Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Subjectivity of Religion's Alleged Morality

The religious claim that their morality is the only true morality because it comes from the ultimate authority on all things.  The most obvious objections to this claim are the fact that the existence of the ultimate authority is highly questionable and even more questionable is the claim that this ultimate authority actually communicated the rules to humans.  The various religions have writings that they claim reflect this alleged divine communication, but these writings are inconsistent with each other and even with themselves.

But, that is not the best objection to be made to this claim because it goes back to the basic question and makes the non-believer seem like he is evading the believer's argument.

A much better objection is:

"The religious pick and choose which moral rules they want to follow just like everyone else."

The religious pick and choose which parts of holy writ to apply and then pick and choose how to interpret them.  If the church they are going to doesn't do this picking, choosing, and interpreting in a manner that they agree with, then they either switch churches or privately choose to disagree and console themselves with a privately held belief that god agrees with them and not the church leaders.

These alleged holy writings are never followed strictly.  The religious think about the rules of their religion and society and decide whether or not to follow them--more or less--based on their particular character and values.  Examples of this abound.  In virtually every modern society, there are rules in the dominant local religion's holy writ that no one would ever think of actually trying to apply.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 actually says that disobedient children should be stoned to death by the community.  This verse technically applies to Jews and Christians, but no one would dream of even proposing that it be followed.

So, where do people actually get their morality?

"Everyone, religious or not, gets his or her morality from a combination of empathy, logic, and community standards."

The weight each person gives to these factors depends on the individual's character.  Some value empathy more than community standards, others do the opposite.  A few even make logic pre-eminent.

Unfortunately, in many cases, a fourth factor--rationalized self-interest--will play a role in how the person chooses to apply the rules.  But, as I pointed out in a previous post, there is no reason to believe that atheists do this more often.  In fact, the evidence is to the contrary--as is the very structure of religion (because it is embraced through dishonesty and then it allows easy absolution for the most heinous of moral breaches).

To show both the universality of objective reasoning and to prove that intelligent people have been refuting religious nonsense for centuries, I will close this post with a quotation from Albert Einstein that I found after drafting this post.  His thoughts echo my own on this matter almost precisely:

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary.  Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."--Albert Einstein.

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