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Morality, in the strictest sense of the word, deals with that which is innately regarded as right or wrong. The term is often used to refer to a system of principles and judgments shared by cultural, religious, and philosophical concepts and beliefs, by which humans subjectively determine whether given actions are right or wrong


It seems, and maybe I'm off base, but whenever we delve into certain issues and there is a moral perspective anything or anyone who looks at it from a religious perspective is harshly challenged.

So let's say for a moment that we all agree there is no higher power and we have no organized religion. I get the impression that there are those that think society and the world would be better off without them.

How does a society or culture deal with the issue of morals? Who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong? The government? Do we vote on it?
_______________________ "Morality cannot be legislated but behaviour can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart but they can restrain the heartless." Martin Luther King.
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I don't necessarily disagree with a "religious perspective". I consider myself to be a very religious person and probably live my life with a stricter code of ethics than many people who are "traditionally religious".

Where I disagree with the "religious" is when they fail to understand firstly that their point of view is not even the only "religious point of view" possible. I mean by this that, across the world, there are many ideas about the nature of God, what God wants, and about morality. And secondly when they attempt to take what I believe is a very limited idea of religion and then go on to derive from it a very authoritarian concept of morality and law which they seek to impose on everyone else.

I do NOT believe the world would be better off without religion. I DO believe that it would be better of without a certain type of religion - a type which can be found across faiths by the way (Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, etc.).
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quote:
Originally posted by MidLifeMan:
How does a society or culture deal with the issue of morals? Who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong? The government? Do we vote on it?


But even apart from the considerations of my previous post, observe how people ACTUALLY implement morality. Do they necessarily behave as scriptures say even though they may accept the authority of a particular scripture??? No. If this were common place, the world would be full of Christians that love their enemies and they'd be loving them instead of trying to drop bombs on them.

People's basic concepts of morality do NOT come from religion. It seems they more likely come from societal norms. Societal norms win out even with a strong religious sensibility. This is how you get Bible thumpers who believe in Capital punishment and swear by the right to bear arms. It doesn't matter that New Testament Christianity is a peace and forgiveness religion. Their social norms justify revenge.

In my view, we learn morality the same way we learn language: At our mother's knee so to speak. We behave morally as those around us behave. Morality, as normally practiced, is not a matter of belief so much as a matter of socialization.

Think about it: the paradox of a Christian society that not only owned slaves but who felt justified degrading them: rape, murder, mutilation, etc. Or a Christian society that authorized Crusades and Pogroms. Etc.

The point? If one actually looks at history, right and wrong (as manifested in social/cultural practice) have almost never been ultimately decided by religion. So the reactionary claim that if we forget religion then right and wrong go out the window is unfounded. In fact many of the people who say this thought it was ok to lynch black folk just a generation ago.
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In a way I suppose we vote on it. The way it has normally been done without recourse to a theism is to appeal to some idea of "happiness." What that happiness is is different for different philosophers. Kant was quite "moral" in looking for what he thought was the "highest" and most noble of morality, Plato did the same thing long before, Schopenhauer thought that the relief of pain was the proper point of morality, following in a very different way the basic concepts of Epicurus. Neitzsche was a moralist of power, saying in effect a virtual opposite of Kant: "If you can, you must."

This is all very sketchy and oversimplified, but I would conclude that it seems that a philosopher formulates a concept of morality, and then the rest of us decide whether that morality is true or good. So it would seem that, absent a god, we vote. It all seems to be votes on the pursuit of happiness, but a vote it appears to be. It would explain the Swedish acceptance of a very high tax rate and the American fight for low taxes, Nazism and libertarianism, all of which are argued as moralities, and then joined or not.
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:
I do NOT believe the world would be better off without religion. I DO believe that it would be better of without a certain type of religion - a type which can be found across faiths by the way (Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, etc.).


A few words on the type of religion I'm talking about:

I find highly problematic any religion which considers God's "nature" and "will" once and for all revealed in an unchanging religious text - settled and unquestionable.

Why is it absurd to believe religion can evolve? That our understanding of God can evolve? Why is it the case that St. Paul's ideas about Divinity are superior to Immanuel Kant's?

Think about if in St. Paul's time, people had that attitude. Hey, Paul, who do you think you are? Claiming to write new scripture? Are you crazy? God forgives everyone? Are you nuts? Everyone can be a child of God? This is soooo different from our old tried and true beliefs! It can't be true! We don't have to follow the Mosaic Law? We don't get to stone to death women taken in adultery? Paul, who are you to make up a new morality?

I.e., this was an instance in which religion evolved in a way that matched humanity's evolving consciousness of Divinity.
HB,

You're a bit off topic. MLM didn't ask what role religion should or shouldn't have in this, nor is he asking about our views on religion. He asks what the process of structuring morality would be if there were no God:

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So let's say for a moment that we all agree there is no higher power and we have no organized religion. I get the impression that there are those that think society and the world would be better off without them.

How does a society or culture deal with the issue of morals? Who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong? The government? Do we vote on it?
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quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:
You're a bit off topic. MLM didn't ask what role religion should or shouldn't have in this, nor is he asking about our views on religion. He asks what the process of structuring morality would be if there were no God:


I'm not off topic at all. Because in order to address the question in an intelligent fashion you need to start with being explicit about which concept of God and religion is being used. Melesi, I refuse to have this discussion taking as granted YOUR idea of God. Hence I felt the need to expand on this point.

Furthermore, he seems to be asking the question in this particular form because he thinks that those of us who are opposed to much traditional religion are opposed to religion altogether.

So the question gets asked that way because of his starting assumption (one traditional idea of God or no God at all) which happens to be erroneous. I reject that particular dichotomy of thought.
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"Furthermore, he seems to be asking the question in this particular form because he thinks that those of us who are opposed to much traditional religion are opposed to religion altogether.

So the question gets asked that way because of his starting assumption (one traditional idea of God or no God at all) which happens to be erroneous."
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Ask him if that is indeed the case. You assume that he makes that assumption. I do not think he does. The only one who can answer that is MidLifeMan. Ask him.
This is what he wrote

quote:
Originally posted by MidLifeMan:
It seems, and maybe I'm off base, but whenever we delve into certain issues and there is a moral perspective anything or anyone who looks at it from a religious perspective is harshly challenged.

So let's say for a moment that we all agree there is no higher power and we have no organized religion. I get the impression that there are those that think society and the world would be better off without them.

How does a society or culture deal with the issue of morals? Who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong? The government? Do we vote on it?


and by "religious perspective" I'm assuming he means an Exclusivist Christian perspective. Then he immediately juxtaposes this to the position that there is no God.

And the question is asked on this basis. But OK.

Let's ask him...

MidLifeMan, what do you think of the discussion so far? Have I strayed too far from your question?
No matter because my original answer to the question

quote:

How does a society or culture deal with the issue of morals? Who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong? The government? Do we vote on it?


still stands. If religion is thrown out, right and wrong are decided the same way they've always been decided. Because religion has almost never been the deciding factor in these issues to begin with. And I'm speaking in the practical realm and not the realm of ideas/moral discourse.
I'm going with Melesi view that we would eventually have an entity, whether it be a philospher or a group of philosophers, that we use as authorities on morality. We would eventually create factions, and follow the philosopher that better suits our needs. We would develop our own political practices, traditions, and superstitions, and eventually end up with... You guessed it a RELIGION.
I think "Morality" is a relative construct created by humans. There is a right way and a wrong way to do anything depending on the situation. Call anything "absolute", and I'll give you examples of how it isn't (ABSOLUTE MEANS IT CAN'T BE BENT EVEN ONCE, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE).


Ultimately, whether something is "moral" or "ethical" depends on the situation, and it depends on the culture (although there are some morals and ethics that transcend culture, such as the generally understood concept that unjustified killing is wrong).

"Right" and "Wrong" are adjectives, not nouns. What determines right and wrong are situations. That's just a fact of Life. It has nothing to do with any "entity" or "person" creating it. It's just a fact, a principle of the Universe.
In these 'situations'... who 'decides' what's right or wrong. I think you approach right and wrong as if it is scientific. O.k. on one hand you say it's an adjective. On the other you say it depends on the situation. You then approach right and wrong as if it's a science, with universal facts, and principles. I get the impression that you approach right and wrong as if it's 'common' sense. Well... I don't see anything 'common' about culture.

Or maybe we're assuming that there is no culture without religion. Maybe, without 'religion' we will all come to the same universal conclusions about how to approach certain 'situations' in the 'right' way.
quote:
Originally posted by HeruStar:
I'm going with Melesi view that we would eventually have an entity, whether it be a philospher or a group of philosophers, that we use as authorities on morality. We would eventually create factions, and follow the philosopher that better suits our needs.


If the deciding factor of which philosopher to follow is ultimately defined by "our needs", why would people even bother to seek out any philosopher to follow???? They don't need a philosopher to tell them what their needs are. Do they?

And isn't this precisely what many so called "religious" people do with scriptures???

Namely, why is it that so many Christians emphasize the handful of verses (6 or 7 total) in the Bible dealing with homosexuality at the expense of the several hundred verses dealing with the poor and vulnerable??

Maybe it's because the mere handful of verses against homosexuality mesh better with their pre-existing prejudice. I.e., those few verses better suit their needs?
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quote:
MidLifeMan, what do you think of the discussion so far? Have I strayed too far from your question?


Interesting and informative.

quote:
I'm not off topic at all. Because in order to address the question in an intelligent fashion you need to start with being explicit about which concept of God and religion is being used


I agree with this. I don't mind if the conversation goes off topic. I think it can add to the topic and broaden our thinking fro

quote:
I'm assuming he means an Exclusivist Christian perspective


I probably was looking at in this manner. I feel that when the "religious" perspective is a "Christian" perspective that it is met with MORE resistence. I think because of the focal issue and problem they have with Christians and that Christians believe that "we have it all figured out and are the ONLY way to God"

quote:
Where I disagree with the "religious" is when they fail to understand firstly that their point of view is not even the only "religious point of view" possible.
quote:
Originally posted by MidLifeMan:

I get the impression that there are those that think society and the world would be better off without them.


There is certainly nothing inherently or intrinsically wrong with religion, but aside from all of the positive things that it does, it has also been one of the most destructive institutions on Earth. I think I read that more people have lost their lives to religous-based war than any other type of war. For whatever reason, religion can have the tendency to devolve to be more about power and greed than about salvation. When that happens, the worst of man comes out.

Morality and spirituality are wonderful transcendent things. Neither must be tethered to religion, however, to guide humanity.
quote:
Who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong? The government? Do we vote on it?


Who decides things now? The political process is driven by popular opinion. Popular opinion is driven by . . . the people, you and me.
quote:
Originally posted by MidLifeMan:
Morality, in the strictest sense of the word, deals with that which is innately regarded as right or wrong. The term is often used to refer to a system of principles and judgments shared by cultural, religious, and philosophical concepts and beliefs, by which humans subjectively determine whether given actions are right or wrong


It seems, and maybe I'm off base, but whenever we delve into certain issues and there is a moral perspective anything or anyone who looks at it from a religious perspective is harshly challenged.

So let's say for a moment that we all agree there is no higher power and we have no organized religion. I get the impression that there are those that think society and the world would be better off without them.

How does a society or culture deal with the issue of morals? Who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong? The government? Do we vote on it?

I am not sure if the people who put forward a religious position are challenged more or not. I am a person of faith as well as one who likes to challenge others as well as my own assumptions. I agree with Socrates, "an unexamined life is not worth living."

There are any number of naturalist theories with respect to the development of moral and ethical systems, indeed, they are the standard fair of cultural and philosophical anthropologists. They basically boil down to a kind of evolve over millennia with the development of society. Probably in most cultures, they are closely tied to religion, if not synonymous too it.

I personally think that it is impossible for a society to function without morality, the challenge for our contemporary culture is how to accommodate such diversity of peoples and beliefs. Diversity is not really a problem for archaic societies. They are intrinsically conservative, and have few qualms about eliminating the nonconformists (ostracize, exile, death).

I am personally a fan of the political late political theorist John Rawls. His theory of justice is brilliant. A major flaw, however, is that he does not recognize the power of religion. His theory is a rationalist one. But people, particularly in terms of religion and religious affections are not rational.


Unfortunately, there seems no way to adjudicate between parties that make claims to absolute, invariant truth.
HonestBrother,
Why is it always all about Christian bashing with you?

I'll give you another reason why I think it would be an entity separate of the soverign.

SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, or as I see it, 'separation of God/morality, from bureaucratic affairs. PEOPLE are intelligent enough to know that 'mob rule' and 'morality' don't hang out in the same circles.

Morality would merely be a 'consultant' in our political affairs. And that consultant would be a philosopher, or group of philosophers that are paid to read books for a minimum of eight hours a day, and THINK. Thinking is too cumbersome, and if we know anything about the soverign, we know that it loathes tedium. When would we have time to enjoy this entertainment that takes up most of our time?

When in time has a civilization ever had people in it that thought for themselves? When I say people I mean, a whole civilization coming together discussing issues, and voting on the 'right' or wrong way to approach 'situations'. We've always had, and always will have an authoritative figure (someone whom we believe 'specializes' in thinking) to aid us in making the right choices.
quote:
Originally posted by HeruStar:
In these 'situations'... who 'decides' what's right or wrong. I think you approach right and wrong as if it is scientific. O.k. on one hand you say it's an adjective. On the other you say it depends on the situation. You then approach right and wrong as if it's a science, with universal facts, and principles. I get the impression that you approach right and wrong as if it's 'common' sense. Well... I don't see anything 'common' about culture.

Or maybe we're assuming that there is no culture without religion. Maybe, without 'religion' we will all come to the same universal conclusions about how to approach certain 'situations' in the 'right' way.


I'm not saying that "right" and "wrong" are scientific. I'm saying that the "right" and "wrong" thing to do are decided by the situation by factors such as: what benefits the most people, or who is who deserves what.

For instance, it is normally wrong to kill. But, if someone pulls out a gun and is about to shoot your wife and children, it is "right" (or at least "okay") to kill him. If three people are about to fall over a cliff, and you can only save one, and two of the people are parents and the other is the child, it is most "right" to save the child. The parents have lived their lives in comparison to the child.
quote:
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, or as I see it, 'separation of God/morality, from bureaucratic affairs. PEOPLE are intelligent enough to know that 'mob rule' and 'morality' don't hang out in the same circles.


The problem is, how are we supposed to know that "morality" derives from "God"? What is "God"? How do you know? Do you have any scientific proof that it is YOUR "God" specifically?

This is why there is a seperation of Church and State.
quote:
Originally posted by HeruStar:
There are entities other than God that people recognize as authorities on morality.


Of course. The reason we can't legally use "God" as a standard is because God can't be proven, let alone what "God" is. Who says "It's" an entity? Who says it has a moral standard?

That's why we can't use "God" as a standard for law or ethics.
I think "right" and "wrong" is a matter of your being or essence (maybe the soul? Confused) knowing the difference.

For instance, why aren't the majority of us murderers or cannibals? There's definitely something in the human makeup that allows some of us in society to be able to do those things without remorse or regret. So why isn't that in most of us instead of very few? Is it because you go to jail for it? Or because somewhere, somehow you know it's wrong? It's not a "Christian" or "Muslim" or religious thing at all. There's just something that says that you shouldn't do it.

I think by instinct most of us know what's "bad" or "wrong" or not good for us or the people we love or raise. Having nudity and violence and other morality-driven content being splashed all over TVs and computers and telephones is not something that makes society, as a whole, better. Not to mention it makes our kids crazy as hell! Eek You just "know" it's not serving a positive purpose. It's not a "good" or "right" thing. IMO
quote:
Originally posted by EbonyRose:
I think "right" and "wrong" is a matter of your being or essence (maybe the soul? Confused) knowing the difference.

For instance, why aren't the majority of us murderers or cannibals? There's definitely something in the human makeup that allows some of us in society to be able to do those things without remorse or regret. So why isn't that in most of us instead of very few? Is it because you go to jail for it? Or because somewhere, somehow you know it's wrong? It's not a "Christian" or "Muslim" or religious thing at all. There's just something that says that you shouldn't do it.

I think by instinct most of us know what's "bad" or "wrong" or not good for us or the people we love or raise. Having nudity and violence and other morality-driven content being splashed all over TVs and computers and telephones is not something that makes society, as a whole, better. Not to mention it makes our kids crazy as hell! Eek You just "know" it's not serving a positive purpose. It's not a "good" or "right" thing. IMO

As Freud would say, I think that we civilization is basically about repression. I tend to doubt whether morality inheres in human beings. I think that we are formed and shaped by our social and cultural situation.

Take for example, your reference to nudity. For various reasons, this is a highly sexually charged society. This is not, however, a universal human phenomenon. We have all seen so-called primitives who do not view the body and nudity as sexually charges as in this culture. So public display of nudity is not intrinsically good or bad.
Random thoughts...

Seems like most know "morality"...know right versus wrong...from what they learn from religion...kids learn from their folks who learn from their folks who believe that GOD said..........

But if we take God out of it...

Then for us to have any sense of morality...to know its existence...it'd have to be innate...no teachers no Bibles no God nobody to TELL us...

We'd just KNOW.

And therefore we wouldn't so much need a rulemaker or a government to say what WAS right versus wrong...just to impose that which we'd already know...

Then leads me to choices...the majority of us KNOW what is right and wrong...but that doesn't stop us from doing that which we shouldn't...

Hmm.

Unless the will to do only right innately existed in all of us and according to alot of folks it doesn't (original sin and all that)...

Hmm.

Interesting indeed.
quote:
Originally posted by HeruStar:
HonestBrother,
Why is it always all about Christian bashing with you?


I wouldn't call what I do Christian bashing. I think of it as clearing space. Smile It's hard enough to be black. What I would love to be able to do is to enjoy being black among black people without dealing with a Christian hammerlock/stranglehold on black cultural, social, and intellectual life.

For example, I would love to be able to date a black woman without fearing that eventually she's going to absolutely insist I go to her Christian church and worship her Christian God. Anybody ever hear the words "If you can't love Jesus then you can't love me." I have.

I spent most of my life being respectful of Black Christianity. Even to the point of defending it because it was my grandmother's religion. But then I realized that Black Christianity was not sticking up for me. I realized that inspite of all I'd accomplished in my life, Black Christianity would choose criminals over me just as long as the criminals were willing to give lip service to Jesus.

In short, what I do is not Christian bashing. It's a form of self defense. By Loudly and Insistently proclaiming alternative ways of thinking and looking at things.

When black Christians stop making an already difficult life harder by pushing those of us who think differently EVEN FURTHER into the social margins, then I'll reconsider my approach. But I'm not going to sit idly by and passively watch the evangelists make my life harder.

My own personal view is that we as a people would be better served by having a diversity of religious view points - without the dominance of one and without the claims of exclusivity. The black struggle in this land is a long and hard one. I believe all the energy spent trying to "save" everybody (even to the point of sending missionaries to Africa) and arguing over the true way to heaven is a WASTE OF ENERGY AND RESOURCES BETTER SPENT DOING SOMETHING USEFUL. It's ALSO EXTRAORDINARILY AND UNNECESSARILY DIVISIVE AND WASTES HUMAN TALENT BY ALIENATING PEOPLE.
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quote:
Originally posted by HeruStar:
HonestBrother,
Why is it always all about Christian bashing with you?


From where I stand, it's not Christian bashing...It's RESISTANCE.

I will never cease to be amazed at how even though Christians are in the majority they have this INSANE persecution complex. Somebody's always out to get them.

Anyway what do you expect from me? Christians condemn everyone who disagrees with them to hell. If you want to insist that your beliefs are THAT special then don't be so surprised when you're singled out for special criticism by people who think otherwise.
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I will never cease to be amazed at how even though Christians are in the majority they have this INSANE persecution complex. Somebody's always out to get them
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"Never," "insane," "always," accusing all Christians of paranoia.

Even as you deny Christian-bashing, you bash Christians.
quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:
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I will never cease to be amazed at how even though Christians are in the majority they have this INSANE persecution complex. Somebody's always out to get them
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"Never," "insane," "always," accusing all Christians of paranoia.

Even as you deny Christian-bashing, you bash Christians.


So be it. I'm a Christian basher... idiot

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