May 27, 2010

not so Good but definitely Ol’ Absolute Morality

Posted in atheism, film, history, philosophy, politics, religion, scripture at 10:41 am by Jerry

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2 Comments »

  1. Marc said,

    Interesting. While I can see what the question gets at, that “morals and atheism” thing is pretty tired. It assumes “absolute morals” (by which I assume the questioner meant, “objective moral standard”–that is, morals which are not sociological constructions) are necessary for people to live morally. But of course, people can be good whether they are “religious” or not.

    I find it interesting, though, that Dawkins asserts that there is no connection whatsoever between modern ethical development and religion. I’m curious to know how he would back that statement up. Weren’t some of the major movers and shakers in the movements Dawkins mentioned people who were deeply religious people, motivated by the faith and scriptures that Dawkins suggests would do nothing of the kind?

    We can argue, I suppose, about how much their faith and scriptures influenced them (or didn’t), but it would be difficult to argue that their motivations were completely removed from their beliefs. Yet Dawkins somehow manages to remove any and all religion from this–it was all reason, apparently, pure and simple.

  2. Jerry said,

    Marc,
    You said, “Dawkins asserts that there is no connection whatsoever between modern ethical development and religion.” [boldfaced mine] If you’re asking whether Dawkins would acknowledge similarities between secular morality and what he calls the “good bits” in the bible and the koran, I think he would agree that there are those similarities.

    You said, “Weren’t some of the major movers and shakers in the movements Dawkins mentioned people who were deeply religious people, motivated by the faith and scriptures that Dawkins suggests would do nothing of the kind?” [boldfaced mine] Do you mean to say that the “deeply religious people” are motivated by ALL of what their faith and scriptures contain or just the “good bits”?

    You said, “We can argue, I suppose, about how much [of] their faith and scriptures influenced them (or didn’t), but it would be difficult to argue that their motivations were completely removed from [the good bits in] their beliefs.” If you allow for what I’ve added in the brackets, it might help provide some clarity on the issue.

    Dawkins said, “..[slavery, equality of women, being gentle, being kind to animals] have very little basis in biblical or Koranic scripture..” [boldfaced mine] I think Dawkins needs to qualify the “being gentle part”.

    He also said, “..[slavery, equality of women, being gentle, being kind to animals] do not come from religion.. …To the extent that you can find the good bits in religious scriptures, you have to cherry pick. You search your way through the bible or the koran and you find the occasional verse that is an acceptable profession of morality. You say, ‘Look at that! That’s religion!‘, and you leave out all the horrible bits. And you say, ‘Oh, we don’t believe that anymore, we’ve grown out of it.’ Well of course we’ve grown out of it. We’ve grown out of it because of secular, moral philosophy and rational discussion.”

    Dawkins seems to be using the word ‘religion’ in a wholistic manner, thereby, including all scriptural teachings as one presentation within a pluralistic society, a presentation which could not be used to develop a social morality without privileging one religion’s dogma over the other. Therefore, it requires a secular approach. And it’s development through recent history could be argued to have had an influence on the changing moral standards of various religious communities.


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