Now being a fairly well educated and thinking human being I know these ideas are widely held by a number of people to such a point where the concept of morality and religion are interchangeable. Now I do have a religion and I do believe in the Gods. I just don't follow the Christian God or really feel any attraction to any of the monotheist traditions. I have a very strong sense of Morality and I uphold whole heartedly that the Bible/Koran are the worst places in the world to obtain your morals.
With all this in mind I would like to talk a little bit about Morals and where they come from.
In my conversation with the J.W.s, the argument they were using was the old “Divine Command Theory”. It basically says that we have a sense of right and wrong because they were created and commanded by the Deity. This is a widely believed idea and is often spoken of as if it is self evident. With that very familiar “OH but how could it be otherwise face”. Yet it is certainly not self evident that our codes of conduct and moral guidances do in fact come from any supernatural source.
Simply put the arguments against it are:
- How do we know this Law Maker exists
- If the Law Maker exists how do we know that it is Good.
- Do we have to follow these divine rules because we are forced.
Now I am not going to get into all the arguments for the existence of God or the Gods as we all know I am Druid and firmly believe the Gods exist but if you do want to get into it there are lots of sources on the web and in books. Needless to say I do not except the Judeo/Christian God based on a fairly reasoned out set of arguments but they are not relevant here either, but I would never deny his existence. I find the ideas presented by his followers as somewhat hard to believe and philosophically faulty and I could never accept that every word in the bible was true, but we will come back to Truth later. So let us assume for the sake of this paper that the Gods exist then we come to point two. How do we know God is Good. This is where I challenged the J.W.s. If we accept the biblical God then we can read of him acting in ways which if another human being did it we would not hesitate to throw them in Jail. Look at the genocides, the sufferings and even the bet with satan to see if Job would crack under pressure. These are good actions...?
So just because someone commands something does that make it right.... of course not and even more so when you can see he acts in not too nice a way when it suits him. The philosopher A. C. Ewing expressed this criticism nicely: "Without a prior conception of God as good or his commands as right, God would have no more claim on our obedience than Hitler or Stalin except that he would have more power than even they had to make things uncomfortable for those who disobey him."
Now this brings us on to the third point. Just because God is bigger we have to do what he says..... The do it or you will burn in a pit of fire FOREVER argument.....This generates a lot of problems for me as it seems to suggest that Humans have no ability to take responsibilities for our actions. It also suggests that if we did not have this fear we would do even worse things. It was pointed out by the English philosopher John Stewart Mill that even with the presence of this fear we still have horrible things he goes on to say that maybe by removing this altogether and removing the old “The devil made me do it defence” or the “God commanded a Jihad” defence then we would have to take responsibility for what we actually do.
So how do I as a Self professed and Devout Polytheist Pagan see this whole moral minefield....
First we have to acknowledge a difference in how we see our Gods. They are not all powerful, they are not all knowing. They are more powerful than us, they live longer than us and they “may” have a better grasp on the bigger picture than us but the are not free to do what they will. Rules apply to them too. They have a concept of Morals too. So within my tradition we could say we have a definite example of The Gods command things because they are already moral. Yes they may break the moral codes but they too get their comeuppance. So where does this leave me as a lowly Druid where do my Morals come from. Well like all Druid ideas the answer comes in a Triad...... I think I have just made this one up but why not ….. Who says it has to old to be true.
The three parents of Morality are Truth, Trust, and Thought.
It is the interplay of these three things which creates our morality. First all we do must be based on truth, and Truth must be verifiable. This is plainly not true in the bible. For example The Bible holds women are inferior to men. NOT TRUE. We are different but this in no way grant superiority. This truth is verifiable in the natural world and by modern science. So the Taliban and their treatment of women or some Christian Groups and their treatment of women, even our society and its treatment of women is unethical and wrong to my Druidic way of thinking (funny how early celtic society had fair marriages and women in positions of power – maybe the Druids were not such barbarians) Beating a child or an animal is unethical and wrong as they put their trust in you and you have broken that. Trust is strongly tied up with honour and valuing your word and action above all things and expecting the same from others. So in this way Trust is also a type of truth. Well thought is all about opening your mind to see the other person and think truthfully. This may seem simple and it probably is but I find it works. It does not appeal to a higher source or need one. How we developed these faculties for Truth, Trust and Thought is a question for science and not really one for me, but yes Druidic Pagan thought is not anti science. So the next time a Monotheist of that type comes knocking on your day feel free to defend your morality and tell them you believe in Truth, Trust and Thought and anything which asks you to suspend any one of those and just accept is in fact unacceptable.