Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Connection Between Religion and Morality is an Illusion!

As Sam Harris said in his speech to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, we never respect stupidity in our society unless it is religious stupidity. People that believe stupid things are not necessarily stupid, though some certainly are. Nor are they necessarily lunatics, though undoubtedly some of them are.

The erroneous connection between religion and morality is the key to the animosity towards atheists. If you think it isn't a problem, or it isn't irrational, read the following comment to another blog:

LoL! So, because the Bible is old, and inconvenient, it's just some fantasy? A respected woman I know once said this, in reply to the Bible and Christianity being false:
"If I'm wrong, then what does it matter? I have taken great comfort in these teachings. And if I'm right, what will happen to you?"
Judaism should not exist at all? By what standard? If there is no God, or even the word of God passed onto us through such things as the Bible, who's to say what should and shouldn't be? When there is no clearly defined Good, and no clearly defined Evil, everything becomes acceptable. Without God, without his word, there is no evil, and there is no good. Any person could do anything that they so desired without punishment, because there is nothing to hold them to any obligation. Ask yourself why it is that you would think it is wrong to murder an innocent person. Ask yourself why it is cruel to sexualy molest young children. Without God, these things are not wrong.
"The worst thing the Devil could have done is prove he didn't exist."
Don't disbelieve in something just because it is unpopular, or inconvenient. Disbelieve something if it is false, illogical, and unfounded.

Ah, Pascal's Wager (if in a rudimentary form)! As if that argument for belief hasn't been destroyed many, MANY times over… First, which god should you believe in? You can't believe in them all. And if you are wrong you have lived the whole of the one life you get based on a lie. Is it just me, or is that not a horrible fate?

There are many things in the Bible we now take to be shockingly immoral which seem to be part of everyday life in the time that the original codices were written. Take slavery, for instance. In no place in the Bible is slavery condemned, yet a civil war in America was fought in part over this. In fact, the Bible even tells us specifically how to treat slaves and was used as an argument by the South in favor of it. I had one discussion over this where my opponent said that this was ridiculous. The passages I was quoting were based on people selling themselves into slavery voluntarily. My response: So what? Was this person suggesting that some slavery is okay and other types not? Why is this not condoned by our society? Why are there no poor houses? Congratulations are in order; she had just reduced the Bible from something heinous to something to be reviled.

The idea that religion has anything to do with being moral is a lie. How can performing acts of good be respected when they are done out of fear of punishment? How can anyone really say they are moral on the basis that if they disobey dogmatic rules they will not be rewarded in the end? As Sam Harris said, religion gives bad reasons to be good, where good reasons available.

I also agree with Harris that the only rational basis for a system of morals is a concern for the well-being and suffering of others. To say that "without God, without his word, there is no evil and there is no good" is plainly wrong. I feel good when I open the door for a disabled person. I felt outrage with the knowledge that Saddam Hussein gassed Kurds and Shiites, people that he had an obligation to protect. Yet I do not believe.

I firmly believe that murder is wrong. I also firmly believe that molesting children is immoral. In neither of these moral calculations have I invoked any deity, let alone the Christian god. According to this person's view, I should not feel that way. I should be raping, mugging, murdering with abandon. Yet I am not. If the Bible and belief in God are the sole sources of morality, then why are responses to moral and ethical dilemmas virtually the same whether you are a believer or non-believer? This has been studied in great detail, and those interested should consult Marc Hauser's Moral Minds.

This misconception that only a belief in God can make us good must be dispelled. I don't disbelieve because it is unpopular (and just when was Christianity unpopular in the last century?) or inconvenient. I disbelieve because any religion is false, illogical and unfounded, not to mention irrational.

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