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"Faith is not a good reason to believe in any one thing. It's a bad reason to believe in everything. Faith is not synonymous with any one idea; it is synonymous with any strongly held idea, true or not. But one thing faith is not synonymous with is a logically justified idea."

April 18, 2010

Moral Judgment: Evolved or Divine?

The ability to tell right from wrong, good from evil, and the proper from the improper is what we refer to as “Moral Judgment.” It’s how we decide what actions should be illegal, what rights should be protected and how we should interact with others around us in our daily lives. As individuals, we exercise our moral judgment every time we speak or act in order to act in terms that are not offensive, obscene or misunderstood.
When we exercise our judgment we’re basically saying, “I know this to be right in light of the known alternatives.” But the big question is this... "Where do our morals come from?" Are they instinctual? Are they are gifts from a higher power? Are they just learned behaviors based on our life experiences? First of all, I’d like to start by discrediting the most absurd of these moral origin theories…

"God gave us our moral laws!"
Some believe that morality is a gift from God. That God has given mankind a basic understanding of morality as based on his laws. (For example, the Ten Commandments, dissected in the earlier post) For it says in the Bible, “God hath written his laws in the heart of every man"… This passage is used as an excuse for God sending people to hell who have never had the option of knowing his scripture. Of course, how can God damn people to eternal hellfire if they were never given a chance to hear the word of God? Well, he wrote his laws in the heart of every man so that no man will have an excuse come judgment day.
This idea is an obvious contradiction to the popular Christian belief. Most Christians believe that the only way to heaven is through the son of God, their lord and savior, Jesus Christ. So, if someone in a far away land who never had the option to hear the word of God were to die and go before God for judgment, they could, according to this passage, be qualified for entry into Heaven simply for following the morals God has written in their hearts. But because they didn’t know Christ as their lord and savior then they would be damned to hell. So God apparently wrote his laws into our hearts, but forgot to write knowledge of Jesus into them as well, so we're still all going to burn by default. Perhaps this is another internal Bible contradiction? In that case, which passage is the higher ranking passage? Which is the more important qualifier? Do I simply follow God’s morals or do I still need to recognize Jesus? Contradictions in the Bible happen often and believers simply dismiss them. (Often by saying the passage is just metaphor. Must be nice to be able to dismiss contradictions in your belief system by claiming metaphors every time something doesn‘t make sense.)
That leads me to my next point against the morality of God. Believers like to pick and choose which parts of the Bible they wish to follow. Sure, “Thou shalt not murder” seems like a great rule for life. (Even though the original text says "kill" and not "murder" which is quite ambiguous.) But on the other hand, “Thou shalt marry away thy daughter to her rapist for twenty gold pieces because she is soiled” doesn’t seem too unreasonable as a moral rule either. But actually, God doesn't include that into his morals. In fact, he includes the exact opposite passage. According to God, it's perfectly fine to marry your daughter to the man who raped her because she's used goods. Luckily, modern Christians are more moral than their God would want, and they don't do this anymore. And I'm glad they don't. Sure, they're making unjustified double standards so they can say "A" and do "B" but I don’t want people to follow the other 600+ moral laws passed down by God as found in the Bible. 99% of the laws from God found in the Bible are disgusting and terrifying! But if you believe that God gave you morality, but you pick and choose which laws to follow and which to dismiss, then obviously you have a better moral compass than your God.

You don’t stone your children despite God telling you it's okay, because you know it’s wrong! Your God is not benevolent. He is a mean, twisted and spiteful imaginary figure. (Sort of like Darth Vader.) Some people will even go so far as to say that if God says something is right, then it is, no matter how inhumane it may seem to us. That’s the same sort of defense crazed mothers use after killing their kids. “God told me to do it, and anything God says must be right!?!” Wrong. Though, hypothetically, if God did exist, and he did tell you to kill your kids, I would not be surprised. The God found in the Bible is an evil, egotistical and power hungry asshole who is well known for commissioning the murder of infants, even the unborn.

"What does science/philosophy/culture have to say about the issue of morality?"
The truth about morality and good judgment is found in the experiences an individual has in his or her life. When a child is very young their mind begins to develop its sense of right and wrong by watching its parents and seeing how they react to the things they do. They begin to relate their feelings to others and see how their interaction with their family changes the overall mood of the situation. Children as young as ten months old can develop a sense of empathy. This is one of the most noticeable early developments of social interaction and moral judgment. Psychologists have been studying the steps a normal human moral development. These are the steps they have discovered…

Stage 1: Obedience and Punishment Phase-
In this early stage a child refers right or wrong to whether or not a punishment follows. If you ask a little child why something is wrong they might tell you because you’d be punished if you do it. The higher reasoning of right and wrong is not fully developed yet. Their ability to understand why something is wrong is limited. All they know is doing certain actions leads towards punishment.

Stage 2: Individualism and Exchange Phase-
In this stage a child begins to understand the concept of fairness. This is the part of a child’s life where he or she will begin to act out. They refer right and wrong to whether or not the situation is fair. If mommy, daddy, brother, sister or friends can do it, then so should I, and if not, then why not? They’re beginning to study exactly how rules are made and how they effect the people around them. But here is also where strong feelings of jealousy begin. If his big brother got some ice cream then why can’t he?

Stage 3: Conventional Morality Phase-
This stage of moral development is based on motives. The child’s brain develops the ability to weigh motives against actions. Sort of like, “Do the ends justify the means?” (For example, if you stole food then that is wrong, but if you did it because you were starving then it’s okay.) Expect a lot of experimentation during this phase. The means of committing a crime have a lot to do with whether or not punishment should be inflicted.

Stage 4: Law and Order Phase-
For the first time in the child’s life, his or her concern is with society as a whole. The single element has been replaced with a need to see justice done for the betterment of the community. They do away with most of their “justified means” and practice a balanced society based thinking process. (For example, Joe may have stolen food cause he was starving and that’s too bad, but if we allow stealing now with Joe then we will have to allow anyone to steal for the same reason. Joe probably should be punished for the good of society, but we should also keep in mind his situation.) Most moral development for the average human stops here.

Stage 5: Post Conventional Morality Phase-
In this phase the idea of individual rights comes into play. The situation is a lot like phase four but this time the child understands that despite what the law says and what others may think there are certain things which should be protected as basic human rights. (For example, right to free speech and the right to religious freedom.) The child also understands that any change to the rules must abide by these rights and follow process.

Stage 6: Universal Principals Phase-
This is where supreme justice is obtained. The subject now understands that the rights of the individual are protected despite the rights of the majority. Democratic processes do not have the ability to remove the rights of others. (For example, the majority cannot vote to enslave the minority.) Democracy does not rule over human rights. From here, the democratic process is seen as a means to decide actions and support for causes, but not as a method of deciding right or wrong, truth from fiction.

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