Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Evolving Morality


While perusing another atheist blog, I came across a good comment by the blog owner, PhillyChief, which I have partially quoted below (I'm only quoting the relevant portion to what I want to talk about today):


...The horrors we see today in Islam were once true of Christianity, the stoning, torturing and so forth of blasphemers and non-believers. Did the Bible change? No. Did society? Certainly. At one time the Bible was used to justify white supremacy, slavery, imperialism, and denial of women equal rights. Again, did the Bible change? No.


The obvious Xian rejoinder to this is that this is a strength of the Bible, that it is truth and therefore does not need to change. It is us that need to change in order to come more in alignment with what the Bible says. There are multiple problems with this however.

First, the obvious response is to ask why god couldn't be more clear from the beginning. Imagine the amount of suffering that would have been avoided had people been able to read the Bible and discern right from the start that slavery is bad, that denial of equal rights to women or anyone else is bad, etc. Simply by writing a better book, god could have spared a lot of people from needless suffering and injustice.

Second, this is an obvious capitulation to the fact that morality evolves over time and within society. Apart from the special pleading and post-hoc reasoning in going back and asserting that our current understanding of morality is what the Bible obviously intended, we are left with a situation where we determine our own morals as a society and then input it back to the Bible. IOW, the Bible becomes a superfluous document and we are left to fend for ourselves and develop our own moral codes. There's no longer any reason to hold the Bible up as a moral guideline, since even if it did come from god and holds absolute and absolutely good morality, we as a society are still left to figure out for ourselves what is or is not moral.

Once again, we see the Xian caught in a bad spot. It's undeniable that our morals have changed over time, while the Bible hasn't (minus copying and textual errors that we know have propagated over time). The logical conclusions of this are not so good for the Xian.

12 comments:

Tigerboy said...

"The horrors we see today in Islam were once true of Christianity, the stoning, torturing and so forth of blasphemers and non-believers."

"At one time the Bible was used to justify white supremacy, slavery, imperialism, and denial of women equal rights."

At one time?

1. Stoning. People who identify themselves as fundamentalist Christians are far more likely to support capital punishment than the secular.

2. Torture. The Administration of George W. Bush, overwhelmingly supported by evangelical Christians, felt perfectly justified in ignoring the Geneva Conventions and torturing "enemy combatants", something for which we should all hang our collective heads in shame.

3. White Supremacy. We are supposed to believe that Christianity had it's period of "enlightenment" hundreds of years ago. Does anyone seriously argue that racism has disappeared from the United States? Does anyone doubt that a majority of the most extreme, hateful racists, in the US, would self-identify as being Christian? As recently as 1978, the Mormon Negro Doctrine prohibited black men from becoming priests, and prohibited Mormons from interracial dating. Bob Jones University, a Christian university, prohibited blacks from enrolling until 1971, and prohibited interracial dating until 2000.

4. Imperialism. The United States of America, that great proponent of "Manifest Destiny", is currently fighting in two wars, one of which was executed against a country with massive oil reserves, and which had not declared war against the US. The presumed policy, that you can spread democracy at the point of a gun, does not seem to be getting the Christian citizens of this country all that angry.

5. Denial of Equal Rights to Women. Did the "Equal Rights Amendment" pass when I wasn't looking? Are women in zero danger of losing the ability to control the reproductive fate of their own bodies? Is there absolute parity between men and women in hiring and compensation? Are women equally represented in all positions of political power?

The evil and insidious influence of religion is all around us. There are many more examples than just these. Maintaining a civil society requires that we learn to ignore the hateful, primitive morality lessons of Bronze Age Palestinian goat herders.

Christianity and Judaism may be somewhat better, than Islam, at ignoring the truly hateful parts of their philosophies, but they still teach each new generation of children that there is great wisdom to be gleaned from these hateful books. It only makes the divisive lessons more palatable.

GCT said...

Good points Tigerboy. Still, I see the main point as being that an evolved morality is not good for Xians and the Bible.

Anonymous said...

Sure, like Bush was really torturing people to get them to convert to his religion... hmmm ... somehow I doubt that. Probably a "shame" to ruin the other good points with that assertion.

Anonymous2 said...

I write some of the nastiest, filthiest things on here regarding jesus, but some of the things Tigerboy said seem to be antiquated. His points.

1. On first impression, I would have agreed, but where is the factual support?

2. I agree with the other anonymous.

3. 2000 is the only date that causes me pause; the others are now too far removed to make a decent arguement. "White Supremecy", though existant, is really pretty much dead. Racism goes both ways and Whites aren't anymore racist than Blacks; bible-toters or otherwise. And yes, as much as I hate that son-of-a-bitch jesus, I would question you're position that "a majority of the most extreme, hateful racists, in the US, would self-identify as being Christian".

4. Give me some numbers please? I've never seen anyone troops charging into battle holding up some holy banner of jesus; or raising bibles. Granted, Bush had some support from the religious right, but as I recall, they weren't so loud during his re-election. And while I know some xtians who "by-god" believe Iraq was right, thoses xtians were Bush supporters. I know xtians who opposed the war (but if were to say the movement into Afghanistan was Imperialism, then I'd say your screws are loose. If you disagree, why don't you let me come over to your house and kick the shit out of your wife/child/mom/dad etc and let's see what your reaction will be).

5. I don't know what world you're living in; while there are still a lot of very experienced older grey-haired guys above the "glass ceiling", the troops are in place to shatter the shit out of it within 5-7 years. Have you turned on the god damn television lately? In the last 10 years I've watched as newscasting has gone from the media's attempt at 50-50 gender representation to downright female dominace. How many fucking men do you see in the anchor positions anymore? And white men in particular. Women DOMINATE the accounting and pharmacy professions, making up +65% of college graduates and current hires. And the other professions, though not dominated by women, are making strong gain. The Dept. of Labor reports that women are now the majority in the workplace and that there exist no recession for employed women as a whole (i.e. they make up a very, very small percentage of laid off workers, yet they represent a very, very high percentage of new hirers). And the real bullshit of it is that though this shift in gender power, the US Sup Ct has said it is OK to discriminate against white men and EEOC law/rules still consider women as "minorities".

And just so there's no question about where I stand, FUCK YOU JEHOVAH/JESUS/HOLYSHIT! YOU MOTHERFUCKING WHORE! YOU CAN SUCK MY GOD DAMN DICK!!!

Tigerboy said...

Anonymous:
---"Sure, like Bush was really torturing people to get them to convert to his religion... hmmm ... somehow I doubt that. Probably a "shame" to ruin the other good points with that assertion."

Perhaps my point was too subtly made.

Many people perceive a significant faction of radical Muslims as conducting, and attempting to escalate, a jihad, or "holy war", against the West.

During the last 8 years, the United States has had a man in the White House who is, on the scary Christian scale, about a 7. He's not as scary as, say a Sarah Palin, but a very hardcore Christian never-the-less.

He enjoyed overwhelming support from the truly crazy, speaking-in-tongues, voices-in-their-heads type Christians.

Even the moderate Christians didn't seem all that upset when he started torturing people. After all, the victims were mostly Muslims, and jihadists, so who cares about the standards of a civil society that we supposedly are trying to defend, right? Or, the Constitution? Or, the Geneva Conventions?

If this situation were not so overloaded with my-God-has-bigger-balls-than-your-God, would the American People have rolled-over and allowed their government to start torturing people?

Just the simple fact that a President claims to know that "Jesus Christ is on our side" makes it seem much more likely that he felt "any means to an end" would be permissible.

I mean, OBVIOUSLY he felt that.

So, he decides that *torturing* Muslim jihadists is okay. And, his Christian supporters are fine with it.

Do you see the very dangerous influence of religion in ANY of this?

Would the conflicts in the Middle East even exist without religion?

Tigerboy said...

Anonymous2:
---"I would question you're position that "a majority of the most extreme, hateful racists, in the US, would self-identify as being Christian".

Really? Because the group that absolutely epitomizes "white supremacy", the group that has the longest history, and, for generations has been the most powerful, most visible, and has had the greatest numbers, the Ku Klux Klan, they very clearly self-identify as Christian.

Anonymous2 said...

"Really? Because the group that absolutely epitomizes "white supremacy", the group that has the longest history, and, for generations has been the most powerful, most visible, and has had the greatest numbers, the Ku Klux Klan, they very clearly self-identify as Christian."

Can you say Reginal Denny? Black Panthers? Malcolm X? I've been dared not to get off the sidewalk by a group of black kids.right in the middle San Fran's business district. On numerous ocassions I've been dared by gangbangers to say or do anything as they drive side-by-side down the road for miles blocking traffic or even just passing in my car or on the street. The KKK is alive, or are skinheads. But only an idiot would disagree that their numbers have greatly diminished (not implying your that idiot). Personally I get pretty sick of this god damn bullshit of race cards and the poor pitiful black or mexican. When I was a kid, I watched as 18 Mexicans ganged up on a close friend and kicked the shit out of him just because he was White and then got the shit beat out of me for trying to help.

Tigerboy said...

There is no question that, historically, Christian mythology has been used to propagandize the idea that whites are a superior race, and that enslavement of the black man, I'm talking about the literal enslavement of the black man, by the South, before the Civil War, was justified by that which is written in the Bible. The Bible defends slavery.

Is there a simpler moral question to answer than this:

"Is it morally acceptable to enslave other human-beings?"

The "perfect word of God", the Bible, says that it IS morally acceptable.

Can you cite examples of non-white individuals, who came of age under circumstances where whites CLEARLY had all the power, who lashed out in anger, or, who ganged-up against innocent members of that white power structure?

I'm sure you can. Fairly easily.

Martin Luther King is greatly admired because he lead a revolution against the injustice of that white power structure, and he tried to do it non-violently. Is everyone that disciplined or high-minded? No. People react to injustice with anger and violence. Sometimes, they take out their anger upon innocents. Is that right? No.

But, is it as hateful as the racism of the white supremacists? Hardly. They were a part of the white power structure, they benefited from it. They didn't FEEL powerful, because they were, generally, part of the lower economic classes. I'm talking about the Klan. But, instead of recognizing that their economic circumstances were due to lack of skills or education, they read their Bibles and determined that the black man was at fault.

There is a big difference between those who lash out in anger and violence when they have opportunities, and those who lash out in anger and violence when they are oppressed.

Are the examples you gave examples of people who felt that they were racially superior? Or, are they examples of people who were angry at how they had been treated by their society?

Anonymous said...

"Are the examples you gave examples of people who felt that they were racially superior? Or, are they examples of people who were angry at how they had been treated by their society?"

I'm a bit dumb-founded that you actually made such a distinguishment as it pertains to my examples - you can't justify those actions. But my first gut response was that it had to do with power, not repression. They felt the power in numbers, they propagate the fear, they knowing act on intimidation.

Clearly we differ and neither of us will agree. Don't get me wrong, I don't deny that Blacks have been abused, but GOD DAMN, I'm tired of being a bad guy for the sins of their own GOD DAMN rival tribesman who raped and pilaged to provide the supply of slaves and the GOD DAMN Portugese and Dutch who sold them. Ditto on the white plantation owners who "used" them.

Anonymous said...

Maybe not necessary to to mix the diversity training and Bush bashing with the Jesus hating?
Plently of blogs specific to the other two.

Tigerboy said...

I don't believe that I was suggesting that you are "the bad guy."

I can very well imagine that constantly being expected to apologize for the actions of 17th and 18th century Dutch and Portuguese slave brokers, African tribespeople, and white plantation owners, must be extremely tiresome.

It's an unusual problem.

I, myself, have never once been confronted for my role in the slave trade, but I can imagine that it must be frustrating.

You might point out to these people who so frequently accuse you of being "the bad guy" that you really had nothing to do with importing slaves from Africa, having been born such a long time after the practice ceased.

I hope this helps.

GCT said...

Thank you all for a good comment stream, even if it didn't technically adhere to the OP. I'm sick and have been for the whole week, so I haven't wanted to wade in or write posts, and it was nice to see a good discussion.