Almost everyone agrees that a rock feels no pain and that it probably feels no joy either. Recognizing that rocks can’t suffer but humans and animals can, is the underlying concept that guides human values. So says notable atheist, Sam Harris who is shopping, “The Moral Landscape,” his book about using science as a basis for human values and morals. If we believe that something can suffer, we are likely to treat it differently. And in the great hierarchy, our thoughts about a mosquito’s inner life are different than say, an elephant’s inner life. He further argues that religion is not the right framework for carving human values because religion separates moral thinking from the details of human suffering. Each religion has a set of rules about what is right and wrong and at best it excludes people and at worst it causes some people to suffer. And comedian Jon Stewart attempted to sum it up by asking whether religious morality is wrong or just, “mathematically inferior to other morality that comes from say, long division.”
On the other hand, a majority of the world’s population believes in God – in one way or the other. None other than the Pew research Center concluded that most people in the world believe that God is necessary for morality and good values to prevail. Religion journalist and author, Mark Oppenheimer proposes that religious beliefs are often the foundation for strong communities, happy people and charitable work. Religion responds to a deep human need for rituals. And such rituals make us happy and help us find purpose, and focus on the common good. Even people who are completely secular tend to engage in spiritual pursuits and rituals. And best of all, religion has a Sabbath or day of rest which everyone craves, even those in the secular world who want down time. It’s all worth thinking about.