Morality and Religion

"I think morality ultimately needs a notion of the sacred ... to make sense of unconditional rights or claims, we need to be clear that there is such a thing as universal human nature and that it has some intrinsic dignity or worth.

"To try and ground this independently of the idea of a transcendent source of value seems to me not finally feasible. People do, of course, make such claims, and do so in good faith, but I don't see how you can define a universally shared, equal, independent-of-local-culture-and-habit conception of human flourishing without something more. And for the Christian that means understanding all human beings without exception as the objects of an equal, unswerving, unconditional love." -- Rowan Williams

I've heard this argument before. It is a clever one. The idea that human beings are intrinsically BETTER than the rest of the universe is not something we have empirical evidence for. And yet it is what we ground much of our morality on. Killing humans for food is wrong. Imprisoning them arbitrarily is also wrong. Mutilating them for fun is REALLY wrong. And yet we do these things to the rest of 'creation' all the time.

Rejecting all definitions of morality helps nobody. So there are two choices. Either we do the very difficult: define rights for other sentient beings and stick to them. Or we do the easy thing: manufacture a 'transcendent source of value' that separates humanity from the world it lives in, and go on as we were. The Archbishop of Canterbury is almost saying you have to believe in SOMETHING, because otherwise logic dictates that you throw your lot in with crazies like Peter Singer.

I don't like being threatened. Arguing negatively is never a good way to convert people, and this line of attack just blows. On the other side, I am pretty won over by Peter Singer's stance. However, I'm just not strong enough to stop eating meat and become an animal rights devotee. This is profoundly illogical of me. And perhaps our current concepts of morality are as well. Unconditional human rights DON'T make sense. They are arbitrary constructs designed by emotional human beings. Perhaps someday they will become more consistent -- established on a firmer basis. More certain is the possibility that future generations will look back at us and regard us as monsters. As all future generations have done.

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