This is a short piece because it’s heavy and you’ll have to go into your well of solitude and ponder it.
Religions moralize mental assent, making belief a criterion of merit and disbelief a criterion of demerit. Belief gets saved and unbelief gets damned.
Here are three reasons why Humanists disagree with the moralizing of our mental life:
- Action is subject to moral judgment but thought is not subject to moral judgment. It is the essence of freethought to be unencumbered by ideational dicta. If our ideas do not eventuate in moral or immoral actions, our ideas are morally moot. Unbelief in anything cannot be a criterion of morality or immorality.
- Belief and unbelief are involuntary and therefore not subject to moral judgment. A belief that is beyond dispute and is clearly true will compel assent without a person having chosen the belief: a person will simply come to hold the compelling belief. On the other hand, a belief that is dubious will dispel assent without a person having chosen not to believe it: a person will simply not come to hold a dubitable belief. No choice takes place at all; belief and unbelief are involuntary; no moral judgment can occur.
- If a religion insists that it is true, but honest doubters doubt its truth, then the religion does not really compel assent. If a religion’s messengers yet insist upon the truth of their religion, then perhaps the messengers should be morally condemned for being un-persuasive in the service of an apodictic truth. In any event, those who are not persuaded by a religion cannot be within the purview of moral judgment.
Featured image ‘Believe’ by Thomas Hawk via Flickr
as long as our mental life does not eventuate in immoral actions.