Because I Said So

LokiWhen I was growing up, nothing had the power to frustrate the crap out of me like my parents saying ‘because I said so’, when I asked a question.

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.

Why is it a sin? Because I (God) says so

Why is it a sin?
Because I (God) says so

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.

religious morality

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.

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29 Comments

  1. The Jewish answer to the “why” question is the Talmud which is on one hand quite interesting and on the other, a little bit insane. If you are not aware, it is a vast work full of debate from various Rabbis. It is an effort to provide rational reasons but it often goes way overboard with silly arguments. Judaism does teach that the religious texts are here on earth for humans to sort out themselves, therefore, we should not be appealing to god to sort out what they mean. It is now our job. This is a stark contrast to Christianity. I don’t know about other religions, such as Islam.

  2. This is really interesting, especially because I do identify with Catholicism but I find myself always searching for answers as to “why” certain things are believed to be true. This is why there are a lot of things in my religion, and in others, that I will not agree with and have my own opinions about.
    In regards to when I was a child and my parents pulled the “because I said so” card, I found it (and still find it) extremely frustrating when they used to use that. I feel like it only made me angrier and more likely to lash out. When they simply tell me the “why’s” I found it was a much more calm situation in which we explained feelings and outcomes and usually came to a peaceful agreement. This is a really interesting and important post, especially in today’s time.

    • I’m extremely glad you found value here.

      I agree with you. I think most people feel like they’re participating in the process and learning when they’re told why they’re being asked to do something. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request either.

      Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Very much appreciated.

  3. I never tell my kids because I said so, they may be children, but there is no reason they shouldnt be shown the same decency i would show an adult. Now if I have given them a good reason and they keep on, all I have to say is, I’ll have your dad explain it to you, and that stops it. As far as my religion go’s i feel like there are some good answers to a lot of the why questions, but I know we dont agree on that subject so i’ll just leave it at that.

  4. My mum often pulled that card on me. Not only did it make me angrier, but also caused me to see her as mainly an authority figure instead of a human being with thoughts and feelings. It was very unfortunate.

  5. I’m far from an atheist, but I respect your take. The thing that most religious people do that irks me is harbor a contention that they have it all figured out.

    Everyone’s path is different, who am I to dictate your path when I don’t have my own affairs in order?

    To paraphrase Jesus “Shut your piehole and handle your own business before you get some of your medicine.” Great post.

  6. I have always been baffled with a national mentality that allows a sport to be called a ”World Series” when for almost a hundred years after the invention of the game they were the only ones who played it?

    The height of arrogance!

    Even as recent as the USA World Cup many Americans were clueless about the other football; soccer. ( that’s the one with the round ball.) There’s a bit of a competition going on in Brazil at the moment, in case any readers are unaware.
    So how on earth are Americans expected to understand and come to terms with atheism, when the “because I said so” mentality is gleefully accepted ( apparently) when espoused by huge dicks like Dear George W, who considered atheists aren’t patriotic.
    He was also wont to tell his fellow ermericans that Yahweh was whispering ”WMD” in his bloody ear day and night? And the gods know how many of you believed him?

    The US of eh? still has a ways to go in the god/atheist-stakes but at least for the atheists there are now plenty of us playing, and we can yell, offside or foul and in a few cases, haul out the Red Card and demand a sending off.

    Yanks can no longer claim their brand of god belief is an exclusive “World Series.”

    Remember….Geezus a’int watching your ass. Because I said so, y’all, okay?

    God bless Uhmerica. ?

    😉

  7. Very interesting…I have a pet theory that religion stunts moral reasoning. If you research the development of moral reasoning in children (see Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development), you will find that the “Because I said so” is a very authoritative stance that satisfies the lowest levels of moral reasoning and critical thinking. I am not a fan of religion or “personal relationships” with a Sky Fairy precisely because religion is dehumanizing as it infantilizes people and teaches them to be satisfied with the basest levels of moral reasoning…I live in the American Bible Belt, btw…You can see this insanity in our politics.

    • I agree with you. Religion offers a simplist approach to morality. I think you see this when believers ask why rape or murder is wrong. If they’d used reason and empathy more often instead of relying on religion to do their moral reasoning for them, they would already know the answer. Sometimes morals aren’t right or wrong. Sometimes there are multiple right answers with some being better than others.

      Not sure if you’re into apologetics and/or philosophy, but there is an interesting comment in my Presuppositional Apologetics post by Bill. You might find it interesting.

      It must be tough for you living in the bible belt. Are you open about your atheism?

      Thanks for your comment. Much appreciated.

  8. What you have written reflects so well what I see in this world. The human race and each persons developing personality is so often influenced by others, those around us, those that teach, our friends, our education, those with their own agenda, those with closed minds. If we as an individual would just open our minds, dig deep enough into the questions of life, getting down to the core of the subject pushing aside all the distractions that derail our investigations we can start to understand who we are and why this life we live should be so wonderful. Man made rules no matter where they came from should never overrule the ethics of life. Just based on the understanding that ethics in life do exist and are good for everyone should make us question how we our subconscious feelings came into existance. We often use the term our heart aches not our brain aches which I believe drives our ethic behaviors. If we could all just learn to love and be loved, this world would be at total peace! Just where did those ethical feelings come from? Great post!

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