08-26-2010, 11:58 AM
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Re: Is it possible for man to live a moral life without religion?
The core of your argument is flawed. In order for there to be argument about the nature of morality, we have to agree that morality is absolute. What you consider moral and what is actually moral, assuming morality is absolute, are not necessarily in agreement.
Originally Posted by AndyJC
The premise of this debate is flawed. The question should not be “Is it possible to live a moral life without religion?” but “How can religious a person or society live a moral life despite their religion?” Religion is a hindrance to living a moral life; the only way to live a moral life is to be not religious and the only way for a society to be free and just is to have secular government. The argument is a follows:
Any 21st century western person if placed in society just say 50 years ago but certainly 200 or 400 years ago would be totally appalled at the prevailing moral standards. They would find almost everyone shockingly racist and sexist; they would be appalled at the treatment of the mentally ill, children, the poor and criminals. Today everyone regards slavery as immoral but not long ago it was a subject of debate.
So it is clear that what is regarded as acceptable behaviour (moral) develops and moves forward. However, there has been no change in the ancient religious texts such as the Bible, Torah and Koran which are the supposed source of religious morality. So the source of that developing morally is clearly not the religions.
This static nature of the source of religious morally and the developing morally in society means that good well meaning religious people constantly find themselves with the dilemma of living a moral life or following the teaching of their religion i.e. religion makes it difficult to live a moral life.
As an example, the Bible clearly states in Exodus 22:18, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”. And for a while Christians took this seriously and set up courts to send witches to be burned at the stake. Society came to regard this as unjust and put a stop to it, it was the most pious Christians that were last to this realisation.
There are many passages on adultery but as example, Deuteronomy 22:22 "If a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die." Religious people have had to be dragged along every step of the way to move away from stoning to death (usually women) to the present decriminalisation of adultery.
Nowhere in the Bible is slavery condemned. In fact there are many passages that give support to slavery such as Leviticus 25:44-46, “However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you”. For most of the history of Christianity Christians, including Popes, have owned slaves. The most religious part of the USA was the place that most forcefully resisted its end. Society moved on but many Christians came along later.
At present, here in the UK, the current issue is homosexuality. Society has realised oppressing homosexuals is immoral but good Christians are struggling with their consciences as their Church once again demands adherence to an outdated bigoted stance. No doubt in a generation or two Christians will have caught up and the present attitudes will be regarded in the same way as Christian support of slavery 200 years ago is regarded now.
At a society level it is clear that freedoms enjoyed in western countries are due to the secular nature of our government. Under theocratic governments where the laws are determined by reference to religious morals then there was, is and always will be oppression and injustice. Modern Christian theocratic states are in short supply and the only examples are Islamic, but rest assured it there were modern Christian theocratic states they would have the same tendencies. So in Pakistan the punishment for changing religion is death; in Taliban Afghanistan girls weren’t even allowed to school; in Saudi Arabian women can’t drive or be seen in public without full covering of body, head and face and with the company of a male relative; and in Iran women are stoned to death for adultery (which often includes when they get raped). This is what happens when a society takes religion seriously and bases its law on the morals outlined in texts that are thousands of years old.
If morality is absolute, where do we get our morality? We can certainly not invent it if it is an absolute truth of the universe. If morality is not absolute, who is to say what is moral and what is not? You seem to be confused in your beliefs, claiming that morality has changed over the years, yet simultaneously claiming you know the absolute morality.
I think what you call appalling "moral standards" is actually a gross misunderstanding. It is not that people were not moral, because they treated other human beings with the same respect and fairness we do today. Instead, they believed that "human beings" were a group much smaller than we believe them to be today; they excluded those of other races, genders, ages and more from their definition.
Yes, those born with mental or physical handicaps have been unbelievably mistreated by people of the past; however, those people mistreating them did not believe they were doing anything wrong. Were they amoral, or did they just misunderstand the nature of humanity or of proper methods of treatment?
There are two ways we can think of being a "moral person." One is simply "doing what is believed to be right and just," the other is "doing what is right and just, in accordance with the absolute morality." Which one do you believe and why?
I don't believe the anti-religious part of your post is really worth addressing until I understand what it is you mean by "moral."