Are religious and secular ethicists climbing the same mountain

On ‘A Rutgers Humanist Blog’ Applied Sentience is questioned: Are We Climbing the Same Mountain? Secular-Religious Ethical Disagreement and the Peter Singer & Charles Camosy Discussion.

In our previous posting we mentioned already the right and wrong and the choices we do have to make as human beings. Not always it is every time so clear what is good or what is bad, or what can be the right thing to do or what would be wrong to do.  Lots of time people thought they where thinking to be doing the good thing, but it at the end it seemed to have been the bad thing.

Many religious writers and moral philosophers tried to tackle this intriguing question. The question could be forwarded to them if there are objective facts about what is right and wrong. Millions of words flew out of the pens of thousands of writers thinking about ethics, the way of life and how humanity should run its course.

If there are objective moral facts, why does there seem to be so much disagreement about what they are? After all, experts from other disciplines that seek objective facts (i.e. physics) seem to have converging beliefs about what is true. But also in science many disagreements do come over the counter.

The state or quality of being different or varied should normally not be a problem, though many people do not like it when others do not agree with them. The difference, diversification, variety,colours our world but bring around debated disagreement, the conflict, argument, creating different camps and presenting anew paths for new movements and trends.

Often one might think that the theist and the atheist are just too different in their systems of beliefs to ever come to any kind of consensus on matters as difficult as ethics. Often we do forget that how much we would not like it, we always shall be a product of our time and be influenced by the environment where we grew up. when we look at the freethinker he often does not let the other to think as free as we would think freedom will include.

It can happen that some one’s secular ethics is in agreement with one aspect of the Catholic tradition, while in disagreement with other secular views of ethics.

If they can make the same sort of objections in some cases, then perhaps they really are on the same mountain. Progress can be made! Thus, perhaps religious and secular viewpoints needn’t lead to a special case of disagreement after all.

English: Peter Singer speaking at a Veritas Fo...

Peter Singer speaking at a Veritas Forum event on MIT’s campus on Saturday, March 14, 2009. Veritas Forum: http://www.veritas.org/ Photo by Joel Travis Sage: http://www.joelsage.com/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In interviews after the Rutgers event, Singer and Camosy each gave the same answer: dogmatism. Camosy elaborates:

Furthermore, I think most disagreement comes – not from differences in evidence in argument – but because of social or emotive reasons. Someone is turned off by a group of people who hold a particular view, or part of their self-identity comes from not being like another group, and thus the arguments are built on top of that first principle as to why such a group holds mistaken views. And so on.

Please do continue reading the interesting article: Are We Climbing the Same Mountain? Secular-Religious Ethical Disagreement and the Peter Singer & Charles Camosy Discussion.

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Look also at the previous articles:

Catholicism, Anabaptism and Crisis of Christianity

Morality, values and Developing right choices

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Additional reading:

  1. Words in the world
  2. Newsweek asks: How ignorant are you?
  3. Who are the honest ones?
  4. Satan the evil within
  5. Being religious has benefits even in this life
  6. Capitalism and economic policy and Christian survey
  7. Jew refering to be religious or to be a people
  8. About a man who changed history of humankind
  9. History of Christianity
  10. Christianity is a love affair
  11. Messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time
  12. History of the acceptance of a three-in-one God
  13. How did the Trinity Doctrine Develop
  14. People are turning their back on Christianity
  15. Falling figures for identifying Christians
  16. Discipleship way of life on the narrow way to everlasting life

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Different positions of moral skepticism illust...

Different positions of moral skepticism illustrated (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Christian ethics and Peter Singer (openparachute.wordpress.com)
    We all “do” morality – its part of being human. We will debate ethical questions till the cows come home. And we will take sides on moral issues, often reacting emotionally, even violently, to those who disagree with us.
  • Should Ethicists Be Held to a Higher Moral Standard? (moralmindfield.wordpress.com)
    if you don’t actually have to do what you tell other people to do (if you even think ethics involves that sort of thing) then you can say just about anything you want. Who cares, you are not going to actually do it.
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    For this reason, people have known for a long time that if you want to know what a person really thinks, you look to how people actually behave (“actions speak louder than words”) rather than to what they say. What they do will show what they really think is good.
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    Ethics is the study of action with respect to the good for humans, which is happiness. Once you figure that out, shouldn’t you have some practically useful insights from it? Shouldn’t you want to become a more excellent, happier human being (whatever that means to you) if you think you have that figured out?
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    if Christians can’t produce academic ethicists who think it worthy at least to try (actually doing it has always proven difficult) to follow their own standards then it starts to look a bit like they don’t believe at all.
  • Ethics (jaheemshamoy12.wordpress.com)
    .Relativism is the belief that there are no universal moral norms of right and wrong. In the school of relativistic ethical belief, ethicists divide it into two connected but different structures, subject (Moral) and culture (Anthropological). Moral relativism is the idea that each person decides what is right and wrong for them. Anthropological relativism is the concept of right and wrong is decided by a society’s actual moral belief structure.Deontology is the belief that people’s actions are to be guided by moral laws, and that these moral laws are universal.
  • Holy Trollers: How to argue about religion online (religion.blogs.cnn.com)
    I’ve discovered a new arena for combat: The reader’s comments section for stories about religion.When I first started writing about religion for an online news site, I eagerly turned to the comment section for my articles, fishing for compliments and wondering if I had provoked any thoughtful discussions about faith.
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    Readers exchange juvenile insults, condescending lectures and veer off into tangents that have nothing to do with the article they just read.

    For years, I’ve listened to these “holy trollers” in silence. Now I’m calling them out. I’ve learned that the same types of people take over online discussions about faith and transform them into the verbal equivalent of a food fight. You may recognize some of these characters.
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    Camosy has made a career out of bridging religious differences. He’s part of a “Contending Modernites” group, which finds common ground between Christians and Muslims. He’s also the co-founder of a website devoted to dialing down the heat in religious arguments entitled, “Catholic Moral Theology.”

    Camosy says that online discussions about religion are difficult because they are not in person. Tone and nuance gets lost online.

  • Non-religious Beliefs (hibamo.wordpress.com)
    What’s in a word? Non-religious people describe and define themselves (and are described and defined) in various ways. These variations do reflect some differences in meaning and emphasis, though in practice there is very considerable overlap.

    Non-believers” do, of course, have many beliefs, though not religious ones. For example, they typically hold that moral feelings are social in origin, based on treating others as they would wish to be treated (the ‘golden rule’ which antedates all the major world religions).

  • The “Secular” Myth (kurtkjohnson.wordpress.com)
    Since the Enlightenment movement of the late 17th and 18th century, Western civilization has slowly but steadily adopted a paradigm that includes a distinct “secular” space within society.  It has become the mantra of both the “religious” and “non-religious.”  It is so deeply engrained into our culture today and so reflexively accepted that few people seem to think to question it.
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    It wasn’t until postmodern theorists began to seriously question the ideas of Modernity that this notion of the “secular” got some serious negative attention and critique.
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    We may call ourselves “non-religious” because we don’t lay claim to a particular faith tradition (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hindu, etc.) but postmodern theorists have attempted to show us that our basic human situation is the same, irregardless of what we call it… that there is no universal rationality to be appealed to, and our contributions are always and ever informed by something like “religious” commitments, whether explicit or implicit.
  • Teaching Ethics to Greedy Bastards (ethicsbeyondcompliance.wordpress.com)
    We’d like to think that with the proper ethics training even the most heartless sociopath could be encouraged to at least follow some of the rules.And if we can’t (note: we can’t) encourage bad people to be good people, what are ethicists worth? Well, our roles fall into several categories: 1. Providing ethical answers to dilemmas. 2. Offering ethical analysis of a particular problem. 3. Teaching ethical decision-making, which makes a good-faith assumption that the decision maker is sincere in wanting to be ethical. 4. Holding wrongdoers accountable for their behavior.
  • Life Amidst Moral Chaos (onlyagame.typepad.com)
    For centuries, discussion of ethics has focussed upon the idea of the moral law – a set of rules or criteria that dictate what is permissible or required. This debate has been substantially focussed on two battlefronts: firstly, the long and pointless dispute between advocates of a duty approach (deontology or Kantian ethics) and an outcome-focussed approach (Consequentialism). Secondly, the more recent conflict between all ethical beliefs and the deep suspicion that there is no moral law (Nihilism). The former disagreement has been fruitful but misguided, while the latter has become deeply counter productive.
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    We now recognise that different cultural circumstances lead to different ways of life, and different conclusions about moral concerns – and this seems to catastrophically undermine the concept of a viable moral law. The resulting crisis can be expressed in a simple question: if there is no single, true ethical system, can there be ethics at all? Terrified by this possibility, even secular ethicists like Derek Parfit have felt a powerful need to defend the idea of a moral law, and have mounted impressive arguments in it’s defence.
  • Impressions and Lessons from Kierkegaard Exhibit at Haus am Waldsee (rheaboyden.com)
    Kierkegaard believed that subjective human experience and the search for individual truth and faith were far more important than the objective truths of mathematics and science which he believed failed because they were too detached to really express the human experience.  He was interested in ‘inwardness’, people’s quiet struggle with the apparent meaninglessness of life. He was the inventor of self doubt in its modern form and his work and philosophy is more relevant today than he could have imagined. He believed that each individual had to choose for himself what constituted a life worth living, but that suffering was always going to exist because of regret.
  • Hursthouse Reading (eatingmeatinamericatesterman.wordpress.com)
    Hursthouse explains to her readers  that the idea of moral status is completely inconsequential in the discussion of virtue ethics and our use of animals. She discusses the debate over abortion and the fact that virtue ethicists do not even need to consider whether or not a fetus is morally equal in status to anyone else.

English: Pyramid of ethics

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9 thoughts on “Are religious and secular ethicists climbing the same mountain

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