927 thoughts on “What Makes Something Right or Wrong?”

  1. I like the video, but i think the view of religious morality is woefully simplified. Sin is different than a simple right/wrong. That is where situational ethics comes into the Bible especially with Christ. It’s not an either religious ethic or secular morality type of deal. Love Stephen Fry’s voice, btw.
    Blessings on your journey.

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  2. I really liked the vid, Nate. Stephen Fry is one of my favourite speakers anyway (I watched an impassioned speech of his in a discussion on a panel with he and Hitchens versus two people from the Catholic Church. .. he’s a brilliant and very impassioned speaker. (as was Hitchens)

    The message in this video reminds me of something someone else wrote – “I don’t need to believe in god(s); I have a conscience”.

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  3. I think sacredstruggler touched on something very important. There is a distinction between sin and right/wrong. For most(I think; it was certainly this way for me) sin isn’t necessarily something you do. It’s what you are. You are born into it, like a hereditary disease for which Jesus is the only cure. You don’t necessarily have to do anything particularly bad. It’s best described as missing the mark; the mark being the perfection and holiness that is God/Jesus. At least that was my view of it when I was a Christian. That since I could never be perfect I was a sinner.

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  4. Ruth, I find this whole concept of sin to be problematic with most believers. I argued against it constantly on several blogs I was on. Every time they mentioned it, I’d say, “There’s no such thing as a sin – only mistakes – which we make because we’re HUMAN”. So many people get way too hung up on this idea and, as we’ve discussed before, when people believe they’re inherently SINNERS, it’s very difficult to dissuade them from this . . . sigh. . . if I could just get that one concept drilled out of people’s heads. ..then when you toss this whole, “Women are sinners right from the get-go, tempting sorcerers that they are” concept in there, it gets even more difficult.

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  5. Oh, I agree, carmen. It’s just that I think that for many Christians there is a distinction between being a sinner and morality. For them these are two separate concepts on the same plane. It’s the inherited sin that causes us to be immoral, if that makes any sense.

    While I don’t believe that now I get where they’re coming from. I get that they believe their best is as filthy rags. I wish it were not so, but I don’t think it’s a thing you can argue anyone out of. I think it comes back to healthy self-esteem, which in many fundamentalist Christian circles is frowned upon.

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  6. “Inherited sin” – it makes perfect sense Ruth. As I watched the video I could only see it from the dogmatic stance that I embraced at one time. I could hear them say, ‘Nope. Immorality from within? Impossible. We are born in sin. Wretched and deceitful. Only way out, is from outside of ourselves. Jesus.’

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  7. I cringe to read what you wrote, Zoe. .. how terribly, terribly sad. I’ll tell you, I have embraced ‘being a b*tch’ CHEERFULLY, for years. . . 🙂 What it translates to is this – I don’t believe that sh*t. It makes me very angry at the system who convinced wonderful women like you and Ruth (and a host of others) that it was true.

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  8. @Carmen, this supposed thing called ‘sin’ – a heritable brokenness/separation-from-god, whatever this nebulous notion might actually be – is the central reason why evolutionary biology is so vociferously attacked… because modern biology shows us there ain’t no such ‘thing’ as sin. Sin is simply a word used to get people to convict themselves for a ‘moral’ crime they’ve never committed. It is used and promoted in the guise of piety to enslave people and create the necessary just-so situation that guarantees obedience from the credulous to supporting the absurdities of religious doctrines and dogma. It’s a fiction indoctrinated into people who then sustain the notion only by their belief in it! Drop the belief, sin evaporates… as do all these gods, as does any need for clearly insufficient religious ‘explanations’.

    As the basis of a moral system that demands compliance and submission to a set of religious rules and regulations, the idea of an inherited sin is essential to make sense of the need for atonement through the doors of a particular religious brand. but as an ‘explanation’ for this need, people have to go along with the take of some supposed debt incurred by the supposed blood sacrifice by supposed guy named Jesus in order to personalize the supposed debt owed. It’s such a grossly dysfunctional idea… as exercises in religious doctrines in law and social communities demonstrate daily.

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  9. Good points about original sin, etc. That’s not something I believed when I was a Christian. It was hard to reconcile Romans 5, which does seem to teach original sin, with other passages in the Bible that talked about personal responsibility, the “son not inheriting the sins of the father”, etc. So I viewed Romans 5 as talking about the result of Adam’s sin: specifically, physical death. So it wasn’t so much that we inherited the actual guilt of Adam’s sin; we inherited the consequences. Of course, as Romans 3:23 says, all people sin anyway. So the end result is pretty much the same.

    But the doctrine of original sin is pretty ubiquitous, and I see how it’s a major hurdle for a lot of people.

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  10. Thank you, Tildeb. Now, can you pass that along to all those believers out there?? 🙂 It’s a messed-up way of thinking, and one of the reasons I say that I don’t believe in god(s), just GOOD. I have tried my level best to convince many, many believers of that notion – that we (most of us, that is) are good, decent, sensible people who don’t need an imaginary entity to be able to recognize right from wrong. The video illustrates that, as well. I have said that to many religious people – that they are good people at heart and THAT’s why they make favourable choices and interact with others positively. I think Nate does a great job on here, to try and get that message across. Some people, however, seem very content to practice what is, (as someone else said) essentially, adult thumb-sucking.

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  11. The fact that we see aspects of morality in some animals argues for morality being internal.

    I was interested to hear of the experiment when a monkey could get food by pulling a particular lever. The scientists then introduced another element where when the monkey pulled on the lever to get food they saw another monkey suffer pain. This changed their behaviour, they then became reluctant to pull the lever to get food. One monkey went for 12 days without pulling the lever.

    The experiment was repeated with rats and even they showed changed behaviour and a reluctance to go for the food if it meant another rat felt pain as a result.

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  12. @Carmen

    What I find so very disturbing about this idea of some fundamental sinful nature in need of atonement is that I don’t think religious believers themselves really grasp the consequences of their beliefs that morality is somehow bequeathed through their religious adherence.

    You hint at it with the ‘adult thumb-sucking’ reference, but it’s actually really important: if ‘good’ morality comes from some external agency and delivered to us via rules and regulations, then this means we are NOT autonomous moral agents all grown up and responsible for our actions but dependents on some divine parental unit. This is a terrible moral model to empower and one with drastic moral consequences for failing to teach people how to be responsible! It’s really a moral avoidance model, one that guarantees irresponsibility.

    Yet the typical assumption is that only such religious people are really the moral ones because the accepted morality is ‘divine’ when the exact opposite is the case: a perpetual passing of the ‘moral responsibility’ buck to some deity so that believers by their own admission are in a constant state of moral immaturity, dependence, and avoidance. It’s identical to the ‘Just-following-orders’ defense used by good little Nazi soldiers, and, in fact, WL Craig used exactly this line of reasoning to justify the Canaanite genocide.

    When one’s moral compass is so skewed by theology that genocide becomes moral and equality marriage rights becomes immoral, we’ve got a situation where the inmates really are trying to run the insane asylum.

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  13. @Nate

    I don’t think one can be a Christian without accepting original sin for that is the bedrock reason for the Jesus sacrifice and resurrection. And many prominent theologians have argued exactly this to insist – in spite of compelling and incompatible genetic evidence – that the Adam and Eve story must be literal history for Christianity to make any sense at all.

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  14. Believe it or not, there are some groups of Christians that don’t believe in original sin. I guess it’s just another example of the wide array of differences you can find in the vast number of Christian denominations.

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  15. I thought the video was great. That has always been a huge debate in my house. Even though I was deeply involved in my faith, I always had doubts about certain things. One was about how even non Christians did right and moral things…they did not need God to be moral. I was often told, their morality still came from God whether they believed in Him or not.
    And I was taught like Ruth, I was born a sinner and even if I lived a pure life and never sinned, I would go to hell…I inherited my sin. I read some place that the reason Jesus was not born of sin, 1. he was not Josephs son, so he did not receive sin from Joseph . 2. When a child is in the womb, the child and mothers blood never cross, so He did not inherit sin from Mary either. That is how Jesus was not born into sin like the rest of us.

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  16. One of the things i liked best about this video (and each one in the series) is that it seems to be a great jumping off point for a conversation about morality, especially with kids.

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  17. i grew up in one of those churches that taught against original sin, so babies were safe, but once a person reached an unspecified age of accountability, then they began to sin. It was something that all men would do, but didnt have to do – jesus proved that, being sinless.

    that approach may fix the problem of god condemning others for the sins of Adam and Eve, but it presents other questions and problems; like if all men sin, if all men cant help but sin, then why should we be punished for something we cant help but do and wouldnt our creator, who created us this way, be more guilty for our sins than we?

    and then there’s the question about good people. If an atheist is a better person and a particular christian (they help more people, gossip less, hurt less people, think better thoughts, etc) then you’d think they were a better person. But god doesnt count that, according to the bible the good atheist will be condemned because of his disbelief where the mediocre believer will be saved because he believes. does this mean that god is more like a spoiled and egotistical child that he weighs what others think of him more so than he weighs their actual production?

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  18. @Nate

    Do these same Christians then believe the Jesus resurrection is simply a metaphor or that he was real but made a blood sacrifice for a metaphor? This makes little sense to me without original sin. Also, how or why does anyone need atonement if we didn’t literally inherit a ‘sinful’ nature (whatever that means once you remove the Adam and Eve story)? It seems this maneuver to avoid an incompatibility with science guts the theology, for surely most Christians present and past certainly believe in heritable sin and they’re the ones teaching thier kids to feel shame for just being.

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  19. William, your reasoning is spot-on … but as we both know, christians either can’t see it or if they do, they deny it and push it under the rug.

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  20. nan, many dont and wont see it. But for some, they will, in time.

    for me it began as a realization that my denomination didnt have it all right. I began by questioning my brand of christianity, but not the bible. I do think that honest search to find what was true and right often begins small, but then snowballs.

    A lot of these things I would have simply tossed aside when i was a believer, thinking I just didnt have the understanding or wisdom yet to get it. Once everything else started lining up, I was able to recall these things and realized that they made much more sense the context of human invention.

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  21. Every time a Christian brings up the concept of original sin and your need for a Savior to redeem you from that original sin, remind the Christian what the original sin actually was:

    Forbidden-fruit-eating by two of our ancient ancestors.

    It’s a silly superstition, Christians. It is no more true than that a god named Zeus lives on Mount Olympus in Greece.

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