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A simple explanation

i-710d005c8660d36282911838843a792d-ClockWeb logo2.JPGOf Religion and Morality (December 02, 2005)


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From I Am An Atheist, via Pratie Place, come these “commandments”:

As an atheist you have a number of rights and responsibilities. These include (but are not limited to):

1. Have no gods.
2. Don’t worship stuff.
3. Be polite.
4. Take a day off once in a while.
5. Be nice to folks.
6. Don’t kill people.
7. Don’t fool around on your significant other.
8. Don’t steal stuff.
9. Don’t lie about stuff.
10. Don’t be greedy.

Remember, theists will condemn you for living by this code because you are doing it of your own free will instead of because you’re afraid that if you don’t a supreme being will set you on fire.

I’ve seen this on a couple of other blogs and the commenters always fixate on the ten lines in the middle, dissecting the similarities and differences between each of these rights and responsibilities and the same-numbered Christian Commandments. But this is not seeing the forest for the trees. The key is in the text at the end.

This whole exercise was done in order to point out the difference between what psychologists call “external focus of moral authority” and “internal focus of moral authority”. The internal FOMA, brought about by modern, loving, nurturant parenting, makes you behave right because it is a part of you, your second nature. Doing “bad” is just not something you consider. It has no appeal to you. It’s easy.

The external FOMA, on the other hand, gets built by Dobsonian-style strict-to-abusive parenting. As a result, the person behaves right because of fear of punishment. The flip-side of this is that behaving right is not a second nature – the person is constantly tempted to do “bad”. What keeps religious fanatics from stealing, raping and pilaging (at least most of the time) is the fear of God’s punishment. Yet, they are tempted all the time, and every now and then they cannot resist temptation – thus high rates of all sorts of crimes, including sex-related crimes in countries, states and areas (mostly rural) where this kind of childrearing runs rampant.

But, the worst situation is when people with external FOMA lose religion. Then, they behave right only when they think they are going to get caught, arrested and put in prison. Whenever they think they can get away with it, they yield to the temptation to do the nasty stuff. More powerful they are in the social hierarchy and more invincible they think they are, more likely they will do bad stuff because they think they can get away with it. And what is higher in our social hierarchy than working in the White House?

Comments

  1. #1 DragonScholar
    December 12, 2006

    I’d add that those with an External FOMA are always looking for loopholes. They’ll find ways to have their “external locus” justify the most horrible behaviors. Thus we end up with many supposedly loving Christians devouring “Left Behind” novels and awaiting the upcoming blood-soaked apocalypse of utter vengeance.