Our meeting on Wednesday May13th 7.15 pm was introduced by Donald Mathewson. Derek Hudson was in the chair.. His chosen subject was Does Morality require Religion to sustain it? This attracted a full turn out of 16. Here is Donald’s summary:
Donald Mathewson: I introduced my paper with the story of a family member’s involvement in a cult, and his subsequent rescue from it. It was this event which stimulated me to ponder, over many years, questions of morality and religion.
As I see it, moral codes are the creation of societies, and dependent on the society which created them. They are subjective both in place and in time. Attiudes to homosexuality are an example of what has been a criminal offence is now accepted in some societies like ours, while still a capital offence in others.
I suggested then that religion too was equally a creation of man, answering the need for reassurance in a world full of unanswered and unanswerable questions and I concluded that morality, being a creation of man, does not need religion to sustain it, though religion with a moral content could give extra strength to man’s innate need for proper codes of behaviour.
John Baxter :. In the course of the evening others in the group recounted similar stories of those they had known who had faced similar experiences with sons and daughters who had been “converted” into joining a cult. His experience though was a thought-provoking example of how young people of high intelligence can get caught up in religious or political extremism. Today we see something similar happening in the cases of those bright young pupils who run off to fight for IS.
After Donald’s eloquent exploration of his subject we followed our pattern of inviting all who wished to express their views unhindered by questions or discussion. Rather to my surprise, given our number, everyone present chose to contribute. This was done in a thoughtful and often challenging way, with members speaking for up to five minutes..
Then, after a break for something to drink, we returned to our large circle for a general discussion which reflected the wide range of opinions and experience of those who had booked a place which on this occasion included a visitor from Italy and another from China.
The point of these sessions is not to achieve some consensus, but rather to provide us all with grounds for deeper reflection and from what people have said to me since, this has certainly been the case.
The evening ended with drinks, cheeses, nibbles and more informal discussion.
Again, here are the questions Donald gave us to think about before the session:
What do we mean by morality?
Why do we need a moral code?
What are the necessary contents of any moral code?
Is there a moral code which is absolute and independent of circumstances, or are all moral codes relative?
What do we mean by religion?
Why do we need a religion?
Are religions creations of man?
If religions contain injunctions to morality, does it follow that morality requires religion to sustain it?
I hope to cover these points in my presentation but I hope even more to be the conductor of the orchestra rather than the soloist.