Moral viagra

I reject any suggestion that one cannot be moral without religion.

You probably do too.

However, is that true for everyone? After all, individual variation within a species is a fact of life.

We shouldn’t assume other humans have the same relationship with morality that we have.

DennettPerhaps some people find morality without religion difficult or even impossible. After all, some people make that claim and perhaps we should believe them.

Maybe its a bit like erectile dysfunction in men. Most men have no problems. Others have arterial sclerosis or some other condition which interferes with normal functions. Fortunately there are medications like viagra which alleviate the condition and enable such men to have normal sex lives.

Daniel Dennett suggested that religion may be a sort of moral viagra (see atheist tapes). He suggested that if this is the case religion serves an important purpose for these people and he would not want to deny it to them.

An interesting thought.

However, if religion does serve this purpose for some people is belief in a god essential? Could a non-theist religion like Buddhism work just as well (or even better)?

And what about a non-religious moral and ethical philosophy? Would humanism be just as effective as a moral viagra?

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12 responses to “Moral viagra

  1. Hi Ken,

    Interesting post. You won’t like it, but I think this post is leaning toward the idea (which I agree with) that all humans ‘play the moral game’ (if I may put it like that), and that all humans are ‘religious’. This, as I’ve said long ago, is one of the reasons why I prefer the term ‘worldview’ as opposed to ‘religion’.

    We’ve all got a basic worldview. A view of reality within which we discover what (according to that particular worldview) ‘successful human existence’ looks like or should look like. This is morality, and we ALL do it… πŸ™‚

    -d-

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  2. I’m not clear what you mean by playing the ‘moral game’ or the term ‘religious’ in this context.

    Granted, ‘world view’ may be better than ‘religion.’ It might help to overcome misunderstanding when ‘religion’ is used in a very broad sense (eg by Einstein and Gould) but interpreted in a narrow way.

    I am personally happy with the term, although I am sure it could also be interpreted in a narrow way.

    Strange, though, I have really only come across this term being used in old Russian Communist philosophy books and more recently used by Christians.

    Perhaps because I don’t see the term used more widely I tend to use terms like ideological or philosophical viewpoint.

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  3. Yep. Words are likc that. πŸ™‚

    -d-

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  4. Everybody has a moral code, based on these three questions.

    1. How did I get here?

    2. What am I supposed to do while I’m here?

    3. Where do I go when I die?

    The State Religion being Secular Humanism, answers these questions this way.

    1. You got here by accident.

    2. Do what ever you want for there is no meaning to life and there are no eternal consequences for your actions.

    3. When you die you turn to dust, so eat drink and be merry.

    Most other religions answer them this way.

    1. You were created by God in his image.

    2. Try to play well with others because your actions have eternal consequences.

    3. You are an eternal being and what you do in this life determines how you will spend eternity.

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  5. Elmer, I have a few objections to what you write, but I guess this is the main one: what exactly do questions 1 and 3 have to do with question 2? Suppose I got here by accident and when I die I turn to dust. Fine. But nothing at all follows about how to behave. It by no means follows that I should satisfy whatever preferences I have. You might as well say that I should frustrate whatever preferences I have. You could say I should be selfish or altruistic or sociable or solitary or noble or meek or whatever. All of those options are still equally on the table, because the facts about my origins and ultimate destination do nothing to settle the question of how to behave.

    I mean, are you assuming that the only thing that could possibly matter in how you live your life is how much happiness or suffering you end up with in the afterlife? Because, if so, you’re just assuming that selfishness is ultimate standard of how to behave.

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  6. Darwin teaches “survival of the fittest” and in nature its “eat your neighbor” the only place we see “love your neighbor” not to mention “love your enemy” is in religion. Any vestige of loving your neighbor still in society is a left over from a once religious community. For instance you probably believe in the “love your neighbor” motto yet you are not religious, but your parents probably were at one point or still are.

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  7. Elmer, I am struggling to even begin to describe how wrong you are.

    When you see a mother cat caring for her kittens or a group of antelope chasing off a predatory lion who’s stalking an old antelope or a rhesus monkey refusing to take food when it discovers that another monkey gets a shock in doing so – what religion do you think caused these behaviours?

    I’m going to stop there before I hit the Caps-Lock button on my keyboard…

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  8. Elmer, you’re wrong about what ‘Darwin teaches’. Evolutionary biology just explains how changes happen over time in big populations of living things. Natural selection is just the fact that critters with traits that are useful in their environment will tend to have more kids than critters with harmful traits, and so useful traits tend to show up more and more over time in populations. That’s why we end up with complicated plants and animals that are good at surviving in their environment.

    It doesn’t say anything about morality. For example, it doesn’t say we should leave the sick to die because they’re ‘unfit’. It just says that there’s an overall tendency for healthy people to have more kids than people who are really sick, and so sicknesses show up less and less over time. (Of course, this is a drastic oversimplification). If we think sick people are worth caring for (I certainly do and I expect most people do too), then we’ll try to help them out and make their lives better. It’s not like evolutionary biology says that evolutionary processes are magical and sacrosanct and not to be interfered with. It just says there’s these overall tendencies, tendencies that explain a whole lot about living things.

    In short, I think you’re mixing up biology and morality.

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  9. Of course, in line with what Damian says, it’s also worth pointing out that lots of caring behavior is itself evolutionarily advantageous — definitely to the group and even to the caretaker. A mother missing the ‘love your kids and take care of them’ part of her brain would be much less successful at passing on her genes than a normal mother, so it’s no surprise that most mothers end up hard-wired to love their kids and take care of them.

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  10. Elmer – your “Darwin teaches … ” is ridiculous. If you can’t see why have a read of this Why we need academic freedom…to question Newtonism.

    You could also read “Lying for Jesus” by Richard Dawkins.
    Here is a relevant quote from Dawkins: ” …natural selection is a good object lesson in how NOT to organize a society. As I have often said before, as a scientist I am a passionate Darwinian. But as a citizen and a human being, I want to construct a society which is about as un-Darwinian as we can make it. I approve of looking after the poor (very un-Darwinian). I approve of universal medical care (very un-Darwinian). It is one of the classic philosophical fallacies to derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. Stein (or whoever wrote his script for him) is implying that Hitler committed that fallacy with respect to Darwinism. If we look at more recent history, the closest representatives you’ll find to Darwinian politics are uncompassionate conservatives like Margaret Thatcher, George W Bush, or Ben Stein’s own hero, Richard Nixon. Maybe all these people, along with the Social Darwinists from Herbert Spencer to John D Rockefeller, committed the is/ought fallacy and justified their unpleasant social views by invoking garbled Darwinism. Anyone who thinks that has any bearing whatsoever on the truth or falsity of Darwin’s theory of evolution is either an unreasoning fool or a cynical manipulator of unreasoning fools.”

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  11. good work man

    Like

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