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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Morality

It was suggested to me that I should do a post about morality, so here goes.

I'll start off with a definition of the word moral.
-Adjective
1. of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical: moral attitudes.
Now that we know what we're discussing, how do we decide what is moral and what isn't? Religious groups often claim moral superiority, saying that absolute morality comes directly from their said deity. This is the first issue regarding morality that I will be addressing.

Does absolute morality come from God?
In order for some absolute moral 'code' to come from some god, we must have some instruction from the said deity. Christians claim the bible, Muslims the Quran etc.. Leaving the issue of inspiration completely aside for the sake of argument we have some serious issues with using an outside source as a moral code. The first problem I see, is that no matter how comprehensive a holy book is on moral issues, it is never going to cover every moral dilemma. For example, the Bible says nothing about climate change; stem cell research; genetic engineering; pollution and many many other modern issues. The same applies to the Quran, nothing vaguely related to any of the previously mentioned issues arises in this holy book either. So if we can not derive morality on these issues from holy books, where do we get it from?

If I was to ask most religious people where they get their morality from, they would promptly reply 'God' or 'The Bible'. If I was to pose the question 'If god told you to kill your child would you do it?' and you replied 'no, god wouldn't ask for that', then you are not deriving your morality from god, but from some other source which you are not aware of. On the other hand, if you were to respond saying 'yes', then I believe you are amoral, and would kindly ask you to stay away from me.

So what is this elusive outside source of morality? It is quite simple. Most of our moral standards come from our culture, our interactions with others, from our upbringing, from our understanding of reciprocation. A lot of our morality derives from what is known today as the 'golden rule', "do to others as you would have them do to you". And no, Jesus didn't invent this concept. The golden rule arose (most likely independently) in most cultures across the globe, most of which predate Christianity, and either predate or were contemporary to Judaism.

So as to the claim of some religious people that you can't be moral without god, you are wrong. In fact the mere idea that you claim to be morally superior because you have a deity dictating to you what is right and wrong shows your complete lack of personal morals. If you were truly a moral person you wouldn't need an imaginary friend telling you that killing is wrong for you to realise this.

23 comments:

  1. One word Socialisation ftw!!! . We need informal and formal norms in society However Religion likes to dictate it to their own norms but it can conflict with others because they believe our norms are informal to their own(formal).

    Btw Nice post KJ

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  2. But how would be ever be able to make moral decisions without god?!?!

    I mean, ever since I stopped believing in God I havent been able to help myself and have been murdering and raping left and right! My morals just up and flew away because only through religion can there be morals!

    Oh wait... No I haven't, I've been behaving just like I did before I was atheist, by basically following the best rule there is:

    Don't be a dick. (credit to Wil Wheaton)

    That's all it comes down to. And no, religion didn't teach me that.

    I have no beef with anyone who wants to think that their morality comes from religion, but I would like to see them explain how all those who were born into an atheist family and arent raping and pillaging, got their morals? Oh I know, they must have rubbed off from you religious sorts... of course!

    There is a simple way of understanding where morals came from in the developing humans... consider this. In a communal group of early humans, there would have been two competing methods of making the group work.

    1 - Smashing skulls.
    2 - Helping others.

    Both would have been used in varying degrees. Over time as the human brain developed, and the communities of humans grew larger, one emerged as the ideal method of making a group of like minded individuals work together. Helping others of course. It developed to the point that it became taught from generation to generation, and people grew to expect it. This then feeds into the guilt that people feel when they do something that doesn't help others, and specifically hurts them. They are going against thousands of years of common behaviour that has been shown to work.

    Smashing skulls still exists of course, but it pretty much fails spectacularly at making people work *together*, which is why violence is not considered a good method of behaviour. We resort to it at times, but the 'tribe' doesn't tend towards it in the grand scale of things. Exceptions of course would be cultures that have been breeding a different moralistic standard for an extended period, partially eliminating the tendency towards working together. These situations don't entirely eliminate this evolutionary 'advantage', but they twist it and make it more insular, basically reverting the concept to a simpler state such as when mankind didn't group up with other 'tribes' so easily.

    Example: Palestinians, and Israeli's - working together as a greater group doesn't seem likely, but they still have the moralistic imperative to work together as independent groups. Their culture of continued 'smashing skulls' is of course to blame for this sad state of affairs. :(

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  3. Free the people you have put in prison unfairly
    and undo their chains.
    Free those to whom you are unfair
    and stop their hard labor.

    Share your food with the hungry
    and bring poor, homeless people into your own homes.
    When you see someone who has no clothes, give him yours,
    and don't refuse to help your own relatives.

    from the God of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

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  4. You think that the morals in the New Testament are unique? Sorry, they aren't. If you'd read my blog post you would know this already.
    "From the god of christianity, judaism and islam"
    From looking at their holy texts alone, i'd say that it isn't the same god at all. Unless he's a paranoid schizo who tells people to kill each other non-stop for 2000 years, then sends himself down to stop them from following his laws, then 650 years later wants them to start killing sinners again.
    Same god? LOL

    The god of the bible also said:

    Anyone who blasphemes or curses shall be stoned to death by the entire community.

    Don't do any work on the day of atonement or God will destroy you.

    If a man has sex with another man, kill them both.

    Handicapped people cannot approach the altar of God. They would "profane" it.

    After God killed Korah, his family, and 250 innocent bystanders, the people complained saying, "ye have killed the people of the Lord." So God, who doesn't take kindly to criticism, sends a plague on the people. And "they that died in the plague were 14,700."

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  5. if you paid attention while reading the bible KJ you would know that is taken from Isaiah OLD TESTAMENT - the testament you constantly criticise.

    and chins, jews and muslims all acknowledge the old testament.

    and if you had a sound theological understanding you'd remember that Jesus death means we don't have to die for all that stuff anymore.

    and you can't judge the 250 people innocent. you didnt even know them.

    Shit mate... stop hating on religion and write about your interests or something...

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  6. The post was mostly about the source of morality. The point wasn't to bash on religion, I've done that in other posts recently. It was "God" who brought it up, I assume that was you.
    I really don't know why you even try to justify the millions of deaths attributed to Yahweh and the millions commanded by him.
    "and if you had a sound theological understanding you'd remember that Jesus death means we don't have to die for all that stuff anymore."
    When did I ever say that you should go around stoning people for being gay, or for working on saturday? My point was, that your just and loving god, commanded people to DIE for these things. It's irrelevant that (most) people don't follow those barbaric laws any more, the fact that people did die for such ridiculous things is enough to show contempt towards your religion.
    I know that 'god' didn't actually command deaths, and didn't actually kill those 250 people (kinda hard to kill people when you don't exist huh), what really gets to me is that you christians believe it, and continue to claim things like "morality comes from god" and even seek to justify murder.

    You are trying to rationalise murder. I hope you realise this.

    Let me ask you this, and answer honestly.

    If god told you to kill a 10 year old kid with a cricket bat, would you do it? (I asked a similar question in the blog post)

    You seem to be saying that the murder in the old testament is justified, because anything 'god' says is moral and just. So by the same reasoning, you should say "Ok i'll kill the kid, because GOD told me to."

    And you're right, I can't judge the 250 (plus 14,700 from god's plague) to be innocent, but what you don't seem to understand, is that they DIED.
    THEY DIED.

    Stop hating on religion? I'm not hating on religion, I'm writing my viewpoints on a piece of ancient literature, just like I was writing my viewpoint on morality and so on.
    This is one of my interests.

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  7. Shit mate... stop hating on KJ and write about something that makes sense or something...

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  8. Hey chaps :)

    I wouldn't mind sharing some of my thoughts on morality if that's all good...

    Firstly, I will again make it clear that I bat FOR the existence of God. And probably everything in this post will be "according to the Bible" :D Sorry if this is frustrating for some of you.

    Secondly, there is absolutely NO denying that the laws or morality of today's culture are in fact heavily based on the Bible. Yes, they have 'evolved' in many ways and have become more altruistic like KJ said in another blog. That is fact also.

    Thirdly, I think when it comes to the topics of murder, e.g
    -Homicide
    -Suicide
    -Parricide, etc. etc.

    ...that the Bible makes it crystal clear as to what God thinks of these things.

    "You must not murder anyone." Exodus 20:13

    Classic law, wasn't cool back then...still isn't cool today.

    At this point it is also important to note that not once in the Bible does it tell of God 'murdering' anyone. Indeed he cannot murder. This is because:

    Biblical definition #1

    Murder - one or more persons using their God-given free will incorrectly by deliberately ceasing the life of one or more persons without instruction from God.

    A couple of biblical examples of murder and God's response are as follows:
    -Cain murders Abel...this upsets God
    -David murders Uriah...this upsets God

    However DESTRUCTION on the other hand... this is God's domain.

    Biblical definition #2

    Destruction - God deciding to cease the life of one or more persons.

    A couple of biblical example of destructions are as follows:
    -The Great Flood
    -Sodom and Gomorrah

    Basically what I'm saying is that I think only God is in charge of dishing out death as I believe he is the creator of all life.

    Psalm 115:3 has a brilliant way of putting it:

    "Our God is in heaven.
    He does what he pleases."

    :D

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  9. I'm going to have to disagree with you completely there Ryan.
    There are several different moral 'codes' or rulebooks that predate the mosaic Law by several hundred years. The oldest known moral code is the Code of Ur-Nammu. Also predating the Pentateuch is the Code of Hammurabi, which in fact has many laws in common with the Old Testament laws. What is interesting is that these Codes, were inscribed on Tablets (10 commandments much?) and we actually have tablets from the era, unlike the 10 commandments which we do not have.

    My point is that moral 'codes' to govern large groups of people have been around for at least the last 4000 years, and many sets of laws pre-date the laws of Moses. The old testament laws were not unique in any way.

    So you're completely okay with the hundreds of thousands of death attributed to and commanded by god in the Old Testament?

    "Basically what I'm saying is that I think only God is in charge of dishing out death as I believe he is the creator of all life.

    Psalm 115:3 has a brilliant way of putting it:

    "Our God is in heaven.
    He does what he pleases.""


    Sounds to me like your God is a megalomaniacal tyrant.

    megalomania
    -noun
    1. A psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence.
    2. An obsession with grandiose or extravagant things or actions.

    tyrant
    -noun
    1. a sovereign or other ruler who uses power oppressively or unjustly.
    2. any person in a position of authority who exercises power oppressively or despotically.
    3. a tyrannical or compulsory influence.
    4. an absolute ruler, esp. one in ancient Greece or Sicily.

    The events attributed to god that you listed, the great flood and Sodom and Gomorrah sounds like the actions of a megalomaniacal tyrant to me.

    However, if you're completely satisfied that god was justified in doing this, I'm afraid your sense of justice is warped and no one will ever convince you otherwise until you get your head out of the sand that is the bible.

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  10. This may make you screw up your face and cringe but yes I'm completely okay with it :D

    The only reason I'm completely okay with it though is because I hold the belief that God is in charge and all authority on heaven and earth belongs to him.

    Of course someone who doesn't believe he's real let alone in charge is going to say "sorry, but this guy sounds like a bastard" :D This is just a clash of personal viewpoints.

    I for one will never see God as a tyrant as tyrants are "unjust" as you defined and I believe that:

    "God does not twist justice" Job 8
    "when it comes to justice, no one can accuse him." Job 9
    "God, your justice reaches to the skies." Psalms 71

    I believe that events such as The Great Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah are the actions of an All-Powerful God who does not appreciate it when his favorite creation designed in his own image chooses to spit in his face and say
    "screw your plan" or
    "you're not real" or
    "you're not the boss of me" :D

    Haha those three statements make me think of "the head in the sand" comment :D I enjoyed it/cracked up when I read it, but again I hold the opposite point of view. Maybe this is because I don't see the Bible as a frustrating restriction on my life that I wish I could break free from.

    Um, I also don't see how I managed to imply that the Bible contains the first and oldest "unique" moral code (where did I say that?)

    All I said was:

    "there is absolutely NO denying that the laws or morality of today's culture are in fact heavily based on the Bible. Yes, they have 'evolved' in many ways and have become more altruistic like KJ said in another blog. That is fact also.

    And that statement is true. Whether we're talking the Age of Feudalism or the Age of Modernism; for many years the governments of Western culture have consulted the God of the Bible for moral law. Not Ur-Nammu or Hammurabi I'm afraid.

    Indeed I am yet to see how my sense of justice is warped.

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  11. Your sense of justice is warped because you say that something is 'just', because 'god did it' not because the act in itself was just.

    Lets pretend god is a 10 year old kid with an ant farm in his bedroom (the ones with the plastic panels so you can see where they are building). The boy doesn't like the design of the ant colony, so he floods it and kills them all.
    Is he justified in killing the ants? After all, they defied him! And it was HIS ant colony, and he was providing for them.

    Now I'll admit the analogy isn't perfect, but what makes god any different?
    Even if god did exist, and created the universe, and then after 11 billion years, earth forms, and a couple billion years, life starts on earth, 1.8 billion years later humans exist close to what we are today. 196,000 years after humans had been around in basically the state we are today, god floods the earth because he didn't like what the humans were doing.

    Besides potentially starting the universe, god didn't do anything else. The old testament (including the pentateuch) wasn't written until around 1000-500 B.C.E. So besides oral tradition dating back to around ~1800B.C.E. the israelites didn't have 'gods word'.

    The laws of the old testament are predated by around 1500 years.
    My point bringing up the Code of Ur-Nammu and the Code of Hammurabi wasn't to say that our morals are based on them (certainly not, as many of their laws are just as bad as the old testament) but to show that morality doesn't come from god but from people.

    If you want to claim the middle ages as follow the christian moral code, you're welcome to them. You must be aware that in the middle ages people using the Bible as a moral code burned "witches" alive, drowned witches, killed unbelievers, carried out crusades against other religions, hung heretics, killed blasphemers. So you're welcome to the middle ages.

    Modern morality however... our core values are difficult to trace, because things like murder and stealing have been crimes since the dawn of civilization, as was my point in bringing up Hammurabi.

    I'm not sure what gives you the idea that modern morality is biblically based, but I can assure you that the bible has had little, if any influence on morality as a whole.

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  12. "but I can assure you that the bible has had little, if any influence on morality as a whole."

    ...you're not serious are you, KJ? It's literally historical fact that the Bible was used as the basis for international law books.

    Where do you suggest they looked? Bare in mind that Christianity was the major religion at the time many countries established themselves.

    No matter how much you love or loathe God, Jesus or the church - it is indisputable that the Bible is the foundation for modern law.

    Yes, it has become more altruistic as you say, we agree on that.

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  13. Oh, I didn't comment on God's justice.

    No the analogy isn't perfect :) but no analogy ever will be capable to explain God. We try squeeze him in boxes often but we fail :D

    My belief is that anything God does is just, as I believe he defines justice.

    The laws he set are for US to respect and follow because he knows best.

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  14. "...you're not serious are you, KJ? It's literally historical fact that the Bible was used as the basis for international law books."

    You'd be hard pressed to find evidence for this..
    Lets start with the 10 commandments.
    1 You shall have no other gods before me.
    2 You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
    3 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
    4 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. On the sabbath day you shall not do any work.
    5 Honor your father and your mother.
    6 You shall not kill.
    7 You shall not commit adultery.
    8 You shall not steal.
    9 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
    10 You shall not covet your neighbor's house, wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, donkey, or anything else belonging to your neighbor.

    Commandments 1-4 are purely religious and are not found in our law books. Law 5, while noble, has no place in our laws. Number 6 is good. Number 7, while noble, really doesn't have a place in modern law. Numbers 8 and 9 are good. Number 10 has no place in law.

    So we're left with 3/10, and you will find that every civilisation in history has had versions of these laws, because they are essential to a functional society. They were in the Code of Ur-Nammu and the Code of Hammurabi, as well as every other code of law from the bronze age. All of which predate the Old Testament.

    If we look at the rest of the laws in the Bible you will find that they are either A) archaic and outdated (like the laws concerning how to treat lepers), or B) purely religious.
    Lets look at some examples shall we.

    Deuteronomy 15:19-20
    19 “All the firstborn males that come from your herd and your flock you shall sanctify to the LORD your God; you shall do no work with the firstborn of your herd, nor shear the firstborn of your flock. 20 You and your household shall eat it before the LORD your God year by year in the place which the LORD chooses.
    Purely Religious

    Leviticus 15
    The Law Concerning Bodily Discharges
    1 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When any man has a discharge from his body, his discharge is unclean. 3 And this shall be his uncleanness in regard to his discharge—whether his body runs with his discharge, or his body is stopped up by his discharge, it is his uncleanness.

    Double Whammy, archaic and religious.
    I just randomly picked Deuteronomy and leviticus 15 and found some, you're welcome to browse through the laws in the Bible, and if you find anything that sounds anything like modern law, point it out, but I'm highly doubtful that there's anything of worth in those books.

    Now, as to the punishments for crimes. Nearly all of the punishments to the Ten Commandments resulted in death, though many of which were by different means. Besides a few states in america, islamic countries (whose law is based on Shariah law not biblical law) and a few other backward countries, the death penalty is almost extinct.
    You also cannot claim that we 'used to' be based on biblical death penalties, because literally every single culture in history had the death penalty for certain crimes. For example, one famous death in a non-biblical culture was the Trial and death of Socrates, who was sentenced to death for corrupting the minds of the youths, and disbelieving in their traditional gods.

    So as for your claim that:
    "it is indisputable that the Bible is the foundation for modern law."
    I have disputed this now.

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  15. :) I was never saying that the US, Great Britain, Australia, NZ, *insert other country here* current law books read exactly like the Ten Commandments :D That would be a false claim and a half.

    What I was trying to say (sorry if there was misunderstanding) is that a significant portion of the world leaders and government members of the last several hundred years who certified moral laws day in and day out, were members of the church of Jesus Christ, i.e. readers and followers of the Bible.

    By stating it is the foundation for modern law I never meant to imply that nothing's changed. Being a 'foundation' it has been built upon heavily and today's lawbooks have been affected (not necessarily negatively) by things like the rise of science, separation of church and state, altruism, materialism, etc. etc.

    Haha, as for Leviticus 15 :D just by reading it I can see it is still true today. I'm not saying it is WRITTEN LAW ... I feel I must make that clear. What I'm saying is that a 21st century reader from our society would read it and say
    "Yeah, that's hard out naasssty (or unclean)" whereas someone, perhaps from a secluded tribal society, that has not been influenced by the worldwide spread of the Bible might consider male discharge to be "all good, we drink it at feasts" No disrespect to small jungle tribes, sometimes I wish I was raised in one :D

    Responses to things like that are embedded in our psyche thanks to the culture we've been raised in. Our culture in particular being one that is founded on many aspects, a hugely significant aspect being the Bible.

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  16. Sounds like backpedalling to me.
    As I demonstrated, there are only 3 laws from the Bible that are in current law. These 3 laws are found in every civilisation in history. These 3 laws were a part of the civilisations that were conquered by the christians in the middle ages.
    Sure, many people in the middle ages that were in power were christians. What I'm trying to explain is that those 3 laws, aren't laws because of the bible at all, they have always been laws ever since humans started living in large groups, (which predates judaism even). I'm not sure how I could make this any clearer.

    Murder is a crime today, and the bible has nothing to do with it.

    Perhaps I should have quoted the rest of leviticus 15.... It is in no way still true. If you seriously think that people should still behave in this way, you're really weird.

    Leviticus 15 It was too long to quote in the comments section so you'll have to read in on bible gateway.

    Once you've read that..


    This is not surprising coming from bronze age tribes, who had no concept of what sanitation and hygiene is. They didn't understand diseases, and didn't understand human biology. All they were going by is what they could see.

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  17. You'll have to elaborate on 'backpedalling' :D

    Yep, that's cool that there were civilisations prior to the Old Testament law that regarded murder as naughty. I don't know anything about them, nor am I that interested in learning too-too much about them because it appears (from what you've told me) that the Bible does not differ significantly.

    Who knows? Maybe whoever wrote down the law of the Old Testament (presumably Moses) was "chapping" with everyone about hearing the law directly from God. Secretly he had a Babylonian friend whom he received his moral advice from (ironic it seems, as their cultures were at war with each other...) WHO KNOWS :D

    What I do know is that the Bronze Age "doodlings" have had influence on modern cultures morals.

    Why is adultery still so controversial today?
    -Because it was condemnable sin according to Bronze Age scripture.

    Why is homosexuality still so controversial today?
    -Because it was condemnable sin according to Bronze Age scripture.

    Why is saying "oh my God!" or "Jesus Christ!" when you're frustrated still considered a tad vulgar?
    -Because it was condemnable sin according to Bronze Age scripture.

    Our cultural morals are heavily influenced by the Bible, whether the book was God-inspired or man-made.

    All they were going by is what they could see. - so true

    This is one of the reasons I wish I was raised in the jungle sometimes...
    If we 'needed' to see atoms or galaxies (as interesting as the images are) in order to live out our daily lives why haven't our eyes evolved in order to see these things naturally?

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  18. Morals?.....What morals?!....October 10, 2009 at 9:31 PM

    Question - if there is no higher power to be accountable to if I murdered you, then who has the right to say it is wrong?

    Answer - No-one.

    Morals are merely the result of evolution - therefore we could have equally ended up with a different set of morals, which equally have no authority over anyone. Basically, wrongs and rights are just based on consensus and nothing else - therefore If I am to challenge the morals of today no-one has the right to disagree with me because I am equally correct. Morals have changed slowly over time; hence who has the authority to say my morals cannot change quickly over time? NO ONE!

    Indeed, not one of you can claim to have morals.

    There is no such thing as a moral.

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  19. I have massive thighs.

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  20. Nonono, you missed the point about the origins of the law completely. The point wasn't that the Jews got their moral code from previous civilisations (though it may have been the case, who knows), the point was that these moral codes are essential to a functioning society. We know this because every civilisation had a version of these laws, seemingly of independant origins.

    It really doesn't matter where the idea came from, because it is inevitable, or else there would be no civilisation left.

    And yes, Ryan, we still have remnants of middle-age morality and superstition left in modern society, like you pointed out, that many people are still bigoted towards homosexuals. Many people still take offense to blasphemy.
    Thankfully though, these remnants are slowly evaporating.

    To Anon:

    You're accountable to society. Unless you plan on living as a hermit, then your morals are accountable to society. Our morals evolved from living in communities. You seem to be implying some sense of absolute morals, which don't exist in reality, neither does absolute truth. But just because there isn't some Deity judging you on your works doesn't mean you're unaccountable for your actions.
    It's nearly 4am and I'm rambling, hope that made sense...

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  21. Cool, I think we're understanding each other better now :)

    I think it will be interesting to see what happens to future society or culture once these 'religious' remnants have fully disappeared. Though, like some of the evidence for evolution, I don't think it will be easily observable in it's entirety within tiny 80 year human life slots. Like you say, the evaporation process is slow. Makes me think of 'frog in the slowly boiling water' metaphor for some reason, but I think that illustrates something else, I can't really remember.

    From my observations in life the world indeed seems be slowly getting "all good" with a lot of things that only a few decades ago were considered unacceptable.

    Time will tell I guess :)

    LOL I'm pretty sure that wasn't Blair :D It's kind of dodgy being able to write anything you want and put it under any name!

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  22. Yeah that is one downside of having anonymous comments enabled, but I fear that if I make people register to comment that the discourse would end.

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