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Old 11-08-2006, 10:53 AM   #1
celedine169
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Default Religion and ethics as competing values

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Originally Posted by Hugh Thompson
The Gay Science
By Hugh Thompson
November 08, 2006

It is so commonly assumed that there is a necessary connection between religion and morality that most of us hardly even notice when someone claims that renouncing the former explains the latter's absence.

More commonly, this claim is employed as an attack: How could someone who doesn't share "our" religious values be a moral person? Even if one is fairly comfortable with this sort of rhetorical cant, there are reasons why one might be wise to disagree with the going view.

The first is comparative. While it is common knowledge that those who view religion as the sole source of morality will disdain "secularism," it is also true that the same people usually abhor, equally, the religious views of those who follow other faiths.

The next time a preacher claims the secular world is a world without values, you might imagine, as I do, a hypothetical Imam of the Islamic faith, preaching to his flock a message so strikingly similar that it bears repeating: "How could those who aren't Islamic be moral? They are all blind puppets," he might continue, "of the Great Satan."

And, indeed, the Sharia law imposed by religious authorities in many "Islamic" nations is the embodiment of the idea that morality is determined by religion.

The second reason is empirical: It is simply not true that those who are not religious have diminished ethical sensibilities.

Just as importantly, hard statistical facts show that lack of religious belief is not correlated to the commission of crime. Take Norway, for instance - despite its anachronistic economic policies, it nonetheless is both the nation with one of the lowest incidences of church attendance and with one of the lowest crime rates (a disproportionate number of the violent crimes it does experience are committed by Islamic immigrants).

But what will fill the gap left by lack of religious belief? This is a trick question. Gods do not create moral truths. If gods or a God exist, then they or it would not arbitrarily choose things to be good and bad.

God would rather know the difference between good actions and bad actions and, were He the talkative type, tell it to us. To suppose that God could make an act moral or immoral by decree is to fundamentally misconstrue the concept of morality.

Certain acts are immoral because of physical facts about performing them and, because of that alone, we are able to reason about what makes things like torture, killing and theft normatively wrong. These acts share a common physical feature - they unjustifiably harm another's interests.

More importantly, we have exceptions to these rules, like self-defense. We do not condemn someone from defending his or her own life from an attacker, even if they must kill the attacker to do so. Any exception to a moral rule is also based on the physical circumstances attending to the act in question.

Thus, the importance of religion to figuring out what is normatively right and wrong vanishes. We do not of necessity need God to tell us what our own faculties make evident. We only need to understand the specifics of an act, namely, its context, and then we may proceed with moral philosophizing.

There is a further concern because sometimes, religious beliefs tell us that an act is wrong despite the absence of harm to others' interests. For instance, we are told, pre-marital sex is "immoral," even if it is consensual and responsible. Homosexual sex is another usual suspect. We are sometimes told that lying, even to save the Franks from the Nazis, may be wrong in spite of the extenuating circumstances.

It is instances like these that force me to conclude ethics and religion are often values in competition with each other. When the right thing to do is blocked by one's commitment to a dogma, religious or otherwise, one is not praiseworthy. One is blameworthy.

Any act rightly prohibited by faith is also prohibited by reason, and if someone cannot give reasons for his or her actions, one refuses to engage in moral deliberation at all. A more corrupt use of human faculties may never be discovered, and with all my heart I recommend against it.
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Old 11-08-2006, 11:08 AM   #2
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Once again as I have stated... morality is often misused. Religious beliefs and moral beliefs are two different normative systems. Morals are actually based on reason, while religious norms are based on a relationship with a diety. People who claim that "morality" and "religion" are necessarily related are ignorant about what constitutes the two normative systems. There are some areas where the two systems overlap, but they do not entirely coincide. Morals are as far from religion as they both are from laws. Laws are another type of normative system.
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Old 11-08-2006, 11:09 AM   #3
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seperating our religion from the way we conduct ourselves it treading on dangerous ground IMO EC.......... I may be wrong but it's just how I feel about it.
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Old 11-08-2006, 01:29 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Axgar
seperating our religion from the way we conduct ourselves it treading on dangerous ground IMO EC.......... I may be wrong but it's just how I feel about it.
Not separating religion from morality ends up in literal transposition of scripture into legislation... in the case of the bible legalizing slavery, spouse abuse, religious persecution and human sacrifice. If you don't sponsor such practices yet hold the bible as your scripture, you already separate religion and morality.
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Old 11-08-2006, 03:29 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Axgar
seperating our religion from the way we conduct ourselves it treading on dangerous ground IMO EC.
I didn't say anything about seperating religion from how we conduct ourselves. I said that the two systems work on different justifications. Religion decidse what is "right" based ona relationship/decree of a deity. Morals decide what is "right" by a logical and consistant analysis of alternatives/intent/consequences (depending on the paradigm you adopt).

Most people use moral systems AND religious systems, I would be willing to bet. For example... On those issues of slavery... typically we reject the idea of slavery. Religiously, it seems that it might be considered jsutified, as God himself outlined rules for slavery... but you still reject it on moral grounds. Thsoe moral grounds could be based on a value of fairness... utility, self interest (egoism), justice, or a variety of other moral values playing in your moral framework. If you don't have any moral or religious problem with slavery.. then you still reject it becasue it is illegal... and the legal system is a seperate normative system to decide what is "okay".

So you can see... it's not that I am saying you should seperate your actions from your religion, it is that religion and morality ARE two seperate issues, that most people ignorantly lump together. Religion does not offer a "moral" benefit... it offers a "righteous" benefit. This is why it is so absurd when religious figures claim they have any kind of moral authority, or that non-religious,secular, or other religions have no/less moral intergrity. It makes no sense. In fact, the opposite is true. I would imagine, that when the two come into conflict, a religious person is MORE likely to do the religiously correct thing rather than a morally correct thing. That is, they would be more likely to do something for the reason that "because God says so" regardless of the logical and quantifiable consequences.

I am a pragmatic egoist. I consider things as they practically apply to me. That is why on the issue of gay rights, I am pro-rights. Why? I beleive a system that disallows rights to adult citizens when allowing those rights offers no quantifiable harm to society is morally wrong. I believe it is nothing more than the majority bullying a minority. I don't like that, because I know that if I ever find myself in a minority with an unpopular belief/idea that doesn't hurt anyone, I can be sanctioned simply because it is unpopular... and even worse for arbitrary reasons. It also takes away my right to marry a woman. Sure I don't want to, but I see no reason why I shouldn't have the right if I wanted to. Like dancing around in my living room in my underwear... sure I don't do that or really want to... but I would be mad if someone tried passing a law saying I couldn't do it... it doesn't hurt anyone! I think that would be undesireable and therefor morally wrong to do to someone else.

The whole "Do unto others as you would have done unto you"... that's sort of a good example of a simple moral code... and I wouldn't want to be persecuted/sanctioned/degraded/harassed/berated/ or made fun of, simply because I was in an unpopular minority... one that really doesn't hurt anything.- that's also where Rheaton and I disagree on gays, usually. I don't have a problem with his religious objections... I have a problem with the WAY he objects (rudely), and with his lame attempts at claiming it causes harm, which always end up in a insane mess.
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Old 11-09-2006, 05:44 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by EC
Like dancing around in my living room in my underwear... sure I don't do that or really want to
Sure you don't.

...can I have pics?
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Old 11-09-2006, 06:56 AM   #7
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No, actually I just saw a preview for Risky Business on TV... so I was actually thinking of Tom Cruise dancing in his.... such a shame... that was the first and only time I thought he was cute... now he is a freaky mess.
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Old 11-09-2006, 07:29 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Everclear
No, actually I just saw a preview for Risky Business on TV... so I was actually thinking of Tom Cruise dancing in his.... such a shame... that was the first and only time I thought he was cute... now he is a freaky mess.
and that's while dancing on a couch with his clothes on.
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Old 11-09-2006, 09:50 AM   #9
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"The Moral Majority"
That term was invented by religious zealots who wished to capitalize on the basic human desire to do good.
If they could convince people the only way to be good was to go to church and practice religious tenets then they had people hooked.
Its just that there has been a political push in our country over the last 25 years to portray morals as exclusive to religions. "Family Values" etc.
They don't own morality though. It exists in each of us. If it was their way, nobody would be any bit moral until they went to church and we know that's not true.
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Old 11-09-2006, 09:52 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Bumbles
It exists in each of us
Well.. there are immoral bastards out there... some religious, some secular, etc. Morality is not a religious issue as much as some would like to claim it is.
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Old 11-09-2006, 11:31 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by ec
No, actually I just saw a preview for Risky Business on TV... so I was actually thinking of Tom Cruise dancing in his.... such a shame... that was the first and only time I thought he was cute... now he is a freaky mess.
Now he dances around in a straight jacket.
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Old 11-09-2006, 03:52 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Heretic
Now he dances around in a straight jacket.
No no no... he just jumps up & down on Oprah's couch!
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Old 11-10-2006, 06:48 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Everclear
....- that's also where Rheaton and I disagree on gays, usually. I don't have a problem with his religious objections... I have a problem with the WAY he objects (rudely), and with his lame attempts at claiming it causes harm, which always end up in a insane mess.

Its a moral corruption that is damning to our culture. Not so much the actions that equate to homosexuality.. but the acceptance that it is a good thing.. That is what is damning and harmful.

There is no virtue in being gay. None at all.

There is no virtue in defending homosexuality. Period.
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Old 11-10-2006, 08:24 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Rheaton
Its a moral corruption that is damning to our culture.
And on what moral grounds do you make that claim? I am not saying it is not a claim that can legitimately be made on moral grounds... but since you specifically said "moral", I wonder what moral system you use to reach that conclusion... because morality has been defined to be based on logic, it would be a more interesting debate than the religious judgement.
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Old 11-10-2006, 09:08 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Everclear
And on what moral grounds do you make that claim? I am not saying it is not a claim that can legitimately be made on moral grounds... but since you specifically said "moral", I wonder what moral system you use to reach that conclusion... because morality has been defined to be based on logic, it would be a more interesting debate than the religious judgement.

The same natural reflex that would tell me that an old man making it with a little girl is wrong. The same reflect that tells me that a mother and son is wrong. The same reflex that convicts and bares witness that "something wrong" is taking place.

Aside from "fairness", which is a moral value and good virtue, how can you so passively overlook that moral bankruptcies and depravity involved in acceptance based ON being "nice and fair"?
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Old 11-10-2006, 09:20 PM   #16
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Where's the virtue in being straight or defending heterosexuality?
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Old 11-10-2006, 11:35 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Rheaton
The same natural reflex that would tell me that an old man making it with a little girl is wrong. The same reflect that tells me that a mother and son is wrong. The same reflex that convicts and bares witness that "something wrong" is taking place.
Emotional responses are not morals. Morals are logical and rational systems.

"Natural reflexes" vary by person and can include such things as hitting a person coming at you, when they were simply giving you a hug.

Originally Posted by Rheaton
Aside from "fairness", which is a moral value and good virtue, how can you so passively overlook that moral bankruptcies and depravity involved in acceptance based ON being "nice and fair"?
Honestly, I'm not a big fan of "fairness" or "niceness" I think they are nice characteristics, but not sufficient moral values.

My personal moral system uses the criterion of practical egoism (how would it affect me), and justice.

Taken together, I have to consider "How does the gay issue affect me, and what is the just response?". Immediately there are no implications for me.. so I could write it off.... however it violates my sense of justice. Why?

1. As I have explained, I don't believe there is any quantifiable harm that is done by gays or gays getting married. So I see no reason to restrict thier rights

2. If restricting rights of an unpopular minority is considered "acceptable" then I could quickly find myself in trouble if I have an unpopular opinion or belief, and be denied rights and/or justice

3. The general ability of a majority dictating the rights of a minority without adequate justification (at least some quantifiable harm) is not a just action. It is an arbitrary action, and a majority dictating the role of a minority for arbitrary reasons is a tyranny and violates justice, imo.

So, that is why I believe legislating this discrimination is immoral. I can can also point out a negative aspect of this activity (acceptance of arbitrary discrimination, rights of a minority being dictated by an unsympathetic majority) that not only CAN cause social problems but HAVE caused social problems in the past. (different issues, but same attitudes about values).
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Old 11-11-2006, 12:39 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by rheaton
There is no virtue in being gay. None at all.
Wheres the virtue in not being gay?


Originally Posted by rheaton
There is no virtue in defending homosexuality. Period.
Defending any minority from discrimination is very virtuous.


Originally Posted by rheaton
The same natural reflex that would tell me that an old man making it with a little girl is wrong. The same reflect that tells me that a mother and son is wrong. The same reflex that convicts and bares witness that "something wrong" is taking place.
Sometimes its a natural reflex to want to kill someone who has wronged you. Isn't it wrong to go through with that reflex? Most people will have the reflex of being uneasy around strangers. Does that mean the strangers are always out to get them?

All your 'reflex' means is that you wouldn't do what the other people are doing. Guess what...just don't do it. Leave the others be as long as they aren't hurting anyone.
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Old 11-11-2006, 08:07 AM   #19
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The only people out to get you are the ones that have money........ according to you hard workers are assholes that have to much money but by God if your gay you have rights........ hypocrite
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Old 11-11-2006, 11:16 AM   #20
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You could also point out that gays are just acting on thier "reflex" also...what makes your reflex preferable to thiers? This is why morals is based on logic and reason. Your reflex might be preferable... but you have to offer a logical justification of why yours is preferable. Jsut becasue they are in a minority does not mean thier reflex is unnatural, I have seen no indication of "unnatural" influence at work creating this situation... it is not the side effect or induced state by manufactured drugs, afaik.... and has been a consistant part of human developement (~10 percent rule)... so seems to me to be a naturally occurring minority group. Kinf of like babies born with an extended spine that looks like a tail... sure some primitive people would call it "unnatural" or "demonic" or something equally absurd... but we know now that it is quite a naturally occurring situation, even if in the minority of babies.
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Old 11-11-2006, 12:11 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Rheaton
The same natural reflex that would tell me that an old man making it with a little girl is wrong. The same reflect that tells me that a mother and son is wrong. The same reflex that convicts and bares witness that "something wrong" is taking place.
You mean like the same natural reflex some people have which is to be disgusted when a black person sits down next to them?

Yeah, we should always follow those natural reflexes which are never wrong or guided by bigotry.

And I don't know about you, but when I watch two girls making out my natural reflex is to be turned on. Is your natural reflex different? That's fine. But it just shows "natural reflexes" are different; so trying to claim some moral superiority based on natural intuitions is illogical.

Furthermore, all of these "natural reflexes" you speak of are learned by your upbringing and society, or made by personal choice.
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Old 11-11-2006, 12:23 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Tuan
Furthermore, all of these "natural reflexes" you speak of are learned by your upbringing and society, or made by personal choice.
God, don't let Heretic catch you saying that.
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Old 11-11-2006, 01:15 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Rheaton
... but the acceptance that it is a good thing.. That is what is damning and harmful.
Therefore acceptance of tolerance of others is bad. As an extension to your logic, since Jesus said "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", that means that we should have no tolerance for you.

WB Rheaton btw, how you been?
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Old 11-11-2006, 04:06 PM   #24
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Tolerance and acceptance are two different things.
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Old 11-11-2006, 04:07 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Axgar
Tolerance and acceptance are two different things.
The lack of either produces the same effect.
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