The Origins of Morality Wednesday, Mar 24 2010 

Picking up from where Fiyenyaa left off, I’d like to talk about the origins of morality, in terms of religion.

Many people attempt to claim that religion is a good thing because books such as the Bible provide a sense of morality. There are several problems here.

It is difficult to claim that there is any form of universal or objective morality. All we see are moral statements that, more so than others, tend to be culturally universal and broadly-accepted. For example, let’s consider the commandment “Thou shalt not kill”.

To deal with the obvious first, I hope that there isn’t anyone that genuinely believes that the Jews and other people of the Earth thought for 196,000 years of humanity’s existence that it was fine to kill others within their social group and were shocked when Moses came down and suggested that, in fact, God doesn’t like this.

The important thing we have to recognise here is that religion is, in no way, the source of this ‘morality’. These are concepts that came about through  the process of humanity’s interaction with the sociological and biological realities of the world they inhabit. They transcend and outdate religion. Religion, in saying that one should not kill, is only entering into a discourse that reflects society’s engagement with the realities of their existence. It is not saying anything that is original or ground-breaking and, in fact, it really just saying things that secular reasoning had determined tens of thousands of years prior.

Holy Scriptures such as the Bible have very little original to say, and people who point to parts of it and say “but we can all agree this is good” ignore the fact that the reason we can all agree this is good is an entirely secular one to do with human sociological patterns that, in fact, renders the morality of religion entirely useless.

As always, I welcome all comments. Also, forgive the fact that this isn’t as detailed as I originally intended; uni calls.

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What can Christian morality justify? Monday, Mar 22 2010 

An often-repeated agument in favour of religion is that one requires religion to be moral. Not only do certain denominations of religious people claim this, but I have encountered rare non-theists who claim that religion is some kind of neccesary lie – that the illusion of a religious moral system is required in order to preserve society from chaos. I happen to think that whilst this may once have been the case, general human morals (in those parts of the world which are no longer governed in accordance with religious law) have moved past this phase and are now superior.

However, this post is about a specific evil of Christian doctrine – the doctrine of Hell. There are those who do not ascribe to this doctrine; for example, annihilationists believe that those who do not go to heaven simply cease to exist. However, the most mainstream view is that those who do not fit the requirements for paradise go to hell and are punished in some way for all eternity. This is not only immoral, it is qualitatively immoral. No finite crime can justify infinite punishment.

In order to justify hell as a moral system that god had set up, I recently saw this post on a forum I frequent:

“Would he demand love? Of course, can you imagine a father indifferent to whether his child loves him or not? What in the world are you talking about?

And as for the basement, he would be locked in and tortured if he was an evil and wicked child, yes.”

In order to give context; someone gave an analogy of hell as being similar to a parent who demands love from his children, and if the children did not love him (or if the child was evil in some way) he would lock the child up in a basement and torture him.

My problem is not solely with the logic of this post (I think virtually anyone looking critically at this can the flaw in torturing a child for it’s crimes), but the fact that the supposed bastion of morality allows this sort of thing.

Religious apologism for the evils of humanity and the world is when you think about it quite a horrible concept. We know and acknowledge these evils occur in the world – and those who wish to reconcile their deity with these evils are forced to justify them. By explaining how they fit within the paradigm of a universe ruled by an all-loving creator, they are essentially making these examples of great suffering and evil into actions that are fine; because they must be in order for them to be allowed.

Perhaps when you hear an apologist’s argument (or indeed when you make one) you should step back from what you have just explained, and look at it clearly for a moment. If you have just explained why the Haitian earthquake was in fact fine and dandy because it fits into god’s plan – perhaps you will want to think about whether you want to make these things fine and dandy.

Joshua 10:40 Day! Tuesday, Mar 16 2010 

I noticed on facebook that a lot of people were joining an event called “John 3:16 Day”, talking about the love of Christianity and being proud to be of God and such and such and such, and on this day they would all change their statuses to this one verse, John 3:16.

Anyone who looks objectively can see that all they are doing is cherry-picking the nice verses whilst ignoring the rest of the barbaric, disgusting verses that remain. Thus was born the event Joshua 10:40 Day. Joshua 10:40 reads:

“So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded.”

This verse is just one of hundreds of examples of rape, murder, genocide and ethnic cleansing committed by God or on his direct orders in the Old Testament.

It is the same day as John 3:16 day, March 18th, and I just figured that I would make people aware of this idea, for anyone that is interested in taking a stand against the hypocrisy of Christianity and religion in general.

Into the Christian Union Monday, Mar 15 2010 

So a month or two ago I went to the Christian Union at my university to get a bit of an insight, and hopefully to interact with people via debate. The topic was “Why does God allow natural disasters?” which I thought they may have a hard time justifying.

The first thing I noticed was just how popular the Christian Union was. I don’t know how many were like me, only there for observation and disagreement, but there were far more people than chairs. This slightly unnerved me, as religion is routinely shown to be fairly unpopular in the UK. Perhaps we still have a way to go.

The speaker gets up to the stage and the first thing he does is disagree with the ‘Pat Robertson’ approach – in other words he says that these disasters are not punishment from god for sins or dealing with the devil. Interesting, I thought – at least this won’t be some kind of ultra-fundamentalist argument which will result in me being thrown out due to anger.

However, whilst his first argument was slightly less overtly immoral, is was nonetheless vacuous. He claimed that natural disasters are required as part of the workings of our world – they are merely part of the process of the natural world. He is of course correct – but let me tell you something about omnipotence. Omnipotence means you can do anything. His god isn’t just doing the best with the tools he had, he wasn’t forced to use the framework for a planet that included earthquakes in inconvenient areas. An omnipotent god could create a fully-functioning world without natural disasters.

His other argument essentially boiled down to “money is evil” – which as an aside I rather like as being much truer to Christianity than certain denominations which have become so entwined with the political right that they have become ‘Churches of the Free Market and Jesus Christ’ – but let me explain: his idea was that if you looked at (to use his example) the 2004 tsunami, you would see that places like Thailand you would see a heavy effect, whilst places like Burma did not – this was due to the mangrove swamps around the coast being removed in places like Thailand in order to provide beaches for tourists. This, he claimed was bad – the Thai people’s greed (and he then went on in a slightly humourous manner to say how they exhibited all the seven deadly sins – every one of which boiled down to greed for money, which rather defeats the purpose of having seven) meant that they had destroyed the natural barriers god provided simply in order to make money.

Leaving for a moment the ridiculous notion of claiming that Burma is better than it’s neighbours (a country run by a military dictatorship that does not encourage tourism in any appreciable way), this is unbelievable. His argument basically boils down to “don’t try and make a living”. The idea that one should be punished (even by proxy) simply for trying to make one’s country prosperous and less like Junta-led Burma appalls me, frankly.

Unfortunately, no questions were had as he’d overrun on the time. Of my fellow students, no-one was really prepared to fully agree with the speaker once I had put my concerns to them (I find that Christians – or at least liberal Christians – tend to attempt to excuse away immorality of religion rather than simply condemning it or accepting it), so I didn’t get a good answer.

Perhaps someone else can enlighten me as to why the world’s poor must be required to undergo hardship like no other?