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← Does Religion = Superstition? G-D Forbid!

Aguazul's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by Aguazul

@RobW, regarding morality. I don't know much about theoretical discussions, but tracing back the influences on myself, I find that the religious stories told in my childhood were designed to give examples of good and bad, right and wrong, and listening I found myself agreeing and disagreeing, so they were an influence. Actually, I think this is probably the main focus of CofE religious education for younger children in the UK -- rather than the child brainwashing and manipulation that some mention from the US. Also there are some common cultural ideas derived from religion in the UK (or Scotland at least) such as: Salvation through hard work, showing off is being big-headed, suffering is beneficial, whatever. So we should all be living in spartan white cells flogging ourselves daily: No fun for us!

To me morality is a set of rules partly designed so that a society functions well, and partly designed to guide an individual towards activities that suit the designs of whoever created the moral code. Maybe that is to be more spiritual, or maybe to be more productive, or whatever. In any case, to me morals are designed, and then taught. I don't see how they can be derived from empathy. Empathy is a feeling not a set of rules. Part of the journey is breaking and remaking parts of our inherited moral code.

Travelling reveals how the basic underlying morals change from place to place, revealed in what results people expect from different actions. Thinking about here in Peru, the old Inca commandments were: Don't lie, Don't steal, Don't be lazy (I think only the third one is still in force). Whereas we might use anger and threats if we weren't getting our way in a negotiation, a country Peruvian would softly explain in detail their whole sorry situation. I guess this might be based on an cultural expectation of empathy -- but it would never fly in the UK.

To your point about finally accepting that you were a Jew -- I can find a similar experience when I understood that I have Scottish roots (which I didn't know for much of my life). Suddenly a lot of things made sense. I had inherited a lot of Scottish baggage without knowing it, which had influenced my life in many ways (good and bad). Looking back it all started fitting together. So I need to look to Scottish culture and history to understand myself better: seafaring, clan warfare, Scottish Christianity, and so on. Now I've identified it, there are things I don't like about having inherited all this stuff, but what am I going to do? It is part of me. What I dislike, I have to resolve inside myself, and denying it isn't going to work. There are positive things to call on too, though.

To me the feeling of Jewishness is really complex and convoluted, and quite subtle and semi-contradictory as well. I'm not sure I'd like to live with it, but you don't seem to be asking to be saved from it. What are you saying? "Here I am, I've fallen back into my underlying Jewish cultural patterns and they feel just like a comfortable old pair of slippers, does this push any buttons for anyone?" The point about religion being the practice of rituals rather than the believing of notions was interesting though. Rituals are very powerful -- the feeling of singing in the school Chapel choir for packed Christmas services is etched forever in my memory. It doesn't make me a Christian, though -- or would you say that it does?

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 22:48:17 UTC | #950907