12. May 2017 · Comments Off on BLOG, May 12, 2017 · Categories: Blog

MORAL VALUES

What might happen if all religions suddenly disappeared off the face of the earth?  For a generation or two, not much of anything would change except there would be more freedom on Sunday mornings and other religious holidays.  However, when the third or fourth generation is raised without direct religious teachings, how likely is it that they would maintain the moral values of their ancestors, and continue to be honest, reliable, conscientious, truthful, kind, chaste, pious, courageous, dignified, humble, sensitive, and honorable?   Aren’t nearly all, if not all, of these traits inculcated into young people by religion, even if the children themselves aren’t religious?  Would moral values disappear if there were no religion?  And, in fact, if all religions disappeared, how likely is it that people would make up religions of their own?  Do we in fact NEED religion?

There is a feasible argument that we do need religion, even organized religion, to supply control over our lives.  Many people perceive their lives as being ruled by external forces, rather than by their own internal leanings.  The belief that fate or the gods rule their lives, or that there is a better place for them after they die, relieves them of the pain of the life they’re living now and also relieves them of responsibility to live this life morally, if that’s what they choose.

What else does organized religion provide?  The rituals and ceremonies of organized religion serve some need in us, since it’s certain that even Ancient Man performed rituals and ascribed outside events to external beings. Religion itself led us to creativity; the emotions people felt needed to be expressed, and music, art and literature, as well as the performing arts, allowed this expression to be shared.  Religion, or the belief that there was something more than ourselves caring for us, may have given our ancestors courage, which must have led to their ability to hunt and evade predators, and thus increase brain size.  Science must also be associated with religion, since it’s the attempt to answer questions raised and unanswered by religion. (E.g., If the sun, moon and stars are not gods, what are they really?)

Children are pressured by peers to conform as they grow up and, if a majority of children have taken in religious teachings, even atheists and agnostics tend to conform with them, not because they believe in the Bible, but because the examples they see are for these moral values.  It’s unlikely that immoral people will generate admiration among children since children are innately selfish, and immoral people don’t respond well to selfishness in children.

Other examples include the law of the land, which enforces moral values.  The first laws were laid down by ancient Egyptians about 3000 BC, and then codified by King Hammurabi in 1760 BC.  By 1280 BC, these laws had been incorporated into organized religion.  I believe that even Early Man had laws, handed down by the gods to their shamans, or witch doctors.  These laws admittedly were sometimes biased towards the lawmaker (the tribe’s Chief, or the shaman himself), but in general they were meant to maintain the moral values of the tribe.

Then there’s the Nature/Nurture controversy—Nature selects for altruism, which itself is a moral value, and also drives humans to be social, requiring the ability to get along with others, which enforces moral values.  Movies, TV, and books aside, children observe the behaviors of their parents, and the parents and families of other children, and emulate those they admire, just because that’s human nature.  Mother love is not always completely unconditional, so children learn to behave the way mother wishes while they’re still young—another set of moral values.

Is there an argument against religion?  Certainly religious zealots have led many people to their deaths, and the question of which religion is the ONE TRUE RELIGION has caused much dissention.  Without organized religion, would zealots and bigots still cause problems?  If organized religion had never existed which, given human nature, is unlikely, it would be different, but if all religions disappeared overnight, remnants and memories would cause problems for many decades to come.  Spirituality can be thought of as unorganized religion, but it provides many of the same benefits as religion.  A Supreme Being, or even aliens watching over us, gives those who need it the crutch that organized religion provides.

Even though I’m an agnostic, tending towards atheism, I don’t think religion is unnecessary.  When someone is ill, or a loved one has died, it’s very comforting to depend on one’s religion for answers to questions about cause, and what happens after death, even though religion doesn’t really provide final, logical answers.

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