Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

Be Good For Goodness’ Sake

Telling someone that they shouldn’t steal or murder or rape because if they get caught they will go to prison is not teaching morality.  Similarly, telling someone that they shouldn’t engage in these same types of behaviors because the will got to hell is not teaching morality either.  What it is doing is teaching that these behaviors are bad, not because the are intrinsically immoral, but because there is the risk of negative consequences.

This type of thinking ignores the real effect of immoral actions: that they harm others.  That crime, deceit, and violence robs a person of a part of their humanity.  It attacks one of the greatest truths ever put forth by the human mind:  that we all are created equal, that we “are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (1)

True morals should be based on this principle.  They should also be based on empathy and love for our fellow Homo sapiens who we share out planet with.  By holding up threats of punishment, either in this life or a mythical one beyond it, we dehumanize each other and desensitize ourselves to the humanity within others.  

This mindset can lead to disdain of those who are seen as violating some peoples’ personal or religious morals, many of which are inhumane, insensitive, and inhumane.  

The same holds for being moral and doing good deeds for others because we empathize with their plight.  We should do kind things not expecting anything in return, but because it is intrinsically the right thing to do.  To only do good, be it giving to charity, doing a favor for a friend, or giving a blanket to a cold homeless person just because we expect a reward in heaven or to boost our status within our social circles reeks of  callousness.  These types of people do good not because it is the right thing to do, but because they are greedy for reward.  When they give to charity, help at soup kitchens, they are often thinking not of those who benefit from their deeds, but of the benefit to their social status and/or their eternal reward.

Santa Clause, that fictional character of Christmas cheer, summed up the true basis of morality:  be good for goodness’ sake.

 

(1) The Declaration of Independence

are created equal, that they are endowed

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy New Year in Hell

Not to be a buzz kill, but here is a very thought provoking article about hell and human decency.

Here is wishing all of you a Happy New Year!  Lets hope we see more tolerance and human decency this coming year.

December 31, 2011 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, secular humanism, Skepticism | , , | 1 Comment

Heaven & Hell

 

John Shook has a great piece on the Center For Inquiry blog about how religion isn’t about hope, but personal wish-fullfillment, control, and our secret desire for revenge.  Here are two paragraphs that nicely sum up what I want to talk about today:

Heaven and hell are more about enforcing moral retribution upon everyone, and not about loving consolation for everyone. I said earlier that religion personally is largely about private wish-fulfillment. But at the social level, religion is mostly about imposing a public moral system. And not just any moral system – religions with heavens and hells have moral systems about obedience, vengeance, and retribution. With heaven and hell, private wish-fulfillment nicely pairs up with public moral-expectation. God delivers love to us because we feel deserving of that love. God delivers vengeful retribution upon others because we wish we could do it to them ourselves.

When believers say, “My God is all about Love!” what they are actually saying is that God really loves them and doesn’t love others. These are the kind of people who can’t feel truly loved unless someone else doesn’t get that love. Such a childishly selfish attitude, barely tolerable from the three year-old pushing the older sibling away from the parental lap, is entirely despicable from adults. Yet religious societies take this to the public level, effectively frightening members into obedience, and warning outsiders not in that good company that they will suffer for it. Join our religion, the message rings out, or else you’ll get hell for it!

I’ve read several blog posts today about this subject of heaven and hell and how you can’t have a heaven without a hell.  Except for Unitarian Universalists, all most no religion, especially forms of Christianity, has a concept of Heaven without a corresponding hell.  The problem with this, besides the horrific fact that so many people seem to take pleasure at the potential eternal suffering of others, is that hell just doesn’t fit in with the concept of a god of love.  God is seen as a parental figure, someone who makes the rules and rewards or punishes and who we always want to try to please.  What parent would willingly send their child somewhere where they would be tortured and tormented?  Only an sick, sadistic parent would.  So if there is hell, then god is a sick sadist.

Religious belief like this is, as John says, childishly selfish.  It has pain and punishment for those we are jealous of built right in.  The only real love there is the love for those we choose to love and for ourselves.

This is why I take a humanist approach to life.  Humanism has at it’s core the wellbeing of all people, everywhere.  When you put all people on a level playing field and treat them all equally, then you can’t help but act in the best interests of everyone.  Of course we have to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, but humanist ideals say that we shouldn’t do that at the expense of others.

As John sums up in another of his posts on the same subject:

Give me a morality, a humanist one, that finally centers on the one life that we all know we have.

March 20, 2011 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion | , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

   

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