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Moral Compass

on Fri, 03/30/2012 - 18:17

I agree with the core values and morals that most religions encourage. But it bothers me that some people need a story or religious doctrine to show them how to act morally. Why can't an action be intrinsically right or wrong?

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YES. This is what I wonder a lot too. People claim you need a Christian president to set a moral precedent for the country. Why do you need a religion to act morally? Why can't you act good just for the sake of it, and not because of a wish to enter heaven or avoid hell? I know that I do.

I mean, I don't think it's wrong that people need a book to tell them how to live a moral life. I think whatever means it is, as long as you live a good, moral life, whatever. What bothers me too is that some people believe their method of leading a good, moral life is the only real way to do so.

I think it's easier to be a good person if you have someone to aspire to. Whether or not you believe Jesus was the Son of God, he was a real, historical person and the idea that a human man could be so loving makes a lot of people think, "Well if he could do it, then so can I!" If people need the Torah, the Vedas, the Christian Scriptures, or the Book of Mormon to be a good person, does it really matter so long as they're good? It's just a different path to the same end, and it's just as valid as yours! (=

What determines what is intrinsically good though?

I don't know if you can say some action is intrinsically good or bad in a godless world. By what yardstick would we measure "goodness"? You just end up with moral relativism.

You don't have to end up with moral relativism. You can measure the "goodness" or "badness" of actions by whether their outcomes cause pain to pleasure to others (utilitarianism/consequentialism). Alternatively, you can obey the golden rule. Heck, you can even get some good mileage out of Kant's Categorical Imperative.

@Lea, Andres

What makes a holy book intrinsically good? Some of the core principles of the holy book of any one religion may conflict with those of others. To others, your yardstick of "goodness" is wrong. To you, theirs is wrong. So really, is your "good" really the real "good?" I guess such an answer really can't be answered; if it could, then we wouldn't be having religion-based wars and conflicts and hate.

Everything is relative. You can't just hide behind your religion as the one true religion of true moral absolutism. That's just hypocrisy.

Everything is relative? So if I think a person is a murder and you think he isn't, then is it just "relative" if they actually killed somebody? Or heck, I think the sky is green but you think it's blue, so let's just be nice and say we're all right anyway because it's "relative". Relativism is a concept that kills itself anyway (philosophically circular) so that can't be a good enough reason to just accept anything and everything.

As for intrinsically good, I think we're talking about the intrinsically good in people not a book. For books that's called reliability. But as for people, I'm sure most of us would agree that most of our moral compass comes from our upbringing and the culture we are a part of. So if your moral outlook depends on so many different factors, can we really say humans themselves are reliable to produce a consistent and accurate moral guide for everyone? In that case, no wonder people turn to books they believe are inspired by something more divine than us...

Bear in mind though, the bible is a horrible moral compass.

A book which tells you it's just as bad to eat shellfish or get a haircut as it is to kill someone, who thinks sex between two consenting adults of the same sex is an abomination but raping children is A-OK if you pay the father 50 silver coins and marry the girl afterwards?

Sure, there's stuff in there about being good to others, not stealing, not killing and such, but these are obvious, and best summed up by "the golden rule" treat others as you would like to be treated by others. which has featured in various forms in nearly all religions in recorded history.

In the end, yes, "morals" come from society, how we interact with eachother, and anyone who follows the bibles morals to the letter would be arrested for rape and child abuse fairly quickly, also, for honour killings.

Yes, wether killing a person is evil or not is relative.
It depends entirely on the situation.

Is it evil to kill a man to prevent him from blowing up a buss full of school children? or is that just defending lives?

I totally agree that you don't need to be Christian to be a good person. That's 100% legitimate. But look at what Jesus taught - love your neighbor, don't steal or kill or lie, love God. Pretty fabulous stuff, and I would say you really don't have to consider relative truths to see if that looks okay

What about the fact that most modern christians ignore the "love everyone and don't judge" because they've appended a "unless they're different" to the end of it?


"Everything is relative. You can't just hide behind your religion as the one true religion of true moral absolutism. That's just hypocrisy."

If it's lame to "hide behind" my religion for its morals, then it seems even lamer to hide behind moral relativism to justify amorality (or immorality, to most religions). Many religions have different rituals, vestments, and non-essential doctrines, but look at the incredible overlap that they give us. I would argue that these overlapping beliefs confirm a level of intrinsic goodness. My point in saying that it doesn't really matter which religion you follow is that, at the end of the day, they all say more or less the same thing, so you might as well pick the one whose sacred scriptures you find most appealing.

Lastly, I just have to ask: if everything is relative, then why be "good?" To me, moral relativism seems like a lame, get-out-of-jail-free card. I agree with the above poster.

But the thing is... you don't follow the morals of the bible.

Have you read the entire bible? and do you follow every rule set down in it? (even though most of them contradict themselves within 100 pages)

If you have not read it, then you don't follow the morals of the bible, you follow the morals of your community, and true, some of those are also set down in the bible, but if you for example eat shellfish, work on the sabbath, have premarital sex, or sex while the woman has her period, you're going to hell according to the bible, which is just ridiculous, so we've stopped abiding by those rules, and follow the ones our society has decided are moral instead of what the council if nicea decided was right.

So the way I come to terms with this is by throwing out the terms 'good' and 'bad', because they are in fact relative. So what do I have left? I am left with what does and doesn't come from God; what God does and doesn't approve. For those that believe in God, God is a righteous being that knows all because he is timeless and knows what happened, what is happening, and what will happen. He is the ultimate judge to know what is right or wrong; these terms are not relative for God. We are just limited as humans because we cannot see the future of actions and can only justify right/wrong by assessing the consequences of past events. We just try to make and impose rules to live harmoniously. I know this may seem like copping out from my part, but it's not. My goal in life becomes not in trying to be the most moral person, but trying to know God's will and following it, because coming to know God's will is like knowing the meaning of life, the answer of all questions, the purpose of our being. One way I try to do this is by finding bits and pieces of God in other people (we are made in God's image), and so my foremost mission is to connect with people. I can't imagine my spiritual life being one in solitude, because I would get nowhere, and so I band with other's that also have a genuine interest of growing spiritually and starting there. That is where I can see more clearly what things are right and wrong... but that's just me.

The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris


people and societies inherently have moral laws. it takes religion to make you break those laws. no society or person would say it's ok to kill someone who disagrees with you about a story from 2000 years ago, but a religion would. moral relativism comes from religions. the reason undeniable morals like some of the 10 commandments overlap in every religion is because they have nothing to do with religion or god. they are basic human morals. you don't need god to tell you that it's wrong to lie and steal and kill. but you do need a god to tell you it's wrong to be gay.

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