Terrible essay on religion or lack of it

There are terrible essays, then there is this by J Maren. He says in an interview with a Ferguson, he (Ferguson) said atheism is a religious faith that he was brought up in. He went on to say it is as much a faith as Christianity or Islam. And finished by making the observation that

atheism, particularly in its militant forms, is really a very dangerous metaphysical framework for a society

And at this point, I have questions. Creeds such as Christianity or Islam have books, or tenets of beliefs, they often have founders and a lot of other requirements. Now what could be the similarities between atheism and Islam or Judaism? How, in its militant form, whatever that means, is it a danger to society? Do they kill believers?

What else had Ferguson to say?

I know I can’t achieve religious faith,” he went on, “but I do think we should go to church. We don’t have, I don’t think, an evolved ethical system. I don’t buy the idea that evolution alone gets us to be moral. It can modify behavior, but there’s just too much evidence that in the raw, when the constraints of civilization fall away, we behave in the most savage way to one another. I’m a big believer that with the inherited wisdom of a two-millennia old religion, we’ve got a pretty good framework to work with.

This is interesting. For thousands of years, our loving and merciful father forgot about his creation. Left men without a religion. Without morals and remembered to send this information much later and topped it up with a suicide or is it a deicide.

If Maren is right, we must believe that before Christianity there was no forgiveness. Maren tells us, in part

What we do know is that he thought Christianity was in many ways the soul of Western civilization, and that the uniquely Christian concept of forgiveness was utterly indispensable to its survival.

I don’t know about you, but I know I am have not

My fear is that the Church is not doing what so many of us on the outside want it to do, which is preaching its gospel, asserting its truths and its claims

wanted the church to do anything except that believers keep their faith private.

Maren then tells of an interview with D MUrray who

believes that Christianity is essential because secularists have been thus far totally incapable of creating an ethic of equality that matches the concept that all human beings are created in the image of God

Which is interesting from where I stand. It appears there has been a difference between belief and practice. But the less said about this the better. Reminds me of when Haitians revolted following the French declaration of Freedom, Liberty and Fraternity, there were locked in a revolt with the French for 12 years until the defeat of Napoleon’s army.

In his conclusion, Maren writes that the west and Christianity are tied at the hip. The west will not long survive without Christianity. The sooner you all start joining the church nearest to you, the longer the western civilization will last. It is all up to you.

Or maybe I am wrong.

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?

on moral philosophy

My ancestors didn’t leave behind a codified form of moral philosophy that we can quote like those works of individual philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and others I am too lazy to mention. But reading this article, it does seem to me that my ancestors were right. Sometimes I ask how could a few white men colonize my relatives? I think the grand parents owe us an explanation and an apology.

Happy week everyone

Unbelievable? Chapter 3

On human value.

Justin argues we cannot value human life unless we imagine a god to have gave us life. To this he says the fact that Jesus died for us means our lives are really valuable. There are other several claims on objective morals. Or that atheists have no grounding for their morals or that we are moral because of the Judeo-Christian god or some similar argument. His response to the objection raised in the Euthyphro Dilemma is that god is good, so all its commands are good.

My objections to this chapter.

One, there are societies and have been societies where people have lived moral lives without the Judeo-Christian god. In fact, as I have pointed out in other posts, in most of African societies, morality or right conduct had nothing to do with the gods but how to live together. It is an insult to humanity to claim that a god who showed up somewhere in the middle East not so long ago is the supreme lawgiver.

I am a Jesus skeptic. And vivacious redemption is abhorrent.

Are there universal objective morals? Can they explained by positing our evolutionary past and communal living or do we need to posit an agent elsewhere as the source of our laws?

His objection to the Euthyphro Dilemma is premature. The being of a god is in question. It’s nature is another matter.

Do other species matter? Should they count?

Let us reflect on the thoughts of d’Holdbach when he writes

it is unnecessary to tell me that we degrade man when we compare him with the beasts, deprived of souls and intelligence; this is no leveling doctrine, but one which places him exactly where nature places him, but from which his puerile vanity has unfortunately driven him. All beings are equal; under various and different forms they act differently; they are governed in their appetites and passions by laws which are invariably the same for all of the same species; everything which is composed of parts will be dissolved; every thing which has life must part with it at death; all men are equally compelled to submit to this fate; they are equal at death, although during life their power, their talents and especially their virtues, established a marked difference,  which, though real, is only momentary.

On the possibility of moral progress

Odera Oruka notes

….in matters of morals, man appears to be several centuries behind scientific and technological progress, in spite of the fact that great religions such as Christianity and Islam have existed since antiquity. The lag in moral progress must partly be blamed on these religions. Perhaps if in their place we had had the systems more oriented to earthly and worldly progress right from the beginning, the world would have been more positively different.

Sex, morals and religion- an odyssey

We continue with our summaries of the book by Bethwell A. Ogot, History as destiny and history as knowledge. This is possible, to a great extent, because the chapters stand alone and can be treated individually.

A man revered by Kenyans generally but Catholics specifically, Cardinal Maurice Otunga, in 1998 termed calls for gender equality unchristian, ruled out the ordination of women as priests terming this ungodly and to crown it all, led a group of catholic faithful in burning condoms and books on AIDS prevention, and family life education.

The author tells us, starting with the ancient Chinese civilization, the basic form of marriage was polygamy. A married man, besides his wives, would seek entertainment in the company of ‘singing girls’. The grounds for divorce were; disobedience to parents’ in-law, having no son, adultery, jealousy of the husband’s other wives, leprosy, thieving and talkativeness. However, a wife who had no family to go back to wouldn’t be divorced or if, having married her when he was poor, he had become rich.

Starting in 8th Century BCE India, the gods were no longer important. Hinduism and Buddhism sought new ways to transcend the gods, to go beyond them. The Buddha appearing in 538 BCE taught that the only thing that was important was the good life. To the Indian, platonic love was inconceivable. To them, Bethwell notes, love, if it existed, had to be consummated. Those who renounced love had to do so utterly and completely. He notes the Kama Sutra, a manual of etiquette, dealing entirely with eros still has some application today.

Moving to Japan, the author notes the attitude towards sex, marriage, chastity, adultery is more concerned with etiquette and manners than with religious beliefs or tenets. To them, he writes, sex is considered a minor matter but something good, part of the general human feelings which cannot be evil and subject to moralizing. The real aim of marriage in Japanese society is the procreation of children and thereby to ensure the continuity of family life. He adds any purpose other than this simply serve to pervert the true meaning of marriage.

Turning our gaze to Africa, we find in Egypt, a religion that was a fertility cult, with the earth as the female element and the sun as the male and their union beget life. Monogamy was the general rule. The position of the woman was exalted. Her security guaranteed be legal provision that a father could reclaim his daughter if his son in-law insulted, injured or humiliated her and demand return of the dowry.

Elsewhere in the Tigris and Euphrates Valley, arose the Babylonian civilization. They bequeathed humanity with the Hammurabi code which had a strong and direct influence upon Mosaic law, though it was considered more liberal and humane.

From here, we see the birthing of monotheism in Palestine with their god which they argued transcended gender but would remain essentially male and with it the demotion of the women. In Judaism therefore, women were not required, and therefore not permitted to become rabbis, to study Torah and to pray in the synagogue. To their credit, however, it could be sinful to avoid such pleasures as wine or sex, since they had been provided for man’s enjoyment. We must however note their obsession with female virginity and almost pathological fear that illegitimate children might be smuggled into a family, which saw them promulgate a law

A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the lord.

Christianity through the works of Paul, its architect, Augustine of Hippo, Tertullian and contrary to other religions looked at already, regarded sexual relations outside marriage as a grave sin. Total abstinence was considered a nobler state than marriage. Gregory the great declared it was the lust of our parents’ flesh that was the cause of our being and to this extent, human existence was itself sinful. To Augustine, the originator of the doctrine of original sin, god had condemned humanity to eternal damnation simply because of Adam’s one sin. To Augustine, we owe the heritage of a religion that teaches men and women to regard their humanity as chronically flawed. Augustine writing to a friend wrote

What is the difference, whether it is a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any women?

Augustine was clearly puzzled that god would have made the female sex, after all,

If it was good company and conversation that Adam needed, it would have been much better arranged to have two men together as friends, not a man and woman.

Tertullian, writing before Augustine had already instigated women as evil temptress and eternal danger to mankind. He wrote

Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of god on this sex of yours lives in this age; the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway, you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law; you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You so carelessly destroyed man, god’s image. On account of your desert, even the son of god had to die.

In 1059, Pope Leo IX formally insisted on the chastity of all priests. During the reformation and counter reformation, the celibacy question arose. Melanchthon preached against celibacy, Zwingli married at 40 being the first priest of RCC to dare do so in five centuries and Martin Luther married a nun. The Anglican church arising from the King’s lust for a lovely damsel, in this view, was conceived in sin.

Contemporary works on sex can be seen in the works of Kant who argued there is no way in which a human being can be made an object of indulgence of another except through sexual impulse. The conclusions from the work of Paul Fleischmann is that the substitution of sexuality for religious life constitutes one of the most prominent and pervasive elements of cultural pathology. The works of Freud are also important, at least, to the extent that he laid the groundwork for the liberation of the sexual aspirations of women from both an oppressive personal sense of guilt and the shame and humiliation of social stigmatization.

Of most recent publication that has had a great bearing on sex, morality and religion is the Kinsey Report in the late 1940s. Of the many conclusions, two are of interest to us

  1. The complete failure of orthodox morality- in spite of religion, moral philosophy, the influence of schools, church, mosque, temple and social conventions, it is obvious that human beings obey their sexual instincts to a far greater extent than the most pessimistic puritans ever hinted at. They noted that sex could not b sublimated. Fear of punishment or exposure made little difference to a person’s sexual activities.
  2. The rules of self-conduct were invariably influenced by personalities of those who set up the rules. The report shows, indirectly, that practically all the popular conceptions of sex morality are ill founded, hence, moral judgements are dangerous because they are unavoidably personal.

In his conclusion, the author notes contemporary evidence shows a progressive shift in attitudes. In all societies throughout the world, the prize of the virgin in marriage has given way to sexual enjoyment on the part of both sexes before marriage.

His last paragraph, below, is almost a lament. He writes

Where does all this leave us in Africa? We abandoned our Old Testament for other peoples’ Old testament, Torah and Quran. Now that our mentors are abandoning their gods and their rights, we are blindly following them in their wastelands inhabited by hollow men and women. A catalogue of indecencies now stares us in the face, including nudity, transvestitism, prostitution, pre-marital sex, extra marital sex, rape, incest, homosexuality, lesbianism and other emerging unnatural mode of sex.

He finishes by asking a question

How do we obviate this sexual rot that is threatening to deplete the human race? Perhaps Africa need a Kinsey Report to analyse all the popular conceptions of sex, morality and religion, before we can pontificate ala Cardinal Otunga. Perhaps Africa needs its own sex manual, its own Kama Sutra. Perhaps Africa needs its own sex text books, from which ignorant teenagers can acquire basic biological facts.

On morality. Again

SB has a post about conversations but somehow it ended up being about morals.

The visiting fundamentalist asked

If morality is subjective, how do you condemn slavery as immoral?

This question asked by a fellow who believes the bible should be used as a moral code reeks of high irony. Or is it sarcasm. I can’t tell which.

In different ages, society has condemned slavery in many of its myriad forms because of the belief that all human beings deserve equal treatment before the law. In that period of time, who is worthy of the consideration of being human has changed too.

And what does it even mean to say that subjective morality is inconsistent? Maybe the question to ask is what is morality? I think that’s the source of all confusion.