If we are further away from perfection, why are we more moral?
Judeo / Christian ethics has had an enormous impact on the world.
This is very much like an abusive and violent husband claiming he has been an influential figure in the development of policies and practices on domestic violence. Yes, he sure has been influential but not in the self-flattering way he thinks. Ditto, Judeo/Christian ethics - yes they have had an impact, but not the favourable one believers imagine. This sort of whitewash tripe obscures the actual reason the world is in many ways a more moral place than it once was.
Biblical morality is preoccupied with ownership and people's private consensual acts but not at all concerned about human rights, including children's rights. It was the secular Enlightenment that built awareness of the just and lawful treatment of humans that paved the way for significant changes in law and legislation. If anything, Christianity opposed - and often still does - human rights. As has been observed by others, Christianity provides perhaps the best religious outlook possible if you're male, property owner and have your own business. But if you're in any way a minority - e.g., ethnically, culturally, gender, sexual orientation - Christianity will be a force for oppression - unless you belong to a branch of Christianity that has strayed from its historical roots and adopts features of the Enlightenment.
(Erratum: the Enlightenment was essentially an 18th century affair) What it demonstrated was that the fixtures of monarchy and religious power were working against the interests of the French population in particular, and were outmoded generally. In principle these two evils were highly undemocratic since they favoured the rich and perpetuated their entitlement to undue privilege. The philosophes offered reason as a substitute for religious superstition.
It might be said that early Christianity attempted to create a God centered society and by the fifth century it was being enforced as a political instrument in the ailing Late Roman Empire. In reality Christianity's weaknesses were apparent right from the start. There are very few contemporary secular texts on the subject but one from the early second century by the Stoic and rationalist Epictetus (pron; epic teetus) called the Jesus Christians "Galileans" to distinguish them from other christian sects. He felt a philosophical sympathy with their calmness in facing death but noted their passivity and gullibility in believing holy things.
Christianity like all irrational belief has a lot to answer for. The response has got to be the the Enlightenment ideal of reason before faith.
Morality has nothing to do with religion and religion has nothing to do with morality .
Lets get that straight.
RT, I can't reconcile an increase in disease today with my perception of the past?
Homo sapiens is a young species and while having begun to turn towards organising ourselves for the betterment of all, we remain for the time being at the level of raw recruits working out how to do it. This difficulty is not surprising since no other species has attempted a conscious democratic governance. Brute force was the only rule available.
Religion worked as a political unifier in the past especially when all societies were rigidly class layered but the time for blind faith in the numinous world is rapidly declining. Our species is only just setting out on a real star treck although we've hardly got off our own planet, yet surely, the technology does seem to be pointing in Roddenberry's direction?
If we take the typical life of a human in his or her development as a pattern; It seems to me that humans in the 21st century are collectively at the stage of teenagers still trying out the world, with some more grown up than others. Human society/societies have made progress and religion with faith in holy magic is no longer a beacon for the future.
The next stage toward maturity: will it be built on the foundations set up by the "philosophes" of the 19th century Enlightenment?
Mankind isn't evolving in any but the strictest scientific sense. We're degenerating physically, intellectually and spiritually. What you call adolescence, I call senility. I don't want to die, but I don't want to live to see the end either.
There have always been plagues and diseases and the lack of sanitation in ancient cities (excluding technologically advanced ones like Rome) no doubt made it even worse. But on the whole, I believe most human beings were much healthier than they are now. For starters, before the industrial revolution, the natural environment was relatively pristine. I'm a strict vegetarian more for health than out of empathy for fish and mollusks. Back then you could eat all the seafood you liked without worrying about mercury, BPAs and radiation from the Fukushima disaster.
The diet itself was also much healthier. Most people ate a lot of grains and vegetables with small amounts of meat. Despite what paleos and vegans will say, all the evidence I am aware of points to this as being the ideal diet for homo sapiens. I don't think obesity and high cholesterol was a problem for the majority of humanity until recently.
Finally, there's drugs. Alcohol was sometimes abused, but it was much rarer than today. Other drugs like opiates and psychedelics had strictly medicinal and religious uses - not like today at all. Humans today are swiftly being poisoned by the drug epidemic. Even people like me who don't indulge in anything stronger than a cup of tea are getting it into their systems just by being around addicts. Since meth started being smoked in my residence, I've developed a cough and frequent headaches. People who unwittingly buy meth houses get sick.
Intellectually, we've become worse as well. Science has demonstrated conclusively that the mind and brain are intimately connected. Toxins like mercury and fluoride have been absolutely proven, beyond any doubt, to lower the measurable intelligence of those who are exposed to them.
Literacy has increased among the general population, but only in the narrowest sense of that word. Not too long ago 'literacy' meant more than simply being able to read and understand a job application. Literate people could read something like Milton's Paradise Lost and not only understand all the words, but recognize Milton's allusions to Greek mythology and the Bible. Hell, most literate people even a hundred years ago could read the Iliad and parts of the Bible in their original language: Greek. My great aunt, who grew up poor in rural Arkansas during the great depression, could read and speak Latin fluently!
Regarding Star Trek. Yes, we are starting to develop technology reminiscent of what is seen on the show. The mp3 and digital music in general was directly inspired by an episode of TNG in which Data has the computer playing several symphonies at once. But it isn't the technology that makes Star Trek such an inspiring vision of the future; it's the people. The humans on Star Trek are nothing like 21st century humans. They are driven neither by hedonism nor greed, but by a need for self-actualization. They strive to be better tomorrow than they were yesterday. They have abundant supplies of everything they need, but their economy (at least what we see of it) seems to be driven by the needs and desires of the consumers rather than the greed of the producers to sell more products by creating an artificial demand where there was none before.
Most humans today seem to be born with a hole in their souls that can never be filled. The successful ones try fill that hole with top of the line products like cars, electronics and nice homes while the loosers fill it with junk food and drugs; but it's all the same. The entire focus of human activity has changed from one of collective spiritual salvation (whether the destination be Nirvana, Paradise or Heaven) to individual material acquisition. In the middle ages, indigents and wastrels were considered a blessing from God because they gave the more fortunate the opportunity to exercise charity. Most people were actually glad to give money to a bum because they thought it would earn them brownie points with God. Now that's all changed. Protestants see the poor as guilty of some sin, since in their theology wealth is a sign of God's favor! And atheists? Those poor bums are just loosers in the darwinian struggle for survival, so don't encourage them! And yes, I know that there are plenty of protestants and atheists who do give, I'm one of them, but helping the less fortunate does not really follow from either philosophy. It's more or less tacked on.
How ironic that the ethos of the European dark ages, in spite of all its ignorance and superstition, was much closer to the Star Trek ethos than that of our present 'enlightened', technological society. The true Enlightenment of philosophers like Descartes, Leibniz, Locke and Hume never really happened except among a small intellectual elite. If their ideals ever were to become popular, we would indeed have Star Trek. But until that happens, I often wonder if the old Catholic Christian ethos would be better than what is dominating our society at present.
The O.P concludes :- So why have we improved as a society even though we are now " so far from perfection?"
Well maybe we have improved as a society? But I believe:-
Humun bevavour is as cruel and evil as it has always been, and by the day millions starve and immorality is rampant. In fact the only pleasure I get from life is my ability to surround myself with meek, kind and compassionate, people. These people are wise enough to avoid the trap of thinking a more comfortable life equates to a more moral life.
However the irony is the average J.W gives up a more moral and comfortable life, to attach themselves to an organisation that is immoral and corrupt to the core.
conclusion:- I think we all agree in our life's we have met kind compassionate people? But i would suggest if these people are really kind and compassionate they don't need an agenda, or religion to be kind and compassionate...these local heroes are few, but worth seeking.
Rainbow_Troll My great aunt, who grew up poor in rural Arkansas during the great depression, could read and speak Latin fluently!
But could your Aunt programme a computer? Did she understand the influence of historical, contemporary and cultural factors in the development of photographic artwork, a thorough knowledge of the sciences - Particles, Quantum Phenomena and Electricity. - understand the periodic table?Biological sciences, sociology? Economics? It's not fair, of course, to have expected your Aunt to know any of these things given *when* she went to school. But that's my point. Kids now have so much more *to* know. And yes, many of them do study Miltons ' Paradise Lost' or go to a theological seminary and study the Bible. Probably far more do these things than did back then.
Well diognessister:- you raise a great point about literature. Speaking for myself I wish my 12 year old son would enjoy reading books..in the last month i have read " Robinson Crusoe, Capture on the Rye, Animal Farm etc " And for me personally I have learnt so much about the humun condition from reading these books.
My son has replied to my encouraging him to read books " Books are boring". And whilst he is so wrong, I am sure he will have a highly successful life in the modern world. My only dissapointment is that I think what my son is learning on the computer misses the humun condition I learn from reading books.
But then again the humun condition shouldn't be found in books, it should be found with how we interact with people. And the way my son has developed with modern technology is far from sub-humun. He is kind, loving, knows his identity and we love each other.
And the way my son has developed with modern technology is far from sub-humun. He is kind, loving, knows his identity and we love each other.
This is so true. My son interacts with people all over the world. He has friends in many countries, with the same interests, and has learned how much we have in common with others.
We also share with each other the interesting things we find on line, favorite comedians, movies, music, and a host of other things. We have a much better relationship than I had with my father.
Like anything, It's what you make of technology that can shape who you are. I think that we're more moral because we now have the ability see the world as a whole, and have empathy for others that couldn't exist in a society with less real time access to the problems and successes that shape the world. I know more about people and cultures than my parents did, and see the world through different eyes. I can care about the well-being of people that, in the past, I would not have known existed.
I'm not so sure. While there is certainly much to be said for modern medicine, even this benefit has been compensated by an increase in disease.
This is pretty much the JW view, despite the virtual eradication of a host of childhood diseases that once threatened children's wellbeing and mortality (whooping cough, polio, measles, chicken pox, etc). Besides, many diseases in the West nowadays are those of older age (cancer, heart disease, stroke) and, if anything, show the increased longevity of men and women in modern societies. And let's not forget how common it was in the past for women to die in childbirth - and often their babies with them; infant mortality was once very high and was one of the reasons larger families were prized. With improvement in lifestyles and health, infant mortality is now at its lowest level in recorded history.
It has also well been asked, "If this time period is so bad, when would we rather live? The middle ages where plague abounded? The 1600's when the average life span was 35 years old?"
Witness teachings say we are the "furthest point from perfection" now, and yet the quality of life is better now than at most points in human history.