[LMB] Religion on Barrayar-Charity

beatrice_otter at haugensgalleri.com beatrice_otter at haugensgalleri.com
Wed Feb 19 00:41:08 GMT 2014

>> On Tue, 18 Feb 2014 12:23:54 -0600, beatrice_otter at haugensgalleri.com
>> wrote:
>> >Atheists are often quite ethical.
>> >But the ethical system they use is
>> >largely derived from the Christian one that spent centuries percolating
>> >and maturing through various devout Christian thinkers, theologians,
>> and
>> >ethicists, before being appropriated by atheists and having the
>> religion
>> >bits stripped out.  ("Because God says so" being replaced by "because
>> it's
>> >a good idea.")

"Rachel" <anglerfish at gmail.com> wrote:
> And the Christian one derived from pre-Christian philosophers variously
> monotheistic, polytheistic, atheistic and so on. Primates display certain
> moral behaviours.
> I don't know, I find the argument that my system of ethics and morals
> derived from Christianity a little bit insulting when I hear it since it
> seems to hint at "you are only ethical because of Christianity". I'm sure
> insult wasn't your intent, but you must see how it sounds?

Yes, but the only reason I used Christianity as an example is that the
vast majority of atheists I am aware of come from the West--where our
culture is heavily influenced by Christianity, for good or for ill.  If
there are large numbers of atheists in, for example, China or Tanzania, I
don't know about them.  Therefore, if we're talking about atheists in
today's world, we are talking about people who were formed in a culture
which was deeply shaped by Christianity even in places where today
Christianity is only vestigial.  But *everywhere* that I know of, when you
start talking about philosophy and ethics you get religion and
spirituality brought in as part of the discussion.  It may not look
anything at all like what it looks like in the West, but it's *there*.

You can trace Western philosophy--including ethics--in a largely unbroken
line of debate going back prior to the existence of Christianity.  Over
time, the arguments change; some arguments and assumptions are dropped out
and new ones are brought in.  But until the last century, pretty much all
of the people doing the thinking used their religion and/or spirituality
as a major resource for their philosophy and ethical thought.

It isn't that Christianity (or any other religion!) makes people ethical,
or that people are ethical because their ancestors believed.  But the
*form* that our ethical systems take was deeply shaped by religious
thought.  Atheism is a major new voice in philosophy and ethics, but it's
one voice in the larger discussion.  Well, and now it's many voices in the
larger discussion, but those voices are still not the entirety of the
discussion.  Nobody is in a vacuum, and as religious voices (and voices
steeped in religion) remain a large part of the discussion (even if only
as part of the history that got us where we are today), we are in a very
different situation than Barrayar where the only religious or spiritual
voice in the discussion seems to be ancestor worship (and even that, not
very strong).

Beatrice Otter

More information about the Lois-Bujold mailing list