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Secular morality versus religion-fed morality

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'yorz
1225002.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 7:24 am Reply with quote

WFHIT because we'll end up here anyway (:-p)....


Elsewhere a discussion started about one's choices re good-evil, and whether Man is capable of doing such without the influence of religion, fear of hell and damnation, etc.

I was brought up with a relatively mild form of religion, but turned away from that in my early 20s. The thoughts that I have and the decisions that I make are in no way steered by a broader belief in systems of supernatural punishment*.
My ideas of what is good and what is bad will have been coloured by my religious upbringing, but I am convinced that without it, I would have been able to make such a division.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_morality

Quote:
"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death."
 Albert Einstein, "Religion and Science," New York Times Magazine, 1930


* I pinched that description from this site.

 
crissdee
1225014.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 7:46 am Reply with quote

I was brought up with a very vague religious input, prayers/hymns at school, church parade in the cub scouts etc, but also with parents who encouraged me to ask questions about everything until I got an answer that satisfied me. It did not take me long to realise that the answers I was getting from "religion" did not satisfy me nearly as much as those I got from science, so from the age of about 8, I identified myself as atheist, then morphed into agnostic as I learned enough to realise I didn't/couldn't know enough to make a final decision. The good opinions of some invisible man in the sky are not something that trouble me, but I still try to lead a "good" life. My definition of "good" can only make sense in terms of what I consider "bad". Intellectually, I do not believe in "evil", only different opinions in how to conduct a life.

However, when I am confronted by people such as Ian Brady, Richard Ramirez or Joseph Mengele, I find it hard to avoid the "E" word to describe their actions.

 
Spud McLaren
1225023.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 8:04 am Reply with quote

I'm not sure that there's a civilised society anywhere that didn't start out by having some sort of religion, and therefore a religious code. Many societies have swung away from the religion itself, but have kept the humanistic side of the code, so I'm not convinced that we can say that our moral outlook is entirely uninfluenced by religion, even though we may no longer believe in m/paternal superbeings and eternal punishments.

Would we have come to our moral codes without religions? I suspect - largely - not. If you consider the Mayans*, for example; their religion found it necessary on occasion to take small children up into the mountains and bash their heads in. This was done in the name of their religion and was entirely acceptable to them.

* or was it the Aztecs, or Toltecs, or whoever ...

 
'yorz
1225024.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 8:06 am Reply with quote

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?

The big question for me is really, can a society develop its own ethical rules without religious influences?
If so, would they look different to those that were established through religion? Are good and bad notions that are part of our human make up anyway?

 
barbados
1225029.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 8:16 am Reply with quote

I'd suggest that you get your moral and ethical learning from your community. Your community's morality and ethics are rooted heavily in some form of religion or another.

 
Spud McLaren
1225033.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 8:21 am Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
I'd suggest that you get your moral and ethical learning from your community. Your community's morality and ethics are rooted heavily in some form of religion or another.
Well, that was rather more succinct than my post!

 
'yorz
1225036.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 8:31 am Reply with quote

'yorz wrote:
The big question for me is really, can a society develop its own ethical rules without religious influences?
If so, would they look different to those that were established through religion? Are good and bad notions that are part of our human make up anyway?

 
barbados
1225044.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 8:51 am Reply with quote

Yes it does, it constantly adds to what it thinks is correct.
But you can't forget history and that is what moulds us, things aren't just acceptable. They become acceptable over time.

 
'yorz
1225050.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 8:59 am Reply with quote

Not an answer to my question.

Without religion, what would 'correct' entail'?

 
barbados
1225052.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:04 am Reply with quote

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

It is so ingrained into all society that it forms part of us - regardless of our religious beliefs, or lack of them.

 
Spud McLaren
1225056.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:30 am Reply with quote

'yorz wrote:
Without religion, what would 'correct' entail'?
On the basis that we can't think of anywhere where this has occurred (in this context)

 
dr.bob
1225062.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:57 am Reply with quote

Spud McLaren wrote:
I'm not sure that there's a civilised society anywhere that didn't start out by having some sort of religion, and therefore a religious code. Many societies have swung away from the religion itself, but have kept the humanistic side of the code, so I'm not convinced that we can say that our moral outlook is entirely uninfluenced by religion, even though we may no longer believe in m/paternal superbeings and eternal punishments.


It's interesting that you see it this way, as I view it in completely the opposite way.

As you say, pretty much every society throughout history has had some form of religion, and all those religions have a lot in common. If you consider something like The Golden Rule, or "do as you would be done by". this pops up in virtually every religion throughout history.

This implies to me that, rather than religion informing our society's view of the world, instead there is some deep down code of rules which societies throughout history have developed in order to thrive, and religion has simply latched on to that in order to appear authoritative and powerful.

 
Spud McLaren
1225064.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 10:00 am Reply with quote

Could well be. However, I refer m'learned friend to the pictorial part of my post 1225056 above.

 
dr.bob
1225066.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 10:08 am Reply with quote

'yorz wrote:
The big question for me is really, can a society develop its own ethical rules without religious influences?


I think it has to.

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.

These days such behaviour is codified into the law of the land. In the past, it seems a better approach was to use religion to ensure people behaved the rules, possibly due to the lack of a standing police force back then.

Certainly, the threat of eternal damnation seems to have had a better track record at preventing unwanted behaviour than 5-7 years with time off for good behaviour. Of course, the flip side is that codified laws are much easier to change than religious doctrines if people suddenly realise that it's pretty stupid to persecute gaysexuals.

 
PDR
1225079.  Mon Feb 06, 2017 11:03 am Reply with quote

'yorz wrote:
Not an answer to my question.

Without religion, what would 'correct' entail'?


Defining "correct" may be a problem because it's not always possible to know that a given thing/action/behaviour/attitude will have positive outcomes in the long term. But we can define lists of things that definitely have *bad* outcomes - theft, assault, fraud, murder, trying to breathe underwater, watching Jonathan Ross etc. As time passes and we get to observe longer-term outcomes the list will increase, so (for example) smoking and watching Corrie may move into the list.

From this starting point a liberal (lower case 'l') society would then probably say:

"All of this is 'bad-stuff'. Therefore 'good-stuff' can be defined as NOT[bad-stuff]".

This is a good approach because it says that "we only look to control things that we know (through evidence) have bad outcomes, so we will not control anything else just for the sake of it".

Unfortunately religious hierarchies (nothing to do with religious belief per se), like all authoritarian despots, have a tendency to want to take this further and to tell people what to do. So they add things to the "bad stuff" list with no actual evidence or justification. This is not a good idea. But they then go the extra step - instead of defining

"Good"=NOT[bad]

The reverse the process and say:

"Bad"=NOT[good]

ie they say "anything that the church elders haven't explicitly defines as good must (by definition) be bad".

And that's how we got to were we are today.

PDR

 

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