Biblical Ethics and Human Principles

Another great cartoon from Atheist Cartoons keeping on the subject here lately about morality. The Bible is a worthless book for determining an exact definition of ethics and principles to live by regardless of its truth value for creation. It could be that I might believe the Christian God is not real but then think that their book and religious teachings are useful and good, but I don’t.

I’ve said in previous posts I think humanity already has what is good that our primitive ancestors put in their religious books and we don’t need any of these primitive books to confuse folks on what is right and wrong. God hates fags? God wants people stoned for various offenses? Just look at the other Ten Commandments in Exodus, otherwise known as the Ritual Decalogue. Read it for yourself and tell me how great this self-identified Jealous God really is. There’s some interesting requirements God set out for us humans. For example, I’m a first-born son so apparently I should have been redeemed. I don’t know what that entails so fortunately I found a Jewish tradition of Pidyon HaBen that covers it. Since I was raised Catholic and not Jewish, I’m guessing for Christians Jesus redeemed everyone and is why the Old Testament rules are safely ignored. That’s why there wasn’t a redemption ceremony where I was paid for in silver, but even though I received a lot of Catholic teaching as a child I don’t recall much information on the Old Testament and what no longer applies. I’ve since gone the next step and ignore the New Testament as well.

It’s nonsense like all of this that led me away from religion and to the acknowledgement that nobody knows what the heck they’re talking about. The ancient writings of our primitive ancestors in the Middle East are as useful as the ancient writings concerning the gods of Greek, Roman, Norse, Native American, etc. origins. They’re all in the same religious fiction category in my library. Go ahead and read those writings for examples of ethics and human principles, but just know that they are the ethics of the people that wrote them and not of the gods they claim to represent.

Standards of Good

I posted this as a comment reply to The Golden Rule post but it’s long enough to elevate to an actual blog post.

I assume humanity works through our standards of good in any given situation as an imperfect society of fellowship with our laws to guide us. A “standard” is universal and applies to all situations. “Thou shall not kill” is an absolute standard of good that should prevent you from using deadly force as a police officer or defend the country as a military member, but most bible believers judge for themselves when this supposed absolute standard of good actually applies. All religions don’t have a standard of good that contradicts the rest of humanity because it is all of humanity that shares in the universal guide of the “golden rule”. It is just a guide and is not perfect in itself. If I were a twisted individual that enjoyed pain I should not follow “do unto others…” and inflict pain on other people.

It’s funny you think I said Americans are not good and even quote the word “not” as if I said it. Saying a country appears to be nicer and safer than mine doesn’t mean the United States is not also nice and safe. I just said that Japan appeared to be higher on the scale of a “good society.” There isn’t a specific standard for a good society unless you want to try to make something up with crime statistics and the amount of individual freedoms enjoyed by the people if such things can be quantified.

We are all evil? It is the saddest thing for me to read when I come across it and is definitely one big thing I find wrong with religion. I believe most people are good and you believe everyone is evil. We use our inherent good as a society to collectively determine what is good for our societies. It isn’t perfect but our tribes have managed to graduate to governments and laws that work fairly well for some of the basics of good. If someone steals from me or murders my family (we can agree on those being bad, right?) then police, courts, jail, etc. all step in and take care of this. Hopefully the police could step in and prevent murder of my family but taking care of the murderer is the action that stops that person from killing again.

What does religion do in all of this? Here is the religious standard of good and how it operates. We are all evil sinners so religion offers forgiveness for the murderer. If they can only find Jesus then the murderer should be set free to live for Christ and kill again in his next moment of weakness. It’s not his fault because God made us as pure evil. What kind of nonsense is that? I don’t think most people have evil thoughts and urges. Let’s continue down your thought process that the bible is the standard of good. The 10 commandments should become law for this country and our most severe punishments should be for violating them since this is the top 10 list. So if I have another god before your god or create false idols I should be punished more severely than being a murderer if the commandments are ranked in order of importance. I should be punished for the thought crime of coveting. All parents should be honored so I think that does away with child protective services and the crimes of child abuse. These are just some applications of your good from the top of my head.

You are good without god. We are not evil. I don’t need Christ to stop my hand from stealing from you, killing you, or any other evil deed that you think we all are compelled to do since we are evil. Simply providing “Christ” as the ultimate standard just will not cut it. Humans do disagree at many points, and we work through it situation by situation. If it were perfect then one true church would currently rule the world and we’d only need a single priest to serve as judge and jury over all evil deeds. You can ask god and the Pope how well that one works out for us all.

The Golden Rule

Standards of good are human standards that don’t come from a god. “You have to share in my religion to be considered good” is such a ridiculous notion. I’ve visited Japan and it’s a country with amazing people that I would point to as an excellent example of an overall good society. Yet, the majority of Japanese are increasingly secular and follow no religion. They keep associations with Shinto and Buddhism as a matter of tradition rather than belief.

Article 20 of their 1947 Constitution states:

“Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority”

Well, doesn’t that sound familiar? Separation of religion and the state was mandated by the occupation of Japan because of the role of State Shinto in furthering Japan’s military aggression in Asia before and during World War II. Isn’t that a fair warning for maintaining a seperation of church and state? It’s sad that many Christians and Muslims would look at Japan and the religion of the people to say that the country is worthless and immoral based solely on their belief. However, in my short visits I found the country to be nicer and safer than many areas of the United States. Nobody has a monopoly on “being good” based upon their primitive religions.

Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions

Questions of good and evil, right and wrong are commonly thought unanswerable by science. But Sam Harris argues that science can — and should — be an authority on moral issues, shaping human values and setting out what constitutes a good life.

I believe that morality is rooted in our natural being and the societies we form. Science as “the study of the nature and behaviour of natural things and the knowledge that we obtain about them” should most definitely be able to define and categorize moralities. I would love to see science truly try to define our moral landscape and help us all define and arrive at the optimal viewpoints of morality for all of humanity. The cloudy vision of mythical beliefs that many people still rely upon today is a reflection of ourselves wrapped in unnecessary ficitional stories. Like many other primitive beliefs about the universe that science has shed a needed light on, I do believe science can clear up and improve our collective morality.

Sinners are the Exception

The last part of the question I responded to in my last post that I should touch on was: You may not “believe” we are sinners, but if that is in fact true, how do you explain the existence of illicit, immoral behavior in a species that is otherwise, as you say, “inherently good”?

I believe “sinners” and everyone’s evil ways are generally the exception and not the rule. We are not 100% good, but I do believe we are mostly good. Christians tend to believe that we couldn’t have a decent and civil society without a deity that keeps us in line. Some actually believe it is the word of god that created our system of government and laws. That doesn’t explain tribes of humans that came before Christianity that seemed to have done fine without Christianity or any other monotheistic religion. The Bible has no mention of democracy or any hint that the will of the people has any place under the will of God. Native Americans worshipping their ancestors and gods of nature were not lawless savages lacking ethics or the basics of morality. There are many other groups of humans of the past and present that have done just fine without that particular deity in their lives. Humanity was able to establish rules and laws to develop peaceful tribes that grew into larger societies and countries without the benefit of the “almighty” word of the Christian God.

If we were truly all sinners and our basic instinct was evil, then the claim that the Christian God is the only way to overcome this would mean that 2/3 of the planet would be destroying itself at this very moment. Do you really think that the Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, etc. are all destroying themselves because they are evil sinners without the right God to guide them? Some radicals may make the news, but they are a select few out of the billions that make up a non-Christian world majority that are doing just fine. The Christians tend to overlook their own radicals and mentally unstable people that head to a church and kill a few random people. I could easily link to many stories about that, but it doesn’t mean all Christians are evil sinners that will head to their church with a gun.

The point I’m trying to make is that for any Christian that continues to try to tell me that we are all really a bunch of evil sinners that need God to be good I have to say I just don’t buy it given what we’ve become as a human race. If we were evil creatures then the world would be a terrible place as most of us are unable or unwilling to overcome such a basic instinct and common trait. The 1/3 of the world that is Christian would be the only civilized society having to protect themselves from the complete evil that surrounds them if you really believe that were to be true. Get out and see the world and you will see that this just isn’t the real face of humanity. Overall, humanity is good.