Re: virus: Morality

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. (
Wed, 28 Feb 1996 10:23:33 -0700 (MST)

On Wed, 28 Feb 1996, Andy Cheyne Service-LL wrote:

> I realise that I'm being simplistic here, but I think it is far more
> likely that morals generate the need for religions rather than religions
> create morals. Society depends on some moral consensus: what simpler way
> to enforce this moral consensus than the reward-and-punishment mechanism
> practised by religion?

You make an interesting point here. However, with the exception of
adopting christianity for a brief time in my early teens in an effort to
"cure" myself of homosexuality, I do not think that any of my spiritual
pursuits have resulted from a need to codify or provide a
reward-and-punishment framework for whatever moral beliefs I may or may
not have held.

Reward-and-punishment schemes often seem to exist in correlation to how
fundamentally a given religion is apprached. Fundmentalists christians,
for example, tend to be big on reward-and-punishment, whereas I
personally know christians with more sophisticated approaches that have,
for the most part, abandoned the reward-and-punishment scheme.

> It's difficult to convince individuals to behave
> in ways that are ostensibly contrary to their individual interest - the
> concept of "altruism" or "for the good of society" can seem pretty
> nebulous. So what do you do? Invent a system of rewards and punishments
> that transcend the immediate, material benefits of the action in
> question, that's what.

Again, religion is, IMHO, far more than a system a rewards and
punishments. Besides, I think that most societies are able to enforce
their standards of behavior through means that aren't entirely religious
-- taxation seems to be an effective way for a lot of societies to deal
with enforcing a sort of altruism.

> Of course, this raises the question of whether it's realistic to expect
> human beings, at this stage in their intellectual evolution, to be able
> to sustain a moral framework without the artificial incentives offered by
> religions. I'd like to be able to think that my fellow humans are
> capable of being rational enough to behave according to a
> societally-beneficial moral code or codes just for its own sake, but I'm
> afraid I doubt it.

You seem to imply that moral codes are things which, ideally, all human
beings should have and adhere to. Why?