Over the weekend I had a conversation with someone about our childhoods. I grew up in a household where religion was non-existent; it was simply not an issue and not something that was generally talked about unless us kids had specific questions. I explained this to my friend and she asked ‘well, were you did learn right from wrong, then?’ Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback by this and got a bit flustered. I tried to explain to her that we learned right and wrong the same way everyone else did – by everyone around us, specifically our parents. She pressed a bit and I explained that I think morals are inherent in human beings and that we generally ‘do unto others as we would want them to do unto us’. Well, of course, the Golden Rule! I had a feeling that this little phrases and satisfied her that God had indeed given me morality regardless of whether I believed in him or not.
I didn’t want to press the issue. I didn’t want to point out that paganism also has it’s rules of morality, often known as the Wiccan Rede (or crede) – “An’ it harm none, do what you will’ or something along those lines. I didn’t want to say that if she looked up every single religion the majority of them would probably have something very similar to ‘the golden rule’ and that many of those religions probably pre-date Christianity.
In my defense, I was among polite company and didn’t think it appropriate to engage in a religious debate. And anyway, I’m dreadful at debating. Nevertheless, this conversation has been bouncing about in my head for these past few days.
I have a difficult time understanding why people can’t accept that perhaps the morals we find in religion are there only because those morals were established in a culture first.Human beings existed before religion did and our ancient ancestors had communities and families. It makes sense that if you’re a surly motherfucker who lies, cheats and kills you aren’t really going to be very welcomed into the community. We are a social species; we want other people to like us. We need other people to like us since we really can’t survive on our own. That is where morality comes from. It’s called humanity.
Morality is also incredibly subjective. What is morally acceptable in one culture is definitely not a-ok in another. I personally find the treatment of women in Middle Eastern cultures to be atrocious. To them, it’s completely acceptable (for the most part, anyway). I’m viewing their moral standards through the haze of my own.
I do not think that morality came from religion. I think that religions picked up on their (at the time) current vibe of morality and cultural taboos and perpetuated it. It was (and is) a means of population control. Let the people know what is ok and what is not and make sure they realize that if they don’t toe the line they are going to suffer consequences so great that it will haunt them long after they are dead.
God did not invent morality. Morality was made by the same people who made God.Man.