Tuesday, August 24, 2010

religion + morality

intelligent people who are also religious are a bit of a conundrum to me. and i'm going to speak very vaguely here for a bit so feel free to dismiss this all as vaporous bullshit if you want to.

but there seem to be some people out there who are brilliant, aware of the physical world, and willing to admit that god plays pretty much no part in it. he's not out actively influencing events or anything like that, actually answering the prayers of some sports team over another, and all that other stuff that doesnt make any sense. but, they believe in him anyway.

sometimes if you ask this kind of person why they believe, you'll get an answer about how they were raised in a given tradition, and how it played an important part for them at a young age in figuring out right from wrong.

for example, andrew sullivan (or whoever these guys are who blog for him when he's apparently otherwise occupied) has little post up: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/08/can.html

with an interview with some catholic rocker who says:
"I started really thinking about the role the church played in my own life, and the fact that even though I didn't believe every little bit of what the Pope thinks, there's a lot of beauty in the Catholic church and a lot of beauty in the teachings. Things like forgiveness and redemption, the Ten Commandments, it's hard to argue these as negative things."

now, these are supposed to be the kinds of opinions everyone should respect, because they sound so nice. the guy believes because the church, to him, means stuff like forgiveness and redemption. who doesnt like forgiveness and redemption?

but thats half-baked. because god, and the church, have nothing to do with forgiveness and redemption. they may teach about it, but they dont have anything to do with its existence or value. algebra doesnt exist or not exist because of your grade school math teacher - just because something happens to have been the source of insight or knowledge for you doesnt actually tie it to the truth or validity or correctness of that insight or knowledge.

god is either necessary for morality, or he isnt. thats true for everyone; you either think everyone needs god to be moral, or else it follows that no one needs god to be moral.

if you think god is necessary to be moral, then you think i'm immoral, since i dont believe in god. fuck you, i'm a good person. ok, i'm a pretty mediocre person. but there has been some person out there somewhere that you'll probably admit was both "good" and not of your faith.

so then if, on the other hand, you think people can be perfectly moral without god, or the church, then... why do you continue to believe in him/it? anyone can be perfectly moral with or without god/the church, so... why do we need god/the church? obviously, at least as far as morality goes, we dont.

why is this important? why not just let people have their good values (forgiveness and redemption are pretty great values, after all), and leave it be?

because the same though processes are used to justify some pretty loathsome shit. i mean, stoning for example.

you may say that i cant equate stoning and forgiving. but i can, if the exact same thought process is used to validate both actions. someone who only forgives because god tells them to is not much different from someone who only stones because god tells them to. both of these people are abdicating their responsibility to make the moral judgment for themselves.

which is why intelligent religious people confuse me, and why i'll often get sucked into tryingconvince them that they are, in fact, actually atheists who just havent owned up to it yet. and thats why i think its important for them to own up for it; because either religion is a valid source for moral decision making (in which case, stoning and forgiving are both equally good), or its not (in which case forgiving is still good, but stoning is pretty fucking awful).

its also interesting to watch these people go through mental gymnastics around the idiotic stuff the church believes that they dont while simultaneously defending the good parts of church doctrine. as if these actually were a package deal in the real world (as opposed to the one defined by the church). i get very confused about why they even bother.

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