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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE and HUMANITY ENHANCED.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The sheer evil of Roman Catholic morality

There's not actually a lot more you can say about something like this. It gives an example of why Roman Catholic "morality" is just plain evil. "Evil" by any standard that abominates suffering and looks on others with compassion.

More generally it shows the danger of relying on standards of conduct that are imagined to be absolutely and inescapably binding on us all, rather than relying on our natural sympathy for others' suffering, combined with a clear understanding of the non-moral facts. These kinds of absolute standards are pretty much always going to be harsh and cruel in application.

Once you look clearly at the facts involved in almost any abortion - forgetting about the moral claims of priests, presbyters, and the like - it's obvious where your sympathies should lie. In any real-world case, they should lie with the woman, rather than with a biological entity that is incapable of grief, anxiety, or terror, or of having plans and hopes for the future ... and which, in the vast majority of cases, is not even sufficiently neurologically developed to feel physical pain.

Would we be better off ("better" by standards most people who read this blog would share) if we all totally abandoned the illusion that there is an objective morality? Would we be better off living beyond morality, guided by compassion, curiosity, love for specific others in our lives, and a respect for others' freedom, and by our various non-destructive desires? Well, I'm not sure whether it's possible for everybody to do that, and I'm not sure how to teach it to children. It's genuinely difficult to sort out. I promise to write the book on this one day (publishers take note), but the precise extent to which human societies need to maintain the myth of morality may be an intractable issue.

I think about it often, and I actually do encourage as many people as possible to live beyond morality as morality is ordinarily understood. But first they have to explore and come to understand why this is best by their own standards of "best". Meanwhile, if we must have the illusion of an objectively binding morality let's at least find one that works with, rather than against, our natural compassion for others. At the very least we can find a less cruel and sick "morality" than the one on offer from the Roman Catholic Church.

4 comments:

That Guy Montag said...

Russell, thanks for the Richard Garner link. Just had time to read through the introduction and I can't agree more with the idea that whatever the problem is that leads us to make moralistic claims, the way forward is to apply our human faculties as best we can. It's really only a niggle, really just semantics, that forces me to tend to say that, as with science, whatever we derive as a result of the best application of our human faculties is real. Despite such petty niggles I think I'd like to see a toast to a point error theorists such as yourself and Garner and moral realists such as myself can agree with: to reason and compassion in our ethics.

T. Anderson said...

Why do groups of people, such as those of the Catholic Church, hold and practice beliefs that inflict so much misery on people? Is there something in it for the Pope and his pals to be so strongly against abortion, same-sex marriage etc? Money, power, sex??

LB Symmes said...

Whenever a person acts in an immoral manner, then retribution is exacted by the offended party. The Catholic Church's sense of objective, absolute morality forces the powers of the Church to demand full punishment according to doctrine. However, in my experience, for many (most?) people “applied morality” (my term for how morality is enforced) does not imply an absolute line, but rather a continuum from immoral to moral and "extenuating conditions" are the determinants. With this case in Phoenix, the extenuating conditions mitigate the "immorality" of action, and actually show it to be compassionate (or moral, in my opinion). The Church is anachronistic and out of touch with today’s society.

mryana said...

"Once you look clearly at the facts involved in almost any abortion - forgetting about the moral claims of priests, presbyters, and the like - it's obvious where your sympathies should lie. In any real-world case, they should lie with the woman, rather than with a biological entity that is incapable of grief, anxiety, or terror, or of having plans and hopes for the future ... and which, in the vast majority of cases, is not even sufficiently neurologically developed to feel physical pain"
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You need to research the latter part of your statement for it's (lack of) veracity, please.