Quaap home
Adventures of a stay-at-home, skeptical, homeschooling dad (etc.)


Main

Two theories of morality

While there are certainly more than two, these are the two theories of morality which concern me most. If I lived in India, "Theory 1" might be about reincarnation or seeking Nirvana, but living in this part of the United States at this time, it has to be the whole God/Jesus/Heaven/Hell thing.

Theory 1: The source of morality is "God"

There is a thing called a "god", usually written "God". God is all-good, and all-powerful, and all-knowing, and immortal. He defined good and evil. Because there is nothing outside of God, he must have arbitrarily chosen what qualifies as "good" and "evil".

So anyway, God then created humans and gave them free will so humans could choose between the arbitrarily chosen categories of good and evil. In a surprising move, He placed strong biological drives and emotions into the humans which make them want to choose some of the actions He defined as evil. He also gave them receptors which allowed them to feel "pleasure", which, confusingly, is often the result of actions defined as "evil". The motives behind these actions are a bit hazy.

If you mostly do the actions defined as "good" you get to go to a wonderful place after you die where pleasurable things will happen, but if you mostly do things that are defined as "evil" you go to a place where decidedly unpleasant things like pain will occur.

He created angels, which are mostly all good, and demons and a devil, which are mostly all bad. Why this was done is left as an exercise for the reader. The demons and the devil God created wander around earth and try to make some humans do very strange things, including some of those things defined by God to be "evil". If fact, the devil once took the form of a snake, convinced the very first people to eat some fruit, and this meant that God couldn't keep the "heaven on earth" thing He had been planning and He had to go with the "bad stuff happens / heaven / hell" back-up plan we are discussing now.

Later, God decided that the humans He created were seeking evil/pleasurable actions too often, so He killed everyone except for one family who inbred with each other to repopulate the earth. Then He created a bunch of nit-picky rules which, among other things, told people to ignore their emotions and biological drives, and to not eat pork. Failure to comply with this list of rules was often to be punished by death. Armed with these rules, He quickly ordered His followers to kill a bunch of humans who didn't follow the rules, and to incidentally take their land, cattle, and teenage daughters in the process.

This went on for a while, but God eventually decided it wasn't working well enough, so He impregnated a human female with his Son (who was also God), and then told everybody to forget those lame-o rules He gave earlier and just try being nice to other humans, and then He sacrificed Himself to Himself so the He could forgive the humans who end up believing this sentence. This sometimes worked a little better, but in some circles the "being nice" part never really caught on.

To prevent confusion, there is a 1200+ page book written partly by iron age nomads and partly by first-and-second-century hippies which was passed down orally, then written down, edited, translated, re-edited, re-translated, re-re-edited, voted on, and re-re-translated, which totally represents the unchanging word of God. Reading this book, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether a particular action is moral or immoral, and many humans interpret parts of the book in many contradictory ways.

Conclusion:

The categories "evil" and "good" are arbitrary, and actually figuring out whether a particular action is good/moral or evil/immoral is a task left for each individual human with the help of his or her family and/or social group.

Theory 2: We mostly make it up.

Through the process of natural selection, Humans evolved or inherited biological drives and emotions which helped them deal with various situations commonly encountered by our ancestors. Many of these situations no longer apply. Many of the biological drives and emotions do not scale well beyond our local tribe. This leads to many morality systems with a core of similar moral elements, but wildly varying in interpretation and implementation.

Conclusion:

The categories "evil" and "good" are arbitrary, and actually figuring out whether a particular action is good/moral or evil/immoral is a task left for each individual human with the help of his or her family and/or social group.

Meta-conclusion?

I'm almost positive Occam's razor applies to this somehow…

2012-02-13 #religion  
.