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Islam and Tolerance (07 Mar 2013 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Religion as a Civilizing Influence



By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

Let us look at what life was like before civilization and organized religion some 10,000 years ago. In his book, `War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage’, Lawrence Keeley argues that the myth of the peace-loving noble savage is both grossly off the mark and misleading. Keeley bases his thesis on archaeological and historical research and shows that pre civilization warfare was more deadly than modern war. The savages lived in small communes widely separated from other communes, had great mistrust of others, which often lead to raids and ambushes, resulting in a high death-rate. His conclusion, based on examination of archaeological evidence, is that the homicide rate of prehistoric Illinois villagers may have exceeded that of the modern United States by some 70 times. He concludes that 30% of adult males died due to homicide 10000 years ago and death due to violence was 0.5% of the population per year Otterbein, K.F. in his book ‘How War Began’ provides supporting data and evidence which takes us to similar conclusions

If we take the death rate of 0.5% of population per year due to war or homicide before civilization, we should have had two billion deaths in the 20th century against the actual number of 100 million. This is despite two world wars, dropping of two nuclear bombs and vastly superior powers for destruction in the 20th century. At today’s population figure of 7 billion, we should expect 35 million deaths due to war or homicide per year against a figure which may be less than a million. The conclusion that we are far more civilized today than we were 10,000 years ago is inescapable.

Having established that man has indeed become more civilized and less violent, let us quickly examine, of the 100 million who died a violent death from unnatural causes in the 20th century, how many were on account of religious war/strife? The two world wars and the dropping of nuclear bombs had nothing to do with religion and resulted in 76 million deaths. The genocide in Russia by Stalin (1 million), the estimated 3 million killed in China during their “cultural revolution”, the US wars in Indochina, Korea, and Cambodia had little to do with religion. The cold war resulted in the dissolution of the USSR and many interventions of the US in Central America and had nothing to do with religion. All the big ticket items of violence in the 20th century, we discover, are for reasons other than religion. The big ticket item for religious violence in the 20th century was in Bosnia-Herzegovina resulting in 200,000 deaths. Religious strife does not appear to have been the cause for more than 1% of deaths in the 20th century. Even if we take a high figure of say 10%, the surprising finding is that contrary to what most people think of religion as a divisive force, the fact remains that religion is a very minor cause for strife and killing.

Let us now look at the civilizing influence of religion. We are all familiar with moral and ethical precepts that come from religion such as, the virtues of striving in the face of odds, of patience and perseverance, of abstinence and piety, of forgiveness in place of revenge, of returning good for evil, of observing limits in behaviour, the virtues of hard work, honesty, sharing, sacrifice and gratitude, the virtue of faithfulness and propriety and of justice tempered with mercy, the rights of the elderly, the orphans, the women and the weak. These values are transcendental and absolute and without reference to the consequences. Apart from Religion, is there any other source for moral, humane and ethical precepts and principles? Let us quickly examine what the philosophers have to offer.

Concept of Morality from Philosophy

Bentham begins his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) with this hedonistic assumption about human motivation that goes no further than describing mankind in terms that are equally applicable to animals.

Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure

 Man’s behaviour according to him, is governed by self interest:

“On the occasion of every act he exercises, every human being is led to pursue that line of conduct which, according to his view of the case, taken by him at the moment, will be in the highest degree contributory to his own greatest happiness.”

Bentham claims that utility not only describes human motivation but sets the standard of right and wrong.

“By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question …”

In order to make man act not only in accordance with self interest, but in accordance with what is good for the society, rules must be framed and man should be made accountable, so that his self-interest and the interests of society coincide. Locke, Hume and John Stuart Mill have similar things to say.

St Thomas Aquinas thinks that all moral principles and norms can be inferred as either implicit in, or “referable to” as conclusions from the moral first principle of love of neighbor as self. But he never displays an example or schema of these deduction-like inferences. His successors have proposed that moral principles and norms have the self-evidence of first principles.

Immanuel Kant describes morality as acting in accordance with the categorical imperative which he defines as follows:

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.

The debate that raged subsequent to Kant proposing 'the principle of supreme morality" was why a rational being would go beyond maximizing utility in this World?

For example, if a judge had to pass a verdict on a simple matter where the litigants were a common man and the ruler and although justice favoured the common man on the issue, a verdict in his favour would make the ruler take revenge on  the judge. A verdict in favour of the ruler would cause the common man a very small harm which the judge could easily compensate monetarily from his own pocket. Should the judge please the ruler by giving a verdict in his favour, satisfy the common man by compensating him from his pocket and also save himself from the evil consequences of giving a judgement against the ruler? Common sense and considerations of utility would dictate that he should do what appears expedient.

What about society itself? Would doing the right thing in this matter set a shining example which would be followed by generations to come? Would doing the right thing prevent future compromises of a similar nature where outcomes are not so clear? Would compromising today lead to bigger and bigger compromises later and ultimately to oppression of the weak? The categorical imperative demands that the end is justice and a just verdict is given irrespective of the consequences.

The question then is how reasonable is such an expectation and why would any rational being go to such great lengths to do the right thing?

Kant eventually clarified in response to this predicament, affirming a principle that, “with respect to choice and action, such practical use of our reason cannot require of us what is impossible. To the extent that we view these requirements of reason from the sensible perspective of spatio-temporal causality, they will seem impossible of fulfilment. When, however, we view them from the intelligible perspective within which we frame the exercise of freedom, their fulfilment can legitimately be “postulated” in terms of the immortality of the soul and of the existence of God. Thus, with respect to the requirement that we attain the complete moral perfection of a holy will, Kant holds that we are justified in affirming that we will have an unending and enduring existence after death, outside the framework of spatio-temporal causality, in which to continue the task of seeking moral perfection. He holds a similar view with respect to the requirement that the highest good be the object of our willing. Even though our moral actions do not seem to have the efficacy required in a spatio-temporal framework to produce the happiness proportioned to virtue that is a necessary component of the highest good, we are justified in affirming that there is a supreme cause of nature — i.e., God — that will bring this about, not merely for ourselves, but for all moral agents.”

Immanuel Kant in his principle of supreme morality admits that without the concept of an immortal soul and a life in the hereafter, morality based on the categorical imperative (beyond consideration of utility or consequences or likes and dislikes or responding instinctively) may not be possible. Every other philosopher’s concept of morality is limited to the hypothetical imperative which Kant admits is without ‘moral worth’. Morality based on rational thinking cannot go beyond utilitarianism and consequentialism or beyond maximizing self interest in this World. While the philosophers have defined what morality is, they have singularly failed to generate moral and ethical precepts from these definitions and philosophers like Aquinas have fallen back on self evident first principles which derive from religion.

We discover that except Kant, the Philosophers have been unable to define morality beyond what maximizes selfish self interest. Kant has gone beyond others to define morality in absolute and transcendental terms, but he has had to fall back on religion to admit that such morality is not possible without a belief in God and an afterlife. 

An Example of Morality Based On Rational Thinking

Consider the following story from Jonathan Haidt’s book ‘The Happiness Hypothesis’

“Julie and Mark are sister and brother. They are travelling together in France on summer vacation from college. One night they are staying alone in a cabin near the beach. They decide that it would be interesting and fun if they tried making love. At the very least, it would be a new experience for each of them. Julie is already taking birth control pills, but Mark uses a condom, too, just to be safe. They both enjoying making love, but decide not to do it again. They keep that night as a special secret, which makes them feel even closer to each other.”

Do you think it is acceptable for two consenting adults, who happen to be siblings, to make love? Haidt  goes on to argue that there is no valid rational argument against it since Julie is unlikely to conceive, their relationship is likely to become closer, the act is kept secret, and that they are unlikely to repeat it.

Does not everything start in small and safe ways and eventually become an epidemic? The absolute law of morality or the categorical imperative therefore has value. Morality based on rational thinking cannot take us beyond acting out of the hypothetical imperative.

The dangers of moral relativism are underestimated. Children outgrow their incestual and homosexual urges and are helped in no small way by the sexual mores of society and religion based taboos surrounding incest and homosexuality. Remove these and we already see homosexuality becoming far too common. This is not because what was hidden earlier is now coming out into the open, but a case of many who otherwise may have reoriented themselves after experiencing the childhood urges, are now indulging in it as it is no longer considered immoral. It is a matter of time before incest becomes both common and acceptable. The population growth rate of the ‘developed world’ is below maintenance levels. With homosexuality and incest becoming common, it can reach dangerously low levels and the societies can self destruct.

Philosopher Fredrick Nietzche declared that God is dead.  If God is dead, then morality is a matter of personal choice. The root of a person’s denial of God is also the person’s moral depravity. It is far too uncomfortable for a morally depraved person to believe in God.

What Has Psychology To Tell Us About Human Nature?

Dan Baston at the University of Kansas, devised a clever study to make people make moral choices unobserved, and his findings are that 90% of people are moral hypocrites and are unaware of it. They will cheat, if they think that they can get away with it. My guess is that more than 90% fall in this category and some are simply less enterprising and need more time to feel comfortable enough in a new environment (such as provided by the test), to start cheating.

Religion Based Morality

Religion promotes absolute transcendental values. The relativity of values has lead to vulgarity and obscenity, to the widespread use of alcohol and of drug addiction, to making homosexual relations common, and to the breaking down of barriers for incest. “Human dignity and the nobility of character are based upon permanence and stability in the moral order.”

Atheists underestimate the influence that religion has on their notions of morality which are derived from the society they live in. Although there are outward signs of decline in religion, notions of morality derived from religion still govern the lives of people. Moral precepts and all great ideas are logical in hindsight. These ideas are therefore accepted by all.  An atheist may reject religion but he will not reject good moral precepts irrespective of their origin. Because these ideas are self evident in hindsight, people tend to think that these ideas have always been there or are as a result of human thinking. We have just seen that the moral precepts owe nothing to philosophy or literature and come solely from religion. Religion besides giving us transcendental moral values has inspired great art, literature, music and architecture and has undoubtedly been a great civilizing influence.

I conclude that Religion has undeniably had a civilizing influence on society and without it, we would have remained barbarians. The weakening of the influence of religion and of absolute moral values that go with it, and the growing trend of moral relativism, will lead us into an enlightened form of barbarianism but barbarianism nevertheless. Technology may help us with surveillance and to ensure compliance with manmade laws, but can they be a substitute for the voluntary compliance with absolute ethical and moral values, to the inner peace and serenity that goes with it, and the higher meaning it gives to life?


Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.

URL: http://newageislam.com/islam-and-tolerance/naseer-ahmed,-new-age-islam/religion-as-a-civilizing-influence/d/10685



  • Religion is relevant.  But the question which author could look at exploring is what is the religion.   Is the religion practicing the gist of the spiritual intention or apeing the ritual and mannerism.
    As i had mentioned two end of the spectrum in my perception an example of the two end is as under :
    Prophet said donot take interest.  You can share profit.  But what is the reality today, it is the interest named as profit and recycled as islamic finance.
    Beard to be grown. Prophet did not want his picture to be captured so that he is not made a god but what is being done, for islamic fundamentalist,  a person without beard is equal to traitor. 
    If these are religion, it is better ment for the humanity to leave religion and move into spirtuality.
    By satwa gunam - 3/14/2013 9:11:13 PM

  • "Take away religion and all absolute values go out of the door. Religion will therefore remain relevant or the lack of it will take us to disaster. Else, we will have to find ways of someone playing “God” and ensuring that we behave according to values that make us all winners in the game of life."
    Well said Naseer Saheb!
    By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi - 3/14/2013 4:47:00 AM

  • Rational, These days, people are wont to see only the darker side of religion and ignore the good part. They throw out the baby with the bathwater.
    It is therefore important to establish and consider the positive role that religion has played in civilizing us. Human nature is such, that we absorb what makes good sense readily, and make it a part of our beliefs and rarely reflect or give credit to the source of our beliefs. All good moral precepts, no matter where these come from, are readily accepted and absorbed, especially since these play an important role in making us socially successful. That is why we are all alike no matter what our religion is and whether we are even believers in any religion or not.
    So, the question is whether religion has played its part and outlived its utility?
    Our rational behaviour is based on reciprocity. Ultra rationalism takes us to game theory and when we start playing the game of life based on strategies developed using game theory, we can all end up only in disaster.
    Take away religion and all absolute values go out of the door. Religion will therefore remain relevant or the lack of it will take us to disaster. Else, we will have to find ways of someone playing “God” and ensuring that we behave according to values that make us all winners in the game of life.
    It is necessary to control the discussion to ensure that the focus remains on the key messages in the article. In an unstructured discussion such as what we have mostly, it is very easy for the discussion to stray in many unrelated areas.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/14/2013 1:04:50 AM

  • Hats Off, From the book "The warfare death rate of 0.5% of the population per year that was typical of many hunter-gatherer societies would equate to to billion people dying during the 20th century (instead of 100 million)........"
    We are making no distinction between cause for killing and merely concluding that the killing in the 20th century was lower by a factor of 2000/100 or 20 when compared with pre civilization/savage/pre orgainized religion era.
    We then looked at the break up of the 100 million killed in the 20th century to see what percentage may be attributed to religion itself, because while religion has united otherwise disparate groups of people through shared values and civilized us through its moral precepts, religion itself has also become a cause for killing.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/13/2013 11:02:00 PM

  • what is the criteria by which we decide whether a particular period/instance of killing was driven by religion or land or right of transit or women or any others which might lead to war and large scale killing? how do archeologists distinguish whether a given grave contains the remains of people killed in war caused by religion or otherwise?
    organized religion apart, tribal survival will depend as much on strife as on treaties. both are essential. all wars are expansionist. religion is only an excuse. primitive people may have been are only technologically primitive. but they might not have been primitive in religion. in any case what is primitive religion? by my understanding religion by itself is primitive. mere monotheism does not make a religion sophisticated. neither does dung worship make it trivial. everything comes to fulfil a need. sophistication or primitivity is incidental. if it continues beyond its use, it only becomes a burden. as religion in pakistan today. if as it is asserted that religion provides the basis of morality, why does it not operate today? everywhere there is more religion today. not less.
    one cannot say by accounts of missionary christians who studied africa and its people mostly as contemptology for their so called "primitive" life styles.
    if a million years down the line if a certain archeologist discovers the kurdish mass graves or even the individual graves of bomb blast victims in pakistan, what would he conclude? whether it was a religious killing or non religious killing?
    if we are to differentiate killings attributable to religion from those attributable to secular matters how do we go about it?
    unless we have some mutually agreeable criteria for deciding this important issue, you will attribute more killing to irreligiosity while i may attribute the same to obsessive religiosity.
    one hypothesis cannot be offered as proof of another.
    or am i missing something?
    By hats off! - 3/13/2013 7:27:35 AM

  • Poor Harsh! He is speechless after his challenge on the 'Conscientous Nazi' has been answered. Why is he stuck up about Kant and CI even though my topic is about the civilizing influence of religion and not about philosophy? The guy is so disoriented that he does not know what he is saying! This although I have walked him through what the article is all about - its premises and its conclusion. A person who cannot understand the structure of a very simple argument and stick to what is relevant talks about reality being constructed and what not! A person can read up anything but how much of it can he can apply is the real test of whether  his reading has done him any good.
    Harsh has found good company in Afaqsiddiqui. They can lean on each others shoulders and scratch each other's backs.
    Mr Afaqsiddiqi deserves the title of fasad siddiqi for his entirely unprovoked outburst. If I am not mistaken, he has been addressed before similarly by a respected commentator. Is he not the angry man with pent up feelings?
    Does he have anything to say on the subject under discussion? No, nothing!
    I can understand his reaction. Not being a believer, the cognitive dissonance that he may experience when religion is effectively defended can well be imagined. His strong reaction is a measure of the intensity of cognitive dissonance caused by the article. An ex-believer or an atheist like Afaq does not like being offered evidence that religion makes sense in the light of what the Quran says about such people. His strong reaction is therefore understandable.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/13/2013 5:54:31 AM

  • Harsh Chaturvedi, As far as Harsh’s challenge is concerned regarding the conscientious Nazi, does it fulfil the criteria of relevance that I gave him to avoid indulging in unnecessary diversions and irrelevancies? I do not think that it does but let me not disappoint him by not answering.
    First of all the subject is “Religion as a civilizing influence”. It is not philosophy. We have explored philosophy to see whether philosophy has contributed anything to moral precepts. We find that except for definitions, it has not. We saw that Aquinas relied on self evident first principles which are nothing but moral precepts from religion.
    Kant did not go beyond defining CI and had to fall back on religion to explain why any rational being should go beyond the Hypothetical imperative or beyond Utilitarian considerations. There ends our exploration of philosophy with the discovery that it offers nothing beyond definitions and is unable to generate any precepts from those definitions.
    Now even if you find a problem with Kant’s definition of the CI, what relevance does that have on the subject?
    It is conceded that religion has introduced another reason for strife which is religion itself, and you have been asked to go through the comments where this question has been dealt with. Whether this problem is on account of a conscientious Nazi or Hindu, or Muslim or Christian is a matter of detail. We are interested in the statistics to see what proportion of killings in the 20th century can be attributed to religion.
    The simple statistics are: Expected killing in 20th century based on population and killing rates pre civilization = 2 billion
    Actual number = 100 million Reduction 20 times
    Of these 100 million, how many due to religious strife – less than 10 million.
    While the civilizing influence of religion has reduced the killings by a factor of 20, religion itself has been a cause of killing to a small extent.
    Harsh can figure out how many of these were due to conscientious religious zealots and not just conscientious Nazis.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/13/2013 12:43:00 AM

  • Hats Off, I have not read Pinker but the books that I have mentioned cover people from the Bushmen in Kalahari to the Inuit in the Arctic, two thirds of hunter gatherers have proved to be in a state of almost constant tribal warfare, and 87% to experience annual war. Two books (that I know of), have been written on the subject besides whatever Pinker may have mentioned in his book. Two books cannot be written with just a few examples to prove the point.
    These people may have had simple beliefs but the word that I have used is ‘organized religion’ or a common religion across many communes with shared values creating trust between people and lowering aggression which came much later. In one of my comments, I have discussed in detail how having a common religion helped even empire building and keeping the empire together. The importance of shared values has also been discussed in the comment where difference in the political and economic ideology has lead to an intense cold war until the USSR disintegrated and communism was defeated.
    I have talked about a period before organized religion/Civilization and after. When I discussed violent deaths in the 20th century, it is during the period of organized religion and I made no distinction between killing for religious reasons or otherwise and said that the killings in the 20th century were 20 times less than the killings that may have been expected if they had been at the same rate as say some 10,000 years ago and attributed this to the civilizing influence of religion.  Some of it is directly attributable and some of it indirectly. The progress that mankind has made is on account of increased trust from shared values leading to lives of greater inter dependence and specialization. Here the role of religion is indirect, but without the binding glue of religion, we would have remained barbarians leading lives of self sufficiency with little cooperation between two groups of people. Moral precepts have now found their way into common and International law and we may therefore feel that religion is no longer required and easily dismiss the role that religion has played. Man has either progressed further or regressed using reason and through manmade laws.
    Since the events of the 20th century are much more closer for us to examine, I then classified the killings in the 20th century from the point of view of whether these were religious wars or non-religious wars and we discover that killings for non-religious reasons are at least 9 times the killings that can be attributed to religion. This confirms that the strife introduced by religion is a small part of total strife and the overall reduction in strife is at least 20 times which is remarkable.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/13/2013 12:38:43 AM

  • Naseer Ahmad sb said in his comments to Mr Harsh Chaturvedi and Mr Manzoor Alam:
    “We also recognize that when two principles of morality are in conflict, the higher principle must prevail. When faced with the choice of extinction of species or incest, incest is chosen. He further said:”  Religion has therefore been the sole source of moral precepts”.
     To me incest should be considered a sin of the highest order. I don't care if they were preserving the purest seed of man . If God is All Powerful who can do anything to help his choosen messengers, he could have told him to travel and find other people to preserve his seed. Please note that  only two cities were destroyed, not the whole world. It is intresting to note that when his daughters intoxicate him, Lut keeps asking for more to drink, then blames his daughters for seducing him. Another Rabbinic view is that Lot secretly lusted after his daughters. He was intoxicated when the elder sister lay with him, but he was sober when she rose, as is indicated in the Torah. Despite his knowledge of what had transpired, he did not refrain from drinking wine the next night as well, and lying with his younger daughter (Gen. Rabbah 51:8–9).
     there is lot of  hypocrisy and immorality contained throughout the Bible and other religious scriptures without exception . they contain stories of supposedly holy men committing unholy acts, like drinking, incest, murder, sex and a whole slew of other indecencies which  can never be justified .
     My question is: Where is religion the only source of moral precepts?
    By Hamzah - 3/12/2013 5:24:28 AM

  • some kind of moral relativism is in play here. some workers have studied some prehistoric graves and concluded that the killing was much more during those times.
    a forensic expert might deduce the cause of death and attribute it to war wounds. so far so good. now how can this archeologist decide that these people had no religion?
    what are the archeological evidences for concluding that the inhabitants of an excavation site are religious? partly from burial methods and other accompanying artifacts.
    by this meager definition, even the oldest graves show a careful positioning of the limbs, implements interred along with the deceased which "indicate" religious awareness.
    so how is it concluded that pinkers graves hold remains of people without religion?
    conversely, looking at the graves of the 30,000 killed in various bomb blasts in pakistan, if discovered after a couple of thousand years will lead the future pinker to conclude that pakistanis were an ireligious lot.
    also making such a sweeping statement that prehistoric people were savages, irreligious, immoral is a vary familiar islamic argument.
    in other words, pre-religion was jahilliyya.
    unless we are able to show that the prehistoric people were ireligious the argument falls. another weak point of the argument is the actual numbers. to dig a couple of graves and pronounce judgement on a whole 30,000 years is a little presumptuos.
    By hats off! - 3/12/2013 4:52:20 AM

  • Rational, Your question on creation and procreation is a digression from the subject of the article. I will answer your question some other time.
    My article does not require Religion to be defined  as my interest  in religion is confined to the moral precepts which we have taken from it and which all of us share today irrespective of whether we are believers or atheists or agnostics. If you have difficulty understanding my article because I have not defined religion, then point out the specific nature of your difficulty.
    Mohd Yunus Sb has written an article saying that the Hindus of today are not the mushrikin mentioned in the Quran to which I readily agreed while commenting. The fact is that irrespective of our  religion,  our values are common because consciously or subconsciously, the great  thoughts of every religion has influenced us, and we are more alike, than we are willing to admit.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/12/2013 3:47:10 AM

  • Although I am not a person of philosophy but I enjoyed this discussion among Syed Manzoor Alam, Naseer Ahmed and Harsh Chaturvedi Sahiban.
    I found Mr Harsh's argument on the creation of Adam and Eve near to accepted by all. It is accepted by the all three Abrahmic religions that Adam and eve were created and rest are their progeny. No other people were created simultaneously.
    I put one more question which is not related to morality but the way Adam was created. the Qur'an says He was created from the fluid emitted from the back and ribs which is contradictory to science. Mr Naseer Ahmed saved himself from answering saying that he is not a biologist.
    I think anyone who has some knowledge of reproductive organs know well how human being procreate. I don't believe Mr Ahmed is unaware of it.
    I agree first "Religion" should be defined.
    By rational - 3/12/2013 3:25:18 AM

  • Mr Harsh Chaturvedi, The title of my article is “Religion as a Civilizing influence”
    My interest in Religion as far as this article is concerned, is limited to its civilizing influence which is attributable to the moral precepts and codes that have come from religion and have been made a part of the common law of every civilized country and these precepts have been mentioned in the article.
    If we see the moral precepts as the factors that civilize us, it is but natural that we look at every possible source for these and find that philosophy only offers definitions but has failed to generate moral precepts. Literature, we find is inspired by religion but has no new moral precepts to offer. Religion has therefore been the sole source of moral precepts.
    Religion could also be a divisive force and a source for every negative thing that you could talk of. This aspect has been fully covered in the comments and both Harsh and Manzoor may go through the comments.
    The question of incest among the immediate children of Adam has been discussed with the assumption that every human being traces his ancestry to this couple. The higher moral principle of extinction or incest is hard wired into us and if it is not, then Religion does provide guidance as it did in the Bible and omitted in the Quran because perhaps incest would no longer be required. Each moral agent has the freedom to make moral choices and therefore you will decide for yourself what you would do and I will decide for myself what I would do. As long as our values are common and shared, we will act in similar ways under similar circumstances.
    Mr Harsha, there is only one way to refute the article:
    To show that it is based on premises that are substantially not true. Or the conclusion does not flow logically form the premises.
    All else is pure gas.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/12/2013 2:54:54 AM

  • Naseer Ahmed I read you article and then I read Manzor's arcle and then I read your commnet but I am sorry to say that I find more logic in his arguments. For a detailed reply visit Manzoor's article, which I wil be writing right now.

    By Harsh Chaturvedi - 3/12/2013 1:49:56 AM

  • This is in response to Syed Manzoor Alam's article which is a comment on my artricle.
    Religion’s civilizing influence has been discussed with reference to the moral and ethical precepts that have come from religion which have in turn been codified into the common law of every civilized country. We have seen that while philosophy has defined morality in several ways, it has not generated any moral precepts. If Julius Caesar claimed that he was god and has contributed little to moral precepts, his `religion’ and all such religions are of no interest as far as this article is concerned.
    Data has been provided to prove the point that death due to war/homicide has come down by at least 20 times when compared to periods before organized religion/civilization. He can further refer to the books cited which provide archaeological evidence from remains of dead bodies in burial grounds which show a very high number of deaths from unhealed wounds. In the era before civilization, the world population rose, fell or stayed stagnant for a variety of reasons including disease and death by killing. Does my article talk about wars between civilizations or raids and ambushes? It only mentions raids and ambushes and says that these result in very high death rates because everyone is indulging in it. In modern warfare and in wars between civilizations, only a very small fraction actually fight.
    Locke, Hume and Mill are of interest if you are interested in variations of the theme of Utilitarianism and Consequentialism.
    The best philosophy, precept or religion can be twisted by a pervert to suit his ends. That does not take anything away from the idea.
    I do not think that Manzoor Alam even understands the meaning of “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”
    It contains the sense of “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Or “Love your neighbour as yourself”
    The Ten Commandments such as, Thou shall not steal; commit adultery etc can be tested to confirm that these fall into the definition of the CI.
    The message of the Gita is nothing but a definition of the categorical imperative. There is a similar verse in the Quran asking people to disregard consideration of kinship while choosing the right conduct.
    If Manzoor Alam sees morality in utilitarianism and consequentialism and does not see in actions that have no consideration for rewards/consequences in this life, then that is his choice.
    The message of the Gita is also that we must do our duty regardless of the fruits. We must live according to our dharma regardless of whether it is “successful.” We must perform our duties for the simple fact that they are our duties.
    When your moral values are relative Mr Manzoorul Alam, everything is relative. Your conduct is then based on the Hypothetical imperative.
    Regarding incest by the children of Adam, Rational asked the same question which was answered. I reproduce my response.
    This relates to Rational’s question on incest among the progeny of Adam. Consider the following Ayat:
    30:20. Among His Signs in this, that He created you from dust; and then,- behold, ye are men scattered (far and wide)!
    From the verse above, it would appear that besides Adam, there were others who were created from dust, and the earth was populated with people who were scattered far and wide. So incest may not have been there at all.
    Now let us look at the alternate Biblical theory of all mankind tracing their origin to Adam and Eve. Unlike us, Adam and Eve did not share any ancestors. They represented the maximum genetic difference between two human beings possible and all the genetic variation between people that you find among 7 billion people today, and the hundreds of billions who have passed away, is inherited from this original couple or forms a subset of all the possibilities. Their children therefore were genetically much more different from each other than the 100th cousins of today!
    If we define incest scientifically as sex between couples with close genetic similarity, marriage between siblings then was less incestuous than marriage between an African male and a White female today! I am not a biologist and some biologist may cross check what I have just said.
    We also recognize that when two principles of morality are in conflict, the higher principle must prevail. When faced with the choice of extinction of species or incest, incest is chosen. I have discussed the same with Rational in relation to the story of Prophet Lut in the Bible where, after the destruction of his people, his two daughters intoxicate him and have sex with him in order that the population does not go extinct. The incest part of it is not there in the Quran because the moral lesson applicable to the earlier people may have become irrelevant to people of the 7th century as a similar situation faced by Lut may have become highly unlikely in the 7th century or later.
    I have not said that notions of morality have remained static from the times of Adam and to anyone who has read the Quran, the changing nature of notions of morality over the years are known.
    Maybe as freud says, our passions find sublimation in religion, art, architecture etc, Does this have any bearing on my article?
    The conclusion is based on statistics cited on the drastically reduced aggression in a world civilized by religion and showing that the exclusive source of moral precepts which has civilized us has been religion. This is a very straightforward argument on which I have based my conclusion which also provides a very simple and straight forward way of refuting the conclusion by showing that the premises are false. Mr Mazoor Alam fails to do so and indulges in digressions and irrelevancies.
    It is very clear that Mr Manzoor Alam does not like the article or maybe he does not like me, but his rejoinder is a perfect example of how not to refute an article.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/12/2013 12:26:08 AM

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