Leave religion out of our morals

Recently there has been an on-going religious debate in The BG News in response to Aaron Urbanski’s guest column “We Need to Leave Religion Behind,” [Sept. 20] where he argues that religious faith is dangerous and divisive, and should not be seen as a positive trait. Believers and non-believers should not be butting heads, but looking for a reconciliation of values.

In her reply to Urbanski, Caitlin Welch said, “No matter what religion, or even if no religion, each person deserves to be treated with love and respect by all ” people of all faiths would agree even though we don’t all have the same beliefs.” [Sept. 21]

I agree on this point, believing that religions should find shared values. But I agree with Urbanski that religion can be divisive, and that it’s also not a good foundation for values.

On the other hand, Jennifer Clark argues that atrocities committed in the name of God are extreme examples: (Referring to Sept. 11th hijackers) “Those men were members of an extremist group that had distorted the views of their religion ” Instead of looking at misled extremists to see a true representation of faith, look instead to people like Mother Theresa, ” who [has] taken the best ideals to heart instead of acting on misinterpreted ones.”

True, the terrorists justified their actions by distorting religious views. But that’s the problem with religious justification: Religious texts are up for interpretation and therefore dubious precedent for morality. While Clark cites Mother Teresa as a positive example of religious character, Time magazine reported in August that Mother Teresa went without feeling the presence of God for nearly 50 years.

But what if she didn’t feel that presence because there really is no God? Would that make her any less good? Even without religious context, the ideals that Mother Teresa took to heart are still admirable. I’m sure Urbanski would agree on that point and also that religious reasons are trumped by secular justification for morality.

Secular values are supported by reason and evidence, and therefore can be appreciated by everyone. For example, saying that “Thou shalt not kill” because the Bible says so, is not a good reason, because for those who do not believe the words of the Bible, that statement is baseless. However, if you give secular reasons such as “killing is detrimental to society,” there is evidence to support that claim that can be appreciated by those of many faiths.

In the end, religious argument in general should not be an issue. As long as there are problems in this world, debating the existence and will of a supreme being is trivial. Giving this debate priority over real world problems is irresponsible because solving it will change nothing, whereas the investment of time and resources in other efforts could make the world a better place. Let us support our morality with secular grounds, so we can be united in solving the world’s problems.

Tom Hurst is a senior majoring in film studies. Send responses to his column to [email protected]