Friday, 23 December 2011

How Religion Poisons Morality

I recently came across a tweet by Harun Yahya, proclaiming "Until the morality of Islam dominates the world we will not sleep a wink." The question I had was why anyone would actually wish for that. Harun responded with the good virtues of Islamic values and kindly asked me to learn more about Islam. To which I highlighted some of the problems I saw in the application of Islamic values, and asked of values that I consider to be universal - such as equality for women and freedom of expression.

The question of what Islamic morality holds to is, for a large part, a non sequitur. If it is good because it is holy, then it shouldn't matter whether or not that's appealing to me. But if it's good because it embodies basic human dignities (to which I am very sceptical of), then why not aspire to the basic human dignities instead?

With any of the religious attempts to own morality, the same thing happens. The good of the religion, it is touted, is an appeal to the goodness of the values in themselves. One could, with enough linguistic dexterity, that inself can be directly attributed to the goodness of the divine source, but we're still left with the problem of trying to see the goodness of the values of the divine source in values that we would normally consider good anyway.

Any aspiration to the imposition of religiously-defined morality has to face up to the question of just why it is we need religion for. It's not discarding the baby with the bathwater to deny religious value, but to see religious value for what it is: an attempt to codify the good.

If a value is worth having, it's worth having irrespective of the source. There would be no need to call it Christian values, or Islamic values, they would be just good values. Religious attribution is an unfair attempt to claim ownership of something it has no right to do. And to make matters worse, by codifying the good, it also carries along that which is not good; not least an absurdly false metaphysics and an undying desire to yield authority to those who conflate their own ego with the powers of the divine.

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