Robert C. Priddy

Writings on diverse themes from philosophy, psychology to literature and criticism

  • Robert Priddy


    In this blog I post information and critical views concerning ideologies, belief systems and related scientific materials etc. I am a retired philosophy lecturer and researcher, born 1936.

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Non-theist moral agendas

Posted by robertpriddy on November 6, 2011

Surely we should never let our beliefs stop us from doing what is right and good. Religious beliefs are founded on uncertainty – not on knowledge, but on faith alone – and therefore cannot be absolute criteria of what is right or good. Actions motivated by religious beliefs very often conflict with our vastly increasing knowledge of all human circumstances, and are upheld by their proponents by all manner of specious argument, many logical fallacies and factually-unsupported claims. Religious morals are often distorted by the hegemony of faith and incomplete moral doctrine over common sense, consensus and shared human values.

“God knows” is the same as saying ‘no one knows’. It has even become a fixed expression in many languages! 

Sam Harris has shown the essential identity of the claim that ‘God exists’ to the claim that ‘Elvis exists’
(see hilarious YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwG9pDNSAXA&feature=youtube_gdata_player).

See also Sam Harris on “Science can answer moral questions” http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html

Why don’t we feel compassion for rocks? Because they don’t suffer. Why do we feel compassion for human beings, animals and even sometimes insects (“wouldn’t kill a fly”)
There is a continuum of facts about human conditions and their well-being.Failed states where all that can go wrong does so, where mothers have to let their children starve, where people are murdered indiscriminately… these facts speak loudly of certain values… that states should have workable systems of economy, law and accountability to ensure basic human rights.

Basic human morality sustains itself by and large independently of differing cultures, so it is not determined by any religion or specific social or cultural system but by the principles that support any workable society. The Indians call this ‘dharma’ or ‘right action’, the basic sense of moral right and wrong sustains society and holds it back from falling into barbarous anarchy. Though Hindus and many other Indians surround their concept of ‘sanathana dharma’ (eternal right) with religious concepts and precepts, it has a valid fundament in commonly-held human values (i.e. human because not divinely-commanded). In sort, I hold that it is natural to prefer peace to warfare or unrest, to value care and concern more than apathy and carelessness, to prefer the truth to lies, to prefer security, peacefulness and life to fear and death… and so forth.To say this is natural is to say it is in accordance with sane understanding – even common sense.

This obviously does not mean nature determines that these values always apply in life on earth, but that humans and no doubt most sentient beings seek conditions where these values prevail wherever or whenever possible. In this respect, human values are embedded in the order of things as they have evolved over the millennia.
See my more thorough treatment of human values at http://www.saibaba-x.org.uk/4/Human_Values_as_Common_Ideals.html

Regarding the appeal to experience that religionists often make… meaning what they subjectively-experienced, Sam Harris has also explained why ‘experiences’ of the religious type are no less delusional than ‘experiences’ like being abducted by aliens, being threatened by zombies or whatever figment of the imagination the mind may get transfixed by:-

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