Monday, February 05, 2007


Now that I've decided this blog will take on a new direction, why not begin with the big questions! Is there a God? If so what is he? Are morality and religion inseparable?

My personal perspective is that there is no God. To me we have undergone an evolutionary process over billions of years to where we are today. Experiments replicating plausible pre-biotic conditions, such as the Miller-Urey experiment have shown that organic molecules can be formed from inorganic precursors. Phospholipids can spontaneously form lipid bilayers, ribozymes can be self replicating. Without going into much detail, it is obvious that science continually discovers more and more about how life could originate. The scientific process is a wonderful thing that repeats experiments, undergoes careful methodology, and continually teaches us more and more. Over the years many so-called miracles that have been ascribed to 'God' or some sort of religious intervention have subsequently been explained by science. I believe that science can ultimately prove everything that occurred from the probable "big bang" to where we are today.

To believe in God is to believe in a magical creature. To me it is more feasible that the likes of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley are part of a wizarding network continually hiding its abilities from the prying muggle world than the idea that there is a God. The idea that someone or something exists outside time and space and metaphorically waves his wand to set Adam and Eve and the snake on their merry incestuous way (creationism) or that he created nature in all its complexity with some kind of purpose in mind (intelligent design) seems as primitive as the idea that the world is flat. Genetics quickly demonstrates the absurdity of religion.

If there is a God I don't like him much. Who would like someone who allows the poverty and famine in the third world? Who allows children killed in unnecessary wars the world over? Who allows the continual pain and suffering of the disabled? The standard answer is that God gives us free will and we can do what we want with it, then he judges each and every one of us either assigning us to heaven or hell (or purgatory). The moralistic non-believer sent to reside in hell alongside the mass murderer. Oh but actually, if that mass murderer happened to repent before he died, he's not even alongside you, he's gone to visit the saints in heaven. Does God think that eternal life in heaven compensates for pain in the real world? And then if there is an afterlife, what is the point of real life? Why don't we all speed up our deaths so we can all have a big reunion in the sky? If there is a God, I seriously don't rate his sense of humour.

I would seriously love to believe in God. To die and yet still have life. To live perpetually in a heaven of wonderful literature, all the people I liked, a few sports games to keep me entertained, and a fantastic lover etc etc would indeed be marvellous. But reality, science and common sense suggests its a load of cobblers. Something to act as a crutch to help people live their life at ease as they have the prospect of heaven to look forward to.

There probably was a great man called Jesus Christ, who lived a saintly life helping people in need. I expect that this then got blown out of all proportions, and now we have a novel called the bible. A novel with some interesting characters like the prophets, a bit of magic, a few parables. All very novelistic.

And which religion is right? Are any of them? Oh and why don't we kill each other to assert that one is better than another.

One question then that we need to ask is: do christians and religious people have a monopoly on morality? The answer is a definitive NO!

Fundamentalists correctly perceive that universal moral standards are required for the proper functioning of society, but they erroneously believe that God is the only possible source of such standards.

The Divine Command Theory argues that the essence of morality is to follow God’s laws. This argument is an attractive one because it makes morality objective, it does not suffer from the foibles of culture and individual choice, of moral relativism. The framework for morals is clear: something is right if God commands it, wrong if God forbids it. The theory also helps explain why anyone would be motivated to behave morally. Implicit in the reasons for behaving morally is the Christian principle that behaving morally, or following God’s rules, will get oneself a place in heaven. But this appeal for heavenly reward subjugates morality to a kind of expediency. The irony is that for the christian acting morally one is looking out for their interests because it gives them a path to heaven, and thus their morality may be superficial.

The next thing you have to look at is: “is conduct right because God commands it, or does God command it because it is right?” In the first case, if conduct is right because God commands it then morality is trivialised as being arbitrary. For example, although God’s command “Though shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13) seems perfectly congenial to humanity, since God is free to establish whatever set of moral principles he chooses, he could just as easily have commanded “Thou shalt kill whoever you dislike”. This belief that God could have chosen an alternative moral code could destroy whatever basis one had for worshipping him; one should not praise him when he could be equally as praiseworthy for doing the contrary. Furthermore, God’s arbitrariness eliminates the logical validity of God being good, because if something is good because God commands it, then God is good because God commands it, an unfortunate tautology.

So does “God command it because it is right”? This presumes a standard of goodness independent from God. In other words, it requires a belief in God as the moral enforcer. In his infinite wisdom God recognises that stealing is wrong, and so he commands everyone not to steal; he sees that adultery is wrong, and so he commands everyone to be faithful. In God’s omniscience, he imparts his wisdom in the form of the scriptures. However, this leads to a new problem, if God is not the author of moral law, then there must be an independent standard of ethics existing outside God’s will, by which he could evaluate rightness and wrongness. Thus, the validity of the theological conception of right and wrong is brought into question.

And regardless, God's laws are riddled with contradictions. He espouses both that: “Thou shalt beat him with rod” and "don’t do what you hate.”

Morality and religion are independent. Everyone has equal access to moral truth. And perhaps socio-biology provides the answer with the idea that moral instincts are contained within our genes and these survive through evolution.

There are many arguments against religion. I have merely touched on a few while I penned this short post. Who out there is going to proffer some opinions on these big questions?

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