Family and society itself are the fundamental ones. Schools, sport clubs, Boy Scouts, and many other organizations for children try to teach them moral values. I coach my son’s soccer team and most of the time I spend telling the kids not to push each other, to share the ball with others, etc. (they are four years old).
Do adults need to be taught how to behave? I recommend, ...hmm, ... a jail?
Sorry, dear, didn’t know you had posed this question already…it appears that I just posed the same one on an existing thread…“you just can’t win with a believer”....just couldn’t wait to get your own topic huh?? hahhahhaa
I tried to give something of an indirect answer to this question HERE.
But as for “bringing people together” ... jobs, libraries, public schools, the armed forces, there are plenty of non-sectarian places where people are brought together regularly. “Teaching moral values” is a bit trickier, since firstly, it’s not clear that we really do need to teach people moral values. Moral values are learned by enculturation, and partly are inbred by simple genetics. It’s not clear at all that one can learn them from a book.
Secondly, insofar as we get into the breadth of disagreement about moral values, a Christian is not going to say that a Moslem has learned them properly, and vice versa. The problem for a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society is how to inculcate a core secular group of moral values ... ones that can be shared (if unsteadily) by all members of the conversation.
This project cannot, inherently be done by one or another sectarian religious institution.
Thanks for the replies. I didn’t know ensorcelled had asked this question. I read both threads.
What I’m encountering now more than anything is sheer unwillingness to discuss the issue beyond a certain point. And I think my own ability to be practical and respetful have limitations, which means I end up using a word or making an argument that simply offends some people. Most of the time I don’t even realize I’m doing it.
Its very difficult to keep in mind that some people simply have not been exposed to the idea that they can be exposed to ideas.
OK, yes, well it’s a good point you made, but probably could have been done better with more neutral language. (E.g., “Isn’t he being intentionally nasty?”)
The “ill equipped to understand the Bible” line is odd. I mean, how are we supposed to equip ourselves for that task? The Bible is itself (at times) a nasty work, full of contradictions and outright sadism. Seems to me the only way we can “understand” the Bible in any way that makes it a consistent and moral document is simply to snip out the parts we don’t agree with.
I would argue that specific moral or ethical principles do need to be learned, though there is probably and innate tendancy to certain underlying ideas (empathy, the intentional stance, recirpocal altruism, etc). I think in America today, at least, most of that learning happens in the family and the school, guided by parents and teachers, with lots of contributions, for good or ill, by participation in other group activities and the media. I think even for most ostensibly religious people in this country, deliberate instruction in values guided by the Bible and taking place in, or under the auspices of, a church is a relativley minor contribution to what children learn about good behavior and how to interact with others.
The larger argument people like Antonin Scalia make, that Christianity and the 10 Commandments are the foundation for law and morality even if they are then elaborately in secular contexts, is I think demonstrably false. As has already been pointed out, values and ethics and laws have changed greatly over time, and most Christians have to engage in strenuous mental contortions to justify the horrendous statments in the Bible with their own ethical positions. Religion has often been a vehicle for the codification and transmission of ethical and moral principles, but it is not the origin of these principles, and in most dveloped societies today, even our own exceptionally religious one in the U.S., this role has largely been taken over by secular institutions.
Well, as I said I think the public schools are a huge force for ethical education. My daughter is just finishing kindergarten, and there’s at least as much teaching about behavior and feelings and discrimination, and environmental responsibility as there is about reading and math. Now, granted she goes to a chartered public school in No. California. I know from my years in SC and TX and my wife’s NC/GA upbringing that there are big differences in school systems from region to region, but I think even the worst are at least ostensibly secular institutions by law (if not always completely so in fact), and they all work ethics into the curriculum in both obvious and subtle ways. I managed to avoid religion pretty well as a child, and yet I seem to have learned at least a set of moral values (though the religious would probably say the wrong set as I’m one of those liberals they keep warning evrybody about).
Otherwise, as George mentioned, sports organizations teach values like teamwork, perserverance and determination, sportsmanship, etc. Science museums teach about responsibility to the planet. Public libraries often have outreach programs for assistance for the disabled and the elderly, donation drives for the poor, etc. And, of course there’ CFI!! I think a family has to make a deliberate effort to avoid these sources of moral teaching if they want to rely primarily on religion. My brother-in-law is an evangelical Christian, and he home schools his kids to prevent to moral pollution of the public schools, he monitors TV closely to avoid liberal propoganda like Sesame Street, and so on. It’s a lot of work to try and get all your values from religion these days, and it’s unlikely even he follows many of the more bizarre recommendations of his holy text.
Here’s an example of the sort of thing being done in our local public school:
Today C’s daughter, A, hosted a “Hunger Assembly” for our entire school. The idea is to create a lunch that is rationed out close to what the world’s people actually eat. Ten percent of the people are the rich people who have plenty to eat. Thirty percent of the people are middle class and eat well enough to survive. That leaves sixty percent of the world’s people go hungry every day. Before the assembly each member of our class randomly picked a color out of a bag that had colors already percentaged. Ten percent were orange. Thirty percent were blue. And sixty percent picked red. Once the learners arrived for “lunch” they were told where to go, depending on their color. Red tickets were sent to the rice & water line. They ate on the floor with no utensils. Blue tickets were sent to the rice, beans, and water line. They got to eat at a table with a spoon. The orange tickets were escorted to one of two completely set tables, flowers included. They were served food like chicken, rolls, juice and more. They even got ice cream for desert! A and her partner shared a powerpoint presentation which told us all the facts about world hunger. Back in our classroom we discussed how the “rich” people didn’t care about the “poor” people, that they even laughed at the “poor.” The “poor” people were sad that they didn’t get ice cream. Overall, the hunger assembly gave us all something to think about.
We’re in a pretty affluent area so most of the kids are from pretty well-off backgrounds, though as a public school with a district-wide enrollment policy there are students from all socioeconomic levels. There was certainly some controversy about the exercise as some of the younger kids (<7) found it pretty upsetting, both to be in the “poor” group and to be in the rich group and booed by everyone else, as happened at one point. Still, I think it was a fantastic bit of teaching.
We still have, of course, a pretty religious comunity. As one of the classroom volunteer parents, I make my little statements every day (leaving “under God” out of the pledge, Darwin fish on the car, contributing skeptical replies to e-mail discussions about homeopathic remedies, etc), and I’ve had several discussions already with my daughter about how we’re different in not going to a church or praying like a lot of her friends. But, of course, it’s a lot less hostile an environment for someone like me than the other places I’ve lived, and I feel for those here who have to deal with much more fervent believers and greater prejudice. Yet another reason why this forum is a haven for us all! :grin:
[Boy, Doug, do I hate this totally copulated up system of not being able to go back and see the posts to which one is responding.]
Jv, I share your frustration, and usually wrote my responses using my quite adequate vocabulary of four and seven letter Anglo-Saxon words. Then I’d preview it and translate most of those words into more acceptable ones. However, as in the example above, I sometimes let my anger show through.
I think Brennan’s example of his daughter’s school was excellent. A small suggestion I might have made to the teachers is to ask the kids whether, if they had been the rich ones, they would have and should have shared their food with the poor ones.
And there’s a major difference between teaching and learning. The churches preach moral values, but if you look at the behavior of both their leaders and a great many of their members you can see they are only giving morality lip service. They can’t take credit for being the arbiters of morality as long as we see such frequent examples of adultery, larceny, bribery, pedophilia, malfeasance, murder, etc. among the members and leaders of almost all the religions and religious sects of the world.