Why do religious people often insist that religion is what creates moral behavior?
As an agnostic/atheist who works hard to do the right thing every day I find this insulting and ridiculous. After all, if prayer and religious beliefs equaled morals there would be no controversy with priests molesting children for example. The fact of the matter is there are good atheists and evil religious folks. No one has a monopoly on either side. I get tired of hearing that atheism contributes to a lack of morality - in my experience it's been the opposite many times. We are all human and by NATURE have both good and bad inclinations. How does religion make one morally superior?
Another fantastic question! I definitely believe that morality has nothing to with religion. I believe that morality is a human condition that regardless of religious belief or disbelief, we all possess. It is unfair for religious folk to not only argue that morality is purely a characteristic given through religion, but also to use their religion to justify immoral behavior. And some use their religion to justify the oppression of individuals not holding the same beliefs. The entire institution of religion is frustrating!
I agree the institution has its frustrations for sure. I don't really have a problem with the religions, but some of the followers I certainly beg to differ with. Many religions teach great things, if only people actually emulated them lol.
I agree with you. It's the followers of the religions, not the religions themselves, that often create the conflicts.
I agree with your point of there being good atheist and evil religious people as far as the way they conduct themselves. I also believe everyone has conscious of moral behavior. As a Christian, I believe we were given that moral knowledge for a reason. It is was separates us from the animals. I do not think religion makes anyone better than anyone else. I do think however that my following of Christ has led me to become a morally aware person. This has nothing to do with religion. Every hostile encounter Jesus ever had was with a person of religious authority.
thank you, what a great and honest answer from the perspective of a religious person. I can respect this answer, and I like the example you gave of Jesus and hostile encounters from authority figures. I often viewed him as a gentle natured rebel
Religion first of all makes no behavior of any person people act the way they do all because of the way they want to..Man has a free will to do what is best or do what is wrong. People claim religion to allot of things and that is what is wrong today, we've seen how people kill and hurt children in schools with all these killing of innocent children and they blame it on religion. Religion is something man came up with not GOD! Man does what he want so he calls it religion. I don't follow religion I follow Jesus Christ and very Happy and pleased to do so and would not follow no one else but Him.
I think that religion is often used as a scapegoat, in a way. I mean, if simply "being" of a certain religion makes you morally superior to others, there's no real need to "actually" be morally aware, or hence to suffer the repercussions of immoral behavior. However, what's interesting is that the universe has its own laws, karma being the universal law of cause and effect. You won't be judged on what religion you were part of, but rather, how ethical you were to fellow souls--all souls--and how much spirit you put into making life better for others--all others.
With all due respect, I have been a Christian all of my life (and I have been living for nearly 70 years) and I have never heard anyone claim that "religion is what CREATES moral behavior."
Furthermore, when it comes to Christianity, the vast majority of the people who follow that religion do NOT consider themselves to be morally superior to anyone else. And that is largely because most Christians, regardless of how devout they are, view themselves as being nothing more than lowly sinners.
In other words, the average Christian fully realizes that this world is comprised by the "good, the bad and the ugly." And they also know that the "the good, the bad and the ugly" is made up by people from all walks of life, including Protestants, Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, pagans, agnostics, atheists, etc.
Now the truth is, just as there is a considerable number of misguided atheists who have the misconception that they are intellectually superior to Christians (because they view Christians as "a bunch of dummies who believe in a gigantic fairy tale"), and that all Christians are trying to impose their beliefs on others -- there is a considerable number of misguided Christians who have the misconception that atheists are immoral and that atheists are out to destroy Christianity.
As you wrote, "We are all human ... (and) have both good and bad inclinations" -- and that is something that I, and nearly all other Christians, know all about.
In summation, a flip side of the question posed here could be something like, "Why do atheists often insist that all religious people are sanctimonious and narrow-minded?"
I appreciate and respect your answer. I don't think that all religious people are narrow minded, in fact I know a great deal who are not but there is a tendency to blame secularism/atheism for societies ills and I was curious why that is?
There is also a tendancy to blame religion for all of the wars that have ever taken place, and for nearly every one of the incidences of slavery, oppression and genocide. And that is because humans are really into playing the "blame game."
In all fairness feenix, there are historical facts that prove religion has been used to justify war and acts of terrorism. That doesn't mean it's to blame for all of it though.
At the same time, Christin, there are historical facts which prove that such things as greed, envy, lust, racism, feelings of superiority, ignorance and insanity have been the driving forces behind wars and acts of terrorism.
And at the same time, the greedy, envious, lust driven, etc...etc...tend to use religion to mask their true reasons for war. This is the best way to gain support for their selfish causes. Religion is a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands.
Cre8tor I couldn't agree more you took the words right out of my mouth - thanks.
Cre8tor, your comment is dripping w/ prejudice and bias. Were such vicious conquerers as the Zulu and Huns driven by religion? Were the "Imperial Japanese" driven by religion? Are the "Crips" & "Bloods" driven by religion?
feenix, just because it isn't the case for all violence doesn't mean you can turn a blind eye to it being behind a lot of it. To do so is an injustice to those who have suffered because of it.
Christin, have you ever been shot at by people who don't believe in God? Well, I have. My point is, I have sufficient life experience to be well aware that wars and other violence stem from a very wide range of factors -- and not "mainly one factor."
"Religion is a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands" -- so is a pencil... so is a frying pan, or a leg of lamb in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller...
The only thing that religion gives anyone is a standard outside of themselves - those Priests should know better. As you pointed out, all humans, by nature, have good and bad. We instinctively know to help a lost child, and at the same time, we give somebody the finger for cutting us off in traffic.
Religions tend to set out standards of behavior. Some things are right and some things are wrong. Most religions, at least the ones that believe in revelation from some kind of deity, assume that the standards are absolutes because they come from a higher power. But even within the "organized" religions, there is something of a variety. Hindus tie their morality to karma, which actually allows for an enormous latitude of what is acceptable. Buddhism seeks to eliminate suffering by eliminating desire. Parts of the eight-fold path are nothing more than strict moral codes - speak nicely to others, don't hurt others, etc. Islam is a conundrum to people in the west - we like to think that religions are about love, but there are clearly texts in the Quran that allow people to become suicide bombers with a clear conscience. In addition, Sharia law insists on certain gender roles that would be quite out of the question according to Western views of equality of the sexes.
We tend to think pretty highly of ourselves and when we work hard at our religious duties, we pat ourselves on the back and get arrogant about others who somehow "don't reach my personal standard."
Christianity is a bit different in that the mode of relating to God is one of sinners saved by grace, that is, the starting point for a Christian is to see themselves as ultimately evil and in need of salvation. If a Christian understands what the Bible says, he would have no grounds for condemning anyone else as immoral. The Bible says that the heart of man is desperately wicked beyond all knowing. Wow! So a person who believes the Bibles knows that the only reason he can produce any good is because God somehow changed him from being a selfish jerk to someone able to love others. With that in mind, a Christian knows that he has no claim of the moral high ground - he has no right to claim that he is better. On the other hand, he still does believe that he has an external standard to live up to - and since that is really hard, it should keep him humble.
Excellent response, Miles. Absolutely excellent.
Valid points. It's not religions themselves I have a problem with, but those who blame societies problems on those of us who don't practice religion. blaming no prayer in school for example seems silly to me.
Students are allowed to pray in school, individually and in groups. Prayer is not done by the teacher as part of the typical lessons. That makes perfect sense, and it is certainly not the reason our culture is falling apart.
I do not think religion creates morality, and yet, I am a Christian. I have agnostic and atheist friends who are some of the best-hearted people I've met - considerate, honest, generous.
I think some religious people are twisted in their application of belief - for example - I don't think Jesus would be in the face of a homosexual screaming, "God hates you!", nor do I think he would look down in judgment at people who don't believe how he does. In fact, the only people I see Jesus correcting are the overly-religious -- calling them white sepulchres full of dead bones. He told his disciples that the Pharisee who prayed, "God, thank you that I am not like that sinner" walked away guilty, but the sinner, who had his face down and struck his chest while imploring God, "Forgive, me, Lord, a sinner," walked away forgiven.
I don't necessarily believe in "religion" so much as relationship - relationship with God and his creation - people & nature. How we treat others and the earth God gave us to sustain us. Religion is often a set of rules that when people try to follow, they overlook the purpose/heart of the "rule". For example, killing an abortion doctor in the name of protecting life is, at best, a paradox.
It is a defensive reflex desperate to justify that mere human society MUST be beholden to some higher power. For some, their sometimes false piety makes them look like proper, decent folk.
For others, quite frankly, it is either a bold-faced manipulation, or else, if they do truly believe, the grown up and eternal Santa Claus, feared or feigned to control their own, and MUCH more often, judge and try to control OTHERS' behavior.
They dogmatically and obediently utter that you cannot "earn" eternal salvation, that it is bestowed by grace upon accepting His salvation because, as this ridiculous notion that we are born stained (bullSH%! to that!) with this spiritual "scarlet letter" called "original sin" (of ***KNOWLEDGE?!?!***) and must therefore dedicate our fleshly lives to a goodness their gospel outright SAYS we are incapable of achieving! No thank you! I'm not some dog futily chasing my tale or some sadistically controlled fake rabbit around a track with the hopeless hope I'll catch it "someday". Nope. No intention of waiting for a reward that MAY (never) come. Don't have to. Being decent and kind and loving and getting said given or given back - spend any time with children, and I'm working on 17 years professionally, to see this manifest in ways beautiful enough to actually get me out of bed 5 days a week - are self-perpetuating, symbiotic rewards of just plain ol' feeling good about youself and others.
And still for others, it is a blood-pressure saving, "freak out"/depression/"well then, what's the point?" preventing desperate hope that death isn't is final as it actually is. Religion is calm. Religion is control. And, oh yes, religiosity is karmic.
I think the laws of the religions only help shape the conducts of the people by promising the salvation or fearing them with the prospect of falling into hell. However, as the people are all the same, we have desires, greed and lust that sometimes can blind us, and make us forget our religions' laws. Religion does not make one morally superior, it gives a person path to follow which many atheists can do by themselves.
Religion is very clearly often used as a cloak and excuse for extremely immoral behavior. Religion of itself does not create morals. However, the morals of our society used to be based on Christian teachings, even though most people were not actually very religious. Now that Christianity is losing that standing, what influences the development of moral values?
I worry that some parents are not teaching their children the morals which have underlined our society (if sometimes as an ideal more than a reality) but are allowing the next generation to be influenced by what they see on TV and the Internet, along with gang behavior, where bullying and cruelty and lack of compassion are seen as cool. I never thought I'd see the day when groups of teenagers were viciously attacking weaker people just for the fun of it and so proud that they are videoing it. It's like a horror story. Who would really want a world like that?
Societies which have banned religion, such as the Soviet Union and Red China, haven't exactly been Utopian. Political ideology fills the gap religion left. Expedience becomes the highest principle. The problem is to define what kind of society we want, what kind of values we want, and find a way to maintain them. That isn't happening now.
I agree, but surely religion is not the solution obviously. As for Christian morals being the basis of society - society has always had crime and bad people. No matter what - bad and good will exist with or without religion.
Societies set their own values. The Romans threw people to the lions; Melanesians indulged in cannibalism; Druids practised human sacrifice. The values of our own society are in free-fall. How do we go forward?
I think we can start with being responsible citizens ourselves and pushing that (accountability to one another, not purchasing products that glorify violence etc) over religion. Religious principles aren't required. Hard work ahead I agree.
Religion does not make one morally superior. But religion had an important role in defining morality during middle ages. After that, the arrival of ideology of humanism proclaimed that people should tailor their lives apart from the church, bu it was a negative definition: basically, humanism itself did not offer any moral guidance, and later the moral was found in the nature of man, in moral codes, society's rules etc. During the age of Enlightenment the only thing that mattered was to behave in a good manner and you are accepted as a moral person. Religious people nowadays tend to criticize atheists because the latter lack of transcendent guidance, they have no beacon except themselves and their own personality! But, paradoxically, Christianity was a religion of self-responsobility, a true Christian should not rely on Church to define their moral, they should find it in themselves, but then there is no need of any religion at all. Transcendent dimension is the one that atheists lack of, and are criticized because of it. Atheists can be more moral because they find guidance in themselves, they are more sure of themselves, and once an atheist finds his morals he keeps it, no matter what everyone else says. So, yes, it is more possible for an atheist to be immoral or amoral, but a moral atheist is something more precious then a moral herd-following believer.
To answer you core question...why? I don't know. I wish I had an answer. We do know that immoral behavior comes from people of all backgrounds---race, economics, those coming from great homes and those who didn't, and regardless of religion or not.....life is a great mystery.
Completely agree with you. I just posted on another question a few minutes ago about this, even wrote a hub about it. It really is the opposite, most Christians that I've met have been the complete opposite of what they say they believe in. They're rude and judgmental. As soon as they know that someone is an atheist, it immediately becomes controversial. Whereas, atheists generally don't voice their opinion unless provoked in some way. I've honestly heard and seen more believers cause problems than atheists and I just find it funny but offensive that they believe we're the bad ones because we don't choose to live like almost everyone else. Everyone makes their own choices that are either good or bad and the belief of "God" doesn't make their sins any better. Committing a crime or simply making a rude remark then going to beg "God" for forgiveness doesn't make you a better person, it makes you a hypocrite to your belief.
That is what they know and that is what they are taught. Having a guide to moral behaviors gives them a higher being to count on for aid and solace. There are good eggs and bad eggs in every belief system. Religion does not make one morally superior nor does atheism.
I think that it is more accurate to say that religions create a set of behavior norms that they would like their followers to adhere to as a member. What other people out side of that religin do is their issue. I agree with your statement that an atheist could be just as good a person if not better than some religious people.
I think the overall answer for some people is that they just need to feed their ego.
Any one trying to be a "good" person should love and try to care for all living entities, humans and animals like, this is my opinion.
One of the earliest mentions of a moral code was written in the bible, the book of course is used by many different religions and all claim that they have the insight of God and their morals are the best because they are written.
I am sure that man has always had a moral code but as with the present there are those that will follow the code and those who will strive to break it at every opportunity.
I am also sure you meant to say good and evil Atheists and religious folk!
I meant it the way I wrote it actually, there can be good atheists and evil religious people - and certainly vice versa No one has full claim to either lol. My point was just atheists/agnostics tend to be blamed 4 it more. thanks for commenting
It goes both ways. I have seen non religious people living a moral life as well as religious. Then again I have seen others who don't know right from wrong (both religious and non religious)
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