Are We Making Moral Progress

Hanging onto a past we think we know and moving into a new unknown has separated humans since seemingly forever. Some say new values are worse than the old  and some say the opposite. Perhaps we should be skeptical of both views.

The link is one of the most clever pieces of writing which tells us values were OK in the ancient past. I’m skeptical of Catholics who want us to believe their brand is superior to all others because of the history they claim to own. Because the link author wants to claim the high moral ground his brand of the faith he urges us to not dismiss the moral standards of the ancients.

Societies find ways to make themselves survive. If every person steals from every other person the society will spend its resources fighting instead of producing food and shelter. Thus, long before Jews existed with their Ten Commandments societies had the rule “Thou Shalt Not Steal”. Like the Ten Commandments, it was a rule about !stealing from one’s own clan or tribal members, not a rule that applied universally.

We can see some of the rules the ancients followed were like ours. But, the Bible treats as “good” that God downed a million people, including babies, and saved only Noah’s family. It was heroic that Joshua slaughtered the residents of Jericho. Even though there is no evidence either of these incidence actually happened they reflect the moral values of those who wrote the Bible.

I can see some improvement in moral values.

22 Responses

  1. Jinx II

    “I’m skeptical of Catholics who want us to believe their brand is superior to all others because of the history they claim to own”. Jon

    I have thought that way about Bible and RCC teaching’s since I was about 7 years old, you have succinctly summed up the topic, Thanks so much.

    1. Grandma

      Jinx, were ahead of me, as I only figured it out when I was 10 or 11 when I began to wonder what happened to the souls of the people who lived before the Jews began moving into the Middle East.

  2. Juan Ruiz

    ” I’m skeptical of Catholics who want us to believe their brand is superior to all others”

    Every religion claims it’s the only legitimate one: Mormons, JWs, AA.. It’s one characteristic of a cult.

  3. Rob

    Stalin, Mao Zedong, Moussilini, Napolean, Pol Pot, Kim Jong…. yep, definite ‘moral progress’ by these atheist leaders.

    1. Rob 10:53 Stalin, Mao Zedon, Moussilini, Napolean, Pol Pot, Kim Jong..yep, difinite ‘moral progress’ by these atheist leaders.

      These leaders remind me of leaders in the Bible, Noah, the Jews in Jeridho and, what some have esimated, two million innocent people killed by God in those stories.

        1. Rob

          Your point was moral progress. The leaders I mentioned came after those you mentioned from the Bible. It is uncanny how you are so often incapable of following the discussion based on your own points.

          1. Rob

            the title of your blog entry is: are we making moral progress.
            This would infer you’re looking at a timeline.
            To argue as you did against my point makes you look foolish. Thanks for the laugh.

  4. mark anthony

    it’s not a mystery to me. that said let me pose a question or two: what is the rock bottom foundation on which atheists or any one for that matter can construct an ethical system? or, at the end of the day, is one, then. left with an anti-foundational morality, a morality which depends on the “circumstances” of the moment? majority opinion? feeling/intuition? self interest? tradition? the harm principle? just ’cause? if any of these, then why, for example, are we obliged to do no harm, why are we obliged to respect another’s self interest? if majority opinion, how can we distinguish between good majorities and mobs? which majority, yesterday’s or tomorrows? for my part, I would like to know how atheists address these and any similar questions dealing with the “oughts” of human behavior.

    1. mark 2:23 for my part, I would like to know how atheists address these and any similar question dealing with the “oughts” of human behavior

      Atheists find the “oughts” in the same place religious people find them. The “oughts” were there before Christianity and before the religions that preceded Christianity. The “oughts” come from the culture. There are no more atheists who believe robbery, theft, murder and rape should be allowed than Christians or other religions. I’ve mentioned before here academic studies of prisoners who are asked their religion which is then compared to the nationwide population. Christians are more likely to be in prison than atheists. Now, there can be plenty of argument about other variables, income, education, etc., but the point is there is no evidence Christians have a superior moral foundation.

      A logical question is where does the culture get it “oughts”. There is not a simple answer but it would start with 200,000 years of experience. We would add to that economic circumstances. The south of the U.S. was settled by people from different parts of Europe than the North. The rural South today is a somewhat different culture than the urban South and the North. The South is “The Bible Belt”. That Bible Belt is also the home of higher rates of domestic abuse.

      To return your good question to you, “For my part, I would like to know…” why Christians think their moral values are better than those of atheists when there is no evidence this is the case?

  5. mark anthony

    I don’t recall having said anything about the superiority of Christian morality. I was, rather, asking you to respond to a very fundamental question re the source, if any, of ethical foundationalism (or non-foundationalism as the case may be. your response (apart from the Christian aspect) suggests a kind of natural law response: a system of “oughts” formed in the crucible of experience shaped by human reason. this view, so far as I know, is not far from the classical notion of a natural moral law. and it tells me that you subscribe to a view of morality that somehow transcends a Hobbsean self-interest/power motivated ethic. if so, then bully for you. BTW, as an economist you had to work in the economic factor. to which I would respond, of course economics are a factor to be reckoned with in this world. but is there a morality that somehow transcends or mollifies mere economic principles? or, as some would have it, are we stuck with a raw l.faire desire driven economic model?

    1. mark 6:29 I apologize for implying you had said anything about superiority of Christianity.
      I’ve never understood what “Natural Law” is exactly but, as you say, I do subscribe to the results of human experience. Economists see self interest as a central force in human behavior. We could not exist without it. Sometimes self interest is served by generosity and putting oneself second. It includes self interest of the family, clan, nation and all humanity.

  6. Jon, to me natural law is the law written into our beings. When unfettered by bias and prejudice I think we end up with more in common than we might think. For example, generally accepted principals of honesty (Do not steal), causing no harm(Do not Kill). I don’t think anyone would argue with, striving to Love your neighbor like yourself.
    When our Declaration on Independence speaks of Laws of Nature and Natures God , I believe,this is what they are referring to. I think this can explain why peoples (countries) that have different belief systems, or maybe none, can still maintain a civil society.
    Biblically, I think this is stated in Hebrews 10;16 – where God says – “I will put my laws into their hearts and in their minds will write them.

  7. Freedom

    Jesus bled and died on the cross for the sins of humanity. Mohammed was a murderer, thief, rapist, liar, pedophile, and slave holder. Are we making moral progress? Depends on who WE is.

      1. godless

        Citing Wiki for the history of the Prophet Mohammed? Wiki jesus John, none of what you say will be there. Even suggesting and citing wiki just shows how dishonest you are . I would also say how ignorant you are on the topic. Just like the bible the quran is full of astrostities. The hadith speaks of the prophets sex slaves. But I guess Wiki doesn’t mention that so it must not have happened.

        1. godless 7:08 I just pointed out what was in Wikipedia. Those who hate Islam can add whatever they wish. I have an equal disregard for the teachings of Islam, Christianity and a host of other religions.

          1. godless

            Just because someone criticizes a religion doesn’t mean they hate it. A christian calling out the atrocities of one religion while ignoring the same atrocities by his own religion is truly priceless. No religion is beyond reproach.

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