The Moral Dilemma

Written By: Rob Earley

Then moral dilemma over the origin and influence of morality is, oddly enough, still a hot topic of debate amongst the religious, non-religious and the somewhat spiritual communities. Despite human intelligence having led to a number of impalpable achievements such as mapping the human genome and creating a telescope that can see the birth of the universe, a large cluster of humanoids are still more or less convinced that all moral coding is and always will be subject to religious values.

Like many others, I hold religion personally responsible for some of the most immoral, unscrupulous behaviors and traditions mankind has ever seen but unfortunately not even an endless list of blatant holy contradictions is enough to combat generations of religious indoctrination.

Ritual human sacrifice, slavery, racism, homophobia, rape, murder, sexism and a general intolerance of the unknown are just the tip of the immoral iceberg when it comes to religion - So why is it so essential in today's construct and what makes it so child friendly?

I genuinely believe that sitting your children in front of The Simpsons is a far better way to open their minds to tolerance, humor, love, family values and politics than taking them to Sunday school,iIt’s ludicrous to think that people are still uncertain - in the absence of religion - whether or not others will understand that it's inherently wrong to rob an elderly woman on the street or to suffocate a child. Unless you're a drug fueled manic depressive or mentally unstable for other various psychopathic reasons, is there really any other human motif that would inspire such acts of remorseless criminality? If we eradicated all evidence of the bible would future generations really embark on a string of never-ending murderous rape-riot.  The bible is littered with stories based around an ancient societies grasp on culture, government, science and discovery. Much like how social instability, disease and war still plague us in the 21st century, self-induced&amp morality has been progressively developing in our species since the Bronze Age and will continue to do so into the space age. What I mean is; if we started a new religion today and were to write a book on how to live by what we currently know about the universe and each other, the likelihood is that it would once again be completely irrelevant for conducting a society 2000 years from now. Is this not how we should view all holy books today? A historical account of how people used to live?

Everyone is entitled to believe what they wish and unfortunately everybody is also entitled to raising a child with the same beliefs. Despite refuting all attempts at reasoning, keen followers of religious traditions still genuinely believe that passing religion onto their children is helping them. Yes, helping them about as much as a syringe of HIV in the jugular.

One of the most common questions I get asked by people of faith is "my religion is harmless and only promotes love, why are you bashing it?". On one hand the ‘love’ argument is fairly valid when comparing a somewhat morally evolved religion like Christianity to a violent unchanged group like Islam, but you have to treat religion in general as an identity with the same foundations of non-thinking. When there are very obvious threats posed by a religion that at its core encourages followers to rejoice at the death of non-believers in an age where atomic weaponry could quite easily be accessed by an extremist middle-eastern Hitler, real-life mass destruction isn't too farfetched.

Sadly, whether you're of Islam or Christianity you share a common mythological ancestor and Christianity, despite proclaiming love to all (we'll sweep the racism, homophobia, rape, murder and sexism under the rug for now) it is still equally as damaging by default. Teaching a child to fear God and to put so much trust in such a twisted book is structuring a child's mind to process their approach to facts and truth finding in a nonsensical manor.

It may not encourage them to be bad people (bar modern homophobia) in the same way that Grand Theft Auto doesn’t encourage people to murder prostitutes - but - religion continues to breed generations of non-thinkers. I’m not saying that religious followers are witless; in fact many that I know of personally are well educated, passionate and resourceful people but isn’t the meaning of being part of this highly attuned species to contribute in some way towards evidence-based, non-mythical thinking and to encourage others to do the same in order to avoid the origin of morals argument in the first place?

I often wonder why intelligent people can be the holders of such twisted spiritual logic but it seems as though habitual worship over a considerable length of time is capable of permanently clouding one’s mind whilst leaving ones intellectual integrity completely intact. Similar to how losing one eye doesn't deny the other of 20/20 vision but to get a clear picture with scientific depth-perception you really do need both.

With a universe of information now available - wirelessly in our pockets - there's no excuse to not be well informed on basic matters of both scientific and moral importance. We have the privilege of having virtually uncompromised access to the life works of brilliant scientists sprawled endlessly across the internet. With this privilege comes the ability to read peer-reviewed conclusions without having to have done any ground work ourselves yet most of us are still either uninformed, misinformed or just plain ignorant to humanities highest regarded evidence based facts.

In a busy and intellectually intimidating world, the simplest explanation for why we are here - of which was reached thousands of years ago - is God. Equally, people that are on the fence with spirituality or choose to go no way near it whatsoever are either institutionalized by a media-controlled, narcissistic lifestyle, avoid searching for the truth in fear of emotional and scientific confusion, or both, but they needn't be put off.

Religion was mankind’s original science in a similar respect to how astrology was our original astronomy but now that we’re generally familiar with the process of evolution and other science facts, to understand how it truly works requires a further level of self-motivated learning. It's a shame to encourage a child to think for themselves in every aspect of life other than the origin of their own existence - But hey, if I were God, I probably wouldn't want people to know I didn't exist either.

Many would argue that if you've thoroughly studied science and logic and yet still have your faith then that’s fair do's - but is that really a fair do's? If you had testicular cancer would you trust modern medicine for the best chance of survival or would you prefer to go back in time and have a witch-doctor rub a holy-nettle on your testicles? The same logic applies to taking morality and instruction from any ancient source.

If you feel the need to use something as corrupt as holy scripture as your morality, in my life then you must be very lost indeed. I will very graciously avoid leaving my child's mental development in the pages of a text that can only be described as a 'dairy of a perverted sociopath'.

One aspect of religion I am undecided on is the respective placebo effect that comes with it. In short; When ill, the placebo effect can help reassure you that you’re on the mend and thus make you feel better. Similarly the placebo effect can contribute to your sense of negative well-being in order to make you feel worse when worrying about a perceived illness - both of which can completely alter your self-perceived negativity. With regard to religion, if allowing or avoiding something can truly influence a negative or positive biological response on a beneficial or risky outcome, can superstition scientifically help or hinder you if indoctrinated? This is why I still subconsciously avoid walking over triple-drains at the age of 26 (a UK superstition as far as I'm aware) as I was told by my sisters as a child that it was bad luck - and why people argue in favor of religion regardless of the truth. Despite this theory, ultimately the negatives of religion and superstition still outweigh the positives brought forward by psychological comfort.

"But Rob, you can't paint extremists and non-extremists with the same brush". To fear an indistinguishable presence in order to do good is in itself morally unjust. To quote Weinberg; "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil, that takes religion". This has been a very relevant and powerful quote for me in explaining the blind evil that religion has cast upon its followers for millennium.

People that don't need logic and evidence to believe something is more of a danger to the human condition than a modern epidemic. Unfortunately, as a mere individual, little 'Margret the nun' kissing her cross and helping the poor doesn't seem so dangerous at a glance but statistically the influence of a group is measured by the swarm and not by an individual that has created their own pick-and-choose brand of a particular faith that just so happens to exclude the bad aspects (which theoretically excludes you from being a true member of the religion all together). As a race we owe it to future generations to promote logic and compassion in order to avoid war and suffering. Comfort can be found in logic and science. 

Mother Teresa thought she was doing the Lord's work by housing the sick and leaving their recovery to God, but what she really did was prolong the suffering and increase the death count of thousands of people, despite truly believing she was doing good. I'll add a quick reference to her disapproval of condoms to help reduce the spread of AIDS here too..

Take the black plague for example: When millions were dying at the hands of a deadly virus the most widespread conclusion to the madness was that God was punishing mankind for his sins. Apparently the most obvious sin in the eyes of 12th century Britain was to not follow the word of God from a Christian perspective. This theory resulted in the burning and mutilation of millions of Jewish citizens in an attempt to make God happy and thus cure the disease. Still want to take all of your reasoning and logic from the past? Go ahead, but I'd rather not allow a divine creator that is supposed to exist above all petty human emotions to 'guilt' me into submission like a jock on a shy cheerleader at a frat party.

Please, whenever possible, teach children to question. Teach them to question everything they possibly can. Encourage the 'Why?' phase with enthusiasm and treat it with respect. Be privileged that as a human being you have the chance to build the foundations of another life that will one day teach others. We're all born scientists and the only difference between an Islamic extremist group and the world's leading scientific humanists is the influence they receive in adolescence. Encourage a healthy desire to believe via evidence and to love without prejudice.

Rob Earley