12 December, 2007

Religion as a moral compass

Firstly, sorry about the lack of posts. No excuse except not finding anything especially interesting to comment on.

Last Thursday's debate was on religion, more specifically, TTH condemns parents who enforce their religion on their children.

Given the teaching speech at the beginning of the evening, I'm not surprised that the 'religion is good as it provides a moral compass' argument came up.

When I had initially sat down with Dan and planned that point, the point was as superficial as 'the ten commandments are generally a pretty good way to live ones life'. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the merit in the argument is not the superficial one, but the deeper one.

All societies condemn murder, theft, adultary etc. whether they are Christian, Hindu, Animist or Atheist. They might quibble over what the words mean, but the core thought is there. Religion, in my mind, doesn't impact on these big morals particularly. Where it does have more value in the moral sphere is on deeper issues. Concepts like forgiveness or retaliation are given a particular slant by religions. For example, Christianity is pretty explicit on the issue of turning the other cheek whereas Islam allows ideas of justice being a form of personal retribution to influence shari'a law. Equally, the idea of judgement for religious mis-deeds. Modern interpretations of Christianity (which I think are the better ones) would generally condemn societal punishment for religious transgressions, instead, allowing God to be the arbiter. To use Islam, again, the punishment is explicitly allowed and encouraged.

The role of religion as a moral compass, therefore, is more vital when looking at subtle issues such as forgiveness than looking at 'easy' issues such as 'thou shallt not kill'.

1 comment:

Alex said...

Well, you know my position on this, so I won't go into a huge ammount of detail. Suffice to say I take the Dan James school of thought: if the best reason you have for doing something is because the old guy with the white beard told you to, either you're one of Santa's elves or your morality is problematic.