Sunday, 4 March 2007

Theology for Today

From whence do religionists get their morality? I ask this morning because although the answer seems obvious, and starts with a 'B,' some thought and a little Dawkins suggests otherwise.

If you truly think the answer does start with a big fat 'B,' then Richard Dawkins has something for you to consider. In his book The God Delusion he argues that it can't be from the Bible since as we've seen here over recent weeks so much of Biblical morality is bloodthirsty drek; modern Christians don't buy it all; they pick and choose, says Dawkins, they "contextualise" the obvious into something other than the obviously bloodthirsty (and thank goodness they do, lest we return to a time when yesterday's Christian would have been indistinguishable from today's Islamofascist).

He points out that no modern Christian or Jew would (thank goodness and reason) be likely to follow the Old Testament moral examples of Abraham (Genesis) and Jephthah (Judges) who both were willing to offer their children as human sacrifices to please God. Nor are they likely to share the morals of Lot (Genesis, here and here) and a Levite priest (Judges), who when demanded by a mob to hand over their male guests to sodomise, offered up their own daughters for rape instead. Dawkins notes:
…we do not as matter of fact derive our morals from scripture. Or, if we do, we pick and choose among the scriptures for the nice bits and reject the nasty. But then we must have some independent criterion for deciding which are the moral bits: a criterion which, wherever it comes from, cannot come from scripture itself and is presumably available to all of us whether we are religious or not.
An interesting thought, don't you think? If Christians are prepared to throw out the unreasonable from their big fat Book, then which for them comes first? Reason, or the Book? And if so, then why don't they go full speed with the former and abandon the latter altogether?

And from whence do your morals come? If, like me, your answer is: by reason from this earth, then may goodness and reason follow you all the days of your life.

Have a happy Sunday.

LINKS: Family values - Skeptics Annotated Bible
Cruelty and violence - Skeptics Annotated Bible
Cartoon from Russell's Teapot
Morality without God? - Not PC
Is-Ought? Not a problem - Not PC

RELATED POSTS ON: Religion, Ethics


  1. PC, can you point out where exactly it says that I ought to sacrifice my first-born son to God or offer my daughters to be raped if a gang of ruffians turns up and tries to sodomise my sons?

  2. Lucyna, PC is not pointing out that the Bible says you ‘ought to’ rather that people like Abraham and lot are presented as moral examples.
    The point is that Christians pick and choose from the teachings of the Bible, even from the teachings of Jesus. This means that Christians are using something other than the teachings of the Bible for their moral compass. It is actually a good thing that they do this and it sets them apart from other more primitive religions so prevalent today.
    Religious belief is a primitive left over from darker days when life was more earthy and animalistic. Modern man transcends religious belief, discarding totems, superstition, magic, idols, sacrifice and so on. Bravo Christian people for seeing the light and sensibly picking and choosing from the teachings of ancient texts.

  3. Well stuff me with straw and call me a scarecrow, what a lot of idiotic nonsense.

    The Bible has many stories of many people doing many things reflecting both good and bad moral choices. To imply that these stories are "teachings" under any known theology is nonsense.

    You can't have it both ways with your theology PC. You can't deride mainstream Christian theology with a straw man alternative, then turn around and say that the alternative is implausible and therefore Christianity is false! You have to accept the theology first, and even, I would suggest, be charitable to it, before debunking it.

    Personally I don't subscribe to the idea of the Bible being the inspired Word of God, but if you are trying to persuade those who do of their error these are kindergarten level arguments you are using.

  4. Lucyna suggests that these fairy stories are not intended to be taken seriously.

    In that, I suggest, she is somewhat proving Dawkins' point, n'est ce pas?

    But let's just look at example of Lot, shall we, and see why you would want to protest his actions:

    Lot is given by the Bible as an example of a virtuous man. The Bible says that Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed while Lot is saved, with the reason for his narrow escape being his virtue, as judged by God (remember God?).

    We are given just two examples of his character to judge his virtue for ourselves: the second example of Lot's character is when his daughters get him drunk and sleep with him in order to 'get with child' by him. Lovely story. As they say, the family that plays together stays together.

    The first -- and worse -- example we're given is when a gang of ruffians turns up trying to sodomise his visitor, and he chooses to offer up his daughters to be raped instead. In being the perfect host of course, the Bible tells us he is following the advice of no less than God (you do remember God, don't you?)

    So according to the Bible (and according to God, if you believe your Bible) this is a virtuous man.

    But there's no lessons you wish to take from this virtuous man, you say?

    Well, as I say above, you somehow prove Dawkins' point, don't you think?

  5. Blair, you are either suggesting that the Bible is not full of teachings, or if it does contain teachings that those teachings should be ignored.

    If the first is true, then the Bible can be safely ignored.

    If the second is true, then the Bible can be safely ignored.

    What then for the import of your God? Or the Bible?

  6. From hence do your morals come from?

    How poignant. Here is moi at the moment, totally absorbed, enraptured and wanting to wallpaper my house, with every page of "The Virtue of Selfishness"

  7. "And above all, it means one's rejection of ones role of a sacrificial animal, the rejection of any doctrine that preaches self-immolation as a moral virtue of duty"

    Ayn Rand - The Virtue of Selfishness

  8. typo...

    a moral virtue OR duty"


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