Here is a copy of a reply post in a thread sort of similar to the "Nihilism and Horror Philosophy" where someone was asking me about religion, morality, 'good'/'evil' etc. It took a while to write and I thought it might be useful to add it to this thread as well:
" dclements thank you for your detailed answer, i also hope some other people would also read and contribute to this conversation."
Your welcome. :D
"You have pointed out some interesting themes where any of them i would lie to talk about, but one of the most interesting ones for me is just in your first sentence where sadly you mention that doesn't interest you much, that is the relation of good and evil with religion. If you don't mind I would like to start as beginning point on this, at least not what is good and evil in religion, but the relation of it with these terms.
The question i would have would definitely be "would there be good and evil if there was not religion and no punishment and reward for these actions after death" at all. This could be a difficult question for me to answer at once. To answer this question let's think this question first; "Which one was first in timeline: first religion or the invention of terms good and bad"? I don't think there would be any way to figure out the answer of this question also. This or alike sub-questions that would try to support answering first question will hardly bring us to a real answer, so not spending too much time on them, let's go to first question in simple way "if there was no religion, would there be good and bad?". This question is nearly impossible to answer in an absolute way cause there would be too much unknown and too many variables to consider about including human itself and relations with its social environment."
Your kind of getting into some of the over thinking of things that I usually like to avoid but I guess that is "Ok" for now. If you can try to separate your thinking into two different tasks where one task you can either ask questions and/or speculate on whatever and the other is to merely collect data without asking too many questions or try to interpret the data in any way than what it is. You can think of this as some sort of medieval form of scientific inquiry on whatever but I believe it is not that far different than how they go about things today. The purpose of such methods is to sort of take take a snapshot and preserve whatever it is being monitored before the people that are allowed to speculate on the data can molest it for their own purposes. Maybe you can envision and understand the purpose of this but I will leave it at that for now.
Anyways your question if it could be easily answer would be worthy of a few doctoral thesis for sure if it was to be done properly, but since I don't have the time or resources for that I will have to rely on a more quicker and messier method. Man most likely discovered religion/ethics right about the time he evolved from animal to be something of what we consider to be human. While it is possible for man to have do this even earlier or for animals to have kind of ethics and religion, what we consider to be "ethics" and/or "religion" is to be a uniquely human trait (at least how it is defined in Western societies) I will stick with this version of it since it is the easier thing to do and will unlikely make a difference.
I'm no anthropologist but I believe it is likely the most of the first ethical/religious type questions and actions done by early man was a cross between day to day survival ( ie. primitive pragmatism) and early ceremonies and questioning about nearly anything. It might be hard to imagine why early man would bother to bury their dead or start rituals, but if you look at Shintoism (a primitive religion still practiced in Japan) you will see how the line between religious ceremony and common, if not occasionally odd social practices (like the Shiners with their funny hats and tiny motorcycles at parades) are not that far apart. If you think of it parades while not exactly the same thing as religious ceremony they are close enough to be the same thing in certain cultures. Anyways for me they are mostly the same thing and since I doing this the quick/dirty method I'll again just leave it at that and that most if not all religious ceremonies are just a kind of social ritual of one sort or another covered with a little bit of fluff so even if we didn't have 'religions' we would still have some sort of social/religious ceremonies of one sort or another just because it is part of human nature.
Ok, at this point I'm going to have to do something to make things quicker by mentioning that my viewpoint is influenced by Julian Jaynes's "Bicameralism" and his book "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" even though I have never really read the book. To the best of my knowledge his belief was that early man had kind of a "split personality" where at some times he operated as a simple minded individual that didn't think to much for themselves (or at least even more simple minded than many simple minded people today that still do the same) and a second ego that was tied directly to the Super or "God" ego. While not really the same thing in certain insect of other than human societies there is a kind of hive mind at play. Certain individuals in the group do the actual leg work of thinking about things and other members of the hive mostly focus on carrying out the tasks that need to be done. I like to think of the thinkers as some kind of 'chiefs' (who's job is sometimes made easier by other doing most of the physical work for them) and the other people as, as well just workers or drones since Indians doesn't have a good ring to it. The funny thing is that these workers or plebs can often do the job of thinking for themselves by merely asking themselves "what would the chief tell me to do" whenever they get cut off from their tribe. Or at least they could do that kind of thing long enough until they often got reconnected with them if they knew enough about how to survive. Anyways the theory goes that this mentality fell apart as soon as tribes got much bigger and people no longer had any real "chief" to rely on to tell them what to do, or at least any person that really act like a chief when too many other people also try and pretend to be a chief. Also the theory goes that there is a residual aspect of this mentality with us, and of course if this theory is true it would do a lot to explain the what, where, when, and whys of religion but it is mostly still just a theory and I believe there is still a lot of controversy and problems with it.
However if what Julian Jaynes and Bicameralism says is mostly true than religion was created as a kind of leftover mentality to help deal with our inability to function without a hive or tribal mind. It might also help to explain a bit why human beings tend to form hierarchical if not corrupt social structures since the beginning of time but some of that would be beyond this topic. For me ad my view of things it is merely a means to explain a lot of 'fluff' with religion/ethics that I usually like to ignore and/or explain away with the excuse that it is because, well it is just seems counter-protective to me.
Another issue I will mention is the binary/false dilemma. Whenever anyone talks about "good" and "evil" they often will have the tendency to think that something has to be one or the other much like some people think some answers have to be yes or no or how Beavis and Butthead would think that something was either cool or sucks. However characteristics or attributes of something in our world is more often than not more complicated than can be merely summed up in either one or two states. Even in digital logic where circuits are built specifically for their ability to be able to represent either '0' or '1', the actual implementation/dynamics of the circuits are more complicated and messy so the idea of them being a mere bit storing either a 0 or 1 isn't the whole truth. I'm getting a little bit long winded here but the point I'm trying to make is reality is often more complicated than can be represented in simple 'good'/'evil' labeling or any other models or labeling we can think of at the moment. I could on about other fallacies and how they effect our judgement but pointing out one, along with some of the issues of how religion can effect our judgement (whether for good or bad) should do for the moment.
Ok, so after all that we are left with a simple but real question which is "What action or actions(and/or thoughts) should I take that are best for me that would allow me to have the best life possible and/or the best outcome for both me and everyone else.". You see underneath all the fluff or morality, religion, and whatever else, ethics is merely a tool we use to survive. It is really nothing more and nothing less than this, however every waking moment of your existence is governed by the problems and issues that ethics tries to grapple with so it would be hard for me to stress enough the actual importance of it when everything we do requires us fall back to our 'simple tools' in order to fix or guide things in our lives.
Another way to break it down, is that ethics (and/or religion depending on how and what you define as religion) is instrumental in not only the big questions that primitive man use to really on their chiefs for, but also their supposedly mundane tasks they did each day to survive. I guess this in a way answers your question "if there was no religion, would there be good and bad" which would be both yes and no in that 'yes' people would still have to rely on some kind of system of beliefs in order to answer the question as to what they 'ought' to do (which in itself wouldn't be completely different from ethic/ religious/ ideological type thinking that we have today but also 'no' in that it isn't a given that such thinking would frame our actions and problems in the same way as today when some people say such and such are 'good' while something else is 'evil'. In other words there would or could be something of a "paradigm shift" where our system of seeing/talking/labeling of the world around us would be differnt than it had been before.
Hopefully I answered enough to move on at least for now...
"Until now i just wanted to show that there seems to be no direct way of answering the correlation between religion and good and bad relation directly. In such cases what i would like to do is go through the current phase, because current phase is the result of what have been in the past, without knowing the real reasons of what created them. This may not bring us to a point of absolute reality, but may bring us to a point where at least satisfies us to live with our questions in our minds."
In my way of thinking about things religion/ ethics/ morality/ ideology/ labeling things 'good'or 'bad/ and even any kind of system of beliefs you can think of are ALL MERELY LABELS FOR THE SAME THING. When your talking about someone's religion, your talking about how and/or why they choose to look at the world a certain way and how the act based on it. When your talking about someone's ideology, your talking about how and/or why they choose to look at the world a certain way and how the act based on it. When your talking about when someone chooses to label things either 'good'or 'bad, your talking about how and/or why they choose to look at the world a certain way and how the act based on it. When your talking about someone's morality, your talking about how and/or why they choose to look at the world a certain way and how the act based on it. When your talking about even any system of beliefs they may use to get about their day, your talking about how and/or why they choose to look at the world a certain way and how the act based on it. I'm being kind of repetitive and I know each of those terms don't mean EXACTLY the same thing but in my humble opinion more often than not it isn't necessary to split hairs on how they are different when dealing with some of the more complicated stuff.
"I don't want to discuss religions deeply, but according to my perception of the world that we live on today, for majority of people including me, good and bad are related to religion. How i come to this point is the outside world taught me like this because i see on movies and on televisions and on holy religions this way. So looking at the current situation i think good and bad are thought to me and they are related with religion.
We can go to a different point from here, but if we can justify the thesis "good and evil is related with religion" that would be good starting point. Open to suggestions of course on how to continue."
If you have ever read post modern philosophy you might familiar with the terms 'narrative' and 'context'. In layman terms, a 'narrative' is kind of like a giant story that is told to everyone from the time they are kids to when they become adults and the term 'context' is term use to describe how something relates to narrative but more or less means the same thing as a narrative. As inside larger or main narrative there can be another smaller narratives or sub narratives much like there are sub plots within the main plot of a movie; and possibly smaller/sub narratives within those.The concept of a narrative/context can be both simple and complex because while they are something the same thing as mere religion and morality they are also concern with things like social norms, psychology social conditioning, various kind of subtle and/or benign brainwashing,etc.
To give you an example of how this works a type passage in post modern philosophy using the words narrative to say something might go something like this "the word 'good' and 'evil' only have meaning withing the context of the narrative they are derived from, but outside of that narrative they could be meaningless and/or moot". While someone who believes in 'good' and 'evil' could argue that that is not true and that their concepts of the world around them really has good and evil in it, the problem is left open for debate.
For the post modernist saying this, it is possible or probable that 'good' and 'evil' are merely labels/mental constructs of the world around us but may not actually represent how or what the world actually is. Even if they are wrong and mistaken in some way (and the guy who says such and such are 'good' or 'evil' is ACTUALLY correct in some way) is position is STILL SOUND AND 'Ok' from his point of view and for people that think like him. The reason for this is he is not arguing whether such and such are actually good or evil, but merely the possibly there being issue with how we label things good or evil. He likely also aware that even his own question of labeling of good and evil is in large part due to his own narrative that he is drawing from and since other people's narrative could be biased/flawed it (hopefully) would be as much of a surprise to him to eventually notice a thing or not correct in his own system of beliefs, even if that sometime takes a bit of time.
Ok, I finally got to the part where I need to reference the medieval scientist's data collectors. To quickly recap the data collectors (whether it is being done then or now) are only allowed to collect data and are nether allowed to 'fudge' the information/numbers nor add any kind of opinion into their process of collecting data. If you ever studied statistics and/or how people are able to 'lie' and/or cherry pick with it, you should understand why it needs to be done that way. If there needs to be any lying and or cherry picking actually done, it will be the data collector's superiors who have the authority to draw opinions and conclusions about such things. However the beauty such a system is the raw data can still be referenced by others (if it isn't destroyed, which could create more problems for the people who wish to destroy it than it is worth to do that) if they what to draw their own opinions about it.
In a system where collecting the data and drawing opinions is being done at the same time (which is how human thinking is done most of the time) any kind of data that we can find useful has a better chance to be shewed. The reason I'm bring this up is since you are wondering what it looks like to live in a world not influenced by 'good'/'evil', religions, etc all you got to do is think like one of these data collectors for a little while and you will start having a better grasp on it. While I'm sure you or anyone reading this may realize that writing down numbers appearing on a senor and deciding whether to lie to a killer who asked you to tell him where your friend is hiding are two completely separate things, there is actually a simple work around for that. But I probably should reference Hume in order to do that.
Hume's most famous quote (or at least the quote of his I know best) is "you cannot get an ought from an is". In layman terms this means that the actions one believes they should carry out for their greatest benefit (the 'ought' part of the post) CANNOT be derived by the mere facts and/or data (which is the 'is' he is referencing) that one is able to access at the time of that decision. That could sound really bad, since we but often derive and 'ought' when put in a certain situation and that choice isn't too rarely probably the best course of action at the time; whether we really had enough or not enough information/resource to go by. But the wrinkle is even if we are 'Ok' with getting an ought from an is throughout our lives, we are also aware of how fallible our thinking and actions can be and we also know that such 'judgement calls' can be full of issues and human error. Another way to look at it is every time you DO derive an 'ought' from an is and make one of these judgment calls, YOU HAVE TO RELY ON YOUR OPINION (or your best guess if you prefer to call it that) instead of actually being able to simply use the facts around you to determine what to do. I think Kierkegaard mentioned something about life being open ended because of this,but I can't remember too clearly if this was what he was talking about. Hopefully I'm not getting too long winded by now.
Anyways all this would be merely a kind of awful retentive for ethics except it can be applied to desensitizing ethical questioning and inquiry. While mere data can no longer apply to determine what need to do, the process of how data is used has determined (or at least in the how it works in the model I'm describing). While the paradigm shift isn't completely obvious, it isn't too hard to flesh out for you (or anyone reading this) who isn't already aware of what I'm talking about, of course that is if you don't understand.
For example it is a fact that you have to put gas in your car to go, but it isn't a fact that you ought to put gas in your car to make it go. The reason I used this example is it shouldn't be that hard to realize that for people that drive cars there often isn't a question of whether they should put gas in their car if they need to get somewhere but at the same time it is also obvious that it isn't a given that people should be taking that course of action at certain times.Also it is obviously a fact that cars need gas to go somewhere where needing to go somewhere is obviously not a fact, or at least it is almost is obviously not a fact.
A tougher example would be " is isn't a given a doctor 'ought' to give a patient a life saving vaccine/medicine/treatment/etc if doing so will save their life". Obviously saying something like this at the wrong time and/or place can get me B-slapped by someone that disagrees (which is part of the reason I use it) but I hope that anyone emotional just reading this can put such this to the side for one moment. In a narrative that relies too much on 'good' and 'evil' there is obviously a dilemma here. I'm sure some people can say saving someone is almost always 'good' and choosing to not help them is almost 'evil' and that there might be some exceptions here or there, but even that kind of open mindedness is incomplete. The thing that is being overlooked even in that context is that whether or not the doctor chooses to try and save someone depends if they believe that a human life is worth saving, which isn't as much of given (in Hume's type analyzing of things) as it is often a given in the 'good'/'evil' framework of things.
If you take that even one step further and start asking the questions such as " 'ought' we do everything to prevent wars and/or mass deaths of human being by other events", "is it a given that human beings/ the human race ought to survive","is a a given that humans 'ought' to pursue knowledge and progress to the best of our ability", "is it a given that my life has value and I ought to do everything in order to live" you might end up in area where John Pride was in his opening post if you are not in the right mindset when pondering such things. Depending on your frame of reference and how one ponders such things such questions can lead to skepticism, fallibilism, nihilsim and such. Anyways hopefully this kind of wraps up things as I started with primitive religions and ended with talking about some aspects of Post modernism and the issues dealt with by nihilsim and similar philosophies.
If there is some confusion it might help by listening to an old Jane's Addiction song called 'Ain't No Right' which is sort of about the issue at hand:
Jane's Addiction - Ain't No Right (Video)
(One of my favorite parts of the video is when he gets hit by a shoe that someone threw at him at the concert)
Also one final note, this whole "can't get an 'ought' from an 'is' ", no good and evil, nihilism, etc isn't about it being a better system of morality/religion or whatever since all my arguments can be construed as one kind of hedonism or another (I like to label myself as a hedonistic nihilist, but I'm obviously trying to be cute when I do that).and anyone that knows something about hedonism could come up with reasons it is not so great. At any rate I hope I sort of got you where you wanted/needed to go.