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Towards A Moral Consensus

by Chauncey Tinker – 8 Mar 2018

I was raised as an atheist and I still am an atheist. Religions seemed very strange to me in the past, I didn’t even really understand what the point of religions could be, they seemed so irrational. It is only in recent years that I have begun to see a need for moral guidance in society, and consequently I have begun to see the idea of religions as at least making sense insofar as they are an attempt to provide such moral guidance. I have to admit that this realization has partly come about thanks to Islam, because although I see far more harm in this religion than good, there is no denying that it is increasingly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the world, and our society seems very weak and in chronic decline by comparison.

Many have had similar thoughts and come to the conclusion that what we need in the West is a revival of Christianity to counterbalance the threat from Islam, but I don’t share that view and I remain an atheist. This is partly because I think the irrational beliefs of all religions are actually harmful to our sanity, but also because I think that the morality that Christianity teaches is both lacking in some ways, confusing in other ways, and in some ways is even leading us in the wrong direction as well. That is not to say that I see only bad in Christianity, I do see a lot of good as well, especially in comparison to some other belief systems.

I will come back to the subject of what I think is wrong with Christianity on another occasion but that would be too much to cover in a single post.

TODAY’S MORAL GUIDANCE

Some people say there is no moral guidance in Western society today, but I think they are wrong. What we have I think really in today’s society is bad moral guidance, although there is also I suppose quite a lot less moral guidance than there used to be. As so many people no longer go to church, the only moral guidance we get is from our parents, from peer pressure, from teachers and academia, and from the media (including newspapers, magazines, and popular culture – pop music, drama, films).

One of the biggest errors I see in today’s moral guidance is that it is actively encouraging women (especially more intelligent women) to pursue high-flying careers whether they really feel inclined to or not. This is I believe part of the reason for the sub-replacement total fertility rate in the West. This is coupled with a very destructive idea that is projected that people are damaging to the planet and it would be better if people in the West had fewer children. Some of course even go so far as to suggest that white people should just disappear and that the world would be a better place without us. Obviously there are other pressures – such as financial pressures, particularly costs of housing that are contributing to this sub-replacement fertility rate, but I believe that this bad moral guidance is one significant factor that we need to address in order to return to a sustainable total fertility rate.

Here is an example, an article from the Guardian:

Why do women still have to choose between careers and families?

We need to ensure women feel confident that they can do both - be mums and career women. Women bring other skillsets to the table, such as fantastic time management and multitasking skills from having not one job, but two.

Of course this Guardian article is not saying that women MUST have careers, but you can’t read these sorts of articles without thinking that there is an implied message that stay at home mums are somehow less capable, less to be respected. I am not opposed to women pursuing careers in the slightest, what I am saying here is I think it may well be that many women would probably be happier if they weren’t trying to pursue two very demanding jobs at the same time, and that we in the media should provide moral guidance to encourage women to value parenting and being a stay at home mum. Surely bringing children into the world (and so importantly doing it well), should be valued as the most important career of all. Dumping your children in day care while you go off to high flying business meetings also may not be the best way to treat your children, it may have damaging psychological effects, and it may even expose your children to dangers.

Just briefly I would sum up what I think are some of the bad ideas behind today’s moral guidance as:

* Having children is not terribly important, in fact you’re doing the planet a favour if you don’t have many.

* You can have children later in life, there’s always IVF. One of many problems with this is of course that IVF doesn’t always work.

* Women should pursue careers on an equal footing with men. Success is measured by the size of your pay packet or the prestige of your occupation, not by how happy you are.

* Marriage is unimportant.

* Sex before marriage is fine, enjoy yourself, have as many partners as you like. Furthermore I think there is quite a bit of peer pressure on people (even at school these days) to have sex as early as possible without thinking about the consequences very much. After all, you can always have an abortion if the birth control doesn’t work. Abortion parties are apparently now a thing, from “Glamour”:

Health Controversy: Women Throwing “Abortion Parties”

(By the way I am not totally decided where I stand on abortion in general, I think there are circumstances where it is needed. Please don’t let’s discuss this in detail here though, we should have a dedicated debate on that another time as it’s such an important issue. What I do think is very greatly lacking is moral guidance that would help people avoid the circumstances where they would consider it in the first place however – that is relevant here).

IN PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS RATHER THAN PURITANISM

By now I am probably sounding like an insane puritan from the nineteenth century to some people, but what the hell I am increasingly inclined to say what I think on all subjects (you never know it might catch on). The thing is moral guidance is not like the law, you can ignore it if you want but if we don’t follow good moral advice then our lives may go badly wrong. Perhaps people will always go astray at some point, but this is about guidance, not about laying down the law. There is also a problem (going back to that point about Islam), that if we forget to care about the society we belong to, we may leave the door open for more aggressive cultures to elbow their way in and push our way of life aside.

By George Henry Boughton - http://en.easyart.com/art-prints/prints/George-Henry-Boughton/Pilgrims-Going-To-Church-10182.html, Public Domain, Link

Morality should not be viewed as a harsh limiting thing that stops us having any fun in life (although bad morality often does that), but in fact quite the reverse, it should be viewed as something that can help us get the most out of our lives.

THE MORAL COMPASS WITHIN

I have heard that migratory birds have a sort of genetic magnetic compass that guides them during their incredible migrations. I suppose human beings have an inner moral compass that tells them what is right and wrong. However I think our inner moral compass is weak (more in some people than others), and can be overridden by peer pressure for example.

In 2016, I took Mehdi Hasan to task for his apologetics on the Aisha question. Something that struck me quite forcefully was that Mr. Hasan’s own inner moral compass seemed to be stronger than his religious conviction on the subject. He effectively overrides what his religion tells him with what his inner moral compass tells him – that it is immoral for men to marry children (and especially to “consummate” those marriages when the child is very young).

I know there is often deception involved in such stances but I feel that Mr. Hasan may in fact be sincere in this instance – I got that impression from the way that he phrased his opinion on the subject. I do also though rather suspect that were he living in a Muslim majority country, the peer pressure from his fellow Muslims might be strong enough to change his view on the subject. It is also worth noting that the age of consent is still similar to the age of consent in the West in Pakistan for example. This may be more a legacy of colonialism, or it may be more that many Muslims listen to their own inner moral compass on the subject.

Incidentally, here is the link to my article challenging Mr. Hasan’s views on Aisha’s marriage, in case you are interested in that subject:

Mohammed and Aisha - Answering the Apologists

In short I believe we have an inner moral compass, but I think it is often weak, we need moral guidance from others, especially perhaps older and wiser people. For some reason though, you don’t hear people referring to the wisdom of the older generation much if at all these days.

THE WAY FORWARD? – NEW VOICES

Something that gives me hope for the West is the way that strong voices are emerging on the internet that are giving in fact what I consider to be excellent moral guidance. There is also an excellent level of debate going on between these people. I will mention just a few of the people I am thinking of here, I have come across many more:

* Stefan Molyneux of free domain radio. Stefan has I believe a fantastic insight into relationships. If you are struggling with any relationships in your life (including problems with your own children’s behaviour), you could do worse than listen to his call in show. He covers a great many subjects but those who call into his show are often seeking advice on personal matters and I believe you can learn a great deal from listening to the conversations (I certainly feel that I have). One of his central ideas is his advocacy for peaceful parenting, an idea that could be the key to many things.

* Jordan B. Peterson. Needs no introduction nowadays I think.

* Jesse Lee Peterson. Not to be confused with Jordan B Peterson. He is a black Christian who talks about black issues in the US. He argues strongly against the Black Lives Matter movement and against welfare dependency and for traditional values.

* Brittany Pettibone, Tara Mccarthy, Lauren Southern – together they discussed moral issues from a female perspective in this interesting video:

Lauren Southern (Virtue Of The West)

(I know these 3 may be somewhat controversial to some but I think this is an excellent discussion regardless).

CONCLUSION

We spend a lot of time criticizing one particular old religion, and rightly so, but I think if we are to have a better chance of stopping such a religion corrupting or even taking over our society then we need to look inwardly as well, and ask deeper questions about what has left our own society so weakened.

I don’t believe we need to follow religions in order to live a moral life, I think instead we can find morality both from listening to the wiser voices among us and from listening to our own inner moral compass. We should also I believe strive towards a better moral consensus in the society we belong to through fearlessly challenging in debate the ideas on morality of others that seem wrong to us. We will be endeavouring to post more articles on questions of morality for just this purpose, to try and help the debate along towards a more sensible consensus. You can join in of course as always in the comment section below.

RELATED POSTS:

Mohammed and Aisha - Why It Matters

Mohammed and Aisha - Answering the Apologists

ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB:

From Salon:

Another day, another abortion party

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