Pondering #7

Vengeful Gods


Religion has always been a big part of my life, but only because it is a big part of everyone's lives, whether willingly or not.

The concept of morality is an abstract and obscure topic. There never seems to be just one definition, just constants and interchangeable demons. If I say I do not believe in gods, I am perceived to be less moral. That's a curious idea, isn't it?

Let's take a look at the history of religion.

Religion started out as an explanation for natural processes for which we had no answer to. We assigned a god, or several, to each process that we did not understand. There was a sun god, a rain god, a crop god, etc. Each had its role, its place, and its job.

But, with the emergence of opposing ideas, suddenly we had gods that no longer just made things happen. They required payment for their services. We needed offerings that either consisted of animals or human sacrifice.

Imagine for a moment that you are born in a society that not only practices human sacrifice, but glorifies it. You are raised to believe that a god will kill the entire village if a sacrifice is not offered every five years. To be a sacrifice, is to be a hero. It doesn't matter if this is true or not. You believe it.

So, names are put into a lottery. Everyone from your village is eligible, but the drawing itself is random. A shocking turn of events happens and your name is picked.

If, with no uncertainty, you believe that a god will kill your family and friends if you do so, would it be immoral for you to run? Certainly it would be selfish; after all, you were fine with it when it was someone else putting their life on the line.

Would you be moral to accept the deaths of your neighbors who were sacrificed in the previous years? And, would it be moral for your others neighbors to accept your death as payment this year?

This poses the question…

If things are done in the name of your god, does that make the things you do morally justifiable? And why is it that no one questions the deeds of a god that would require you to die just to appease his bloodlust? What is morality if it suddenly becomes moral to be killed, or worse, to let others be killed in your name?

I find a similar, but less extreme, situation in modern religions. We have this idea that we must avoid doing bad things to avoid the consequences of a god that would disallow it. But, that idea becomes invalid; we also have the idea of absolving ourselves of these bad things once they've been committed The fact that I do not have this "power" to change what has been done seems, for some reason, like a legitimate excuse to accuse me of being immoral. So, I must ask those, hopefully few, individuals who see me as immoral a question…

In what instance does it become morally justifiable to persecute others for crimes that, if committed by you, would be null-and-void? It's like yelling at someone for stealing because they got caught when you didn't. It's the same crime, but you absolve yourself of any guilt and yell at the person beside you. And, in most cases, that person hasn't even committed a crime. Just the fact that they don't use the same excuse as you seems to be enough reason. You've been convinced that they have a problem that cannot be fixed without your cure.

And to try to convince me that this supernatural ability would make me more moral is simply irrational. I do not need someone covering for me when I have committed a wrong. In fact, I'd hope that no one would. My actions are my own, and I don't need an excuse. The fact that I am not threatened into obedience may also indicate my own need to help others, therefore my morality, despite the lack of reward or reprimand for doing otherwise. I'm not saying that every religious person does good things because they know it will score them points with their god, but that excuse is there and well-cemented into the doctrine. Bad things don't score you time in the volcano, getting caught without insurance does.

And when does that suddenly equate to "moral?"