Nobody Needs Cosmic Justice

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

In my post on how sin is an unhealthy concept, I had a lengthy discussion with John Branyan, the author of a post that I linked to. During that discussion, this idea came up:

“If there is no sort of ‘universal standard of conduct’ then none of us need worry about how our behavior affects others.”

(Coincidentally, JB wrote this post expanding upon the thought).

I wanted to write a more complete set of thoughts on this, especially after I received this thought from Shawna, a new reader:

“It appears that [her moral landscape] is consistent with the perspective there truly is no universal standard and I’m further grieved by the thought that such meaningless suffering is experienced in the world, including that of children and I have no assurance there will never be any cosmic remedy for those who suffer so intensely, so needlessly and die without healing. I’m a sensitive person and it hurts.”

What am I talking about here?
JB’s commentary aside, the idea is that morality is completely ineffective and meaningless without religion. Anything becomes possible, and any moral value can become justified. To its fullest extent, the ideas behind this cause the concerns raised by Shawna. What we’ve got is this idea that religion is a necessary component of treating people morally.

When I was a Christian, this idea got reinforced. A lot of Christians believe this, and they genuinely can become afraid of a world that doesn’t pledge allegiance to its deity. In effect, it keeps people believing for no other reason than they don’t feel secure without it. Cosmic justice – the kind that religious morality provides – must exist, lest nothing make sense at all.

After deconverting, I realized that it’s not necessary at all.
To date, I’ve yet to come across data which suggests that Christians have a monopoly on empathy, compassion, caring, guilt, ethics, and morality. Non-Christian societies get along with the same institutions to enforce social morality, justice, and fairness as Christian ones. Even more damning is the existence of such institutions before Judeo-Christian religious thinking existed.

All of this suggests that people have always decided what moral values they have. Couching it in religious terms doesn’t make it real; it just explains it in a way that doesn’t require explanation if you share the same religion as someone. That’s really what we’re talking about here: a shortcut for people in the same subgroup. We can see that because while it works just fine in Christian circles, it makes no sense going outside of them.

The easiest way to show this is that you can’t find non-Christians who advocate for banning entire social rules and laws simply because they can. Deconverts don’t go running naked in the streets, trying to steal everything from everyone and then setting the neighborhood on fire. Five out of seven people on this planet are not Christians, and the world keeps spinning around the Sun just fine. It will keep spinning no matter what size that number gets.

If anything, not being religious creates more urgency to be a moral agent.
Not having that intellectual safety blanket means that morality is a duty and a responsibility. I can’t just steal money from someone and then beg forgiveness from the church congregation afterwards. I can’t just overlook it when church leaders get caught covering up the pastor’s illegal sexual misconduct. I can’t just forgive a famous church member for molesting his sisters and their friends and be safe with letting kids be alone with him. No, morality requires more than just pretending somebody else will handle it.

This can be scary to someone who relies on a deity for their well-being. Understandably, I get that many Christians will vehemently disagree with my position. But to those who read what I write, please know that secular morality doesn’t mean that everyone gets to act without consequence. While everyone does get to decide how they will treat others, if they go too far away from what their community wants them to do, there will be consequences.

Most importantly, because I don’t believe in getting a cosmic excuse, I have more reason to uphold the sanctity of human life, of property rights, and bodily integrity. Since I won’t get my body back in a perfected form, the last thing I’ll want to do is go out and lose a limb for nothing. Consequently, if jumping in front of a train means saving a school bus filled with children, I have no choice but to make that sacrifice. The difference is that before I would have thought what my deity would have wanted, and now I ask what people would want of me.

Which one is more comforting?
Different people will come up with different answers, but it’s always consensus that drives how we all enforce morality. In that regard, no cosmic justice is actually needed to have a safe and productive society. Instead, it’s a process we all go through, one that hopefully is improved in our lives and improved further by future generations.

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17 thoughts on “Nobody Needs Cosmic Justice

  1. I couldn’t even read the rest of your post after you mentioned his quote uou intended to argue against. My mind seemed to translate it as “if we don’t all play monopoly the same way then there’s no point.” To which I reply, yeah but I play you get the money if you land on free parking end of story. It’s akin to saying we can’t use your toys because we play with them wrong, only they’re not your toys they’re like set up for a group of us. In that last simile the toys are moral constructs but we can’t use them our way everyone needs to do them your way. If there’s objective morality, that doesn’t change the fact we live in a universes where such a thing isn’t necessary and his argument isn’t for proof of objective morality, but for the necessity of objective morality. A sort of philosophical loop hole. If you can prove something has to exist then it exist, and in some cases it’s easier than proving the thing exists. Like how we can’t see gravity only its effects. Objective morality like God, isn’t necessary, even if they turn out to be real. Why am I rambling again?

    ECHO ECHO

    Liked by 1 person

      • I read your post after that comment. I don’t know it’s not really topic itself, more his approach to arguing. It’s not like just saying I’m right you’re wrong it’s like saying the universe was made just so I could be right and you could be wrong. But good post, your reasoning was solid.

        ECHO ECHO

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  2. Hi SB,

    I’ve never suggested that religion is required for morality. There are many non-religious people who live morally. This is confirmed by the fact that we find morals among every people group around the globe.

    The Micronaut post was a response to the idea that ‘sin’ is a religious idea used to scare people into following a particular set of religious rules. Guilt and shame are not inventions of religion. Morality, as you correctly stated, exists apart from formal religious affiliation.

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    • “I’ve never suggested that religion is required for morality.”

      Actually, you have. Specifically, you’ve tried pointing out that beliefs specific to Christianity are required for morality (namely, that divine agency from the deity you believe in is required for morality to exist). We can see that in the post you linked to, how you equated Christian religious ideas regarding sin with the guilt you felt at acquiring the Micronauts on the cheap.

      To put it differently, if you’re not arguing that Christian religious understanding of the world is valid, then it’s pointless to attach concepts of sin to morality. Are you prepared to argue that?

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      • The post was satire.
        Again, it was a refutation of the idea that religion makes people feel guilty in order to force them to behave. Morality exists independently of religion. I thought that was your point too…?

        If morality is not attached to religion, then religion cannot be responsible for guilt and shame either. People feel guilty for reasons other than ‘the church told me I’m a sinner’.

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      • “Again, it was a refutation of the idea that religion makes people feel guilty in order to force them to behave.”

        I get that this was your main point, but you have to rely on Christian doctrine to talk about sin. That’s where our disagreement in my earlier post came from, I think. I am arguing that objective moral standards (i.e., ones that are enforceable outside of subjective beliefs) are possible, and that they are not from any divine source.

        As far as the points of sin and guilt are concerned, I’d feel more comfortable commenting on your post (since that was your overall point, and I think the conversation would be more beneficial there).

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      • “I am arguing that objective moral standards (i.e., ones that are enforceable outside of subjective beliefs) are possible, and that they are not from any divine source.”

        SB, I sincerely hope you don’t mind me playing the devil’s advocate (the biblical God being the devil in my analogy, teehee). I’m not trying to be obstinate – I’m just struggling in my scrupulous heart.

        What I see is that a standard of right and wrong are indeed subjective to different people and cultures. There is what we in the West call abusive and what they in other countries view as healthy cultural and spiritual practices. My questions are: Who decides what objective morality is? The majority? Who am I to say that the convictions of another are wrong? To what standard can I hold another? What gives me the right? Also, without the promise of cosmic reparation for the intense suffering in the world, my heart breaks. By my account, those of us with the will to make a difference are behind and not in front of the wrongs borne.
        Eager to hear your thoughts.
        Shawna

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hey Shawna!

        What I’m driving at in that point rests on what I mean by “objective.” My educational background is in law, and when I use the word, I mean, “a standard applied the same way to multiple people.” In philosophy, “objective” is most often used as “equally applied to everyone.” So it’s a lot broader than how I use the term.

        What this means is that people create standards all the time in societies, whether it’s what people should wear, to what behavior we expect of everyone. What gives societies the right to enforce such standards are membership within that group and necessity.

        Of course, some religious people might point out that these standards are philosophically subjective, and that’s fine. Really, that is irrelevant to the point I’m making, and it ignores the fact that people make decisions in groups all the time.

        Putting it differently, there’s no cosmic justification for morally neutral rules. Nobody needs to claim a deity permits women to wear dresses and men can only wear plaid versions called “kilts.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Sirius. It makes a lot of sense from that perspective. There’s a part of my post you haven’t addressed, though, and I think you’re being kind. You haven’t commented on my inability to detach from this desire to believe in some cosmic remedy to suffering. I no longer have the Pollyanna worldview I did as a Christian and the reality without any hope of a balanced solution is difficult for me to accept. I don’t even know that I ever would. I take responsibility for that. Nevertheless, I’m open to your thoughts. You’re a fart smeller, I mean a smart feller. jk

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks! I do smell them a lot.

        As far as detaching from wanting to believe in these cosmic moral values, that’s something that people have to go through on an individual basis. In the flavor of Christianity I was taught, a lot of emphasis was put on feeling safe because of it. Not to mention, it reinforced the “reality” of belief in the deity.

        One thing I might recommend is being patient with yourself as you go through this process. Yes, there is terrible stuff that people go through, but you can’t bear the world on your shoulders. Doing the best that you can is all anyone can ever do.

        Liked by 1 person

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