “base”. That “base” is simply trusting the account of the person claiming to have revelation, and the historical accuracy of the life of that person, shrouded as it always is, in ambiguity. We are also told that these religious texts have “several interpretations”. So, if you are religious, your “objective” base, is based on trust that the revelation was given to one person, that every subsequent revelation must be a fraud, with very little and historical record for your case, and containing several interpretations and inaccuracies. Most of which, you now ignore, because we know it to be hugely immoral or irrational.
To conclude; the religious don’t understand the word ‘objective’.

Morality needs religion; like the sea needs Poseidon. It doesn’t.

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11 Responses to Morality needs religion; like the sea needs Poseidon

  1. Cerberus Black says:

    It’s very unfortunate for a judge to be so controlled by the inept influences of some shaman to prop the synthetic dessert king, for it gives him no jurisdiction in a free civilization for his group to compel another to adhere to any of his, or anyone’s religious code, whatsoever.

    It’s very telling how desperate they are in light of the fact that the government is using the people’s money to support the institutions of the clergy.
    The clergy are seeing their own cash cow dwindling before their eyes, and this is the reason why the state is picking up the tab because the government also receives money from the institutes of indoctrination for political campaigns.

    And he, Bork, as well as others, is nothing but an instrument of the church to countermand even the constitution if necessary in favor of church doctrine, and the administration as well as the Congress are backing them.

    Indeed, Futile Democracy. It is a very insulting statement coming from someone, whom by law, is to be impartial for the benefit of a free society.

    Nice blog BTW.

  2. Roger S. says:

    “If an Atheist were to perform a moral act?” Ah… but why call it “moral”? It seems only that you wish to redefine “moral” to mean anything conforming to your notions of human empathy. And if someone does not feel down in his wittle tummy this empathy? In other words, if one did not feel empathetically compelled to the “moral” act, on what basis would you have to condemn him? If he commits an injustice, who are you to condemn him? Who are you to say that it is an injustice? Basis?

    There is no reason to do the “morality” without the “ought.” “Ought” implies more than tickly synapses.

    And as far as a group in a free civilisation compellilng someone to adhere to a religious view, is not the better question, why should the group be compelled to accept the dissenter? On what basis? Indeed, you to not accept the person who dissents from the cult of individual human dignity. You wish me to respect human rights. Keep your morality to yourself.

    Atheist morality is an oxymoron, or it is an idiocy.

  3. What an interesting but hugely flawed, full of presumptions diatribe.

    “It seems only that you wish to redefine “moral” to mean anything conforming to your notions of human empathy.”

    - Not my notions. Humans have the ability to debate, rationalise, come to rounded conclusions. I may disagree with certain choices that come out as a result. But I accept that the basis, has come around as a result of the human power to rationalise. I very much subscribe to the golden rule. In fact, most religions have took the golden rule on as their own base for moral reasoning, and then added their own irrational judgements on top. “Treat others as you’d wish to be treated. Unless they’re gay. Or work on a sunday.” I am not claiming an objective anchor. Nor am I claiming the right to impose my own personal notion of right or wrong on any given subject. Straw man.

    Let’s assume there is a God, and He commanded us to be good, by providing a system of anchored morality. This is incoherent. Because if God has an actual reason for us to be good, then we don’t need God. The reason is apart from God (unless it’s simply, to get into heaven, in which case, it is no longer good for the sake of good…. it is now for the sake of reward – and unless he hasn’t revealed the reason to be good – in which case, why should we be compelled to do good?), and so the REASON stands on its own, and does not need someone to give us those reasons. Or maybe God doesn’t have a reason. In which case, there is no longer an anchor. God could say “be kind!” and so if there is a reason to be kind, then humans do not need God. The reason is apparent. Again, unless the reason is hidden – which, means the basis of your morality is a God that you have no evidence for, having a reason that he wont tell you about. If there is no reason for Him to say “be Kind”……. then there is no anchor. Hugely insecure basis. Inconsistent. Irrational. Dangerous. The stuff of children’s story books

    I am saying, that Human basis of right and wrong has never been defined by religion, that we have always used our rational judgement to make a moral decision, sometimes we have got it wrong, but we learn and we improve, as an in-built species survival mechanism, and that religion simply grabbed on to the moral context of a time long passed, and tried to compell us all to lay stagnant in that context, on fear of punishment. Morality did not start the moment someone collated the books of the Old Testament. Morality has no anchored basis. It’s not a nice idea that it isn’t anchored, but it isn’t. It evolves alongside humanity.

    If someone commits an injustice based on Christian notions of morality, given what I’ve just said, then who are YOU to condemn him, given that you have absolutely no evidence that the God who inspired your form of morality…. firstly, actually exists, and secondly, has a reason for condemning? What are you basing your source of morality on? Third and fourth hand sources, about a man who wasn’t written about until 50 years after he died, and an OT we have no idea who the writers were? What a strange, and again hugely insecure basis. Revealed morality, is only revealed to the one person who experiences the revelation. After that, it is just hear-say. It is not a moral anchor. It is disingenuous to suggest it has a basis. In fact, the very basis of religious morality is thus; you are born sinful and sick, you had no choice in this, and you are commanded to be well, and if you don’t be “well” by how the invisible dictatorship insists, you are going to be burnt in hell for eternity. What a fucking awful basis for morality. If you think the basis for morality, is simply; something written down, a long time ago, but lacking any proof for its authority…… then what is stopping me from claiming revelation, and a brand new basis for morality, based on the wholesale slaughter of ginger people? Who are you to tell me it isn’t what God wants, if I say God told me? What gives a God the right to impose moral authority? What makes him “Good”? It is all just conjecture. That’s what religious people currently claim is a basis for their morality.

    I’m saying, humans do not need religious ‘morality’. We are rational beings. We make mistakes, and we learn, but we collectively are in control of how society can best preserve the species, mixed with the fact that we are empathetic by nature; which must reflect in our systems of morality. We have learnt over around 150,000 years of human existence, what works and what doesn’t, and it continues to update. We most certainly do not need religious morality. The term ‘religious morality’ is itself, incredibly funny given it’s history of intense immorality, and the fact that you have no evidence for the existence of the great morality giver.

    Basically, you’re saying any form of moral system is irrational, unless we say “…..oh, and you’ll be rewarded when you die.”

    You might have a point, defending religious morality, if alongside the good that religion has inspired – charity, selflessness, great works of art and literature – it wasn’t outweighed by the horrendous acts of violence that it has also inspired. So if your point is to defend ‘anchored’ morality based on religion, you have your work cut out for you. Because history shows us, your ‘basis’ for morality, has been a disaster, and is logically incoherent. So, in reply to your claim that “Atheist morality is an oxymoron” (ridiculous statement, because it assumes morality can only be achieved through unproven religious dogma) and “it is an idiocy”…….. Christian Morality, whilst not an oxymoron, it is an idiocy, hypocritical, historically ignorant, baseless, incoherent and too often, it’s apparent adherents, pick and choose. So, by ignoring certain passages pertaining to how you should act morally according to Biblical principles, you are in fact, adhering to modern society’s ideas of right and wrong (unless you actually do stone people to death for working on a Sunday, in which case, I am wrong). You are making a giant concession to humanist values, by picking and choosing which sections to choose to include in your personal bank of moral religious teachings. Moral religious teachings, that do not require religion in the first place. Afterall, the Jewish population did not get to Mount Sinai, by killing, stealing, and punching their mother and father in the face, before Moses revealed that God says it’s wrong.

    “Indeed, you do not accept the person who dissents from the cult of individual human dignity.”

    - You have every right to dissent, you can speak out, you can run for public office on a dissenting ticket. You have no right to harm the dignity of another individual. Absolutely none. Unless you have a rational reason why you should have the right to hurt the dignity of someone else? By harming the dignity of one human, you are harming the dignity of every other individual. Feel free to vocally express your distaste for human rights. But when you harm the rights of someone else, you harm the idea of rights for everyone. And so, that is the basis for your condemnation.

    “You wish me to respect human rights.”

    - An Atheist basis for morality is quite simply. You mentioned “empathy” and “human rights” and I think in a sense, you’re right. I want a system of morality, and laws that come from that, and the way we govern society, to be based on the notion that acts that contribute to increasing human happiness are right. Those which achieve the opposite, and increase human misery, are wrong. It is rational. It is a basis with intrinsic value for the human condition. Sometimes, it requires compromise, and thought.

    Again, the only person who benefits from ‘anchored’ religious morality, is the one who it is revealed to primarily. For everyone else, it is not objective morality.

    I am not claiming Atheists have an objective base by which to measure moral decisions. We simply evolve, and learn, we debate, and we rationalise. Products of reasonable minds, and taking into context the evidence available to us at the time (if there is such a thing as a gay gene… then Christian condemnation of homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, would be baseless…. unless they’d condemn a gene, in which case…. irrational) Atheists do not base anything on very weak assumptions about a deity we cannot prove, and his “goodness” that is a pointless assertation, given that we cannot firstly establish his existence. Religious morality is a human invention, that refuses to update, be debated, or include updated human understanding. That is not a moral basis. That’s mental illness.

  4. [...] morality’. Of course, objective morality in all religious context, is nonsense, as i’ve argued peviously. But beyond that, his point is quite clear. True Muslims have clear objective morals, the [...]

  5. Daniel says:

    AMDG

    I’m back, baby. I’ll just give you a quick action replay.

    1) If morality (derived from your evolved empathy) is a survival mechanism, why are we to base our actions on it? That argument is essentially “do whatever will benefit you”. So, if I stand to gain from murder and the violation of another human’s rights, they are moral actions?

    2) If it’s all about empathy, an evolved response, we’re stuck with Hume’s is-ought problem. How can you go from a description of what is to a description of what ought to be, from a description of one’s biology to a description of how one ought to act?

    3) Just to reiterate, whence comes the obligation to obey my conscience? You need to establish that obligation.

    4) Further, if I have no conscience or simply don’t feel bad about something, does that mean I haven’t done anything wrong? Am I to somehow know what another person would feel? Whose empathic response is the correct one?

  6. Arkenaten says:

    Excellent, well thought out post. Thoroughly enjoyed the read.

  7. 1) No, it isn’t simply “do whatever will benefit you”. My point on evolved morality derives from survival, not simply as individuals, but as a species. Preservation of the “group” helped along the evolutionary course of humanity. Homo Ergaster, some would say, was the first along our evolutionary line to develop a form of almost modern communication. Similarly, I would argue that species preservation, and modification of behaviours, for survival purposes, played a key role in evolving morality. I would suggest it aided survival, to cooperate, to resolve conflict, and to practice forms of altruism. Not simply an individual “if it benefits me personally”. My main point is that “morality” (or what we label “morality”) is an evolutionary construct.

    Similarly, we see primitive forms of “morality” in the nature of our primate cousins. They appear to recognise the situation of their contemporaries. They (what we might call “anthropoid apes”) show evidence of empathy, and group cooperation, not entirely based on “do whatever you want, for your benefit”. There are some excellent studies into the empathetic displays by certain primates. I would argue that to dismiss the evolution of empathy within primates, as a key ingredient to human morality, would be to suggest that it has no bearing on our decision making. I would be hard pressed to accept that.

    2) and 3) are basically the same question. “You need to establish that obligation”. I will take this as rewording “is-ought”. A question might arise: “Why should I not kill people”? Well then, the same question can arise from all forms of human experience. Why should we use empirical evidence to come to rounded conclusions? We recognise the superiority of certain systems, based, again, on our evolutionary history; both biologically and socially. If I am to accept, as I do, that “morality” is linked to human evolution, then I accept that our sense of empathy, of cooperation, a degree of altruism, and of resolving conflicts, (perhaps you would call this “conscience”) are all key ingredients to that evolution, developing over millions of years. Another key ingredient, is the socially accepted scientific method of evaluating what works, and what doesn’t; what helps humanity, and what doesn’t. If I put those two together; our evolved sense of “morality” and our socially evolved sense of empirical evidence gathering; it isn’t too great a leap to come to moral judgements that most would consider either “good” or “bad”. I would suggest the reason we have psychiatric profiling of criminals, is not to establish whether the criminal has achieved some abstract, metaphysical connection between “is” and “ought”, but because we wish to establish any disconnect or abnormalities in how the particular section of the brain – the anterior insular cortex – may be performing, and the reasons why that might be the case (along with reasons associated with nurture).
    If my understanding of human “morality” is wrong, baseless, whatever…. then it will be proven so eventually. I see no need in establishing some abstract “obligation” that you demand.

    4) “If I have no conscience or simply don’t feel bad about something, does that mean I haven’t done anything wrong?”
    - If you don’t feel bad about deliberately hurting someone, then yes. I would say the reason we’d collectively call that “wrong” is again, linked to how our sense of “morality” (again, a melting pot of empathy, group cooperation, altruism etc) has evolved as a survival technique. We consider it “wrong” because it acts against that developed sense. I never claimed that I believe “morality” to be strictly individual. I think the desire for the well-being and preservation of the species, as a survival instinct, has produced a sense of “morality”. I don’t think we understanding “human well being” or the “good life”, but I think we strive for it, regardless of its indefinability, and again. If we knew, then moral choices wouldn’t be choices. They would be obvious, imperatives. Our choices are sometimes right, and sometimes wrong. But I do think it is almost entirely linked to species survival.

    Lastly I should point out that I am not claiming to “know”. I am only claiming that I think the evolution of human morality as a survival instinct, is the best understanding we have of a field that isn’t particularly well understood, and has been the realm of philosophy for most of the years of its discussion.

  8. Daniel says:

    I’ll confess to some amusement. Considering your complaint that I was being “overly eloquent”, you’re being exceptionally verbose, dragging out simple points into several sentences and chucking in essentially irrelevant scientific factoids. I don’t know if you expect to impress with these or what, but they’re superfluous as far as the argument goes.

    I think the overall message here is that you’re misunderstanding the argument. This isn’t about ascertaining scientific facts. This is a metaphysical argument. This is about establishing moral truth, that is, the objective existence of right and wrong. You have absolutely failed to do that.

    1) You’re missing the point. If morality is both something to be obeyed and nothing but an evolved survival mechanism, you create two possibilities. Either we have an obligation to act according to all survival mechanisms and in doing so we are doing good, or morality is distinct from other survival mechanisms. The first creates issues in that morality may conflict with other survival mechanisms, like fight-or-flight, to give only one example. The second creates issues in that you have no objective grounds upon which to distinguish morality.

    2/3) Again, you’ve entirely missed the point, and apparently wilfully so. You can’t just crowdsource morality and declare that, since “most people” agree, your judgements take on the character of moral fact. Nor can you say “I can’t answer that, but I can’t answer this other question either, so I don’t have to answer either”.

    All this teleological banter is also missing the point. We don’t use profiling to ascertain metaphysical truth, alright. But that’s nothing to do with this. The purpose we ascribe to something does not change anything. Whether or not we attempt to ascertain metaphysical truth is irrelevant to its existence.

    Humanly imputed purposes are not natural. They do not exist outside of the social context that created them.

    The last bit is the most disheartening. Your understanding of morality is simply an understanding of what is. It is not an understanding of why that *should be*. Thus, it loses the character of moral truth. Your morality is essentially a social obligation to act a particular way, but whence comes the obligation to obey the social obligation?

    Morality does not exist without the “abstract” link between is and ought. It is simply a description of the way people act, but there is no actual morality.

    4) We *consider* it wrong. That doesn’t mean it *is* wrong.

    5) I’ll sum up everything here. Your description of morality is all well and good. Yes, evolution, empathy, social expectations, blah blah blah. WHY is there an obligation to obey any of this? Any system of actual morality has to be prescriptive, not descriptive. Otherwise, there is no ought-statement. It is simply a description of what is.

    6) If I were to take your entire argument and apply it to an Islamic regime that stones women and beheads men, it would work exactly the same way and reach exactly the same conclusion: “Yup, that’s morality and all that is moral”. Explain that.

  9. You will have to forgive me for not addressing your entire first paragraph. It was a ridiculous, and completely pointless attack, and a huge waste of your time, and mine. So I wont address any thing you wrote in it. I however do salute your nerve to claim I’m trying to “impress” whilst simultaneously reintroducing the word “whence” into everyday discussion.

    “This is a metaphysical argument. This is about establishing moral truth, that is, the objective existence of right and wrong. You have absolutely failed to do that.”
    - I know. Because that’s not my argument. You framed it that way, not me. I did not once claim evidence for the existence of metaphysical ‘oughts’. Neither in the religious realm, nor the realm of non-belief. If you read my article, I say: “morality is not objective. Even when suggesting a religious “base”.”. I stand by that. I in no way need to prove the existence of metaphysical, timeless, ‘oughts’ that you seem to be demanding of me. You framed this debate your own way, decided I’d said something I actually haven’t, and then demanded I back up a point I wasn’t actually ever making. But again, I appreciate your use of “whence”. If we can take anything from this discussion, that is it.

    Nowhere do I claim there to be some sort of supernatural rules that all actions must be measured against. We are where we are as a species, simply through how we evolved together. That’s it. You can dismiss it as “blah blah blah” if you wish, but you’d be incredibly short sighted to do so. Our sense of empathy, compassion, rationale, group mentality etc; are all natural, and all play a key part in our sense of what we call morality in that we are able to rationally work out which actions may be harmful and which may be helpful; again, survival technique. Your dismissive attitude toward this quite obvious reality, is unnerving, especially given that you appear to be clinging to Hume, and refusing to accept any progress in neurology, biology, and social studies since that time period.

    There is no metaphysical “why?”, nor have I ever suggested there is. For example, if I were to say “You ought not jump in front of a train”, you may say…. “oh, but WHY must I obey this?”….. well, then we’d have to go deeper into the consequences of jumping in front of a train. If you value your life, you ought not jump in front of a train. It is perfectly material, and not at all metaphysical. It doesn’t need to only apply to morality either. Why must I obey my desire to eat when my body tells me that I’m hungry? Well, I don’t necessarily HAVE to, but if I don’t, I will starve. The consequence is negative. And so we weigh it up against the positives. We benefit from a society that doesn’t harm each other. This is obvious. If we therefore harm others, we may come to harm ourselves as a result. Again, we weigh up the positives and negatives. Each action has a resulting effect, it might be a small effect, or a huge effect. It might have an individual consequence, or a large societal consequence. If-ought. Our evolved sense of empathy informs us that if we murder someone, we hurt them, we hurt their loved ones. Must we take that into consideration? No. But we do. Because it’s how we’ve survived for so long as a species. It is a part of our nature. When the section of the brain pertaining to empathy appears to be less developed in some people, we unsurprisingly see examples of what we might deem to be a lack of morality. It’s rather clear. It’s not a case of “obeying” any metaphysical concept. It’s a case of rationally weighing up the “if I do this…then this will happen….”, which in turn is influenced, subconsciously, by our evolved neurological traits like empathy; this is true, regardless of whether you dismiss it with “blah blah blah” or not. It…is….all….evolved. There is nothing metaphysical about it. It is the way we are programmed. Sometimes, our wiring goes wrong.

    “Yes, evolution, empathy, social expectations, blah blah blah. WHY is there an obligation to obey any of this?”
    - End this at “blah blah blah”. You didn’t need to write the last question. I never suggested there is some sort of supernatural, metaphysical obligation to obey it. Your sentence right up until “blah blah blah” is my point exactly. And it remains. ‘Morality’ is an evolved trait, involving a multitude of different biological and social selections over the centuries, as a tool for survival. That’s enough for me. It explains it all. I don’t need to address the horrid little false dichotomy you try to present, nor do I need to address something I haven’t actually stated in the first place……. because I’m not the one arguing from 18th Century talking points.

  10. Daniel says:

    First off, I’d like to know why you blocked me on Twitter. You seem happy enough to entertain mental Muslims that make flat-out ridiculous and insulting arguments. Why am I singled out? Why won’t you allow constructive comment on your arguments?

    Haha, almost like the *actual* personal attack you launched at me on Twitter? I was criticising your style, on fairly solid grounds. Filling pages with scientific facts in no way makes your argument stronger. The word “whence” serves my purposes in that it allows me to make a compact, concise argument, so I used it. The pages of science can only really either serve to impress idiots or drown out your argument to make it more difficult to pin down and answer, which makes it fair game for criticism.

    Again, I am amused. Still focusing on whence, while complaining about my apparent attack on you (as explained, actually a criticism of your style and weakness of argument).

    I didn’t derail this debate at all. I made an argument in response to your article: without God, there is no actual morality. By morality, I mean an ethical code by which we should live.

    Your train scenario harks back to my earlier point about hypothetical imperatives. If I want A, I must do B. If I want to live, I must not jump in front of trains. But if I want to be rid of Jews, I must commit genocide. Hypothetical imperatives alone cannot provide morality, because they are not moral statements.

    Dismissing thousands of years of philosophical discussion as “sleight of hand” shows, frankly, a disgusting narrow-mindedness. The is-ought problem remains relevant. I don’t see how this is at all in keeping with the New Atheist rhetoric about argumentative rigour.

    Why is hurting people a negative consequence? It causes a certain chain of chemical reactions in the brain that causes, in some cases, a subjectively unpleasant experience. From a purely scientific perspective, that means nothing. It’s just a series of chemical reactions. We are just a bag of chemicals.

    Now, your reaction to this will be “yes, we are, but morality is a built-in part of that bag of chemicals”. No. If you take a wholly scientific perspective, there can be no moral statements. “Murder” is just halting a series of chemical reactions. A negative emotional response is just another series of chemical reactions. I don’t care about either of them, and you have no scientific basis to say anything against that.

    With your position, there is just a description. I don’t see why you can’t understand this. Dismissing it all doesn’t mean it goes away.

    I’ll sum up for you, nice and simple. If I make a wrong statement about your position at any point, feel free to point it out.

    You support the statement “murder is wrong”.
    Your basis for the statement “murder is wrong” is that a series of chemical reactions generally happen in the brain, in response to the killing of a person. These chemical reactions make you feel “bad”. This is “empathy”.
    Empathy is thus the basis of all morality.

    Morality, as most people understand it, is not just a description of what the brain does in reaction to certain things. It is a prescriptive code. It necessarily makes statements like “you SHOULD do this” or “you SHOULD NOT do this. Your morality cannot do this. There is no obligation or prescription.

    Also, you did not address my final point. Your idea of morality could be perfectly applied to an Islamic regime. They have evolved empathy and all the trimmings. They are also human, with everything you have described. What basis do you have for saying that anything they do is wrong?

    Finally, I’ll explain why you’ve misunderstood this argument. I was making an argument in response to yours. Without God, there is no basis for a morality. If you wish to say otherwise, you need to establish a secular basis for that sort of metaphysical truth.

    Unfortunately, you seem unable to accept that morality, actual morality, is the domain of philosophy. Science, in theory, describes what is, and only that. Morality is about oughts. Your scientific description may describe what sort of subjective morality people have, but there is no basis for saying that that morality is in any way good, or that we should obey it.

    You have no basis upon which to tell me not to murder. If you reply to only one thing, reply to this. Make the case to me that I should not murder.

    I assume it’ll involve some reference to a negative impact on the victim’s family, or jail. I don’t care about either. So I can murder away. Even if I did care, there would be no “ought”.

    It’s just mind-boggling that you can be so blinkered. I imagine this is how atheists feel when dealing with dogmatic believers. Possibly because I am dealing with one. Don’t take that as a personal attack, because it is not. It is simply a statement of fact.

    If empathy is the sole basis for our sense of morality, there is no obligation to obey it. I can do exactly what I want, and you have no grounds upon which to say otherwise. Do you?

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