Monday, September 15, 2008

Lost In Losing Your Way

"Secular thinkers often complain that morality has been hijacked by religious fundamentalists. What they overlook is that it is often the reluctance of secular intellectuals themselves to develop and express moral ideas that helps create the narrow equation between religion and morality today. Neiman argues compellingly that religion is not the source of morality but is merely one of the forms through which people can voice their moral convictions. Philosophical ideals about virtue and good and evil were explored by thinkers such as Plato without the aid of the Bible. Moral reasoning emerges through human activity, and it does not depend on the authority of any religious text.

Indeed, it can be argued that, both logically and chronologically, moral ideals emerged prior to their codification in religious texts. From a humanist standpoint, people do not require a God or a priest to instruct them on what is good and evil. In an interesting reinterpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Neiman argues that Abraham’s questioning of God’s intentions derives from his moral courage. She puts forward a provocative thesis: that the real dividing line is not whether you believe or do not believe in God, but whether or not you uphold the principle that ‘there must be reasons for everything that happens, and that those reasons are up to us to find’. And it is precisely a lack of respect for the value of reason that creates so much moral confusion today."


-- Frank Furedi, making each day better than the next, by reviewing Susan Neiman's Moral Clarity: A Guide For Grown-Up Idealists, on Spiked!

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