Don’t get me wrong, my parents weren’t monsters. I love them very much. They did their best.
However, they weren’t fans of explaining themselves. When told to do something, I would almost always ask why and be met with a stubborn wall of ‘because I said so’s’. It was always an unsatisfying answer that appealed to their authority. I was forced to go along with it or be punished. Even as a child I felt it was unfair.
All of this was probably the catalyst to my current views on that phrase, and being told what to do in general. My wife (and anyone else who knows me well) knows that commanding me isn’t a good thing to do if you want my help with something. I also don’t like the word ‘no’. If you want me to do something, simply ask. If you want to tell me ‘no’, you better have a reason for it. I’m not interested in hearing I can’t do something merely because you said so.
Religion and religious ethics or morals is based on the ‘because I said so’ model. I think people in general find it easier to appeal to one book, rather than take the time to think for themselves, evaluate the evidence and use reason to develop their ethics. It’s so much easier to pretend one book has all the answers.
Have a moral conundrum?
No problem! The bible, Koran etc. have the answer all laid out for you.
Can’t find it?
No problem! There’s a priest (religious leader) right over there that can tell you what to think. The only requirement is that you shut off your brain and submit to their moral authority.
The fact that there are several sects associated with most religions, each with their own interpretation of the bible (or other holy book) and each with their own slightly different take on morality, doesn’t seem to faze the religious, many of whom continue to propagate the myth that you need their brand of deity and dogma to be moral at all.
Not even the millions of atheists that are good without god that surround them every day seems to have the power to diminish this insidious myth – atheists continue to be labeled as immoral or at the very least of having no ‘basis for morality’. Many religious people will claim that to an atheist, murdering or raping someone should be fine, despite the evidence of law abiding atheists everywhere, who don’t need religion to know that murdering and raping people isn’t an ethically sound thing to do.
In fact, a new poll suggests that a large percentage of Americans don’t want atheists to marry into their families. That’s how deep this stereotype runs.
The power of ‘because I said so’ seems to be running rampant. The only problem is that we (‘we’ as in religious people) don’t really follow the bible. There are all sorts of rules in there we ignore. We don’t stone people anymore. In North America, we don’t mandate that citizens worship one God like the Ten Commandments tells us to etc.
Secular morality has already won in most cases. The ‘because I said so’ argument isn’t doing so well in practice. Religion is being dragged along behind reason.
Sure, religion is often dragged kicking and screaming, but it’s usually forced to conform to the society that surrounds it. Secular morality isn’t perfect, but it’s a far sight better than the ‘I told you so’ method that religion has pushed since we invented it. Being able to change our definition of what is ethical or unethical when confronted with new data isn’t a weakness – it’s a strength. It’s a strength that religion lacks.
I was a child when my parents used the ‘because I said so’ method. I’m no longer a child. If you want to convince me something is right, wrong, ethical or unethical, you’re going to have to provide clear reasons and where possible, evidence.
I plan on typing up more on this topic, but in the meantime, whether you’re religious or non-religious, please leave your thoughts in the comment section and thanks for reading.