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Morality without Religion?

Morality without Religion? 

Can you be a moral person without religion? Yes and no. It all depends on what you mean by 'moral' and what you mean by 'religion'. What most people mean by 'moral' in our society is "Try to be a nice person. Be normal. Have relatively good manners. Don't do any of the big bad ones like killing someone or stealing or being a pervert. Be involved in a good cause of some sort--like the soup kitchen or saving the Amazonian rain forest." Morality for the post Christian masses doesn't really have anything to do with a set moral code or particular rules to follow. It is more a sense of 'feeling that you are a moral person'. Part of this feeling 'moral' is tolerance of everyone else and outrage at hypocritical Christian type people who try to force their version of 'morality' on others. So can you be 'moral' in this way without being religious? Of course. In fact true religion would be downright counterproductive to this sort of 'morality'. But they don't mean 'true religion' they mean 'going to church.'

Can you be moral without going to church? Yes. Just like you can be immoral and go to church. However, there is more to it than that.…

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  1. Hi Tim,

    I may be a bit off topic with this comment, but I cannot help asking: Can Father Longnecker's article below be considered moral? Is the production of deliberately misleading propaganda moral according to the Catholic Catechism?

    I invite your readers to link here:

    Now I invite your readers to consider the following facts:

    1. The law permitting Civil Unions for same-sex couples in the UK currently prohibits such couples from incorporating any religious symbols or elements into their ceremonies.
    2. The proposed law which Fr. Longnecker criticizes simply removes this restriction and permits the use of religious locations and sysmbols if the religious organization consents (after all - not all religions are homophobic).
    3. The proposed law contains a provision that protects any religion from participating in a Civil Union ceremony if it is antithetical to their beliefs.

    Given the above facts, does anyone think that Fr. Longnecker's article is misleading? Is this article a pile of fear-mongering propaganda with no basis in fact?

    Is it moral to knowingly permit such an abuse of the truth?

    Why do Catholics remain silent in the face of such an obvious distortion of the truth?

    I am sincerely interested in your reader's views.


  2. Martin: The other mistake he's making is that he confusing 'civil union' with a 'marriage'. The change in Britain deals with the former, not the latter. To this point in time civil unions had to be registered via a magistrate. The government is simply extending the rights to church to officiate at such a ceremony and then register it for the government. Further, whereas only gays could previously register a civil union, the right is now being extended to straight couples who want something 'less' than a full marriage. Evidently these unions are not recognized outside of Britain and there are differences in how property and pension issues are dealt with.

    Since the RC Church does not recognize these unions as marriages, it is a non-issue for us. Britain does not recognize 'same sex marriage'. The UK government has stated that it intends to change its marriage laws in the future to extend it to cover hetero and homosexual couples. THEN - if there is no provision for protection for Churches (I'm sure there will be) the Church would have an issue, but not now.


  3. Thanks Tim. You make some great points.

    But where is the condemnation of Fr. Longnecker's misleading article? Is it moral for him to blatantly abuse the truth in this manner?

    Will Catholics be calling on Longnecker's Bishop to have him censured, or to have him retract his misleading article? I wonder if LifeSite News will be publishing a call to arms and providing contact details for their readers to write to his Bishop? it OK to tell lies, if those lies are about people you don't like? Does "anything go" when it comes to the promotion of one's religious convictions?

    Is baseless, fear-mongering proganda permitted when spouted in the name of Jesus?


  4. I have been thinking on this for a couple of days. I know that's a long time, but something didn't make sense for me with Martin's criticism of Father L, and actually Father Tim, with your support of Martin.

    Condemn Father Longenecker for reporting what is actually happening in the UK, and then linking an actual lawsuit going on that has a parallel with it, and suggesting that there is more to come?

    Father Longenecker, though an American citizen spent many years of his life in England. He became an Anglican priest over there, and served there. He and his family were received into the Catholic Church in 1995,and he became a Catholic priest, and also has a distinguished writing career here in North America.

    So, who am I going to believe? Martin - who always finds a dark cloud in every silver lining as it relates to the faith, or Father Dwight Longenecker, who experienced church life in the C of E in jolly olde England, and keeps up with affairs there, and warns the Church here that they should: "Ask not for whom the bell tolls."

    You, Martin are smarter than to think that the status quo today will be the status quo tomorrow.

    You were right. This was not on topic, and not even related to the topic at hand, though very interesting.

    I noted that of the 25 comments at Catholic Online for the article, not one of them came from you Martin.

    What's up with that?

    And what's your personal, though I am sure rational agenda?

  5. Hi Martin,

    Is Fr. L. intending to mislead? He is clearly mistaken in his confusion of civil unions and marriages, but is it not possible (probable?) that he is correct in his analysis of the situation in England? Given that he comes from there originally (something I didn't know), and since Great Britain possesses one of the most aggressive secularist/atheist communities in Europe, what he is proposing is not out of the question.

    Is he spinning the facts to fit his argument? Probably. But then so is everyone else in these debates - and it surely seems to be the case in G.B.- so I ask you... are you sure that he is wrong in his argument even if he has some of the particulars wrong?

    I honestly don't know.

    Michael: Doesn't Catholic Online require a donation before it lets people comment? I know that since I don't have a credit card I haven't been able to leap that hurdle. I really doubt that Martin would be inspired to put his dollar up to support a website whose ethos he disagrees with.

    Just a thought.

    Fr. Tim

  6. Father Tim:

    Father L was very clear on his use of the term "civil unions" and used the word marriage once in air quotes, and once later in a sentence, for effect, I believe.

    Unless I am dumb as a post, which is possible, he was very clear on what he was speaking about, with very little possibility to look at it ambiguously.

    CO does not require or even ask for donations, particular for comments. I was asked for my email address and a name when I just posted a comment to that article.

    So, Martin can vent his spleen if he wants for the same price over there, as over here.

    Frankly, I would prefer to spleen vent here as it will produce some dialogue possibly with people of different minds, and usually with good command of the english language.


  7. Hi TIm - I do not know for certain if Fr. Longennecker's intention is to mislead. I simply assert that his article does mislead.

    I also point out that the briefest contact with reality should have informed Fr. Longenecker of this fact.

    Michael - I did post a polite refutation on Catholic Online in response to Fr. Longennecker's misleading article. It was not published.

    I generally find that publications such as CO have only a cursory interest in the truth and only accept corrections if it supports their conclusions.

    As for an agenda - I have none. I have opinions and a point of view - but a specific agenda - I have none. I find your question odd. Do you have an agenda? If so, what is it?


  8. Martin:

    Some times I can be quite obtuse, but for the life of me, I cannot see anything that would cause you to take Father L's article as misleading. What am I missing?

    Point of view - agenda. Whatever!! Don't we all have a point of view that colours our views of things.

    God Bless You

  9. Hi Michael,

    Fr. Longenecker is writing to an American audience that is not aware of the actual laws around civil unions in the UK. Let’s look at the article’s title first:

    “Homosexualists to Force Anglican Church Weddings in UK”

    This title is a lie. Homosexuals are not FORCING anyone to do anything that they are not predisposed to do. Only churches that consent, and same-sex couples who request it, may incorporate religious symbols and locations into their civil union ceremonies.

    Surely Fr. Longenecker supports religious liberty? Why would he oppose any religious denomination’s right to willingly participate in a civil union ceremony?

    Next the article uses phrases that imply coercion on the part of LGBT citizens, for example:

    “So now, bowing to their demands, the lawmakers are to allow…”

    Longenecker provides no evidence that anyone is BOWING, or anyone is being forced to BOW to homosexual DEMANDS.

    Longenecker states that homosexuals are going to force EVERY vicar or priest to marry them:

    “Anybody, therefore, who thinks that it will stop with permission for homosexuals to have their civil unions in church buildings with religious elements if they want to (but nobody will have to if they don't want to) are seriously deluded. After this legislation goes through the homosexualists will set about hounding every priest and vicar who dares to decline them the opportunity to conduct their same sex marriages, and take them to court.”

    This is patently false. The legislation clearly provides protection to any denomination that does not wish to participate in a civil union ceremony. To clear up any misunderstanding, he could simply refer to the proposed legislation.

    Lastly, he states that a homosexual couple SET UP a Christian B&B to sue for discrimination. This is offered as evidence that homosexuals will force every church to marry them. This is misleading for the following reasons:

    a) no evidence of a set up is offered;
    b) the issue cited is unrelated to the proposed legislation that he is criticizing;
    c) even if a set up was involved, the B&B is in likely contravention of the UK’s non-discrimination laws. As I said above, this is an unrelated matter.

    The context for the article is important as well Michael. One of the "arguments" that the religious right routinely employs to discredit equal marriage in the US, is promotion of the unfounded fear that religions will be forced to marry gays. This article blatantly stokes that fear without offering any real evidence in support of that contention.

    Since Catholic Online and Fr. Longenecker refuse to publish my refutation to this article – I believe it is strong evidence that their intention is indeed to stoke this baseless fear. This article is a wonderful example of "white propaganda".


  10. Martin:

    Thank you for taking the time to explain where you are coming from. It is pretty hard to have dialogue when the dialoguees don't know where the other comes from.

    However, I think the history of the LGBT movement has proven you wrong, as opposed to people who have homosexual proclivities, and I think there is a big difference between the LGBT movement and the men in the street.

    How long before a civil union at city hall, becomes a civil union in a church, becomes marriage between homosexual?

    The human rights issue that Fr. L refers to has already happened in BC under similar circumstances, and does, I believe give evidence to a homosexual agenda that is trying to put homosexual sexual relations on an equal plane with marital relations.

    For you to note that the human rights of visitors to a B&B top the human rights of the owners of the B&B, which is how things are interpreted in this country as well, is absolutely true, but also absolutely ludicrous, and flies in the face of the truth of human rights.

    It is also indicative of the agenda (I remember this word from another comment stream) of the liberal elements of our society, who are foisting wacky ideas of what are human rights on our society.

    In the end, it all gets down to sex really. For Christians to support marriage and marital relations, as by their nature unitive and procreative, they cannot support homosexual marriages, since the natural procreative element is absent.

    I can see where Fr. L. has used the word marriage incorrectly in his title.

    But, he is ringing a clarion call (that most people do not want to respond to).

    At least, that's my opinion on what I have read and heard and thought.

    Oh, and I think that my opinion is every bit as RATIONAL as yours, and as grounded in reality, though I am pretty sure that I view reality differently in this instance than you.

    One day, probably not here on earth, we may be able to have presented to us what reality actually was at this time.

    God Bless You


  11. Hi Michael,

    Equal marriage may well be a matter of time in the UK. Civil unions may well give way to equal marriage. IMHO this would be right and just.

    Having said that, it does not change the fact that Longenecker's article misleads, and was very probably intended to do so. No matter how you whistle past the graveyard on this one Michael - it does not change the reality that Longenecker lied. You might be comfortable with that fact because the lie supports a position with which you agree - but ultimately, it goes against Catholic doctrine.

    Catholics assert that the ends never justify the means. In other words, Longenecker may not lie just because it slanders a minority you oppose. His act is immoral by your own standards, and your breezy acceptance of it makes you complicit in the lie.

    Thank you for the exchange.


  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Martin:

    Though I do not reach the same conclusions as you do from many of the same facts, but different predispositions (I am sure), I respect your thoughts, and opinions, and respectfully disagree with you.

    Not sure there is anything further to discuss here, but I look forward to sharing in discourse with you again.

    God Bless You


  14. Hi Michael,

    While you are entitled to your own opinions, you are not entitled to your own set of facts.

    When Longenecker claims that, "Homosexualists to Force Anglican Church Weddings in UK"....he is dishonest when he says that the proposed legislation accomplishes this by FORCE. FORCE means someone is being compelled to act against their will. I repeat - the proposed legislation does not FORCE anyone to do anything that they do not already wish to do.

    How can a choice permitted by the proposed law be characterized as "FORCE"???

    Forget for a moment all of the other points I have made about how Longenecker's article misleads and focus on this one single point: What is it about Longenecker's article that makes you believe it is truthful to claim Anglicans - or anyone else - will be FORCED to marry lesbian or gay couples as a result of this proposed law? Remember - the proposed law contains provisions that prevent any religion from being forced to participate in a civil union ceremony if it is contrary to their beliefs.

    Honestly Michael, I am stunned by your lack of comprehension.

    I get that you agree with Longenecker's views about homosexuality. I get that you fear that civil unions may be eventually replaced by marriage for same-sex couples in the UK. I get all of that. What I do not get is why you seem genetically incapable of acknowledging that this proposed legislation is not FORCE. I do not get why you seem genetically incapable of publically calling out a liar - even if he is a priest.

    I have patiently drawn out the obvious for you. I can do no more.


  15. The question is: Can you be a moral person without religion?

    The answer is: Of course you can! Just as you can be a religious person without morals. I thought that was patently obvious.

    Next...? ;D

  16. Somewhat facetiously, but not entirely, I'm going to reverse the question. Can one be moral with religion?

    Pick any modern specific moral question (not should we be good) such as abortion, gay marriage, war in Iraq, divorce, contraception, etc. Even staying within mainline Christian denominations one can get the full spectrum of ethical teaching on each subject. Does it then become a question of being moral or picking a religion that conforms to your current opinion or endeavouring to conform to the morality of the religion of the happenstance of your birth?

    Compound that with various religions offering eternal reward or eternal damnation if one conforms to or doesn't conform to the particular denomination's teaching and then one is acting less as a moral agent than through coercion.

    Where is the morality there?

  17. Is Christianity even an accurate arbiter of what is moral or immoral?

    Many moral injunctions pre-dated the Old and New Testaments. Murder was condemned long before Moses appeared on the scene. The "Golden Rule" referred to by Jesus was articulated by at least 3 other cultural traditions long before the first century.

    Moreover, the Bible condoned slavery, rape, and incest. We now view these 3 activities as immoral.

    Clearly, the Bible is not a source of morality. Clearly, Christians needed to refer to principles and knowledge outside of their scriptures to arrive at their new moral positions on slavery, rape and incest.

    Why not just drop the pretense that Christian scriptures tell us anything that is morally unique, or anything morally reliable? Why not just go directly to the principles and knowledge that Christians obviously need to appeal to in order to override their faulty Bibles?

    Just say'n.

    Seems to me Fr. Longencker's analysis is pretty shallow and more than a little misleading on the topic of morality. Now where have we seen that trait displayed before?



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