On morality and religion.

I was interested to read today on the BBC news site about Christians and their ability to swing the vote. Something that seemed to be coming across was a suggestion about religion and its influence on morality of people.

Whilst it may not have explicitly been said, it is something that I’ve seen too many times suggesting that religious people are somehow ‘more moral’ than people who aren’t religious. I find this somewhat offensive, given that I have morals, and to some degree I suppose everyone has. I don’t need some book written thousands of years ago to tell me what to do – I have common sense that does that job for me. In some ways, people who diligently follow the writings in a book are faced with a series of contradictions, and suggestions that don’t relate anymore to modern standards. I am told that there is somewhere in the Bible a suggestion that it is okay to sell your daughter into slavery to settle debts (but not, cureiously enough, to sell your son).

Quite apart from slavery being incompatible with modern standards, that smacks of sex discrimination. Does that mean that diligent Christians agree with that? I suspect certainly not; but then that raises all sorts of questions about conveniently ignoring one part of the Bible whilst championing another. Of course, life is all about compromise, and maybe what that tells us is that knowing when to compromise and when to chose your own way is something that makes a person’s morality stronger.

I am not Christian. Nor am I Jewish or Muslim. I do, however, have a perfectly good set of morals. I know that stealing is wrong, and an internal sense of this right/wrong stops me from ever considering stealing. I know that kiddie fiddling is wrong. I know that queue jumping is also wrong, and would not dream of doing it. I know fraud is wrong. I am aware of lying and its wrongs, but also aware that sometimes little lies can be helpful in preserving other people’s feelings (you won’t, therefore, find me marching up to a complete stranger in the street and announcing “you smell like stale urine”, even if they actually do – it becomes the unspoken ‘Elephant in the room’).

I read the Bible as a child. I had an upbringing that involved school assemblies that were Christian orientated. I also, in later years, read the Koran (just to see what the fuss was about). To be honest, I’ve read lots of other things too and the book that probably had a greater influence on my morals was ‘A Companion to Ethics’ edited by Peter Singer. Just because I don’t believe in the big bad sky bully God doesn’t make me an immoral person. I might even go as far to say that some-one who lives there life exclusively in accordance to a religious text is allowing themselves to be led by fallible writings (how many differences are there between translations and subsequent versions through the ages?) without applying their own common sense. It is easy to become biased without realising it, just as it is easy to be duped by not questioning.

I’m perfectly happy with my morals, and don’t need religion to make me a moral person. I get annoyed when seeing suggestions by some people that they should ‘question the religious views of their prospective parliamentary candidates’ as if somehow believing in an imaginary friend God makes that person better able to be an MP; it does not. If some of the religious fundamentalists are to be believed, it’s ‘Love thy neighbour, unless they happen to be gay, black, foreign, of a different religious persuasion, a woman, poor (delete where applicable)’. Certainly not.