REPLY #38 TO
are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text
and are prefaced by my initials (MB)
(R) Yes I am saying that moral codes are less likely to develop in the absence
of religion. Can you give me examples? I am not saying it hasn't happened but
it's pretty rare.
(MB) That would be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy in the respect that it is
rare to find a human society entirely devoid of religious influences. However,
portions of many societies have developed their own moral codes that are
independent of any religious dogma. The various flavors of non-religious
Eastern philosophies are a prime example. So is secular humanism. [See "The Affirmations of Humanism"] I am not a religious individual, but I have my own moral code of behavior. Please don't
confuse Christian morality with morality as a general concept.
(R) In this day and age I think the value of religion is that it is one of the
only places where people learn morals.
(MB) People learn morals every day from every experience they have. Religion's
contribution is to try enforce a particular set of rules of behavior that it
(R) I do believe it should stem from the home and the family, if not from the
example of their society, but that simply isn't the case.
(MB) But, that's where it *does* originate! One's family introduces their
children to the family religion (if any) and instructs them in their own version
of "right" and "wrong". One's society imposes its own will upon its members.
In the end, morality simply becomes what any individual group decides that it
will be. There is no such thing as an "absolute morality" - religious or
(R) I think you misunderstood me about Jews and Muslims and Jesus. I am well
aware of the fact that they do not accept him as the Messiah. I was referring to
the fact that they DO believe he existed historically and was a great prophet
and teacher, even though they DO NOT believe he was Christ. This leads me to
believe in his existence when groups who don't rely upon him as the backbone of
their religion do believe in his existence.
(MB) There's no problem with believing in the historical existence of Jesus (or
Mohammed or Abraham or Buddha or any other such figure). However, that does not
mean that one also automatically subscribes to any stories or qualities that are
attributed to that individual. Heck, there's a lot of nonsense attributed to
George Washington. History and adulation tend to do that.
It makes no difference to me if Jesus actually existed or not. I don't believe
that he was the Son of God or anything other than a mortal man -- albeit, a
rather influential one. I also don't need to revere or worship him in order to
appreciate the wisdom of some of the things he is said to have taught. In fact,
it is rather difficult to find any of his secular teachings that are unique or
original to him. The majority echoed common themes in other contemporary or
historical belief systems. Their power came from the effect they had on a
people who were oppressed by Rome and in search of someone to free them from
(R) You admit that emotion and fact are different realms and that religion
is in the realm of emotion. This is my basis for the spiritual aspect of
(MB) Emotion and spirituality are two different -- and not necessarily related
-- things. All humans have emotions to some degree, but it would be the rare
person whose every emotion derives from his spirituality. There are also those
of us who don't believe in anything or anybody spiritual who still experience
the full range of human emotions.
(R) People in all lands and during all times have developed a sense of the
spiritual. I understand that this often may have been to explain the frightening
world they lived in and did not know, but I think there is more to it than that.
(MB) I doubt it. Ask most believers and you'll find that their beliefs are in
something they "feel" that helps them to "make sense of things". We always want
answers to our questions and explanations for things that happen. It's easier
for most people to appeal to some unknown and ineffable aspect of the
supernatural than to invest the time and effort to obtain real answers.
At times, this is carried to ludicrous extremes. Just this past weekend, a
series of violent thunderstorms spawned several destructive tornadoes in my
area. One of these tore up a trailer park and caused the death of a woman and
the critical injury of her husband -- both good friends of mine -- in addition
to destroying a church and causing much other havoc. What do you think that
survivors had to say about it? One reply was, "Well, I guess God knows what
he's doing" while another said "This will only strengthen my faith". I don't
know about anybody else, but I was absolutely stunned speechless to hear such
things. What is there that could possibly be found praiseworthy about such a
(R) I suppose we should agree to
disagree because you try to use reason and science to answer all of my
questions and I don't believe they can be answered in that manner.
(MB) The way to resolve the dilemma is to examine things to see if there
actually is any reasonable way to explain them. Failure to do so doesn't give
supernatural explanations any credibility at all. Such alternative explanations
must be justified in and of themselves.
(R) If I were to give you examples of things that I believe are
unexplainable by science, I am sure you would just try to reason them
away with complicated logical answers, such as camera tricks,
hallucinations, lying, etc.
(MB) To date, there has not been a single event, thing, or phenomenon that has
been shown to be the result of anything supernatural or which has been
demonstrated to fall outside the realm of rational explanation. The James Randi
Educational Foundation has a standing prize of over $1,000,000 for anybody who
can demonstrate anything supernatural or paranormal. The prize has never been
claimed. None of this bodes well for those who wish to maintain beliefs in such
(R) But it all comes down to my feeling that
science and religion are getting at the same thing. And like you said,
the problem arises when one tries to pass over into the realm of the
other. But if you really want to uphold that statement then you must
conclude that science mustn't try to butt in to spiritual affairs.
(MB) Science doesn't need to butt into spiritual affairs, since science doesn't
believe that there *is* any such thing. The burden of proof rests with those
who claim that such things actually exist.
this is the problem indeed, for the world of science seems to believe
that everything can fit into its affairs because one day everything will
be explainable by science. But when religion adopts a similar view for
itself, well then we have an uproar that religion is wandering outside
its boundaries. So where do we draw the line?
(MB) You draw the line between what the evidence can support and what it cannot
support. The scientific method is used to define the exact location of such a
line. Religion attempts either to claim that no line exists or it disputes what
belongs on which side.
(R) I believe we can't
segregate such important views at life. And while there are many who can
only see far enough to take one view are the other, I believe there are
many more who are willing to try to see with both sets of eyes and
hopefully to get the picture.
(MB) The problems only occur when somebody decides to believe in something
despite lack of evidence to support it and/or despite the weight of evidence to
the contrary. The problems are exacerbated when that same person decides to
posit his view as either equal or superior to any or all others.
I have no problems with what any person decides to believe for himself. But,
when he attempts to challenge the views of others or to force his views upon
them, then they must accept the responsibility to subject those views to the
same standards of evidence that apply to all others.
(R) One last comment (for now), I think it is obvious that society in
general and especially in the west is moving away from religion and
leaning toward science. Do you think this is allowing for a more moral
and compassionate society? Do you think people are happier now?
(MB) The answer to both of your questions, in my view, is a definite "Yes". One
needs only to look back through history to see how difficult life has been and
how rare it is that large groups have combined together to benefit each other.
(R) Although for you logical explanations for everything under the sun may be
very satisfying and fulfilling, you must understand that that doesn't do it for
everyone, so your arguments about using "irrational" means for explanation
really mean nothing to people who does not rely on rationalization to define
(MB) Perhaps not, but rationality does not determine whether or not a given view
is satisfying for an individual. Rationality helps determine the validity of
such a view and its worth as a real explanation of anything.
I prefer the know the truth about things -- even if it is emotionally
unsatisfying. Others are more content to be satisfied -- even if they don't
care or don't know (or don't want to know) that the belief is, or might be,
bogus. To each his own. Just keep the bogosity within its own walls.