On morality

This is actually a response to another persons blog (http://hessianwithteeth.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/being-a-christian-does-not-make-you-moral)  but I thought it would be of value here too.

 

You don’t have to be Christian to be moral, and just because you claim to be a Christian does not mean that you are moral. This may fly in the face of some people’s beliefs, but it is perfectly reasonable.

That is because “morality” is not defined just one way. The actual definition is:

Morality (from the Latin moralitas “manner, character, proper behavior”) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are “good” (or right) and those that are “bad” (or wrong).

That is pretty clear at first glance, but the problems are caused by the words “good, bad, right and wrong”. When it comes right down to it, everybody has a slightly different view (a few wildly different, many different only in a few details).  And, of course, each person often thinks that their view is the only correct view. Thus, if a person follows “my” view, they obviously are moral, and if they do not follow that view, obviously they are immoral.

A general view (of good/bad/right/wrong) is usually “built into” each culture based on the specifics of that culture, and again, people from that culture consider those who follow that morality to be moral, and those who do not follow it (particularly those darned outsiders), to be immoral.

Another problem with morality is that the obvious benefits of (popular/common) morality are all for others, not yourself. Since the natural inclination of all life is to do for itself, this creates conflict. Some people realize (or at least hope) that the “hidden” benefits of being moral outweigh the obvious benefits of immorality. Some don’t see any benefits to themselves from popular/common morality and follow a “different” morality or even no morality (amorality).

The conflict between morality and personal benefit can be eased somewhat if the morality being followed is “natural” to the person (self-generated), as opposed to a morality which was “imposed” on them. Thus, a person who did not have any interest in a “Christian” morality would have a much harder time following it after becoming a Christian than someone to whom it seemed correct even before they came to believe “Jesus said it was”.

Note that morality includes intentions, decisions AND ACTIONS. It is entirely possible (and even likely) that a person may INTEND to behave in a manner which is moral to them, but when it comes time for the rubber to meet the road, have actions which are contrary to their intentions. This is a problem for some Christians, as the moral code they are instructed to follow is rather more restrictive and even less self-serving than some other moralities, and often conflicts with the “natural” morality they had previous to becoming a Christian.

Since intentions and decisions tend to be difficult to reliably determine, generally a person’s morality is evaluated based on their actions.  The negative results of being perceived as being “immoral” can be severe.  At the low end, people might tend to avoid others with conflicting morals, while at the high end, when the behavior is significantly harmful to others, it is likely that there will be legal consequences.

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Prayer

Prayer is the way you communicate to God.  Some people claim that God does not answer prayer, but this is not correct.  God answers every single prayer, just not always in the way the person wanted the prayer answered.  The answer can be “yes”, but often it is “no” or “not now”.

How does He choose which answer?  God only knows.  Literally.  If your prayer is in tune with his wishes, and it would be good for Him and/or good for you without being harmful to Him, then the odds of “yes” can be fairly good.  Otherwise, the chances of “yes” would be pretty slim.

Prayer can be efficient in times of need; “Help!” might be a very good prayer as your car crashes through the guardrail hundreds of feet in the air.  However, usually you will want to approach your communication with a fair degree of formality, particularly if you are asking for something.

First of all, “address” your prayer.  Who are you talking to?  Use the name or title or relationship you most admire, or which the entity you are talking to is claimed to prefer.  “Hey, you” probably would usually not be one of the better choices.

Next, don’t just list your wants.  This is COMMUNICATION, not a spiritual Home Shopping Network.  Comment on the good stuff you have experienced.  If you are asking for something, be polite about it and try to keep it aligned with the views which it is claimed the one you are praying to holds.

And if you get a “no” or “not now” answer, don’t freak out.  Expect it, so the “yes” answers are special.

Again, you are conversing, as part of a relationship.  How often?  As often as your relationship expects, plus any time you just need to chat.  How long?  As long as it takes and no longer.

Is Islam A Religion of Peace?

This is a claim which is commonly made.  Let us consider its correctness.

Now I know some Muslims, and they are among the nicest people I know.  Based on the Muslims I know, the claim has potential.  But wait.  Every time the news comes out, it seems like it has some people claiming (or claimed) to be Muslims killing innocent non-Muslims and even other Muslims, for reasons which seem to be religiously motivated.  This throws doubt on the claim, to the point where it becomes questionable to state that Islam is a religion of peace.  Yet there are all those Muslims who seem to be peaceful.  What is the disconnect?

One option is that there are actually two separate religions: Muslims (peaceful) and Radical Muslims (not peaceful).  In order to be separate religions, wouldn’t they pretty much need to have differing scriptures?  No, they both claim to be based on the Qur’an.  OK, another option is perhaps one group is misinterpreting or outright disobeying the scriptures.

From  http://quranexplorer.com/

“Prophet Muhammad (saw) was the final Messenger of Allah to humanity, and therefore the Qur’an is the last Message which Allah (swt) has sent to us. Its predecessors such as the Torah, Psalms, and Gospels have all been superseded. It is an obligation – and blessing – for all who hear of the Qur’an and Islam to investigate it and evaluate it for themselves. Allah (swt) has guaranteed that He will protect the Qur’an from human tampering, and today’s readers can find exact copies of it all over the world. The Qur’an of today is the same as the Qur’an revealed to Muhammad (saw) 1400 years ago.”

Thus, there is only one valid Qur’an source, and it appears that if we pick up a Qur’an, we can trust that it is complete and accurate.  So, let us do that.  Certainly, Allah is not fond of “infidels”, claiming He will punish them, but does He say it is ok for Muslims to kill infidels or otherwise commit violence against them?

From Surah 2 Al-Baqara, verses 190-191;  “Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight you, and do not transgress. Verily, Allah does not like the transgressors. (190) Kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from where they drove you out, as Fitnah (to create disorder) is more severe than killing. However, do not fight them near Al-Masjid-ul-Haram (the Sacred Mosque in Makkah) unless they fight you there. However, if they fight you (there) you may kill them. Such is the reward of the disbelievers. (191) ”  

Fighting and killing does not sound peaceful except in the case of self defense.  This is not looking good for Islam, peace-wise.

From Surah 4 An-Nisa, verse 140:  “And it hath been revealed to you in the Book that when ye hear Allahs revelations being disbelieved in and mocked at, sit not down with them until they plunge in a discourse other than that; for, then, ye would surely become like unto them. Verily Allah is about to gather hypocrites and infidels in Hell together. (140)”

On the other hand, this sounds pretty peaceful.  If someone mocks Allah’s revelations, don’t hang out with them until the subject is changed.  Allah will take care of them.  This does not seem to say anything about going into their building and killing a bunch of people (as just happened in France).  This could be a case of the “Radical Muslim” misinterpreting or ignoring that which they call scripture.

There are many other instances in the scripture which seem to be violent and many which seem to be peaceful, at least as far as how the followers should be.  It seems, like most every religion, it is subject to selective adherence.  Basically, Radical Muslims may or may not be religious, but are provably not at all peaceful.  This form of Islam is NOT peaceful, and anyone who says it is, really is kind of a moron.   What about the rest of the Muslims?  Is their version of Islam one of peace?

Let us consider what “defines” a Radical Muslim, at least when compared with a peaceful Muslim.  Obviously, if one searches out and kills innocent children, women and men, that is the most obvious facet of the Radical.  Even a person who would not kill an innocent person themselves, but agree that killing such an innocent is acceptable would be a Radical.  The Radical believes that the entire world should be governed by “Sharia law”, which means the only law considered is that which it is claimed Allah specified.

So, what percentage of Muslims are willing and able to go out and kill innocent people?  Probably not many, less than 10%.  If that was the end of it, then perhaps we could pretty much conclude that the statement under investigation was pretty much accurate.  However, this minority could not operate without support, and if a person supports Radicals, that person must be considered a Radical as well.  Unfortunately, the number of Muslims who can legitimately be considered Radical is much larger than just the obvious killers.  Surveys taken in 2009 in countries with a significant Muslim population indicate that the number of Muslims who approve of killing non-Muslims, and even Muslims in some cases, or believe that the leadership of their country should be under Sharia Law, is often over 50%.  In some countries, this number is over 75%; in the best case, the United States, about a third of Muslims indicated views which identify them as Radicals.  Based on the surveys, it is extrapolated that of the 1.6 billion Muslims on the Earth, slightly over half of them are Radicals.  Not a minority, then.

The “minority” Muslims don’t seem to be able to, or in some cases, willing to, point out how they are following the scriptures and the Radicals are not.   Some do decry the extreme acts.  But none of this makes them “the religion of peace”.

At the current point of time, it appears that Islam is NOT a religion of peace.  Even though many Muslims are themselves peaceful, the religion itself does not preach peace and there are those who use it, seemingly validly, to encourage violence.