Religion

The Extremely Curious Phenomenon of So-Called God-Given Morals

Where do morals come from?  How do we decide what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” or what’s “good” and what’s “bad”

The first question I don’t think is really that hard to answer.  Personally, it seems rather plain to me that we get our morals from our continued evolution, both physical and societal.  What was once considered perfectly normal 200 years ago (slavery), is absolutely abhorrent today.  At least in most parts of the civilized world.  There are many such views and practices that I could say the same of.  Things that were once considered ok, are now viewed with disgust and/or contempt.  Although I haven’t read it yet, The Moral Arc by Michael Shermer, is according to the reviews I have read, a much more detailed explanation of my assertion.  It’s on my list of things to read.  Hopefully I will get to it very soon.

The second question is much trickier.  I’ve read The Moral Landscape and while I may not agree with everything Sam Harris said, I think science, or perhaps the scientific method, can be a great help in determining how we should interact with one another.  I still think that philosophy is very important to this process as well.  I’m not entirely certain that you can use the one without the other.

My assertions of course are in great contrast to those who proclaim to know (or at least believe) that God gives us morals and defines for us what is right and wrong or what is good and bad.  Unfortunately I find this both an illogical and extremely unsatisfying argument.  I am speaking of my experience with Christians because that is the religion I am most familiar with.  As I mentioned I my previous post, I frequent religious blogs and read many a post about the apparent benevolence of Almighty God and how, without him, we wouldn’t know how to behave or wouldn’t be able to distinguish right from wrong or wouldn’t even be able to define good or bad without reference to some divine standard.  I must say that apart from finding this incredibly insulting, I also find it illogical and indefensible.  I have some measure of pride at least in myself in being able to distinguish good from bad or right from wrong and I consider it rather insulting to be told that I need to believe in something for which there is no evidence in order to act like a decent human being.  It’s illogical and indefensible because the “holy” book(s) that are the supposed word God are utterly filled to the brim with the most hateful, cruel and utterly malevolent writings it’s possible to imagine.  I have noticed that whenever I ask questions of the religious believers, they either tend to be ignored or are answered in some kind of code that I am unable to decipher.  There is something that makes me suspect, even in the most devoutly religious who have perfected the art of cognitive dissonance, that the reason they can’t answer my questions is because some part of them recognizes what I recognize.  These “holy” books are man-made and it very clearly shows.  They aren’t worth the paper they are written on and don’t deserve the attention of thoughtful or considerate people.

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11 thoughts on “The Extremely Curious Phenomenon of So-Called God-Given Morals

  1. The main problem I’ve found in arguing for the scientific method to explore morality is because of the “is/ought” gap. Science can explain what is with great precision, but how does it explain what ought to happen? Saying slavery is wrong requires an “ought” somewhere to justify that it is something to be avoided.

    How can science evaluate the inherent sovereignty of human equality? If we can improve ourselves through science, why shouldn’t we? What are the boundaries of such improvements? These are very difficult questions with difficult answers.

    Rest assured, though, no answer will be found in any Bible or Koran.

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    • I definitely agree that there will be no answers found in the absolutism of “holy” books of “revealed truth”. However, I might be inclined to be persuaded that science or the scientific method can be used determine an “ought” by objectively measuring something (like levels of X in the human body for example) but I still think you will need the philosophical method to ask the question in the first place. So I guess my view is that you will require philosophy and you will increase your dividend significantly by using science or the scientific method as a tool to shape morality. I admit I haven’t sat and thought about it enough and will likely give the matter much more thought once I have read The Moral Arc.

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      • archaeopteryx1 says:

        I definitely agree that there will be no answers found in the absolutism of “holy” books of ‘revealed truth’.” – Just a prime example – the biblical commandments regarding eating shellfish and/or pork stemmed largely from illness that arose due to lack of refrigeration, yet untold millions still decline to eat either to this day. My Jewish neighbor used to eat ham all the time, hopefully, in time, we’ll all chuck it and live by reason.

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  2. Ashely, do you think CS thinks the bible man made? I doubt it. He is so immersed in it to find fault with it.
    Anyone who believes the bible is their source of morals cannot be reasoned with. They have given up reason completely

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    • Oh Mak, there is no question in my mind that CS thinks that the bible is God-made, that it is the perfect word and that is the source of our morality. None whatsoever. Nothing that anyone could ever say will convince him otherwise.
      This is very evident in the statements and posts he writes and the fact that he has absolutely ZERO grasp on logic and reason and reality for that matter. I keep saying the same things over and over to him, but they go in one ear and out the other. There is a gigantic stone wall that is impossible to breach.

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        • Oh I know. He moderates all my comments now and tends to delete some here and there. Whaddya gonna do? He doesn’t want to learn and wants to be an ignoramus for the rest of his life? That’s his choice to make. I’m doing my best to prevent the spread of the disease to anyone else.

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  3. archaeopteryx1 says:

    How do we decide what’s ‘right’ and what’s ‘wrong’ or what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad’” – I’ve had a great deal of success with flipping a coin —

    But seriously, I agree that morality is nothing more than a collective agreement we humans have with ourselves and each other, as to what it takes for us to best coexist. The decision to consider such things, is what has helped us to survive, evolve, and multiply, while other humanoid species became extinct.

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    • Our species is still very young. Give it time and I’m sure we’ll destroy ourselves and perhaps everything else as well. We’re not nearly as smart as we think we are. As far as I know, we’re the only species that’s dumb enough to make up fairy tales about invisible sky-daddies and then have about 80% of us actually believe it and live our lives by it. No other species is that stupid.
      Ha ha ha! How’s that for your morning cup of negativity and pessimism Mr.?!

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