Night Owl Mk. II

Return to "Religion" essay

Back to Philosophy page

Please feel free to E-mail me with your own comments on this issue or on anything else included in my Philosophy of Life section. Debate is good!

Please report any problems with this page to the Webmaster!


Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized 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 finds acceptable.

(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 otherwise.

(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 their plight.

(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 humanity.
(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 tragedy?

(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 things.

(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.

(R) Now 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 themselves.
(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.

Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0 .......... Last Update: 04 Jun 98

Earthlink Network Home Page