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Moral or Religious

Entry 602, on 2007-09-05 at 20:10:26 (Rating 5, Religion)

The Infidel Guy's podcast is a great source of material for my anti-religious rants. Today I listened to an interview with Sam Harris, the author of two popular books which question the value and morality of religious beliefs, and his thoughts were even more inflammatory than most of the others!

One of the great justifications for religion is that it provides a moral code for people and that without religion for guidance people would revert to some sort of immoral state where there is total anarchy. This is total nonsense of course, but most religious people are too stupid to analyse the facts and see it for the nonsense it is. Instead they just blindly believe what they are told and use a perceived lack of morality as a reason to denigrate atheists.

A common definition of morality is "principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior" and this definition has the problem that it requires a standard definition of right and wrong or good and bad. Without a god how can we have that definition? Well we can't of course and this might imply that morality is impossible for an atheist. But there is a way out. Humans (and many other species which also exhibit moral behaviour) have evolved as a social species and in that process a set of rules which govern interaction between individuals has arisen. This is where the idea of good can originate from. So there is something that effectively is an absolute good, and its a natural consequence of evolution. That's a very satisfactory result for an atheist.

If atheists were genuinely immoral we would expect to see many examples in atheist groups of what a normal social person would see as bad behaviour. But we don't. In fact I see Catholic priests indulging in immoral sexual behaviour with young boys. I see Muslim extremists killing people with bombs. I don't see leading atheist organisations (for example leading scientific groups) indulging in immoral behaviour.

And remember that morality is to do with good and bad, not with what some real or imagined higher power might tell you to do. So when the Bible says that breaking a commandment such as "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." is immoral or sinful that's just garbage.

I think there is a good case to say that it is religious people who are immoral, not the atheists. Religious people act like morons. They are incapable of examining the brainwashing they receive in their churches to see if their standards of right and wrong have anything to do with morality. There's a difference between a moral standard and an arbitrary rule. They should engage their much under-utilised brains and think about what's more important: to be moral or to be religious.

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Comment 9 (883) by WF99 on 2007-09-24 at 10:46:36: (view earlier comments)

If it's properly interpreted, it shouldn't be dangerous at all. The command that you must slaughter an animal and sprinkle its blood all over someone whenever they sin would certainly cause havoc if it had any bearing on today's society. The Bible is the best moral compass I know. Christians take it to be even more. That's all.

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Comment 10 (884) by OJB on 2007-09-24 at 12:16:00:

I have no idea what "properly interpreted" means and I don't think any Christians know either. Does it mean the original meaning, or does it mean reinterpreted to fit a modern context, or does it mean reinterpreted in a symbolic way, or does it mean treated as an interesting piece of historical fiction? No one knows, so different groups tend to interpret it in the way that fits their needs.

If the Bible is the best moral compass you know can I ask what other sources of moral guidance you have considered, and why you rate them as inferior to the Bible.

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Comment 11 (886) by WF99 on 2007-09-25 at 03:41:22:

Understanding the grammatical and historical context of the passage, for one thing. Such as the passage in one of Paul's letters that says that unmarried men should stay unmarried - that obviously applied only to the people that he was writing to, for various reasons at the time.

There aren't very many moral compasses out there, really - at least not set-in-stone. I've read passages of the Koran and other holy books. All contain fragmented morality here and there - it's really impossible to write a doctrine for a religion without it.

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Comment 12 (887) by OJB on 2007-09-25 at 12:25:15:

OK, there are two problems with what you say regarding context. First, the average reader probably won't have the knowledge to understand the subtleties of comments made in that context; and second, even experts in history and experts on theology can't agree on what a lot of the passages mean. Clearly the Bible (and other holy books) fail as a useful communications medium to the "average person".

Have you looked at any of the non-religious moral statements, such as the UN declaration of human rights, here.

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Comment 13 (888) by WF99 on 2007-09-30 at 06:07:26:

Hmm. You've made your points. I'm only posting this so that it won't appear like I'm deliberately dodging anything. I just don't have anything to more to say.

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