On Slashdot today, a conversation about how people on the internet tend to dismiss news sources they don’t agree with and gravitate toward those they do somehow managed to transform into an argument about religion and morality. Someone actually tried to argue that even if there is no god, it’s best to promote organized religion, because without it we’d be a bunch of murderous, rapacious, thieving beasts and society would fall apart, since most people are too intellectually lazy (read: inept) to figure out morality for themselves.
I’ll lay it out for you…
While I understand that there is no scientific proof for the existence of an omnipotent deity, and that by Occam’s razor the likely case is that there is no such hyper-dimensional entity, I still support organized religion.
Most people are intellectually lazy and do not bother to spend a great deal of time contemplating philosophy or the underpinnings of civilization.
Most people also do not understand the concept of an opportunity cost and are bad at judging the actual risk involved in a low-probability high-cost scenario.
Also, generally speaking, biological organisms are greedy and selfish(with various exceptions for family/offspring/symbiosis).
Put these together and what reason does the hungry man have not to kill you for your sandwich?
If he gets away with shop-lifting a few times, why should he not continue?
The same with robbery, assault, murder, etc.
Assuming that the 10% least intelligent do not really understand the consequences of being put in jail or the risk of being caught and all that that entails, what is to stop them if there is not some all-knowing being out there that knows everything that they do and will make sure that they will get punished for such actions?
Simply put civilization as we know it is built on a scaffold of morality that is constructed of faith and held together by organized religion.
Some people have the philosophical understanding of how we all benefit by following the rule of law, many lack that level of understanding and rely primarily on their faith that bad people will be punished for doing bad things.
Not all religions are created equal, but the ‘good’ ones are those that cause a general improvement in the human condition.
There will of course be lapses, any organization run by humans will have problems, but in general, the positive effects of organized religion far outweigh the costs.
(remember, back when there was no ‘one true god’ most ‘civilizations’ believed it was just to kill over an insult, and wipe out an entire family to avenge a death)
You’re joking, right? It’s better to lie to people who either can’t or don’t want to think about the nature of morality by telling them all sorts of nonsense about what a deity wants from them?
Here’s how I responded:
There are several major problems with what you just said.
First is the idea that nonbelievers will naturally be more inclined to immorality, or that society can’t exist without a “scaffold of morality that is constructed of faith and held together by religion.” This is empirically disproved by the examples of nations like Denmark and Sweden where the majority of the nation is secular and they enjoy more stability than most religious nations, including America.
Second is the idea that it’s valid to build a moral code around fiction. If there is no God, any theistic moral code is simply an arbitrary construct built around a convenient concept. There’s no guarantee that this kind of moral code will provide good moral standards – just a moral standard. Why not just excise the good moral concepts from the supernatural nonsense and the hordes of bad moral concepts (e.g., stoning homosexuals, enslaving foreigners, killing purported witches, etc.)? Not to mention that such a system, based on fiction, would be without grounds to say that dishonesty is immoral, seeing how it would require massive amounts of dishonesty just to assert an absolute source for the moral code.
Third, there is no real-world benefit that a religious moral system can provide that a secular one can’t. None. However, there are many damaging things that organized religions have promoted that couldn’t be justified by a secular system. The indoctrination of children with incredible amounts of false information, for example, or religiously-motivated bigotry, or holy wars, or any number of other things that spring quickly to mind. Fourth, you seem to be implying that the solution to intellectual laziness is dishonesty. If people aren’t willing to think things through, you’re saying it’s better to lie to them about the reason something is right or wrong than to give them a reason to think about it. A moral system based on organized religion, when there is no god, is simply an arbitrary set of rules. Many of these rules would necessarily involve performing the will of a nonexistent being, and lying to the people who are too intellectually lazy to think things through. There are no benefits to such a system that couldn’t be gained without the lies.
I honestly find it hard to believe that people like the Faitheist above take themselves seriously.