In general, people who practice religion are viewed as being “more moral” than those who don’t. For example, someone who attends church weekly and basis his or her life around their faith is seen as worthy of praise. This comes from a general view that the more spiritual you are, the more moral you are. This view is not black and white, and is not held by everyone, but is prevalent enough to be an issue.
So, does being religious have an effect on morality? To clarify, I want to look at the people who profess being religious as examples. I’m going to ignore extremists of every religion, as they do not represent the religion as a whole. Also I’m not going to specify anyone I know, just generally what I’ve noticed.
A common view is that religion increases someone’s morality because it creates guidelines and rules to live life by. For example, Christianity has the ten commandments and the words of Jesus. However, this cannot be the case. Rules and guidelines are known by everyone, it does not take religion to know that you shouldn’t kill or steal.
Another view is that it makes people feel accountable for their actions. Since God is always aware of your actions and thoughts, you feel more compelled to act righteously in front of God. This could be the case, and could be a large reason why many religious people avoid immoral actions. However, this reasoning would fall under the most infantile moral motivations (stage 1 under Kohlberg’s stages of morality). I find it hard to believe that this type of moral motivation is worthy of praise.
So, regardless of the reason, does religion generally affect morality? For this question, I want to ask: has anyone you’ve known ever disagreed with their God’s view of morality? To clarify, Christians all have the same book to base their beliefs on. Each denomination has its own interpretation of this book, and further each individual creates his or her own interpretation of the Bible. Why is it that each individual’s interpretation of what the Bible means, or further what God wants, does not disagree with their own views? Basically, I have seen no reason to believe that religion is truly the source of morality when the same source leads to such different views.
I’ve grown pretty cynical about religion over time and this is one of the main reasons. My problem is that the vast majority of Christians I’ve met do not act the way they are taught to in the Bible. Even though I do not believe Jesus was divine, I believe his story in the Bible shows one of the best role models for people possible. It’s just I haven’t seen any reason to believe Christianity leads people to act like Jesus.
- These past few weeks have become increasingly busy for me. I’ll be posting regularly as soon as winter break is done and I’m back in Santa Barbara, and I’ll try to have another post up soon. My post on the morality of war is still being worked on, I still just want to figure out what I believe before I post it.
I’m currently working on my theory about the soldier’s dilemma. I will have that post up once I feel comfortable in defending a position.
Meanwhile, I’m going to write a bit more about religion in the next couple days. Also, I’ll be posting more frequently after Christmas break is over and Winter Quarter starts.
I’ve been wondering about the morality of being a soldier in war for a while. At first thought, most people respect soldiers and consider their sacrifices praiseworthy. However, there are instances of cruel treatment among soldiers, and we often see soldiers of an opposing military as immoral.
To start with, “our soldiers are moral and the enemy is immoral” is not a valid way of thinking. It is similar to two people fighting, and one of them claiming that “it’s okay for me to hit them, but not okay for him to hit me”. This is called being a practical solipsist, and is not a valid base for morality by any standard.
I think the best way that war is justified is by claiming that it is a “just” war. For example, countries that were being attacked during World War II were morally justified in defending their countries. However, what is the case during aggressive wars (wars that are not in self-defense)?
I don’t want to talk too long about the Iraq war due to the controversy surrounding it. A lot of people believe that the war has been a waste of human life and resources, and they have good reasons for believing this way. So what is a soldier in the army morally required to do?
Imagine being a soldier in Iraq. Now imagine your unit is ordered to ransack a building that is currently holding about a dozen enemy soldiers. This building is in a civilized community, so you know that the chance of innocent bystanders being killed is high. What do you do? How do you judge whether or not to carry through with your orders? Common moral theories such as utilitarianism could provide a useful way of judging, but would present a problem: how can a unit function if each mission has the possibility of refusal? Also, soldiers cannot be expected to fully understand the aggregate effect that their actions will have.
So here’s the dilemma: are soldiers supposed to judge each order based on its moral value (and thus make the unit ineffective and unreliable), or are soldiers supposed to blindly obey any order that their superiors hand down?
I still haven’t fully formed my opinion on this, so I want to see if anyone out there has any ideas on this subject. I’ll have my opinion up in a few days.
I want to do a quick argument for why we need universal healthcare:
Most developed countries have some form of universal healthcare, with some providing entirely free health care with a tax-funded system (Greenland). It can obviously work, and I believe it absolutely has to happen in the US. One of the biggest arguments against universal healthcare says that the waits for doctors would be too long, which happens in a lot of countries. The problem with this argument is that: which people do you eliminate in that line to make things run more smoothly? With a for-profit healthcare system, the ones eliminated are the ones who can’t afford it, not the ones who don’t need it.
I don’t want to fully address this argument yet though, because I want to do more research on it in the future. What I do want to argue for is a step further: universal food.
This is obviously a socialist concept, bordering on communism. I don’t mind being called socialist, it’s just a term used to stir up emotions in debates. We already have a ton of socialist services already in place (welfare, social security, Medicare, etc.). Communism, on the other hand, does have some deserved negative connotations due to its history. The countries that have implemented it have been corrupt and/or poor (though I’m not implying that any government is free of corruption).
From what I understand, there were two main problems with communism: the amount of power it gives the government, and the lack of ambition in society.
There are a lot of reasons I think universal food would work. It would not be full on communism, the system would still function similarly to the way that countries with universal healthcare do. The rest of the economy (housing, cars, clothing, etc.) would still be capitalist. The government would not have complete control of the currency, and there would still be room for the ambition that helps drive people and the economy.
Now, the logistics of this would be a bit complicated. To start with, the food that would be free (completely tax funded) would only include regular groceries. The way these groceries would be chosen would mirror the current system that food stamps use.
The biggest objection to this would probably be: why should working people have to fund the food of those who simply don’t want to work? Now this does happen somewhat already with food stamps (though I believe the majority of people who receive food stamps don’t fall under that description). However, this system would basically guarantee to anyone that doesn’t want to work that they could have a lifetime of free food.
To put this objection down, I want to define two types of people that would be directly affected by these laws. The first are those who can work, but would not if there was a system that provided them entirely free food. The second type are people who would not have a sufficient amount of food if these laws weren’t in place. Now, is it just to punish the second group of people in order to keep the first group of people from taking advantage of the system? My point is that the positives of feeding those who do not have enough food (which can happen even with food stamps) outweigh the negatives of promoting laziness in those who want a free ride.
I highly doubt this system will be in place anytime soon, or at all. I really wish this weren’t the case though, because it would effectively eliminate hunger and the fear of not being able to feed yourself and your family. I strongly believe that this goal outweighs the economic costs of the system.
- This week I’m taking my finals and I have been busy with other issues almost non-stop for the past few days, so I had to postpone this post a while. My last final is on Friday, and I plan to spend a long time over winter break reading The Republic or Nichomachean Ethics and researching different topics in philosophy and applied ethics. I’m also going to be writing a lot of posts so this blog will be updated more frequently starting next week.