Thursday, March 25, 2010

Phislosophically Speaking - Killing a Cow is a Sin, taking birbe is not!

Our idea of “right” and “wrong” or “Good” and “Bad” stems from a combination of our upbringing and the environment in which we grow up.

People in general (religious or not) want to do “good” or do what is considered as “right”. The justification for doing “good” may vary between a religious person and a non-religious person.

Religious people follow their Moral values (the idea of what is right and wrong) because it is stipulated in the religious scripts or by the holy prophet(s). So a person may not steal because it is prohibited by the religion, or he/she is afraid that God will punish (or alternatively God will reward him/her for the good behavior). Every religion has a list of “dos” and “don’t”. Violation of the religious code will result in some sort of punishment or suffering (usually after death!).

The motivation for doing some thing “good” or “right” in this case is either personal benefit or out of fear.

Non Religious people derive the idea of right and wrong through reasoning and logic. In this context, “Non religious people” are those who are not motivated or guided by religion (they may or may not believe in God). For example a non religious person may not steal because they have come to a conclusion that stealing is wrong through the following analysis:
• How would the victim feel? (Sympathy)

• How would I feel if some one stole my stuff? (empathy)

• What would happen to the society if every one steal stuff from every one else? (sense of belonging)

Through a logical process such as the above (Reasoning), the person concludes that Stealing is wrong.

The moral codes (to a large degree the basis of modern justice system) were largely derived from` religious principles. They served the purpose of organizing the society and moving mankind from animal to human behavior. However the moral code of conduct derived from religious principles/prophecy has many problems in modern society.

1. Religious codes of conduct are not consistent nor universal

One part of the Holy Scripture might say “do good to others”, while another part of the holy script might encourage you to kill a fellow human being because he/she is not following the same system of god(s) or faith as you. So the moral value “you shall not kill any one” in this case, means more like “you shall not kill any one as long as they are practicing the same religion”. The Holy Scripture that says “Love your neighbors” might equally stipulate that your neighbor will go to hell because he is not following the same god as you.

What is considered as good by one religion may not be considered as acceptable by another religion. Buddhists, Jains and Hindus (some) consider killing animals as a sin, Hindus (some) are OK with killing animals as long as it is not a Cow, Christians are OK with killing animals as long as it is for Human consumption, Muslims and Jews follow the same Christian logic but the animal need to be killed in a certain way.

2. Religious codes of conduct are not comprehensive

The list of things that you are allowed to do (or not allowed to do) is incomplete considering the society in which we live. For example most middle class people do not steal, murder, rape, or rob a bank. So if you apply the religious code to them, they might qualify for heaven! However the same middle class person may sell a faulty product or enroll some one in a pyramid scheme knowing the person will loose money! They also have no problem in exploiting the poor, needy and vulnerable.

3. Religious codes are rigid and do not provide solutions to our every day ethical dilemmas.

The religious codes were developed thousands of years ago, and since then our society has moved on. We don’t’ get up in the morning, brush our teeth and kill our neighbor and eat his heart! We get up in morning and sell sub- prime mortgage and hide it in hedge funds!

4. Religious codes distorts our moral sense of right and wrong

If we take India for example, it is the most religious place in the world, yet it is also one of the most corrupt places in the world. I am not stating that Religion leads to Bribery; I am merely stating that Religion has not prevented Bribery. Government employees in India will gladly take bribes and don’t think that it is wrong (every one is doing this so what?). The same person will visit a Temple and drop a large donation (a share of bribe to God?).

Bribery is widespread and common, because people do not feel guilty or bad. There are more punishable offenses in religion such as missing a morning prayer, or eating a prohibited food!

The ratio of “holy places” to “human being” has increased steadily over the years. Yet the gap between the rich and poor is also increasing steadily. There are more Gods than Compassion!

A person, who worships three times a day and follow the food restrictions stipulated in the religious code strictly, may not consider receiving bribe or Dowry to be a sin.

What is good and what is bad? Can we establish this through a religious check sheet?


We must Reason, apply logic, compassion, sympathy and empathy. We then arrive at a conclusion. It is the next level of Human intellectual evolution.
Ethical reasoning provides a frame work for arriving at a moral conclusion. Ethical reasoning is not perfect. It is subjective and relative. However it helps us to understand and shape the society in which we live. Failure of logic and reason will lead to the destruction of man kind. Society as a whole should develop a sense of fairness and morality based on sound reasoning and logic.

The personal conscience should be the guiding light of behavior and not spiritual motivations or fear.

If the human society does not make the giant leap from “Moral values based on Religion” to “Ethical vales based on reasoning and logic”, the society will fail, for sure.

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About Me

I am an Engineer by profession. Spritual and Anit-guru advice is my part time job!