Friday, December 29, 2006

Why Religious Morality Sucks

Traditional religions are hamstrung by their allegiance to dogma, and too scared to be flexible when necessary. They end up elevating dogma over people.

I posted recently about George W. Bush's kind words about Mary Cheney's pregnancy despite his previous anti-gay-parent statements and policies. I suspect he knows in his heart that Mary and her partner's decision to have a baby is a beautiful, moral thing. Yet he can't admit that gay marriage or gay adoption is a good thing because of dogma. (Whether it's his personal dogma or simply his base's I don't know.)

Most modern Orthodox Jews have sympathy towards gay people. Yet their dogma insists that male homosexual sex is sinful. Because they follow their dogma rather than their hearts, they cause so much pain.

The Catholic Church does so much to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. Their hearts are clearly in the right place. Yet, because they are slaves to dogma, they can't take the easy and necessary step of advocating widespread condom usage. Yesterday, I posted about the Church's denial of a funeral to a man because he was a euthanasia advocate who asked to be removed from a ventilator he'd been on for years. He had advanced muscular dystrophy and was paralyzed. I have no doubt that in the absence of dogma, they would have felt no compulsion to punish this man and his family and loved ones.

For all their moaning about relative morality, orthodox religionists miss the fact that traditional religion's backwards, inflexible "objective" morality causes so much unnecessary pain and suffering. Time for them to take a look at that beam in their eye.


Ezzie said...

No offense, but this is a bunch of liberal trash. (And as you know, I rarely say stuff like this.)

To say that because they aren't following their heart there's something wrong is simply foolish. If we always made our judgements on avoiding pain, and some false sense of heartfulness (if heartlessness is a word... :) ), we'd constantly be making terrible decisions. Anybody can evoke our sympathy or stir the strings of our heart - that doesn't make them right or correct, or that they deserve such a thing. Sure, you can give examples that make people feel bad, and I'm sure people can give examples the other way as well. That doesn't make either of them correct.

Stephen said...

I agree with you on the two examples you cite in this post. Whether my neighbour is heterosexual or homosexual is a private matter.

But euthanasia is a different kettle of fish. It's an issue with implications that go beyond the individual, and it's a matter of considerable moral complexity.

I don't think you should elide the two issues; I'm sure you would agree with me that moral questions are not all the same.

Jewish Atheist said...


To say that because they aren't following their heart there's something wrong is simply foolish.

I'm not saying that. I'm saying that because they are following dogma instead of their hearts, they are wrong. In the absence of dogma, very few people would have denied this man a funeral and in the absence of dogma, very few modern people would oppose gay marriage and/or adoption.

I don't think you should elide the two issues; I'm sure you would agree with me that moral questions are not all the same.

Of course not. I just happen to think that both these cases suffer from too much religious dogma.

CyberKitten said...

I agree with JA that the morality of a situation depends on the circumstances of that situation. One size most definitely does not fit all. That's why ethical questions are so problematical. You can't simple make a blanket moral statement and expect it to hold in all situations for all time.

Anonymous said...

Objective Morality. Hmmm. Let's see. What if I reached through this computer right now and stole your wallet. Why would you care?? If objective morality sucks, than you wouldn't care that it is considered morally objectionable for me to steal your wallet? Now, the 64,000 dollar question is, since when is it a moral objective, and from whom??

Anonymous said...

See my latest post on this very subject (we must stop thinking like this!). While you may be right with regards to specific issues, such as homosexuality, it's only fair to give an overall assesment i.e. Is the moral behavior of the OJ community in general superior or inferior to secular (or other society). You can't cherry pick some specific issues and only focus on them.

Tbkahn said...

I feel like this is the same argument the Catholic Church, and the the Christian church used centuries ago. Which is greater the law or the individual(Love). I have always felt that the law was created to protect society, and sometimes the individual is just going to get screwed. It is the mark of a sophisticated set of laws where the individual has a means to appeal and find protection in the law as well. It seems to me that all laws (halacha) will eventually come up against cases that will appear unfair. By their nature they must evolve slower then the society, because law by nature is conservative ( to conserve the past). Often this evolution is either a progressive act, wherein the law is changed , or modified through some legal maneuver, or the whole concept is ignored. Carrying on shabat and the introduction of an erev being an example of the first, the question of a child hitting a father ( and requiring the death penalty) or even masturbation being cases of the second, no one talks of these issues or they are made so difficult to prove that they become none issues.
How do I think these issues will be resolved. I don't know. But there are a host of topics that are on the plate for being changed. The question of Agguna, homosexual marriages are but two that will have to be dealt with as these topics become more prevalent and open in society. It is often the individual who needs to push these issues. YU has already had cases of openly homosexual individuals, If openly gay people come to Shul it will have to be dealt with.

littlefoxling said...


I don't think relegious people are immoral. They recognize that they are being immoral with gays etc. but they feel bound to act immoraly, or in a way the preceive to be immoral, due to command from a higher Being.

For all their moaning about relative morality,

Yes, the orthodox people who say that are stupid hypocrits.

jewish philosopher said...

So whose moral rules should we follow if not the Torah's? My deep down inner moral conviction is that human's are parasites who are ruining this planet and who need to be eradicated. The Torah stops me. Any problem with that?

david said...

You might make a good Reconstructionist.