Is it really the case that our laws

Laws and customs having the effect of law in our days can be traced directly to some powerful organized church or churches? That even in the US where they have an amendment separating church and state, the churches managed to have placed on the statutes the individual church’s code of moral taboos.

In his novel, For us, the living, Robert Heinlein writes and I quote

All forms of organized religion are alike in certain social respects. Each claims to be the sole custodian of the essential truth. Each claims to speak with final authority on all ethical questions. And every church has requested, demanded, or ordered the state to enforce its particular system of taboos. No church ever withdraws its claims to control absolutely by divine right the moral life of the citizens.

Robert A. Heinlein, For us, the Living

Such laws include but are not limited to tax exemption for church property, practically all laws pertaining to marriage and the relations between the sexes (laws against polygamy, adultery, birth control and others), censorship laws, laws prohibiting alocohol use, cigarettes.

In his book Genealogy of morals, Nietzsche makes the same argument and calls for a re-evaluation of morals. The difficulty I see is that after a while, these laws begin to have the form of common sense and thus their religious beginnings become obscured.

Do you agree or am i missing something?

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

9 thoughts on “Is it really the case that our laws

  1. Barry says:

    I disagree with Heinlein’s claims especially as he makes no exceptions. For example, my own faith community places one’s personal convictions over and above all forms of authority – either civil or religious. And in this country many of his claims would not apply to other religious communities either.

    However, what I want to touch on is your comment “em>The difficulty I see is that after a while, these laws begin to have the form of common sense and thus their religious beginnings become obscured.” I wonder if perhaps you might have this back to front?

    I suspect that many rules and taboos were originally “common sense” based on knowledge at the time, and religion was simply one powerful tool that could be used by those in authority to enforce the rules. Saying it’s God’s law was more likely to have more sway than saying it’s the chief’s or sharman’s rule. After all, it’s rather difficult to argue with an invisible deity. In time the actual reason for the rule being made in the first place is forgotten or no longer applies due to new knowledge. However God’s laws are eternal and unchangeable.

    And of course in many instances, and I’m thinking particularly of the ancient Hebrews, certain laws were established to make themselves distinct from other communities. Again by wrapping these up as eddicts from God means one is less likely to flout the rules.

    The problem with wrapping social rules in commandments from deities is the very reason why they were attributed to God in the first place: One cannot argue with a supreme authority whose laws are true for all eternity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      There was no law against polygamy, or against bang until the colonial administration & christian influence. I could find many instances where injunctions have as their source religion. But this might apply to our case only.

      But I agree with the greater point you make. That sometimes or many times the norms precede religion by eons. I have read the lawgiver(s) of ancient Greece like Solon would claim divide ordinance for their laws because people fear the gods.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barry says:

        I don’t doubt that many of the laws that now seem “natural” were imposed under colonial Christian influence, but then those same laws were usually imposed on non-Christian European cultures by the Roman Empire, which in turn adopted many Hebrew laws when Christianity became the official religion of the empire.

        In this country, prior to European settlement, Mฤori had very liberal attitudes (compared to European norms) to premarital sex and to the concepts of gender identity and sexual orientation, but faithfulness within a monogamous marriage seemed to be more strictly observed. Polygamy was rare but was
        occasionally practiced rangatira (those with chiefly status).

        And don’t forget that religions can sometimes inspire liberal concepts that can take decades to be accepted by the wider community. I’m thinking specifically my own faith tradition, for example “Towards a Quaker view of sex” which argued homesexuality was neither harmful nor sinful, but is simply part of the human sexual spectrum, and which was published some ten years before the medical profession came to the same conclusion, and some twenty years before homosexual acts ceased to be illegal.

        Then there’s thinkers such as Lloyd Geering who argue the Enlightenment of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and modern secular thought that evolved out of it, grew directly from liberal Christian thought of that period and would not have been possible without it. I’m not entirely convinced by the arguments supporting the idea, but there is certainly a great deal of truth in it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • makagutu says:

          I don’t find anything in your comments that I disagree with.
          It is to be noted that culture being adaptive, there is a cross- exchange of ideas and these include norms and modes of behaviour


  2. justcalmwildness says:

    Interesting perspective.. I wonder how this would apply in African perspective had we not be introduced to christianity


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