4 Reasons the Christian Right’s Claims of Moral Superiority Over the Rest of Us Just Don’t Hold Water

Source: AlterNet

Author: Valerie Tarico

Emphasis Mine

When Bill O’Reilly recently tried to pin America’s spree of mass shootings on atheism rather than guns or mental illness, he hoped to tap a specific set of beliefs that is common among Bible believers— that morality derives from religion; that Born Again Christians are a light unto the world while atheists (who lack any basis for ethics or morality) spend their empty lives in pursuit of money and sex; that when Christians get raptured or otherwise lose the upper hand, America will descend into the orgy of sex, violence and anarchy depicted in the Left Behind books and movie.

This view feeds both righteous superiority and genuine anxiety among conservative Christians. Calvinists and other fundamentalists teach that humanity is “utterly depraved,” and that the only hope for our fallen world and for fallen individuals is the saving blood of Jesus. In the words of megachurch minister Mark Driscoll, “If the resurrection didn’t literally happen, there are guns to shoot, there are people to shoot, there are parties to be had, there are women to be had.”

In this view, the architects of America’s much lamented moral decay are godless atheists, and the growth of secularism means the growth of moral bankruptcy. Modernity is a grim slide into an end-times world where everybody lies, cheats, and takes whatever they can get. And here in America, this dark tide can be held back only by Christians in high places. 

But this common wisdom among right-wing Christians is being challenged by the public behavior of both the godly and the godless, by atheists who publicly embrace humanity’s moral core and spiritual quest; and by Christian leaders who keep getting caught, literally or metaphorically, with their pants down. The combination paints a picture that more than anything reveals our shared humanity—that the godless have their share of moral leaders and inspiring spiritual values, and the godly have their share of scoundrels. 

Atheists Bare Their Beliefs and Values 

Tired of being stigmatized and shunned, some atheists have set out to daylight the moral values they live by, and why. Some are specifically reclaiming words like morality and spirituality, which have long been owned by the religious sector. This summer, photographer and filmmaker Chris Johnson began screening A Better Life: Joy and Meaning in a World Without God. The movie follows a related coffee table book in which prominent atheists (and full disclosure: a few ordinary nonbelievers like me) discuss the values, loves, dreams and projects that give their lives purpose.

Small Sunday Assembly congregations around the world are continuing to experiment with building community around a three-part motto: live better, help often, wonder more. Blogger Neil Carter, a theology-trained former teacher, has amassed a following of thousands who read his wry, tender musings as he navigates being Godless in Dixie. Humanist chaplaincies like the Harvard Humanist Hub have been springing up on college campuses. Even the Satanic Temple (actually an atheist religion that eschews supernaturalism and embraces Satan as a literary rebel against tyranny a la Milton) has stepped into the public eye with a mission and a manifesto affirming broadly held humanistic values.    

Scandals Expose Hypocrisy, Rock Christianity 

Meanwhile, scandals have been hitting conservative Christianity, hard and fast. 

After Christian abortion foes launched a blood-and-guts media campaign based on staged entrapment interviews with Planned Parenthood staff, public opinion wavered. The campaign crumbled as forensic experts found 42 splicesincluding in “unedited” videos, rendering them useless as evidence. A seemingly unimpeachable witness, a disgruntled Planned Parenthood employee who claimed she had been forced to sell body parts, was impeached by past statements contradicting recent testimony, suggesting she was unreliable and a likely plant. Anti-abortion leaders found the moral high ground crumbling beneath their feet. 

Another Christian publicity stunt turned out to be fabricated by—to borrow a phrase from investigative journalist Chris Rodda—Liars for Jesus in the military. Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz has built his campaign around religious opposition to anti-discrimination laws, which some Christians claim violate their religious freedom and cause them to be persecuted. One ad features the story of Air Force Sergeant Phillip Monk who was fired by a lesbian superior for “expressing a traditional view of marriage”—except that he wasn’t. Oops. So much for the Bible’s prohibition against false witness. If Cruz had read some of the anti-Semitic, homo-slurring hate mail sent by military Evangelicals in the name of Jesus he might have been more wary.

A John Oliver August expose of televangelists exposed so much corruption, from multi-million-dollar tax-exempt parsonages, to personal trips on private jets, to manipulative but unfulfilled promises of healing, that if religion wasn’t exempt from truth-in-advertising laws the ministries in question would have their butts sued off. The wide blanket of “religious freedom” may provide legal cover for preachers like Robert Tilton or Joel Olsteen but it can’t cover the up the fact that their ministries stink of moral rot. Oliver launched his own church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, with dollars (and seeds and beef jerky) that flowed in from eager viewers, challenging the IRS to investigate—and not just Oliver.

And then, of course, there’s the ongoing scandal surrounding Ashley Madison, the matchmaking site for would-be adulterers hacked by possible extortionists who released member names to the public. Early controversy focused on the membership of Christian patriarchy leader, Josh Duggar, whose teen pattern of molesting younger girls—and the family’s response—recently cost his parents their multi-million-dollar reality show. “Family values” politicians like Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz, who flaunt their Christian credentials and lament how gays and feminists are destroying marriage appear to have lost their voices when it comes to adultery, a sin that—in contrast to gay marriage or abortion—the Bible unambiguously condemns.  

Moral Decay or More Transparency?

Have traditional Christianity’s claims of moral superiority always been mere conceit, now visible to all, or has something changed? Certainly the internet has made it harder to live a double life or hide hypocrisies, or to protect the faithful from outside information. I wrote about this in “Religion May Not Survive the Internet.” But there’s also reason to believe that Bible-believing Christianity once worked better than it does today as a guide for individual and community behavior:

  • Archaic sex and gender scripts drive hypocrisy. As gender roles and intimate relations become more flexible in modern society, the rigid Iron Age sex script gets harder and harder for Bible-believing Christians to impose, not only on society at large but even on themselves. Trying and failing, young Evangelicals vow abstinence until marriage but instead engage in impulsive, high-risk sex (because planning and protection would signal premeditation). Pastors, priests and patriarchal men—who often find the old script equally impossible—pay queer prostitutes, exploit their positions to fondle children and female parishioners, and fill the coffers of Internet porn providers, all the while loudly condemning the sexual obsessions of gays, women and youth.
  • Clinging to creationism drives rabbit hole reasoning. As evolutionary theory gets incorporated into computer science and the next wave of engineering and even manufacturing, creationists find themselves backed into a corner, needing to cast aspersions on the whole scientific enterprise(with a peculiar corollary emphasis on undermining climate science). More and more, the only way to preserve and protect a biblical world view is to engage in self-deceptive rabbit hole reasoning—a very bad habit for any individual or group that hopes to be a moral light in the midst of humanity’s darkness.
  • The quest for political power drives corruption. The fusion of conservative Christianity and conservative politics into the Religious Right has corroded Christian values and priorities in America and soiled Christianity’s good name. In the words of Sean Illing, “This unholy union of religion and politics has proven disastrous, particularly in the era of PACs, which allow economic libertarians to manipulate conservative Christians for political purposes.” Politics is a notoriously ruthless no-holds-barred affair in which power corrupts—sometimes absolutely. Right-wing candidates and politicians who tout their close relationship with God may baptize their own reputations, but they simultaneously foul the Church.
  • Bibliolatry drives moral stunting. As culture continues to evolve and moral consciousness deepens, the tribal, racistsexist worldview of the Bible writers appears ever more cruel and morally stunted. Bible literalists, who insist on treating ancient texts as if they were the literally perfect word of God, and their own interpretation of these texts as if it were the only one possible, end up coming across the same way. As their views become less appealing, young people motivated by an honest search for truth and compassion find the Church less and less appealing, leaving those with other priorities to wave the Christian flag.

In sum, conservative Christians are being Left Behind morally and spiritually; and they have responded by looking for love—and answers and power—in all the wrong places. If they find that Americans increasingly turn elsewhere for inspiration and moral values, maybe they should do a little soul searching instead of pointing the finger at atheists.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

 

See:http://www.alternet.org/belief/4-reasons-christian-rights-claims-moral-superiority-over-rest-us-just-dont-hold-water?akid=13434.123424.Klc0Lz&rd=1&src=newsletter1041798&t=8

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3 Lessons Noam Chomsky Taught Us on Debating Intolerant People from His Exchange with Sam Harris

Source: Alternet

Author: Andrew Aghapour

Emphasis Mine

The day before Mayweather fought Pacquiao, New Atheist Sam Harris released an email sparring match he’d had with famed linguist and leftist intellectual Noam Chomsky. In his bestselling book The End of Faith,Harris had accused Chomsky of drawing a “moral equivalence” between 9/11 and the 1998 U.S. missile attack on the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, which the Clinton administration had allegedly believed to be a chemical weapons factory.

The ensuing debate, which occurred over a four-day email exchange, is the most uneven public intellectual bout in recent memory. Chomsky repeatedly called out Harris’s rhetorical evasions and sloppy thinking, at one point describing one of Harris’s arguments as “so ludicrous as to be embarrassing.”

For his part, Harris was persistent and calm, but he seemed to fundamentally misunderstand the scope of Chomsky’s critique. Harris repeatedly asked Chomsky to be more polite, and offered to let him revise his comments before publishing the exchange. Chomsky refused the offer.

Here at The Cubit we read a lot of bad arguments, and you might be surprised to learn that Chomsky’s refusal to just be polite came as a welcome surprise. Here are three take-home lessons from the Harris vs. Chomsky Fight of the Century.

1. Call Out Bullshit Thought Experiments.

For Sam Harris, “not all cultures are at the same stage of moral development.” Yes, he admits, the U.S. has committed atrocities at a larger scale than many of our enemies, but we have higher moral standing because these were mistakes. Harris likens the U.S. to a “well-intentioned giant,” whose aims are good even if it occasionally blunders.

Underlining the good intentions of the U.S. even during attacks like the one on al-Shifa, Harris offered the following thought experiment:

Imagine that al-Qaeda is filled, not with God-intoxicated sociopaths intent upon creating a global caliphate, but genuine humanitarians. Based on their research, they believe that a deadly batch of vaccine has made it into the U.S. pharmaceutical supply. They have communicated their concerns to the FDA but were rebuffed. Acting rashly, with the intention of saving millions of lives, they unleash a computer virus, targeted to impede the release of this deadly vaccine. As it turns out, they are right about the vaccine but wrong about the consequences of their meddling—and they wind up destroying half the pharmaceuticals in the U.S.

What would I say? I would say that this was a very unfortunate event—but these are people we want on our team. I would find the FDA highly culpable for not having effectively communicated with them. These people are our friends, and we were all very unlucky.

The scenario you describe here is, I’m afraid, so ludicrous as to be embarrassing.  It hasn’t even the remotest relation to Clinton’s decision to bomb al-Shifa – not because they had suddenly discovered anything remotely like what you fantasize here, or for that matter any credible evidence at all, and by sheer coincidence, immediately after the Embassy bombings for which it was retaliation, as widely acknowledged.  That is truly scandalous.

And of course they knew that there would be major casualties.  They are not imbeciles, but rather adopt a stance that is arguably even more immoral than purposeful killing, which at least recognizes the human status of the victims, not just killing ants while walking down the street, who cares?

In fact, as you would know if you deigned to read before launching accusations, they were informed at once by Kenneth Roth of HRW [Human Rights Watch] about the impending humanitarian catastrophe, already underway.  And of course they had far more information available than HRW did.

Your own moral stance is revealed even further by your complete lack of concern about the apparently huge casualties and the refusal even to investigate them…

I’ve seen apologetics for atrocities before, but rarely at this level.

The Take-Away: If your opponent creates a thought-experiment that bends reality to fit their assumptions, pummel them with the facts.

2. “Civility” is a Dubious Rhetoric When it Comes to State Power

In The End of Faith, Sam Harris accuses Chomsky and other leftists of “moral blindness” towards the important differences between “the kind of force civilized democracies project in the world, warts and all, and the internecine violence [perpetuated by Muslim governments].” Harris argues that there is a qualitative moral difference between the U.S. and the Muslim world, which leftists like Chomsky cannot see.

Chomsky critiques Harris on two fronts. First, he deconstructs the accusation of “moral equivalence,” a term that “has been regularly used… to try to undercut critical analysis of the state one defends.” Of course there are moral differences between a terrorist attack against defenseless civilians and a U.S. missile strike that was believed to target a chemical weapons manufacturer. The problem with the accusation of “moral equivalence” is that it creates a relativist strawman, distracting us from more substantial ethical questions about U.S. actions.

Second, Chomsky dismantles Harris’s claim that good intentions alone can separate the U.S. from its moral enemies. “Professing benign intentions is the norm for those who carry out atrocities and crimes,” Chomsky points out, and so the claim the U.S. means less harm than it enacts is an empty one.

Throughout their exchange, Harris fails to recognize or address these substantial critiques. Instead, he accuses Chomsky of “running into the weeds” and focusing too narrowly on these points, calls him cantankerous and prickly, and refuses to move forward until Chomsky has sufficiently outlined—to Harris’s liking—the moral hierarchies of various violent intentions.

Harris asks Chomsky to be civil and return to a question that had already been answered, rather than “litigating all points (both real and imagined) in the most plodding and accusatory way.”

Chomsky’s response:

I agree with you completely that we cannot have a rational discussion of these matters, and that it is too tedious to pretend otherwise.  And I agree that I am litigating all points (all real, as far as we have so far determined) in a “plodding and accusatory way.” That is, of course, a necessity in responding to quite serious published accusations that are all demonstrably false, and as I have reviewed, false in a most interesting way: namely, you issue lectures condemning others for ignoring “basic questions” that they have discussed for years, in my case decades, whereas you have refused to address them and apparently do not even allow yourself to understand them.  That’s impressive.

Chomsky refuses to return to the fundamentals of Harris’s argument—the dubious arguments of moral equivalence and hierarchical intentions—because, as he had already explained, they were not just flawed, but also conceptually imbricated with defenses of American power. In the guise of politeness, Harris was asking Chomsky to play a language game whose rules enshrined Western values.

This reminds me a bit of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s recent argument that pleas for nonviolence in Baltimore are ultimately demands to back down and comply. “When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out,” Coates states, “it exposes itself as a ruse.” Similarly, for Chomsky to politely return to the philosophical premise of Harris’s choosing would be to ignore the larger context that makes his arguments flawed in the first place.

The Take-Away:Calls for “civil discourse” ought to be criticized and ignored if such civility would exclude facts and perspectives necessary for questioning dominant powers.

3. Drop the Mic on Your Way Out

From his first email to Chomsky, Harris seems eager to create a correspondence that he can publish on his website. Chomsky, on the other hand, is clearly more interested in the argument itself. When Harris continues to push the correspondence toward publication, Chomsky just drops the mic:

The idea of publishing personal correspondence is pretty weird, a strange form of exhibitionism – whatever the content.  Personally, I can’t imagine doing it.  However, if you want to do it, I won’t object.

Andrew Aghapour is a PhD Student at UNC Chapel Hill and co-producer of The Cubit.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/belief/3-lessons-noam-chomsky-taught-us-debating-intolerant-people-his-exchange-sam-harris?akid=13163.123424.FWR7gz&rd=1&src=newsletter1037163&t=11

Teen boy charged in Craiglist killings believes God will keep his jail time down

N.B.:With role models like this, how could one stray?  A commentary on the questionable moral value of religion…

N.B.: He would be better served by engaging council that could plead for a reduced sentence for a first offender.

From the Plain Dealer, by Amanda Garrett

” A 16-year-old Stow boy charged with murder involving men who responded to job postings on Craigslist believes God will spare him from decades behind bars.

The boy, whom The Plain Dealer is not naming because of his age, wrote to his father last month expressing his hopes and fears. His father shared a copy of the handwritten letter with The Plain Dealer at a reporter’s request.

“There’s a chance I might be out by the time I’m 42,” the boy wrote. “I know there is no way in hell that any kind of God would do that to me.””

The boy, a junior at Stow-Munroe Falls High School, is charged in Noble County with aggravated murder and attempted murder.

He is accused of helping his 52-year-old mentor, Richard Beasley, in at least two shootings — a fatal attack on David Pauley, 51, of Virginia, and the wounding of Scott Davis, 48, formerly of Canton.

The boy’s family has said Beasley, who has a long criminal history, started taking the boy to church after Beasley claimed to find God and opened a halfway house in Akron.

Police now say the halfway house was a front for a brothel. Beasley has since been charged with running a prostitution ring and selling drugs.

The teen doesn’t address the charges against him in the letter, but he did apologize to his father for putting him in “this position” and said he hoped his father could forgive him.

He also assured his father that he is OK. Jailers, he wrote, put him in solitary confinement and he passed the time by exercising and reading. The teen said he had already finished “Treasure Island” and “Robin Hood.”  (N.B.: Isn’t 16 rather old for these?)

But the thought of spending the next 26 years in prison was clearly on his mind.

If that happens, the boy wrote, “all my meaningful family members would be dead.”

His aunts and uncles, his grandmother and his pets would be gone, the teen wrote, adding that his parents would be dead or dying.

“I think about this and know that there is no way God would do that to me,” he wrote. “Something will happen between now and then.”

Previous Plain Dealer coverage

  • Craigslist murder suspect faces death-penalty trial in Summit County (Dec. 5, 2011)
  • Possible Craigslist victim identified as Akron man (Dec. 3)
  • Federal officials prepare to charge man in Craigslist slayings (Dec. 1)
  • Teen accused in Craigslist killing scheme is ‘scared little boy,’ says mom (Nov. 29)
  • Missing Massillon man identified as person found buried behind Rolling Acres Mall (Nov. 26)
  • Investigators find two bodies, seek to determine if they’re linked to Craigslist case (Nov. 25)
  • 16-year-old charged in case of Craigslist jobseeker found dead in Ohio grave (Nov. 18)

He is accused of helping his 52-year-old mentor, Richard Beasley, in at least two shootings — a fatal attack on David Pauley, 51, of Virginia, and the wounding of Scott Davis, 48, formerly of Canton.

The boy’s family has said Beasley, who has a long criminal history, started taking the boy to church after Beasley claimed to find God and opened a halfway house in Akron.

Police now say the halfway house was a front for a brothel. Beasley has since been charged with running a prostitution ring and selling drugs.

The teen doesn’t address the charges against him in the letter, but he did apologize to his father for putting him in “this position” and said he hoped his father could forgive him.

He also assured his father that he is OK. Jailers, he wrote, put him in solitary confinement and he passed the time by exercising and reading. The teen said he had already finished “Treasure Island” and “Robin Hood.”

But the thought of spending the next 26 years in prison was clearly on his mind.

If that happens, the boy wrote, “all my meaningful family members would be dead.”

His aunts and uncles, his grandmother and his pets would be gone, the teen wrote, adding that his parents would be dead or dying.

“I think about this and know that there is no way God would do that to me,” he wrote. “Something will happen between now and then.”

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: agarrett@plaind.com, 216-999-4814

Emphasis Mine

see:http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2011/12/youth_charged_in_craiglist_kil.html

Fox Viewers Overwhelmingly Think We Should Prepare for Alien Invasion Before Fighting Climate Change

By Alex Seitz-Wald | Sourced from ThinkProgress

“A new (supposedly) NASA-funded study postulating that aliens may attack humans over climate change had all the ingredients for a perfect Fox faux controversy — it bolstered their anti-science narrative, painted their opponents as clownish radicals, and highlighted wasteful government spending on a supposedly liberal casue. Fox reported the “news from NASA” several times several times today, presenting it as official “taxpayer funded research.” A chyron on Fox and Friends read: “NASA: Global warming may provoke an [alien] attack.”

But as Business Insider pointed out, they’re “wrong” — “That report was not funded by NASA. It was written by an independent group of scientists and bloggers. One of those happens to work at NASA.” NASA distanced itself from the report as well, calling reports linking the agency to it “not true.” Host Megyn Kelly finally corrected the record this afternoon, saying, “I was making that up.”

But before she did, she was so bemused by the study that she directed her viewers to complete a poll on her website which asked how we should respond to the study: “Immediately increase efforts to curb greenhouse gases,” “Develop weapons to kill the Aliens FIRST,” or “Gently suggest scientists research how to create job.”

Not surprisingly, most suggested they research something else. But more than six times as many respondents (19 percent to 3 percent) said we should focus on building weapons to kill aliens before curbing greenhouse gases. Watch a compilation:”

(N.B.: click link below to see video)

“The poll is of course not scientific, but you can hardly blame the viewers who did respond, considering Fox’s constant misinformation about climate change. For instance, as she presented the poll, Kelly said of curbing climate change, “just in case, right?” — as in, “just in case” the science is right. She did not make a similar qualifier for alien invasion. Numerous studies consistently show that Fox viewers are among the most misinformed of news viewers, while at least one study has shown that — perversely — watching Fox actually makes people lessinformed than they were to begin with.

“Trust me folks, this story is hard to understand,” Fox and Friends host Gretchen Carlson said of the “NASA study.” Indeed.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/653185/fox_viewers_overwhelmingly_think_we_should_prepare_for_alien_invasion_before_fighting_climate_change/

Good Without god!

Why “Non-Religious” Is the Fastest-Growing Preference in America.

From Alternet.Authors Phil Goldberg and Greg Epstein share their provocative views on why a quarter of Americans now call themselves agnostic, atheist or nonreligious.

“Currently more than one billion people around the world define themselves as agnostic, atheist or nonreligious — including 15 percent of Americans. Perhaps more striking, “nonreligious” is not only the fastest growing religious preference in the U.S., but also the only one to increase its percentage in every state over the past generation.

Phil Goldberg and Greg Epstein have provocative perspectives on who these people are, what they believe, and how they arrived at their worldviews and their moral codes.

In February, 1968, the Beatles went to India for an extended stay with their new guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It may have been the most momentous spiritual retreat since Jesus spent those 40 days in the wilderness.

With these words, interfaith minister Goldberg begins American Veda, his look at India’s impact on Western culture. From Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman, succeeding generations absorbed India’s “science of consciousness,” and millions have come to accept and live by the central teaching of Vedic wisdom: “Truth is One, the wise call it by many names.”  

Acccording to Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard University, recent bestsellers from Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris stress the irrationality of belief and what’s wrong with religion, while offering few positive alternatives. In Good without God, Epstein explains how humanists strive to live well, build community, uphold ethical values, and lift the human spirit…all without a god. “It’s not enough to just ‘discover’ the meaning of life. Humanism is concerned with one of the most important ethical questions—what we do once we’ve found purpose in life.”

Read the whole post at: http://www.alternet.org/story/150900/good_without_god%3A_why_%22non-religious%22_is_the_fastest-growing_preference_in_america?page=entire

Emphasis above mine.

In general, the question is not whether we need religion to achieve morality, but can we achieve morality with religion?

Those who desire to replace our US secular government with a theocracy are the most unamerican conceivable – but I don’t expect a House committee to investigate them soon.

Selfishness and religious morality

From FireDogLake

see: http://my.firedoglake.com/ohiogringo/2011/02/13/selfishness-is-next-to-godliness-how-capitalism-is-the-opposite-of-human-moral-traditions-part-i/

OhioGringo:

By: OhioGringo Sunday February 13, 2011 8:47 am

“Well, look, first of all, I know both (Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon). They’re very savvy businessmen. And I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth.”
–President Barack Obama

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle that it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
–Jesus of Nazareth, New Testament, Matthew 19:24

“Americans celebrate wealth. And they should.”
–President Barack Obama

“Let those who hoard the wealth that God has given them never think that they will benefit from it. It will bring them nothing but evil. The riches that they have hoarded will be their chains on Judgement Day.”
The Koran, 3:180

Quite the contrast there. Barack Obama, a self-proclaimed defender of capitalism, succinctly summed up what he truly believes in those two quotes. He also directly contradicted a fundamental moral tradition that is common to all of the major world religions and moral philosophical traditions. I could have just as easily cited the Torah, a Buddhist work, a Hindu Yogi book, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the threefold law of Wicca, of any number of secular humanists.

For capitalism, the ultimate good is the accumulation of capital, or profit, for its own sake. Profit is defined as how much money one has accumulated by the sale of a product or service after the cost of making the product or performing the service is subtracted from the total sale price. This isn’t exactly rocket science here.

Since the making of more and more profits is considered a good thing by capitalists, it follows that anything that stands in the way of increasing their profits is necessarily a bad thing. This is where capitalism gets into trouble with the moral traditions common to most of humanity, moral traditions that evolved over the millennia as survival traits of the tribe or nation or species as a whole.

The teachings of Confucius, Socrates, Buddha, Jesus, the Druids, the Stoics, Muhammad, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King all caught on with large numbers of people because they fundamentally make sense. People instinctively know that cooperation and sharing are necessary to their survival and the survival of their children. They know that treating other people or their environment badly always results in suffering, and that even an animal backed into a corner and tormented will strike back.

Most people know that they need the help of other people to build communities and to raise children. In order to get that help, people have to cooperate and to share. If they don’t, the community falls apart and the children don’t grow up to have grandchildren. This is a fundamental truth that goes back to the days when the first homo erectus figured out how to rub two sticks together to make a fire and shared it with his or her clan so they could all keep warm.

But capitalism isn’t about cooperation and sharing, except to temporarily collaborate to increase profits. I say “temporarily” for as soon as one capitalist sees a chance to increase his profits at the expense of a partner, much less an employee, he won’t hesitate to screw over his partner. In fact, if he does not do so, he is considered a fool by his own capitalist belief system and by his peers.

You see, capitalism isn’t about building communities, forging a better society, justice, or even the survival of the human species and Old Mother Earth herself. It is ONLY about building more and more profits, and will crush anything and anyone that stands in the way of that goal if it can.

On an individual level, one cannot be a good capitalist without being selfish. Therefore, selfishness is a moral good as far as capitalism is concerned, and any doctrine that teaches anything else is at best naive and at worst an evil that must be destroyed.

But those old moral traditions common to all of humanity just keep getting in the way. So capitalists write books and TV shows and invent entire news networks with the goal of preaching that selfishness is a good thing, that if everyone just acts in their own self-interests and gets out there and competes that they, too, have the chance of rising to wealth and power, that those who have attained wealth and power have a right to keep it, and that those who oppose that way of thinking are just a bunch of losers who should either shut up or be locked up, and that concerns about the survival of the human species or the Only Planet We’ve Got are just unrealistic drivel unworthy of discussion, much less policy changes.

They forget the lessons of our common history. They forget the lessons of human survival itself. They ignore the warning of Jesus of Nazareth:

“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”
–Matthew 7:26

Our modern capitalists, our self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe, have built their palatial homes on the sands of selfishness.

And a storm is coming. It started in Tunisia.”

Emphasis mine

Morality vs. Religion

The issue is not whether we  can have morality without religion, but rather,  can we have morality with religion!

To deal rigorously with that question, one must begin by defining ‘religion’ and ‘morality’ : many religionists sidestep that requirement by defining religion in terms of  morality, morality in terms of religion, and base religion on supernatural authority. A humanist approach is to define both morality and religion in human terms, discarding supernaturalism and all of the baggage it carries.  Morality: a set of principles by which we treat others and ourselves; religion: submission to a supernatural power, which may involve ritual observations and practices.  (For those who follow the Christian religion, morality is usually intertwined with repression of human sexuality.)

From HuffPost: ” Best known as an outspoken atheist and the author of The End of Faith, writer-turned-neuroscientist Sam Harris has echoed the assertion, normally associated with religious thinkers, that humans need a universal system of morality. At the 2010 TED conference held last month in Long Beach, California, Harris claimed that there are definite right and wrong answers to moral questions. “Values are a certain kind of fact,” he argued.

However, Harris quickly rejected the notion that religion would offer the answers to moral questions. Instead, he argued for a scientific approach to achieving a universal morality, one that conceptualizes human well-being as something that can be quantified and maximized in any number of equally successful ways — much like health and nutrition.

He criticized the tendency to regard moral questions as matters of opinion rather than as questions that have scientifically verifiable right and wrong answers. “How have we convinced ourselves that in the moral sphere there is no such thing as moral expertise, or moral talent, or moral genius, even?” he asked. “How have we convinced ourselves that every opinion has to count?”

“Just admitting that there are right and wrong answers to the question of how humans flourish will change the way we talk about morality,” he said.”

see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/22/ted-2010-sam-harris-claim_n_509052.html?view=print

emphasis mine

see also:https://chasdarwin.wordpress.com/2010/02/14/atheists-just-as-ethical-as-churchgoers/

and: https://chasdarwin.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/secular-ethics-is-not-an-oxymoron/

Atheists ‘just as ethical as churchgoers’

From Telegraph.co.uk

Atheists are just as ethical and have as strong a moral compass as churchgoers, new research shows.

Published: 7:30AM GMT 09 Feb 2010

People who have no religion know right from wrong just as well as regular worshippers, according to the study.

The team behind the research found that most religions were similar and had a moral code which helped to organise society.

But people who did not have a religious background still appeared to have intuitive judgements of right and wrong in common with believers, according to the findings, published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Dr Marc Hauser, from Harvard University, one of the co-authors of the research, said that he and his colleagues were interested in the roots of religion and morality.

“For some, there is no morality without religion, while others see religion as merely one way of expressing one’s moral intuitions,” he said.

The team looked at several psychological studies which were designed to test an individual’s morality.

Dr Hauser added: “The research suggests that intuitive judgements of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments.

“However, although it appears as if co-operation is made possible by mental mechanisms that are not specific to religion, religion can play a role in facilitating and stabilising co-operation between groups.”

He added that the findings could help to explain the complex relationship between morality and religion.

“It seems that in many cultures religious concepts and beliefs have become the standard way of conceptualising moral intuitions,” he said.

“Although, as we discuss in our paper, this link is not a necessary one, many people have become so accustomed to using it, that criticism targeted at religion is experienced as a fundamental threat to our moral existence.”

emphasis mine

Dr. Zindler was here: Morality,Ethics, & Religion.

On Feb 19, 2009, Dr. Frank Zindler – former  president of American Atheists – spoke on “Ethics Without gods” at an event sponsored by the Case Center For Inquiry student group.  He presented the group with several books, one of which he authored.

On Morality:

Exploring the nature of morality, Dr. Zindler observed that it is as much a part of human nature as is hunger.   All Morals are human made – none originate from a higher authority – they are part of our DNA.  

On a higher power: 

If god is perfect, then why is there good and evil? If god is good and has the power to prevent evil, they why doesn’t she?  If god does not have the power to prevent evil, then is he all powerful?

On the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”:

How does one apply this to masochists?  Or to Human Sexuality?  (It might be noted that Lao Tzu’s form of this rule- “Don’t do to someone else what you would not wish them to do to you”- avoids these issues.

On ethics:

Ethics must be: improvable, adaptable, and self-correcting – our survival depends on ethics based on science, not superstition. 

On Religion in general:

Religion was part of our evolutionary progress, as are other things we no longer need.  There is no external standard for religion, as opposed to science.  Religion contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction.  We are all atheists in our minute to minute activities – one does not need piety to wash the dishes or repair the car.  He shared Steven Wienberg’s observation;

“With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil;  but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.”

On Christianity:

The first two humans on Earth were living in perfection, when they violated a rather arbitrary rule by eating a forbidden fruit.  Their punishment for this heinous crime was that they, and all of their descendants and descendants of descendants, would be penalized, have to endure a life of struggling and suffering to survive, and risk suffering for eternity – for something they had never, of course, done.  Then a perfect man came along, he was killed, and that fixed everything. 

In Summary:

We must develop an enlightened self interest:   maximize intensity and duration of doing well for ourselves and for others.