dear god, it’s me, emma – metaphysics
Although I don’t see myself as a very religious person, I grew up in a fairly religious household. For the first five years of my life, my family and I attended church every sunday at the south Abbotsford Mennonite Church (however we were mostly anabaptists than anything). Then, as time went on and life got busier, we irregularly continued to go, and now at our current position, I haven’t stepped foot in a church wholeheartedly since sixth grade. The one thing I do remember of my years as a Sunday Schooler is the emphasis that they put on us of doing good to others so other will do good to you, whether that be helping others out, abstaining from jealousy, and not pushing someone off of the swing set.
That is why I’ve decided to base my metaphysics study off of the following questions:
1) Do you need religion and/or a God to have good morals?
From the dawn of faith, religion and morality have been seen one and the same. In almost any religious book, somewhere doing good to others and being a good human being is written down.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Chapter 16 sūrat l-naḥl (The Bees)
translates to: Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
And with the paragraphs of admiring kindness and good morals, I find it ironic that at times people will take that and radicalize their faith, and use it for what outsiders see as terrorism, however they see it as serving their purpose and their god (like the Army of God). They see their actions as moral. To give you a short answer of this question, no, you do not need a religion or god in order to be a decent human being. Although religion can provide a stable framework of how to be a good person, in the words of Albert Einstein,
“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.”
Morality and religious values are two distinct systems. Morality is not something feasible only in the context of devoting oneself to a God.
This leads to my second question,
2) Can we live in a secular, western society despite it being influenced by religion (mainly Christianity)?
The Church (talking about the christian church) has had a vast hand in what seems like everything in our day to day lives currently. We go off of the Gregorian calendar, and that measure of time is based off of the day of Jesus’ birth. We have Christmas and Easter as public holidays, and because of the religion, some of the greatest artists have had their works immortalized, and be known worldwide (The Creation of Adam, the Sistine Chapels’ ceiling, and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ode to Joy). Christian scholars preserved literacy after the fall of the Roman Empire in western europe, and they were advocates for education (censored by the church obviously) and healthcare. Now this isn’t me praising the church for all the beautiful things they’ve done for the world, I’m not forgetting about the Crusades or how they condemned homosexuality and divorce, as well as the support of oppression of women and slavery (however christian ideas have been used to condemn slavery as well). What I’m trying to get at here is that if we live in a society that has been so influenced by this religion, how can we be secular and not affected by Christianity, and does this affect our morality? Can we truly be unaffected by religious influence?
As you can tell, I chose this topic because I am fascinated with religion and human nature. If there is a God, are they the one ingraining good morals into our being, or are have these good morals just evolved with us (like darwinian evolution) over time?
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has been a great resource for me to find papers published on my topic. As well, a quick glance at Wikipedia doesn’t hurt anybody. The three articles that I took an in-depth reading into can be found here, here (Kant was a cool dude), and here.