Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Torture - It's nothing new to Christians

I’m tempted to point out that sitting through a 2 hour “revival” meeting is proof enough that Christians employ torture without remorse. Unfortunately, it would be nice if this post could contain such a trivial complaint.

Start by reading this. From the article: "If this pro-torture stand was Dobson's alone, there would be little attention paid to it. But last month an ethics professor, Daniel R. Heimback, at Southeastern Baptist Seminary, favors torture much as Dobson does. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders also favor torture. A Baptist Press (BP) release reported that to oppose torture "threatens to undermine Christian moral witness in contemporary culture." They went on to say that situation ethics necessitates that sometimes torture is the right thing to do." (Author's emphasis)

Torture, of course, was a mainstay of the Inquisition. 300 years of slavery was perpetrated primarily by Christian nations. In the last century, Jews were either directly persecuted by Christians or, at the very least, had their murders largely ignored by the surrounding Christian community. And now it is Muslims who can suffer outrages with god’s immunity for their attackers. Do we detect a persistent patern?

This is why we have every right to criticize religion, even with the knowledge that our words are somewhat hurtful. People will cry out “but look at all the good Christianity does”. But if it can’t even rise to the occasion during blatant atrocity then what good is it as a moral institution? The Christians who, themselves, are against torture will claim this is an unfair attack. But it’s not! It’s a completely evenhanded assessment. There is nothing in the Christian code that makes it absolutely clear, for all Christians, at all times, that torture is grossly immoral. And that means the Christian religion is objectively useless when it comes to morality. If it can't instruct us unfailingly about such matters, then it is not needed for any moral issue. We can err on our own, without the supernatural trappings of religion!

Simply being an atheist does not give me moral insights as to the propriety of torture. Atheism itself has nothing to say about morality either way. So if I don’t get my morals from atheism, and I certainly don’t get them from god, then where do they come from?

All morality comes from evolution. It started with kin selection. It improved and spread with reciprocal altruism. It was codified by the early tribes and kingdoms. It has been finely tuned by humanistic tendencies of modern democratic philosophies. We really have no need for gods to tell us how to behave in such manner as both the individual and the society flourish. But if the god in question (Yahweh) can’t, at the very least, confirm these naturally evolved predispositions, we would all be better off if that particular god was absent from the playing field.

8 comments:

The Exterminator said...

Great post. I particularly like this, which deserves repeating:
People will cry out “but look at all the good Christianity does”. But if it can’t even rise to the occasion during blatant atrocity then what good is it as a moral institution? ... There is nothing in the Christian code that makes it absolutely clear, for all Christians, at all times, that torture is grossly immoral.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

I'll echo Ex on this one, Evo. Wonderful and to the point.

Sometime I think (perhaps optimistically and maybe even naively) that religion is going through its death throes. The inexorable advance of science and reason can only continue. Religion falls to the wayside as a result, and it's been doing just that for 2000 years, slowly, incrementally, but falling aside nonetheless. It may take another thousand years, but it will happen some day that religion will die. Humanity will realize it has no need for it.

What we are seeing here, and in the rise of fundamentalism, is that when religion is attacked, when it no longer can presume to be automatically accepted, when it has to fight for its existence, then it reverts back to its baser instincts, its fundamental roots. Torture is part of that, so it's not unusual to see Christians proclaiming that it is acceptable, after the rest of civilization has already rejected it.

Religion really has nothing more to offer than that. Our job is to continue to emphasize, over and over again, that religion is shallow and amoral at it's heart, because it is not concerned with humanity, it is concerned with something that doesn't exist.

PhillyChief said...

Far from being the ACTUAL source of morality, religion is a tool for advancing one's morality. It's simple logic:
IF religion is embraced by the majority, and
IF the majority see religion as the source or benchmark for morality, and
IF the "holy" books of religion are ambiguous and open to interpretation,
THEN the ability to cite "holy" text and interpret it in a way which sanctions or, better yet, commands adoption of your morality would be most advantageous.

Ordinary Girl said...

I agree with Ex. That's exactly the text I copied for my reader for Sunday's edition. Maybe some church-goers will read it and think about the very good points you bring up.

the chaplain said...

Excellent post. I'm glad that the National Association of Evangelicals spoke out against Dobson, et al, but the fact that there is any dissension at all within the church on this issue speaks volumes. Clearly, moral standards are devised by religious practitioners, not by a god or a holy book. Those standards are either absolute nor eternal; they change over time at the whims of the believers.

the chaplain said...

Shit: those standards are neither absolute nor eternal. Where's a good editor when you need one? ;)

markii said...

i think you'd really enjoy watching the lucifer effect- on google video. you can watch it here: http://markii.wordpress.com/2008/02/16/the-lucifer-effect/

a very interesting look into abu graib and the philosophical question of "are there bad apples, or just bad barrells?".

John Evo said...

Thanks for the link, Markii. I'll check it out.

I wonder if it's bad apples or bad farmers.