Morals & Religion

This seems to be a subject which is rather popular now a days, although I find it rather silly. To me the notion that one needs religion in a way to be a good person is simply ridiculous. None the less, it's one that many people seem to embrace. This, I believe, is due to an upbringing around organized religions which carry seemingly extreme punishments for what they deem to be "immorality.". I have yet to come across anyone whom grew up without a strict religious upbringing who had this view, still, it's one I felt could use some touching on.

Religions all around the world have their own ideals and beliefs about morals. For most Wiccan or Pagan paths the "religious" moral code is limited simply to "Harm None." Beyond that, it's left up to the individual to decide what is or isn't "moral."  Other religious paths impose lengthy lists of "laws" meant to impose an identical moral code upon each of it's followers, even going as far to decide what type of hair styles are appropriate at times.

But is religion or even spirituality really needed in order to understand morals? To me, common sense says NO. I know many an Atheist who are simply good people, some of which even have a stricter idea of what morals are than I do.

In addition to religious teachings about right and wrong, we also have secular teachings. These teachings come to us in the form of laws, and cultural norms.

And while just about every religion out there teaches not to kill, we obviously don't need religion to teach us that it's wrong to do so. My four year old will tell you it's bad to kill people - and he has no concept of religion, legal reasoning or cultural norms. So this says to me, it's simply common sense, and something which is generally born within us. From the time we are able to understand that other people hurt we can understand that we shouldn't be the cause of that hurt.

So why would it be necessary for us to have a religion to spell these rules out? Well, fortunately, for the majority of us, we don't. But, since there has been two of any creature (including us) there have been bad choices! Murder, Rape, Robbery and other Abuses have been a part of culture since there has been culture. And in times where religion was intertwined with government the rules of the land and the rules of the faith were one in the same. If we read through the Old Testament of the Bible we are in fact going to read the Laws that the Israelites were legally bound to follow. Those religiously imposed laws were in fact no different than our secular legal codes today. Because of the fact that there will always be those (with or without religion) who are willing to put their morals aside in order to do what they choose regardless of the pain it causes, we have to have laws about what is and isn't okay in society. And since the majority of religions in our world today at least have ties to older or even ancient belief systems, it's easy to understand why so many of them come equip with their own brand of moral codes and rules, as they were needed to aid the governing of cultures past.

All that said, today, government and religion are separate entities - at least they are meant to be. Those with religion simply have an increased reason for positive living beyond what the laws of the land require. But by no means does that mean that those who are without religion are lacking morals. It simply means they are being good people, which I honestly believe is something ingrained in all of us - religion or not! At heart, we all want to be at our best.

I think it's also worth noting that religion has more of a tendency to excuse decent morals than non-religion does. Legally it's ALWAYS wrong to murder. However, within some religions it's not only okay but required under some circumstances...  For example, in more strict Islamic Religions women who have sex prior to or outside of the marriage bed are to be stoned to death by their husbands or their fathers in order for the family to cleanse themselves of her "shame." In a religion free society this simply would NOT be acceptable, and most governments today do not allow such things. But never the less it does and is happening today.

So maybe we shouldn't be asking if one can have morals without religion. Maybe we should be asking if someone can excuse not having them simply because of religion... As I see it, religions talk a good talk, but they lack when it comes to walking the walk. Religious wars and religiously supported genocide, murder, rape, theft, oppression and abuse have been documented since the beginning of religion. So while the worlds religions make a big deal out of teaching morals, it seems as if their morals have "loopholes" to them. Many religious beliefs even come along with myths teaching that God himself has seduced or impregnated young girls or virgins by means of trickery, force or simply without asking... Yet many of these same religions also teach very conservative dress codes, strict gender identity and even sexuality denial... 

So after looking at both sides of the question... My answer is still a firm NO, Religion is not required to have morals. If anything, morals are better taught without religion. Religion tends to impose a belief in simply following rules or religious laws, even when they work against basic moral codes, while secular morals will lack many of these "grey areas."

Of course, I have to note that NOTHING is ever black and white, including morals...  In the end, what's important is now where your morals come from, but that you don't ignore them. If you believe something is wrong - DON'T DO IT! It's that simple... Religion or no... Follow what your heart tells you is right and wrong and you'll always be on the right side of life!

1 comment:

  1. Can you imagine the ramifications if criminals could get off by saying something like "when I did that I didn't have religion, but I now go to church and have morals", and then they were free to enter society? I bet people who think religion gives morals would not be okay with that! Great read btw!

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