Writing a response to an editorial in my student newspaper...
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04-11-2011, 04:10 PM
Writing a response to an editorial in my student newspaper...
Hello everyone,
A student at my university published this op-ed in my student newspaper today:


I would like to write a response guest op-ed to this, and this is what I have so far. I was hoping you all could offer some input/editing for me--it has been a long time since I have written anything this extensive! I would also love to hear others' thoughts on this article as well. While I appreciate the idea behind it, and I know this dude to be a really nice guy, but something about it just didn't sit right with me. I want to be as respectful as possible, so I am choosing to ignore some of the conflicting things he says--especially that definition of faith that he starts off with, as well as not addressing how he is able to prioritze good before God and still believe in a God whose idea of good conflicts with our commonly-held ideas today. Thanks for your time!

I agree with almost all of Mr. Simon’s points about respecting the belief of others and emphasizing good. However, a more concrete idea of good is needed, as well as further exploration of the relationship between religion and good. Religions have a long history of suppressing others and one of their main tenants is still that their faith is the one true faith. I do not believe faith allows one to “choose your own path to the mountaintop”—that is more a characteristic of modern religions, which have begun to realize that if they continue to insist that their followers abide by ancient traditions and principles, they will not have many followers. Essentially, I view it as a shift towards agnosticism and atheism. The religious are following the requirement of their religions less and less. Good is less intertwined with religion than it once was, because society has begun to recognize that good is, in actuality, morality. Morality depends on the context, and while religion presents good as something immutable, it normally fails to address moral ambiguities, such as the individual stealing to feed their family. PZ Myers, author of the Pharyngula blog, offers my favorite definition of good:

“Good is not absolute, it is an emergent property that arises from successful networks of individuals. It is also something that is measured by evidence: we look at the good that people do, not the promises that they make and never keep, or the lies that dovetail nicely into dogma. Competence is a virtue. Intent is meaningless without action.”

Essentially, good depends on individuals evaluating what provides the most benefit to the most people. Mr. Simon also states that it is important to pay more attention to our commonalities than our differences—however, I must respectfully disagree. Our differences are what lead us to the best solutions. When you have several different individuals with different definitions of good, due to their different religions, you have a better chance of reaching a more all-encompassing idea of what good should truly be. The more differences we have, the better. Our commonalities should not be our focus, except in the sense that we all have basic needs that need to be fulfilled and rights that should be respected.

Mr. Simon also discusses how religion’s main use is in teaching others how to be good people. I agree that that has been religion’s purpose, but that it is not a good guide in modern times, and can, in many cases, be damaging. While God set down certain rules or principles to live by, we are not allowed to choose whether to follow these rules—generally there is an eternal reward/punishment condition as well. Morality does not exist for its own sake. It developed out a desire to reach heaven and avoid hell. This is not true “good.” This is forced behavior modification. Good should arise out of an ability to empathize with others and to think logically. I believe that God should be our focus, because religions are so inextricably intertwined with the idea of good that it will always come back to haunt us if we dodge the question. Religions have many conflicting views, and if we all try to do good in that sense, then we will always end up conflicted.
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05-11-2011, 04:17 AM
RE: Writing a response to an editorial in my student newspaper...
"It developed out a desire to reach heaven... " Needs re-phrasing?

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use." - Galileo

"Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do." - Voltaire
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