Slavery is wrong. Rape is wrong. Homophobia is wrong... The list goes on - and there aren't too many around in 'enlightened' society who'd disagree, because, generally speaking, people are better than their holy books (and their Gods).

This is obviously a very good thing. If it weren't the case, civilisation (if we could call it that) would be an immensely violent, fearful, unjust place. Your daughter gets raped? Marry her to the rapist. Someone steals a loaf of bread to feed their starving family? Chop off their hands.

If you're a believer entirely loyal and honest with your sacred texts, this may not seem so bad. If it's the word of God, then everything in it must be good, no? Fine. You're immoral to the core*, but at least you're honest - taking the good and the supposedly 'bad' in equally. 'Moderates' do not share this luxury. Their world is full of grey areas, of 'wishy-washy' metaphors and allegory and intellectual acrobatics.

Don't get me wrong, I have thousands of times more respect for these people - it's just that, in an open conversation on religion, I expect they'd be umm-ing and ahh-ing a tad more frequently. They're nicer folks, but the 'you have to put those bits into the context of their time' argument, especially when simultaneously professing an 'absolute truth' of the holy books, just doesn't hold up.

'Absolute truth' requires context? Objectivity is relative?
Paradox. Contradiction.

Now, before it's pointed out, I don't think fundamentalists necessarily 'have it easy' at all cerebrally-speaking. Forget having to bend the meaning of verses so they fit together, fundies have to warp reality. A good example of this:

Every young-Earther with a driver's licence is a hypocrite. Why? Because the very science of the fossil fuels powering their vehicle tells us that that the world is greater than 10,000 years old.

Simple. (That's not mine by the way. What I've written is highly paraphrased, and I forget its origin.)

Ever had a browse of Ken Ham's 'Answers in Genesis' website? It's a gold mine of glitter-covered shit. Take, for instance, the actual reality of the existence of dinosaurs millions of years ago and the 'biblical reality' (read 'biblical baseless assertion') of the Earth being, again, only about a few thousand years young. How are these two things squared off? Simple:

AiG: "As God’s written Word to us, we can trust [the Bible] to tell the truth about the past... Thus, dinosaurs lived within the past few thousand years."

Amazing! Which of course means 'dinosaurs were represented on the Ark' too... (And I thought it couldn't get any more cramped.)

But, hats off to these brainwashed loonies - at least they stick to their guns. For them, it's either 'all-in' or 'all-out', and I *admire* their conviction when it comes to defending the former.

However, I don't mean to push the wishy-washy moderates to one side or the other, as they're wholly entitled to their beliefs (or lack of them). They're the people - better than their Gods - that make democracy possible. I really do admire that... It's just that I see no problem, in perhaps an honest, open, friendly conversation, to point out to them that when they claim to credit the Bible or Qur'an (etc) for their own innate/learned 'goodness' they are in fact simply using very specific, chosen parts of the books to reinforce just that.

What's more, If we allow for the flawed 'context' argument to override this fact there's literally no reason to oppose any immoral practices with a cultural or religious background happening at present. Then it really gets 'wishy-washy', and people suffer because of it.

The decent believer shouldn't just ignore unsavoury scriptural passages and write them off as 'acceptable for their time' or 'metaphor', they should criticise them. If slavery, in your mind, is wrong now then it was wrong at the time of writing. It's really that simple.

Perhaps past slave owners, like some early American presidents, weren't necessarily immoral themselves - but the act of slave owning then and now certainly was and is. We only really move forward if we look at it like this... And it's not like we haven't got further to go (with, I'd argue, a lot of religion - even the more 'moderate' kind - getting in the way).

Carnun :P


* 'immoral to the core' if you genuinely live by and celebrate all scripture has to offer knowingly, like making sure not to beat your slaves that little bit too much or burning an unfortunate old lady alive for sorcery.

Not if you're just a child who's been lied to by their fundamentalist parents about gay people. That child is not immoral - the ideology in which they are raised is.
(Reposted from 'The Ramblings of a Young Atheist' by the Author.)

Views: 202

Tags: Atheism, Christianity, Islam, Morality, Religion

Comment by Carnun Marcus-Page on July 29, 2013 at 10:58am

Unseen: Again, very true. But aren't those inclinations heavily shaped by the societies and circumstances we all grow up in?

Comment by Unseen on July 29, 2013 at 11:03am

@Carnun Marcus-Page - Of course they are, but that's the way it is. I wish there were an absolute truth regarding ethics, but that would require one of two things: a metaphysics with a real ethical dimension or a deity to tell us what goes.

Comment by Unseen on July 29, 2013 at 11:09am

Continuing my prior thought. Of course, one can show that tossing a baby off a bridge, for example, is dysfunctional in several ways, and we can thus say it's wrong on that basis. However, I wouldn't know where to begin to turn that into a statement that's ethically absolutely true and provable. In other words, while we can prove such statements true to our satisfaction, proving them absolutely true is a different matter entirely and is almost certainly entirely impossible without referring to a metaphysic (likely ad hoc and unproveable) or a deity.

Comment by Carnun Marcus-Page on July 29, 2013 at 11:16am

Unseen: There needn't be an absolute truth to make certain semi-objective judgements.

For example: is a patriarchal society better than an 'equal opportunities' society?
Using some kind of place-holder - like 'domestic violence victims per 100,000' - I don't think it's too hard to make solid, grounded ethical comparisons.

But they'll all, of course, rest on the assumption that suffering - be it physical or emotional - is 'bad'.

Comment by Carnun Marcus-Page on July 29, 2013 at 11:17am

I mean, that's all I feel one has to 'refer to' - and it's certainly not absolute, just workable.

Comment by Unseen on July 29, 2013 at 11:28am

@Carmen Marcus-Page - Grounded isn't the same as absolute. Not in any philosophical sense. But it is in fact what we base our actions on. It satisfies us. Of course, that leaves how to settle ethical disagreements, such as over abortion or assisted suicide, for example.

Comment by Carnun Marcus-Page on July 29, 2013 at 11:40am

Unsees: I don't think either of us ever claimed it was, it's just that I may be giving 'grounded' a whole lot more credit than you. (Is that a fair assumption?)

I think a similar methodology applies to those ethical disagreements as any other... But, for fear of turning this into a discussion about the examples you give, I don't particularly wish to go into how I feel we can semi-objectively (I may coin the term) address them, if that's alright.
Unless you want me to.

Comment by Unseen on July 29, 2013 at 3:33pm

I think being "semi-objective" is like being a "semi-virgin." 

Decisions grounded in our own personal or even cultural beliefs can be acted upon as if they are absolute, but clearly they are merely contingent. In the end, what is the difference between believing murder is wrong and that toilet paper should roll off the front and not the back? Only that we care a lot more about one than the other.

Not to eat beef, to a Hindu, is a very strongly-held belief. So much so that they may treat it as an absolute, but doing so does not make it an absolute. After all, eating chicken, pork, or lamb is okay to the same people.

Comment by Carnun Marcus-Page on July 29, 2013 at 3:47pm

Unseen: See, the "semi-objective" (as I'm calling it for semantic's sake, I don't want to piss off any philosophers) I'm proposing isn't cultural or personal - the only real premises are, unashamedly ironically, the so-called 'golden rule' and 'suffering and death are bad'.

Surely this argument can transcend culture?

Comment by Carnun Marcus-Page on July 29, 2013 at 4:12pm

To elaborate slightly:

Of course, there are exceptions. In the case of assisted dying, I think 'suffering' ranks a lot higher than 'death' as something to avoid, and there are of course other variables to consider (like mentally stable consent).

In any case, I think an educated and open discussion can go very far.

(Accidentally deleted, whoops.)


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