Faith doesn't equal morality

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by aaqucnaona, Jan 4, 2012.

  1. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

    Its often said by theists that religion is the root of morality. I want to give a quote about how religious morality involves human choice, how faith is an inappropriate reason for it and why atheists are not to blame for not buying this claim simply on the face of it.

    QUOTE -

    Surely just about everybody has faced a moral dilemma and secretly wished, "If only somebody—somebody I trusted—could just tell me what too!" Wouldn't this be morally inauthentic? Aren't we responsible for making our own moral decisions? Yes, but the virtues of "do it yourself" moral reasoning have their limits, and if you decide, after conscientious consideration, that your moral decision is to delegate further moral decisions in your life to a trusted expert, then you have made your own moral decision. You have decided to take advantage of the division of labor that civilization makes possible and get the help of expert specialists. We applaud the wisdom of this course in all other important areas of decision-making (don't try to be your own doctor; the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, and so forth).

    Even in the case of political decisions, like which way to vote, the policy of delegation can be defended. When my wife and I go to Town Meeting, I know that she has studied the issues that confront our town so much more assiduously than I have that I routinely follow her lead, voting the way she tells me to vote, even if I'm not sure just why, because I have plenty of evidence for my conviction that if we did take the time and energy to thrash it all out she'd persuade me that, all things considered, her opinion was correct. Is this a dereliction of my duties as a citizen? I don't think so, but it does depend on my having good grounds for trusting her judgment.

    Love is not enough. That's why those who have an unquestioning faith in the correctness of the moral teachings of their religion are a problem: if they themselves haven't conscientiously considered, on their own, whether their pastors or priests or rabbis or imams are worthy of this delegated authority over their own lives, then they are in fact taking a personally immoral stand.
    This is perhaps the most shocking implication of my inquiry, and I do not shrink from it, even though it may offend many who think of themselves as deeply moral. It is commonly supposed that it is entirely exemplary to adopt the moral teachings of one's own religion without question, because—to put it simply—it is the word of God (as interpreted, always, by the specialists to whom one has delegated authority). I am urging, on the contrary, that anybody who professes that a particular point of moral conviction is not discussable, not debatable, not negotiable, simply because it is the word of God, or because the Bible says so, or because "that is what all Muslims [Hindus, Sikhs . . . ] believe, and I am a Muslim [Hindu, Sikh . . . ]," should be seen to be making it impossible for the rest of us to take their views seriously, excusing themselves from the moral conversation, inadvertently acknowledging that their own views are not conscientiously maintained and deserve no further hearing.

    The argument for this is straightforward. Suppose I have a friend, Fred, who is (in my carefully considered opinion) always right. If I tell you I'm against stem-cell research because "my friend Fred says it's wrong and that's all there is to it," you will just look at me as if I was missing the point of the discussion. This is supposed to be a consideration of reasons, and I have not given you a reason that I in good faith could expect you to appreciate. Suppose you believe that stem-cell research is wrong because that is what God has told you. Even if you are right—that is, even if God does indeed exist and has, personally, told you that stem-cell research is wrong—you cannot reasonably expect others who do not share your faith or experience to accept this as a reason. You are being unreasonable in taking your stand. The fact that your faith is so strong that you cannot do otherwise just shows (if you really can't) that you are disabled for moral persuasion, a sort of robotic slave to a meme that you are unable to evaluate. And if you reply that you can but you won't consider reasons for and against your conviction (because it is God's word, and it would be sacrilegious even to consider whether it might be in error), you avow your willful refusal to abide by the minimal conditions of rational discussion. Either way, your declarations of your deeply held views are posturings that are out of place, part of the problem, not part of the solution, and we others will just have to work around you as best we can.

    Notice that this stand involves no disrespect and no prejudging of the possibility that God has told you. If God has told you, then part of your problem is convincing others, to whom God has not (yet) spoken, that this is what we ought to believe. If you refuse or are unable to attempt this, you are actually letting your God down, in the guise of demonstrating your helpless love. You can withdraw from the discussion if you must—that is your right—but then don't expect us to give your view any particular weight that we cannot discover by other means—and don't blame us if we don't "get it."

    - Religion, Morality and Faith, Dan Dennett, Breaking the Spell.

    {Close Quote.}

    Your views? Any counter arguments, something he may be only partially right about? Is there something you totally disagree with?
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2012
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  3. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

    Seems clear enough to me, that one should be able to give a reason for their choice or stance on various issues of morality and ethics.

    In many situations I do not believe that we can state unequivocally what position or action we would take, because until we are faced with said circumstances, our response remains undetermined and unknown.
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  5. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

    Indeed. The real test of objectivity is the ability to convince an outsider. The fact that theists exclude atheists from their 'objective' morality makes the religious claim to morality for the faithful seem much more like a placebo than like the truth of God.

    Why do you say that? If one knows oneself enought can't one determine the impulsive actions s/he may take in a future circumstance, even if it may be emotionally stimulative [for good or bad]? Factoring them in with a detailed and sophisticated consideration of the causality of the situation would, in theory, let the person state the position he may take with a reasonable amount of certainty, no? He would, of course, have to plan for alternatives as well. This whole process is actually done, like in very high profile political decisions, speeches, debates, military actions, campaigns, special forces missions,etc. If a person can invest enough resources in himself, could he [do you think] do the same for himself/close people on a personal, day to day level? Or is the emotional reaction of a layman too much more pronounced than the cold hearted thinking mind of a politician or a army officer? Is the emotional experience worthy enough for a layperson to accept this handicap or should he make some concessions in it to avoid/manage/solve hurtful, harmful, troublesome, problematic situations and make the most out of opportunities, enjoy life to the fullest?
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2012
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  7. ZAV Registered Member

    The problem with Dennet, snd indeed any of the “New Artheists” is the simplistic, and often wrong, assessments they make about Reliion and Faith, and how they fail to apply this to their own beliefs.

    Its not like all “religious people” follow blindly leaders on whom there is delegated Authority, and worse, the supposedly nonreligious Atheists aren’t always Rational themselves. Many of them, in fact most, will insist that they are Rational and Logical when they are just parroting the positions of Secular Humanist organisations such as the National Secular Society or the Counsel for Secular Humanism. Just because those group, and the “Life Philosophy”, constantly praise Reason and freethought doesn’t mean its members actually engage in either, and Humanists have been just as guilty of Groupthink as any other Religion. I say other Religion because despite saying they have no Religion, I really don’t see how the Atheists like Dennet’s beliefs really are distinguished from Religion. In contemporary Atheism, most Atheists are Humanists. Most lend assent to the Humanist manifestos, at leats 1-3, and most follow its stricters and guidelines. The same thinking criticised by Dennet is often found in them. EG, “I am an Atheist, therefore I must believe X”. Spare me the rubbish that Atheism is not a belief but a lack of belief in a god and the only thing Atheists have in common is that lack of belief in a god, I’ve seen far too much agreement on basics amongst the Atheistic community to buy it.

    All too often, peoples ideas and arguments come from men who are given delegated Authority. If you just quote an argument from Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris, you are doing the same thing as a Muslim quoting an Imam or a Christian quoting a Minister. Notign Historical Figures like Bertrand Russell or H. G. Wells is no different than quoting esteemed Historical thinkers like C. S. Lewis or Frederick Denison Maurice.

    I’ve sen many Atheists blindly follow their own beliefs and quote documents like the UN Charter for Human Rights or the Manifestos or some Book by some Author they liked as if this settled the matter. They may follow up with “Unlike Religious people, we don’t think fo these as Holy or unquestionable” but they don’t Treat them as Questionable. They do treat them as the Truth that cannot ever be challenged. Meanwhile, I’ve seen many Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists question their Faith, specific teachings in their Faith, and reasons why they believe what they believe. Dennet may present the Idea of Religious People being slavishly devoted and believing only because they think they are suppose to, but it would be in error to think this is Univdersally True of all Religious People, or not True of all Atheists, just as I would contend its wrogn to place Atheists outside of the Religious Category as if they are fundamentally different. (Atheism si not a lack of Religion.)

    I know that many Atheists prefer to think that Atheism is all about Free Thinking and the use of Science and Reason, whilst Religion is all about blind devotion to Mythology, butt hat is itself an unquestioend Dogma that has no baring on Reality. In fact, the whole “Science VS Religion” Paradigm is a blindly accepted dogma.

    It becomes worse when you resort of Caricature. I mean, does Dennet actually understand the Stem Cell debate? From this quote, it doesn’t seem like he does. He seems to be saying that Religious People think Stem Cell Research is wrong simply because they think they are suppose to think its wrong because their Religious Leaders said so. Is that really True? Of course not. If you read up on the Controversy around Stem Cell Research, you will find that those who oppose it don’t just oppose it blindly without being able to articulate a Reason. Not that it matters, as Dennet makes a mistake in his example; No one actually opposes Stem Cell Research. What is actually opposed is Embryonic Stem Cell Research. This is an important distinction if you are to understand why it is opposed. The reason given for opposition to Embryonic Stem Cell Research is that in order to Harvest the Cells, an Embryo must be Created, then destroyed. This means that Embryonic Stem Cell Research must include there Abortion of an Embryo. Thus the Stem Cell Research question ties into the Abortion question. The reason it is opposed is not because a Religious Person was told by an Authority figure that it is wrong and, while not knowing why its wrong, stands firm in that conviction excuse his Minister said so, its seen as wrong because it is Abortion. Abortion is seen as wrong because it is seen as the Murder of a Human Person. So, Embryonic Stem Cell Research is seen as Wrong because in order to achieve it you have to kill a Human Person.

    Whether you agree that Abortion is Murder or not is immaterial, all that matters for the same of this Discussion is that those who oppose Embryonic Stem Cell Research oppose it due to it being Murder, and can quiet readily articulate why they see Abortion as Murder as they understand Life begins at Conception. They understand Sexual Reproduction as well.

    Which brings me back to the fact that no one opposes Stem Cell Research. What is opposed is Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Stem Cell research conducted on Afterbirth tissues, or that result from harvesting Stem Cells out of Adults with no harm to thee person the Cells are extracted from, are not opposed at all. Dennet, like many who use Stem Cell Research as evidence of the destructive power of Religion and how it holds back Science, seems to want us to view Stem Cell Research as offering us a Cure for virtually all illness and recovery from all Injury, but this wonderful advance is held back by Religious People who don’t understand Science and who oppose it just because it is Science and they are suppose to. That is Ironically the same sort of Blind devotion to the idea that Science and Religion are Hostile to one another but that Science advances Humanity whilst Religion holds it back as any Christian Fundamentalist Stereotype or Muslim terrorist Stereotype Dennet could produce would have.

    I’m sorry but Dennet is clearly not examining the issue impartially and is writing a polemic that is designed to forward his own Agenda, and it comes off as Hypocritical given that he is just as guilty of what he condemns in others.
  8. ZAV Registered Member

    Oh, on last thing. Dennet says all Relgiiosn delegatr Authority to clergy who then tell others what to think.

    This brigns three points up.

    1: Even fi this was so, why does Dennet think that none of the Laity ever thinjk for themselves on the topic? WHy does he seem to think they just blidnly obey the Authority Figures? I see no reason to make that assumption.

    2: Where do the Authority Figures get their information? Its nto liek Stem Cell researhc is in the Bible, so he can't just say tis Holy Writ. Obviosuly someone has to think about the issue someway.

    3: Not all Religions have Clergy. I grew up in the Churches of Christ which don't have offices liek Pastor or Reverend, and in which any Baptised male can preach or teach or administerr th Lords Supper. Imams in Islam aren't really ordaiend either, and any Male Muslim may serve as an Imam. Plenty of Christian, Jewish, or even Buddhist groups have no formal Clergy, and allow for te group to wquestion what si said abby any other member. So Dennet sayign it is always an Authority Figure is wrong.
  9. kx000 Valued Senior Member


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