I was involved in a discussion in which the host advocated switching to the word, "ethics", and relegating the word, "morals", to religious types. He wanted to do this because he felt morality was too tied to religion. Yes, religious types would very much like to make morality their exclusive domain. But it's not and never will be as long as there are freethinkers.

I believe that human morality is a by-product of human evolution. As the human capacity for memory evolved, we gained a greater capacity to recall experience. As social animals, empathy evolved because of the advantages it lends to cooperation with others. Together, experience and empathy combine to produce morality. Because we know (from experience) what hurts us, we know what hurts others (empathy). This combination, in effect, makes the Golden Rule a part of the human condition. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you because you need each other to survive.

I say that, to the extent morality is tied to religion, religion is winning the argument. As an atheist, I hate to see a fellow atheist concede unwarranted territory to the enemy.

My take on religion's claims to morality is this:

Creationism is heavily tied to religion.
Intelligent design is heavily tied to religion.
Intelligent falling is heavily tied to religion.
Book burning is heavily tied to religion.
Circular logic is heavily tied to religion.

Since when do we prefer the religiously dumbed-down versions of things? If I don't allow religion to subvert evolution, gravity, education or reason . . . why would I make an exception for language? Just because so many of them think that morality can only be God-given, am I supposed to say, "Okay, morality is your word from now on . . . we'll just use ethics instead."?!?

Not only is this surrendering prematurely, it's missing the opportunity to deflate the religious notion of moral superiority. Religious morality is based on scripture and God-given rules; it's based on authority. Natural, human, morality, on the other hand, is based on empathy and experience (I know what hurts me, so I know what hurts you); the Golden Rule. I ask you: which morality promotes enlightenment?

As we all know, Abrahamic religions, through their scriptures, promote slavery, subjugation of women and some pretty horrendous battlefield atrocities. It can be fairly asserted that the Abrahamic religions have been THE most persistently divisive influence in the history of mankind. Such are the moral products of religion.

Now, look at the reforms in religion. We no longer support slavery, the subjugation of women and battlefield atrocities. That's because our natural, human, morality has overruled religious morality. Not only is human morality more solid than religious morality, it dictates what we accept as religiously worthy. It determines what IS religious. If human morality determines what is religious, why do we need religion in the first place?

So when I hear any suggestion that we relinquish our moral advantage, I get riled up and try to convey the wrong-headedness of such a notion. The claim, that morality has too many religious connotations, is just an ancillary concern to me. The real point is that the religious folks are winning the argument when we lose sight of the REAL force and source for morality . . .

. . . OUR HUMANITY.

Tags: disbelief, ethics, freethought, morality, religion

Views: 81

Replies to This Discussion

I'm not sure I agree that its as simple as that. One of the reasons its acceptable to try so darn hard to convert heathens, sometimes forcibly, is because the religious think about it from their point of view, as in 'what if I was a heathen and wasn't aware of how wonderful the truth of my religion is' and then what they do is justifiable. If, on the other hand, they were to think 'what, based on the evidence/history I've seen so far, are heathens likely to think about me trying to convert them, perhaps forcibly', they would, hopefully, come to a different conclusion.
Absolutely, Jaume,

That's why it's called the Golden RULE . . . not the Golden LAW. :-)
David,

The Golden Rule is still as applicable as it ever was. Sexuality is not a moral issue. It would seem you've still got some religious remnants in your psyche.
I don't see anything religious left in his psyche necessarily, just pragmatism that most people aren't open to simple sexual encounters. Anonymous sex may or may not be a moral issue for any given person, but if it is that doesn't have to necessarily have to have anything to do with religion.
Hi Stephen,

My thinking was framed by the Golden Rule as a moral guide. Applying it to a sexual scenario seemed, to me, to include sexuality within the purview of morality: something the religious are famous for.

But perhaps you're right: I suppose one could feel that way without knowing the first thing about religion.
Yeah, I've never been religious, but I'm all for monogamous relationships with sex limited to loving partners. So for me, that is the moral action. Where I differ from the religion as I realize other people may have a completely different sexual morality than I do, and I don't have a problem with it as long as they are safe.

If they aren't safe they could be spreading disease and/or unwanted children and that is immoral and a public safety hazard as far as I'm concerned.
All human interactions have the potential for moral considerations. Since sex is well-known as an equal opportunity heartbreaker, I'm pretty sure you have to think about the Golden Rule when dealing with sexual situations.
Hi Jason,

I agree. But those are moral considerations.

For instance, whether or not to reveal your desire is not a moral consideration. Proclaiming your love just to get laid IS a moral issue. Hiding a potentially detrimental complication, such as herpes, crabs or AIDS definitely IS. Whatever 2 people consent to during sex is not a moral issue. Using deception or force IS. Not using contraception when pregnancy is desirable is fine: but not if pregnancy is NOT desired.

The pursuit and consummation of sex is not a moral issue. However, there are, potentially, many moral issues involved along the way.

I hope that makes sense. I guess, to summarize, the act of sex is not a moral issue . . . but there can be MANY moral issues involved that are actually about personal integrity.
The example that I used, which again, was a study conducted and cited by others, was merely intended to demonstrate that different people can have very different responses to the same stimuli, that the standard we should be using shouldn't be our own, but rather what we can reasonably believe is the standard of the other person. The fact that it involved sexuality was merely a coincidence.
The easiest way to solve this kind of dilemma is indeed abdication of responsibility: "We're in the hand of God, so let Him decide our fate (or the workers')". Convenient, isn't it? I wonder how many religionists realize it.
Innate? Standards are "innate?" I thought it was already agreed that "morals" are constructs dependent upon environment. Let us not continue to confuse definitions. Actions dedicated to standards of a religious belief (advocacy) are "moral" in the minds of those who "believe" in their perceptions. "Belief" is not necessarily fact. Morality is not genetic ... and that's a fact. If you think otherwise, convince me with the appropriate DNA instruction.
Morality is not genetic ... and that's a fact.

Wrong. We can agree there's no strong evidence that morality has genetic roots - at the present moment. This is an assumption, not a fact. "Let us not confuse definitions".

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