Disclaimer: Everything I’m about to write is wrong, or flawed, or easily debunked……. probably. I’m writing it as it comes, while it is still fresh in my mind and without looking up outside sources that would no doubt send me of on in a tangent that would result in a very different post.
So Morality contrasted with Religion. Keeping in mind that Ethics is really something else again. Morality is, at it’s most basic level, comprised of three facets.
The first and most important is Empathy.
“I will not go up to that person I hate and shoot them in the head, because I would hate it if someone shot me in the head simply because they didn’t like me.” It’s the foundation concept, when children become able to understand this concept of self, and extrapolate that other humans must also have self, this is the point that they can become moral beings.
The second is Self Interest
“I will not rob that bank and take all that money, because if I do I will probably get caught, I will go to jail, and much of my life will be wasted.” It’s a less compelling facet, because it can be derailed by simple logic. If it couldn’t there wouldn’t be crime. To use an economics term, it is all about Risk versus Profit
The third and final is Group Identity.
“I will not cheat on the husband I no longer love with that handsome, younger, man with the cheeky smile and bedroom eyes. If did, and my community found out I would be embarrassed because that is not what my community does. Worse I might be cast out from the group, and let’s face it I hate being alone.”
Religion by contrast is comprised of the same three facets, but in the totally opposite order.
There isn’t a lot of empathy demonstrated by believers, despite the fact it is often one of the underpinning concepts. Kill the pagan and their family, isn’t often prefaced with consideration of how I’d feel if that other group came and killed me and my family for worshiping what they consider to be a false god. I don’t see many folk thinking about the homosexual, or non-believer in their community and wondering how they themselves would feel if reviled, mocked, avoided, or bullied by a majority with a different world-view.
Well there is ample evidence of self-interest, but usually at the top of any given religious institutes food chain. Let’s face it, religion is big business. Church leaders can have multiple cars, mansions, power over thousands or millions, and all with an unquestionable stamp of authority. “Bow before the book, because the book tells you to. Do not question the book, because the book tells you not to. Do what I say, pay my tithe, for I am the holder of the book.” I’m not saying that all religious leaders are evil, or even that they are aware of this hypocrisy, but those attracted to roles of power are often the least suited to wield it.
Last, and in this case most importantly, is Group Identity.
“I am with the group of US, they are with the group of THEM. In my group we believe in idea X, we perform action Y, we don’t do Z. This is how I know I am a member of this group, and how I know that those who do not are THEM.” It is a perfect system, self sustaining logic that appeals to our primitive pack mentality. If you do not believe in X, you are one of THEM. If you do not perform Y, you are one of THEM. If I see you do Z you are one of THEM. THEM is bad, simply because you are not one of US, you do not belong, you are different, therefore you are to be feared. Religion is about identity rather than belief, which is why there are secular Jews and Catholics, identifying with the community, just not the spirituality. It’s all about belonging, no one wants be be on the outside, not really. Best of all, in the end, when we face the great darkness of our own mortality, we get to convince ourselves that we will not only still continue, but we’ll be carrying on with a group exclusively comprised of US. There will be no dissenters, no differences of opinion to scare us, no challenges to the concept of US that might shatter our fragile psyche and make us think. It will be… Heaven… as long as we don’t think about it too hard.
A few posts of interests over here.
Feel free to comment, mock, or flame, I’m a lot more interested in peoples ideas then I am in assuming everyone agrees with me.