Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Eluding the Objective

Today's column:

Last week, my colleague Mr. John Tempey wrote a thought-provoking article. Therein he claimed: “religion does not hold a trump card when it comes to morality.” Needless to say, I was intrigued. I had heard such claims before, but perhaps Mr. Tempey would be able to shed light on a previously veiled platitude and explain to a simple religious fellow such as myself just why this was true.

He notes that “You would need to show that a significant percentage of people on one side or the other (statistically speaking) have committed a certain action that is deemed morally reprehensible by both parties...” He then notes that to his knowledge this has not yet been done. Actually, something very similar has been done, but before I get to that, I must point out an important matter He notes that the action must be deemed morally reprehensible to both parties, which is true. But he does not say how we are to determine this. Religious types will presumably find reprehensible that which is contrary to the tenants of their particular religious system. But he does not offer a basis for non-religious morality throughout the entirety of his article. This is a rather large flaw.

Anyway, Vox Day, a Christian libertarian columnist for WorldNetDaily, has been working on a book titled “The Irrational Atheist” wherein he attacks the logic of such renowned atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. In the process, he has found some valuable information which applies directly to Mr. Tempey's criticism. This from, and also linked at Mr. Day's blog: “According to the DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics (National Census of the Jail Population 12/31/95), while 72% affirmed affiliation with religious institutions (determined through answers to the question on "Religious Background" on the Penal entrance form) only 54% of Federal and State Prisoners actually consider themselves religious, and 33% can be confirmed to be practicing their religion.”

And there is more, again courtesy of Mr. Day: “A comparison of a 2000 survey of the British prison population with the 2001 national census revealed that whereas individuals claiming atheism or no religion make up only 15.5 percent of the British population, they comprise 31.9 percent of those imprisoned.”

Now, as Vox himself admits, it is not surprising that atheists would be incarcerated at a higher rate, given their rejection of religion—in the case of the United States and Britain we are speaking of Christianity. But one wonders how much of the benefit of the doubt atheists ought to be given. It is one thing to say that one opposes Christian morality, even if only in part. It is quite another to explain how—and why—one determines which pieces thereof one ought to reject.

Mr. Tempey's concludes his fine article by noting, “...ascribing morality based on something that we inherently have no ability to verify through any sort of fundamental reasoning process seems ludicrous, if not dangerous.” I'm not certain if he meant it, but these words apply perfectly to the non-religious as well. There was a reason the atheist Voltaire failed to embrace Nietzsche's conclusion of a wholly subjectively individualistic philosophy. On purely practical grounds, morality which is based on a religion which is centuries old is superior to one that cannot be delineated, and hence is fully mutable. The madness of morality is not mitigated by over-throwing the gods and replacing them with the individual conscience. If the previously quoted statistics suggest anything, it is that it is actually quite the contrary.

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