Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Please note: This post contains both politics and religion. And some very strong opinions.
I won't be offended if you just walk away, but I've just been thinking about this lately and wanted to write about it...

There is a lot of debate in political and social circles about how certain 'religious values' should not be forced upon people who are not part of the religion.

On the other hand, there are certain 'values' (shared by religion) that are apparently just universal and everybody agrees on them whether they are 'religious' or not.

So here is my question: Where does one draw the line between 'religious values' and 'universal values'?

We all agree that it's not ok to kill people, don't we? Or take stuff that isn't yours, right? But since both of those are from the Ten Commandments then they were religious values before they were universal ones. So if we all agree about the killing and the stealing, why do we debate the applicability of others of the Big Ten like adultery or honoring parents? Have morals become an a la carte commodity?!

Of course it gets more intricate. We all seem to agree that it's not normally ok to kill someone, but what if that someone was attacking you and it was self defense? What if that someone was old and sick and dying anyway? What if that person was an unborn baby who "wasn't a person yet"? What if that person was a murderer himself? What if that person wanted to die? What if that person is being slowly yet surely (yet passively) killed because they cannot afford the medical treatment to recover and their fellow citizens voted against extending care to them? If we believe that "thou shalt not kill" then how come some situations are 'universal' or 'obviously wrong' but others are not?

When psychological studies [*link 1, **link2] say that the ideal developmental situation for a child is within a nuclear family with one father and one mother, am I "pushing religious fundamentalism" to vote to preserve the legal monopoly of that type of marriage? When I suggest that I think that "single parenting is not the ideal" am I "insulting those who choose differently" from myself? Or am I just responding logically in accordance with scientific fact? (which would therefore make it universally right, rather than just my opinion).

I do not believe in the notion of moral 'grey area.' Right and wrong exist and no sum of loudly-spoken or cleverly-worded opinions can change them. Some moral laws are easier to follow than others, and I appreciate that. Most of us find it easy enough to pay for our items at the store rather than stealing them, but struggle somewhat more to keep the sabbath day holy or to eschew covetousness or lust.
I certainly respect that everyone has their own opinion about things, but when it comes to 'moral' issues (which I think includes all social issues), it's worth keeping in mind that those 'universal values' started as 'religious values.' Maybe those who are so offended by 'religious values' need to remember that the very concept of 'values' comes from religion. Maybe when a movement comes into conflict with religious values, it's not because religion is outdated, maybe it's because there's something actually (universally) wrong with the movement itself.

*The article at link1 was written specifically in regard to children being raised by heterosexual couples verses homosexual couples. The first portion covers studies indicating the health of children raised with heterosexual parenting arrangements. The second portion covers studies indicating problems resulting from being raised in homosexual parenting arrangements. Both are heavily cited and all references are included at the end of the article. All the studies are within the last 20 or so years, so the information is not 'outdated' or 'biased by the times.'
**link2 is a blog post which cites several studies discussing dual parenting verses single parenting, specifically in cases of divorce or never-married parents. The conclusions there are also irrefutably in favor of a child being raised by both parents.


Cheryl said...

It's worth looking into the notion of "natural law" vs. "political law." My favorite simple explanations of this concept are in the books *The 5000 Year Leap* and *Whatever Happened to Justice?*.
Our forefathers realized that natural law came from a source higher than ourselves--Nature, God, whatever you choose to call it. The "common law" of medieval England was an attempt to discover natural law, just as men were attempting to discover scientific laws like the orbits of the planets.
Political law only works when it aligns with natural law. It DOES need to be the same for a society to function properly.

Caitlin said...

Everyone has a religion, whether they believe it or not. So-called lack of religion is still religion. Humanism is the most pervasive religion of the day and the laws and morals of humanism are taught and upheld as common-sense fact by the mainstream media and most celebrities. It is the religion of the people that they learn from watching mainstream TV and movies and reading mainstream magazines and newspapers. Now, being tuned in to media is not a bad thing at all, but to rely on the media as scripture is the downfall. Media and humanistic values need to be considered with discernment (i.e. good judgment) and critical thinking.

I agree with you, I am sick and tired of being called "judgmental" whenever my morals don't align with currently accepted humanistic mainstream morals.

ChristinaB said...

I love your post. Very thought provoking =0)

Cozy said...

I will admit I tend to wallow in gray and indecision.

I do appreciate that you stated your beliefs in a comprehensible way without bashing anyone. That kind of writing goes a long way to understanding someone's views.

Katie said...

When I saw the first few words of your post on FB, I was hoping it would say "I won't be offended if you disagree politely." Since you didn't say that, I won't comment on everything I want to.

The two biggest statements, which I see as incorrect, are:

"But since both of those are from the Ten Commandments then they were religious values before they were universal ones."

"Maybe those who are so offended by 'religious values' need to remember that the very concept of 'values' comes from religion. "

I think you've got this all backwards. I think that universal values predate religion. But again, this is just my opinion, and of course no one living today was actually around thousands/millions of years ago when this was all taking place, so we don't know for sure :-)

Ayla said...

Love the post! Great questions posed! I'll have a mind full of things to chew on today!

Mommy Bee said...

Well Katie, I believe that the world started with Adam, and that Adam walked with God (and had religion), so yeah, I think that religious values came first.

You're right on the Ten Commandments comment--I should have rephrased that to say that (in my perception) the ten commandments are the basis for those morals in our modern culture. Obviously there were a couple thousand years of human history prior to Moses. Of course, with that said, they may not have been written on stone tablets before then, but I do think they were still commandments as per the Adam-had-religion notion.

AND, as it says on the statement there by the comment box, you're welcome to disagree (so long as you're nice). I've just been a little more on the snarky side lately so there's no telling what I might respond to you with if you do disagree LOL!!

Chandelle said...

I'm with Katie that you've got it backward. There were a heck of a lot more than "a couple thousand years of human history before Moses." Many of the values that we take for granted today not only evolved apart from Christianity but in many cases were opposed by it. Christianity has no monopoly, nor a reliable compass, on inherent human goodness.

Other than that, I was going to leave a(n actual) comment, sharing some of my thoughts as an atheist who is deeply committed to an ethical life, but I changed my mind. I've been disturbed by your statements before, but we don't have to agree. This is your space to say what you will. In practical terms, you can move in your circles of direct action and I will work in mine. Hopefully all areas of need will be covered. I don't think we disagree all that much on the issues that really matter.

Mommy Bee said...

I agree whole-heartedly Chandelle that religion (of any form) does not hold the monopoly on "inherent human goodness" or ethics. Due to my religious beliefs, I believe that these things were taught--via religion--from the beginning of time. Religions of many kinds have come and gone through history, and there have always been good people doing good things. I believe that is the influence my faith calls the Light of Christ, but it doesn't really matter what anyone calls it, it's easy to observe that the goodness is there.

So perhaps it is more accurate to say that ethics or values are not dependent on religion (I don't think that they necessarily are--I do think you are a deeply ethical person Chandelle), BUT I think that the values of religion are still universally applicable. Meaning that ethics and values are inherently universal, whether preached by religion or discovered in the depths of ones soul.

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