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Secular morality versus religion-fed morality

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crissdee
1237181.  Sun May 14, 2017 5:21 pm Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
a lazy statement such as

Quote:
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.


can go unchallenged.


Not wanting to start an argument, but as the person who made the above "lazy" statement, in what way would you like to challenge it? The three people mentioned were all found guilty of doing stuff that I (and most other people) find so utterly abhorrent, that the word "evil" falls easily to my tongue when describing them, and I struggle to find any other word to suit.

 
bobwilson
1237317.  Mon May 15, 2017 8:44 pm Reply with quote

First, I'd say that "being found guilty of doing stuff that you (and I, incidentally) find abhorrent" is not a measure that has any absolute value. Who judges the judges? But that's a question for first year university students of morality and/or religion really.

I'll start with Ian Brady - because it's the most trivial but mostly because by pure coincidence it's been reported that he died today. I know this because I happened to switch to (sorry) BBC news at an inapposite moment when they were reporting the fact. (In fact, they were speculating on the fact - since it hadn't been fully announced at the time).

Now Brady, by any measure I would use, is of no value to the human race - and his death should merit little more than a footnote. The BBC (and presumably other news outlets) took considerable time to interrupt their other news bulletins to dwell upon the occasion.

Which is more evil - the actions of Brady or the actions of news outlets in treating him as some kind of celebrity, where rumours of his death (and at the time of the report I saw, they were rumours, albeit fairly authoritative rumours) merit the sort of treatment usually reserved for the deaths of significant figures?

Mengele is an easier one to deal with. Mengele was studying,
among other things - and following established scientific protocols - twins. That he chose as his subjects individuals which we consider to be human - but which he considered to be non-human - is where lies the distinction between Mengele and those scientists who use (for example) fruit flies.

You (and I) would consider his activities wrong - even evil - but to his way of thinking the subjects he used were little different to testing on animals.

He was also testing the limits of human endurance (for example, in exposure experiments) - and using as his subjects "animals" which closely resembled humans but were not quite humans. Much the same as using chimpanzees.

Incidentally, there was much gnashing of teeth over whether to keep the data recorded by Dr Mengele in his experiments - I can't remember which way the argument was resolved.

I'd say it's lazy to describe Mengele as "evil" - irrespective of the findings of any court. He was a product of his environment and of his beliefs.

Ramirez - is he one of the serial killers? I'm guessing so - but I can't be bothered to look him up. If so, where is the evil - in his actions or in our fascination with his actions?

Describing individuals as "evil" is lazy - it allows us to pretend "they" are something other than us, sub-human. The reality is that we are all capable (well, almost all - there may be exceptions) of perpetrating the most horrendous acts. If it were otherwise it would be relatively easy to isolate the "evil" individuals.

Perhaps "lazy" is an inappropriate word - I meant it to indicate a shortcut - as in "Jesus/Buddha is good" - "Charles Manson is bad".

The trouble with shortcuts is that they enter the lexicon - and I don't think that is very helpful in a forum such as this where intelligent discussion is the norm.

 
crissdee
1237331.  Tue May 16, 2017 3:31 am Reply with quote

FWIW.

bobwilson wrote:
Which is more evil - the actions of Brady or the actions of news outlets in treating him as some kind of celebrity


Brady's actions, by a very wide margin.

bobwilson wrote:
I'd say it's lazy to describe Mengele as "evil" - irrespective of the findings of any court. He was a product of his environment and of his beliefs.


I would consider his enviroment and beliefs inherently evil.

bobwilson wrote:
Ramirez - is he one of the serial killers? I'm guessing so - but I can't be bothered to look him up. If so, where is the evil - in his actions or in our fascination with his actions?


Yes, he was a serial killer, one of such wide-ranging and random brutality, and such utter disregard for human life, I personally feel him to be "evil".

Other opinions are available.

 
bobwilson
1237556.  Thu May 18, 2017 8:40 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
I would consider his enviroment and beliefs inherently evil.


And in some states of the US there are those who would consider abortion inherently evil; and in some parts of the world there are those who would consider blasphemy evil; and in some parts of the world there are those who would consider sex outside marriage evil; and there are those who would consider using animals to conduct medical experiments evil - I think I'll leave it there.

 
crissdee
1237564.  Fri May 19, 2017 3:31 am Reply with quote

And they are all entitled to their opinion, as I am to mine, and you are to yours.

 
PDR
1237567.  Fri May 19, 2017 4:41 am Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
First, I'd say that "being found guilty of doing stuff that you (and I, incidentally) find abhorrent" is not a measure that has any absolute value. Who judges the judges?


Me.

PDR

 
Spud McLaren
1237607.  Fri May 19, 2017 3:18 pm Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
Who judges the judges?
The Daily Express.

 
Jenny
1237665.  Sat May 20, 2017 2:03 pm Reply with quote

crissdee wrote:
And they are all entitled to their opinion, as I am to mine, and you are to yours.


So they are, but should their opinions be used as a basis for legislative judgement that may affect your life over an issue that you don't agree with them on. See abortion clinics, for example.

 
crissdee
1237674.  Sat May 20, 2017 4:55 pm Reply with quote

Of course not. But in the quote which bob used, I was only expressing my personal opinion of those people. Deity forfend that laws should be made on the basis of MY opinion. The world would be a VERY different place!!!

 
bobwilson
1237678.  Sat May 20, 2017 6:48 pm Reply with quote

But crisdee – that is the essence of the dispute. I said (and say again) that describing Mengele/Brady etc as evil is lazy – and your response is to say that such a description is your personal opinion.

The headline topic is whether religion is better or worse at defining/encapsulating/confining evil than secularity. In this discussion it becomes necessary to determine what we mean by “evil”. If everyone is allowed to bring his own definition of “evil” to the table then the entire question becomes meaningless.

I rather like pdr’s response (which is much the same as my own would be)

Quote:
who judges the judges? Me!


I have a vague recollection of a comedy sketch from the thrusting young comedians in the 1990’s of a card game where the rules are apparently random which seems to fit (probably involves Steve Pemberton – it’s his kind of humour).

Anyway, must get back to my day job of trying to change the world one brick at a time.

(and apologies to those forum members who have encountered me in the flesh and discovered that I’m far from the perfect human being that I’d like to be incidentally)

 
crissdee
1237699.  Sun May 21, 2017 2:31 am Reply with quote

crissdee wrote:
Intellectually, I do not believe in "evil", only different opinions in how to conduct a life.


crissdee wrote:
I would consider his enviroment and beliefs inherently evil.


It just occurred to me that the second quote does not make much sense in relation to the first.

Perhaps I could express myself differently. I do not believe in "evil" as a thing in itself, but I find the word to be a convenient shorthand in certain cases, where the behaviour of an individual, such as those mentioned, is so far beyond anything I could personally contemplate, that I struggle to comprehend how anyone could contemplate it

 
dr.bob
1237867.  Tue May 23, 2017 5:41 am Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
Words such as “morality”, “good”, “evil”, “bad”, “civilised” – even “society” and “ethical” are being used with the assumption that they have an absolute meaning which is universally understood and agreed upon.


No they're not. I've had a flick back through the thread, and the word "evil" is only used to talk about things that religion says are bad. The words "morality", "good", "bad", and "ethical" are all used in ways that make it clear these things are very subjective concepts, and the word "civilised" is only used once in the whole thread.

As for the word "society", it does have a dictionary definition:

Quote:
society
noun
1. [mass noun] The aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.
1.1 The community of people living in a particular country or region and having shared customs, laws, and organizations.


Seems pretty clear.

bobwilson wrote:
Dr Bob states that the “Golden Rule” (do as you would be done by) “pops up in virtually every religion throughout history” – but this is far from true. I am (as is well known) not an apologist for Christianity but it is clear from the historical record that this concept was a novelty introduced by Jesus, or at least a novelty within the geographical/historical area in which Jesus operated.


Sorry bob, but this is factually incorrect.

A late Egyptian period papyrus from before 300BC states "That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another."

In around 500BC, Confucius said "Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself."

In the T'ai-Shang Kan-Ying P'ien, Lao-Tzu wrote, around 300-500BC, "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss."

In the Mahābhārata, the ancient epic poem from India, written sometime between 800BC and 400AD, Shānti-Parva 167:9 says "treat others as you treat yourself."

In Ancient Greece, around 400BC, Isocrates wrote "Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you."

In the Pahlavi Texts of Zoroastrianism, written before 300BC, Shayest Ne-Shayest, chapter 13, verse 29 says "The eleven stanzas of At-fravakhshya are made up from the six chieftainships and the five accomplishments owing to religion; one is thus, not to do unto others all that which is not well for one's self."

In Buddhism (sorry, couldn't find a link) it states clearly in the Udanavarga (chapter 5 verse 18) "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."

Jesus was far from the first person to come up with this idea.

bobwilson wrote:
Its’ novelty is implicit in the statement “Who, then, is my neighbour”.


That seems to me not so much a recognition of its novelty, as more of a philosophical discussion about the exact definition of the rather vague term "neighbour." I imagine most people would accept Jesus wasn't simply talking about the person in the house directly next to yours.

bobwilson wrote:
I am unaware of any similar concept in (for example) the various North European religious traditions, Hinduism, Shintoism, Amerindian religious tradition, African Animism, etc (although I’m not familiar with any of these in detail so I may be wrong).


I've shown the Hindu version above. There is an old Shinto saying which states "The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form." Whilst not exactly the same, it's a similar sentiment that you should consider other people as yourself.

As for African or Amerindian religions, I'm not well versed in those. Do they have sacred texts?

bobwilson wrote:
Dr Bob also says

Quote:
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.


This is only partially true. Again we come back to the question of “who is my neighbour?”. Many societies have not only survived but thrived on plundering their neighbours


This brings us back to our dictionary definition of "society" mentioned above. While the Egyptians (and Romans and Greeks and pretty much everyone in those days) frequently went to war with their "neighbours", these were not people who shared customs, laws, and organizations, and so were a different society.

bobwilson wrote:
The most egregious statement that Dr Bob makes is that

Quote:
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.


That rather depends on your definition of “unwanted behaviour”.


Unwanted behaviour is generally defined by society. Most societies agree that murder and pillage of the people in the same society is unwanted behaviour, and these are the basic things that a society needs to function.

The point I was making is that the threat of being caught by the police and locked in prison is a deterrent for many people. However, the threat of being observed by an all-seeing deity and tormented in hell for all eternity is a much bigger deterrent, provided people believe that is going to happen. I fail to see what's so egregious about that.

bobwilson wrote:
At the risk of sounding offensive that statement rather smacks of the “I can’t get a council house because the local authority is giving priority to all these East European immigrants” mentality


I really have no idea how you could've read that interpretation into what I said.

bobwilson wrote:
I would say the real question to be addressed is not where to draw the line between “religiosity” and “secularity” – but where to draw the line between the rights of the individual and the rights of the society in which they find themselves.


That's certainly a question that merits discussion, but it would belong in a separate thread since this one is focusing on the specific question of the difference between religious and secular morality.

bobwilson wrote:
In fact, I don’t even know why we’re even still discussing this matter of religion


Because it's a historically rich subject, and something that, even in this day and age, convinces people to blow themselves up and kill others when they do so.

bobwilson wrote:
There are no absolute rights or wrongs.


Clearly, otherwise this whole thread would be a waste of time.

 
crissdee
1246984.  Tue Aug 29, 2017 4:08 am Reply with quote

Just reviving this thread because of something of which I have become aware recently.

It seems to me that one of the greatest disservices "religion" has done for people, specifically my poor old mum, is to convince them/her that there is some "reason" to life, and that you might "deserve" better conditions if you live a "good" life. Being an agnostic, it is easy for me to accept that stuff just happens. Some people do well, others do badly, most just get by without major trauma. My mum is always asking why we are in the position we are in, and what we did to deserve it, and my response of "Nothing, it's just the hand we were dealt", (not presupposing a "dealer" in any way shape or form) does little to settle her mind as she is still looking for a "reason" that I believe isn't there.

 
'yorz
1246988.  Tue Aug 29, 2017 4:37 am Reply with quote

Yeah - remarks "I prayed to the lord and he saved us", implying that others who prayed were not considered worth saving, make me angry.

 
AlmondFacialBar
1246989.  Tue Aug 29, 2017 4:53 am Reply with quote

There's also a lot of that thing going on in Texas right now where people thank God for saving them, personally, from the impact of the Hurricane, while never wondering why he sent one in the first place...

:-)

AlmondFacialBar

 

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