September 12, 2007

Morality from Religion

I've still not made much of a dent into The God Delusion, but it has sparked lots of interesting thoughts. On my train ride home this evening, I was reading about what Dawkins refers to as the NOMA God, where NOMA stands for Non-Overlapping Magisteria. Never mind what that means exactly, it got me to thinking.

I've heard lots of people say something to the effect of "I don't really believe in God, but I do think that religions like Christianity do have something good to offer us in terms of ethics and morality. They teach people to love one another." Ignoring the fact that this is ridiculously untrue, something else struck me.

The metaphysical philosophy of religion involves mysticism and the supernatural. After my ranting earlier, I'm just going to assume for the sake of brevity that you agree that such ideas are so ridiculously primitive that they can't be considered anything but laughably idiotic.

The epistemology of religion involves faith. Faith is the opposite of rational thought. Remember when I was talking about certainty, probability, possibility and the arbitrary? Well, faith involves the arbitrary exclusively. If you have any evidence at all to believe something, then you don't need faith. So, faith is really for those things that are completely made up and/or utterly impossible. I don't have to point out how stupid THAT is.

Ok. I just wanted to recap the first two fundamental branches of philosophy to make sure we're all on the same page before we talk about ethics.

See, ethics is the branch of philosophy dealing with right and wrong and how people should behave in their lives. Your ethical philosophy is founded on your metaphysical and epistemological views.

This begs the question: if religion gets metaphysics and epistemology wrong, how can we trust it on ethics at all?

Now and then, a mystic will say something that makes a little bit of sense, like, "Baby Jesus doesn't like it when people steal" or "The Goddess frowns on pedophilia." I do agree that stealing and pedophilia are morally reprehensible, but I didn't come to that conclusion by babysitting for Mary, stinking up the place with burning sage, or whatever it is those people do to find out about this stuff. Since they used completely foolish means of coming to those conclusions, I think the most generous thing we can say is that they were right in those instances completely by accident.

You wouldn't trust your doctor to work his way through heart surgery by accident, so why would you entrust your lifetime of happiness to it?

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at September 12, 2007 09:03 PM | TrackBack
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