The Instigator
Grantarp
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Kinesis
Pro (for)
Winning
6 Points

Morality comes from religion.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Kinesis
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/6/2010 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,882 times Debate No: 11344
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (2)

 

Grantarp

Con

Hello all,

I noticed a previous debate with this same resolution (http://www.debate.org...) but took issue with some of con's arguments, so am proposing the resolution again. I feel that debate got unnecessarily complicated and went off on some tangents. Con proposed there that all religious texts and therefore all religions are complete fabrications. I do not feel it's necessary to assert that in order to convincingly argue that morality does not come from religion. Therefore, I will not assert here that religions are fabrications. They may well be entirely true, but that is outside the realm of this debate.

What I will assert here is this definition of morality: one's own personal means of distinguishing right from wrong, or a culture's means of distinguishing right from wrong. In this sense, I am defining morality as a subjective rather than objective construct. And I will define religion as a collection of practices that supports belief in a divine power.

I will propose three arguments for why morality does not come from religion:

#1) an individual does not need religion in order to develop their own sense of what is right and wrong.
#2) certain religions may enforce certain senses of morality; however, that does not mean those senses of morality originated from those religions.
#3) certain non-human groups have developed identifiable senses of morality.
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#1) an individual does not need religion in order to develop their own sense of what is right and wrong.

That individual's personal sense of right and wrong may be entirely contradictory to most peoples' sense of right and wrong; however, that is immaterial based on this debate's definition of morality. Although an atheist renounces religion, he may still have his own personal code for what is right and wrong. Hitler and Stalin may have renounced religion as they committed their war crimes, but that does not mean they had no morality. Rather, they had developed their own morality – their own personal sense of what is right and wrong.

#2) certain religions may enforce certain senses of morality; however, that does not mean those senses of morality originated from those religions.

Let us take the example of an individual who converts from atheism to Christianity. They may not necessarily find that they have been introduced to moral principles that they previously disagreed with; rather, they may find that many of the moral principles held by Christianity simply reinforce what they had already believed, completely independent from religion.

#3) certain non-human groups have developed identifiable senses of morality.

Primates, for instance, have been proven by anthropologists to display observable codes for what they think is right and wrong. These animals would not be able to function and co-exist without their own unifying sense of morality. And it goes without saying, of course, that animals do not ascribe to any sort of religion. If morality comes from religion, then, how have these animals been able to develop their own sense of morality?

Thank you.

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wiktionary.org...
http://worldofweirdthings.com...
Kinesis

Pro

Before I begin let me note that by defining morality, for the purposes of this debate, as an entirely subjective construct Con has curtailed any attempt at a dialogue between a theist and an atheist. No informed theist would bother arguing that subjective morality comes from their religion - instead, they would argue that OBJECTIVE morality is grounded in their particular supernatural entity. Also, it's important to get clear the contentions that each side is defending. I will be defending the view that subjective morality comes from religion, and Con will be arguing its negation - that subjective morality does not come from religion. In other words, I will have won if I can present a single instance of subjective morality coming from a religious source.

1. Civilisations and cultures have been built on religious morality. It must be true that some religions are false since many are mutually exclusive. Therefore, it follows that the moral codes they espouse are subjective - i.e. the authors/inventors way of interpreting right and wrong. Therefore, the followers of those religions are following a subjective moral code based on their religion.

2. Peoples views on morality can change so drastically along with religious beliefs that they can only be attributed to those religious beliefs. For instance, the mainstream view of ethics in Christianity is that morality is entirely defined by God - if God claims homosexuality or murder is wrong, then that makes them wrong. In Islam, pretty much the same principle applies. When people are atheists or non-religious, their views on morality will almost certainly be completely different. What happens, then, when people convert from atheism to Christianity or Islam or the other way around? (examples - http://onscreen-scientist.com... http://www.pbs.org... ). Their views on morality will completely change, and this change can only be attributed to the religion they converted or de-converted from; proving that there are brands of morality that come from religion.

Pro's arguments are as follows:

1. Religion is not needed for morality.
2. Morality does not necessarily come from religion.
3. Non-human animals have developed morality.

(1) and (3) I can actually agree with, since I am not required to argue that all morality comes from religion. I can simply argue that given the vast amounts of interpretations of morality people have, it is extremely likely that many people base their understanding of right and wrong on the religion they were raised in.

(2) Only works if Pro can demonstrate that nobody's subjective moral standard in founded on their religion, a proposition I think is absurd considering the number of people who base their rights and wrongs on their particular holy book(s).
Debate Round No. 1
Grantarp

Con

By accepting my definition of morality as subjective and not objectively beamed into one's head from a divine power, your two arguments fall.

1) Your first point about civilizations being built on religious doctrines merely reinforces my previous statement that "certain religions may enforce certain senses of morality; however, that does not mean those senses of morality originated from those religions." What is to say that these civilizations absolutely WOULD NOT have formed their moral codes without religion? That cannot be proved and, therefore, we cannot definitively say that morality comes from religion; we can merely say that religion supports and reinforces moral codes that have been developed.

For example, when an individual attempts to start a religion by writing and publishing a religious text, where are his existing moral codes coming from? In order to reasonably be called a religion, there must be at least some minimal form of social awareness and acceptance of its doctrines. But the doctrines only reside in the head of this individual at this point in time and so cannot reasonably be said to be a religion at all. This individual's morality, then, had to have been developed independently of a religion in order for anything to be written in the first place. A statement on Wikipedia strengthens this point by emphasizing the inherent sociality of religion: "'religion' is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘faith' or ‘belief system,' but it is more socially defined than personal convictions." The argument against this – that his morality was essentially bestowed upon him naturally and objectively by God – contradicts the way that morality has been defined for this debate, and therefore does not belong here at all.

2) Your second argument falls for the same reason – again, "certain religions may enforce certain senses of morality; however, that does not mean those senses of morality originated from those religions." The atheist's sense of right and wrong will not necessarily be altered upon converting to Christianity. The atheist may well already believe that homosexuality is wrong, but he did not need Christianity in order to come to that sense of morality. Upon converting to Christianity, he would obviously find that this religion supports his sense of morality that homosexuality is wrong. But supporting and originating are two entirely different concepts. His sense of morality did not originate or "come from" religion – religion merely supports and reinforces his sense of morality.

Thank you.

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org...
Kinesis

Pro

Despite Con's confident assertion that my arguments 'fall' due to my accepting his definitions, we can see two facts about his response.

1. He has dropped all his arguments against the resolution.
2. He has ignored specific points brought against him in my rebuttal.

First, I would like to question my opponent.

If somebody grows up a Christian and comes to believe through their religion that 'morality' is defined as 'what pleases God' or 'what God wills to be good or evil', where has has that belief originated?

If the answer is in fact the religion, then you concede the debate. However, I cannot think of another possible answer. How could someone who is detached from religion possibly come to believe such a thing? Where has that persons 'own personal means of distinguishing right from wrong' come from, if not their religion?

With that, I shall respond to my opponents arguments:

1) Con here makes a desperate 'retreat to the possible'. He claims that it is possible that religious morality could still have originated in the absence of religion. However, this completely disregards some of the definitions of religious morality I gave. There is simply no way that a non-religious civilisation would come to accept divine command theory, for instance. These are peoples ways of interpreting right and wrong, and they specifically come from the religions they follow.

Con's next point is more interesting; he claims that the originators of religions do not get their morality from a religion. However, this is completely irrelevant. It may be true (although I have no idea how you would demonstrate it), but that does not erase the fact that once the religion has begun, people who then follow that religion use it to base their morality on.

2) Here, Con draws an analogy with an atheist believing homosexuality to be wrong, then finding that a religion reinforces that belief after they accept it. However, this simply confuses the products of a moral code that one might follow, with the moral code itself. It is true that an atheist might believe homosexuality to be wrong, but this is irrelevant. It does not change the fact that an atheist and a theist will have different supporting moral structures on which to base that belief. Structures that will change upon accepting or rejecting religion. Besides, how does he account for people whose moral sentiments DO change after accepting or rejecting a religion? What about people who believe homosexuality is wrong while religious, and then change their mind once they have rejected it?

It cannot be said of a great deal of people that religion does not provide their senses of morality. It may be true of some people that religious morality simply reinforces what they believe (and that itself could count for the resolution), however there is simply no denying that a great many people drastically change what they think to be moral or immoral based on the religious beliefs they hold.

With that said, I turn it back to Con.
Debate Round No. 2
Grantarp

Con

I would like to remind my opponent and the audience that my stance in this debate has been that morality does not come from religion. Never have I claimed that it is impossible for an individual to BECOME INTRODUCED to a particular sense of morality through a religion, which is what my opponent has been arguing. However, an introduction to a sense of morality through a religion does not necessitate that the sense of morality originated from or "came from" that religion. Contrary to what my opponent has stated, all of my arguments still stand and I have ignored none of his points; rather, I have systematically refuted them. I will do so again:

1) your question about an individual coming to believe that morality is "what God wills to be good or evil" contradicts the way in which I have defined this debate. I have already excluded objective morality from being brought into this debate in order to ensure that we can remain on topic with a well-defined debate. This debate is premised upon the definition that morality is subjective; therefore, your question is off topic and irrelevant to this debate.

Pro asks, "how could someone who is detached from religion possibly come to believe such a thing?" I do not have to argue that it is possible for an agnostic or atheist to hold religious beliefs in order to support my stance on the resolution. I only have to argue that it is impossible to prove that whatever moral codes they have developed originated from religion.

2) You claim that "once the religion has begun, people who then follow that religion use it to base their morality on." I do not disagree with this. An individual who converts to Christianity, for instance, may become introduced to the moral code that homosexuality is wrong through Christianity. However, does this mean that the moral code "homosexuality is wrong" originated from the religion of Christianity? No, it certainly does not. An individual who has never been introduced to the beliefs behind Christianity in his life may still come to believe that homosexuality is wrong. This individual did not need a religion to develop this sense of morality – they merely needed to know what homosexuality means. Often, all an individual needs after learning this definition is a gut reaction that says to them "no, that's wrong." No religion involved.

3) One's moral sentiments may very well change upon adopting or rejecting a religion, as pro asserts. But, again, this does not at all mean that morality comes from religion. When a secular person converts to Christianity, they may become introduced to the moral code that homosexuality is wrong. But the fact that this moral code may be developed outside the bounds of Christianity – as in the case of an atheist believing that homosexuality is wrong – supports the contention that morality does not come from religion. Certain senses of morality may be introduced to a person through religion, but "introducing" and "inventing" are not one and the same.

In this debate, pro has shown a misunderstanding of what it means to "come from" something. In order for morality to "come from" religion, morality must be shown to only exist in the presence of religion; otherwise, how could it come into existence? I, however, have demonstrated that it is entirely possible for morality to exist in the absence of religion; thereby, morality does NOT come from religion.

Thank you.
Kinesis

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for this debate. I am aware that some of this debate has become quite muddied, so I will try to make this round as clear as possible.

First, I would like to note that Con has dropped every single one of his contentions from the first round, and has reduced his workload to attempting to refute my own contentions. As instigator, he had a burden of proof to uphold, which he has failed to do. Voters should take note of this. They should also take note of the fact that all his remaining arguments are not specifically arguing that the resolution is false, but that it is POSSIBLE that the resolution is false. But this is hardly an impressive conclusion to come to, and it isn't enough to win this debate. Again, Con has ignored a great deal of the points brought against him

1. Con begins by claiming that instead of affirming the resolution 'morality comes from religion', I have instead been arguing for the resolution 'people are introduced to a system of morality with religion as the medium'. Note that even if he is correct, all he has shown is that people do not neccesarily draw their morality from religion, but he has not actually demonstrated that they do not. But, once we look closer, we can see that this is simply false. It is simply absurd to suggest that there are no ways of interpreting right and wrong based on the religious beliefs one holds. Think of the number of people who base their lives on the Ten Commandments, for instance. Are we to think that all of these people would have come up with exactly the same morality in the absence of them?

Which brings me to another important point. Is divine command theory objective? Well, lets leave aside the controversial statement that morality based on God's whims are objective. That is, in fact , utterly irrelevant. Divine command theory is objective if, and only if, the religion that commands it is TRUE. If even a single religion that people base their understanding of morality is false, then the moral codes, such as divine command theory, that it espouses, are SUBJECTIVE. They fit Con's definition 'one's own personal means of distinguishing right from wrong, or a culture's means of distinguishing right from wrong' perfectly. Thus, the resolution is affirmed. It is a shame that Con has avoided answering my question based on such a misunderstanding.

2. The problem here is that 'homosexuality is wrong' is NOT the moral code. Again, Con is mixing up the conclusions of a belief about morality with the belief itself. The statement 'homosexuality is wrong BECAUSE GOD COMMANDS IT' IS based on religion, and could not have arisen without it. Therefore, Con's defence fails - and since Con carries on this misunderstanding into arguments 2 and 3, nothing more need be said.

Con has done nowhere near enough to negate the resolution, especially as instigator. His arguments at best show that we cannot 100% prove that people's way of interpreting morality comes from their religion. But this is absurd - we cannot 100% prove that the world is not suspended on the back of a turtle floating through space. What matters is what's probably true, and it is not merely probable, but certain that people's ways of interpreting morality come from the religion they follow.

In conclusion, let me note Con's last statement; 'I, however, have demonstrated that it is entirely possible for morality to exist in the absence of religion; thereby, morality does NOT come from religion'. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Con's entire argument, and it is a complete non-sequitur. Let me draw an analogy; it is entirely possible for a child to hate his parents in the absence of child-abuse. Are we, then, to conclude that children CANNOT hate their parents because of child abuse? No, it just means that hatred can come from a number of sources, child abuse being one of them. In the same way, subjective morality comes from many sources and religion is one of them.

The resolution is affirmed. Vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by warllamas 4 years ago
warllamas
Morality exists in all cultures. Some repress, and civilization as certainly done a lot of That! Regardless it is genetic and has been proved and morality is a crucial part to are survival and how we interact.
Posted by Kinesis 4 years ago
Kinesis
Grantarp, are you an atheist?
Posted by Kinesis 4 years ago
Kinesis
It took me a while to get round to it. I babbled a lot in this debate. :/
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
Arguments to Pro; everything else tied.

Pro is right when saying that Con's argument was a non-sequitur.
Posted by Kinesis 4 years ago
Kinesis
I think a better resolution would have been 'Religion is not required for morality' - or at least, that would have fitted Con's arguments better.
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
Yeah, Con, it seems like you shot yourself in the foot with defining morality as subjective for this debate. We'll see, though....
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Johnny_Canuck 4 years ago
Johnny_Canuck
GrantarpKinesisTied
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Vote Placed by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
GrantarpKinesisTied
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