5 juin 2017

La religion s'inspire de notre moralité, pas le contraire

Extrait de ce fascinant article de Matthew Parris:

Once you have observed that every culture in human history has appeared to have its morality underpinned by its religion, yet that these religions appear to be founded on different Gods (or gods, or belief systems) which cannot all be true, a terrible likelihood occurs. What if the morality comes first, and the religion then absorbs it, and uses it?

Darwinism if not Darwin is all you need to explain the morality, and perhaps the religion too. Being social animals, humans need rules; and rules need authority. One basic rule must underlie all the subsidiary ones: that we must not behave in an antisocial manner; that we should help and support our fellow members of society and act, not for ourselves alone, but for family, friends and the whole community. Such a rule assists a society’s life chances.

Religion echoes, amplifies, elaborates, refines, tabulates and may even twist to its own advantage this fundamental social urge: but the urge pre-exists any particular religion. This is so obvious that the point is not worth labouring.

But if religion does not create secular moral sentiment, could it at least elevate it? And here I return to that lovely church service and those apparently moving words in Matthew’s Gospel. For I’m afraid that, on consideration, these parables degrade rather than elevate. They debase our inborn Darwinian concern for fellow humans. Read the New Testament, and ask yourself what happened to virtue being its own reward.

Our inbuilt ‘secular’ morality whispers that kindness to others is good. Good in itself. Good because that’s what ‘good’ means. Not good because (who knows?) God may be doing a bit of plainclothes detective work among us, and dressing up as a beggar, prisoner or invalid. The master’s steward ought to look after members of his master’s household not because the master may arrive secretly in the night, but because those people matter, and are human beings just like him. Inserting God as a spy cheapens what should be the moral basis of our civility.

I cannot forget the vicar who wrote to me after I had criticised the notion of heavenly reward for good works, to ask how he could be expected to tell his congregation not to shoplift if he were no longer able to tell them that stealing was no way into Paradise. Perhaps one should thank him for not dressing up the crude basis of Immortalism as anything other than the concealed truncheon it really is. (...) We humanists can do better than Matthew’s gospel. Virtue is its own reward.

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