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More on Moral Browsing

I'm very excited by the huge turn out in the comments section after my recent post on the subject of morality. Thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion.

I wanted to highlight two links people shared in the comments section. The first is to a post by a former atheist who turned to Christianity named Jennifer, from her blog Conversion Diary (hat-tip to Blissful_e). A couple of quotes:
As I studied Christianity, I found that this religion claimed to offer objective truth about life and the world, including matters of what is right and what is wrong.
and
Without God -- or, to phrase it another way, without objective truth -- we are sailors without a compass, trying to rely on gut instinct to navigate troubled waters.
Andrew Howard shared a related link to a recent TED talk by author Sam Harris (It's 20 minutes long, but it's much better than what's on TV right now, I guarantee you!). I include a few key quotes after the embedded video.



Now, it's often said that science can not give us a foundation for morality and human values because science deals with facts. And facts and values seem to belong to different spheres. It's often thought that there is no description of the way the world is that can tell us how the world ought to be. But I think this is quite clearly untrue. Values are a certain kind of fact. They are facts about the well-being of conscious creatures.
It's interesting that the Christian blogger and scientific skeptic agree on one point: There are objective facts about morality. Where they differ is in what/who they see as the source of these objective facts. Jennifer sees her god as the source of truth. Sam believes that we humans can work out these truths for ourselves, without the help of a god.

It's probably not surprising that my personal beliefs are closer aligned with those of Sam. I believe in my own ability to seek out the answers to the questions of morality. Furthermore, I strongly disagree with Jennifer's assertion that her god is the (only) source of truths relating to morality. I don't go so far as to think that my own belief system is necessarily the only way or the best way. And I certainly don't think my moral code is either novel or foolproof. But I do strongly believe that the way in which I have built my moral code is inescapable and universal: We all have to browse around for morals that fit and discard those that don't (I was going to say that we're all moral hermit crabs, but I thought that would be too silly :)). Both Jennifer and Sam have to do this on a daily basis, no matter how dogmatically they hold to their faith or lack thereof.

I'm going to think more on the similarities and contrasts between the two points of view presented above and I hope to come back soon with a longer post. In the mean time, let me know what you think of the two views.

Comments

Misspudding said…
I think the nice thing about science as moral compass is that it allows us the ability to be independently moral. Organized religion needs a group to do it's work, and unfortunately, sometimes the work isn't a good thing but sometimes it's so much more than the independently ethical scientist can accomplish on his or her own.

As you know, I share most of your views. I started attending something called a "MOPS" group, which you may have heard of, since you're a parent of preschoolers. What you may not have known is that it's a religious organization. I started attending meetings because I've been stuck at home, getting depressed because of my unemployment, and it was a welcoming group with similar ideals (the successful raising of young kids and the support for their moms). I couldn't believe how much I missed a group of caring, loving individuals who are supportive. Every week after a meeting, I'm like, "Damn, I really want to go to church." But then I'm like, "Damn. I'm an atheist."

Makes me wish that there was an atheist church.

(File this one under Missyisms)
mama mia said…
Thanks for the enlightening video. I was unfamiliar with TED, and am now looking forward to more possibilities for broadening my mind...an old nonna can learn new stuff, eh?
blissful_e said…
As always, you get me thinking, John.

You're right about the moral compass in a practical sense. Get any number of people in a room and you'll get all shades of answers as to what is right or wrong. (Is speeding wrong? What if it's only a few mph? Or because your wife is hemorrhaging while giving birth in the back seat?) We all make judgment calls on a daily, even hourly basis.

We make good choices, we make bad choices. But there is one overriding choice that makes all the difference.

The reason I try to do what God commands (Love the Lord your God with all you are and love your
neighbour as yourself) is because I believe that Jesus is God's son, that he came and lived a perfect life but died a terrible death, went to Hell and rose from the dead three days later (today is Easter, the day I celebrate his resurrection from the dead!).

I believe Jesus did all this so that my own imperfections are forgiven and instead of being separated from the perfect God by sin, I am called his daughter and even his friend. Jesus is a very real and important part of my life and I want to please him and become more like him. So I make the best choices I can based on what he has revealed to me as true through the Bible.

We all make a choice about Jesus. Read the books in the Bible describing Jesus' life as written by his friends and contemporaries, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and make an informed choice. "Either Jesus was (and is) exactly what he said, or else he was insane or something worse" p 37, Alpha: Questions of Life, written by Nicky Gumbel - former atheist. After making a choice for or against Jesus, the other choices don't matter so much.

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