There was a question that was posed by a public figure who isn’t known as a great intellectual, and yet he has some very poignant message about the way things are in the world. His name is TJ Kincaid, also known on YouTube as The Amazing Atheist. In a video on Bing, he posed a question –
If morality controls human behavior, then who, or what controls human morality?
While he furnishes his own answer, I thought that, while it is late and I am unable to sleep, I would write up what I believe to be the answer to that question.
The first thing that one has to accept when they are looking at this question is that morality is a human invention. There will be those that argue for absolute morals. If that is to be taken seriously, then the question comes – where did those morals come from? Many will respond to this – God. He created the world, and gave us this moral code. However, this cannot be taken seriously.
There is no evidence for the existence of God, and if something cannot be proven to exist, saying that we must follow a code that is by it, and even more disturbingly, unchanging is absolutely false. To do so is madness, in every sense of the word.
The reasons why are obvious. What if the religious figure which you get your morals from is not the real deity? What if it is something completely different? If that is the case, then you are deliberately disobeying that absolute morals that you claim to cherish.
The next is that the fact is that the predominate source that Christians claim to be the source of their morality, the Christian God, has a holy book that is filled with inconsistencies and contradictions. To obey such a text, absolutely to the letter, is not only impossible, but completely ridiculous.
The final reason is that to obey any set of principles, absolutely, without change or even the ability to discuss change, is nothing more than a way to be manipulated. A moral code of any kind must be flexible, it must be open to change. It must be willing to accept that there may be issues that one can take with it, and willing to change to accomodate that, along with changing social values.
According to the Bible, slavery was not only acceptable, it was encouraged. God encouraged his various armies to take their slain enemies families and cities as their slaves. He made rules about how much a master could punish their slaves.
The bible had a lenient punishment for rape, and virtually no punishment for murder. While The Ten Commandments stated that murder was wrong, this didn’t stop those from murdering others in the name of God, did it? Not only that, but God, on numerous incidents, commanded his followers to murder, telling his armies to kill the girls and women who were not virgins, and to tear open the bellies of pregnant women.
So, by that logic, the absolute moral code that is given to us by religion is a farce. But if that is the case, then where can morality come from? This brings us back to the question at hand, who controls morality? Well, take a look at the previous statements about religion, and how it works.
Back before the days when literacy was high, the Bible was taught to the people by priests and preachers. The growth of education and the growth of skepticism has led to the increas in the atheist population, because reading these books and judging them on their own merits naturally leads to questioning the absolute system they are taught. However, these religious leaders are giving people the system as they believe it to be from their holy book. These people have power over their congregations and give them the values that they have.
Next up, we have governmental systems. The laws that we make are secular in nature, designed to be fair to all parties, while still using a metric that is within the purview of people’s understanding, such as how killing and rape is wrong, and should be severely punished.
There is a pattern that you are seeing with these systems, aren’t you? The people in power. The religious leaders have power over their congregations. They are informing their congregations of the values of the book that they are teaching, since it has been shown that most Christians are unfamiliar with the bulk of what is in their Bible. Likewise, the people in government have power over the entire nations. This power gives them the ability to dictate the morality of a nation.
Take Sparta, for example. In the ancient city-state, there was the belief that kindness was weakness, and to show any kindness took away some of your honor. In the Hindu-guided states, if you were suffering, it was your fault, for what you did in a past life. There are parts of culture, even here in America that encourage hate, seperation, bigotry and being divided. This tactic has been used by the powerful to keep the lower-classes in line.
So, where do morals come from? Well, the answer is simple – they are a tool that is used by the powerful to control those without power, or those who are ignorant of their power. Moral systems are simply a device that is to keep order in a society. But what of morality? How do we know that things are right and wrong? How do atheists like myself know that killing people is inherantly the wrong thing to do?
The answer is empathy. Those have this knowledge within them based on their ability to empathize with other people. Through that, the real natural morality is born. Perhaps, when we abandon these systems that we are taught and embrace empathy, then real progress of acceptance and kindness between people can be born, away from the systems that drive us apart, and teach division, rather than working together.
Of course, given how gullible people are, probably not.