The True Origins of a Specious Argument

The faithful often try to tell us that without god the world would collapse into chaos.  They claim that god provided us with laws or commandments to live by and that societies base their laws on them.  This strikes me as a rather arrogant assumption that overlooks some very basic history.

In fact, the relationship probably works the other way around.  Religion took its laws from those that already existed.  Let’s look at the ten commandments, for example.  It is claimed that they brought rules to a world without any.  The implication is that people ran around killing, stealing, and raping with impunity before them.  But codes of law had been written long before the alleged burning into stone.  Hammurabi’s Code was written 400-500 year’s earlier, and there were others before that.

Another thing about Hammurabi’s code that may seem familiar from the first testament is the eye for an eye justice it espoused.  Fire and brimstone Christians will recognize much of what they believe and stand for in it.  So, rather than codes of law being based on the ten commandments, it seems to be the other way around.

This is not the only time that the old was recycled into something new by a religion.  Many older ideas, stories and myths from various cultures have been integrated into them.

So, where did these laws come from?  What inspired them, if not some kind of divine intervention?  Where did the moral authority come from?  The answer is rather mundane, actually.  These laws were come up with as a practical solution for managing the problems of the growing city states in the ancient world.

As settlements grew into towns, and towns grew into cities, it became necessary to govern the behaviour of the growing populations.  A system was needed.  Property had to be recognized.  Order had to be established.  Rules were needed to make clear what was allowed and what wasn’t.

The fact that civilization emerged at all probably indicates that those who would kill their neighbours and take their property were always in the minority.  If they weren’t, they would have killed off the more passive minority and then fought each other.  So, it seems the majority of people have always been inclined towards co-operation and peaceful co-existence, at least at the local level.

Practical problem solving using rationality and common sense.  Isn’t that how most things get done?

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5 Responses to “The True Origins of a Specious Argument”

  1. Disillusionment « Bloggin’ Off Says:

    […] need to teach children a new system of ethics based on rationality, common sense, and truth – not fear of a god or eternal damnation.  It has to be done from an early age, in school.  They […]

  2. A Caveman’s Theory « Bloggin’ Off Says:

    […] the Jewish mythology surrounding Moses and the exodus from Egypt came along.  This was followed by Christianity, which infiltrated the Roman empire all […]

  3. porzitsku Says:

    ** Practical problem solving using rationality and common sense. Isn’t that how most things get done? **

    Actually, probably not. Most important things get done because of an emotional need to get it done, not because logic or reason dictates that the thing get done. The alternative is nice and orderly, but does not exist in reality.

    The Golden Rule is “do unto others” not “he who has the gold makes the rules.” However, throughout history, the faux golden rule has, well, ruled. Yet there are people who follow the Golden Rule. They do unto otehrs as they would have others do unto them.

    Where did this attitude come from? I submit that a) man is not capable of altruism on his own, and b) the concept therefore had to come from outside man.

    All arguments and explanations come down to this: It had to come from a place with superior moral authority. Nothing fits that concept except God.

    If anyone has an argument that belies or confutes this premise, have a go. I’m listening.

  4. paulmct Says:

    Really? So solutions to engineering problems, business problems, scientific problems, etc. aren’t found by methodically applying rationality and common sense? Emotional needs may help identify some problems, but I’ve never heard the Great Wall of China, Roman aqueducts, or internet were built on emotion. To state that rational problem solving does not even exist only reveals your lack of awareness.

    Did I mention anything in the article about the golden rule being related to money? I don’t think I did. Why bring it up?

    Similarly, I did not mention altruism at any point. What does it have to do with anything? Altruism is the practice of putting others before yourself. The post is about society and laws. This is based on a social contract. It is not altruistic. It is a mutual, collective relationship benefitting all. Altruism is supposedly a one way relationship benefitting the recipient only, although it could be argued it has a selfish element in that the altruist feels good about him/herself. That kind of pride or self-satisfaction is a very human emotion not requiring a god (and actually a sin, according to some religions).

    You don’t present a very logical argument and, in fact, didn’t even address the subject of the post.

  5. Showdown: Law of the Land vs. God’s Law « Bloggin’ Off Says:

    […] some changes to the Charter may actually be possible.  The changes would have to make it clear secular laws come before religious laws, that there are principles that outrank religious belief.  Those changes could […]

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