It ain't easy not believing in the God of Abraham until you really examine what horrors are being done in his name today, then it becomes easy to oppose religion in general. The real difficulty for me is that I can't prove that the universe wasn't created by some kind of creator, so I might be a deist. I don't know.
I am not a fundamentalist. I see nothing wrong with pointing out that the biblical canon is compiled by men, which makes a rigid belief in its literal infallibility a questionable position to hold. I also think it's valuable to examine how our understanding of morality has evolved (as a society, and within the church), and certainly passages from the bible can be used to illustrate that evolution.
I do not believe religion is the only basis for a moral existence. However, I do believe pure reason leads to immorality, or at least amorality. At some point, all of us rely on faith - the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen - to help make sense of our existence. That faith may be in a higher purpose, a unifying order to existence, or a shared obligation or commitment.
Personally, my conception of God could be categorized within the Deist tradition. However, I have found comfort and a sense of purpose within the Christian faith. At the same time, I do not view the Church as infallible (what human institution is?), and I believe an honest appraisal of the Church's failings is necessary for spiritual growth.
Certainly, horrors have been committed in God's name. As you're aware, horrors have also been committed in the name of reason ... forced abortions, sterilizations, mass imprisonments and genocide. In general, I would argue the Church (in the broadest sense) has been a restraining force on mankind's baser instincts.
Why should this cause a difficulty for a religious devotee? If I am simply wrong, then it wouldn't raise the emotions of one who believes in a loving God, any more than my being wrong about his existence. No, there is a deeper reason why this observation draws out emotion from the faithful. What do you think that reason is?
Ridiculing faith is not my direct intention. My puropse is to challenge the basis of people's poor judgement. However, I don't know of any other topic which has this taboo against ridicule. Good ideas stand up admirably to ridicule. It is only bad ideas which crumble in the heat of ridicule. Satire is a powerful solvent to dogma. Some countries are so acutely aware of the power of ridicule to debunk dogma that they make it illegal.
"Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet: Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine."
Section 295-C, Pakistan Penal Code.
Should it be illegal to ridicule any idea, ideology, political agenda, organization or faith that asserts a moral or ethical standard with which a single would-be satirist disagrees?
I struggle with the prospect of taking people's faith. You say that you get a sense of purpose from it. Do you really get that sense of purpose from the faith, or has the faith merely been the means by which you have found that purpose? If God does not exist, does your purpose have no meaning?
I worry that the faithful waste their real lives by dreaming about their non-existent after life. I don't have time to waste planning for, and qualifying myself for, a make-believe after life. I am simply too busy with making sure I accomplish whatever I can in real life that turns it from meaninglessness (or even a source of a worse existence for other conscious creatures and myself) into a source of a better existence for other conscious creatures and myself. I also want to help ensure that our species does not wipe itself out and I consider religion to be the biggest threat to our continued existance about which we can currently do anything. If we can at least survive ourselves, there is a chance that we will have time to work out how to survive our sun's supernova.
Life is too precious to waste it on false hope. The morality of the Bible continues to cause suffering and hatred. Religion poisons everything. It is time that humanity woke up from its religious coma and faced up to the challenges of existence.
There will always be those for whom reality is just too difficult to deal with. Those people need faith like some other people need valium or lithium or booze. Faith is an anesthetic to reality, providing false hope. No wonder so many addicts are able to kick their drug of choice through the alternative drug of faith. Why trust one drug and not another?
It isn't easy taking on the reality of existence, finding meaning from meaninglessness, finding a purpose that ends in nothing. However, nobody said life would be easy. Anyhow, if life was easy, it would be boring, and thus even more in need of anesthetic.
On what evidence do you worry that the faithful do not enjoy life, that they simply waste away their years pining for their heavenly reward? That has not been my experience.
On what evidence do you judge all religion as immoral? You can certainly judge and argue that aspects of dogma are immoral . . . for example, condemnation of homosexuality, edicts to kill the unfaithful, etc. Argue those points to which you object. Ascribing those views to all believers is nothing but prejudice.
As for whether faith gives me purpose, or provides a means to finding purpose, I judge that a distinction without a difference. I'm fully aware that most of what I believe is undoubtedly wrong. That my sense of ethics and morality, as well as my choice of religion, is driven by my own culture, judgement and experience. I'm also aware that the benefit I get from my faith may simply be a biochemical reaction. So what?
I wish you well in your journey to find meaning in the meaningless, and a purpose that ends in nothing. It does seem to me, however, to be a lot of effort to find something that you could more easily find through more traditional means.
I'm really looking forward to our next get-together. This conversation could get pretty profound after a few margharitas. Who knows, we may solve all the mysteries of the universe. :)
P.S. I've been thinking about this conversation, and you've certainly given me much to think about. I hope my responses haven't come across as dismissing your views, nor do I think that you don't respect mine. I enjoyed reading your analysis of morality. As always, when it comes to things you write, it was thoughtful, well-reasoned, and bordering on the profound. I'm happy to continue this conversation, but I just want you to know that even when I disagree, I respect your opinions and the reasoning behind them.
I have the deepest respect for you and please take anything I spout with that underlying principle in mind! Respect for views is an interesting one; if you were to say that you thought my opinions were silly or immoral or that you did not respect them, it wouldn't affect my respect for you. On the contrary, it is a sign of respect in my opinion to tell others when you judge that their views are in need of review. The standard Islamic mantra is "you have to respect my religious views!" and I profoundly disagree that we ought to have to respect anybody's view on anything that might affect conscious beings other than themselves, if we have reason not to.
I also agree that criticizing religious beliefs should not be taboo. I do think courtesy demands that criticism be offered respectfully. I object to the assumption that I've seen time and again from atheists that reason and religion are incompatible. Too often, the criticisms of religion are offered as ridicule (e.g., religious people are irrational). That demonstrates to me an unwillingness to engage, a blind adherence to a secular dogma, which I find difficult to distinguish from religious dogma. If there is no desire to engage or persuade those who hold differing views (along with a willingness for critical self-examination), I can think of no purpose to ridicule than to have like-minded people reinforce your belief -- which must be reinforced precisely because it is a belief, not a fact. That, I believe, illustrates the inadequacy of the philosophy of rationalism. At our current level of knowledge, some things have to be taken on faith.
I would also say that a demand that religious people be open to criticism from those outside their religion should be accompanied by an accommodation of expressions of faith from the secular society. The "culture wars" are grounded in intolerance, on all sides. Is excluding people whose only purpose is to persuade Christians that their religion is irrational from a Christian message board really less tolerant than one person demanding the removal of a generic prayer from the gymnasium of a public school because it contains the words "Heavenly Father?" The former seems to me to be perfectly reasonable -- after all, you can engage those issues in different forums. The latter, on the other hand, strikes me as a completely ludicrous hang-up over semantics.
The question of whether reason and religion are compatible is answerable by considering if humans are able to hold beliefs in the supernatural based on authority sources alongside knowledge of the universe based on reason. Clearly the human mind is capable of keeping conflicting beliefs and knowledge simultaneously, and clever humans have been creating ingenious rationalizations to cope with the accompanying dissonance since the brain evolved pattern seeking perception alongside both value-based and logic-based reasoning.
Would it be morally any different for a believer to proselytize to a non-believer, than for a non-believer to proselytize to a believer? In principle, no. This is one of the reasons I do not go to Jewish forums for my arguments. The Jews don't proselytize to gentiles. (The reason being that according to their faith, membership is genetically-based and not available to those with the wrong genes. Institutionalized racism basically.) If I had a beef with the Jews, it would not be to do with their faith in God (which they keep to themselves) but their immoral discrimination and I am not ready to tackle that right now, I am too busy tackling human judgement! If I get this right, then I won't have to tackle any immorality because it will tackle itself (bold statement I know, but I don't do things by halves).
Unlike the Jews, the Christians and Muslims have a very active habit of proselytizing, according to which many of them would not consider themselves worthy of their faith without trying to bring non-believers in at every opportunity. I therefore judge it reasonable not just to decline their offers of redemption, but to offer them freedom from dogma in their real lives. When Jehovah's witnesses knock on my door, I invite them in and don't let them leave until they renounce their faith. (They have stopped coming - presumably because I have cured them all.)
Your example of a comparison between my having been censored from a forum and the prayer banner being taken down is interesting. You think it's OK to kick me out of a web forum for expressing certain views but wrong that the banner should have been taken down. I take the following view of this: Dealing with the banner, it was right according to the law but wrong according to freedom of expression to take the banner down. It was also bad to take the banner down because it was aparently a beautiful and historical piece of art. So in my view, taking the banner down on the basis of separation of church and state completely missed the more important principle of freedom of expression. On the basis of the court's ruling on the banner, every dollar bill should have the words "In God we trust" removed.
Kicking me off the forum is insignificant in terms of any damage done to society by censorship, but it is significant as an example of how religious dogma suppresses freedom of thought, deed and word. They didn't kick me off for breaking forum rules (whatever they claim). They kicked me off for giving their readership reason to doubt their faith. They are quite happy to let atheists post on their forum until the atheist wins a discussion, at which point they censor the atheist's opinions. This is exactly the same basis as the inquisition. I have been electronically burned at the stake because my views shook the faith of the forum moderator.
Need things be taken on faith?
I accept that we are early on in the dawn of human awakening to the "truth" whatever that is. There are plenty of things we as humans collectively do not know. On an individual basis, especially when we are young, we must take almost everything on faith to avoid repeating the often fatal mistakes of our forebears. This is why we evolved with value-based reasoning, to give us "something to hang our hat on" until we were equipped with the knowledge and skill to perform our own logic-based reasoning to get answers to things that we could derive by ourselves. We didn't put man on the moon by value-based reasoning, and we couldn't appreciate the beauty of our child by logic-based reasoning. We need both. We need belief and knowledge, faith and theory.
What we do not need, but we crave, do our detriment, is a willingness to accept on faith the best available answer we have at that time to questions that can't be yet answered. Some of these beliefs and faiths lead us to immoral judgements because of the cognitive biases that accompany the beliefs and faiths.
Let me explain: if we begin by accepting on faith that God created the universe, then it is easy to accept that God provided a book of useful information for us. From that point forth, we have a cognitive bias to accept the advice in the book, and to reject information that conflicts with the book. This is cognitive bias in action. In the extreme it leads people to auto-reject any concept not in accordance with their religious belief. In my book I call this the religious firewall. It is a self-sustaining spiral to delusion.
The extreme cases of these are easy to see - things like suicide murder. The every-day things are less easy to see (and less harmful) - things like not permitting a shipment of condoms to an AIDS-stricken village in Africa, missionaries telling Africans that condoms cause AIDS, teaching pseudoscience to children and confusing them about how we make scientific judgements, blaming God for our shortcomings ("If it is God's will...") and so forth. My mission on the forums is to ask people on what basis they hold various convictions and how they know they can trust those bases.
If we must take something on faith (and indeed we sometimes must), we still have the opportunity to vet the reliability of the source of that faith. Which airline shall I choose? The cheapo one or the one with a clean safety record that costs twice as much? If all our faith was in God and God alone, we would have no reason to choose any airline over any other airline except cost. Yet some supposedly faithful people opt for more expensive airline tickets because they vet the reliability of the authority sources (airlines) in whom they entrust their safety.
Why don't the faithful vet the reliability of the authority source of their faith? Why don't people simply ask themselves the question, "Did God really create the universe? How do I know? What is the source of that authority?" The answer to these questions reveals the circular logic of faith - God created the Universe according to the Bible. The Bible was written by God - according to the Bible. Round and round. So, the Bible is the authority source. If you vet it objectively for reliability the same way you vet an airline, you quickly discover that it isn't reliable at all. It is full of nonsense that was written by men whose knowledge of the world and the universe is now far out-shone by Jess's. Yet we cling on to it, because of the cognitive bias we developed as a child repeatedly accepting God as the creator during our indoctrination to faith.
To an atheist, it seems a simple enough proposition to recognize reason and abandon faith. To the devout, it is an absurd proposition. Belief is nothing like knowledge; belief has an emotional value, it is derived from feelings, it is chemically part of the workings of the mind, not simple valueless thought like relativity or evolution. Furthermore, for most religious people, it might only be possible to abandon their belief along with abandoning friends, family, culture, and country. In some cases, even life is in jeopardy if belief is publicly abandoned. Worse still, hope in an afterlife will vanish - too uncomfortable a proposition for all but the toughest most independent-minded, stubborn, confident humans who are able to find sufficient meaning in the remaining speck of existence afforded by reality.
To clarify, my argument is that it's more defensible to kick you out of an online chat room whose stated purpose is to provide people of faith a forum to explore that faith than it is to demand the removal of a historic banner because it contains the words "Heavenly Father". The point of the comparison was to defend against charges of religious intolerance, and that somehow secular rationalism guards against that intolerance.Your reply clearly indicates that comparison does not apply to your world view. Similarly, I think it's a mistake to exclude people who challenge people to think critically about their faith. However, I think your claims of "censorship" are a bit hyperbolic. There are plenty of other forums where you can argue your views.
I understand your frustration with Christians who feel it's their God-given obligation to convert others, and that view is certainly prevalent within the American Christian community (it is certainly consistent with the interpretation of ministry in the churches of my youth). It is not consistent with the theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, to which I belong (although you could certainly find individual churches within within the association that take a different view). Instead, our call to ministry is to provide service to our communities. Conversion, if it comes, is an individual choice based on personal conviction, perhaps aided by observing our example. This interpretation of Christ's directive to spread the gospel is consistent with the writings of Paul, who admonished the church to not judge or criticize the practices of the gentiles. It is also consistent with the ministry of many other mainstream Christian churches, through hospitals, adoption agencies, women shelters, soup kitchens, etc.
I have to admit, though, I chuckled at your description of inviting Jehovah's witnesses into your home and refusing to let them leave until they denounce their faith.
In my opinion, your argument for reason does not necessitate abandoning faith, which, as you point out, is very difficult for people to do for a variety of reasons. Certainly, my embrace of the Christian faith has cultural and family roots, and I often bite my tongue at family gatherings to avoid offending people I care about. If I understand your argument correctly, you view it as a moral imperative to correct others' beliefs that you can disprove with clear and verifiable evidence. It's certainly a vast undertaking, but as you stated, you don't do anything by halves. Optimism springs eternal . . . nothing wrong with that.
Perhaps there is no rational basis to arrive at a belief in God, but neither is that belief irrational. There is no rational basis for existence, yet we exist (when I say there is no rational basis for existance, I am speaking metaphysically . . . certainly, there is a rational explanation for why physical objects behave the way they do). Physics tells us we owe that existance to the Big Bang, the expansion of a singularity in space-time that exists only as a mathematical artefact beyond our ability to understand in physical terms. That's fine, as far as it goes, but it does little to help us understand who we are and why we are here.
Is your objection to religion primarily because it is used to rationalize bad judgement? That, as you pointed out, it has been used as a basis to prevent common-sense methods to help control the spread of AIDS in Africa (I vaguely recall reading something about this, but I seem to remember it was homegrown superstition. I don't believe the Catholic church, despite it's objections to contraceptives, opposes the use of condoms to help control the AIDS epidemic in Africa.)? Is that a fair argument? Couldn't a similar argument be made against secular rationalism? Without excusing religious ignorance, the number of deaths attributed to religious fanaticism in the past century is barely a blip when compared to the millions sacrificed in the name of secular rationalism by the Nazis and the Communists.
I guess the crux of my argument is this: If abandoning faith is not necessary to embrace reason, wouldn't it be more effective to argue for reason without attacking people's personal beliefs, at least when those beliefs do not directly contradict what can be rationally demonstrated? You assume people of faith begin with a belief in God, and all else follows. Many people who believe in God, like me, came to that belief only after years of introspection and skepticism. As I've said, I recognize that the Bible was written and compiled by men, and its contents should be judged accordingly. The accounts of Jesus' life most directly impact my understanding of faith, yet they were all written well after his death, by people who were not there. Some accounts of his life were eliminated from the canon by a bunch of priests in the 4th century, so the Bible we know today is both flawed, a product of the time it was written, and an incomplete account. In my experience, it can still be the source of much wisdom. Not the only source, but a remarkably consistent blueprint for living a meaningful life.
Faith exists because of value-based reason. A recent fMRI study has shown that in order to feel faith, people do not open their minds, but close down the logic-based judgement parts of their brains. http://m.scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2010/03/12/scan.nsq023.full
The community service you do with the Lutheran Church is wonderful, and requires exactly zero faith in God or Holy input. There are numerous non-religious organizations doing similar good works across the globe without God's help. I have no beef whatsoever with the good works of the church.
My beef is with the bad works of the church.http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/17/pope-africa-condoms-aids
Religion stands in the way of world peace. It is the main source of hatred in the world.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY8fjFKAC5k
Based on my reading of the Oxford study, I would expect an music lover's brain would react the same way while attending a symphony. Hardly a damning indictment of faith. To equate the results of the study with a conflict between faith and reason (in general terms) seems to be a prejudice in interpretation.
Based on the article in the Guardian, the Pope seemed to be making the point that the teachings of the church about the sacredness of the male/female union would more effectively prevent the spread of AIDS than a philosophy of promiscuity combined with free condoms. That seems pretty common sense to me.
Christopher Hitchens, as he often did, makes interesting and provocative points in the You Tube clip. I disagree that religion is the main source of hatred in the world. Instead, human prejudice and intolerance are the main sources of hatred in the world. That this prejudice and intolerance exists in religion is hardly surprising, and I don't argue that point. However, I challenge you to offer a single human enterprise that isn't hampered by these emotions.
Your analogy of music lover's brain's reaction to a symphony prompted me to research the idea. Early indications are that music has an effect on the brain (unsurprisingly), but not that it causes the prefrontal cortex - the logical judgement areas of the brain - to cease activity.http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/12/21/music-fires-up-emotions-in-the-brain/22034.html
The pope's message has directly inspired lies and myths about condoms. As a result of his dogma, many Africans believe that it is possible to cure AIDS in men by having sex with a virgin. Check out how his message inspires his followers in this guardian article:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/oct/09/aids
I agree that human prejudice and intolerance are the main sources of hatred in the world. However, I agree with Hitchens that the main source of the prejudice and intolerance is religion. Very few human enterprises are not hampered by these emotions. Unfortunately, monotheism, because of its rules on who is good and who is evil, cannot avoid being a font of prejudice and intolerance. My Dad, for example, has fallen out with me; he told me my cat can't go to heaven; I said I am not interested in heaven without my cat and would rather be with my cat in hell. It is the main reason I finally embraced atheism. No description of heaven I have ever heard, when carefully considered, gives me the slightest interest in going there!
Sorry, James. Cats go to hell. Not to worry, though ... they run the joint. Dogs, on the other hand, definitely go to heaven. So, if you ever decide to go to be a dog person, heaven may be more appealing. :)
I suppose we're getting into a "chicken or the egg" argument as to whether prejudice and intolerance result from religion, or if they are present in religion because they are part of human nature. The fact that you can find examples of prejudice and intolerance in just about every human interaction tends to point to the latter explanation.
We are on the same frequency.
It is about line drawing. We could be absolute, and draw the line at "every sperm is sacred" which makes me the unthinking butcher of a trillion people. That makes no sense. Or we could draw the line at the other extreme - the point a child reaches "self-awareness" or even awareness of the potential of death, so it knows what it has to lose by being killed. That certainly makes no sense either, I guess it would be around 18-24 months of age.
The only thing I do know is that I don't want the line drawn by someone who decided to become a priest and feels that he is good enough at interpreting an ancient book to be able to decide for all of us where this line should be drawn.
So you don't see any parallels between the communist pogroms agains the church as a threat to state authority and modern secular demands for freedom "from" religion?
Your point about political leaders using the church is noted, but the history of religious freedom in the US, at least, undermines the utility of using the Church to consolidate political power. Not saying it doesn't happen, just pointing out that Christians are simply another interest group, and hardly a monolithic one. On the other hand, the push by the secular left to eliminate religion from the public square is a very real threat to individual freedom.
. . . . . . . . .
My purpose is to question judgement. My purpose applies equally to matters like global warming or political affiliation. I chose religion as my vehicle for research into judgement because there are plenty of web forums with boards specifically set-up for atheists to make their points.
To your first point, name an atheist who has committed atheist crimes. Crimes like those of Stalin were not committed in the name of his atheist beliefs and you can't say Stalin would not have committed his crimes had he been a Christian. His targetting of the anybody was because they dissented from his plotical regime.
To your idea that religion is separated from politics in the US, I'm sorry to say that at this very moment, religion is shaping politics. It would not be possible to be successful in running for office in the USA as a Hindu or an atheist. The churches have enormous lobbying power and tax exemption; shouldn't they have one or the other? We may be about to get either an evangelical president who hates gays or one who believes he has magic underpants. That's not according to me, but according to the candidates themselves. Don't you think that their judgement ought to be questioned?
So, if I understand you correctly, Christians (and all people of faith) are on the hook for all atrocities committed in the name of God, but Atheists get a pass because they don't believe in anything but reason. Nevermind that the same rationale has formed the basis for social movements that advocated forced sterilization, forced abortions, infanticide, mass imprisonments and genocide. The fact that these were done toward a secular end isn't an argument against secular rationalism because I can't prove the same thing wouldn't have happened in the name of Christianity. Doesn't that meet the definition of a circular argument?
The fact is that people have been proven time and again to be willing to go to war and kill their fellow man for things that they believe passionately in, both secular and religious. That is not an argument against religion, any more than it's an argument against atheism. Instead, it's an argument for understanding, tolerance, and compassion...and, yes, a willingness to critically evaluate your "beliefs" from a rational and moral basis. I've already agreed with you that morality cannot be simply based on religious dogma. Similarly, it cannot be based on a secular dogma. Dismissing the possibility of God and the deeply held beliefs of the majority of your fellow man as delusional does not provide a firm foundation for treating them in a moral manner.
As to your point about religion in US politics, I agree that a passionate atheist could not be elected president. However, it would be hard to argue that Obama is overtly religious, and his attempts to integrate religion into his rhetoric have been ineptly and transparently cynical. Maybe today's primaries will prove me wrong, but I think the overt mixing of religion (per Rick Santorum) with political beliefs similarly limits the viability of a political candidate. Religious (and secular) beliefs in this country are simply so diverse that any dogmatism doesn't play well to the electorate. On the other hand, reference to Romney's "magical underpants" is a gratuitous slur that requires no further repudiation, and I certainly have not seen the same mixing of religious and political ideology from him that I've seen from Santorum.
The basis for churches' tax exemption is the perception (which I support) that they provide a social good. Similarly, organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU enjoy tax exempt status. Their tax exempt status does not force them to remove themselves from public discourse, nor should religious organizations be treated any differently.
You again argue very soundly.
I should have called Romney's drawers "sacred underwear".
Morality sure is interesting. I've got 2 threads going on the Christian Forums web site on it at the moment. I am trying to work out what it is myself and so far the more I learn about it, the less I know about it.
Definitely, anyone who claims to have the answers looks silly. The ones who bleat on about the Bible providing all the moral answers we need, come across as too inflexible, but they cling on to the idea that without God there would be no objective morality.
There is an objective morality. It comes from man. In the west it's called law and it's formed by the democratic process - fundamentally, people vote for the morals they want enforced on others.
In other nations where it comes from holy texts, people get their hands cut off for stealing and women get stoned for being raped.
The first few paragraphs on morality in my book currently look like this:
Morality is an awareness that stems from consciousness and emotional intelligence. In particular, the conscious awareness of well-being and suffering, and the emotional intelligence to empathize with other conscious creatures. Words and deeds that have an effect on the well-being and suffering of conscious creatures have moral implications for beings who are aware of those effects.
A cat toying with a mouse is not committing an immoral act, because even if the cat is conscious of the fact that it is causing unnecessary harm and suffering to the mouse, it does not have the emotional intelligence to empathize with the mouse. If the cat developed both faculties then it might cease to toy with mice.
A human eating a chicken nugget who is not aware that the chicken lived and died in agony and suffering in a battery farm may not be aware that they are committing an immoral act. However, consider a human who first visits the battery farm and watches the chicken live an unnatural caged life, then die a violent mechanical death in the slaughterhouse. That human might feel empathy for the suffering of the chicken, and might become conscious of the contribution to the chicken’s suffering that buying the nugget comprises and thus might recognize the moral issue with eating the chicken nugget. Without conscious awareness of well-being and suffering and emotional intelligence to empathize with other conscious creatures, there is no morality.
Morality and Faith
As a basis for a discussion on morality, holy texts provide some interesting studies. However, choosing these authority sources as moral guides is unethical. The Bible, for example, explains how and when to buy, sell, punish and sexually abuse slaves; advocates corporal punishment of children; and proposes moral bases upon which Christians would not perform an abortion at the request of a 9-year-old raped pregnant girl. The trouble with theism is that the faith-based assumption that the Bible is the inerrant word of God persuades theists to assume that the morality of the Bible can be taken as objective, good and right morality. The writers of the Bible provided subjective moral answers but theists claim that those answers are actually objective moral rules. That is only true if God exists and the Bible is God's inerrant word. Since the existence of God can't be proved but may only be taken on faith, it is unethical to make life-changing moral declarations based on faith.
For once, I have nothing to argue, nor do I think a majority of Christians in the west would argue your fundamental points. They may approach morality from the perspective that a relationship with God helps guide moral judgement, but I consider that a minor difference in perspective. True prayer (most prayer is merely a show, but I'm in no position to distinguish true prayer from "show" prayer...hopefully you'll grasp the distinction I'm trying to make), after all, is merely a form of meditation, an attempt to put aside your prejudices and view your problems from a broader perspective. Anthropomorphizing that "broader perspective" as God may seem quaint in the age of quantum physics, but it does seem to fulfill a fundamental psychological need for the vast majority of people.