Dunning and Kruger published some famous research in which they identified the cognitive problems that handicap incompetent people. Although they didn’t specifically investigate the incompetence of religious organisations, (or indeed investigate organisations rather than people), and there are cultural variations in the effect, their conclusions apply in this case. Here are the implications:
- Religions create poor moral codes and/or let their moral codes become out-of-date
- Religions believe they have good moral codes, and so promote them and often try to enforce them
- Religions under-estimate moral codes from other sources
The 10 Commandments
The 10 Commandments long ago became obsolescent. They are pretty useless in the 21st Century. But they were never a competent moral code. (See also: What’s Wrong With The Ten Commandments?)
Enlightened people act as though there are a set of extra commandments, even if they claim to be guided primarily by the 10 Commandments. Here are some commandments which should surely be in a list. (Assuming that it is thought that having a list is the way to go. It probably isn’t). The Old Testament (at least) appears to contradict these commandments, and some references are provided. (The God of the Old Testament is probably the most evil character in human literature).
- Do not commit genocide (Joshua 6:21; Numbers 31 & 32; 1 Chronicles 21; Deuteronomy 3; Exodus 12:29)
- Do not rape (Judges 21; Rape In The Bible)
- Do not own slaves (Exodus 21; Slavery in the Bible)
- Do not abuse children (Genesis 22:1-24; Leviticus 26:22; Numbers 21:35; 2 Kings 2:24)
- Do not commit incest (Genesis 19:32-36; Top 6 Incestuous Relationships In The Bible)
- Do not discriminate on grounds of … (various)
- Do not deny the nature of the universe
- Do not do long-term damage to the environment
- Do not actively thwart the human rights of others
How do people justify promoting the 10 Commandments when these are missing?
It is fashionable in the UK to criticise, even condemn, Human Rights, especially in the form of the Human Rights Act 1998, and especially when it can be connected to “Europe”. The Daily Mail (mission: “to keep Middle England angry and frightened”) is not the only critic.
(For information, the Human Rights Act is based on the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, judged by the European Court of Human Rights. These are assets of the Council of Europe, not the European Union. The UK was a founder-member of the Council of Europe, and helped draft the Convention. The Human Rights Act doesn’t add extra rights, but enables rights that the UK has already ratified to be judged in UK courts rather than Strasbourg).
I don’t believe we could all act as though “help people achieve their human rights” is part of our moral code. We would never have time to live our own lives! But we can act upon “do not actively thwart the human rights of others”. We can respect other people’s human rights. After all, just examine the rights listed in the Human Rights Act; which of them would we be willing to lose? Don’t we want people not to deprive us of those rights?
While Christianity has an uneasy relationship with Universal Human Rights, Islam is clearly incompatible with it. Islam has its own “Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam“, which is Shari’ah Law cynically reformulated in the terminology of human rights.
I first saw the following video at: Canadians!. I was struck by how clearly and confidently all these people could speak of their relationship to other people and the universe as a whole.
Many religious people claim that atheists cannot have a real sense of ethics or morals. They say that, without some sort of gods, “anything goes”. That claim is false, but there is surely something that all religious people and atheists can agree upon? We can all be sure that, if things go wrong, atheists will never say:
“God told me to do it”, or “I thought I was doing God’s will”.
We can all be sure that, if atheists do bad things, they will never say:
“Satan (or the Devil) made me do it”.
Atheists have to take personal responsibility where, in many cases, some religious people can pass the buck!