Thursday, May 10, 2007

Morality for Bullies

Arguing with Al Sharpton is like shooting fish in a barrel; evening mentioning his name on this blog makes me feel a little cheap. But this nameless blogger catches Sharpton contradicting himself so directly, so righteously, and with so little self-awareness, that I can’t help but quote him. During a debate with Christopher Hitchens on the topic of religion, Sharpton says the following:
When you raise the issue of morality, if there is no supervisory being, what do we base morality on? Is it based on who has the might at a given time, who is in power? If there is no order to the universe … then who determines what is right or wrong, what is moral or immoral?
Mark that down: the problem with non-religious morality is that it appeals to brute force, to the principle of might-makes-right. Got that? Okay. Now here’s what Sharpton says only seconds later:
There is nothing immoral if there is nothing in charge.
You see? We need God because we need someone in charge. You know, someone really powerful, someone truly mighty, who will tell us what to do.

Need I say more? Nah, I already did.

3 comments:

Tom said...

This moral reasoning seems related to the development of law, as I understand it: in the olden days, legal decisions were founded on the decrees of persons (the King), while later they became founded on principles separate from any specific being.

If his god appeared before him and told him to sacrifice his first-born son, would Al Sharpton do it? If not, why not?

Brian Moore said...

But to the mind of Al Sharpton, the difference is that God is a really smart and good bully who can smite you no matter what you do, whereas mortal rulers can be dumb and evil bullies.

He sees god as the big kid on the playground who comes and punches you if you don't give your lunch money to charity. It's internally consistent, if rather pathetic and shallow.

Whenever you ask yourselves "would Al Sharpton kill his first-born if god told him to?" the answer is yes. They do believe God is the decider. Hasn't the last 2000 years of people killing because god told them to convinced us yet?

This is why, even though nearly all religious people I know are nice, kind and caring individuals, I must always be mindful that one day they may think god has told them to smite the unbelievers, and that I should be ready to run very quickly in that event.

Gene Callahan said...

Yes, Sharpton's version of this is pretty bad. So why not debate someone serious, like Plato: It is just to act justly. But God is the greatest justice, the form of justice itself. But it is absurd to claim that it is unjust to have to obey the highest realization of justice. Therefore, it is not unjust to have to obey God.

(And the argument in the other thread, "I'm an atheist and I act morally" has no force against this form of this argument: Of course, even someone who cannot see the pure forms beyond the cave mouth still can see a distorted image of them in the shadows they cast.)