"As a love of truth is the only motive which actuates the Author of this little tract, he earnestly entreats that those of his readers who may discover any deficiency in his reasoning, or may be in possession of proofs which his mind could never obtain, would offer them, together with their objections to the Public, as briefly, as methodically, as plainly as he has taken the liberty of doing." — Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Necessity of Atheism
It is believed that religion is the ultimate model of morality, and whoever follows a religion is considered as a moral person within that specific religion.
Religion texts are ancient, and they reflect the values of the times when they were written”. Humans live and thrive on a corrective feedback system. We improve ourselves everyday. Thirty years ago, we used to smoke every where, now we can’t smoke even outside a restaurant in Melbourne. This is corrective feedback system. Now, do you think the values and morality of the past three milleniums have stayed exactly like how they used to be? The answer is an obvious no! You may argue that the Bible or Quran is God’s words and it is never-ending and it’s always true. In this case, I would offer you my counter-arguments with examples of both texts. As follows, the examples given are instances of social issues or behaviours which were believed to be moral or ethical, but in the modern world we consider them irrational and preposterous.
1- Slavery: Bible has numerous references to slavery. Not condemning it but basically giving instructions and guidlines as how to own slaves. For more info you can read Leviticus 25:44-46 where the guidlines of ownership are explained and Exodus 21:20-21 where how to behave with slaves is explained. Quran has the same situation. If you look at Quran 8:69, 24:32, 2:178, 16:75 and 30:50, you can see that Quran doesn’t condemn slavery, but appraise it. According to Quran, muslims are more than welcome to take war booty (women as sex slaves and men as slaves). Also, muslims can have sex with their slaves. They can also have unlimited supply of sex if they temprorarily marry them. Temporary marriages (Nikah mut’ah) are a dark side of Islam which I will discuss in another post. Also, there are numerous hadiths about slavery. Here I quote one of them: Sahih Bukhari (80:753) – “The Prophet said, ‘The freed slave belongs to the people who have freed him.'”
2- Homosexuality: According to the Bible, homosexuality is punishable by death (Leviticus 20:13). Quran 7:80-84 explains how God rained stone on ‘the people of Lut’ who were the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, because of their sexual practices. As they died by rain of brimstones, islamic clerics have interpreted that as a punishment for homosexuality. Thus, the punishment is stoning!
3- Adultery: According to the Bible, adultery must be punished by death (Leviticus 20:10). In Islam too, according to Sahih al-Bukhari, v.9,book 83, Hadith 17 the blood of a Muslim can be shed if a married person commits illegal sexual intercourse. In Quran, there’s no reference to capital punishment for adultrey, however, there are lots of hadiths that affirm such punishment.
4-Deconversion: In Islam, deconversion from Islam is punishable by death. According to Sahih al-Bukhari, v.9,book 83, Hadith 17, the blood of a Muslim can be shed if one leaves Islam.
5- Wife-beating: It is clearly stated in Quran that a Muslim man must beat his wife if she is disobidient. Quran 4:34 advises that if a wife is arrogant and disobedient you must first advise her, then forsake her in bed and then strike her.
Out-of-context argument: Many believers would argue that the mentioned texts above have been misinterpreted out of context. As a linguist, who has worked decoding and understanding layers of language in morphology, semantics and pragmatics, I have to say that the texts whether in context or out of context have the same meaning. They are stand alone sentences, following the grammar rules of their written language. The texts above are not phrases or clauses, they are complete sentences. Also, by pragmatics of language, they are prefectly meaningful. So the agument of out-of-context is a total fallacy.
Morality can perfectly exist outside of religion. As it does in animals. Moral standards are social constructs that change overtime. Morality by religion is argument ad populum. Since, many people believe in it and practise it, does not make it true! People believed that the Earth was flat. Did it make it flat? No!