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 Unseen on July 29, 2013 at 5:52pm

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'.

Well, you see, "bad" is an absolute because it's the opposite of The Good which is an absolute and the opposite of an absolute is also an absolute. I'll agree to undesirable. The fact that there are exceptions undercuts any notion of being an absolute. Chemotherapy involves suffering as does giving birth, yet surviving cancer and having babies are generally counted as good things. 

I'm not sure why we're arguing. I think you've granted that there are no true absolutes in ethics. Saying that most or all people agree on something doesn't create an absolute. Absolutes aren't established by popular vote.

Comment by Carnun Marcus-Page on July 29, 2013 at 6:14pm

Sure: suffering is avoided whenever possible, but childbirth tends to be a biological necessity for heavily pregnant women (with the potentially 'happy' outcome of, you know, a child) and chemo's pros out-weigh its cons.

'Good' is only the name we give to things which aren't 'bad', true - but whether or not you look at ethics from an absolute, relativistic, or 'essentially relativistic but highly workable' (the model I'm trying to go for) standpoint, there's no need to invent different words for each.

I was thinking that too, ha... I think we agree on a lot more than we think we do. (And I'd say it's been more of a discussion anyway.) ;)

Again, I'm not going for popular vote. Take science's - and I stress, this is only an analogy - varying levels of 'truth' and uncertainty: there is no 'truth' in science, only testable models. In a sense, it's all rather pragmatic - but I'd take this sort of iterated, expanded upon, evolved truth over a baseless 'absolute' any day, because it works.

Am I foolish to think a similar approach can be applied to how we treat each other, at least in spirit?


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