I was wondering how much of religious thought we atheists could agree with. Obviously all the metaphysical claims are right out. But there are some things here and there which are appealing. Its not ALL just awfully, horribly wrong. Perhaps we could start with the Golden Rule. Not sure if it was originally a religious thought, or if it did indeed come from Jesus. Most likely it came before, as with most things. Or something else then. Any thoughts?

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I agree, Jim and Joseph, the Golden Rule, when applied to the letter, doesn't ask you to put yourself in the place of others and if applied to the letter in isolation of other moral dictums could indeed be a dangerous rule. This is not to say that it couldn't play a part of a larger moral framework and be seen positively in that light. Nevertheless, your point is true; we need to have a comprehensive moral framework, bits and pieces are not only incomplete but potentially the opposite of moral.

 

I have no problem with completing a whole moral framework here before we ask which parts of religion could potentially be seen as striving towards the good and which do not. In fact I have already done so personally, whether anyone agrees with it is another story, but the conclusion I have reached is that religions do speak to the ultimate end or highest good which we as humans hold as the essence of all values, and while they do so in incomplete and even dangerous ways they do so often better than atheists do for the simple reason that atheists often take simplistic tacks like 1. moral nihilism, 2. science gives all the answers, etc.

 

A moral framework has to be at least somewhat complex (as our Golden Rule example illustrates), and has to speak to our deepest motivations and most untrespassable convictions. The main problem with religion (and even with non-religious moralists like Kantians) is that they try to make Goodness something Objective and independent of ourselves as Subjective beings. Morals are necessarily relative to an experiencer, but I think (after some philosophical acrobatics) that morals can also be relative to groups of experiencers, and so they do not have to be completely relativistic, which would otherwise render them impotent. The truth lies somewhere in between relativism and absolutism. Its not a case of either or (which has been the mistake of countless philosophers and theologians throughout human history!).

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