Thursday, November 19, 2009

God, Religion, Atheism, Morality and a few Links

The Moral Contrariety of Christ and State (click) is a nice write-up, which attempts to reconcile rationality with religion-based, authoritative morality (irrespective of what the title seems to suggest). Although, I do not agree with everything in it, I thought it is a good starting point for all religious theists and atheists alike, to start thinking of the bases of morality, if they have not done that before in earnest.

More important, the article points out that 'think'ing in context of morality is not bad at all, but rather is necessary, and how immutable morality sourced only in authority, can easily be manipulated to serve one's ulterior motives, which could be at odds with the Society's larger good.

There is a forum on which I landed, which to me seemed very funny, since a few dogmatic trolls had hijacked it, and could not see any good in anything beyond their own religion:

Morality and Atheism (click)

This is what happens when one gets blinded by arrogance of their own religion, only because they start equating the perceived worth of their collective identity (religion) with their personal self-worth. This is what according to me is one of the components of Communalism (click--a blog post on my blog).

I had reached the linked article and the forum through search results for 'Morality before Christ', which had led someone else to my blog. But only on removing a few external trappings, one would realize that the same fundamental issues should confront not just the Christians, but those following any other religion, or even those following none. For, morality is very fundamental to coexistence (not just in time, but even in space) with fellow humans, the future generations, and other sentient living beings. Hope, the readers will enjoy the links, as well as, be forced to think something new.

My oversimplifed views on these issues could be found here:

1. My morality (click).

2. A few responses to criticism of Atheism (click).

13 comments:

  1. I thought u will give a brief summary about atheism and all but u want me to read all this ;)

    So, I choose to read ur morality :)

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  2. too intellectual and heavy for me to understand :-|

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  3. Yeah right! can you just re-type all of this in English plz?...except for the commas, fullstops, exclamation marks and ofcourse question marks, err..Everything else in between bounced over my head..hehee..well, I actually read most of the links (I couldn't believe that myself) ..well as you mentioned morality at most times becomes opportunistic and I just feel that its become a convenient concept to validate/invalidate absolutely anything under the sun. its like following two sets of moral principles..one that you preach and seldom follow and the other one which you practice but seldom preach..That being said, also feel that there are some basic morals which should be followed to demarcate humans and animals ..

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  4. Will try and check out the links some other time. Just thought I'd leave my 2 cents about the topic -

    Personally I think morality has little or nothing to do with religion. I think people who are truly moral understand pain and misery and that the lesser you have of them, the better the world is...and therefore do their bit to not cause any.

    But I do think there would be lesser people doing the right thing in the world if religion was totally out of the picture. I mean it's easy to fall into temptation and do things that you know are wrong/bad. Some people need a concept of hell/heaven or re-payment/reward in a later life to do the things that are right/good. The biggest problem happens when people don't think but blindly follow. Then even things like murder happens in the name of religion...

    ReplyDelete
  5. @ Tarun:

    Actually, you've a somewhat wrong impression about my blog and me! :) Though, in my profile, I introduce myself as atheist, it is not to mean, I deal exclusively with atheism. Rather, quite to the contrary, if you'll see the number of posts tagged 'atheism' or 'God', they're very few!

    The only reason I'd kept the atheist part in 'about me' was to warn who would be excessively sensitive about their religion and belief in God that their sentiments could get hurt by certain posts!

    Anyway, the forum was actually very interesting! I thought you like a good brawl, and would definitely entertain you! ;)

    Also, you took less than 50 seconds to determine my post--'My morality' was too intellectual? ;) Anyway, I hope someday I would be able to develop sufficient skills in English language to attract your attention! ;)

    @ Rohit:

    I'm afraid you mostly did not get what I meant to convey through this post. So, a long comment will follow, and please do bear with me! :)

    Let's start with the last sentence your comment:

    "...there are some basic morals which should be followed to demarcate humans and animals"

    I'm not disagreeing with you on that. But the issues are:

    1. What are those fundamental morals?

    2. Who gets to decide what are those fundamental morals?

    3. Do these fundamental morals have any underlying bases? Or are they fundamental in themselves, and to be accepted at face value?...

    ReplyDelete
  6. ...The current post and the linked articles largely deal with the second question. Though, ultimately all the three questions are interrelated.

    One of the accepted standards of society is that whatever is stated in religious scriptures is moral.

    The larger issue is, does something become moral simply because it was written down by people who were born and who died before us?

    Another issue is should we or should we not examine what is written?

    Are individuals authorized to go against scriptures if situation demands?

    Are, YOU, i.e., Rohit, entitled to have your own moral code? If yes, what minimumu criteria should your moral code fulfill?

    Let's see, there are two acts that are largely considered to be moral:

    1. To speak the truth

    2. To help someone in need and deserving of your help.

    What if you cannot accomplish both the tasks simultaneously because they would be mutually antagonistic?

    What if the best way to help someone immensely without causing any harm is to lie? Or alternately, by speaking the truth you end up harming someone innocent? In that case, does speaking the truth remain moral or become immoral?

    You'll find a very short post dealing with one such dilemma here:

    A moral brainteaser

    Is whether an act moral or immoral determined by what that act is, or the intent and the consequences of that act?...

    ReplyDelete
  7. ...Killing an innocent human (who can potentially harm you) would be wrong, but killing a mosquito that has not yet bitten you (but could potentially bite you) would be correct. Why?

    To lot many questions I've raised above, you'll have quick, impulsive answers, but you might find it difficult to give precise reasons for why one of the choices would be moral, and the other immoral.

    The basic purpose of my three posts is to encourage readers to think for themselves as to what is right v/s wrong, and more importantly, why!

    Despite thinking hard, one may some time come up only with instinctive reasons for determining something as immoral and moral. Many times, these are nothing but personal preferences. :)

    Like widely debated issues are use of animal testing (which involves harming/killing animals) to develop drugs that improve/save human lives. Or, if eating nonveg is moral or not.

    We all will come up with answers, but they will never be perfect. What we eventually decide is merely personal preference. Of course, some people cite something to be more moral simply because it would be written in scriptures, but that according to me is inadmissible as reason to consider something as moral. It would be different matter, if the said scripture in turn would give reasons for the same. In which case the fact that basis came from scripture becomes insignificant, but what assumes significance is the reason behind it.

    Hope, this help! :)

    Thanks for your input!

    TC.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @ Deepali:

    I'm impressed with your understanding of the situation! Really!

    You've summarized it very well.

    In the first linked article, you'll find reasons as to why it is religious morality that is much more relative than individual or rationality-based one. The fact that religious morality is extremely relative can be easily demonstrated by the fact that most religions prescribe different religious codes!

    To simply give the cliched example, think of eating nonveg! I think apart from Jainism, I don't think any other religion outrightly prohibits eating nonveg! Not sure of Buddhism, though. In fact, in India itself, I know of a few Brahmins who don't mind practicing a sophisticated form of untouchability citing religious scriptures, but who also eat nonveg, again citing religious scriptures and dietary practices followed till seventh century AD! So you see, citing the same religious scriptures, people end up doing whatever they fancy!

    And when society at large accepts simply following a scripture as the legitimate minimum sufficient condition to do/not do something, then it becomes difficult to tell someone, "Hey, what you're doing is wrong!"

    This because, we would be afraid of hurting their sentiments, or would know that they will cite their scripture, anyway.

    Have you noticed one common thing about ALL the scriptures?

    They are written in most obscure fashion....

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  9. ...So much so that people take pride in telling "Hey, my scripture is so difficult and sophisticated to understand that none of the archeologists, historians or the linguists have been able to understand it!"

    Isn't this most ironic? If something was intended to be a code of conduct for the masses, should it not be rather written in manner that precisely masses can understand? Should it not be precise, with least possible ambiguity?

    We do not use figurative speech or metaphors in writing constitution of a country, or instruction manuals, or terms and conditions for any contract. Then why this ambiguity in scriptures if they were meant to be followed verbatim?

    Anyway, what I'm driving at is, even religions allow sufficient leeway to do immoral things. There are many rites and rituals that can be performed in any religion to please (bribe) gods without doing any good deeds or in fact despite doing bad deeds! So actually, religion can be easily customized to suit one's needs! ;) Because everything written in scriptures is all about "interpretation"!

    I've dealt with these ideas in my post called 'A few responses to criticism of atheism', which I've anyway linked in the post!

    My basic premise is morality should be brought to the individuals. It has to be brought to the domain of rationality, so that it becomes open to individual scrutiny. Authority-based morality is like simply telling a teenager that 'smoking is bad' and banning tobacco!...

    ReplyDelete
  10. ...Whereas, rationality based morality is like telling the teenager that it is bad, and that it can cause cancer, and then incentivizing abstinence from smoking!

    If you see, former strategy for various reasons would just not work, but would rather lead to further crime and subjugation of legal system. Whereas, latter would be not absolutely successful, but at least individuals could be held responsible for their acts!

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing your well-thought out views! :)

    TC.

    ReplyDelete
  11. @Darshan: Welcome!

    @ Ambi:

    I hope you found the forum entertaining! In fact, you would find other such entertaining comments right on my blog. :) In the comments' section of my post 'My morality' that I've linked in this post.

    But honestly, I've been curious, what's your take on morality and its terms as to how to determine if some act/intent is moral or not. You may reply here, or do a post on it.

    TC.

    ReplyDelete

Well-articulated disagreement would be a very good indicator that I was understood, and would be appreciated more than perfunctory agreement or praise. But of course, you could agree and praise...

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