previous.gif     next.gif    


by Alfred de Grazia



After a brief military campaign in the Falklands (Malvinas) Islands in 1982, memorial services for the dead of Great Britain and Argentina were held at the Cathedral of Canterbury, England. To some of the British, the idea of memorializing the Argentine dead was already irksome. Then going beyond ceremony, the Archbishop in his sermon deplored warfare, asserting that it proved the failure of a foreign policy. Whereupon he was verbally chastised by Prime Minister Thatcher and like-minded representatives of English jingoism for not having made it clear to the assembly that the British were righteous and victorious in the eyes of The God of the Established Church of England. Reasonably the one party might complain, of what use is the State Church if it does not support the State's wars? Just as reasonably, the Archbishop might say: Of what use is a religion if it cannot teach peace to politicians?

The peacemakers often go unblessed by the religions, too. Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, in his grand tome, The Bible of Mankind, compares the great world religions to the strings of a single harp each of which gives forth its own dominant note, while the harmonious blending of all produces a symphony of music. The dominant note of Hinduism is the divine presence pervading nature; of Buddhism, remuneration; of Zoroastrianism, purity; of Confucianism, filial piety; of Taoism, the path to reason; of Judaism, righteousness; of Christianity, love; of Islam, submission, and of the Bahai Cause, universality, "In their efforts to admit and confess all humanistic doctrines of religions, the Bahai have been frequently persecuted by god-fearing believers, and, even while the British were wrestling with Christian "love," the Bahai were being dispossessed and killed, allegedly for religious and statal treason , by Iranian Muslim practicing "submission" to Allah.

Secularists frequently pronounce religious slogans for lack of a substantial ethics of their own. Moral issues often intimidate secularists, too. There is a sacredness about them, a confusion, a threat, a secret, a god buried somewhere among them, a priest ready to pull one in like a fish if one takes the smallest bait.

There used to be a major area of study called "the moral sciences." It is defunct. In turn, every field of the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities has tried to extricate itself from moral responsibility and qualify for the name of science. Even practical schools of business, medicine, dentistry, law, agriculture, engineering, architecture, nursing, social welfare, etc., claim to provide an objective education; they have achieved the logically impossible feat of inculcating in their students an abundance of the best ways of doing things, while pretending not to consider good from bad, right from wrong.

We know this to be nonsense. All applied science most exhibit preferences for lines of conduct. Scientific method is itself a moral system. And just think of the vast proportion of alumni of schools who confess, with a quaver in their voices, to all that they know and owe to their alma mater. Somebody is teaching somebody something in the way of morals! What is happening?

Is this hypocrisy? Are the schools and students, the society and its people, claiming one thing and practicing another? Yes. They are using a technique that places upon an unreachable, untouchable level certain problems such as god, religion, and the supernatural, along with the associated problem of the ultimate sources of morality and their justification; they take up all other problems as only of instrumental importance, as problems of means, not ends, as problems whose solutions can be taught to burghers, brigands, and beggars alike.

Whereupon a society becomes secular, segmentalized and instrumental (hence exploitative) in its behavior as well as its morals. From many a segment are cast many grappling hooks for the larger morality, some of which catch hold and from here and there spring the many varieties of religious practices characteristic of the secularized society.

Where there is not a grappling for religion there is often a contradictory pair of behaviors: the one a specialized nose-to-the-ground empiricism, the other a hopelessly dispersed attention. The former was discussed in the last chapter as an aspect of secularism and occurs again for treatment in the next; the latter requires a few more words here. Religion generally focuses attention onto a few, high-priority objects of value; secularism dissipates attention.

Attention is itself a value imposed on whatever is attended to. It is a preference for its object, selected out of all potential substitutes as objects of attention. Attention is instinctively determined in non-human creatures and modified by parental and group training in many species; the ambiant force impinging on the creature also helps to determine the objects of its attention. As with other creatures, man's attention in part is a valuing of the object, elementary, without training, without justification.

Very few persons will even admit that their valuational life is already half described when their attention spectrum is drawn up. But so it is, pathetic as it may be.

They would like to believe that attention is a real, natural, automatic experience, about which they promptly cogitate. This is Cartesian rationalism, for does he not offer as a first principle of his Discourse on Method, cogito ergo sum, "I sense that I perceive, therefore I am," and, further, "I perceive because I want, and therefore am."

So, straightaway with birth, we fix the infant, if he had a mind to wander, upon the right, proper, goods things -- the nipple, the nurse, the movements of the nurse, her voice, his bowels moving, his eyes lightening, his muscles flexing, all following after the not so good things -- his wonderment at himself, a loss of his boundaries, a panicky feeling of loss of his warm pool, stunned dissolution exposed into infinite space.

Suppose his family to be church-goers. He is habituated to church as soon as he can be counted upon to be quiet most of the time there. Time passes, and one day, when he hears, "We are getting ready for church," he displays a mind of his own. "Why?" "Because..." "Because of what?" "Because it's Sunday." "Why do we go to church on Sunday?" "To worship God." And so on. It is almost entirely a morality of means, that carries him from one step to the next, not "really explaining."

Sometimes this begins, or he is catechized, even if he asks no questions. "Why should I worship God?" "God gives us our blessings in life." "Like ice-cream?" "Yes." And like your mother, and father, and bed to sleep in, and food to eat, to train him properly, the trainer is usually clever enough to number only things which the trainee likes. But there is small pay-off for the trainer unless he slips into the list of blessings things that he, the trainer likes. So they go to church to assure the blessings that each wants. They already have different religions, in a sense.

Still later on, the child has a habit of church-going, as a result of which, his authorities are happy to observe, he feels better with himself, when he attends, and guilty if he misses church. He knows people there, and may even enjoy an occasional service. Unfortunately for his educators, he now changes, we presume. He is bored and fidgety in church; people scowl at him. He does not get the blessings he especially wants. He is drawn to television, and wants to play baseball with the kids who do not go to church. Here are better rewards in his mind; though he has no doubt of God, God's command to "Worship Me in My House," does not get to him forcefully enough. He begins an argument with his educators that will go on for years.

What can be said of morality in this simple story? There is a great deal of moral training and moral response. The church and its religion are part of, and will always be part of the child's life. Unless he undergoes heavy secularization he will posses hundreds of ethical views that are connected directly and indirectly with his religion. Almost none of them has come about through autonomous action, reasonable analysis, a survey of cases. The morals collect upon him like fuzz upon a rubbed glass rod.

I am saying merely what dozens of writers have said before me. With regard to practically all those who have practiced religion throughout history and today, the whole of religion may be regarded as a generally effective machine to structure a collection of behaviors and bring about their enforcement. The key to the ramshackle edifice is the reduction of cosmic, existential self- fear.

For all that religion has dominated the human world from its beginnings, its ethical results have been paltry. The one thing that is supposed to justify religion is precisely the thing that religion does worst, making the human a satisfactory ethical creature.

But it must be said that religion has forever assumed the most difficult of all tasks: supplying human existence with an objective morality. The problem is multiplex: how to deal with oneself, one's inner relations; how to deal with others; how to treat with the animate and inanimate world of nature. In the end, one is supposed to be able to say "ought" confidently, to live according to the same "ought," and to be happy. In all of this, one's morality ought to be consonant with the real world and its operating principles, science, that is. Hence, morality is the governance of behavior by rules for preferring and achieving certain human and natural relations and states of being.

Unfortunately the simplest, most general rules crack under the stress of psychology and anthropology. "Don't drive while drunk" is a reasonable rule. It should readily illustrate what Emmanuel Kant meant when he propounded his famous dictum: "Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." Yet Kant's rule, though it might work to his personal satisfaction, might bring about continual disasters if it were allowed to justify others, such as many suicidal and dying persons who would be pleased to have the whole world die with them. Even the drunk may a) deny that he cannot drive safely, b) suggest that everyone should enjoy a drunken drive from time to time, or c) suggest that drunken driving is a good way to play the necessary game of half-wishing self-destruction. If he does not express such ideas, it may be because he realizes that the police make no distinction between common drunks and drunk philosophers. But now we speak of authority, not Kantian rationalism.

If we ask what functions are performed by an ethical judgment, we get a more lively sense of this feeling. Feeling ethical, one praises or reprimands, one rewards and punishes another. This sometimes changes the behavior of the targets of such feelings in the direction desired by the moralist. More broadly, then, one exhibits a preference in order to arouse enthusiasm or indignation, to rally support. One raises an ethical feeling in order to determine a policy, and to get on with affairs in an orderly organized way. None of this would be done without our or someone's expression of value.

Subjectively, too, the very power to make an ethical judgment is a satisfaction in itself, which often is sufficient unto itself, regardless of consequences. To express one's feelings is in fact synonymous with giving vent to ethical judgments.

Alongside all of these functions is the one which religions stress but which very few people feel regularly, that is, to carry out the will of the gods or of the supernatural or fate or nature, because an ordinary resort to this function floods the sluiceways of personal and collective action; it is usually blocked very early in its manifestation. However, it can be the most powerful of all functions of ethical judgments, as we see in the Crusades, the Islamic conquests, or nowadays the rule over Iran by Khomeini. We can agree. These are the functions of words. Man is irretrievably consigned to a life crowded with them. Morals are now a heap of functions as well as forces.

Thousands of unsuccessful moral philosophers attest to the frustrations abounding in the pursuit of morals. Voyaging to the Moon is less difficult than the problems of morally justifying the effort involved in the accomplishment. Nonetheless, all humans behave morally and always have. By moral behavior we mean acting one way rather than another because, among other reasons, one feels that it is right and good, and that not acting that way would be wrong and bad. This "feeling" is a "real" thing, physiologically compelling, with physical disturbance and mental states called frustration, indignation, anger, humiliation, and anxiety if the moral act is not performed and euphoria, satisfaction, and physical and mental relaxation if it is performed.

The easiest way to "solve" the moral question is to deny it, that is, to assert that people feel moral or immoral, right or wrong, in consequence of a heap of experience, commands, forces, and natural traits. There would be found in this heap no specific independent moral quality. Morality then is no more than what is in the definition above, "among other reasons."

The only fault that I can find with this idea is that I do not like the way people behave, and I feel that I am not alone in this regard, so I wish to change people. But how do I extricate a moral principle from the heap? Why should anyone else care what I like or what I do not like, unless I had power to force compliance with my morals and they would do well to obey my rules, or else -- "lest you die ..." as Yahweh might say.

So I must search for "justification" of my morality (call it M). What is meant by justification?

What so appeals to those I wish to change (adopt my preference) that they change their

a) attitude
b) behavior
c) both.

That is, I manipulate them. Nothing here can be considered the satisfying "justification" which I seek. I have, after all, used completely knowable means to warp their wills and minds (" applied social science"). The forms of manipulation include:

a) force;
b) bribes;
c) persuasion by symbols and propaganda, by example, by citing god, priests, scriptures;
d) proof of advantages they derive for and by themselves (" 'x' or 'y' is good for you"). They will feel better, look better, etc.;
e) 'logical' proof (" If you want 'x' do 'm'").

But in all of this (M) remains unjustified (except the word of God, but which they dispute, hence, is unjustified); that is, I have no right to inflict (M), that is, to change others.

So I examine myself. How does it happen that I

a) do not like their behavior (M),
b) want to change it (M) and I find many causes (reasons) for
a) and many causes for
b) which boil down to material benefits, property, convenience, and control. All of these are without validity so I must go on. I also feel embarrassment, guilt at their behavior.

Why am I guilty when they behave so.

a. Identification: I feel that I am part of them and hence suffer their effects.
b. Projection: I feel that their motives are my own.
c. Self-punition: I feel guilt for them. For all of this, I change them.

But why do I feel guilt?

a) Because I am trained to feel guilt.
b) Because I want to behave like them or did once and was punished or harmed.
c) Because of experience (e. g. "I let my younger brother behave so, and look at him now!")

So none of these justify either!

I listen to My god, and don't let them interpret god their way, and get support to suppress them. But now my insight (still active) tells me I may be wrong re god.

Is there any other means of justification?

Can I now say, "What I want is what I want, and it is, at least, 'good' in that if I get it, I satisfy whatever it is that makes me want it."

Now what is it that I am satisfying?

a) A psycho-physiological process of which there are several, viz.: damping of fear, extension of control (over self, over others), displacement of affect, identification, obsession (repetition), ambivalence;

b) possessing one or more of, more wealth (things); affection; power; well-being (safety, health, strength); respect; skill (knowledge).

Thus everything said of 1) to 4) beforehand may in fact be the superstructure of 5) here.

The only way I can budge from this position of 5) which has established my Basic Morality is by changing myself so that another different or an altered want takes the place of (M). But, if M2 is substituted for M1 (no matter how little time or how long it takes) then I am changed and have a different morality.

What can cause this different morality (M2)?

a) Failure by resistance;
b) accident;
c) internal change (metabolism goes down, illness, different glandular flow, etc.)

Then I repeat M2 with respect to the group of people whose actions I did not like before and go through 1) to 7) again.

Now is M2 better than M1 and will M3 be better than M2... Mn? How would one know?

Suppose Mx has these subsequences or consequences? It is significantly easier to run through the process. Further, no change occurs when it is achieved in me, i. e. Mx = Mn, the final value of morality.

Therefore, I settle upon Mx and practice Mx and all closely analogous Mxa.. n . This becomes in effect my moral system in regards to the class of behaviors we are discussing.

We note:
a) Mx is mine, but also other's moral system because we are effectively transacting within its rules!
b) The system is both egoistic and species-racial (social). It works. It can be mythicized, religified, philosophized.

In the sequence of events, 1) to 12) it will be noticed that all processes are explained in natural terms, as instances of well known and common psychological and social dynamics. The supernatural is involved on the level of such fictions, concepts, perceptions, and illusions as are usually encountered in human psychic and social transactions.

Moral demands, moral behavior, and moral struggle are occurring. Ethical resolutions and principles are evolving. But it is all happening without resort to a moral source existing and coming from beyond the act and process themselves.

Let us consider the choices of a typical person, Abel. We assume that he makes an average of 140 choices a day, and therefore roughly 50,000 in a year. They range in significance, for example, from deciding whether to brush one's teeth quickly or thoroughly, to whether or not to begin setting aside $3000 a year towards the college education of a child. If it is argued that brushing teeth is hardly a moral or ethical issue, one can either argue in rebuttal or simply raise the threshold of a moral question by some criteria of significance that excludes brushing the teeth. Where this latter point would commence is not easy to define. Perhaps it should be an issue which, whatever its subject, involves conscience, that is, a slight or larger factor of anxiety and guilt pursuant to an uncertain decision (if it were to be uncertain). Since we are being so speculative, we can presume to estimate also that 10% of the decisions will have such a guilt factor, giving a total number of about 4000 moral decisions per year, or about 13 per day.

Thus, one would count as containing the guilt factor: a choice of watching a television entertainment or doing school homework; drinking a second glass of whiskey or not; deciding how much money to put in the church collection box; whether or not to eat a gourmet garlic sauce before going on a blind date; slapping a child; etc. We shall not attempt a fine mathematical analysis of our typical citizen, Able, but merely assign him categories and percentages, basing the categories on the kinds of mentation occurring as the decision is made. (The classification is obviously slap-dash.)


A. Practically automatic 40% 2000
B. Conscious, sloganized 20% 1000
C. Rationalized gibberish 15% 800
D. Carefully calculated 1% 50
E. Passionate, intuitive 5% 250
F. Troubled by aware internal conflicts 5% 250
G. Troubled by aware social conflict 6% 300
H. Flights of fancy, fantasy, solipsism 7% 350
- - 100% 5000

Thus, imagining one certain day in his life, Abel might make the following ethical choices:

Moral Action Type of Mentation Involved
Withholding a child’s allowance F
Giving a seat to an elderly lady on the bus A
Overcharging a tiresome client E
Working a little overtime on his job A
Fantasying adultery with an attractive woman H
Buying a lottery ticket A
Absorbing news of a friend’s death C
Angered by a newspaper article on crime A
Explaining his preference for a politician B
Commenting on an office quarrel F
Wondering whether to bring home a cake B
Deciding to be “sick” and not work one day D
Signing a negative report on an employee G

Moral Action Type of Mentation Involved

Withholding a child's allowance F Giving a seat to an elderly lady on the bus A Overcharging a tiresome client E Working a little overtime on his job A Fantasying adultery with an attractive woman H Buying a lottery ticket A Absorbing news of a friend's death C Angered by a newspaper article on crime A Explaining his preference for a politician B Commenting on an office quarrel F Wondering whether to bring home a cake B Deciding to be "sick" and not work one day next week D Signing a negative report on an employee G

It happens, we say, that each of these decisions gave Abel a moral twinge; the other 117 moral choices did not. Other people will have different numbers, types, and intensities of moral action in a day's time. If one reads James Joyce's Ulysses, a fictional masterpiece on a day in the life of Leopold Bloom in Dublin, Ireland, taking up some hundreds of pages of print, we realize that we are probably greatly underestimating the profusion of ethical choices in a 24 hour period.

Yet I have no idea of the range, average, or typical kinds of moral actions in a day's time. People are called by those who know them "conscientious," "unconcerned," "busy-body," etc., words that must refer to the extent and types of their moral behavior, but the appropriate sample survey with what happens in moral discourse of the self with itself and others has very little resemblance to the kinds of problems analyzed by philosophers and imagined by most preachers and teachers. Bloom, the character, had, I guess, an unusually active mind and more conflicts to resolve by the nature of his background, romantic wife, advertising work, avidity for many things in life, and continuous movement about the city.

Still, we have enough of exemplary material and a frame of reference to allow suggesting several points about moral mentation and action. The average life presents a great abundance of moral choices. The form of mentation employed before, after, and in the course of acting morally is largely absurd. What happens in moral discourse of the self with itself and others has very little resemblance to the kinds of problems analyzed by philosophers and imagined by most preachers and teachers. Only a small portion of it is related to science or theory except indirectly. Only a tiny percentage of a modernized population spends much moral energy on the divine, or on methodical calculation (unless it is one's paid job to do so).

In Civilization and Its Discontents Sigmund Freud points out the commonly known problem of ethics:

"that ill-luck -- that is, external frustration -- so greatly enhances the power of the conscience in the super-ego. As long as things go well with a man, his conscience is lenient and lets the ego do all sorts of things; but when misfortune befalls him, he searches his soul, acknowledges his sinfulness, heightens the demands of his conscience, imposes abstinences on himself and punishes himself with penances. Whole peoples have behaved in this way, and still do."

He calls this an "original infantile state of conscience."

"fate is regarded as a substitute for the parental agency. If a man is unfortunate, it means that he is no longer loved by this highest power; and, threatened by such a loss of love, he once more bows to the parental representative in his super-ego ---- a representation whom, in his days of good fortune, he was ready to neglect."

Fate is looked upon as an expression of Divine Will. Fatalism is very strong in early religions and ethics. Why? The authorities and experts say: because primitive man was at the mercy of savage natural forces. Still, if man were to be of the same ideological cast today, he would also be fatalistic because obviously, when one think of it, very little real control has been exercised over the immense and infinite area of difficulties besetting us. Rather, the change of attitude has come about as a result of changed ideology, weltanschauung, and this has changed because of a fairly long calm condition of the Earth and the skies, and the development of a progressive, free-will, uniformitarian (self-contradictory) philosophy. Perhaps the distinction between traditional sacral and modern secular man is that the former has not forgotten his primeval scenarios, whereas the latter has suppressed them very deeply and become overtly pragmatic.

John C. Caldwell wrote a memorandum, not formally published, on the Sahelian Drought of the 1970's. We take leave to quote him lengthily:

Fatalism Fatalism is an unsuitable term because it can be used in two ways: to mean the rational acceptance by those living in a traditional society that they have little control over the forces affecting their lives; and to mean such a reluctance to attempt any control that they are more battered by such forces than need be the case.

The acceptance of the blows of fate is often so great in traditional society that it is difficult to measure the personal impact of disaster or even to discuss it properly. Often technical aiders give up the attempt and go to talk to other technical aiders who seem to speak the same language, and thereby sustain the conventional wisdom and often lose all chance of adding to worthwhile knowledge about the situation. Sometimes they wonder if they have been entirely misled about the reality of the position. In one of the few honest reports ever written on this question, a transport expert working intimately with the truck drivers bringing food relief in the recent Sahelian drought and having substantial contact with the rural population reported that at first none of the local population seemed ever to have heard of the drought; later he concluded that they felt it deeply and were taking rational steps to minimize the hurt in ways they had known all their lives... In Yelwa, northwest Nigeria, it was reported that, "The Emir of Yauri and the Divisional Officer, head of the Local Administration, held that drought did not occur in Yelwa and that no problem with shortage of rains was extant". Even the farmers talked of locusts, weeds and lack of good lands as much as drought.

There are many reasons for this kind of reaction. One is that the matter is irrelevant to the outsiders, whose lives are demonstrably not affected by the climatic conditions. Another is a belief, held also by the outsiders, that nothing can be done to alter the weather. Actually this view is usually more rational still -- a feeling that the bad years are as much part of the totality of what must be experienced as the good years and that the lot of man is to bend with each wind. Such attitudes are embedded deep in the culture; they find religious expression and are reinforced by religion. In much of the savannah and desert of Africa, people take drought to be a necessary divine warning that religious and moral standards are slipping and that a revival is due. Drought provides assurance that Providence is paying attention and is still concerned. It indicates a need for religious leaders to intercede with God. If the drought is long and severe, resort will also be made to age-old methods, long predating Islam, for encouraging rain... From the Western Shael to Somalia drought and religious observations are deeply linked.. In profane literature and oral tradition references, the need for water [is] equally pervasive. In these circumstances it is not surprising that the common man is somewhat apprehensive about recalling the last drought or predicting the next one. The Yelwa survey reported that, although there was clear agreement about the nature and seriousness of drought, there was complete disagreement in the farmers' responses as to when the last one occurred and three-quarters did not wish to encourage bad luck (or to trespass into the domain of Allah) by suggesting that one would ever again occur...

Not only is the origin of drought either divine or in any case not to be influenced by Man, but so is death -- a proposition that is still true over most of the Shael most of the time. Western doctors working in the drought refugee camps were disturbed when the mothers of dying children seemed to be more concerned about obtaining cloth to serve as shrouds for their dead or dying babies than they appeared to be about the fact of death itself. Their reaction were partly explained by the fact that the babies had symptoms which have always presaged death in the savannah. Part, too, was the religious conviction that the babies were being called away and had been destined at this time to leave the world (the Fulani express it as the child wanting to go.) These are not societies in which determined efforts are likely to be made to counter the condition of an apparently dying child or indeed to prevent the births of children. Urbanization and other types of economic modernization ultimately lower child mortality both by providing greater health services and by convincing people that one can and should intercede with the forces that determine children's sickness and death.

We see how sacral man confronts secular problems and converts them into forms amenable to sacred solutions.

The thousands of cultures existing in historical time and space have given us a fair sample of the ideal and practical ethical capabilities of religion. The experience on the whole has been unimpressive to one looking for a happy human way of life. The more one trusts to religion, it seems, the less good one can obtain from science and politics. On the other hand, science in itself (that is, science which is entirely positive and empirical) is quite helpless to address the moral perplexities of man.

Politics, moreover, has, if anything, a poorer record than religion, speaking now of politics as a secular approach to human issues; for politics tends by itself to depend upon sheer physical force to order a population, and systematic violence is hardly an improvement upon whatever chicanery and delusions historical religions employ to rule a people. Would one have preferred to be governed by the barons or by the monks of the European Middle Ages, by the warlords or by the Shinto and Buddhist priests of Old China, by the shaman or by the priest, by Aaron or by Joshua? And, today in America, if the lawyers, lobbyists, and military contractors were replaced in the ruling circles and representative assemblies of the country by ministers, priests, and the religiously devout, would the country be better governed, its people more peaceable, mentally healthy, and prosperous? Would one prefer to be governed by the Shah of Iran or the Ayatollah Khomeini?

The questions are difficult, enormously complicated, and perhaps biased. Still they are worth considering if only as a means of suggesting that ethical progress in a society is not to be identified with its secularization. The key to good governance is an ethical system beyond facile contrivance. Neither religion nor secularism, as such, promises success.

Even though it may be true that our morals come in a tangled concatenation, the human could scarcely accept the fact. One whose overriding aim is self-control and control over the world will refuse to recognize in a garbage pile his towering morality. This in itself would seem to prove him a moral failure -- shifty, gutless, inconsistent, contradictory (all that he really is, someone might comment). He feels that there must be an absolute, pure source of right conduct somewhere, and is all to ready to find and proclaim one, even an impostor.

Yet occasionally the human becomes ashamed of living a lie and hates himself and hates his religion and gods for having created his dependency upon delusions. He admires the "honesty" of the bear, the trout, the dog; they are not of two minds and forked tongue. Why cannot his morality be so straightforward?

Blame part of it upon his obsession with history, his compulsion to repeat his worst experiences. He demands that his morality today be that of five thousand years ago. He demands that it be of the highest order: We know what that means; it must come from Heaven. Further he demands that all people share in an ecumenical morality. The logical and sociological impossibility of both demands will not deter him. He is implacable. He will not pluck his morals from a garbage heap.

What can the scientist counsel? Try as they might, the anatomist and physiologist cannot separate a pig and a man far enough for comfort. The biologist, try as he may, cannot worship an arrangement derangeable by an unseen particle, and a lucky hit out of hundreds of millions of spermatozoa. Try if he would, the anthropologist could not work up an agitation over adulterous intercourse and let the commandment be written down by the hand of a god. Nor can the geologist see in an awful blasted out crater more than a crashing meteoroid. Nor the astronomer see more than a vast number of worlds in just that, a vast number of worlds: it seems that the gods, too, have a compulsion to repeat. No, the scientists cannot appease their consciences and man's sacrality with any consistency.

Besides providing people with morality, it is said, religion puts them directly in touch with the supernatural realm. For the mass of people this is untrue, just as it is that their religion gives them some special ethical competence. A few practitioners must enjoy the facilities for communion with the spiritual universe which churches and temples provide. The mass media (motion pictures especially) and drugs, as T. Leary has eloquently argued along with others, and, too, many gurus, seances, and non-church rites provide this type of communion.

The supernatural is hard to distinguish from political illusions and fictions. To the practitioners of scientific method, a devotee of astrology and a political fascist share several features. Both analyze the present state of world and personal affairs, and gain confidence and make predictions on the basis of their beliefs. Knowing that a person is an astrologist or, on the other hand, a fascist, enables the social psychologist to assert and predict with high probability that each will possess certain attitudes. The fascist believes in his leader as the possessor of semi- divine qualities, a superman. He has a warped conception of history and the future (according to our scientists). The astrologist believes his astrologer has access to supernatural knowledge; he, too, has a warped conception of the path of history and the future. Both types are paranoiac in believing that a great deal of what is really happening in the world is concealed by the establishment or conspiratorial powers.

The far departure from reality in both cases may have little to do with their success in life. General knowledge and matter-of- factness are only loosely connected with achievement in society. The belief of both the astrologist and the fascist in the supernatural lends each a confidence denied to less convinced persons; self-confidence is in many life situations more of an asset than knowledge of the situation. Whereas the ordinary human is only schizotypical, these two tend more towards the schizophrenic.

We seem to be at an impasse, owing to my downgrading of the creative moral and spiritual functions of historical religion. Supernaturalism appears to be all manner of anti-scientific folly. Morality exists concerning countless particulars in human activities, even while neither religion nor secularism can justify its source, hence their application.

We see no easy solution, perhaps none at all. Later on, we may offer some grounds to justify a relatively absolute" morality, meaning by this verbal barbarism some unchanging moral propositions that are themselves changing. If one might conceive of a religion that is an integrated whole, accommodates change easily, and that does not fundamentally and continuously violate the controls and benefits supplied by science, then this religion may not only be superior but also popular.

Does this mean that morality is human and mundane, part of an endless process going on in millions of transactions every day everywhere? Yes. Does it mean that the supernatural, the divine, the gods are not the source of morality, that ethics exists without religion? Yes. Does it mean that mankind is morally sui generis and autonomous? Yes.

Does it mean that humans are "immoral" and "wicked," with no means of setting ethical standards? No. Does it mean that the supernatural, all that is divine and sacred, has no effect upon ethical behavior? No.

The supernatural, as non-knowledge, is knowledge of a sort. Those who transact or seek to transact with the supernatural in order to think upon the divine, engage in an ideational relation with the divine, and are affected by the knowledge which we possess of the divine. They will behave differently than those who deny the supernatural and avoid it.

Religion, to put it in commonplace language, can make people better. It should be the "right" kind of religion, and, of course, this would be the form we are here advocating: self-aware, open, relativistic, non-historical, connected with the sciences of natural and socio-psychological processes, non- anthropomorphic morphologically, anthropomorphic structurally. Let us see what science is doing that is religiously relevant and can be adapted to religion.


previous.gif     next.gif