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LetterRip
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I stumbled across this link during a random wandering
http://www.uctaa.org/Essays/Reflections/reflection06.html

The author rates the Ten Commandments with a moral value score of 31 out of a possible 100. While I disagree with some of his point values and a lot of his reasoning, he does make an interesting case.

LetterRip


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Everard
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I quibble quite a bit with his arguments. The first four, obviously, I don't disagree with. After that, it gets messy.
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msquared
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LR,

I think I might send this link to my uncle the theologian and see what he thinks of this guys reasoning. I mean the author is an agnostic, so might be a little biased.

msquared


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Everard
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Just a wee bit biased

He also comes in with his own system of morality, and applies his version of history to the commandments, and uses that against them. I bet his system of morality would stack up pretty poorly when rated against my own, if I did the rating.


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Denelian
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just so everyone knows - i AM going to post about this...but i have to go to work in like 10. i will be back!
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LetterRip
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msquared,

If your uncle is willing, it might be interesting to see a similar evaluation/score from his perspective. I agree that the guy is quite a bit biased, but it is an interesting point to start discussion at.

I would agree that 1-4 get a 'absolute' moral score of 0/10 ie they only have true moral weight if ones religion is Judaism and Christianity.

5 - I'd score 7/10 Most of the time most parents should be honored for the time effort and energy they've put into raising their children, I've met some exceptions that are such horrid parents. Of course being honorable oneself is one of the best ways to honor ones parents. It does seem somewhat odd that parents are singled out for honor, but on the other hand many children are so ungrateful for all that their parents do to raise them. I'd say that most parents have 'earned' honor from their children.

6 - 9/10 sure there are extenuating circumstances, but 99.9% of the time it is the most moral choice.

7 - ?/10 to me this is highly dependent upon the definition of adultery used. There are many things that might legally meet the definition of adultery that would not be particularly universally immoral - ie Heinlens group marriages. On the other hand any extramarital relationship that is not with the permission of the spouse can potentially cause a great deal of hurt (emotionally, but also the potential for STDs) to ones spouse. Thus any extramarital relationship that is not permissiable by both partys is immorral.

Since the vast majority of marriages are contracted to be monogamous, I think it should score a 9/10

8 - 9/10 - few enough exceptions that it can be endorsed almost universally without exception

9 - 10/10 a lie in any sort of formal legal proceeding can destroy lives. In a country under the rule of law, such lies are devastating.

10 - 0/10 - this is subject to the interpretation of the word covet (hamad), one interpretation is thoughts only, the other is thoughts plus actions to obtain. If it is thoughts only, then I don't see anything immoral. If one is taking action then it is rightfully condemned. However, the more common usage of covet in modern times is thought only and thus has little moral weight.

Here is an good discussion of the meaning of covet
http://www.stjohnadulted.org/CmdH10.PDF


So 'absolute moral' score - 0,0,0,0,7,9,9,9,10,0 = 44/100.

Alternative score with slight rewording of last commandment so that it is in agreement with modern usage/meaning

0,0,0,0,7,9,9,9,10,10 = 54/100

LetterRip

[This message has been edited by LetterRip (edited September 11, 2002).]


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Luny
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Let me just say that that sounds like something they'd do in Alabama. (I've lived there.)

And if they want to post something in schools for MY kid to base her moral code off of, then they can post nice pretty little signs that say "An it harm none, do what ye will." While this may be part of MY religious doctrine, it seems like just plain good sense.


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Denelian
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you have to take most of it as rhetoric.

murder (as i would define it) is to "unjustly" kill someone - everything else may be manslaughter, but murder? what your definition of "justice" is defines how you follow this - but if i caught someone harming my niece, he would be dead.

as for "honoring thy mother and father", i have ttrouble with this a bit, because honor (IMO) needs to be earned and gratitide only goes so far. and my mom is one the most seriously f***ed up people i know. so i just try to be polite - but i think this was putn in because lot of people end up fearing thier children as they get old - will he take care of me as i took care of him?

adultry is very very slippery, because the original meaning was to have sex with another man's wife - which i won't do. how does that apply??? if you consider it cheating on a spouse, period, okay, but then define cheating... magazines, phone sex, masturbation. i don't think it really qulifies as sin, so long as no one gets hurt.

ditto coveting.

stealing - i don't steal because i am to effin' proud! but would i steal to feed a baby??? probably. i just wouldn't steal for gain. i think that that is all that one means (or should mean)

false witness means just that - it doesn't mean lying as a whole. if i ask my sister "do i look good in this" she BETTER lie!!! (that is joke, i would rather know the truth. the point is, someone who only tells the truth is often hurtful)

i prefer the golden rule as a poster for "morality" (whatever that means anymore) but that should surprise too many of you anyway


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DiffidentVoice
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Hi! Hatrack is getting a bit slow, so I came over here for a diversion.

There are two other ways to compile scores that haven't been mentioned.

First, you can evaluate each commandment on the basis of how much it impedes moral behavior. If following that specific commandment would keep someone from acting in a generally acceepted "moral" fashion, then the rating of that commandment would be reduced accordingly.

This method gives ratings much more favorable to the commandments. It would be used to show that an already moral person could live by this code without abandoning their principles.

The second method would be to invert each commandment, and see how immoral the results are. The more immoral the results, then the greater the rating for the original commandment.

This method would also tend to give greater scores: for some reason, I think that it's harder to imagine perfectly Good behavior then it is to imagine perfectly Evil behavior. And while there may be some disagreement over just what constitutes moral actions, there is greater agreement over what is immoral.

It's pretty obvious that the author used a rating system that was hostile to the commandments - but that's not surprising. The intent of the article itself seems to be hostile to the public expression of Christianity. Otherwise, the approach would have been, "What would it hurt?"


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Everard
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Of course, the stated reason for posting the ten commandments is that they supply a morality, not that they don't hinder morality. The object isn't to preserve morality, but to instill morality in children. Those two methods of rating a moral system are great for analyzing whether something hinders morality, but not whether it creates a strong moral sense.
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seagull
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LR, consistency/reality check (I don’t have numbers just wondering).

quote:
I would agree that 1-4 get a 'absolute' moral score of 0/10 ie they only have true moral weight if ones religion is Judaism and Christianity.

quote:
Since the vast majority of marriages are contracted to be monogamous

Are the majority of non Judeo-Christian marriages contracted to be monogamous?

I used to know several Chinese people whose father had multiple wives.
Even Moslem men that choose to marry only one wife do not usually commit to it contractually.
I understand that Eskimo and Polynesian marriages were not monogamous in the sense we usually think of.

In fact, even in Judaism legal monogamy is a rather recent phenomenon (last 1000 years) and legal polygamy was still practiced by Yemenite and Moroccan Jews in the early 20th century.

Mormons also gave up polygamy less than two century ago.

Compared to the age of the 10 commandments a few centuries is a very short time.


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LetterRip
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seagull,

heh - I was clearly speaking over broadly out of ignorance <grin>.

Not certain what the score should be now...

LetterRip


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Ron Lambert
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What are the criteria for determining a "superior" code of ethics? Arguing from the Christian viewpoint, I would point out the following:

The rule implicit in the Ten Commandments is to have the right attitude toward God. The Ten Commandments represent specific applications of general principles. The proper exercise of our minds in understanding the law calls for us to generalize from the specifics given in the Ten Commandments, and then apply those generalized principles appropriately to the specific situations that we face. Knowing what is appropriate and logically valid in the processes of generalizing and then reducing again to specific applications, is a test of our wisdom, and of our honesty and integrity. Our moral powers of discernment grow through this exercise of our reason and choice. God wants us to grow in this way. That is why He does not spell out every last little thing for us, and give us step-by-step instructions every moment of our lives.

Those moral codes that some smart alecks would try to extoll as superior to the Ten Commandments should be reconsidered, and we should ask if their superior code says too much, or says too little. How well does it serve the purpose of reducing to specific applications those general principles that can later be re-generalized and then re-applied, as the situation may warrant?

If a law says, "Don't do this," it is really much less restrictive than a law that says "Do this." The first allows you to do anything else. The second excludes everything else.

All these things need to be considered, in properly evaluating any moral code.

[This message has been edited by Ron Lambert (edited September 14, 2002).]


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LetterRip
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Ron,

no one is arguing that the Ten Commandments (TC) are not an excellent moral code for Christians.

The debate is largely whether they are also a good moral code for all non-Christian religions, agnostics or atheists as well, and thus suitable for posting in our nations schools, courts, etc.

As you point out,

quote:
The rule implicit in the Ten Commandments is to have the right attitude toward God.

This is not a universal moral truth, though it is certainly a Christian and Judaic moral truth.

Whether a moral code can be considered superior, is largely dependent upon the question - for whom and to what purpose?

If the goal is to avoid behaviors that displeases the Christian God, then clearly, the TC are superior to almost any moral code we could devise.

If the goal is a universally acceptable moral code than clearly the TC does not meet that requirement

LetterRip


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msquared
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Well my uncle has responded. This is long, remember he is a college professor. Remember to do the reading assingments.

Dear Mark,
I suggest two bibliographical references for a more sophisticated discussion of the Decalogue:
1) for the original meanings insofar as we can get at them today, one good attempt is by Anthony Phillips, Ancient Israel's Criminal Law. It goes
through each commandment and shows its relationship to other commands/laws/courts in the Old Testament. Just a note: any
infraction of any of the 10 commandments was punishable by death by stoning by the community, because such an infraction was
understood not merely as a personal sin, but as a public crime against the nation's covenant/treaty with its feudal Lord Yahweh, and
by breaking the treaty one put the nation as a whole at risk--hence the communal nature of the punishment to distance the community
as such from the crime. The book is now out of print, but possibly available from Amazon.com for about $60.00.

2) Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Three, Section Two, is a contemporary treatment of the commandments and what
they stand for today in Catholic morality, in which they are seen basically as convenient reminders for a highly sophisticated moral
theology and system based upon natural law. Both Jewish tradition and the Gospels reduce them to love of God and love of neighbor,
although the Gospel tradition extends the definition of "neighbor" to the universality of humanity, not merely to one's own
countryman/coreligionist as did the original Jewish articulation of "Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself" in Leviticus 19:18 and as
it is still understood in some elements of Judaism today. But for Catholicism love of God and consequent love of neighbor and of self
as children of God are the two fundamental principles of all morality. This is available at any Catholic bookstore, as well as via
Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

I won't try to address each of the comments made by your (a?)pathetic agnostic who posted on the site you referred me to. His "grading system" is rather
solipsistic and subjective, and ultimately meaningless anyway, either for fundamentalists or for those with a more professional training in Scripture, moral
theology or philosophical ethics.

On the other hand, his concern about the posting of the Ten Commandments in schools is something genuine, and I can feel some sympathy for his position.
After all, the Catholic school system was started in the 19th century because the public schools were so riddled with WASP Protestant teaching at the time.

The doctrine of separation of church and state (which anyone in my part of the world--the Middle East--would love to see over here--i.e., synagogue and
mosque separated from the state) brought with it, whether intentionally or not, a separation also of religion and morality, an idea that goes back to Immanuel
Kant. Kant wanted to base morality on what he called the "ethical imperative," but ultimately could give no compelling reason for it. Why should I love my
neighbor if I can get more advantages for myself and my genetic group/offspring by killing, cheating, or otherwise doing him in? If we are merely more
evolved animals, ultimately no different from a cat and a mouse, then would it not appear better to be a cat than a mouse?

I don't have an easy answer to how to manage the place of religion in public school education. Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and some Protestants have tried to
do it by setting up their own schools, which not infrequently are also far better academically than nearby public schools, perhaps not least because they do
have much clearer standards of belief and praxis concerning the dignity of the individual student--and teacher. But merely posting the Ten Commandments in
a public school won't solve the morality problem of the schools. John Dewey's adoration of "democracy" underlies much of public education's policies today,
but "democracy" in the sense of majority rule has no ultimate standard of morality. It was "democracy" that justified slavery in the USA, that justified
the genocide of the Native Americans, that elected Hitler to power, that justifies Israeli oppression of Palestinians, etc. Religion itself has certainly not always
promoted the highest morality either, but at least it does have an ultimate pole of reference to which it is constantly called back by prophetic voices (I don't
mean fore-seers) in its communities.

Some countries deal with the religious instruction matter by affording released time during the school day for children to attend classes, even in the school
itself, taught by representative teachers of their own religious communities. Even the religious schools may allow children of other religions to be taught by a
instructor of their community. Catholic schools in Palestine, for instance, permit instruction in Islam for Muslim students while Christians study catechism.

But back to the discussion on commandments for a moment: Just as an example of how the Commandments can serve even for children, Catholic youngsters
are taught that the 5th (Thou shalt not kill) in the Catholic/Lutheran counting (6th in Protestant/Jewish/Orthodox) includes a prohibition against harming
others--just what your agnostic in the discussion is concerned about in his Summary and Conclusion. That this does make sense to children is quite
obvious--in their examination of conscience for confession, they know when they have hurt others and do confess it as they run through the Commandments
as an aid to conscience.

Just posting the Ten Commandments without any detailed instruction on their meaning today (not exactly the same as it was 3,000 years ago), is hardly any
help at all. I would presume the posting of the Ten Commandments in the Supreme Court of the USA is there because the justices do have some sense of
more sophisticated morality (or is that an oxymoron for people trained as lawyers?), and it serves merely as a convenient reminder. The Pledge of Allegiance
to the Flag hardly exhausts the meaning of patriotism--but it is useful as a symbol and reminder of something far more complex and greater.

Well, maybe I will comment a little on each one, retaining the numbering he used--from the Book of Exodus:
1. "Thou" and "thee" are singular--addressed to each individual, not merely to the collective. The point of this item is that morality is inextricably linked with
freedom--one is moral only insofar as one is free, interiorly above all--but 3,000 years ago people had not yet reached the axial period of interior
consciousness, so could think only in external terms. This principle of freedom/morality applies to all humanity, not merely one nation. Great literature is such
because it articulates universal values, as does Shakespeare. So the Bible and the Qur'an and other books go far beyond their ethic or linguistic origins
because people world-wide recognize their value.

2. "Graven image" refers to idols of the time, making something material a (false) absolute. In Deuteronomy and in the Catholic counting, this is part of #1.
Making false absolutes, whether it be land (as for Zionism and 19th century Manifest Destiny) or money or prestige or power (as for USA right now), is
ultimately demeaning to the human person, both the victims of policies which derive from those absolutes and the perpetrators. The original sense of the 3rd
and 4th generation was that all the living descendants of an apostate (considered extensions of his person) would be stoned for the crime in order to blot out
its memory from Israel--this is the only crime in the Old Testament that had such a penalty for what we would presume today to be innocent persons. Other
ancient lawcodes were much more drastic about the children of wrong-doers of other misdeeds. But this is a good example of why fundamentalism or strict
constructionism are wrong in holding that either the Bible or the Constitution have unalterable meanings--that makes the Bible and the Constitution themselves
into "graven images"--false absolutes. Nonetheless, our grandchildren WILL pay for our sins of fossil fuel pollution, global warming, nuclear contamination,
etc. That is a simple fact of nature and does not need some miraculous intervention of an angry god to pull it off.

3. Taking the name "in vain." As Phillips points out, this had to do with a prohibition of sorcery--trying to use the name of God for magic in order to do harm
to one's neighbor. It was doubly wrong--vs. love of neighbor and an attempt to control God for one's personal benefit. It had nothing to do with what are
today called "swear words," except insofar as we have left-over meaningless expressions like "God damn it!" I doubt that most people who use that really
mean it literally. So this is basically a positive command to respect both God and neighbor.

4. Sabbath day. Exodus commands it out of a sense of utter dependence upon the Creator of all. Only literalists today read it as "creation science."
Deuteronomy gives a different rationale--that of celebration of liberation--only the free person can take a day off from work, as we take off July 4. The
original commandment was to rest. Only later was formal worship tied to it. In Christianity the Sunday was originally a day a prayer to commemorate the
Resurrection of Christ--only with Constantine in the 4th century AD did it become also a day of rest from "servile" (= slave's work)--to give Christian slaves
the opportunity to attend worship services in church. The 7-day week as such is a convention that began with Israelites, was picked up by the Christian
Church (founded by Jews), and has simply been extended to the rest of the world by historical developments. The point of the commandment is not 7 days,
but due recognition of one's creator and of one's own status as a free person. In this sense it is a matter of morality, since giving self and others their due
(including God) is a matter of justice. Thomas Aquinas includes the virtue of religion/worship under the cardinal virtue of Justice.

5. Honor parents. This was social security up until 1933. In patriarchal societies it also included obedience, at least as long as one lived in the
household--which could include 3 or 4 generations and in-laws. Again, this is a matter of justice to parents, whether they "deserve" or "earn" it or not. Dr.
Laura is possibly not the best interpreter..... Your poster's principle of "Act so as to merit honour" is hardly a sound basis for any morality. Adolf Eichmann
acted so as to merit honor from Adolf Hitler.... I do not personally respect George W. Bush--does that relieve me from the obligation to honor the office of the
presidency?

6. Don't kill. Here the Hebrew original makes a distinction. The word "harag" refers only to personal or clan feud killing, according to Phillips. Other Hebrew
words are used for warfare, for killing animals, for capital punishment, etc. So even the original was not the moral absolute that it sounds like in English. But
both Jewish and Christian tradition have long fleshed it out, beginning with the Old Testament, indeed the Book of Exodus itself. One does have to admit that
the interpretation of God in the Old Testament is not always of a moral person, but sometimes of a magnanimous creator and other times of a narrowly
nationalistic jealous petty god no different from Chemosh of the Moabites. Some Israeli rabbis today use the latter image to justify killing innocent
Palestinians..... But basically this commandment has been understood for centuries to prohibit doing willful unjustified personal harm to others or self.

7. Adultery. It was not primarily protection of a man's property (although it was that too at the beginning), but much more importantly, the reverse of #5--i.e.,
to assure children of their parentage, since they would be responsible for the welfare of aged parents. The problem with "Thou shalt not break faith with thy
spouse," is that if the spouse OK's a group orgy or mate swapping, then it would appear to be moral according to that principle, since it makes all
responsibility rest only upon the spouse, not even upon society's norms.

8. Steal. Originally it referred to kidnapping to sell into slavery, as Joseph was by his brothers. "Thou shalt not steal (a human being)," since sale of a
person outside the Israelite community meant that that person was lost to Yahweh and to the community. Material things were not of such value that theft of
them could entail a death penalty--only in Texas does one shoot first and ask questions later (if one even wants to be bothered). The chapters following the
Decalogue in Exodus provide for penalties for theft of property. Today this commandment is, nonetheless, just a reminder to respect the property rights of
others and to give others their just due.

9. False witness. This was to prevent judicial murder by taking the name of God in an oath for false evidence in court. Today it is extended to any kind of
lying, but based on respect for persons and for truth as such, since people have a basic right to true information.

10. Covet. Deuteronomy (and Catholic/Lutheran Decalogue) separates out the wife from the household possessions, because by the time it was written
(ca. 7th Century BC) there was something of a women's lib movement--the woman by then was seen as a person in her own right. This is a good example
of the development of morality within the Old Testament itself, a development which has continued until today and will continue on (e.g., the death penalty is
seen as immoral by a large proportion of the world today, especially the Christian and post-Christian nations, except for the USA and Islamic nations).
According to Phillips, this was altered from an original meaning of plotting for the taking of a household, which disenfranchised the patriarch from the village
court--i.e., jury tampering. After royal judges were assigned to villages in the 9th century BC, it lost its meaning, but as interior consciousness developed in
the axial period, so grew the awareness that covetousness can and often does lead to action. It also shows development from a purely external morality to
an interiorized morality, and implies a mitigation of the original sense of all the commandments as demanding the death penalty, since it could no longer be
counted as an external crime.

This is a very brief and spontaneous response, not at all professionally nuanced, to the site you referred me to. I don't have the time just now to go into much
more depth or reorganize it. But I think if you read the Catholic Catechism you'll find much more sophistication and nuancing than I have been able to even hint
at here.

Morality and ethical behavior are highly complex issues, and even 3,000 years ago were never reduced to the Ten Commandments. Read the rest of the
Pentateuch to see how they dealt with a myriad of issues, and then read both Jewish and Christian literature to see how moral thinking has developed over
the centuries. Putting the Ten Commandments in schools is really something of a pedagogical issue, not one so much of church and state. If there is no
religious training behind them, however, they won't mean a great deal to children. Is it even worth all the hassle?

msquared here again. I have one comment to add. He is correct in that the 10 Commandments are explained in more detail in following chapters and books. To rate the morality of them from just the list is incomplete at best.

msquared


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Tom Grey - Tigger
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LetterRip’s anti-10 Com link concludes:

>The solution is not posting a piece of paper on classroom walls. The solution lies in actively teaching children to recognize the impact of their actions upon other, and to differentiate between negative and positive impacts. Teach them ethics and morality from an early age. Don't give them rules, teach them to think.

This sounds OK, but I don't recall feeling oppressed as an agnostic in any way by the 10 Cs--if God doesn’t exist, the relevant phrases just aren't applicable. So what? How is it much worse or different than Santa Claus? I did and do believe giving was good.

And what about the many folks who do not think very well? I’m pretty sure society is better when teachers are focused more on behavior than beliefs; if some belief supports a certain good behavior, fine. But it seems one of the problems in many gov’t schools today is that the teachers are failing to get the students to learn to read, much less think … while that’s a different problem, it’s not clear they are unrelated. Still, before judging any moral code, there needs to be some agreement on what is morality.

Starting with Morality: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/
The term “morality” can be used either
1. descriptively to refer to a code of conduct put forward by a society or,
a. some other group, such as a religion, or
b. accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
2. normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.
How morality is defined plays a crucial, although often unacknowledged, role in formulating ethical theories. To take “morality” to refer to an actually existing code of conduct is quite likely to lead to some form of relativism. Among those who use “morality” normatively, different specifications of the conditions under which all rational persons would put forward a code of conduct result in different kinds of moral theories. To claim that “morality” in the normative sense does not have any referent, that is, to claim that there is no code of conduct that, under any plausible specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons, results in moral skepticism.
----

I think there’s a bit of going back and forth between descriptive and normative. And actually I think it’s OK, I’ll do it too, but somebody should point out that it’s being done.

For those without God, it becomes 1b and 2 above: what’s accepted by the individual; and what society “should” do.

The LetterRip critiques of the first 4 Cs, especially, seem excessively negative, even if you don't believe in a J/C God. Consider these ratings, without God:
Taking at least one day off each week, when the standard is already two, seems pretty easy to say, yeah, people should usually take at least one day off; two or three are prolly even better. 9/10 (not sure which day is Sabbath). LR and the UCTAA guy almost certainly follow that behavior, and think society should.

Swearing, w/o God – as the “Reflector” notes, if this means being against all swearing, there is quite a lot to it. Well, I notice him using no curse words; similarly LR avoids them. Why? It seems sort of rude/ immoral to use them. Both “God D*mn” and “Sh*t” are frequently heard, but they’re not nice. So you avoid swearing, but don’t want to give the 3rd credit for saying you should avoid it? Is that really fair rating?

Since polite address is a good surrogate for polite respect of others, it’s actually quite an important one, too. Note the NYC idea of cleaning up graffiti and being tough on the little crimes, as leading to a reduction of bigger crimes. If you think avoidance of swearing is good for you, at least 4/5; if it’s good for others, another 4/5 = 8/10.

Now the 2nd, not bow down to graven idols, is pretty full of J/C God stuff to be ignored, but the relevant part is as I write, one should not bow down to idols and worship them. I don’t do this, I don’t think you do, I guess you’d think none should – although if they do, it’s mostly their affair. Depicting God, in painting or statue, seems clearly forbidden, and I disagree with this proscription. For today, I claim the worship as more important than the image making; and agnostics all follow the non-worship code, automatically. 4/10.

On to the 1st: no other gods before me. For non-believers, the Judeo-Christian “god” is primarily the 10 Cs, and general J/C behavior. In this view it is an exhortation to obey the J/C morality above all others. The more moral you think the other 9 are, the higher the score. Its value could then be the normalized value of the other 9; eg 31/90 = 3.4 or 54/90 = 6 or 44/90 = 4.9 or 77/90 = 8.55 (hint)

Finally, the 10th, no covetous thinking. Immoral thoughts, not action. The Reflector’s argument that everybody does it, some, seems mostly true but actually increases the value of this as a moral guide. Happier people do less of this – and maybe poorer people often do less, since they have accepted (too much?) their own non-advancement. Similarly, while one can’t control all thoughts, one can develop the habit of being thankful and appreciative of what one has; and practice thinking such thoughts when unbidden covetous thinking starts—and such practice is pretty good. But my way of reducing covetousness is not what’s written. Since such thoughts are very often the first, non-reasonable steps towards immoral actions, consciously choosing to avoid thinking them is clearly somewhat good.

Oh yeah, there is the huge pride aspect of the critique – why have rules if “everybody” is going to sin? Consider words from the link:
> The only reason for this particular commandment is to make it impossible to follow the rules. It makes everyone sinners regardless how blamelessly they pass their lives.

The clear, prideful desire to have some rules that can followed so as to get an “A”, 100%, number 1, top of the heap. But two of the most moral post WW II people, Gandhi and Mother Teresa, were both very humble, very non-covetous. The reason for the 10th, and the result when it is followed, is more morality.

(And this doesn’t even touch on destructive envy, the terrible desire for bad things to happen to your more fortunate neighbor. Adjusting envy to be competitive duplication and admiration, rather than destructive, has been a wonderful, though under-discussed American cultural feature.) So, thought covetousness 9/10.

My score: x, 4, 8, 9; 7, 10, 10, 10, 10; 9 = 77/90; + 8.6 = 86 / 100
(kind of interesting how LR’s 99.9% goes to 9, not 10)
And that’s why as an agnostic I like Christian “morality” – even without the Christian God.
But I do believe in “Good” vs “Evil”, and as I go to Catholic Church with my kids, I’m worshiping the Good I believe in “as if it is God”. Because I’m not sure it’s not.

Another day. Good day to you all.

[This message has been edited by Tigger (edited September 16, 2002).]


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LetterRip
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Hey msquared,

tell your uncle thanks for us, that was a very informative reading and I greatly enjoyed his thoughts on the matter.

While it may be true that the Ten Commandments are explained further in other parts of the Bible, and that quoting them only is to take them out of context, how many times is the context ever given? The author that I linked to was basing his criticism upon how they are typically presented - moral absolutes with out context. Indeed, how many of you those in a Christian faith, had heard the explanations given? (I certainly have not)

quote:
Why should I love my
neighbor if I can get more advantages for myself and my genetic group/offspring by killing, cheating, or otherwise doing him in? If we are merely more
evolved animals, ultimately no different from a cat and a mouse, then would it not appear better to be a cat than a mouse?

It may be better to be a cat than a mouse, and even more sense to be a dog than a cat, but since most can't be cats (or dogs) it makes sense for the mice to bond together to tame the cats, and the cats to tame the dogs. Thus morality is actually a tool to protect the weak from the strong. In games with multiple agents the group maximises profit/fitness with cooperation. The individual maximises profit if he can cheat and get away with it, however, getting caught can result in severe punishment and can lose the profitability of future transactions. Thus the individual should only cheat when they are certain they can get away with it, or when the expected punishment is minimal.

Since morality effects group fitness and individual fitness you end up with social and biological mechanisms that reflect this.

So, the moral of the story <grin>, is that morality is power and control, if you are weak you use morality to avoid opression by the strong, if you are strong you use morality to avoid punishment from the weak and to avoid opression by the even stronger.

quote:
His "grading system" is rather
solipsistic and subjective, and ultimately meaningless anyway, either for fundamentalists or for those with a more professional training in Scripture, moral
theology or philosophical ethics.

Agreed that it is subjective, however, I think it is a useful starting point for a dialogue. Without his critique, albeit highly biased and over simplistic, this dialogue would probably never have occurred. Actually, I think a Likert Scale might be a better grading scale (rating each from 1 to 10, with 1 strongly disagree, 5 neutral, 10 strongly agree).

Using a Likert scale instead however, the Commandments fare little better.

quote:
which not infrequently are also far better academically than nearby public schools, perhaps not least because they do have much clearer standards of belief and praxis concerning the dignity of the individual student--and teacher.

Hmmm, that is contrary to my experience. They seem to be better at getting everyone to a minimum standard, however seem to far more rarely have students that excel. Also, while rote behaviors seem to be really well developed (ie being able to diagram a sentence, geographical knowledge, etc.) creative problem solving and critical thinking seem to be much worse (well, I guess I shouldn't say than average per say, but when I do look at students of comparative socioeconomic backgrounds there appears to be obvious difference...). Of course my observation is limited to my personal experience of individuals from both backgrounds. I've only known of one Christian school that had decent academics and wouldn't be concerned to have a (future) child of mine to go to (I would have to have a serious talk with the instructor regarding the biology course though, ancient text books with flat out wrong arguements...).

quote:
It was "democracy" that justified slavery [...] Religion itself has certainly not always promoted the highest morality either, but at least it does have an ultimate pole of reference to which it is constantly called back by prophetic voices (I don't mean fore-seers) in its communities.

There were secularists that argued againt the immorality of slavery and the opression of women, and religious institutions that argued that those institutions and behaviors were scriptually justified. Claiming it was 'democracy' that perpetuated, justified, or caused these behaviors is ridiculously over simplistic in most cases and in some cases flat out wrong (ie Hitler was elected to a position in the government, but obtained his power through power brokering of the elite).

quote:
(Thou shalt not kill) in the Catholic/Lutheran counting (6th in Protestant/Jewish/Orthodox) includes a prohibition against harming
others

In common usage it does not, if the intent is not to harm others, why not a more accurate phrasing - ie thou shalt not harm another?

Or why not replace theTen Commandments with the pagan moral guide - 'As long as it hurt no other, do as ye will.' or the Golden Rule 'Do unto others as ye would have done unto you' or the Platinum Rule 'Do unto others that which they would have done unto them'.

The pagan moral code is by far the simplist to remember, and has little need for clarification (asside from the need to expand on the word hurt), and has no reference to religious behaviors.


I think his interpretation and expansion upon the Ten Commandments is wonderful and most educational. Alas, these thoughful lessons on freedom are in no way obvious. If we should use something as the basis as a universal moral code, then the meaning and intent should be somewhat transparent to a naive reader.

quote:
This is a very brief and spontaneous response

Heh, I'm afraid to see what a non-brief response would be <grin>.

quote:
If there is no
religious training behind them, however, they won't mean a great deal to children.

Indeed, how many Christians were aware of the subtelties that msquareds uncle mentions, I certainly don't recall sermons discussing such?

quote:
To rate the morality of them from just the list is incomplete at best.

Agreed, but on the other hand, the claimed intent for posting them in schools and court houses is their usefulness as a universal moral code in and of themselves without the context. The analysis by the author (and mine) were based on the common usage, understanding, and 'face value' meaning. Which is how they will be approached by the vast majority.

If they were posted with a brief explanation as given by your uncle, they might well be more universally acceptable, and their greatness understood.

Incidentally, you might want to ask your uncle if it would be acceptable to submit his response to the agnostic website for their talk back area.

LetterRip


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msquared
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I have sent LR a reason why I will not post this on the agnostic web site. I have my reasons and they are basically at the request of my uncle.

Second, if this were a studied response by my uncle, it would have take several very thick books and probably several weeks to read and understand.

msquared


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LetterRip
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Tigger,

I'm using morality in as in sense 2

quote:
[...] a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

you stated

quote:
I think there’s a bit of going back and forth between descriptive and normative. And actually I think it’s OK, I’ll do it too, but somebody should point out that it’s being done.

Agreed, however it should only be the second sense that should be applicable, not a descriptive sense.

quote:
For those without God, it becomes 1b and 2 above: what’s accepted by the individual; and what society “should” do.

I disagree it should ONLY be 2, 1b would hold such behaviors such as wiping ones nose on the sleeve (as little kids occassionally do) as immoral. We are talking a universal morality.

quote:
Taking at least one day off each week, when the standard is already two, seems pretty easy to say, yeah, people should usually take at least one day off; two or three are prolly even better. 9/10 (not sure which day is Sabbath). LR and the UCTAA guy almost certainly follow that behavior, and think society should.

Taking a day off is not a moral consideration. I sometimes go many months at a time without a day off. I sometimes take weeks at a time off. I like to occassionally spend time doing nonproductive work. I also like to eat chocolate, and don't think it is a particularly bad thing for others to occassionally eat chocolate. However, I don't think that those who eat chocolate are generally acting morally or immorally. SImply because something is useful, fun, pleasant etc. does not give it any moral weight. Ergo, I can beleive that a few days on 'non job' could be good, but carry little or no moral value. If you insist that 1 non working day out of 7 is a universal morality, then what is the universal morality of chocolate, and how should it be rated? Do you think that retired people and children are deeply immoral, or have moral superiority in respect to number of rest days?

quote:
So you avoid swearing, but don’t want to give the 3rd credit for saying you should avoid it? Is that really fair rating?

I occassionally 'curse like a sailor' (when I'm on the open sea and AM a sailor). 'Swear words' are just another communication device, the 'last resort of the incompetent'. They work great to communicate certain crude emotional states, etc. But don't work well for clear communication (especially written communication where context is difficult to discern, and body language is non existent.) Simply because I chose not to engage in a behavior does not believe I believe it is immoral per-se. I don't think nose picking, or farting in public are immoral and yet I chose not to engage in such behaviors. If I see someone engaged in any or all of the above behaviors, I may well think them rude, crude, unsanitary, obnoxious, or immature, but I wouldn't consider them to be acting immorally.

You seem to have mixed 'conforming to societal norms' and morallity, whereas I was discussiong ONLY morality.

quote:
Since polite address is a good surrogate for polite respect of others, it’s actually quite an important one, too. Note the NYC idea of cleaning up graffiti and being tough on the little crimes, as leading to a reduction of bigger crimes. If you think avoidance of swearing is good for you, at least 4/5; if it’s good for others, another 4/5 = 8/10.

You are confusing things again. Verbal assualt, swearing, and graffiti are entirely different concepts. Swearing is trivial, and its definition changes by location (ie shit is considered offensive in some parts of the US, whereas in others it has no more offense than the word poop). Verbal assualt is what frequently brings people to fighting. Graffiti, has many different meanings, and the clean up you mention, the Graffiti removal was a small part of the total action.

quote:
I claim the worship as more important than the image making

Why should it be immorral unless one is Christian? There are many religions that do or did make idols for worship, outside the context of ones own religious beliefs how could it be universally imorral?

quote:
On to the 1st: no other gods before me. For non-believers, the Judeo-Christian “god” is primarily the 10 Cs, and general J/C behavior. In this view it is an exhortation to obey the J/C morality above all others. The more moral you think the other 9 are, the higher the score. Its value could then be the normalized value of the other 9; eg 31/90 = 3.4 or 54/90 = 6 or 44/90 = 4.9 or 77/90 = 8.55 (hint)

??? I think you are confused. This makes no sense for defining a universal moral code. And no particular sense for any specific religion either.

quote:
Happier people do less of this – and maybe poorer people often do less, since they have accepted (too much?) their own non-advancement.

Happier than who? Is a little coveting OK, but a lot bad? Many poor are extremely bitter over their lot in life, indeed, the arguement made by a pastor of mine was that many poor were so in part due to their coveting.

quote:
Since such thoughts are very often the first, non-reasonable steps towards immoral actions, consciously choosing to avoid thinking them is clearly somewhat good.

It may be good not to covet, but why should it be considered immoral to do so? Again, we are talking a universal morality. If we are talking coveting in the apparent historical sense demonstrated by the thoughtful response of msquareds uncle, that is one thing, but the modern sense it has little or no moral weight.

quote:
Gandhi and Mother Teresa, were both very humble, very non-covetous.

You cannot know their thoughts, they may have been the two most covetous individuals in the world. All that you can judge them upon is behavior.

I happen to respect them both, and highly doubt that they were significantly covetous, but I do not and cannot know.

quote:
Oh yeah, there is the huge pride aspect of the critique – why have rules if “everybody” is going to sin?

These are not rules, but universal standards of morality. Rules can (and in my opinion ought usually) be morally based, but are not neccessarily so.

As a Christain, I can see the Ten Commandments as a valuable moral guide for Christians (and with msquareds uncles clarification, even more so), however, as a stand alone document, I can easily see how it would have singificant failings as a universal morality without the substantial additions of context and clarification that are not readily apparent.

LetterRip

[This message has been edited by LetterRip (edited September 16, 2002).]


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seagull
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quote:
This is not a universal moral truth, though it is certainly a Christian and Judaic moral truth.

LR, there is a big difference between the Christian and Judaic approaches:
quote:
Whether a moral code can be considered superior, is largely dependent upon the question - for whom and to what purpose?

According to Judaism only Jews are required to follow the 10 commandments. For non-Jews there are the 7 Noachite laws which are not nearly as restrictive. Non-Jews are welcome to follow the 10 commandments voluntarily but their “reward” for it is questionable unless they choose to convert (generally discouraged by Judaism). According to Judaism it is possible for a non-Jew to worship the only true God without following the 10 commandments.
From what I understand of Christianity (at least the proselytizing variations of it) they hold that their religion it the only true one and that they should encourage others to become Christians (for their own good). Therefore to whatever extent they believe in following the 10 commandments they also try to apply them universally to all people.
quote:
If the goal is a universally acceptable moral code than clearly the TC does not meet that requirement

To some people a “universally acceptable moral code” may be considered a contradiction in terms. Orthodox Jews will not accept a moral code not based on the Torah. I therefore have my doubts that any “universally acceptable moral code” that does not include the 10 commandments would ever become accepted universally. But as a Jew I do not expect the 10 commandments to be universally accepted either.

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quote:
All that you can judge them upon is behavior.

That seems like a very Jewish and not very Christian approach to morality

quote:
It may be good not to covet, but why should it be considered immoral to do so? Again, we are talking a universal morality.

Have you thought of the possibility that this commandment (as well as the others) are primarily for the benefit of the person following the commandment and that the social benefits are just a byproduct?

Is it moral to hurt yourself as long as you don’t hurt others in the process?
What if coveting hurts the person that covets?


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seagull
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quote:
I claim the worship as more important than the image making.

Making the image does matter. It implies that a human can create something more powerful than its own creator. That is one of the major problems with idolatry, not very healthy for either the individual worshiper or the society.
quote:
Why should it be immorral unless one is Christian? There are many religions that do or did make idols for worship, outside the context of ones own religious beliefs how could it be universally imorral?

prohibitions of idolatry is the first noachite law!


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Denelian
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Mark - i know i have stated before that i love your cousin just remind him for me

i have one other point (kinda)

the first commandment "Thou shalt have no other God before Me"

this implies that there ARE other Gods. just think about it


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Tom Grey - Tigger
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Thanks to msquared's uncle and LR; I'll be short this time!
... since developing a "universally acceptable moral code" is extremely unlikely.

I agree that the 10 Cs are not it.

LR:
> I don't think nose picking, or farting in public are immoral and yet I chose not to engage in such behaviors. If I see someone engaged in any or all of the above behaviors, I may well think them rude, crude, unsanitary, obnoxious, or immature, but I wouldn't consider them to be acting immorally.

Well, I guess I'm confused about what conduct is part of your moral code, and what is not. Perhaps there's confusion between "code of conduct" with "sin judgement criteria"? Not a sin, not immoral, not part of a moral code?

Similarly, there are still issues of punishment, if any, for violating the code. But that's a justice system. Not punishable, not part of the justice system.

I guess I'm more "universal" -- if I think something is wrong, it shouldn't be done. Such things are against my "code of conduct" -- which I have many occasions to violate. There are other things that are stupid or dangerous or rude to do, but if they are not "wrong", somehow, why not do them?

I think it reasonable, even important, to differentiate between codes of conduct and laws involving punishable offenses. But there's no good one pager on punishable offenses.

I like, for laws, the Silver Rule: Do Not Do Unto Others What You Do Not Want Done Unto Yourself.

And the usual challenge, are the 10 Cs better than nothing? (Yes)
Is there something better to post? (I'd be interested in opinions on this.)



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Everard
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There may not be something better to post, but there are certainly other moral codes that could be posted along side the ten commandments. If we were to post selections from the Koran, moral teachings of Buddhism, Hinduism, and some other religions, then, well, a large number of the problems associated with posting the ten commandments dissapear. The problem is that most people opposed to the posting of the ten commandments feel (rightly) that posting them is an attempt to christianize the country.
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Tom Grey - Tigger
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After re-reading the 8 page Morality definition from above: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/
It's clear the "morality" is an unusual word; a "code of conduct" usually distinguished from etiquette, law, and religion.
"Religion differs from morality in that it includes stories, usually about supernatural beings, that are used to explain or justify the behavior it requires." Take God out of the 10 Cs, for the non-believers, and I think it becomes pretty easy to mostly accept.
LR's insistence that "morality" apply only in the normative, universal code, is also open to the question: why is that the proper criteria for considering a moral code?

Which leads to the reason for the effort to re-introduce Right & Wrong into the classroom, as noted by this snippet: http://forum.theatlantic.com/WebX?128@97.mCZwaUhjcSy.0@.2cb4b8ad
Schools Teaching Moral Relativism
Virgil Caine - 06:25pm Jul 5, 2002 EDT
CAMPUS CONFIDENTIAL:
A new poll by the National Association of Scholars and Zogby International reports that three-quarters of all college seniors believe that the difference between right and wrong is relative. The same poll shows that “recruiting a diverse work force” is a higher ethical priority for most students than “providing clear and accurate business statements to stockholders and creditors.” Yet 97% of these same students also believe that college prepares them well to behave ethically in their future lives. Welcome to Enron.
-----
The moral & ethical confusion in society seems worse than more strongly adhering to an older Christian morality.


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Everard
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So freedom of religion isn't very important, when people being free to find their own moral paths leads to conflicts in moral view points?


"A new poll by the National Association of Scholars and Zogby International reports that three-quarters of all college seniors believe that the difference between right and wrong is relative. The same poll shows that “recruiting a diverse work force” is a higher ethical priority for most students than “providing clear and accurate business statements to stockholders and creditors.” Yet 97% of these same students also believe that college prepares them well to behave ethically in their future lives."

Given that 3/4's of college seniors are NOT heading into business, this isn't a surprising result.

Enron was not caused by moral relativism. Nice try, though.


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Baldar
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Actually Enron was caused by hypocrisy. But then moral relativism states that hypocrisy does not exist.
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Everard
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Erm, no it doesn't...

It may state that hypocrisy is not immoral, but it doesn't state that hypocrisy itself doesn't not exist.


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Tom Grey - Tigger
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Everard:
>So freedom of religion isn't very important, when people being free to find their own moral paths leads to conflicts in moral view points?
I quite strongly believe in freedom of religion, and separation of state and church -- I don't know why you might think otherwise.
I don't think I had mentioned my opposition to state dictated schools (requiring students to take state approved tests twice a year would be OK) before.
Is your belief in the value of freedom of religion a "practical" or "ideological" one? For me, it's mostly practical, based on so many prior Euro wars with a religious component. Other countries seem to have similar war problems on religious lines, Hindu-Muslim comes to mind. It seems that more freedom would reduce those problems, not less.
However, if "freedom of religion" is creating a bad enough society, I'm willing to consider junking it. Of course, it would have to be clear a) the society was really bad (too many dieing) and b) the problem was due to freedom (highly unlikely to show this).

"Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing." (Vince never promoted any cheating, but this quote could.) When there's a physical platform held up by many wooden pillars, but a few are rotten so the platform falls, it usually can't be determined that one was to blame.
A reduced sense of right and wrong (it's OK as long as I don't get caught) certainly did contribute to Enron. As did inexperience with new financial instruments, and new trading markets, and slow evolving reporting scandals, etc.


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Everard
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Lets start at the bottom of your post.

"A reduced sense of right and wrong (it's OK as long as I don't get caught) certainly did contribute to Enron."

Where do you see a reduced sense of right and wrong? I see something that CEO's have been trying to get away with for ages, only using new methods. Prove to me that the morality of the CEO's is lesser then business leader's of earlier generations, and then we'll see where we stand.

Moving back to the freedom of religion point, it came from here "The moral & ethical confusion in society seems worse than more strongly adhering to an older Christian morality."

THe moral and ethical confusion, as you call it, stems directly from conflicting moral traditions that people come from. Jews and Christians, Hindus and Muslims, Buddhists and the whole range of derived moralities that people come up with, all ahve different moral views. By "adhereing to an older christian morality" you are asserting that those other moral values should go out the window in order to reduce confusion (which has always existed in non-monoreligious states).

I firmly believe in freedom of religion on ideological grounds. Freedom of religion is part of freedom of thought. If you don't allow freedom of religion, you close off too many avenues of thinking, and thinking is, in my view, what makes people special. Its not worth LIVING if you can't think freely, in my view, because thinking IS living. We're automatons if we don't think for ourselves, and so under no circumstances would I encourage a restriction of information or close down avenues of thought. By closing down thinking on moral issues, you close down thought processes on one of the most important issues there are to think about.


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