Life Driven Purpose, pg 118

“I think “religious morality” is an oxymoron. Morality is morality, and qualifying it with the word “religious” does no strengthen it. It weakens it. (The same is true with the phrase “alternative medicine.” Medicine is medicine. Sometimes “alternative medicine” actually works, and when it does we call it “medicine.”) As I mentioned in the previous chapter, “religious morality” reduces human behavior to a monochromatic one-size-fits-all orthodoxy that is actually more dangerous than the broader humanistic principle of reducing harm. I think religion actually compromises moral judgment.”

–Dan Barker, Life Driven Purpose, pg 118



  1. @OP – “I think “religious morality” is an oxymoron. Morality is morality, and qualifying it with the word “religious” does no strengthen it. It weakens it.

    If a religious badge of authority is needed in place of some explained ethical outcome based on altruism, then the “morality” is probably dogma and doctrine dressed up as “morality”.

    We can certainly observe the effects of religiously motivated actions which their proponents CLAIM to be exercises in troooo morality!

    Other religions or splinter sects often cannot be tolerated by sects or cults – as their “faith-thinking” generates murderous disputes or hostile attacks on the civil rights of others, as they try to enforce their doctrinaire “trroooo morality” on everyone!

    An attack believed to have been sparked by a succession feud has left three people dead at a well-known Shinto shrine in Tokyo.

    The chief priestess was stabbed to death, reportedly by her brother. A bloodied Samurai sword was found at the scene, along with other knives.

    The attacker’s wife also took part in the ambush on Thursday evening, police say, injuring the priestess’s driver.

    The male attacker then stabbed his wife to death before killing himself.

    A longstanding feud

    The attack began when the 58-year-old priestess, Nagako Tomioka, got out of her car at the shrine and was confronted by her brother, Shigenaga Tomioka, 56, and his wife, said to be in her 30s.

    The wife reportedly attacked the priestess’s driver, stabbing him with a sword. The driver fled the scene, pursued by the woman. Police said there was a trail of blood down the road but the driver’s wounds were not life-threatening.

    The priestess suffered a deep stab wound to her chest, along with a laceration on the back of her neck, and was later pronounced dead.

    The suspects then moved to another part of the shrine’s grounds.

    “We believe the male suspect stabbed the woman before stabbing himself,” a police spokesman said.

    Shintoism is Japan’s indigenous religion.

    The essence of Shinto is its spirits, or kami,
    to which its followers are devoted.
    The kami are said to intervene in human lives
    if treated well by followers.

    The shrine is an essential part of Shinto.
    Along with rituals, the shrines are used
    to communicate with the kami.
    Devotees have a close relationship with their local shrine
    and often have a small shrine-altar at home.

    Shinto has no god, no founder and no scripts.
    It is regarded as less of a religion, more as a way of life.

    The name Shinto comes from Chinese characters
    for Shen (divine being), and Tao (way) and means
    Way of the Spirits.

    There are some 80,000 shrines, and about as many Shinto priests,
    in Japan but female priests make up only
    a tiny fraction of the number.

    About 80% of Japan's population practise some form of Shinto.

    According to local media, the murders were sparked by a longstanding succession feud between the priestess and her brother.

    Mr Tomioka had himself been chief priest of the shrine, having taken over from his father in the 1990s, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

    However, he was sacked in 2001 and their father returned to the position as main priest, installing his daughter Nagako Tomioka as the second-ranked in the shrine. It was not clear why he was removed.

    During those years, the suspect is said to have sent threatening letters to his sister and was arrested in 2006 after sending her a note saying he would “send her to hell”.

    After their father retired in 2010, Ms Tomioka became the chief priestess, breaking with a Shinto shrine umbrella organisation after it failed to rubberstamp the succession, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

  2. This is called “Richard’s paragraph of the week” but I can’t believe that Richard Dawkins actually chooses these paragraphs. They are often banal and are always drawn from a very limited number of publications. Dan Barker should be retired from comment – there’s a limit to the amount of preaching from an ex-Christian preacher that I should be subjected to. Surely the intellectual quality of our community deserves better – perhaps paragraphs from books by Sam Harris, Dan Dennett, Christopher Hitchens or Richard himself?

  3. Morality is morality… Yes.

    Here’s another paragraph, Macropus. Nietzsche is discussing conventional morality:

    Morality makes stupid.– Custom represents the experiences of men of earlier times as to what they supposed useful and harmful – but the sense for custom (morality) applies, not to these experiences as such, but to the age, the sanctity, the indiscussability of the custom. And so this feeling is a hindrance to the acquisition of new experiences and the correction of customs: that is to say, morality is a hindrance to the development of new and better customs: it makes stupid.

  4. Dan,

    Good stuff.

    My term is “moral dogma” and for me is the very toxin in religion itself. It incapacitates through atrophy the ability to see new suffering.

  5. Morality is morality… Yes.

    Sarcasm. Tautological.

    Yes, that’s right, Phil. How about: “to see suffering in a new way”? Or is that superfluous?

  6. Phil, others

    I had a dream the night before last. This is true. And I think it was prompted by listening to all of these Right wing politicians and pundits. I have been watching a lot of TV, watching the horror of Trump and his reactionary agenda being defended by con men and degenerates. Anyway, In the dream I was sitting with some people I have known throughout the years. They are all friends yet all religious in their own way; they all believe in “God”. I was filled with rage and a desire to get through to them once and for all. “What is God, to you?” I shouted? “Is God comprised of matter? No? Does God occupy space? No? It’s immaterial? And yet it has knowledge and power? Don’t you see how absurd that is? There is no evidence to support such a claim! It’s madness!” On and on I went. My friends just smiled, as if they knew something that I didn’t, and I started to feel a sense of futility; nothing I could say would have any effect. I then woke up.

  7. @OP – “I think “religious morality” is an oxymoron.
    Morality is morality,
    and qualifying it with the word “religious” does not strengthen it.
    It weakens it.

    It does not only weakens it. In many instances, it totally undermines it!

    As Phil points out @#4, it replaces altruistic ethics with mindless bigoted applications of mythology derived dogma!

    Consequently we get people afflicted with social and life-threatening medical problems by the ignorant dogmatists who claim to be “pro-respect for life” or mutilations in the name of “sexual morality” – along with abusive allegedly “moral bigotry”, against sexual minority groups or particular races!

  8. Dan

    I then woke up.

    If only all those others would…, smug cowards, all.

    I like to think of the “franchise of the suffering”. Without religion it ever widens, roping in, in fellowship, the once despised, the once derided.

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