Itoero

Would the world be a better place without religion?

735 posts in this topic

I think quite the opposite of this. Genocide, incest, child murder, slavery, killing apostates, killing women for various offenses of, you know, just being women and doing things, tribalism, etc.. Those morals have certainly been jettisoned by the best of human civilization. I think the whole point most non-believers try to make about the Bible is its irrelevance. Its a fairytale, and a very crude one. The underlying message is to worship a jealous and petty dictator which loves to constantly have its ego stroked and told constantly how wonderful it is.

 

We keep appropriating Christianity over other mythologies and holy books. What makes Christianity more special than others in terms of useful and relevant content? I submit that no ancient fairy book is required for morality or a happy life.

 

Being morally relevant isn't the same as being moral.

 

Perhaps a modern analogy would help; i hope you watch South Park. Cartman is a bit of a bigot, not someone i would like anyone to draw morals from. But he is an excellent study of immorality, and it's self-destructive nature.

 

Consider our collective morality is a narrative, a story. We can't really understand the story if we forget the beginning.

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Morality is basically proper behavior, it provides increased evolutionary success, it's an evolutionary trait. It's especially important for social animals.(like humans)

It's a property that arises from consciousness.

 

Morality does not depend upon religion, though for some, this is "an almost automatic assumption." This is the main reason why Atheists are so mistrusted in the USA. Many Christians think you need religion to be moral...an a-theist is for them an a-moralist.

 

Morals need to be able to evolve. The morals taught by religion can't evolve , since religion doesn't.

The morals you find in the bible were written during the Roman Empire...

Edited by Itoero
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What is exactly religion ? Religion is a particular system of faith and worship followed by a group of people.

 

 

So like football? Or pop music?

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What about societies with oral traditions or writing on more temporary mediums? I cannot spare the time required to delve into the veracity of all these sources, but my main point is that morality and religion met at some point, somehow. Since then many people come to morality via religion. Is this contentious?

Yes, the ancient roots of humanity's morality are dealt with by numerous articles that are available on the internet (the google search that I referenced). The gist of the difference of opinion between what you argued and what I argued is whether humanity's morality relied and still relies on religion and/or whether morality is being furthered by religion. That seems to be your POV; I argued differently. When morality and religion intertwined, morality got dressed up in the different garments of the various religious cloaks. The underlying moral values remained pretty much standard, just presented in different narratives. Religion was not needed, it did not benefit society's moral values; on the contrary, it skewed our moral compass and aimed it at pleasuring some superstitious deity.

 

Confucianism and Buddhism are religions. This comes up quite often on this forum, maybe worth its own thread to debate?

I am not convinced that Confucius or Buddha set out to teach religions. A form of religion (Tibetan monasteries for example) followed from their teachings.

 

For sure there are secular countries but most countries aren't, just as there are secular people but the vast majority of the world is religious. Some of these religious people use religion as a moral compass. There would be consequences to removing this compass; some good some bad i imagine.

 

...Are the USA or UK yet secular? My point is it takes time and you can't impose it.

 

...In addition, unfortunately people still use this book for moral guidance. To engage with them we need to understand their perspective rather than just brandish them immoral.

The countries affected by the Age of Enlightenment are mostly secular, even though a lot of people still cling to religious traditions (cling more than practice). Most of central Europe in fact, while you can add the Scandinavian countries to that list as well. USA & UK (and South Africa) are still religious because most of their inhabitants (incl. European settlers) were never exposed to the Age of Enlightenment. A lot of them fled the violence of inter-faith persecution. They were staunch Reformers or Roman Catholics, so what else would you expect? It will take many generations for these societies to rid themselves from their religious roots, I am afraid. See my previous reference re skewed moral compasses. Not that I am branding them immoral though.

 

What is exactly religion ? Religion is a particular system of faith and worship followed by a group of people. It should be noted that religion, in its strict term, does not create groups, it is humans who create religions according to the needs of the groups.

I agree to some degree with your assessment, but I am not convinced about the last sentence. I don't think religions get created according to the needs of the groups. Islam may be a good example of a religion that was created for a specific purpose, but I am not sure that it is applicable to all other religions. Come to think of it...the Hellenization of Christianity was probably quite significant in order to make it palatable for the Greeks, Romans and others to follow.

Consider our collective morality is a narrative, a story. We can't really understand the story if we forget the beginning.

And for that we need to look at what happened before the rise of (organised) religion and also how religion might have affected the natural evolvement of morality (as alluded to by other posters). Again, IMO religion was not a prerequisite for the furtherance of morality among our species, in many cases it was a hindrance.

Edited by Memammal
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Do you live a happy life?

Tu quoque. My life's happiness level is irrelevant to the point being made, regardless if the point is sound. Edited by Tampitump
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Tu quoque. My life's happiness level is irrelevant to the point being made, regardless if the point is sound.

 

It's relevant to your assertion because if you don't lead a happy contented life, then how do you know?

 

I submit that no ancient fairy book is required for morality or a happy life.

 

 

However I do agree because I have found my way to contentment, but having done so I find it extremely difficult to teach it to others; and much like the wizard of oz, if a path is easy to follow why care who forged it?

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The gist of the difference of opinion between what you argued and what I argued is whether humanity's morality relied and still relies on religion and/or whether morality is being furthered by religion. That seems to be your POV; I argued differently.

 

Rely is the wrong word. I never said that morality is dependent on religion. I said "Religion has often played an important aspect in the development of morality." Is there any religion that hasn't got a moral component? Is there any religion that hasn't played some role in the development of morality to some degree? You may think that this development was backwards, and so no development at all, but these religions did, and continue, to influence peoples' and societal morals.

 

So my position doesn't even consider whether morality relied or still relies on religion. It only matters that religion, for whatever reasons and at whatever time, concerned itself with morality and thus influenced the course of moral development. I submit that if this had not happened the world would have been different - but how, i could only guess.

 

When morality and religion intertwined, morality got dressed up in the different garments of the various religious cloaks. The underlying moral values remained pretty much standard, just presented in different narratives. Religion was not needed, it did not benefit society's moral values; on the contrary, it skewed our moral compass and aimed it at pleasuring some superstitious deity.

 

You seem very sure of this conclusion, so perhaps you could provide references. It's not that i'm lazy, just time poor. I quickly googled what you recommended and found some sites disagreeing with this idea, and others agreeing. A couple of archaeologists i know who say that unless you can thoroughly vet the source of information yourself take things said of the ancient world very tentatively: history is far more susceptible to bias than science. Which isn't to say that there isn't lots of valid literature out there, only that it would take more time to find the valid stuff than i have available. You seem to have already researched this, so you might know of good sources arguing for and against the idea.

 

Again, i'm not arguing morality needed religion to develop, only that for some time they have, for better or worse, developed together.

 

I am not convinced that Confucius or Buddha set out to teach religions. A form of religion (Tibetan monasteries for example) followed from their teachings.

 

Maybe Jesus didn't intend to start a religion. Their intentions didn't stop the fact.

 

 

The countries affected by the Age of Enlightenment are mostly secular, even though a lot of people still cling to religious traditions (cling more than practice). Most of central Europe in fact, while you can add the Scandinavian countries to that list as well. USA & UK (and South Africa) are still religious because most of their inhabitants (incl. European settlers) were never exposed to the Age of Enlightenment. A lot of them fled the violence of inter-faith persecution. They were staunch Reformers or Roman Catholics, so what else would you expect? It will take many generations for these societies to rid themselves from their religious roots, I am afraid. See my previous reference re skewed moral compasses. Not that I am branding them immoral though.

 

What these few examples show is that humanity does not need religion for morality. But i'm not arguing against this. I'm arguing that something like 84% of the worlds population is religious to some extent. You may believe they have a skewed moral compass - OK. We still have to interact with these people, come to decisions and make laws with them. When we engage in moral dialogue with such people they will be drawing from religious sources, and so it is incumbent upon us to understand where they are coming from. Thus the bible is still morally relevant.

 

And for that we need to look at what happened before the rise of (organised) religion and also how religion might have affected the natural evolvement of morality (as alluded to by other posters). Again, IMO religion was not a prerequisite for the furtherance of morality among our species, in many cases it was a hindrance.

 

I agree it was not a necessary prerequisite, but it is the direction our history took. Whether that was a hindrance or not can only be conjecture. We cannot repeat the experiment of humanity so we'll never really know. I think the only relevant question is what religion can do for humanity now and in the future - and if it offers nothing how can we, as a species, put it down?

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@ Prometheus: I think we are overcomplicating our discussion. I was reacting mainly to these parts of your original post:

Religion has often played an important aspect in the development of morality in humans...[sNIP]...I imagine morality would have remained the province of sophists (in the original sense) for a lot longer. If our morals now seem obvious to us, it is because people have made great efforts to make it obvious. Those people were usually religious.

 

...I don't think humanity is yet ready to do away with the comfort blanket of religion...

 

...I believe even the Bible is still morally relevant today, including the old testament...

I did not agree and still don't. I have stated why:

  • it was contentious to say that religion played an important part in the development of morality in humans;
  • I was not convinced that morality would have remained the province of either the sophists or the elite if it was not for religion...on the contrary, religion often claimed and reserved moral high ground for those representing the church and the monarchs;
  • I did not agree with your sweeping statement that morals became obvious to us as a result of religious people;
  • humanity never required religion in the first place and that it is possible (admittedly not easy, or a quick fix) for an entire society to rid itself from religion given the right circumstances;
  • Why the Bible (or other holy books) should not be seen as morally relevant today (of course religious followers think differently).

As for this part that I snipped out:

Quite what this development would have been like without religion is anybody's guess.​

I think it reasonably safe to assume that we would have been perfectly OK. You only have to look at what happened with indigenous tribes in various parts of the world who were unburdened by the influence of major religions until fairly recently (a few hundred years ago). Most of them managed to establish successful, sustainable and moral societies on their own...admittedly each with their own superstitions and the odd inter-tribal war over food, land or power. Regrettably most of them are worst off today as a result of foreign influences, including religion (Africa, for example. is a hot spot i.t.o. wars being fought between Islam controlled countries/tribes and Christian controlled ones).


You seem very sure of this conclusion, so perhaps you could provide references.

The important underlying morals of you shall not kill, steal or lust, even (most of) the so-called seven deadly sins, were and still are pretty universal within most (if not all) cultures and religions. If you have a look at the Code of Ur-Nammu that I mentioned earlier, you would recognise quite a few "universal moral rules of society" that were applicable before organised religions came to the fore.

Edited by Memammal
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I don't think religions ever intended to teach morals, they're a result of our innate sense of fairness and reciprocity.

 

There are similarities that all the major religions seem to share, forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance and doing unto others as we'd have them do to us, all of which are key ingredients in the recipe of contentment.

 

The moral aspect stems from accepting that sometimes life and other people aren't fair or don't pay you back for that kindness you extended them.

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It's relevant to your assertion because if you don't lead a happy contented life, then how do you know?

whether its true or not, my happiness does not add or detract from the point. And just because you feel your life is unhappy doesn't mean every single moment is that way.
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There is morality in the bible.

But what about all the immoral and disgusting stuff?

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whether its true or not, my happiness does not add or detract from the point.

 

 

Which is?

 

And just because you feel your life is unhappy doesn't mean every single moment is that way.

 

 

 

When did I say that?

But what about all the immoral and disgusting stuff?

 

I imagine you're referring to the OT, a book that wasn't understood 2,000 years ago, so what chance do we have now.

 

Try pointing out the immoral and disgusting stuff in the NT.

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"....in the NT"

 

I used to argue the same dim.

 

There is a lot that strips women of rights and it classes then as 2nd class compared to men. It says that they should just stay quite and let the men talk. (I think the context may be out... but it isn't that excusable).

 

Also - the forbidding of sex for the un married. Nowadays I think imposing this on people is immoral. people have a hard enough time in life without being demonised and threatened with hell for performing perfectly natural acts of love and sharing that are hard to resist. It causes mental health issues and seems unfairly cruel and spiteful..... and if the book is actually a lie, then imposing shit like this on people IS immoral.

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"....in the NT"

 

I used to argue the same dim.

 

There is a lot that strips women of rights and it classes then as 2nd class compared to men. It says that they should just stay quite and let the men talk. (I think the context may be out... but it isn't that excusable).

 

Also - the forbidding of sex for the un married. Nowadays I think imposing this on people is immoral. people have a hard enough time in life without being demonised and threatened with hell for performing perfectly natural acts of love and sharing that are hard to resist. It causes mental health issues and seems unfairly cruel and spiteful..... and if the book is actually a lie, then imposing shit like this on people IS immoral.

 

 

Let's not forget the age of the book and the society from which it emerged; do I agree with every, translated word or forgotten ideal, no of course not.

 

For instance, the women of Pitcairn island defended the men in a child sex scandle because they are entirely dependent on the men to live; I find this reprehensible but then I don't live there.

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I imagine you're referring to the OT, a book that wasn't understood 2,000 years ago, so what chance do we have now.

 

Try pointing out the immoral and disgusting stuff in the NT.

Why do you think the book wasn't understood 2000 years ago? And what does it matter?

So if they didn't understand it, we also can't understand it? Why not?

 

And if you throw away the OT, you throw away all the stories about Moses and Isaac...and the 10 commandments...

 

The NT says you need a human sacrifice to be freed from your sins. Do you think that's moral?

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The argument against people who assert the bible is the source of morals is rather simple, though generally falls on deaf ears. The argument is this:

 

If the bible is the source of morals, how do people know which parts of it to ignore and which parts are required? We don't stone people to death for working on Sunday or wearing clothes of different fibers or eating shellfish. We ignore the majority of the iron age tribal silliness that's there.

 

Given this, we must have an external barometer... a 3rd party source of morality against which even the bible gets compared. The bible may supplement and inform morality for some, but calling it the source is remedially false.

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Why do you think the book wasn't understood 2000 years ago?

 

 

Because of the NT

 

And what does it matter?

So if they didn't understand it, we also can't understand it? Why not?

 

 

 

It matters because we don't understand it.

 

And if you throw away the OT, you throw away all the stories about Moses and Isaac...and the 10 commandments...

 

 

 

So.

 

The NT says you need a human sacrifice to be freed from your sins. Do you think that's moral?

 

 

 

Given the sacrifice was voluntary, how is it not moral?

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being fair - it says that sacrifice has been made once and for all and is no longer needed.

 

 

 

 

PS - but I now believe it to all be complete dross.

Edited by DrP
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being fair - it says that sacrifice has been made once and for all and is no longer needed.

 

 

 

 

PS - but I now believe it to all be complete dross.

 

 

I urge you to revisit the dross, not to become a god botherer, there is wisdom in the parts that don't include that which that society demanded.

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I studies it for about 35 years dim... why step back to something that is tried and tested to be BS? It is full of lies mate. MUCH better than the other one though.. ;-) I would have argued against Trumpitups statement that it says death for apostates... it doesn't - that's the other book of evil. ;-)

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Because of the NT

Can you give the verses that show they did not understand the OT?

In the NT, Jesus referred several times to the OT and agreed with it...it's the word of God.

If you throw away the old testament then you are debunking Jesus.

 

It matters because we don't understand it.

again...Why not? It's translated in English isn't it?

 

 

 

Given the sacrifice was voluntary, how is it not moral?

It was not voluntary...Jesus did not choose to be sacrificed.

Jesus was created by God to be sacrificed.

being fair - it says that sacrifice has been made once and for all and is no longer needed.

 

 

 

 

PS - but I now believe it to all be complete dross.

So because Jesus was sacrificed, we can sin?
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I studies it for about 35 years dim... why step back to something that is tried and tested to be BS? It is full of lies mate. MUCH better than the other one though.. ;-) I would have argued against Trumpitups statement that it says death for apostates... it doesn't - that's the other book of evil. ;-)

 

 

If you're completely content with life then of course there's no need, but since you think it's BS and full of lies, I think perhaps you've yet to achieve contentment, inner peace and maybe enlightenment did a fly-by.

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  • it was contentious to say that religion played an important part in the development of morality in humans;

 

So without religion you are reasonably sure our sense of morality would have developed in exactly the same manner? And you base this on the fact there was at least one code of laws which predates most major religions?

 

 

  • I was not convinced that morality would have remained the province of either the sophists or the elite if it was not for religion...on the contrary, religion often claimed and reserved moral high ground for those representing the church and the monarchs

 

I'm not convinced of it myself, hence the conditional phrase 'i imagine...'. But the OP asks us to speculate, so i did. I haven't offered anything to back my speculation, but neither have you. But that's the nature of the subject - it's like speculating on what would happen if certain historical figures had not existed. We can guess, but we can't be as sure as you seem to be. Unless you do know some sources of evidence that can make us so sure - then please share.

 

  • I did not agree with your sweeping statement that morals became obvious to us as a result of religious people;

 

Can we agree morality is something humans create? Can we further agree morality is not static; it has changed with time? If so, then humans have been changing it, nothing else. Some of these people have been religious. Hopefully the issue of abortion will seem obvious to our progeny: if it does become so it will be because some people have thought long and hard about it. They may or not be religious - likely a bit of both.

 

By analogy, the development of science has relied on a few great people and lots of other people filling in the gaps. Why do you suppose morality is any different in this regard?

 

  • humanity never required religion in the first place...

 

Maybe, but our history became one with religions taking a roll in morality. Whether we today regard that morality as moral now is beside the point. People did, and many still do.

 

And maybe we can do without religion in the future - but how? It's not a trivial question, it might be one of the most important questions we ask.

 

  • Why the Bible (or other holy books) should not be seen as morally relevant today (of course religious followers think differently).

 

Just because we are Western and i assume we are most familiar with that holy book. It's funny i've become an Christian apologist when i agree with the implied thrust of this thread that monotheism was the worst idea humanity ever had. It's just that i don't think it nearly as black and white as it is sometimes caricatured. I agree with dimreepr in that we should not throw out the baby with the bath water.

 

 

 

I think it reasonably safe to assume that we would have been perfectly OK. You only have to look at what happened with indigenous tribes in various parts of the world who were unburdened by the influence of major religions until fairly recently (a few hundred years ago). Most of them managed to establish successful, sustainable and moral societies on their own...admittedly each with their own superstitions and the odd inter-tribal war over food, land or power. Regrettably most of them are worst off today as a result of foreign influences, including religion (Africa, for example. is a hot spot i.t.o. wars being fought between Islam controlled countries/tribes and Christian controlled ones).

 

Yeah, probably in the most general sense we would have been OK. Maybe even better, but who really knows how the dice would roll. Maybe our history would still be full of people and battles and events - just with different names. And we would still have had countries and atrocities and marvels - just different borders and places and reasons.

 

Maybe we would have developed an industrial economy thousands of years earlier and brought about a mass extinction event.

 

What tools do we have for determining which outcomes are most likely could we repeat the experiment?

 

Given this, we must have an external barometer... a 3rd party source of morality against which even the bible gets compared. The bible may supplement and inform morality for some, but calling it the source is remedially false.

 

Just in case this includes me: i'm not saying morality has a divine source. I'm not saying holy books don't have deprave moral standards in comparison to some of those we have today. I'm saying people have, and still do, look to these as sources of morality (even if the true source predates the religion) and so in our dialogue with such people, we need to be aware of such. Heck, Israel is still trying to draw borders based on a holy book - that holy book then must be relevant today, how can it not be part of the dialogue?

 

Is violence committed in the name of religion because of the religion, or the innate nature of man?

Is goodness committed in the name of religion because of the religion, or the innate nature of man?

 

All i ask is that we be consistent, and that we do not shrug off the 84% of humanity that is religious as irrelevant to the discourse on morality.

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Can you give the verses that show they did not understand the OT?

 

 

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." Matthew 5:17

 

Why would he need to say this if the people didn't think he was trying to abolish what came before? And what was he attempting to fulfill?

 

Let's not forget that this is a translation from a language embedded in a society we can't possibly fully understand.

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"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." Matthew 5:17

 

Why would he need to say this if the people didn't think he was trying to abolish what came before? And what was he attempting to fulfill?

 

Let's not forget that this is a translation from a language embedded in a society we can't possibly fully understand.

That does not say anything concerning the understanding of the OT...That's about understanding Jesus. In the NT, Jesus referred several times to the OT and agreed with it, it's the word of God.

If you throw away the old testament then you are debunking Jesus.

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