Is Morality Driven by Faith?

Is morality driven by faith? Few things unite believers and atheists more firmly than the suggestion that moral judgments draw … Continued

Is morality driven by faith? Few things unite believers and atheists more firmly than the suggestion that moral judgments draw their strength from religion. To be sure, many a virtuous atheist has denied it, and with good reason. The old saw that we would have to invent God if He didn’t exist implies a view of moral motivation that’s suitable for four-year-olds. If you follow these commandments you’ll go to heaven, and if you don’t you’ll burn in hell is just a spectacular version of the bribes and threats we use to raise our children: If you clean up your room you’ll go to the playground and if not you’ll stay inside. Few serious thinkers, secular or religious, view us as moral infants in need of sacred carrots and sticks. Still their remains a lurking suspicion that religion is what gives moral convictions their backbone. Just watch the difference between believers and atheists defending an ethical standpoint. When most atheists use words like evil, moral, or nobility, they incline to put some distance between themselves and their language with an air-quote. It’s the ultimate post-modern gesture, wiggling fingers to express doubt and discomfort about making moral judgments at all. Most believers, by contrast, keep their hands in their laps.

In a world where politicians invoke God’s command to start a war in the absence of other reasons for doing so, we may wish more believers would express self-doubt. Here both sides would benefit from a closer look at the Bible. Consider Sodom and Gomorrah, traditional focus of a favorite fundamentalist message of the carrot and stick variety. Most people think the story is simple: the Sodomites sinned – through homosexual behavior, or sexual licentiousness in general – and God destroyed them, turning a thriving town into a pile of rubble and a wistful woman into a pillar of salt. But you needn’t be a fundamentalist to abhor the sin that did in the Sodomites: it was in fact their attempt to gang-rape two strangers to death. The strangers turned out to be angels, which was the Sodomites’ undoing, and their violation of ancient rules of hospitality turned moral law upside down. Concerned that total annihilation might be too severe a punishment even for gang-raping one”s guests, Jewish legends expand on the account in Genesis: the Sodomites made xenophobia a matter of principle, and punished those who helped strangers with death.
But the most important part of the story is what happens before the cities are leveled. God reveals His destructive plans to Abraham, and Abraham speaks up. What if there are fifty righteous people among the sinners? Surely the God of justice would not judge the innocent and guilty alike? The God of justice agrees; for fifty righteous people He will leave the cities alone. But is the Lord a pedant? Surely He won’t destroy the city for the want of just five? Abraham bargains God down to ten, and several things about his actions should serve as a model.

First, they’re universalistic. Abraham’s interest is not confined to his tribe or his neighbors, but to the lives of innocents everywhere. Second, Abraham is clearly frightened. In a world where even ordinary sovereigns are ill-inclined to debate their actions with their subjects, he dares remind the King of Kings that He’s about to violate moral law. Third, both parties acknowledge that morality is not a matter of absolute principles, but of paying attention to detail. (God might have answered: Save the town for the sake of fifty? Next he’ll be wanting to let the’ whole bunch go scot-free!) But despite a refusal to trade in absolutes, two moral judgments emerge perfectly clear: rape is a criminal action, and so is collateral damage.

What’s most important about this story, however, is what it says about the source of moral judgment. Whatever it is, it isn’t divine authority. We have moral needs so strong they can override our instincts for self-preservation. Even those with a direct line to God cannot depend on it to yield moral certainty. Abraham was as true a man of faith as religion ever knew, yet he used his own moral reason – even at the risk of God’s wrath.
For conservative believers, the message is a warning: morality can be expressed through faith, but it cannot be based on it. Sometimes questioning religious authority can be a moral action, as the Bible itself reveals. This story of Abraham suggests that if God gave us reason, He meant us to use it – even if that means challenging the very highest commands.

For secular citizens, the message should be welcome: among the many pieces of wisdom to be found in the Bible is the acknowledgment that no moral judgment is infallible – and all of us are required to do our best nonetheless. You can stand firm even without the belief that God’s own voice is directing you – so long as you rely on principles of justice which have guided the better angels of our nature from ancient days to our own. There’s much more to be said about those principles themselves, but finding common ground on which believers and secularists can stand is the first and crucial step.

Susan Neiman, Director of the Einstein Forum, is the author of “Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-up Idealists.”

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  • griggs1947

    Google covenant morality for humanity to see how I justify the humanist ethic and contemn the relgious one.

  • kert1

    I think the author misses the point of the story. I don’t think God is bargaining with Abraham. He simply acknowledges the fact he will restrain judgement on the wicked for the sake of the righteous. God is the divine judge and he is the only one that knows best (“Who has known the mind of the Lord”). There is a certain amount of reason that we can deduce from God’s judgement, but in the end only God’s judgement is just.Let’s just remember that God still destroyed the cities. He know there weren’t 5 righteous people before the converstion and if you think about it, it would be an anomally. No righteous person would live in a city like Sodom. They would agreeing with the practice even if they didn’t practice it. This conversation between God and Abraham is God allowing us to see some of his reasoning. God is being very personal but ultimately God’s will is fullfilled.We should also note that God hears Abrahams prayer. I don’t honestly understand how God hears and answers our prayers. But here is more truth that our prayers can make a difference. God is listening and we may be able to give a wicked person another chance because of our prayers.As for morality, God is the ulitimate source. He does not change his mind about what is right. He may have held his wrath a little longer but ultimately these people needed to be punished. And God does it with divine judgement, which is perfect. If you believe in an all powerful God you must believe he knows what is moral. In fact he is the creator of morality. That is why most everyone of faith goes to God for guidance. Our minds can reason things out but they are so falliable. I am convinced that any practice, no matter how detestible, can be reasoned at some level. I look at the Nazi years of Germany. These are generally reasonable people but they practiced and allowed horrible genocide because at the time, it made sense. The country has since repented. My point is that I can’t solely rely on my reason, which can change with circumstances. I need to rely on God’s moral wisdom.

  • Robert_B1

    Ms. Neiman wrote, “You can stand firm even without the belief that God’s own voice is directing you – so long as you rely on principles of justice which have guided the better angels of our nature from ancient days to our own.”Ahhh, but who or what establishes these “principles of justice?” If there are indeed universal standards for moral behavior, then who or what set these up? If they were invented by man, then can’t they be changed by man? If so, then they really aren’t “standards of behavior” at all and we have to respect the “morals” of the Al-Quaeda suicide bomber, the concentration camp guard, and the abortion doctor slayer as being “not bad, just different.”The great advocate of the separation of Church and state, John Locke, had this to say about atheism in his work *A Letter Concerning Toleration*: “Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all…” Locke claims that denying the existence of a god (or gods, for that matter) is tantamount to a denial of morality, which is the basis of the “bonds of human society”.I agree with Ms. Neiman that it is certainly possible for an atheist to behave in a moral manner. However, I have to ask the atheist, “What the basis for your morality?” I’ve had discussions with people on these boards who claim that there is a biological (and hence Darwinian) basis for the concept of natural law. While this is a fascinating idea, I’m still waiting to be convinced of its validity…

  • Paganplace

    Actually, the fact is that people added the homosexuality, and likely even the ‘rape’ to the Sodom story in later translation… Frankly, a city with roving gangs of angel-rapers just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, anyway. As one poster said, who *would* live there? Doesn’t seem very plausible, does it?I’ve heard from a number of teachers of this stuff not-in-a-hurry-to translate all badness into sexual depravity, that the ‘sin of Sodom’ is more familiar to our world:They were paranoid. Suspicious of strangers. So suspicious of strangers and xenophobic that they were willing to try and force Lot to violate something well known about the cultures of the region, both in Pagan times and now: the utter sanctity of guests under one’s roof. When someone takes you under their roof, they’re supposed to be safe. Period. To turn guests out so that a frightened townspeople might ‘know’ them doesn’t *have* to be in the ‘Biblical’ sense. It’d be a violation of the sacred law of guest-right. Of hospitality. That, according to the culture of the time, would presumably be enough, without getting lurid about it. King-type Gods are usually the ones with a *real* thing about hospitality, …as one might expect, because this is one of the primary duties of the chieftainship They once represented.

  • Paganplace

    Oh, yeah, and inevitably, someone’ll bring up, ‘Then why did he offer his daughters?’ also making sexual assumptions. To that,I’d ask, ‘Exactly what status do you think unmarried girls of a dishonored house would find in the world of the time?’ Lot made the offer to try and shame the crowd out of violating that house’s honor. That’s what makes sense to me.

  • Paganplace

    On this, Robert:”I agree with Ms. Neiman that it is certainly possible for an atheist to behave in a moral manner. However, I have to ask the atheist, “What the basis for your morality?” I’ve had discussions with people on these boards who claim that there is a biological (and hence Darwinian) basis for the concept of natural law. While this is a fascinating idea, I’m still waiting to be convinced of its validity..”Well, you would have to understand that within an atheist’s point of view, ….if religion is manufactured by humans, then so is the morality people associate with it. Which means it’s clearly possible to them, they just differ on where it comes from. When people start conflating an idea of ‘Natural Law’ with ‘Scriptural Commands,’ then what tends to happen is people start thinking whatever that scripture can be made to say *is* ‘Natural Law.’ Prime example right there in that Sodom and Gomorrah story, ….’I think this is about how bad gay people are, therefore God knows gay people are horrible. It’s ‘Natural Law’ to hate them.’ Atheists, in general, think morality is something we make between ourselves, each other, and our instincts, if I can characterize for them. They see themselves, in a way, as ‘cutting out the middleman’ in the persons of religious authoritarians.

  • Chaotician

    Frankly, our identity with fellow humans is the source of morality! Religion and nationalism are the principal means used by leaders and tyrants to break that bond creating “other” which can then be treated immorally.Therefore, it can be claimed with some justification, that people are moral in spite of religion! Most religions have very little to do with morality.

  • Robert_B1

    Paganplace:Hail and well met! As always, your views are always cogent and welcomed.You wrote, “Atheists, in general, think morality is something we make between ourselves, each other, and our instincts, if I can characterize for them. They see themselves, in a way, as ‘cutting out the middleman’ in the persons of religious authoritarians.”If that is the case, then we’re still left with the problem of morality having its source in humanity. This means (at least to me) that there is no standard by which we can judge the morality of others. After all, what man has created, man can alter as he sees fit…You make an excellent point about natural law being conflated with religious doctrine. But if you look at the religions and philosophies of the world, you will see that most of them have certain ethical ideas in common, which seems to be strong evidence for some kind of basic moral standard that is independent of human opinion. In his *The Abolition of Man*, C.S. Lewis calls this the “Tao”.

  • Robert_B1

    Chaotician:”Frankly, our identity with fellow humans is the source of morality!”OK, but seeing as much of human history can be read through the lens of tribal rivalry, it would seem that this is a poor basis for the development of moral ideas. Why is it that such diverse societies seem to have common ideas about what is right and what is wrong?”Therefore, it can be claimed with some justification, that people are moral in spite of religion! Most religions have very little to do with morality.”To this comment, I will simply say that the evil done in the name of religion tends to make the front page, whereas the good it does is usually shunted back somewhere near the coupons…

  • ender2

    The Cults of Abraham must convince their constituents of their inability to be moral. None of these faiths would exist were it not that they make you immoral, then provide “forgiveness” for that immorality. If you are a moral person that acts accordingly in all things, you are still sinful just because their creator myth created you that way and their religions don’t seem to even do well in teaching morality.So yes, religion, at least the tribal mideastern ones, is more often the source of immorality than the cure.

  • Paganplace

    Chaotician:”Frankly, our identity with fellow humans is the source of morality! “On this bit, I agree. Humans are equipped with *empathy,* ..parts of our brains can’t actually tell the difference between what happens to someone else and what happens to us, it’s part of how we learn. I personally don’t see the Gods as some beings or a Being who came up with some absolutist-but-critical verbal ‘rules’ for us to puzzle out and try to follow, without which some horrible bestial nature would necessarily just take over: rather, I see Them as guides and parental-type helpers toward the end of enlightening that which we’re all born with. If a ‘source’ of morality, not one that’s external to the world and communicated (Badly, I might add) just through interpreting some one of a small selection of old books. It goes deeper than that, whatever you believe, I’d say.

  • Paganplace

    Ender2:”So yes, religion, at least the tribal mideastern ones, is more often the source of immorality than the cure.””Desert religions” are of course going to tend to be biased toward seeing oneself as set against a pretty barren world where the group *has* to stay together under pretty strict discipline… where wandering off for an hour or two or disobeying a leader cause you’re thirsty or hungry *could kill you, if not others.* That’s how it can be in the desert. Translating that into other situations, like urbanization or more abundate climates with more complex-to-humans environments, can end up down the road with people obeying absolutely what doesn’t really *fit,* unless they adapt. Part of the reason a lot of mainstream religions can’t cope with *excess* is because their narratives and laws tend to be designed for *scarcity.*

  • Paganplace

    Haha. 🙂 I have to say R2 is kind of a favorite, anyway. One character the prequels actually really enhanced: “Here’s the little guy who’s known what’s going on all along.” 🙂

  • Robert_B1

    Paganplace –Yeah, the first three movies put Obi-Wan’s comment in Episode IV that he “can’t recall having ever owned a droid” into some perspective. Would Artoo *ever* admit that he was owned by *anyone*?And wiping Threepio’s memory in Episode III was just plain mean! :)Anyway, my apologies to the blog for the off-topic posts. We now return to your regularly scheduled bloodletting…

  • Paganplace

    “And wiping Threepio’s memory in Episode III was just plain mean! :)”Only way to do it. 🙂 So he re-learns a lesson or two. Swinging obliquely back to topic, sometimes it’s not about what you remember, so much as who remembers you. 🙂

  • Carstonio

    Describing the dispute as between believers and atheists is misleading, because that falsely implies that humanism and moral reason are atheistic concepts. The real dispute is between authoritarians (a small but vocal minority of believers and nonbelievers) and humanistic moral reasoners (the majority of both believers and nonbelievers.) In my experience, most believers and nonbelievers recognize that morality is about actions that help or harm others, and not about simply following rules.

  • mbeck1

    I have a slightly different take on Sodom and Gomorrah than Ms. Neiman.Lot and Sodom and GomorrahYou have to wonder what Lot was doing in Sodom in the first place. After wandering around in the desert tending his flock, Lot was tired of having sex with goats. He also knew of Sodom’s reputation; well before Las Vegas, what happened in Sodom, stayed in your ass. Also, his wife, a toothless old hag at 32, was probably complaining about being treated like a beast of burden, and he figured at least in Sodom, both his wife and his virgin daughters were safe. Who cared if they went uncovered around a bunch of queers.In fact, Lot’s wife and daughters loved Sodom. The gay residents quickly took to the beautiful young girls like all gay men take to young beauties, shopping for clothes and jewelry with them and talking about the latest fads. Although, Lot’s wife was a toothless old hag, Sodom’s residents were also as fond and protective of her as her daughters, for she reminded them of their own mothers, who were also toothless old hags or dead from childbirth or spousal abuse. All in all, it was a good move. Lot found having gay sex was infinitely more pleasurable than having sex with goats, whom he could have sex with anytime. Like many middle-eastern men, as long as he was on top, he was considered a man and not gay. Meanwhile his wife found her niche; she opened up Sodom’s first beauty salon and spa, and although water was in short supply, it quickly became known for its exquisite sand baths, which eased the aches and pains of strenuous gay sex. Her daughters worked in the salon where they could suggest the latest treatments and talk endlessly with the customers about the newest baubles that arrived with the caravans. Also, Lot’s wife, reminding the customers of their mothers, was eagerly sought out for her timely advice, becoming known as the oracle of Sodom.Then the angels showed up, supposedly to warn Lot of the coming wrath of God. However, it turns out they were actually randy gay angels, arriving in Sodom for some randy gay sex before the Lord put an end to all the fun in the Valley of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was such a killjoy.Randy gay angels, like many gay men, are exquisitely beautiful, though unlike gay men they actually have sweet, freshly douched vaginas for tushies; much better than sodomites or goats. Lot wasn’t about to share them with the mob of sodomites at his door. Instead, Lot offered the gay mob his virgin teenage daughters (a substitute for the angels) to placate the gay mob. This really pissed the mob off because the mob knew that he knew that they didn’t want his nubile young daughters (who were also some of their dearest friends). They wanted the exquisitely beautiful randy gay angels so they could pull a randy gay train. According to the bible, the angels weren’t gay and they smote the gay mob for their wickedness and sins. This was categorically untrue. The angels were gay and quite randy and after letting Lot eat out their tushies, they immediately set upon the gay mob with ferocious ardor. Unfortunately for the mob, having sex with very excited randy gay angels is lethal, hence the legend of being smoted. After the angels had sated their fierce ardor and unintentionally wiped out the sodomites, they prodded Lot to make haste and flee Sodom with his family to avoid the coming destruction, while they decamped to Gomorrah. According to Genesis 19:26, God turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt for looking back toward Sodom. What I always wanted to know was how Lot knew that his wife got turned into a pillar of salt. She was again a beast of burden, most likely following behind him like any good dutiful wife, unless he sent her up ahead to clear the landmines. The only way he would have known is if he had turned around too, yet he managed to escape her fate. I think what actually happened was that when his wife complained outside of town about having to leave the cozy village of Sodom, Lot probably clobbered her with a big rock of salt and then said God did it. Lot’s wife loved Sodom because all the men were into having gay sex, doting on her and her daughters, while she actualized her inner entrepreneur. Lot loved Sodom for the same reason and was very unhappy about having to go back to his goats. He stopped having sex and left her alone too, because she was an old hag. After having clobbered his wife, he impregnates his daughters because they got him drunk and took advantage of him in a cave. In reality, Lot, even though he was a god-fearing man, now had two beautiful virgin teenage daughters instead of an ugly old wife. If his daughters did get him drunk, it was probably so that he would fall asleep and leave them alone. Instead he was probably one mean-ass drunk who self-medicated to keep the demons at bay that apparently afflicted the lineage of Abraham with mental illness. Not only was the lineage schizo, but their god was too. (e.g. Abraham almost filleted and barbequed his son because god told him to in order to test his love for god. Moses is plagued by a god who loves him and then tries to kill him, gives him visions of burning bushes, laws, a bad sense of direction, and finally discourses on what to do to non-believers). Regardless, Lot was going to have his way and history is written by the victors; i.e. his daughters got him drunk and took advantage of him. I’d like to see how that defense would fly in a modern court of law.Lot. “But your honor, they got me drunk and took advantage of me.”The Judge, looking incredulous, asks, “How old are your daughters, sir?”Lot. “Well, you know how young teenagers are, they are wanton and can’t be controlled. Besides, they are pretty girls, don’t you think, and virgins, not like their mother, that old hag. Perhaps if you spent some time with them, they might change your mind?”The judge furrows his brow, thinks a moment, then says, “I’ll take it under advisement. Send the young girls into my chambers, so that I may more thoroughly know their intentions.

  • kinghaz

    But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever.Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the Lord, O my soul. Praise ye the Lord.Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.

  • kinghaz

    IT IS A SIGN BETWEEN ME AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL FOR EVERTHE MAGICIANS SAID UNTO PHARAOH, THIS IS THE FINGER OF GOD: AND PHARAOH’S HEART WAS HARDENEDAnd the Lord said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.IT IS A SIGN BETWEEN ME AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL FOR EVER: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water:

  • observer12

    “The Cults of Abraham must convince their constituents of their inability to be moral. None of these faiths would exist were it not that they make you immoral, then provide “forgiveness” for that immorality.”I think you’re cribbing from the brilliant Farnaz regarding forgiveness. The Christians, of whom I was once a member, invented a man-god to forgive themselves for all the miserable things they’ve done and do. Not true of Judaism and from what I understand not true of Islam. Agree with Farnaz, Christians not Abrahamic. My own take: Christians departed from Abraham w/Greek man-god. Primitive. Christians bloody cannibal savages. Care only about money and forgiving themselves. Sell other people and kill them for oil.

  • paulc2

    Observer12:

  • vsylvestre

    1) The Soddom story isn’t true in any way, so I don’t see why it’s important. The odds of a city being 100% evil are non existant. Moreover if “God” could remove evil people from the planet it hardly explains why he allows evil to the present day. It’s clearly not true.Some here think that our morality must have a divine source, because if our source is humanity than it is changable. Personally speaking I find the sources for my own morality stem from both Christianity (4 gospals, not the rest) and humanity. Relying on texts written by dessert goat herders to “answer all our questions” for near eternity seems like a bad idea. Look how screwed up Christians get over sexual matters (not to mention Muslims!) – our modern view of human sexuality is far superior to the biblical view of human sexuality.

  • ender2

    Observer12Judaism has forgiveness tied to the priesthood as tightly as Christianity. Forgiveness requires 1)a Priest 2)a sacrifice such as lamb, dove or chicken. At least something the priest can knosh on later. i.e you can’t get blood out of a turnip because the Rabbi don’t wanna be knoshing on turnips. Islam’s ticket is devotion devotion devotion as in prayer 5 times a day and enough ritual crap to ensure you’ve thoroughly brainwashed yourself into compliance with the priesthood.

  • ender2

    My compliments MBECK1. That is some funny shiite right there!

  • MarcEdward

    paulc2 writes So did Mark Twain, and rightly so!”Christians believe that you need to Love God and Love your Neighbor as yourself”Your statement would be improved by adding “supposedly” between “Christians” and “believe”. I tend to judge people more by their actions than their deeds, and if your assessment were correct we’d have very few problems in the USA. “yet you insist that they care only about money and forgiving themselves. This to me is a very distorted and unsupported view”Really? How many Christians do you know? If I was to make a list of unloving and/or evil acts by self professing Christians I’d jam up the Intertubes!”In terms of how they use their money, look at charitable giving. Just google ” charitable giving by religion” and you will see report after report showing that the religiously active donate far more per capita than the non-religious.”That’s not terribly accurate. Giving money to your own church is not the same as charitable giving IMO.

  • ThomasBaum

    PAULC2I am a Catholic and I cherish my Catholic Faith but you do not speak for this Catholic.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • paulc2

    Marcedward:My statement, ” Christians believe that you need to Love God and Love your Neighbor as yourself” is the correct one. It is what defines a Christian (in addition to the other statements in the Apostle’s Creed. You and I would agree, I suspect, that some people who call themselves Christians, are truly Christians in name only, following none of the teachings of Christ. This is truly unfortunate, but does not change the core message of Christianity, nor should it reflect poorly on those Christians that do follow their faith. I know hundreds of very devout Catholics that follow the moral teachings of Jesus very well, albiet not perfectly (they are human).As for the giving piece, if you check out all those websites, you will find that actively religious people donate significantly more time and money than the non-religious, even if you discard the money and time they donate to their own churches. You seem to have a very negative view of Christians, but this isn’t supported by independent data. Perhaps you need to know more about us..

  • ThomasBaum

    MARCEDWARDSAs I have said before: God is a searcher of hearts and minds not of religious affiliations or lack thereof.It seems that there just might be quite a few people that are in for quite a shock when they find out that God actually looks at the person rather than the “label” that someone applies to themself.Question, does your “holier than thou” attitude actually make you a better person?Just wondering.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Freestinker

    Morality is reflected in faith and religion but not driven by it.

  • Farnaz2

    Ender writes to Observer12″Judaism has forgiveness tied to the priesthood as tightly as Christianity. Forgiveness requires 1)a Priest 2)a sacrifice such as lamb, dove or chicken. At least something the priest can knosh on later. i.e you can’t get blood out of a turnip because the Rabbi don’t wanna be knoshing on turnips.” ARe you mad? Or are you writing some sort of science fiction book set in the year 3000. “Priesthood”? Animal sacrifice?Maybe there is a Christian denomination that does this, perhaps while talking in tongues, but I assure you we do not. We have no Greek man-god who died for our sins, since we had no wrathful Zeus type that the Christians had. We do not have original sin. That is a Christian thing. The Garden of Eden has no association with sexuality. Also a Christian thing, origins Paul the Greek, refined later by Augustine.NO. We have what we always had. Hashem the all knowing, the all merciful the all powerful. We don’t have virgin births, Prometheus types, eating blood and flesh of man gods. I have to agree with Observer. The big problem for the Christians is that they stole another peoples covenant, one not intended for them, and have and had no clue as to how to interpret it.Simply put, you have a god who thinks sex is bad, who “incarnated” his “only begotten son” (sic) through a virgin birth, said son having walked on water. This Monster God the Father arranged for his son in the best scapegoat fashion to be tortured to death like an animal sacrifice for your sins.This god of the Christians knows not Joseph and Joseph never knew him. The Christians are now free to forgive themselves for whatever they do. Not so others. For instance, if a few maniacs bomb the WTC, your basic Christians kill tens of thousands of innocent people in one country and then move on to another. Your basic Christians are self-forgiving vengeance seekers.Your Christian gods bear no resemblance to Hashem. None whatsoever.

  • ender2

    I had forgotten all about that temple thing. Jews can’t make blood sacrifices until the temple is rebuilt. So blood sacrifice has been replaced with prayer, repentance and a lifelong guilt trip.BTW the christian god is not “mine”. I think all of the Cults of Abraham are pretty much whacked out tribal foolishness that the world would be better off without.

  • Farnaz2

    Ender2:You write:HUH? What’s up? I mean no offense, but are you taking medication or something? Using drugs?If one does something s/he deems morally wrong, s/he of course repents and does everything possible to make amends. Then it’s over. Maybe you could write about something you know something about.

  • kert1

    MARCEDWARD,I am truly sad that you don’t feel you have met any moral Christians. Not to sound cliched, but you should really read a book on Mother Teressa. Now there is a moral Christian who practiced what she believed.In fact you can find many Christians that are moral. There are many. Just go to your local church and ask to see them at work. Or go see a missionary or soup kitchen. This is just a short list.My guess is there are several reasons why you don’t feel you’ve seen a moral Christian. First is that many people profess to be Christians and aren’t and many Christians don’t practice as much as they preach. Christianity is an open door and anyone can walk through it, but it doens’t force you to do anything. I am constantly thankful to God that he requires nothing for forgiveness but there is a downside. You do have to wonder about these “Christians” who are not moral. I know I do.The Second reason you don’t see moral Christians is probably your definition of morality. I would guess it is your own and you set the rules. Probably is also kind of tough for Christians to both meet your standars and Gods. I imagine you don’t like rules about sin. Churches always struggle with how to love a person but not their sin. But condoning an immoral practice is never loving since the immoral person is always the one who is hurt most. Keep in mind that the Churches main job is to teach God’s morality, which is the greatest good we can do. How can some of these not be moral? I suggest you at least look at things through the Christian perspective, since we can’t be asked to base our morality on your ideas.I would really suggest you seek out at least one moral Christian. It would be a shame if you never met one. The greatest inspirations in my life are moral Christians that have put their words to actions.

  • Paganplace

    ““Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman”Well, that’s a pretty astoundingly-good linguistic analysis of Northern European language that wouldn’t exist for another few thousand years, from people in a completely different part of the world besides. Wif.

  • Arminius

    Kert,I don’t think I have ever agreed with you before, but I do now. I know many moral Christians, and hope that I am one. I have also met many moral Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and, yes, non-believers. Mark E seems to be the flip side of those ultra-religious types who claim that nobody but Christians could be moral – Mark claims that Christians can’t be moral because they are religious. Note well, I have also met many ‘Christians’ who are not moral, some of them on these blogs.

  • sparrow4

    I’m sorry- I’m still having a giggle over the whole guilt trip thing. ender- we haven’t had “priests” in Judaism for lo, these 5000 years and sacrifice went out quite some time ago. We do take our rabbis to dinner on occasion but find that a doggie bag suffices in lieu of a hold now/kill later snack. I can’t argue about the guilt trip but that really has been the bastion of Jewish moms, not priests. We’re not all that into blood sacrifices, actually. But how no sacrifices now relates to prayer, repentence and guilt I haven’t quite figured out. In fact, were we still doing them, I can guarantee you we would get far more guilt from sacrificing a sad-faced little goat, than from sending him off to an animal sanctuary while he awaits his preordained future doom.The whole entrails and a sandwich thing- ewwwwww.

  • Farnaz2

    Sparrow4 writes:”I can’t argue about the guilt trip but that really has been the bastion of Jewish moms”Perhaps, of your mother? Certainly not of mine, nor of yours truly, nor of any other Jewish mother I know.I will say that I’ve heard talk of a guilt component in Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism, but it doesn’t appear to be universal within the three religions.

  • bartedson

    It says in the bible that if you marry a girl who is not a virgin, you are to stone her to death on her father’s doorstep.Now, obviously most everyone today would agree that this is a heinous instruction.So where did we get our morality that allows us to see this Bible story as heinous.Hint: NOT in religious faith

  • Farnaz2

    bartedson:”It says in the bible that if you marry a girl who is not a virgin, you are to stone her to death on her father’s doorstep.Now, obviously most everyone today would agree that this is a heinous instruction.So where did we get our morality that allows us to see this Bible story as heinous.”Hint: NOT in religious faith-Another Bible says that if you believe in the “only begotten son” (sic) of God, you will be saved regardless of how you spent your life. (It says this) On the other hand, if you do not believe, regardless of the good you may have done, you will be damned for eternity.Now, where did they get the instruction that allows them to see this as heinous xenophobic racism? Hint: They didn’t get that instruction.

  • bartedson

    A good man will do good, an evil man will do evil, but for a good man to do evil, it takes religion.

  • sparrow4

    farnaz2- lighten up! Jewish mom guilt is a classic joke. We kid around about it in my family, and with my friends. My Catholic friends say Jews have nothing on them when it comes to guilt. And we decided that Protestants have no guilt whatsoever (how come they’re so lucky?)

  • Farnaz2

    Sparrow4: “And we decided that Protestants have no guilt whatsoever (how come they’re so lucky?)”IMHO, you don’t know many Protestants! I will say that it seems to vary with the P denomination. Also, I’m well aware of this brand of Askenazic humor, its unfortunate origins, and its consequences. They weren’t good, but times have changed, and the self-denigration is waning. 🙂 Being Sfardic, I had no share in this tradition. For Askenazic Jews, it is a sign of what Anna Freud called internalization of the aggressor. Askenazic J people have actually written about it, and it isn’t “light.” Jacques B. has lapses into this sort of thing, occasionally. Pity.Must go. Goodnight.Farnaz

  • sparrow4

    farnaz2- I must come from the Freud/schmoid group. My mother wasn’t the “Jewish Mother” type but my whole family had a great sense of humor (as they like to phrase it, laughing instead of weeping). Having grown up as a first generation American, most of my family were still speaking Yiddish at home long after most Jews had forgotten it. (I wonder if Anna Freud understood what a sense of humor was. Her father sure didn’t). Sometimes people make too much of the thing- there is much more to Ashkenazic identity than people think- and more to the humor than you think. If you didn’t grow up in it, it would be difficult to explain what was wonderful and what wasn’t. but I get the impression you’ve made up your mind negatively and I’ll just say I don’t think you understand.I do know lots of Protestants – what is it about the Judeo-christian tradition that promotes guilt as a positive characteristic?- actually know no Sephardic Jews. Would be very interested in learning more about it, especially as there seems to be some attitude toward Ashkenazic Jews and I’d like to know the origin of that.

  • paulc2

    bartedson:==> So you think religion is evil. How can you possibly support that statement? My religion, Roman Catholocism comes from Jesus Christ, who taught, love God, Love your Nieghbor, even love your enemy. How does that drive any evil? In fact, if there is evil, it is because people fail to follow those mandates. Therefore,so it is those that follow these religious tennets that are good, and those that do not that are evil. Keep in mind, that not everyone who claims to be a Christian actually is one in practice.You also wrote, ” It says in the bible that if you marry a girl who is not a virgin, you are to stone her to death on her father’s doorstep. Now, obviously most everyone today would agree that this is a heinous instruction. So where did we get our morality that allows us to see this Bible story as heinous.”==> You do of course, recognize that these laws were put out for a reason. The Hebrews were to be God’s chosen people, a people set apart for thier holiness because in the fullness of time, the Savior of the world was to come from them. In addition, lineage was very important to the Hebrews, because it dictated the inheritance of thier lands and livelihoods. Therefore, laws were stringent to protect this facet of Hebrew life. Although you might not personally think so, extramarital sex definitely has societal impacts. I can’t speak for why the jewish people became more lax on this over time but in the case of the New Testament, Jesus was confronted with exactly this issue. A women caught in adultery was brought to him for a ruling. He did not put aside the Mosaic law which required Stoning. Instead, he turned it back on the community and said, ” He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Of course, no one was without sin, so she was saved. He did not leave her off the hook, however. He told her, ” Go, but sin no more.” So in this case, Jesus made the community recognize that everyone makes mistakes, putting aside the harsh penalty out of compassion. Note, however, that he didn’t eliminate the penalty and required repetence from the women, who undoubtedly understood that if she sinned again, she might not be so lucky the next time. To sum it up, Compassion is good, repentence is required, but there continues to be ramifications for sin.

  • Carstonio

    Paganplace,”most of them have certain ethical ideas in common, which seems to be strong evidence for some kind of basic moral standard that is independent of human opinion”Such a standard wouldn’t necessarily require actual existence outside the human brain. It could be rooted in our brain structure separately from our conscious mind, like any other instinct.Bartedson,”A good man will do good, an evil man will do evil, but for a good man to do evil, it takes religion.”That’s true of any authoritarian ideology. Some religions and believers are authoritarian and many are not. The religious varieties of authoritarianism simply have more motivational power than the secular varieties, because the former claim that their deities represent all goodness in the universe.

  • Farnaz2

    Sparrow4:Anna Freud, brilliant, good sense of humor. Father had as well: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” All this despite Holocause, pretty commendable, IMOSelf-denigration hasn’t helped Askenazic Jews. Difficulty asserting themselves in the face of bigotry, which will always be with us. What one does with one’s family and friends is different from what one does in public, IMO.

  • Farnaz2

    Sparrow4: especially as there seems to be some attitude toward Ashkenazic Jews and I’d like to know the origin of thatThere is no attitude I know of, except perhaps compassion, empathy, identification. The Shoah was a worldwide phenomenon you know. It hit both the Middle East and Africa, as well as Europe. Israelis, Askenazic, Sfardic, Mizrahi, African, etc., have sympathy for American Askenazic Jews as they (Israelis) think they lack pride in themselves and, hence, the ability to defend themselves. Pace Anna Freud, they think these deficits come from oppression and its consequences.I’ve seen less and less of this disability since I’ve been here. More and more I see a great deal of self-assertion by Askenazic Jews in the face of racism. I’ve seen this in conferences, at meetings, etc.It’s good to see. And they respond quite aggressively, directly, in kind, directing their remarks at the identities of the aggressors, in kind. Very affective. One only needs to do this sort of thing once. The racists get it and keep still forever after.This was a strategy during the Black Civil Rights movement. Worked well, but there is a ways to go.

  • sparrow4

    farnaz2 I’m not going to get into a fight with you over Sephardi vs Ashkenazim – I can’t think of a topic more ridiculous but if you feel the need to think your background superior to mine, well, whatever it takes to get you through the day. (You may want to look at what Freud says about that). But difficulty asserting themselves in the face of bigotry? You just blew off not only all the Jewish resistance fighters and those who persevered in the camps, but our whole contribution to the civil rights movement. And in fact, the Bnai Brith’s ADL stance against slavery. And please remember it was the Ashkenazim who mounted a huge rescue of Moroccan Jews. Since neither you nor the Freuds grew up in a rather typical Ashkenazic home,I can hardly credit you with a real understanding of “us.” In fact,I find it self-defeating and rather repulsive to compare branches of Judaism- that’s not the way I was raised.

  • Farnaz2

    Sparrow4: I’m not going to get into a fight with you over Sephardi vs Ashkenazim – I can’t think of a topic more ridiculous but if you feel the need to think your background superior to mine, well, whatever it takes to get you through the day. (You may want to look at what Freud says about that). But difficulty asserting themselves in the face of bigotry? You just blew off not only all the Jewish resistance fighters and those who persevered in the camps, but our whole contribution to the civil rights movement. And in fact, the Bnai Brith’s ADL stance against slavery. And please remember it was the Ashkenazim who mounted a huge rescue of Moroccan Jews. Since neither you nor the Freuds grew up in a rather typical Ashkenazic home,I can hardly credit you with a real understanding of “us.”In fact,I find it self-defeating and rather repulsive to compare branches of Judaism- that’s not the way I was raised. HUH? I’m afraid I’m at a loss. I wasn’t comparing and can find no way to account for your rant. You would do well to review your posts to me and try to figure out where your hostility is coming from.Comparing Jewish ethnicities is absurd. Truly. We have enough problems without denigrating ourselves about guilt, attacking giants like Freud and Anna Freud for that which they are not guilt of, or “comparing.” I’m not getting into this silliness with you. Again, what one says self-denigratingly at home and with one’s friends, one does not say in public. Check with your Askenazic friends. I don’t have time for this.If you want to flame, chose someone else to flame at.

  • Farnaz2

    Sparrow4 You should reread my penultimate post. I answered your question, and what I said about Israeli Jews, including Askenazim, the majority, is very much the case. This is their view about American Askenzic Jews. If you don’t like it, then take that up with the Israeli Askenzim.Btw., How goes the DAR?

  • sparrow4

    and farnaz2 – you should really reread your high handed posts. as I said- I don’t compare Jews. You seem to suffer from a lack of self-awareness or do you really not get what’s offensive about this:”Israelis, Askenazic, Sfardic, Mizrahi, African, etc., have sympathy for American Askenazic Jews as they (Israelis) think they lack pride in themselves and, hence, the ability to defend themselves. Pace Anna Freud, they think these deficits come from oppression and its consequences.I’ve seen less and less of this disability since I’ve been here. More and more I see a great deal of self-assertion by Askenazic Jews in the face of racism. I’ve seen this in conferences, at meetings, etc”You may not think it’s condescending, but it most definitely is. I’m not flaming you, I’m pointing out the you need to get your nose out of the air. If you don’t like my response, then don’t post on a public blog as the self-defined resident expert on Ashkenazic behavior. Sorry you just don’t understand how elitist you sound. I guess that happens to those who think they are so morally and culturally superior to the rest of us. Your ego demands that I must be “hostile” because lord knows, you couldn’t possibly be condescending or arrogant. I’m sure you’ll fire off some other snarky response. have at it- I’m done.

  • Notsogreatscot

    PaganPlace wrote: “Swinging obliquely back to topic, sometimes it’s not about what you remember, so much as who remembers you.” … or what you are remembered for. Isn’t this the underpinning of an atheist morality? The only thing that counts is how you act in the here and now, because the only thing that is left when you are gone is how you are remembered.

  • Athena4

    Morals are a set of rules set down by a religion that tells you how you can behave. Ethics are how you choose to behave in relation to the world.Morality is relative, anyway. For example: 200 years ago people thought nothing of owning other human beings as slaves. Based on the common principles of the Enlightenment, slavery is now considered to be immoral. Animal sacrifice (since we seem to be on the subject) is seen as immoral and inhumane by some faiths, but not by others. Charging interest on loans is seen as immoral by Moslems, but is one of the foundations of capitalism. Is there a common Human morality? Sure. It’s been stated by many faiths over time – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat others how you would like to be treated. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…

  • observer12

    Farnaz2 writes:”Sparrow4 You should reread my penultimate post. I answered your question, and what I said about Israeli Jews, including Askenazim, the majority, is very much the case. This is their view about American Askenzic Jews. If you don’t like it, then take that up with the Israeli Askenzim.Btw., How goes the DAR?”Farnaz, however did you figure out you were dealing with the same A*hole?