Religion and ethics

Because I have been listening to the Mormon Stories Podcast (which I highly recommend to anyone with a connection to Mormonism. Whether you are devout, doubting or entirely left the Church, it is supre interesting.) recently, religion has been on my mind quite a bit more than normal.
The issue I raised in the previous few entries about how morality should be based on what sort of consequences emerge is related to my primary beef with religion.
(I am not like Richard Dawkins, where I think religion is a bad thing. I like a great deal about most religions and feel they are often beneficial. More so for individuals than society in general. However, there are some aspects I do not care for and this entry is about the primary one.)

My primary beef with Religion is that it frequently takes the pragmatism out of ethics. In a religious context, something may be seen as good, in and of itself, even if it has negative consequences.

Within Mormonism a good example is the Word of Wisdom.

I think even a Latter Day Saint would acknowledge that the few, relatively minor drawbacks of Green Tea are far outweighed by the numerous health benefits, while soda pop has many negative health effects and none positive(at least that I could find).

Yet only one of these is considered sinful and it isn't the one which is harmful.

While drink preferences are a minor thing, this arbitrary approach towards ethics can have devastating effects on people's lives. The best example right now is homosexuality. Unless you are religious, you will be hard pressed to have a good rational for believing homosexuality is 'wrong', and we have seen many times over the suffering that comes to queers who have been indoctrinated to belief their desires are wrong and should or even could be 'overcome'.

Granted, this isn't entirely unique to religion. We all have things which we consider to be values in and of themselves. For example, I still think being honest with ourselves is inherently valuable, even though I've read studies about how in some instances moderate self deception can have positive effects.

I guess the difference is that if I were shown to be completely wrong, that self-honesty has zero benefits while self deception was always advantageous, I would probably change my mind. Or at least, I could consider changing my mind without feeling as if I were doing something wrong. But if that value was based on religion, it is possible that no amount of reasoning could convince me.

I recently read an interesting quote that said (i'm repeating from memory so I may not be getting it exactly right. And I don't know who said it): 'Whenever a religious explanation is given for doing something, it means there are no other reasons, otherwise those would be given.'

One of the primary benefits I have found from leaving religion and something I have heard from others as well, is I am now able to take life as it is. If something seems good, I can appreciate it as good and if something seems harmful to me, I can recognize it has harmful and the millions of things which lay somewhere in between I can recognize as somewhere in between. There isn't an arbitrary moral coating over everything deciding for me.

Granted, this approach requires more out of people. One has to consider everything on it's own merits. But the work is a pleasure and ultimately is more moral. Doing things for their own sake, rather than out of obedience to another being for a reward.

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