Supreme 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.