I used to love this class because of the always interesting discussion that took place, but some topics just inspire what feels like a feud of ideals instead of a discussion of viewpoints.
It’s really scary.
I have my own views on morals and their relation to religion. I’m not closed-minded about it, I always find everyone’s input extremely interesting and insightful. Everyone really makes some good points! But what I absolutely cannot stand is when people start to get so righteous and defensive about their points. Obviously people feel very strongly about their ideas, and that’s great, but when everyone starts yelling over each other to be heard and cutting each other off, I just feel like crawling under my desk and out the door. It’s like being in the middle of gunfire. And although I’m sure no one would admit it, I think it has a lot to do with ignorance and limited view. On topics like religion, I think sometimes people are oblivious to how limited their view is. Speaking for myself, it is easy to forget that “religion” is not limited to belief in God. We’ve spent the whole semester attempting to define religion and saying it is made up of rituals and traditions and community, and it’s pretty freaking hard to escape!!
So then when we talk about morality, at least when we talked about it today, it seemed like everyone forgot that. Religion = God. But that’s not the case!!!! And I see a lot of truth in looking at morality and religion like you would look at a rectangle and a square. All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. Genuinely religious people are believed to be/hold morals, but not all moral people are truly religious. Morality is the rectangle. It can be in a religious sense, or it can stand on it’s own. Now some would argue that all morals result out of religious belief, and I see a certain truth in that. I would not say it is false. But I also see a truth in saying that morals can exist without the influence of religion. Maybe I am too biased to make that judgment because I was raised in a religious family and attended 13 years of Catholic school, but I think humanity can come to the conclusion, at least a majority consensus, that certain acts are bad when committed with foul intent. And I think humanity has the ability to discern what defines intent as malicious. I don’t think their needs to be a belief in a godly overseer or karmic punishment for one to come to the conclusion that you should not take someone else’s life.
What about the conscience? Is that a part of the brain and self derived from religion? I really don’t think so. It’s in our wiring to feel bad about actions we commit when they are committed with wrongful purpose. I feel bad when I spend considerable amounts of money. Sometimes even on things that I feel I really need. I know that I could probably live without them, but I decide they are necessary for my comfort. But I also know that my family struggles with money. That my parents are providing me with an education at a $40,000 a year institution. That they have already sacrificed to send me through Catholic school for 13 years. That they are currently putting my brother through Catholic school and will continue to for at least the next five years. None of this has anything to do with religion. But the voice in my head makes me feel bad when I spend money on little luxuries because I know that my family is struggling. That I am taking for granted. And I feel like I am hurting them indirectly in some way. That is morals. Morals work through your conscience. And I don’t need religious beliefs to tell me that I should be worried about the well being of my family.
It’s pure instinct.
I believe morals are tied in with instinct. Animals kill other animals for food; for survival. They don’t kill just to kill. We kill animals for food; for survival. When running on instinct, no creature would kill for the sake of causing death. Killing is an instinctual reaction for survival. Whether it be the result of a feeling of being threatened, to protect, or to provide for basic needs such as food, killing has a reason in the animal kingdom. It’s not an evil act.
We’ve talked about religion being used to explain things; tragedies, what happens when we die, etc. And I think that still applies here. Religion developed as a way to explain feelings of instinct.