What is the Appeal of Brutal Games?

Common Ground

What moral issues can be agreed upon in the absence of universals? The answer to this depends upon who is trying to agree. Despite the tremendous variety between religious traditions, commonality has not been hard to find between them, and in 1993 the Parliament of the World's Religions declared the Golden Rule (treat others as you would wish to be treated) as the shared principle that ran through most religions. Representatives from 143 different spiritual communities agreed to principles of non-violence, respect for life, solidarity, just economics, tolerance, truthfulness, equal rights and partnership between men and women.

Naturally, not all religious people support this view: those that don't are committed to the idea that only their way is correct. The most vocal opponents of religion express a similar position – all the other approaches are wrong, since they and they alone hold valid beliefs. The people in all these disparate camps are clinging to the expectation of a universal good. This single-minded commitment to a sole universal framework of morality denies any possibility of compromise by insisting that what must be pursued is the ultimate victory of a single correct system. But why should there be such a system? And what, beyond arrogance, fuels such narrowly absolute beliefs?

The conflict between religion and non-religion tends to focus on issues concerning the justification of moral beliefs. Religion (its opponents claim) must be wrong because its ethics are derived from stories that include what are deemed fallacious supernatural elements. But this obscures the common values those stories embody. It is true that a religious minority cleave to an ancient absolutist stance that states murder is wrong and evil because God commanded it so. It is equally true that more modern perspectives deem murder wrong and evil because of a rational assessment of the harm caused. But both agree that murder is both wrong and evil. Disagreements focus on what does or does not constitute murder, not on whether murder is morally wrong or on whether or not it is evil to murder.

Part 16 of 23 in the Pentenary series.


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And here was I reckoning that my major conflict with most religions is that I consider the idea that one can affect one's quality of afterlife / next life by what one does in this life :-).

Peter: isn't your statement above an example of disputing the justification for moral beliefs, namely the use of the concept of an afterlife in that regard?

Perhaps this is a case of my missing the thrust of your humour. :)

Personally, I find that if one disbelieves "self", afterlife-style perspectives become simply appeals to universal ethical judgements a la Kant, but this is perhaps a tangent. ;)

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