The Myth of Religious Morality.

One of the arguments that an atheist, agnostic, or other non-theist involved in theological debate will hear often is the concept that religion is the fount of human morality, that without the steadying and moderating influence of god humankind has no incentive to act morally. While each religion does have a very specific and binding morality I would argue that none of them are really the moralities that modern humans should aspire to. This concept that religion is necessary for moral behaviour would seem to stem from an ignorance of what these holy books actually have to say about human conduct. Let’s take a look at some of the moral teachings of the Christian Bible and the Muslim Quran.

Slavery is Ok

Bible

“When a slave owner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.Exodus 21:20-21

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5)

“The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” (Luke 12:47-48 )

* These are only some of the verses in the bible that deal with slavery, some verses even lay out the proper pricing of Jewish and non – Jewish slaves.

Quran

“Prophet, We have made lawful to you the wives to whom you have granted dowries and the slave girls whom God has given you as booty.” Quran 33:50

“Blessed are the believers…who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them…)…” Quran 23:1

Neither the Bible or the Quran has any proscription against slavery. I would say that most people would agree that slavery is a moral abomination that should be stamped out wherever it is found and yet the Abrahamic religions not only have nothing bad to say about it but actually embrace it.

Intolerance is OK

Bible:

“But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me..”  Luke 19:27

“He that is not with me is against me.” Matthew 12: 30

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16:16

In the above examples Jesus makes it very clear that there is no room for tolerance of other beliefs. There is only his way, his interpretation. Anyone who isn’t prepared to accept Jesus as lord and master is worthy of death and damnation.

“Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 10: 5-6

 

“And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.  But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.  But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.  But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.  And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.  Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” Matthew 15: 22-28

These two examples show a blatant isolationism and racism on the part of Jesus. He says straight out that he is only interested in the welfare of Jewish people.

 Quran

“But they who disbelieve, and deny Our revelations, such are rightful Peoples of the Fire. They will abide therein“ Quran 2:39.

“Believe ye in part of the Scripture and disbelieve ye in part thereof ? And what is the reward of those who do so save ignominy in the life of the world, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be consigned to the most grievous doom.” Quran 2:85

Again, no other belief or point of view is to be entertained or permitted. Not only do you have to believe what they believe, you have to believe all of what they believe or not only die but burn eternally.

Neither the Bible or the Quran set any store in tolerance as a moral value.  As a matter of fact both of them state plainly that tolerance of other views is not an acceptable value of the “faithful”

Murder and Genocide are Ok.

Bible

“Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.” (Deuteronomy 13:8-9)

“The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance. He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.” Psalms 58:10)

“Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.” (Deuteronomy 12:2-3)

Quran

Slay them wherever ye find them…Such is the reward of disbelievers.” Quran 2:191

“Fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah.” Quran 2: 193

“If they keep not aloof from you nor offer you peace nor hold their hands, then take them and kill them wherever ye find them. Against such We have given you clear warrant.”  Quran 4:91

Both texts clearly say that it is more than ok to murder, maim and kill for God. Not only is it ok, as a matter of fact, it is demanded by God.

Conclusion

Without even going into the atrocious  treatment of women by both faiths and both “holy” books I think we’ve seen that religious morality is at best dubious and more often than not atrocious. As for the argument that without religion we’d have no morality I’d say that our morality has long since surpassed the example of both these books. Most of us, religious or not, would say emphatically that slavery is wrong, cultural and racial tolerance is important and that murder, genocide and torture are negative things. Do we really need mythology and superstitious beliefs in celestial overseers to tell us that it’s wrong to hurt people, kill people, enslave people?

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Posted on September 16, 2012, in Bible, Editorial and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I would like to know where you think our morals come from? More specifically why we would evolve them as a species, how are they so important to our survival that it would warrant us developing them at all?

    • I’ll do a full post about this eventually but I am personally of the opinion that our basic morality is innate, built in, which is why all the world’s major religions at least pay lip service to the same basic moral principles. No murder, no stealing,treating others as you’d want to be treated cooperation between families and friends, all of these have a specific purpose: to ensure the survival of the individual and the species as a whole.

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