Natural Morality

Francine: The NT says somewhere that God will judge even those who live in the deepest jungle (paraphrasing big time) by the law of light that is in their hearts no matter what their religion. Not a popular idea among the most “religious” because obviously it supports what you say and the idea that those who have no “religion” have a law written in their hearts.

David: Francine refers to Romans 2. Good post, William! You seem to be suggesting that primarily religion is about restraining “repulsive behaviors,” self-control, and reinforcing social norms. It’s plain that some religious tenets in the hands of various religious/political authorities have been used to reinforce social norms but I feel that this is not the essence of religion or the “religious impulse.” I don’t think apes are being “religious” when they appear to recognize a raw deal. No doubt that pre-ethical primate social behavior predated the historical religions, but in some worldwide religious traditions self-control and right action are one stage of a longer path that has a larger context than social norms — in fact those who take these paths seriously tend to alter or transgress these norms as did many of the founders of these traditions.

@David, I am not SUGGESTING anything but merely repeating parrot-like some interesting passages from the above link/article (though I tend to agree with its views.)

I suppose if all this “monkey-business” is correct then there is little need for those who study canon law part-time.

I am reminded of Gandhi who said “I like your Christianity but I do not care for your Christians” and, was it Bertrand Russell or someone like him who said “The only problem with Christianity is Christians.”

Some of the most ethical people I have known in my life do not seem to have a religious bone in their body whereas some of the most religious people are absolute rascals.

@Francine – What I find MOST interesting is that parable where Jesus describes the first group approaching the dread judgment saying “Lord, Lord, we have worked miracles in your name…” and they are told to go away (I suppose quite literally “go to hell.”) The second group comes along (quite possibly those righteous who never heard of religion) and they hear “I was naked and you clothed me; I was hungry and you fed me.” Now HERE is the BIG punch-line which no one ever seems to mention. THEY OBJECT and say “but WHEN did we ever do these things?” Now if YOU were ushered into some high court and the judge suddenly pronounced you INNOCENT, would your knee-jerk reaction be to ARGUE with that judge and say “Oh, but, your Honor, SURELY you must be MISTAKEN!”)

St. John of the Ladder who is somewhere around the 6th or 7th century says “You shall know the righteous at the judgment for their heads will hang low and they shall say ‘We have done nothing worthy.’ ”

William, hmm. Your reply suggests to me that you may have misunderstood what I said or the spirit in which it was said. I don’t disagree with anything you said above — particularly this “Some of the most ethical people I have known in my life do not seem to have a religious bone in their body whereas some of the most religious people are absolute rascals”. It’s just that I think the monkey-business is irrelevant. Those experiments with primates have nothing to do with what I experience as “religion.” I think it has a deeper significance which is about consciousness and not merely about ethical behavior.


@David – You and I shall never know whether whales are suicidal when the insist upon beaching themselves or whether elephants are mourning or paying homage when they are encounter the bones of deceased elephants, appear disturbed, and touch those bones, nor shall I ever really know whether you experience something spiritual or whether it is more deep or shallow than the spirituality of some other individual.

We shall never know what those animals experience because we have no language in common with them, and we shall never know what another person feels because people can deceive themselves and others and because language itself is flawed and to some extent recursive and at times produces artifacts in the sense of Platonic, eidetic form words like Justice, Beauty, Mercy and even words like RED (I mean after all what is red apart from some instance of it such as a rose or a sunset or blood and no two instances are alike nor can we know that any two individuals perceive them in the same way.)

I do find things that you write interesting from time to time though I do not always agree and obviously you reciprocate such interest but lack of total agreement.

One day that Sufi wise-fool Nasrudin was listening to a group of people argue in disagreement about the nature of God and as each one finished his/her discourse Nasrudin exclaimed “You are perfectly correct!” Finally one thoughtful person said “Nasrudin! They are all in disagreement! How can you find them all perfectly correct?” And Nasrudin thought for a moment and then exclaimed “You are perfectly correct!”

Obviously the researchers do not find their primate research irrelevant. And yet, in some ways, we are all irrelevant with regard to someone or something.


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