What Morality Really Means

I may never forget the moment when I heard the Christian debater in my university give the reason for why God ordered the genocide of the Amalekites. Well actually, he didn’t give a reason, other than the assertion that suffering and death here on Earth is only temporary, that in the greater picture of eternity in Heaven (as offered by Jesus Christ), heavenly-mandated ethnic cleansing in the here and now might not be so bad after all.

You might now be expecting me to write about how immoral and evil these ideas are in and of themselves; you may even think I might link this to current politics, about how this commandment is disgustingly often invoked against Palestinians, for example.

No, my objection is quite simple. I believe supernatural and eternal considerations seriously undermine any possible system of morality and ethics. Once we have divine revelation and the possible of eternal life, the objective and knowable conditions and consequences in this world suddenly fall second to supernatural considerations, ideas that are articulated by religious people who arrogantly claim to know what no human can possibly know.

Albert Einstein put it best:

I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God.

Morality really means that we look at human suffering and well-being as we know it, in this life, on this Earth. We certainly don’t need instructions on tablets or rewards in the afterlife to be good people and to build flourishing societies. Let us get rid of these poisonous arguments that come from religion and understand what morality really means.


Posted on January 26, 2011, in Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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