Statesboro, GA, USA
The God concept justifies, today, the throwing of acid on a woman's face, the killing of siblings, the sacrificing of women on funeral pyres, the suicide of proper devotees, the playing with poisonous snakes, and the withholding of medical aid to children.
Brad, the universality of morality simply points to the existence of God. This is a general proposition, a sign post, certainly not a destination, nor a way to clarify all moral confusion. But it is a clue, and for many, the beginning of spiritual inquiry.
Where religious culture (the word you used) distorts godliness, one must begin to ask specific questions about what makes one religious tradition better than another. For example, what makes the sacrificial love of Christ better than the extremism of Jihadism? Beyond that, what makes the historical claims of one tradition better than another? What makes one religious worldview more or less coherent than another? There is a whole series of questions following a basic belief in Theism. And The "Moral Argument" as I've called it, is only a beginning point.
The thing is, you're trying to suggest, that for my views to be coherent, I need to accept a form of religious relativism. But I don't believe this, any moreso than I believe in moral relativism. Rather, I'm sure that in both morals and religious traditions, there are right and wrong answers. There are things both closer and farther to the Truth revealed by God. Throwing acid on someone's face as punishment, is just an example of a bad conclusion, based upon a good principle perceived somewhere along the line.
The Judeo-Christian view of things certainly would say distorted religion is no better than secularism, or denial of religion. Pointing to bad answers does not invalidate that there are better ones.
And in another sense, it simply confirms the state that scripture says we're in. God gives us his moral law, in sundry ways, we ALL distort it, in both religious settings and non-religious settings. Good moral truth can be taken advantage of, used as an "excuse". It is not altogether innocent, as you've spoken in the accusatory. But in making such allegations, you yourself are implying that there is a real right and wrong at work here. You yourself are assuming moral law, beyond social convention or individual opinion, else what you say would have no force.
Your text above reeks of the preacher/reformer, whether you notice it or not.
I just can't see how from a secular view, you can make the case that your moral distinctions can be anything but natural flux, or cultural consensus.
But let's put another spin on this: murder is a perfectly reasonable and biological drive from an evolutionary perspective. What happens then when a community, a culture, a tribe, a family group decides that murder of one's own should be enshrined as the highest good in an overarching way. How long does it go before they realize that suicide is also something that should be enshrined?
I think you've made my point ... Murder is a perfectly reasonable and biological drive from an evolutionary perspective. Therefore, to say it isn't okay, from that view alone, is arbitrary, not obligatory.
Besides, you throw these examples out, but could you please cite me a culture that finds murdering one's relatives as a moral good? Usually, if something like this appears in communities (and thank God it is rare), it either shows up as transgression of morality, or either as the exaltation of a lone moral principle (justice, sacrifice?) beyond its proper place, taken out of the context of the whole. C.S. Lewis refers to the whole as the "Tao" in his book "The Abolition of Man". This may make moral awareness seem useless, since it can be so easily corrupted. But again, in the Christian view, moral law is an inescapable reality that points to something else, not an end in itself.
As far as my using the word "overarching", I think you've misunderstood. I don't mean that one moral concept should overarch everything else, as highest importance, much less that something immoral should be venerated. What I mean is than an awareness of moral-law as a reality is intractable to humanity and universal among cultures, hence the term "overarching". Moral variance is surely conceded. But again, differences among a fallen humanity, in different times and circumstances, doesn't negate the huge swarth of common moral ground beneath (above) us.
This isn't really what I wanted to talk about but I couldn't resist.
"Say what you need to say ... Say what you need to say" - John Mayer
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (03-31-2011 12:46 AM).]