Thursday, February 09, 2012

the problem with evangelical morality

the problem with evangelical morality
"  It is often said how the evangelical christian religion provides the basis to be and do good, having set the stage for an elaborate worldview for the follower. It is also often mentioned, by some of my friends, how they would choose to live self-centred and self-focused lives if not for the “fact” of heaven, or for that matter, a life beyond death.

If this life is all there is, then why would one bother doing good to one’s fellow man? Why would altruism even matter, since one should proceed to live to the fullest, for one’s own sake?

Besides, didn’t Charles Darwin himself advocate the very selfish notion of “survival of the fittest”?

Apart from the obvious ignorance of darwinian evolution, the remark makes mockery of human decency and human solidarity. We do good because it is the right thing to do, full stop. We help our kin and more not because we wish to proselytise or convert them to our religion, not because our sacred texts say so, not because our gods dictate them and not because we want to feel good about it. We do good simply because doing good is the right thing to do. It benefits our species if we help one another, it contributes to the overall progress of the human race.

The phrase “survival of the fittest” is an unfortunate coinage as it seems to imply that nature favours the STRONG and the MIGHTY. And thus the weak, the infirmed and the elderly becomes the discarded of a darwinian society. No – one does not apply darwinian evolution this way. Natural selection allows the genes that are most adaptable to any given situation to survive and thus it appears that those genes are the “fittest”.

It is best to use an example:

Imagine a territory in the African savannahs where elephants are hunted for their long tusks. Over a period of time, the population of long-tusked elephants will decrease. Those which manage to survive will probably be the ones with shorter or stumpy tusks. And it would be these which will eventually procreate, resulting in future elephants with short or stumpy tusks. In this case, the “fittest” would be the elephants that manage to survive due to the particular circumstances of elephant-hunting by humans over a period of time. This is what it means for the fittest or most adaptable genes to continue.

Doing good, helping others, doing the right thing, are thus like the short tusks. It apparently helped us survive and thrive as social african apes in the past whereas the long tusks of harming our fellow homo sapiens did not.

Moral it is not if one does good out of punitive fear of a celestial dictator. Moral it is not if one helps another so as to convert him/her to one’s religion. It is emotional blackmail and it is vile.

It is my personal opinion that if a society is to mature, its people has to move beyond punitive morality inherited from a premodern and pre-enlightenment era to a humanism which is libertarian and autonomous, its dictates binding only to the individual conscience and for the advancement of humankind. As such, there is no such thing as sexual deviance, only preference and orientation. The death penalty is inhumane, regardless of the crime. State censorship of the press and media is antithetical to our inalienable right to free speech and expression. Discrimination based on race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender and religion or non-religion are universal evils that should be spurned and eradicated.

Idealistic? Definitely. Utopian? Perhaps. Lennonish? I hope so.    "

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