In the current issue of “Free Inquiry”, published by the Council for Secular Humanism, is an essay,”Ethics without God.”
It is one of the best arguments I’ve ever read in my 72-plus years. The author uses the raising of her two children as a base to make not just the case for moral teaching without god, but also for why raising a child in a god-centered environment may be immoral and dangerous for the child’s mental and moral development. The examples she cites are, in legal terms, “compelling.” I know of only this piece, but there must be more, because she is a university professor of ethics. Her name is Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek.
It is after reading her essay four times that I feel compelled to write my own commentary. Because she emphasizes obedience, rather than morality, as a religious driving force, I will also.
When I entered the monastery, my question to the priest adviser was the same you hear from many believers: “I want to do the will of god. How can I possibly know what that will is?” The answer came back without hesitation, “We will TELL you what it is.” It wasn’t until years later that I read that those who did not want to make decisions for their lives often entered religious orders. From my experience and observation of others, in two monasteries, I tend to agree. In fact, one of the VOWS of religious orders, and probably the priesthood, is OBEDIENCE.
So, submission to the “will of god” is commanded and demanded by all Christian teaching, and the word ISLAM means “submission.” The major lesson is submission to this will, thru obedience, even if it means killing your own child, or allowing someone else to do it. Even though the deity who commands this is immoral, by Biblical example, one is only “following orders,” ergo, not responsible.
Because the deity is neither vocal nor visible, by what means does it impart its WILL? Why, through those who SPEAK FOR GOD. THEY will tell you what and who to obey, give reasons to justify (when they feel like it), but, always and above all, emphasize the absolute requirement to give one’s all in obedience.
Because a primary rationalization and lesson taught by religion to children, not to be questioned, is that the end justifies the means, it may even be virtuous to commit atrocities for the greater good - indeed it may sometimes be necessary. Also, it becomes necessary to lie, steal, cheat, and rob others of properties and life itself, if it advances the kingdom of god. This is evil disguised as virtue, but it is no different from what this god has done. Just ask his spokesmen. Whoops! Don’t ask, just OBEY. It’s a no-no to do otherwise, to follow your own conscience. Just do what “god” commands. Don’t even question god’s authorities. OBEY.
One can see the effects today, on the news, of those blindly obeying the will of god. We find Christian militia planning to kill law enforcement officers in order to incite others to overthrow our government, an outgrowth of the Christian Right movement. We find religious organizations attempting to force prayer and religious readings and “intelligent design” into public schools, and taking tax monies to proselytize. All “god’s will.” To protect the churches, the very mouthpieces of god, child rapists went unreported, protected by the god authorities. The list goes on. Feel free to add your own examples.
As moral individuals, we must protest these evils as loudly and as often as possible. In the words of George Santayana, “In order for evil to succeed, it is only necessary for good men to do nothing.” It is a fiction that a god demands these efforts from believers, and we must make this known to them and others. We must make them take responsibility for THEIR actions, as we do ours.