Saturday, July 23, 2011

The absolute box

The bookstore 'Borders' is going out of business. What this means to us is that it is time to go to Borders and buy $500.00 worth of books for $300.00. And we did just that yesterday evening.

As hard as I tried to pull myself into the stacks of fiction, comics, cookbooks, and biographies, I was unable to separate myself from the sociology and science sections. Within the sociology section was a lovely collection of books under the heading 'morality.' Oh, morality...morality of all different flavors. Secular morality, christian morality, pagan morality...and on and on and on.

In flipping through this collection, a few thoughts began to coalesce about the nature of the divide between religious morality and secular morality.

One of the greatest dangers of atheism, as stated by those espousing a god-centered world view, is that without a clear and established moral code, atheists have no moral compass. If you have not yet been presented with the brilliant argument "Well, if there is no hell, what's to stop atheists from going out and raping babies?" then you have not yet had the wonderful opportunity to rebut with "So, the only reason you don't rape babies is because you will go to hell for it?"


Theological based morality is handed down by edict. There is a rulebook. It says, plain as day, this is wrong, that's right, don't eat shellfish, menstruating women need to ride out the week in a red tent, etc. The problem with a rulebook is that it offers little in the way of the reasons for these rules. The writers of these rules never accounted for a changing cultural landscape, never accounted for whether or not these rules 'served the greater good,' whatever that means. There is no revision and review process for holy texts.

Secular morality, on the other hand,  does have a review process. As such, positions of morality can be modified to better serve the above referenced 'greater good.' There was a time in general American consciousness when it was considered immoral for women not to be at home, raising the children. It wasn't a crime, women outside of the home wouldn't be arrested,  but it was considered offensive. This position underwent a review process by the cultural zeitgeist, and was determined to be bullshit. As such, it was abandoned. Except, of course, by religious nuts with special permissions. (I'm looking at you, Michele Bachmann.)

So, religious morality is inherent and unchanging, whereas secular morality is constantly being modified and improved. So what? Why can't we let the religious believe whatever they want to believe, and hold our beliefs to ourselves? Well, the problem is that religious morality is applied to me and my loved ones, and we are not even a part of your stupid club. As Josh discussed in his previous post, if there is a non-religious reason to think that homosexuality is immoral, we haven't found it.

As the secular moral landscape changes and improves, an ever greater divide exists between the religious and non-religious. In the eyes of many, it will forever be immoral, be wrong, be a sin to hold the position that homosexuals should have the same rights and protections as everyone else, that women should be treated as equals, that blacks are not black because of the mark of Cain, and maybe the idea of bringing death to the doors of the infidels is kinda wrong.

Drawing your morality from a box full of unwavering absolutes means that you follow without question. So, congratulations, you were just following orders.

-Paul Wittmeyer

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