Sunday, June 13, 2010

A defense of social constructivism

I recently wrote an essay for one of my classes, and this paragraph turned out particularly well, something that even my professor pointed out, so I thought I would post it here, since it's very relevant to my struggles with faith and morality, as I find myself functionally being more of a moral humanist than anything else.

The idea that morality is built up from society, tradition, and experience of humanity over time seems much more appropriate than an absolute but obfuscated rulebook being handed down as the foundation of morality. I don't see why there is implicit authority in imposing a morality from a religion, whose particular conception of morality tends to change over time as the rest of culture and humanity change, despite supposedly being handed as absolute from on high. If God were a being that interacted with the world in direct, clear, and universally recognizable ways, there would be a good reason for religion to have a special claim on morality. But in this world, there is at best indirect, abstract, uncertain interaction between the divine and humanity. So to the questions often posed to those who assert morality without God — "By what authority do you enforce human dignity? Who gives you the right to say that I have to respect the dignity of my fellow humans?" — I reply that dignity is endowed simply by being human and sharing residence of this world, and I don't believe that pointing at tradition and religion endows Chrisitans with any special authority on the issue, when I have no basis for attributing any authority to a particular understanding of God and, most importantly, don't believe such an authority is necessary to give humans humanity.

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