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Secular morality versus religion-fed morality

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djgordy
1225084.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:14 pm Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
That's like saying if dogs didn't exist what would cats be like?


They would be like 99% of the photos on Facebook, instead of the 97% they are currently.

 
Alexander Howard
1225090.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:58 pm Reply with quote

Richard Niebuhr wrote that “the doctrine of original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith”.

Many were tempted to believe in the Pelagian doctrine of human goodness until the twentieth century laid bare the human soul: Augustine triumphs through cold reality.

 
crissdee
1225102.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 2:36 pm Reply with quote

'yorz wrote:
crissdee wrote:
My definition of "good" can only make sense in terms of what I consider "bad".

The point is, how did you get to your definitions of good and bad? Were they born out of religious 'indoctrination', or did you somehow find your own moral principles? Or is it a mix?



Good point. I would have to say that they initially came from my parents, who were not noticeably religious, but introduced me to the concept of "god". By the time I got any meaningful "religious indoctrination, by which I mean more than singing "All Things Bright and Beautiful" in morning assembly, I had pretty much started on my path towards agnosticism, as nothing my teachers were telling me about religion seemed to stand up to the slightest scrutiny.

My moral code is most probably centered on what I feel comfortable doing. I cannot honestly say that I have never transgressed my own code, but I felt/feel unhappy with myself when I did/do it. I don't believe I will ever be brought to account for my "sins", but I do believe that there is another existence beyond this one. Our behaviour in this one will have (imho) no effect on our situation in the next. I will end up in the same place as Herr Mengele et al no matter what I do or don't do.

 
tetsabb
1225106.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:07 pm Reply with quote

The way I see it is that our distant ancestors realized that they needed some framework of rules to ensure a peaceful existence as societies grew from small family groups to villages and on to cities. So not murdering your neighbours, or stealing from them, or conning them in business dealings would have come to be seen as a way of keeping society operating smoothly.
As society evolved, and there were enough resources to keep a class of priests alive, they annexed these guidelines as a means of reinforcing their rule.
So, in my view, notions of morality emerged as practical means to keep society reasonably stable.

Forgive me if I have told this tale before, but I well remember a younger cat getting a clip round the ear from an older, rather deaf, cat when he moved from behind her into her peripheral vision all of a sudden. Ever after that, he was in the habit of making sure she knew he was there before making any sudden movements. He needed no divine guidance to tell him to treat her with due care and attention.

 
Spud McLaren
1225114.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 4:21 pm Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:
For a society to function, the vast majority of people within it have to agree about some basic house rules. Things like generally considering it a bad idea to massacre your neighbours or stealing anything you want to. If a significant number of people behave like that, it will be extremely disruptive and the society will fall apart.
tetsabb wrote:
The way I see it is that our distant ancestors realized that they needed some framework of rules to ensure a peaceful existence as societies grew from small family groups to villages and on to cities. So not murdering your neighbours, or stealing from them, or conning them in business dealings would have come to be seen as a way of keeping society operating smoothly.
As society evolved, and there were enough resources to keep a class of priests alive, they annexed these guidelines as a means of reinforcing their rule.
You two chaps seem to be on much the same wavelength. However, please explain certain parts of the East End of London, Toxteth, and Mosside*, where crime seems to be a way of life for many. Not that religion isn't in plentiful supply in some of those areas, but there wouldn't be such large-scale problems if there were an inherent goodness in everyone.

Which is a hell of a thing for a Buddhist to say, but hey.

* similar areas are available, I understand.

 
Spud McLaren
1225115.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 4:22 pm Reply with quote

In fact the more I think about this, the less convinced I am either way. I give up. It's nearly time for bed.

 
crissdee
1225121.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 4:41 pm Reply with quote

Boooiiiinnngggg!!!!!

You are Zebedee aicmfp!

 
Jenny
1225123.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 5:35 pm Reply with quote

One of the problems we have is that ways we think of something as good or bad are occasionally relative.

Killing people is bad, but many people don't consider it so in wartime or under judicial fiat.

Killing children is particularly bad (not sure why this should be but people tend to react that way) but in military raids you can call it 'collateral damage'. And the anti-choice brigade would lump abortion in with 'killing children'.

Theft is bad, but is it bad if you are starving/penniless/a refugee with no other source of help?

And so on.

 
dr.bob
1225155.  Tue Feb 07, 2017 5:46 am Reply with quote

Spud McLaren wrote:
please explain certain parts of the East End of London, Toxteth, and Mosside*, where crime seems to be a way of life for many. Not that religion isn't in plentiful supply in some of those areas, but there wouldn't be such large-scale problems if there were an inherent goodness in everyone.


I don't think either tetsabb or I made any claim that there's any kind of inherent goodness in everyone. If there were, then there would be no need for rules or laws or anything. People would just live together in harmony without even trying.

Based on my own experience, I've come to believe that the vast majority of people are generally compassionate and well-meaning. However, that is not enough to hold a society together since it only take a relatively small group to be acting outwith the rules to spoil it for everyone, hence the need for laws and police forces.

It's an unfortunate, but understandable, side-effect of our society that such elements will often be corralled together in small areas such as the ones you mentioned. This has the effect of normalising their extreme behaviour since they see a disproportionately large percentage of the people around them behaving in the same way.

 
barbados
1225161.  Tue Feb 07, 2017 5:53 am Reply with quote

Just out of interest, where did you learn what was right/wrong good/bad?

 
dr.bob
1225185.  Tue Feb 07, 2017 7:13 am Reply with quote

Originally from parents, school and, probably, watching TV.

Over time, I've made my own decisions about which rules should be followed and which should be rejected as pointless, inappropriate, or out of date.

 
barbados
1225190.  Tue Feb 07, 2017 7:31 am Reply with quote

The way I see it, society has been forged by religion. The golden rule you alluded to in your initial post dates it back to the teachings of Ma'at some 4000 years ago, granted we don't seem to be able to go back further than that. But the inference is that, in the case of Ma'at, a goddess basically told everyone to be nice to each other. That - while a very ancient form, is religion telling society how to behave.

The reason why that doctrine appears across multiple faiths is because at the very heart of the matter, they are all the same - a deity is sitting there judging your behaviour, and if you don't act in a "good" way this deity (or even multiple deities) will punish you.
That isn't society leading the way, that is society following. And the behaviour you have learned may not have been from teachings of a "church" directly, but originally they would have come from one.

 
dr.bob
1225208.  Tue Feb 07, 2017 9:11 am Reply with quote

That's your opinion. It's strikingly similar to the one Spud expressed at the start of this thread. I've already explained why I see things in 180 degrees the opposite way, so I don't see there's much to be gained from restating the same arguments.

However, just to make things clear, I have to break to you the news that no goddess ever told everyone to be nice to each other for the simple reason that the goddess didn't exist. Instead, a human being told people to be nice to each other, and pretended it was a goddess so that they would listen to him*.

At this distance removed, it's impossible to tell who originally came up with the idea. It's possible to argue that religion invented the ideas first and they were adopted by society. Personally, it makes more sense to me that rules were created by societies in order to leave peacefully alongside each other, and they were then co-opted by religions in order to grab power.

It also depends how you define "religion." I can definitely see that some rules would develop as superstitions, of the "don't walk under ladders" variety, that were then fleshed out by a more organised religion. But does that initial "superstition" count as a religion?

Ultimately, as Spud says upthread, nobody knows for sure.



*Let's face it, back then it was probably a "him"

 
RLDavies
1225231.  Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:52 am Reply with quote

A couple of random thoughts:

Human society originally evolved in the form of very small, very interrelated tribes. Basically extended families. Lots of shared genes. Under these circumstances, there's evolutionary pressure for altruism. You look out for yourself, but you also help your relatives. This is deeply bred into humans, to help anyone you consider One Of Us. And this sort of altruism is what we still consider the basic core of "good" -- helping, sharing, getting along together.

The other side of the coin is that anyone you consider One Of Them is fair game to exploit or kill. The long history of humanity's becoming (very gradually) less and less violent is basically the history of people expanding their concept of "Us" to include a wider and wider base.

As an entirely different random thought, the question as posed is very Christian-centred. Not all religious belief systems emphasise judgments, rewards, punishments, or afterlifes.
Judaism emphasises being a good person during your time on earth, and has no official teachings about what might or might not happen after death. Rabbis have conjectured various things, but these are not dogma, and many Jews don't believe in any form of afterlife.
Buddhism views the reincarnation cycle as a series of lessons, with the ultimate goal of releasing oneself of all desires and allowing the false construct of the self to dissolve into nothingness. Karma is a natural system of cause and effect, not divine judgment.
The western occult tradition is similar to Buddhism in that it believes in reincarnation as a series of lessons, although the ultimate goal is seen as becoming reunited with the source of all things rather than dissolving into nothingness (although these might be considered two views of the same process).
Some branches of paganism believe there is no divine reward or punishment, and no existence after death. The personality simply comes to an end and the body returns to the elements.

 
barbados
1225245.  Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:34 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
*Let's face it, back then it was probably a "him"

Not an expert on egyptology, but I was under the impression that there were male, female, adult, and child egyption deities.

 

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