Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Serving a Higher Purpose?

Let me start with a basic proposition.

No person has ever received a single moral principle from a God. Where a relationship between religion and morality exists, it is one in which those who invented or interpret a religion assign their morality to God, not the other way around.

Anybody who thinks that they get their morality from God is mistaken. They are getting their morality from other people (mostly men) – people who have been dead for hundreds or thousands of years, or men in power who write their morality into their interpretations of religious text or who claim to hear from God directly.

So, what would motivate a group of men to assign to their God a set of principles that commands the whipping of a 75 year old woman for the crime of being in the company of two adult males without a male relative present?

(See CNN Internatinal Saudis order 40 lashes for elderly woman for mingling.)

A court in Saudi Arabia has recently sentenced a 75 year old woman to this 40 lashes and 4 months in jail for this crime.

Such a policy would certainly be useful to the men who invented it. This is a form of terrorism. This willingness to beat an old woman is certain to strike terror into the hearts of other women in that society, giving them an incentive to submit to a type of enslavement that, in America, is reserved for dangerous prisoners who must either be watched at all times they are not confined with other prisoners.

Of course, it is not politically expedient for the types of people who would invent these rules to say, "We invented these rules to serve our own interests and we demand that you live by them, or suffer the consequences." It is much more expedient to say, "We get these rules from a divine source and those who follow them are serving a higher purpose greater than yourselves."

Um . . . well . . . actually . . . no you're not. You're serving the interests of those who invented the rules and assigned them to God. The whole thing about ‘higher purpose’ is simply false advertising to help you buy into the project of serving the interests of those who invented the rules (or who are currently inventing their favorite interpretations of the rules).

This view of a religion that will whip an old woman for being in the company of men applies as well to a religion that will excommunicate those responsible for aborting the twins conceived in a nine year old girl raped by her step father. Here, too, we need to look at what interests might motivate a group of people to invent such a rule and to assign that rule to God.

(See: MSNBC Brazil girl, alleged rape victim, aborts twins)

The most effective way to bring new people into a church (or religion), is to have that person born and raised as children by adults who are a part of that religion. Adults are notoriously difficult to convert to a new religion, while a child’s mind is plastic and, once molded by the church, will likely remain a devoted follower of that religion for life.

So, the people in power within a church have a vested interest in inventing a set of rules whereby their followers are encouraged to have as many children as possible and to raise those children in the faith. They have a vested interest in taking those rules and assigning those rules to God. This will allow them to say that, “We are not the ones forcing these rules on you, and they are not made to serve our interests. These rules come from God and, though they may cause you suffering and even potentially death, you should be content to know that you serve a higher purpose.”

And why was the stepfather who had impregnated this nine year old girl not excommunicated?

Well, he did create two potential future Catholics. Yet, here, too, those who are made to suffer by these rules are not serving a higher purpose. They are serving the interests of those people who invented the rules and then assigned those rules to God.

Here, again, we see a set of rules that are designed to serve the interests of those who made up the rules and assigned them to God, wrapped up in a deceptive package in order to sell those rules to others.

We atheists are then condemned because we speak against these rules. The charge is that we deprive people’s lives of meaning and purpose – that we are taking something away from them that no decent person would take.

However, we are not taking anything away from these people. We are trying to expose them to a truth that certain religious leaders do not want them to see. "You know, these rules that you are told give your life meaning and purpose – they are rules whose real purpose is to enslave you into serving the interests of those who invented the rules and then assigned those rules to God."

Having said this, it should be noted that not all religious rules serve the just the interests of those who invent them. There are some religious rules that serve the interests of people generally. These are the rules that people have reason to adopt, and reason to have others adopt, whether there is a God or not.

Let no one convince you that if you choose to abandon the rules that were invented to serve the interests of religious leaders and assigned to God, that you must also choose to abandon those rules that serve the interests of people generally.

I will write a bit more about those rules in the near future.


Jayman said...

If an atheist is going to tell a theist that a religious rule was created to enslave people to serve the interests of another human he should have proof that this is the case. Otherwise his claim that he is trying to lead the theist to truth will ring hollow.

I think you have misjudged the motives in both cases you cite. Saudi law is harsh against men as well as women for illegal mingling. The motive for this rule is nip immoral sexual relations in the bud. Abortion is condemned by the Catholic Church because it is viewed as murder. The stepfather will probably go to jail and rape is certainly condemned by the Catholic Church. I'm not sure the girl herself was excommunicated, just her mother and the doctors.

I think the atheist would come across as more sincere if he explained why the laws and punishments in question are morally wrong. I don't want to come across as doubting your sincerity. Generally your posts are very good but I think you've dropped the ball on this one.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


Both of your counter-claims turn out to be question-begging.

The whipping of an old lady may be rationalized in terms of nipping immoral sexual relations in the bud. But where did the idea that that it is immoral sexual relations that need nipping, as opposed to . . . for example . . . whipping old ladies? And from where does one get the idea that these relationships are immoral?

And, yes, that Catholic church views abortion to be murder. But, what motivates the Catholic Church to adopt this particular position on abortion?

In both cases, the explanations I gave are still applicable.

I do have more to say on this issue. One item that I wish to address is the idea that this was a conscious conspiracy to enslave women or breed more Catholics.

Anonymous said...

You both make solid points, although you are forgetting simple concepts of the Catholic/Christian religion.

Humans of Christian faith are to heal the weak and salvage the condemned. If Catholics only reason to ban conceptions was to increase the numbers of Christians, then they would be doing Gods will, such that there soul would be devoted to Jesus Christ.
With that being said, the truth behind it is false. Catholics do not use the law of murder to add to the society, but rather create a sanity of life that would be lost.