My question today is the roots of morality that we know today. I apologise for the length of this article but I would rather be thorough and cover most topics and have progress than an article with no substance, so please bear with me it will be worth the read. My question is where does it come from? A large majority of us won’t even need a second to answer that question and reply, the bible. To gain insight and direction into moral decision making we must follow a text of absolute, universal and objective laws put into place by god’s written word. Let’s unpack this. Some of us follow the bible and some of us don’t.
Theists and atheists and all the variations in between require a moral compass to finish their day and sleep at night. So if there is only one absolute, universal set of laws. One portion of the population would be significantly less moral than the other. This is omitting all other religions from the argument for practical sense. We could look at history and name major atrocities of genocide etc. Counting how many are in the name of religion and how many are not would show a clear disparity with religious slaughter far outnumbering in occurrence and total number than those in the name of no religion yet this would just bring up the fallacy of the “no true Scotsman” and this is not the way to evaluate moral roots. So we need a more subtle, fact based argument.
The statistics in USA show that between 10% - 20% of the population are atheist and the rest are religious. With Christianity being the dominant by a very large percentage it is fair to assume that the rest are Christians. Their law holds no disparity from the 10 commandments. If you uphold their law you would uphold the biblical law. So we would expect that the ratio of the beliefs of prisoners to be vastly atheism if absolute laws in the bible existed. Atheists would hold no reason to be moral thus would most likely end up in jail. Yet here is where we see the anomaly. It is the other way round, and distinctly so. Of all prisoners in the USA 0.2% are atheists and the rest are religious. That is almost a 100x ratio disparity. Not many atheists are rushing to convert in prison and even if a few did, the disparity still remains exceedingly large. So it is quite clear and obvious. There must be something else at play as if atheistic beliefs are 100 times lower in occurrence in prisons than in public.
Science has unlocked some of the roots of morality, showing that it is an ever changing compass within our conscious minds which depend on our upbringings and our perceived societal norms. This is evident in how Christians view their own bible. Let’s take Deuteronomy for example. Talking about a woman about to be married being raped. If she is in the city, she dies and if she is in the ‘fields’ she doesn’t. This is ONLY on the premise that in the city she must not have cried for help or the rape would not have happened. It is clear that this is VERY immoral and I know Christians share the same perspective. Some people seize up during traumatic events and why women are taught to shout fire as people are more likely to come than if they shout rape. Showing we have more understanding and subjectivity of rape than the person writing this chauvinistic drivel. More examples in Leviticus, which suggests slavery is okay and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy again which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith. Would you follow these moral guidelines? Stoning your own child because they do not hold the same beliefs as you? The bible is very clear there are no disclaimers for part following or entries into heaven for a 50% pass. It is all or nothing. There are countless and countless more examples of terrible moral direction that was applicable at the time when woman had no rights and life was vastly more conservative. Thus a modern day Christian is faced with the task of cherry picking morals from the bible. This you can see is going to be a big problem as the defining point of what to cherry pick and what not to is based on personal opinion. When more advanced moral issues present themselves like euthanasia, abortion, cloning, stem cell research and contraception a Christian is left woefully barren in a moral direction wasteland. This is evident in each denomination having completely different ideas of where the line should be drawn. So in the end we have uneducated religious leaders drawing moral lines from their absolute moral book they are cherry picking that the masses obey ignorantly. Hardly a healthy state of affairs I would say. So atheism presents another way of looking at morality. Cleary from the statistics it works efficiently but interestingly enough most Christians cannot understand atheistic moral roots.
What we find is the same shallow arguments presenting themselves. If you don’t follow a strict absolute written moral code (which they hypocritically don’t) what do you base your judgements on? There would be anarchy as everyone would just do what feels good for them. Murder, rape and genocide would echo the streets as there would be no guilt, repercussions, understanding and empathy. That is the viewpoint most religious people see in atheistic morals. I think this actually says more about how they practise morals than how atheists behave. For example there is an interesting way of spotting a person that lies habitually. If you are a habitual liar you will have the viewpoint that everybody else has the same mindset that you have and expect everybody to lie in the same circumstances you did. So the behaviour that they would show is reasoning that everybody behaves in a similar way and thus more expectant of being lied to. So if you are a liar you expect to be lied to and vica versa. Truthful people usually expect truthfulness as your expectations echo your behaviour. Thus it follows that you can see people’s internal structural systems without them mentioning about it (as you would be lied to anyway) rather, getting them to comment about other people in similar situations. I extrapolate this to the Christian perspective earlier and it shows quite enlightening moral behaviour. If Christians believe that this is how a person would behave if you were to take out the absolute moral line it shows how they make moral choices on a daily basis. Showing that most Christian’s moral procedure starts with personal or group gain then check it against a foreign moral line. So if there is no moral line there would just be the first step of personal or group gain.
So let’s look at the atheist moral viewpoint. Clearly the Christians have completely misjudged the nature of their moral compass as atheism proclaiming rapists and genociders hardly echo from the streets. Clearly it is a moral system that is efficiently working as 100 times less atheists are in jail than theists, the statistics don’t lie. Atheistic moral compass identifies that ethics and morality is subjective. What works in one case will probably not apply to another case so a different system of judgement must apply. So each case is individually examined and understood before a moral judgement is passed. This moral judgement is passed through a number of tests to evaluate the true nature of the behaviour creating a much needed objectivity. Some of the tests are:
1) 1) If the whole world behaved in this way, would you want to live in set world?
2) 2) Would you like set action to be done to you or your family?
3) 3)Does the behaviour negatively affect others and if so how drastic is this effect (significant or negligible)?
We must have an evolving moral compass not a rigid line. A line is always wrong is some sort of way. For example we realise that contraception is an absolute must these days. We have a ballooning population in a world that cannot support our numbers. We cannot have the size of families our parents had. This contradicts the biblical moral line yet we realise that it is a fact; we have to change our viewpoint on such matters let alone considering STD’s, HIV and rape. Genetic engineering is helping mankind to feed itself. 60% of all the maize in this country is genetically engineered. This apparently is the domain of god yet it is a necessity of this world. Abortion of babies that will live a horrific, pain filled life with little joy because of genetic deformities or things like severe alcohol foetal syndrome. This is a no-no in the bible but clearly morally wrong, how can you bring a child into this world just for it to experience pain and die a few years later, clearly only if you consider yourself first. Or refusing a rape survivor an abortion and forcing her to love and be reminded of a horrific action done to her by a man she detests. Woman’s rights, understanding of sex without guilt or shame, paedophilia, animal consciousness, animal testing, cloning, Petri dish babies and environmentalism are all moral issues that all sectors of the church and the bible have failed significantly. These are all topics that have been around for a number of years. The new advances in technology are requiring us to make even finer judgement calls. If the majority still base their compasses on this ‘objective’ moral line, I truly fear for this world.
This I believe is the fundamental flaw with religious morals; clearly we need more flexibility in this world. Religious moral guidance is dead, backdated and obsolete. It was great 2000 years ago when culture and situations were different. We needed an external moral line as people were drastically less educated. Science, fact and logic was not something that was insisted upon. The viewpoint of magic or supernatural events existing was a norm. Today things are completely different and we realise what morality is due to our education and evolving culture. We are going to be pressed with large grey areas and going to be asked to make definite moral and ethical judgements that might affect the progression of humankind. I think we should make these judgements based NOT on religious moral mindsets but with our own internal, educated moral compass that constantly evolves and understands that morality is subjective. Each case is completely different and it is up to us to make the call collectively from intellectual understanding and analysis.