Pagan Ethics

Many Christians like to say that without their religion there can be no ethical basis for morality, but I know this is a false statement. Those who lived before Christianity was founded by Paul know that there were others in the world besides the ancient Israelites.  Other nations existed, other tribes and peoples, all who lived by moral guidelines according to their groups’ consensus. Implying that the world was in moral chaos before Judaism/Christianity came along is a pretty arrogant statement. What the Christian who uses this argument refuses to see are those pagans who write clearly and well from an ethical standpoint. I came across one today and I’m sure I’ll be returning to read more. I just wanted to share this great post from Kallisti about the ethics of Democrates. I especially like it because it illustrates the reasoning necessary to bring all people to the discussion table; men and women alike, rather than resort to marginalizing or in-your-face demoralizing as practiced by some “isms.”

7 thoughts on “Pagan Ethics

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  2. This is a great post, and I really appreciate the link. Really, either you find your own moral compass or you don’t. Religion isn’t going to impose upon its every follower the ethical code it boasts, and not every person is going to blindly follow the ethical code of the religion s/he is born into (if any at all). It’s about connecting with a moral code of conduct that speaks to oneself, and Christianity is far from the only well to draw from.

  3. G&L,
    You are right about that! It’s taken me awhile to find my moral compass, but that’s what life is for. No one hands us the Moral package, well.. some try to, but sometimes you have to return it because it doesn’t fit… 🙂 Thanks so much for commenting.

  4. The monopoly that religion likes to think it has over morality is perplexing and infuriating. In an article in The Guardian this week, Francisco Ayala (evolutionary biologist and recent winner of the Templeton Prize) attempts to make the banal point that scientific thinking gives us no basis for achieving ethical or moral goals, and by implication, that we need religion to do that. The thing is, he doesn’t specify which religion. As I pointed out on my own blog, this kind of thinking must necessarily lead to a paradoxical situation that says: It doesn’t matter what kind of a religion you adopt for your moral code, as long as it’s a religion. This is plainly absurd. Of course what Ayala really means is that the religion should be his Christian one, and that leads to a whole set of other questions, mostly starting with ‘Why…?’

  5. anaglyph,
    Great name for a blog by the way! I think I read as recently as today that Sam Harris is arguing for the scientific basis for morals, something I think is long overdue. I don’t see why science can not give us a moral worldview when everything we know about our universe comes from the scientific method and NOT from religion. In fact, religion has been wrong in so many instances that it’s record is not good. Sure science can be wrong, but only on the basis of further scientific experimentation. Never does science say we know all we can know so let’s not ask any more questions. Thanks for the excellent comment.

  6. I’ve had a scan through your writings and I admire greatly your accomplishment of leaving your indoctrination behind. It’s a supremely hard thing to do, but as all of us who have done so know, once you understand where you’ve been, there’s no going back.

    As far as morality goes, well, there is no reason I can think of that we can’t simply create a humanist version. Any of the solid moral precepts of religion are only commonsense human values anyway, all the way from the religious edicts of the Ancient Egyptians to the mostly baffling rules of Scientologists. It doesn’t take a lot of brains to see that it makes sense to be kind to one another, for instance, or that you shouldn’t steal other people’s stuff or hurt or kill them.

    I am an atheist, and have numerous atheist and agnostic friends and I would count them among the most ethical and honest people I know. God doesn’t keep us in line, and to argue that we need God to do so, is a process that leads us right to the implied arguments of the Catholic Church and the Spanish Inquisition: people are too stupid to understand how to live morally, so we must keep them in the thrall of God so that they will.

    I don’t believe that and I never have. People are, for the most part I believe, fundamentally good. If you need to control them with fear and repression, then you’re just buying right back into a cycle that has gotten us exactly nowhere in making roads forward with morals and ethics.

    Religious thinkers don’t seem to understand this: religion gives us static, stale morals that are often completely inappropriate for the times in which we live. It’s time to change the way we think about such things, and doing that means religion needs to change also, or (my preference) get out of the game.

  7. “Religious thinkers don’t seem to understand this: religion gives us static, stale morals that are often completely inappropriate for the times in which we live.”

    That right there is what convinced me that my fundamentalism was not doing me or my family any good. The religious fundamentalist morality system, based on a set of ancient texts believed handed down by “God” or a prophet was not practicable except in the confines of the religious setting where it is taught. This is why so many fundamentalists need a tightly knit (and tightly wound) group in which to operate. Such morals, as you say, are inappropriate for modern societies to evolve and move forward. It looks forever backwards in more ways than one.

    I mentally know this, but the pull of such religion is very, very hard to resist and some would rather not try to resist it once you mix in family and friends and all the “support” system such religions generate. Fortunately for me, I did not have extended family members putting pressure on me to conform or to return to the fold. It was my decision to get into it and it was my decision to get out of it. I consider myself fortunate.

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