Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Posts Tagged ‘morality’

Who Am I to Tell You Anything?

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 20, 2010

Are there some journeys that should never be started? There are people who know me in real life who might sneer on hearing I’m seeking higher reality again. These are people I’ve hurt, lied to, or (think they) know my failings. I’m far from perfect. Even when I turned my back on a religious path, I’ve been a hypocrite in my new path. I’ve criticised other views on this very blog, it’s only fair I turn the lens on myself.

I Was Wrong

I started this journey not wanting to share much about me. Spritzophrenia was supposed to be about the ideas and conclusions, not my self. I’m not that interesting, I’m not that worthy. But the stories are inseparable, and I’m really not proud of some chapters. I feel distress at my own ethical off-the-wagon times. Oh there’s been plenty of failure, moral turpitude, poverty, despair and general crapness in my life: Hear my confession.

I hurt people. I cut off contact with my parents and one of my sisters for a year when they annoyed me and let me down. I’ve lied, and lied again about important things. I’ve broken promises. I’ve stolen. I owe good people money, and don’t know when I will repay it. I may be on a slippery slope to alcoholism. I was once so angry and frustrated I attacked my girlfriend’s car with a chair, smashing a light.

Others question my motives, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. I once overheard a conversation about me getting on my “high horse”. I’d always thought I came across as fairly humble? I wrote earlier about how hard this is for me.

While I think one should be measured by one’s own conscience, it doesn’t really matter which moral code you measure me against. I’ve broken most of the ten commandments. I don’t walk in the eightfold path, I’m deeply attached. Insofar as the golden rule suffices for Secular Humanism, I ain’t been golden. Insofar as the “Love God and love other people” of Jesus, nope. Even Augustine’s “Love god and do what you want” leaves me wanting.

Though I can point to reasons, philosophies and religious paths that enticed me, I make no excuses. My atheism, nihilism and Satanism were nascent anyway, the labels became convenient excuses. I might have been bad even if I embraced Hasidism. Sometimes I thought my actions and thoughts were ‘right’ at the time, only to be confounded by them, sometimes years later. I take responsibility for what I’ve done and I’m reaping what I’ve sowed.

I Walk The Line Between Good and Evil

I recommend listening to Alien Sex Fiend’s I walk the Line.

more below

This apple’s rotten to the core

Get up, off your knees

Get down on the floor

You wouldn’t listen [to me], and I don’t blame ya

I’m already in the gutter, next stop is the drain

[Full lyrics.] I note one can still make nice cider from rotten apples.

Are We Moral?

Some will no doubt point to my christian past and infer an over-inflated sense of guilt. But to be perfectly honest, I didn’t have much guilt when I was a Christian— it gave me a sense of freedom from guilt.

I think we have an inflated idea of how good people are. A piece in the NZ Listener some years back indicated just how common white collar crime is; good moral people just like us are cheating on their taxes and their spouses. I’m not worried about whether lying is equivalent to murder, it’s the general point I’m driving at. What does it take to be a moral person? To always do good? Do good most of the time? What percentage of good makes us a good person? Is there such a thing as one’s “character”? “We’re good people. We just do bad things.” (Larry Norman)

The idea that the christian g0d wants to help us escape our tendency to damage, looks on the money. (If she exists.) The phrase so often quoted by evangelists “All have sinned, and fallen short” seems to ring rather more true than we might like to admit. Christians— the ones who know their theology at least— don’t claim we are as bad as we possibly can be. Only that we are distorted. Like a drop of ink in a glass of water discolours the whole thing.

“If I believed in God, if I believed in sin, this is the place I’d be sucked straight to hell.” (~ Dexter, Season 2 Episode 2) Some think believers parade triumphantly into heaven. I think many of us will crawl there, relieved and surprised.

Only those who are broken can accept being whole.

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Posted in Christianity, ethics, hardship, personal, personal development, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments »

Why Be Moral? (Part One)

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 15, 2010

The cafe worker leaves the till open while she gets my coffee. No-one would see me take some money, and I’ll probably get away with it. So why should I do the right thing? While you’re pondering this, you could listen to Motorhead | I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care).

The strip below is a simple and effective look at morality via game theory. It’s totally yoinked from webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

The “why be moral?” dilemma has been much discussed in philosophy, and has exercised my mind for many years. Part Two is coming, with some thoughts of my own. Meantime, what do you think?

Posted in agnostic, ethics, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Does Society Need Religion?

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 28, 2010

It’s about time we had a Jewish voice on this site, so I’m pleased to welcome a guest post by the UK’s chief rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Well, he didn’t actually agree to write for me, I just pinched his opinion piece in the times.

Why the Ancient Greeks were wrong about morality
Do you have to be religious to be moral? Was Dostoevsky right when he said that if God does not exist, all is permitted? Clearly the answer is “no”. You don’t have to be religious to fight for justice, practise compassion, care about the poor and homeless or jump into the sea to save a drowning child. My doctoral supervisor, the late Sir Bernard Williams, was a committed atheist. He was also one of the most reflective writers on morality in our time.

Yet there were great minds who were less sure. Voltaire did not believe in God but he wanted his butler to do so because he thought he would then be robbed less. Rousseau, hardly a saint, thought that a nation needed a religion if it was to accept laws and policies directed at the long-term future. Without it, people would insist on immediate gain, to their eventual cost. George Washington, in his farewell address, said: “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion . . . Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Were they wrong? Yes in one sense, no in another. Individuals don’t need to believe in God to be moral. But morality is more than individual choices. Like language it is the result of social practice, honed and refined over many centuries. The West was shaped by what today we call the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Lose that and we will not cease to be moral, but we will be moral in a different way.

Consider what moves people today: the environment, hunger and disease in Third World countries, and the growing gap between rich and poor. These are noble causes: nothing should be allowed to detract from that. They speak to our altruism. They move us to make sacrifices for the sake of others. That is one of the distinguishing features of our age. Our moral horizons have widened. Our conscience has gone global. All this is worthy of admiration and respect.

But they have in common the fact that they are political. They are the kind of issues that can only ultimately be solved by governments and international agreements. They have little to do with the kind of behaviour that was once the primary concern of morality: the way we relate to others, how we form bonds of loyalty and love, how we consecrate marriage and the family, and how we fulfil our responsibilities as parents, employees, neighbours and citizens. Morality was about private life. It said that without personal virtue, we cannot create a society of grace.

Nowadays the very concept of personal ethics has become problematic in one domain after another. Why shouldn’t a businessman or banker pay himself the highest salary he can get away with? Why shouldn’t teenagers treat sex as a game so long as they take proper precautions? Why shouldn’t the media be sensationalist if that sells papers, programmes and films? Why should we treat life as sacred if abortion and euthanasia are what people want? Even Bernard Williams came to call morality a “peculiar institution”. Things that once made sense — duty, obligation, self-restraint, the distinction between what we desire to do and what we ought to do — to many people now make no sense at all.

This does not mean that people are less ethical than they were, but it does mean that we have adopted an entirely different ethical system from the one people used to have. What we have today is not the religious ethic of Judaism and Christianity but the civic ethic of the Ancient Greeks. For the Greeks, the political was all. What you did in your private life was up to you. Sexual life was the pursuit of desire. Abortion and euthanasia were freely practised. The Greeks produced much of the greatest art and architecture, philosophy and drama, the world has ever known. What they did not produce was a society capable of surviving.

The Athens of Socrates and Plato was glorious, but extraordinarily short-lived. By now, by contrast, Christianity has survived for two millennia, Judaism for four. The Judaeo-Christian ethic is not the only way of being moral; but it is the only system that has endured. If we lose the Judaeo-Christian ethic, we will lose the greatest system ever devised for building a society on personal virtue and covenantal responsibility, on righteousness and humility, forgiveness and love.

So far, the Times only has two comments, one from the kind of christian who argues poorly and dogmatically. *sigh*. There are some more useful comments here. I shall add my comment below, but I want to know what YOU think: Is the chief rabbi right? Please comment.

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Some atheists imply or state outright that to be a believer one must be stupid. It’s simply not true, there are some immensely intelligent and educated religious people out there including many who teach in secular universities. I haven’t trawled in depth, but here’s Intelligent Christian, a website by mensa-level IQ christians.

Today’s Fun Unrelated Link: Odd and strangely satisfying video – exploding banana face

Posted in agnostic, atheism, Judaism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »