Thursday, November 11, 2004

In response to yesterday's blog, Debbie notes and asks:

"just out of curiousity, what is your opinion on Catholicism as a moral code that is commonly perceived as 'one that dictates that we act ethically for promise of reward or fear of punishment'?

i'm not trying to insinuate anything; just want to know what you think."

Unfortunately, this is a really huge topic for me that can't be explained in a few sentences, as it's something that I don't fully understand myself. That, and every time the topic of religion is brought up, it opens up a huge can of worms in a lot of people. In most cases, it's simply best to agree to disagree.

But, I actually adapted the idea from an Einstein quote:

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to berestrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."

This actually makes complete sense to me, especially since my own views of religion have changed significantly over the years. I mean, I was born and raised Catholic, was an altar boy, and even went to Catholic school (hence, the whole thing about girls in Catholic school uniforms holds no sway for me...but I digress).

However, I'm not practicing Catholic anymore because the church and I disagree on a lot of controversial issues, like same-sex marriages, stem cell research, and birth control. And if that wasn't good enough, you have the Pope, the world's moral religious authority, telling the people of impoverished third world nations not to use condoms as they are ineffective in preventing the spread of AIDS/HIV.

As for the Catholic system of punishment and reward, I would agree that it is certainly a powerful motivator for some people. But for people that don't believe in the notion of heaven and hell, what is there to motivate moral and ethical behaviour? Upbringing would have to do with it, and chances are that a punishment and reward system was incorporated. Draw crayons on the wall? No TV for a week. Get an A on your report card? You get to go see a movie.

But it's not always effective. We have individuals that are supposedly driven by God, but end up doing some really horrible things. We have children being abused in residential schools by Catholic priests, abortion doctors being shot by snipers, holy wars, crusades, and inquisitions. And then you got the televangelists. Don't get me started on televangelists.

I guess what I'm saying is that subscribing to a religious moral code does not necessarily make you better or more ethical than the next person. The percentage of priests that molest children is probably proportional to the number of child molesters among the regular non-denominational population.

As for myself? Despite my beliefs, there's a good possibility that any moral and ethical behaviour I partake in will have no immediate or long-term benefits. I am well aware of this. But, while I'm around, I might as well make the best out of it. Why do I do it? I dunno. I guess it's just the way I was brough up.

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