Secular wish fulfilment

It seems clear that the origins of religious ethics lay in the pragmatic need of the earliest communities to control their members tendencies towards violence and to foster in them contrary habits of harmony and forgiveness. Religious codes began as cautionary precepts, which were projected into to the sky and reflected back on earth in disembodied and majestic forms. Injunctions to be sympathetic or patient stemmed from an awareness that these were the qualities which could draw societies back from fragmentation and self-destruction. So vital were these rules to our survival that for thousands of years we did not dare to admit that we ourselves had formulated them, lest this expose them to critical scrutiny and irreverent handling. We had to pretend that morality came from the heavens in order to insulate it from our own laziness and disregard.

Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists, Hamish Hamilton, 2012, p.79-80

It is a pity that what is ‘clear’ to de Botton was so ‘clear’ that he felt no obligation to provide evidence. He was not there back then, nor was anyone else alive today. His theory may be nothing more than a comforting thought for unbelievers to avoid the innate moral sense they have that God’s law makes demands upon them.


Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: