Spirituality vs. Morality

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Spirituality vs. Morality

Postby malemi » Fri Nov 23, 2007 7:38 am

Statement of Problem: A lot of people think they need religion because it gives them and their children a sense of what is right and what is wrong. The common misconception is that you can't tell right from wrong if you don't believe in a faith.

EXPLANATION: The problem with a lot of confusion stems from the fact that religion comes with ethics. Or rather, we have learned to expect our ethical and moral values to be handed to us by religion. The Ten Commandments were handed down by Moses, and from then on every prophet inculcated a variation of those values into his teachings.
We must learn to separate values from the spirituality of religion. Just like the West learned to separate church and state. In the case of church/state, that was necessary for the foundation of secularism. In the case of ethics, it is necessary to separate that from the spirituality of religion. In that, Atheists have done very little and that is their most challenged weakness. They must create a system of ethics that is independent of spirituality. So people don't always go to religion looking to fill their ethical needs.

RESOLUTION: Religion should be considered as a matter of spirituality, and spirituality alone. Leave the ethics and politics out of it, and it is a beautiful thing. The imagery, the epics, the literature, the music and the mere storytelling techniques embedded in any of the religious texts are priceless. But show me any valuable thing in this world and I will show you 10 charlatans who will try to make a buck out of it.
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Positive Action - Statement of Belief vs. Statement of Fact

Postby malemi » Fri Nov 23, 2007 10:28 am

The statement "Faith is positive action," is a statement of belief, and not
of fact. The difference is this: When I say the window is open, or the ball
is red, I am stating a fact. The window could very well be closed and the
ball could be blue, but my statement regarding these two would still be a
statement of fact, only an erroneous fact.

When I say, God is good, I am making a statement of belief, or a subjective statement. A statement of belief is never a statement of fact, because it doesn't enter the factual realm at all. God may very well be "good," but the statement regarding his goodness is not a statement of fact. It cannot be shown in front of a neutral panel and proven. It comes from within and depending on the speaker, can take any number of meanings. For one person goodness is interpreted as "kindness" and for another, "justness" and "forgivingness" etc...

For the same reason, a statement of belief, unlike a statement of fact, cannot be argued to be erroneous. You can never argue with someone who says "God is beautiful" that really, God is ugly. Therefore arguments against a statement of faith is almost useless. You can argue with facts, but not with beliefs.

But it's not all hopeless...

I said arguments against a statement of belief is "almost" useless. The
reason I say "almost" is that you can show where a belief has gone too far
in self-importance. For example, monotheistic religions promise the return of a messiah, who will fill the world with justice and kindness. In Shiite branch of Islam the 5-year old son of the 11th Imam was hidden in a well to escape the wrath of a cruel ruler, and according to the faith, one day he will return to save mankind. This is clearly a statement of belief, because since then there have been numerous 5-year olds who fell into a well and died as soon as their heads hit the bottom of the well. You cannot argue with this belief. You simply have to leave the holder of the belief alone, to enjoy his belief in his own mind.

But what most often happens is that the holder of a belief will enjoy his
beliefs so much that it becomes impossible for him to see why others may not share that belief. Why are they blind? How can they not see that the 12th Imam will one day appear out of nowhere? They must be under an evil spell.

Therefore, the holder muses to himself, “I as the righteous believer shall
help those who do not see the truth in such a way that they will see it.”
That's how you get religious fundamentalists who will kill abortion-clinic
doctors in America, or blow themselves up in front of a police station in Baghdad, in the name of life and God. That's how you get religious zealots in the Middle East who will strap hand-grenades to 15-16 year olds and send them to their doom. And, don't forget, all of this is positive action. The abortion-doctor killer and the suicide bomber both "believe" that they are doing God's work. They both have faith and conviction. When their friends look at them, they see a spiritual light in their face. "How can they be wrong? They are putting their lives down for their beliefs."

That's were I draw the line. If you have to put your life down for your
belief, or take someone else's life, it is your belief that is evil. Even if
it generates "positive action." Only that faith-based action which is life
affirming can be said to be valuable and desirable. And based on this, no
action that involves discomfort to others can be called positive, whether
faith-based or otherwise. The yardstick is not the faith, belief or
religion, it is the impact that each action has in the lives of others. So,
I would re-word that statement to say something like: "Life is positive
action." Someone can have faith and cause negative action.

In fact faith is causing more negative actions than positive ones, these
days. A cursory look at the Middle East shows the truth of this statement.

I guess I am trying to save "faith" for the faithful. If faith is a feeling, then it's outright subjective and not at all dependable. Let me give you an example: on some days I feel good, and my faith tells me to allow a soccer mom to cut in front of me in traffic; on another day I might feel lousy, and not even make a stop for an elderly who is pulling a shopping cart across the street.

If faith was based on ideas one was read to as a child, or something
that one's preacher pronounced over the pulpit on Sunday mornings, then
we could strive to save good ideas and at least sift through holy books
and, for example, save the life affirming ideas from it, while throwing
away the bad ones. I know that there are a bunch of good ideas in the
Koran, and one could extract about 10-15 pages of good, solid ethics out
of the 300-350 pages of mumbo jumbo. Now, wouldn't that be a service to

If faith is based on feeling, then what can those who are in the habit
of shoving their "feelings" down other people's gullets say about what they are doing? Wouldn't that be the most selfish thing a person can do, to peddle his/her feelings on others?

BTW, OBL is not known for the strength of his feeling. He is a civil
engineer by trade who got his ideas from earlier Moslem fundamentalists.
These ideas were written in books that were banned.

American fundamentalism started out at the end of the 19th and beginning
of the 20th century, as a response to modernism. Remember that 97% of
the American society at the time was agrarian. people were afraid of new ideas and modern ways of thinking. They were searching for easy answers to some very complicated questions. That's how the movement
grew. Helped along the way by guys like William Jennings Brian up to
Jimmy Carter and Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. These guys won't say
they have a feeling to sell; they use modern philosophy and tools like
reasoning to promote ideas that lead to their favorite conclusions: that
there is a hell and heaven. That if you are a member of the chosen
clique, you will be saved and the way to know that you will be saved is
that you will prosper.

I remember years ago reading Rockefeller's autobiography; you wouldn't
believe the arrogance with which this man justified his wealth. In short, he says he became rich because he was a chosen one. That's what all
fundamentalists, regardless of their religion, believe.

OBL's "religious experience" after 9/11 was that it was a right thing, as
well. My feelings, rationality, experience, heart and soul tells me that
it was barbaric and cruel. OBL's faith tells him that it was right. His
faith tells him that sending ignorant people to blow themselves up to kill innocent people while he is hiding in some cave is right. How can that faith cause positive action? I think that faith can cause anything but.

So, my point is this: embracing faith, any faith, is not better than no
faith. Accepting any God is not better than accepting no God. While I
can respect a God that is personal, I have nothing but dislike for a God
that is in-your-face and public.

If Tao makes you a better person, I salute it. If someone's God
(Yehovah, Allah) makes them a better person, all the power to them. The
end result of a good faith should be to make you become a better person. It is "Becoming a Better Person" that is the desirable objective. Some people get caught up in the semantics and rituals and think that it is not
important whether they are a good person or not. They fancy all they
have to do is to stick to their God, whether that God is right or wrong,
the hell with the rest of the world. It is that dogma that I have made
it my mission to fight against.
Last edited by malemi on Fri Nov 23, 2007 7:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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More on Faith ...

Postby malemi » Fri Nov 23, 2007 7:22 pm

What am I trying to say?

I thought I said a lot while I was saying what I was trying to say. Lets try a different route:

Some people say a decision to do bad things, such as kill people, can come from faith. That is one of the differences between faith and belief, they claim. ANYTHING can come from belief, they say, but faith is a function of what is highest in us.

This is a new way they say an old thing. They usually begin by saying that they do not believe any existing organized religion is based on faith: they are all based on belief, at least the parts of those religions visible to the masses of people.

But here is the problem: They don't think a decision to kill people can come from faith, but they don't say Why not? People who kill others for their faith, say OBL, or Khomeini, would tell you that it does. That their decision to kill others comes from their faith. That's why no matter how hard the apologists of religion try to modernize it, a reasonable person, an average Joe, would equate faith with religion.

I have nothing against religion or faith or even belief. All of these are mere containers that can hold different things at different times. Christianity was mean and ignorant in the dark ages. Christians persecuted the Jews in 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. Queen Isabel ran the Jews out of Spain in 1499. It was the Moslems who helped the Jews escape and seek refuge in Persia and India. Christians were the ignorant ones at that time, and Moslems were confident and progressive. Now the two have switched places. 200 years from now they may still be different than what they are today. What I am trying to say is that it is the people of every generation and era that fill religion and faith and give them an identity. Radical Moslems are doing bad things today and their actions have defined all Moslems in bad terms.

I hope I was clearer this time. :D
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