Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Thinking Rationally – The Euthyphro Dilemma -- By Rohit A

During any discussion that I have with people about God and religion, the one point that every believer makes is about morality. The claim is that religion and fear of God make people do good things. This of course implies that without the idea of someone omniscient looking over us, we would collapse into anarchy and as long as religion stops up from being morally bankrupt, religion is good.
The fact that you do good things out of fear of eternal damnation (or reincarnation, depending on what version of the story you prefer) rather than because they are based on sound logic tells us a lot about religion. The same believers say that because the masses, especially in a country like India, cannot think critically and make decisions for themselves and so they need religion to give them direction to do the right things. This points to the very heart of the problem. The religious would rather have us believing something without any rational thought process than encourage independent inquiry.
Seneca The Younger said, “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful”. One only has to look at the tremendous devastation brought on the world by people around the world who have followed orders based on religious teachings.
This brings us back to the question of morality. In Plato’s dialog “Euthyphro”, Socrates, who is awaiting trial, asks Euthyphro, a self-proclaimed religious expert, “Is the pious loved by the Gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the Gods?” Put simply, is the morally good commanded by God because it is good or is it good because it is commanded by God?
As a believer, if this does not get you thinking, I put to you a simpler question – Do you think crimes like rape and murder are commendable? If you are a sane individual, you would disagree. Rape, murder or any other act that infringes on another individual’s right to live the same way as you want to live i.e. without fear, are wrong. So would you suddenly find them acceptable if a so called holy book says it is? Again, if you are a rational individual, you wouldn’t. Yet, there are a number of passages in the Bible and Quran, which are followed by billions of people, which actively condone rape, murder and many other methods of torture.
Is there any doubt that we receive our morals not from any holy book, but from rationality, independent thinking and perhaps some aspect of evolution that causes us to realize that cooperation is the best way to ensure survival and propagation of our species?
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Tomorrow: A Teachable Moment by Shannon B

1 comment:

  1. I was thinking about this the other day. I went to a lecture where the lecturer was asking whether it was more moral for a man to visit his aunt in hospital who likes the visits and enjoys seeing her, or the man who hates the visits but goes anyway out of a sense of duty. From my point of view they seemed equally moral as the consequences are the same (the lonely aunt gets a visit)

    However, when I think about someone who does good because they think God is watching, and someone else who does good not for any reward but simply because they feel they ought to...I'm not sure yet what I think.

    Looks like a bit more cogitating needs to be done on my part.