I'm having this debate about religion with a friend on a forum. He insists that religion is not only a good way of maintaining a moral society but it the only way to do it effectively. He also states that a moral upbringing void of mythology together with the law cannot come close. Anyway I'm a little stuck now.

How would you reply if someone said:

what im trying to say is, any ordinary reasonable man knows that killing is immoral, whether he is Christian, Muslim or from some random tribe. Let us call this natural (basic) morality - are there enough moral consequences for the ordinary reasonable man not to commit acts which go against this natural morality for his own sake?

No. The reason? They still do it even when bound by religious morals, let alone when only bound by such natural morals.

and the last part obviously applies because you are speaking about the complete uselessness of religion, and how we would be better off without it. Using that same argument, you could remove nation states, because at first glance, all they do is divide humanity and create cultural schisms, and the world would supposedly be better without them, as it supposedly would without religion.

Tags: Atheist, Christian, Debate, Ethics, Morality, Morals, Religion

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what im trying to say is, any ordinary reasonable man knows that killing is immoral, whether he is Christian, Muslim or from some random tribe.

Well, there's the first flaw in the argument. The fact is, not any "ordinary reasonable man" knows that killing is immoral. Certainly, many people don't view killing as immoral if it's done in self-defense or in a war. We also know that "random tribes" don't always view killing as wrong. It was only around 600 years ago that civilizations thrived in America, where human sacrifice was an accepted practice. Of course, we now know better. But let's pretend that humans have the innate knowledge that killing is wrong...even though they don't.

are there enough moral consequences for the ordinary reasonable man not to commit acts which go against this natural morality for his own sake?

I'm not exactly sure what the definition of "moral consequence" is. And yes, there are consequences for going against your own sense of morality. Have you ever done something wrong? How did you feel after you did it? I don't know about you, but I feel pretty bad. It's called guilt, and it's what keeps us from doing bad things. I don't like harming others because I know how it would make me feel.

No. The reason? They still do it even when bound by religious morals, let alone when only bound by such natural morals.

So let me get this straight: The reason people go against their own "natural morality" is that they still do it when bound by religious morals? What? How is that a reason? If anything, it just demonstrates that people do whatever they want, regardless of religious belief.

and the last part obviously applies because you are speaking about the complete uselessness of religion, and how we would be better off without it.

I mean, the world obviously would be better without religion. The bible says we should stone gays, kill children, and have slaves. Obviously, those things would be wrong. It's really a good thing that most people don't actually get their morals from religion.

Using that same argument, you could remove nation states, because at first glance, all they do is divide humanity and create cultural schisms, and the world would supposedly be better without them, as it supposedly would without religion.

Actually, at first glance, that's not what they do. We have political boundaries because we have different societies that want to have sovereignty. "Nation states" don't make the claim that revenge killing is acceptable, or that Noah managed to put millions of species of animals onto one boat, or that God created two people and we all descended from them. States simply exist because civilizations, over time, joined together in that way.

And yeah, that's pretty much how I would reply. Obviously, it's a very poorly constructed argument.
Thank you. It is indeed a poorly constructed argument but unfortunately my knowledge of the english language, although not bad, is still quite simplistic.

Do you mind if I use your reply to answer him?
I don't mind, though it probably wouldn't hurt to put it in your own words. In any case, I'd like to see the person's reply.
And it would also serve as practice for my lacking speaking skills. I'll do just that from now on. I posted his reply.
Here's what I think:

When someone breaks their moral code it goes beyond simple obedience vs. disobedience.
Religion imposes moral standards that go against human nature. It also attempts to to maintain a black and white stance on moral behavior rather than a circumstantial one. This is unrealistic and more the culprit than human nature.

For example, it's pretty common for religions to have a strict set of rules about sex. Rules such as no sex before marriage, heterosexual sex only, vaginal intercourse only, no sex during menstruation, sex with your spouse only, no masturbation. This just doesn't work for a majority of people. The rush of hormones experienced in the teen age years is too strong for a holy book to kill that libido. You wanna know why both male and female circumcision became popular? To prevent masturbation and promiscuity.

Lets look at the heterosexual rule. It's just plain unrealistic on several levels. First off we have to define heterosexual, this is a problem. Where does an intersexed person fit in? What about a transgendered person? Is it your psychological gender or the one the doctor decides when examining your genitalia?
Then there's the current knowledge that sexual orientation is not a choice, it's also not a category a vs. category b. situation. It functions on a sliding scale. In fact more and more it's being discovered that physical gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation exist on a sliding scale.

Then there's monogamy. It's not for everyone. Some people plain and simply won't be happy having one partner for the rest of their lives. If anything religion complicates this because it demands that this be the one and only sort of relationship. It creates unnecessary situations where one partner is hurt by the other's "philandering" and the "philanderer" feels it necessary to make promises they can not live up to. This black and white sort of morality hurts more people than it helps.
Now he replied the following (Text in bold = the argument he is quoting)
============================================================

Well, there's the first flaw in the argument. The fact is, not any "ordinary reasonable man" knows that killing is immoral. Certainly, many people don't view killing as immoral if it's done in self-defense or in a war. We also know that "random tribes" don't always view killing as wrong. It was only around 600 years ago that civilizations thrived in America, where human sacrifice was an accepted practice. Of course, we now know better. But let's pretend that humans have the innate knowledge that killing is wrong...even though they don't.

I do believe that the ordinary reasonable man would be bright enough to will or expect out of others, what he wills and expects out of them. And when I was talking about killing, i guess i meant unprovoked murder. murder for the sake of murder. not religious sacrifices, not war, not self defence, not a last resort for food, or for vengeance, or for opportunistic gain just murder; murder as in the concept of ending a human life, without the objectivity of it. I guess not even in the "random tribes" or in past civilisations, did people wake up, saying, "hmm, I feel like killing someone from my own society today. who shall it be?".



I'm not exactly sure what the definition of "moral consequence" is. And yes, there are consequences for going against your own sense of morality. Have you ever done something wrong? How did you feel after you did it? I don't know about you, but I feel pretty bad. It's called guilt, and it's what keeps us from doing bad things. I don't like harming others because I know how it would make me feel.


there are different levels of guilt however. Christians have the concept of conscience as the word of god within yourself. just going to mass every sunday, and listening to the constant hammering of the same morals and values, yes, it does actually influence certain people not to do certain stuff. As I have explained before (and which you have not commented about yet), it is also the only thing that is able to universalise morality (idealism of course).



So let me get this straight: The reason people go against their own "natural morality" is that they still do it when bound by religious morals? What? How is that a reason? If anything, it just demonstrates that people do whatever they want, regardless of religious belief.

come on now, its like ur forcefully trying to not understand my point. Religious morality, strenghtens (to different degrees and purposes) the basic morality. Fear is known to be the best way how to control people. It worked wonders for the church during the time of the inquisition, today, due to increased awareness and legal structures, they have to be content by only threatening people with hell. it is not as effective, but it is a start.


I mean, the world obviously would be better without religion. The bible says we should stone gays, kill children, and have slaves. Obviously, those things would be wrong. It's really a good thing that most people don't actually get their morals from religion.


Don't get me wrong, I am not excluding the possibility of it being a better place, I am just skeptical whether it would or would not be. Lack of the moral foundation put in place by religion might lead to mental, if not physical, anarchy. What would happen to the people in who's culture, the law and religion are one? and this is just a concrete question, not taking into consideration the supplements of religion to morality which has characterised western philosophy.





Actually, at first glance, that's not what they do. We have political boundaries because we have different societies that want to have sovereignty. "Nation states" don't make the claim that revenge killing is acceptable, or that Noah managed to put millions of species of animals onto one boat, or that God created two people and we all descended from them. States simply exist because civilizations, over time, joined together in that way.

Try and imagine what it would be like not having nation states, just one big state...no international conflict, much less spending on the military (which is higher than anything else in the world), common social and legal policies, no territorial disputes (hi dear China) in a world with no nation states, there would be no craving for sovereignity, coz the notion of a nation state does not exist...



You'd be surprised what nationalism has come up with. I mean, Napoleon's obsession to revolutionise the world...Hitler's ambition for the supreme race...Franco-German rivalry which lead to three major wars in two centuries. You can remark so positively on nation states because you have lived in a time of relative peace. If you were living somewhere in subsaharan Africa, you'd feel very differently I assure you. Oh, and a certain country claims to have gone on the moon, a moon with wind that makes the american flag wave ....or a claim by the same country that it has the right to be Earth's policeman! etc. etc. But a world without states is generally agreed by a number of prominent and influential writers (I forgot names, sorry, but i have read/heard the remark multiple times before), that the world could have been a better place - no nationalistic conflict, no cultural schisms..sure! (George Orwell, however does provide a very dystopic image of world states) Another example would be complete equality in the human race - Marxism - the ideal state! It's easy imagining the world without the negatives of human inequality, but very difficult to imagine the world without certain things we take so for granted, ie: certain vital benefits we get from having inequalities (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley)
He doesn't really refute any of my points, which is pretty much what I would expect. For the first block, no one murders simply to murder. Who they murder, when they murder them, and how they murder them are all important parts of the equation that help explain the circumstance. He doesn't explain how some people have no moral objections to killing, be it for good reason or bad.

In the second block, he says that Christians believe that the word of God is within them, which tells them what is right or wrong. I've heard this before, usually juxtaposed with the bible verse that says the word of God is written on every man's heart. Whether or not religion can improve a person's morality is irrelevant, because we can all cite examples where religion caused no change in morality or actually caused someone to do something immoral. Furthermore, all religions have had, in some cases, positive effects on its followers. If you believe the parts of the bible that say don't murder, don't steal, treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated, or put others above yourself, and then go on to follow those rules, then yes - you'll be a better person as a result. However, I could make a book that had an entirely fictitious plot, but promoted what would we would consider moral behavior. That wouldn't mean that the content of the book was absolutely true, or even partially true. My point would be that we can have these morals without any kind of fiction involved - an honest dialogue will do just fine.

The third block is a general assertion that without religion, people would become immoral. I'm an atheist, and most people here are atheists, and we probably don't consider ourselves immoral. There already is proof that the bible isn't right, so it's not as if society as a whole is going to suddenly realize that there's no God, resulting in the destruction of it's moral fiber. It's going to be a slow process where people embrace reality and dispense of these traditions.

The final assertion is that the conflict between nations comes as a result of the political borders that separate them. It's actually quite the opposite. Without those borders, we'd have constant dispute over land, sort of like how things are in the Gaza strip. By having sovereign nations, two societies can peacefully exist next to each other, even if those societies have different governments or values.

Nationalism is a bad thing, but I don't see how that relates to the discussion.
Very good point there, thanks. I wish I was that good with words.

Now the following 'argument' I'm going to post here is only meant for laughs. I was posted by someone else on the same discussion. XD

Also:
1. I am also names biogod in the forum
2. The discussion is also about cryonics so he makes a few references. Notice how he doesn't know the implications behind it.

some of you talk bullshit the bible is just messages it is not a story i mean common who would actually belive in adam and eve and nohas ark please be seriuos

and biogod ur saying that someone that has cancer and is dammed to death within hours and miraculoesly is cured from cancer just like that is something by coinsidence or it is something that we just don't know about... that plain bullshit

last time you said about the lightning how we thought that is was a miracle if have every studied religon and how it moved on from beleiveing that the nature was a god to finding out that nature was a ion of God.

Now i am not extreme christian and i find things that are very fustrating to folow in the church but al least it try to way my options and find the truth

Believe me till 1 year ago i was a complete atherist i went to church just to see it pass but when things were explained to me buy evidence and by weighing the facts buy a very open minded preist i changed my attituade

btw the improtant thing is this and i know a lot of you said it how they hate the things in the church remeber this THE CHURCH CAN'T SAVE YOU GOD CAN so all these people who act as if they are saints are double faces

And yes as biogod pointed out you dont need religon to keep people from doing bad things you don;t have to be a religious person to know that you shouldn't kill and now a days there the law i means seriosly if you steal somethingor the something wrong your are more worried that you get coaght by the law than by sinning infront of god.
And what would you make of this? This is about the statistics that show that as religiosity increases in a country, IQ tends to decrease.

seriously the IQ vs Religiosity doesn't make sense as most probably those people who have a good IQ, they are employed in a good job = a good rewarding salary = making lots of money ...thus they make money their god.
I don't think you can make the claim that higher IQ will lead to having a good job, or that a good job has a high salary, or that they then "make money their god." But that explanation might hold up to a religious person. The real correlation is between education and religion. As people's understanding of science increases, the less viable religion appears. Even those that hold onto their religion after being well educated have to take a more moderate view of it. Only those that have received a poor education will still say that we must take the bible literally.
By the way, how do I explain to someone that cancer healing 'overnight' is not nessecerally a miracle? How does a virus just get cured by itself?
I agree with most of what you said. But IQ test are a good indicator, so as long as it is administered by a psychologist or psychiatrist. The ones you would get at a bookstore or on the Internet tend not to be because they are not so comprehensive.

Education is very important, but there are additional factors that trump grades such as how well connected the student is, how well they plan their education, and if they get in internship.

People with higher intelligence and education are more likely to not be as well vested in propaganda, but are not immune.

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