Imposing Morality

This is my very first Great Debates thread* ever, so please be gentle with me. :slight_smile:
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot, though.
Is it moral or right to impose one’s religion or morality on others if you truly believe your viewpoint is right, even though it doesn’t harm you directly?**

Let’s skip things that most of agree are obviously bad, like murder of another human, or sexual relations with the unwilling/unknowing. We’ll skip situations where harm obviously comes to you or someone else.

What I am talking about are grey areas. The most obvious one that comes to mind is abortion.

Say you are Catholic. You believe, firmly, up and down abortion is wrong, murder. Say I am atheist. I don’t believe abortion is murder. I think the opposite, as a a matter of fact…the fetus I abort now will make way for the loved and happy child I’ll have when I’m really ready for it.

Our moral stances are completely opposite. Do you think it’s right for you to impose your morality on me, just because it’s part of your religion?

I see this constantly in the real world. How about gay marriage? Or marrying between races?

You may think it’s wrong but I don’t. So you think it’s OK to have the government pass a law that says “no gay marriage, no abortions, and no racial intermarriage” because you think it’s wrong?

If not, then how come this is what’s happening, every day, all over the world? Forget the rest of the world for a minute (no offense, please!) This is supposed to be the country of freedom, the country where the Protestants ran to to escape persecution. I find it ironic that the same country is now being used as a vehicle to limit rights for several sectors of people.

I know some people are going to say “slippery slope”, if you let one kind of behavior go all kinds of behavior are going to come about. But…someone on this very board said every argument can be construed as a slippery slope. For the sake of a debate let’s limit it to beliefs that are in hot dispute…i.e., things we don’t truly know the right or wrong to at the moment.

I’m sure you already see my leanings in this thread. I hope I still tried to state this as impartially as I could.

*I know some of you are thinking, “She’s got less than 20 posts under her belt, what’s she doing posting in Great Debates?” Seriously, I’ve been lurking on and off for over three years…I used to be Elenia25 and then when I signed up I changed my username slightly. So I’m not entirely a newbie. You can decide if I should have kept my mouth shut. :slight_smile:

I’ve always wanted to see scriptural sources that compel a religious state. Otherwise, I don’t see that they have a leg to stand on. But it makes for interesting debates.

But I think it is worth noting that, given enough popular support, and the support of the legislators, then it doesn’t really matter if they’re against abortion because they got a vision or read it in an old book or based it on tea leaves, etc. Clearly, as citizens, they have a right to affect laws directly or indirectly, and if their personal morals determine that something is wrong, they might feel it is best to make it illegal, too. “I am against abortion” is mostly what the legislators need to know, and forget the rest, but here in GD, the “why” part is much more interesting. Among other questions. And what those answers imply (i.e., should self-defense be illegal because Jesus said to turn the other cheek, to pick one possibly bad example).

Of course it isn’t right. But that is what politicians do for the people to vote for them so that they’ll keep voting for them.

And I would bet you that I do something that hurts no other human beings, is done privately out of the site of the public, is practiced by a majority of cultures all over the world (close to soccer in popularity as a sport), and is definitely a part of my culture and the different cultures who founded this country as well as the cultures of many “recent” immigrants (including those that became citizens from the US acquiring land through purchase and war) that you would probably want to legislate away out of sheer pettiness and a feeling of self rightousness.

I agree with the OP, and as an atheist it is the ONLY thing that truly troubles me about religion. Many religious folk are not content with living their own lives as their dogma describes. They fele they have to force everyone else, believer or not, to do as they do.

I believe that laws must have a sociological and logical basis for their existance. Hence murder is something to be outlawed. It can be supported reason and common sense.

But many of the other laws such as preventing gay marriage are based on nothing but some passages on some book of mythology or another.

It is tantamount to having the Amish pass a law that abolishes automobiles and most electrical appliances.

Who would say such a law is a valid one? No one who isn’t Amish almost certainly. It’s based purely on religious beliefs.

And yet some religious folk still think it’s perfectly ok to tell others to do as their religious beliefs dictate.

Many religious systems today are artifacts of a more monarchial time in history, and it shows in the actions taken by many of their adherents.

Slowly, here in America at least, we are coming to the realization of just what a powerful idea was expressed in the Declaration of Independence: “Governments…deriving there just Powers from the consent of the governed” as a “truth…self-evident”.

A classic, non-constitutional divine-right monarchy makes pronouncements that all must obey or face peril. You see a similar attitude reflected in the actions of abortion-clinic bombers and other religiously-motivated terrorists: that you ought to do as they say, given that they are divinely inspired, and if you choose not to, you ought to be subject to violence or at least the grave threat of it. An extreme example, but then again, there are plenty of non-violent abortion opponents who support the bombers by, at the very least, not condemning these actions so against the American spirit of freedom.

I hope eventually we will come to realize that morality must be defined among people who live amongst one another, with regard for the fact that we have certain, biologically hard-wired constraints on that morality.

The claim that “You should never impose your morality on someone else!” is itself a moral statement. It is a moral claim regarding what people should or should not do. By uttering this claim, a person is unwittingly imposing his own morality on others who may disagree with his worldview.

That’s not to say that imposing one’s morality is always justified. Sometimes it is; sometimes, it is not. However, the claim that we should never impose morality on anyone else is a subtly self-refuting argument. Its very wording undermines its own foundation.

I should have added: I know there are people on this board who are against abortion, gay marriage, etc., etc and wish the government to outlaw it. I hope some of them would come on and defend why this would be right?

And also defend while they’re here why it would be right for the gov’t to forbid something but not force it?

Machetero, would you try me? I’d very much like to see what you could come up with that meets your criteria that I would want to ban. No sarcasm, just want to test myself. Because, really, I can *kind * of understand the other side wanting to do “right” in the world.

You make me so happy! (I thought my debate was going to sink like a stone. But I have been wondering about this for a while.)

This is my first experiment with multiple quotes! Preview is my friend! Woohoo!

Um…if you read back to my OP, I didn’t say “never”. I specifically meant in “grey” areas, the places where neither side is really sure, but both sides may be convinced.

Sometimes you have to.

((Side note: The abortion issue is not necessarily religious. Usually, yes, but not necessarily.

Some people simply believe that you become “human” at a various stage of development, and thus the abortion becomes murder. It doesn’t have to be a religious perspective; it can be scientific, as well (though the obvious question that the entire thing is debating is, “when do you become human? At conception? A phase X of development? At birth (independent survival)?” - different people have different answers, and there are several compelling arguments).

Other times, various religions can take various stances on abortion. Some allow it, some are vehemently against it. The lines aren’t that clear cut between religion and abortion.

(in general, I’m saying that abortion is a bad example)))

Another very good point.

Reminds me of some atheists :rolleyes:

Oh, and welcome to the board, Elenia!

None of this proves that abortion is a bad example. On the contrary, it’s the perfect example. The question is still: Is it moral for any of these groups to force their thinking, by law, or de facto, on any other groups, since abortion is such a grey area? So many people think differently on the morality of it.

Also the atheists crack: There are people in every sect that…how shall I put this…the rest of the sect are embarrassed to admit to. If there have been atheists who tried to force you to follow their beliefs (can you name some of the things they were forcing you to do) then it’s not representative of the whole.

Just as the theists who want law changed to suit them are not representative of the whole.

I agree with this. I would make one small nitpick, however. In the context of laws only a small subset of morality needs to be defined. We need to come to an agreement on which moral requirements should be enacted into law and subject violators to a punishment imposed by force. Anything which does not rise to this level should be left out of the laws, and thus up to individuals.

There are lots of things that people feel would be good for the rest of society to do or stop doing. Abortion, racial descrimination, earning money, failing to earn money, wild sexual perversity, embarassing or guilting people out of having sex. The list could go on and on.

The question we have to ask ourselves is whether or not such things should be enforce “at the point of a gun”. If not, we should seriously question whether or not a law is the best way to accomplish the desired outcome.

It is WAG. But cockfighting seems to be very un-politically correct in the US. So much so, that I’d bet that even someone who thinks that they wouldn’t impose their brand of ‘morality’ on someone else would probably do so.

Odds being like 65/35 on that bet.

My knee-jerk reaction is that cockfighting does hurt something…the chickens.

Upon reflection, I don’t really see it as being any worse than eating the critters EXCEPT…If I could, I would prefer humane (I know, probably not a good word) living quarters and humane deaths for the creatures I eat.

I realize this is not the case. Does this mean I am going to stop eating chicken? Highly unlikely.

But you have to concede that cockfighting doesn’t really affect a person’s life the way marriage or abortion or childbearing does. Yes, perhaps someone earns all their sole income from it but I don’t really believe stopping it kills all forms of *potential * income for the person. Stop me from cockfighting and I’ll probably…I don’t know, work at McDonald’s? Stop me from an abortion and suddenly I have an unwanted baby on my hands.

So I guess it doesn’t matter as much to me about cockfighting.

Oh and what’s WAG?

But that deals with people making animals suffer for their amusement/sport.

Atleast you can attack that particular activity with this fact. Now it becomes a question of wether or not this is ok. Hmm, toughie. And the same question could also be asked of bull fights and bull runs, etc.

WAG is a wild ass guess. And you have admitted that the imposing of one’s morality on other people is fine as long as it is something that you don’t like or that isn’t important to you. Even if it destroys their livlihood, their culture, or their animals.

BTW gamefowl live much better and longer lives than the mass produced 24wk old chickens that you eat. If you believe in reincarnation, a game chicken would be better than an eating chicken to come back as.

Quite so, but I think to go so far as to suggest it is self-refuting is another matter. I think it should be taken as a given that any group of people beyond a certain size must impose order on people who disagree (even in the most ideal circumstances I can’t see a way of escaping this). Once we’ve accepted this, we have two interesting paths. One is to seek to minimize imposition by accepting that, in general, without a pressing societal reason to the contrary, we should not impose additional moral rules on people (or, shortened for convenience, "we should not impose our will/morals/beliefs on others). Another is that we can impose whatver we can find enough support for, other considerations be damned.

Not without imposing your morality.