Monday, December 25, 2006

Does Morality Depend on Religion?

This Christmas Day, many Americans contemplate their God. To them, their religion provides moral guidance. Without religion, they believe there would be no morality. They uphold the Nietzchean view that (paraphrasing) says, "If God were dead, all would be permitted."

Well, I am one atheist who believes in an absolute right and wrong, one that stems from an objective reality. Man's life has certain requirements. To live, he must do certain things, and if he doesn't, he suffers or dies. Morality derives from man's nature.

As an example, consider that to eat, men must plant crops. To plant crops, they must observe how plants grow, and then exert effort to plant them, fertilize and irrigate them, and harvest them. All of these steps requires a focus on the world "out there." Not only must he focus on what he sees and hears, he must accurately process that information and form correct conclusions, and then he must act on it. He must act on it in furtherance of his own life.

All of these steps are uses of his reason. Reason means adhering to the evidence of his senses (not some supernatural dimension), and using rational processes to form correct conclusions about what he sees (not blindly following emotions or whim). Then he must exert effort to achieve a goal that benefits him (rather than passively depend on someone else to do it for him).

Thus, man's nature means he must use reason to live for his own benefit. So, to be moral is to be rationally selfish, to live for oneself in a rational manner.

If man's nature demands reason to live, why do so many people believe that only religion -- i.e., the unworldly, the irrational, the supernatural -- can provide a basis for morality?

I have been puzzled by that question. To see one answer, which pins it on a mistaken response to the amorality of our age, see the following article, entitled: "Moral Values Without Religion" by Peter Schwartz, available at this link:

The first few paragraphs of the article appear below:

"Does morality depend upon religion? Most people believe it does, which is a major reason behind the appeal of the religious right. People believe that without faith in a supernatural authority, we can have no moral values--no moral absolutes, no black-and-white distinctions, no firm demarcation between good and evil--in life or in politics. This is the assumption underlying Justice Antonin Scalia's assertion that "government derives its authority from God," since only religious faith can supposedly provide moral constraints on human action.

And what draws people to this bizarre premise--the premise that there is no rational basis for refraining from murder, rape or anarchism? The left's persistent assault on moral values.

That is, liberals characteristically renounce moral absolutes in favor of moral grayness. They insist, for example, that criminals should not be reviled, but should be seen as tragic products of their "social environment"--that teenage mothers are just as entitled to welfare checks as wage-earners are to their paychecks, and that to deny welfare benefits for a child born into a family already receiving welfare is, as the ACLU declares, to "unconstitutionally coerce women's reproductive decisions"--that America is morally equivalent to its enemies, with our own policies having provoked the Sept. 11 attacks and our "unilateralist" actions in Iraq being no different from any forcible occupation of one nation by another.

Repulsed by such egalitarian, anti-"judgmental" absurdities, many people disavow what they regard as leftism's essence: secularism, and turn to religion for their values.

[for the rest of the article, go to link]"

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Apartment Booty in New York

I submitted this letter to the editor regarding Mayor Bloomberg's plan to use the lever of taxes to force landlords to house low and moderate income people in buildings in higher income neighborhoods. It is called the "421-a" plan referring to the tax "break" landlords won't get if they don't comply.

"Dear Editor:

Liberty is usually lost not in a big leap, but in many small steps. Well, New York is taking a medium-sized step with Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to subsidize a new round of housing for low and moderate income people. The plan will use the lever of taxes to force landlords to house the recipients of this booty cheek-by-jowl in the same buildings or neighborhoods as those of us who earn the money to pay for it. It is not enough that New Yorkers who earn their wealth pay the highest taxes in the country. Now we are also being forced to share our homes and neighborhoods with the objects of our oppression.

The liberty of Americans will not be lost in a grand revolution, like that of Russia nearly 100 years ago. Rather, it is being lost in many smaller steps like the current one to forcefully house those of lesser means in the neighborhoods of the wealthy. Unlike Dr. Zhivago, who came home to find his home suddenly occupied by the gloating, envious rabble of the city, we find our homes and neighborhoods invaded one building and one paycheck at a time. "