Saturday, November 17, 2012

Why do we believe in certain values?

Last week, one of our professors told us about the result of a survey that showed that 47% of Americans agreed with the following statement: It is necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values.

I do not know about the reliability of this survey, but I think it is a quite interesting question: Is it necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values?
In my opinion, an individual does definitely not have to believe in God to have good values.
However, I happened to read another statement that describes a scenario in which no one believes in God and such a thing as religion does not exist. What this person says is that without God (or people believing in God), there would also be no morals and no good values because people would not believe in a higher judgement after death. But is this really true? (Note that this is not a discussion about whether a God exists; this is rather about what would happen if people didn’t believe in his existence, if there didn’t exist any religion at all.) I believe that even if nowadays there were no one to believe in God, good values would still remain. But what if religions would never have existed? Do our values and morals really exist because of the existence of certain religions? But who does really believe in the existence of hell nowadays? If people do believe in God and therefore believe in good values, do they really do that because they fear punishment? Isn’t it rather because they believe in a good or loving god?
Assuming that morals are not the origin of religion, why do we believe in them? Why do we think certain things are immoral? Who decides what is immoral? Don’t there have to be some given rules that someone specifies? What are “good values” anyway?
Is it all a concept of treating others the way you would like to be treated yourself?
The truth is, usually being selfish and ruthless is the best way to be successful in certain things in life. My brother has always been indicative of this fact. He always lied, never cared about anyone but himself, wouldn’t even think about helping another person and there he is with plenty of friends, money and time, and girls running after him. Yet I honestly don’t know how he can even sleep at night, knowing about all the things he has done.
My brother definitely doesn’t believe in some values that are generally thought to be good. But what if he has his own values? There has to be someone who decides what is good.
So, if not acting according to certain values like honesty and kindness makes us successful and if we don’t fear hell after life, what makes us still believe in them?
I think there are many influences that affect our values, maybe some of those are defined by religion, some certainly by our culture (in my opinion, this has a huge influence on a lot of people and there are clearly different values in different cultures) and some by our close environment, like family. That is where we get to know about certain values, but what makes us really believe in these?
I truly believe in some values, I have mentioned some in several other posts, amongst them kindness and honesty. But I can’t explain the reasons. I believe they are good and right and in my heart I know they are, but it is difficult to explain why.
What are some values you believe in? And why are they important for you?

I would love to hear some opinions to any or all of the questions.


  1. I personally believe religion doesn't have that much of an affect on morals though it is a form of authority. Authority is generally where a lot of your morals are set at a young age whether that's your parents, teachers, or whoever you're surrounded by at that age (possibly religious people). After a certain age however I believe your morals can change a little but mostly won't change (your roots are laid as it were). I was taught at a young age that I should treat people how I want to be treated. I don't exactly abide by that ruling due to social inabilities but I will try to make up for it in other ways when possible. Guilt enforces the moral rules when I don't abide by them, not the idea that I'd get in trouble by an authority figure

    1. Yes, I think guilt does play an important role in all this and it is not authority that makes me abide by them.
      I am not sure though that all of my morals have been set by some authority, as my parents surely didn't teach me any of those.
      Thanks for your comment!

  2. I do my best to try and treat people how I would like to be treated. Religion does also have a big part to play because if you believe you will go to hell if you don't behave a certain way, you will in no doubt do what you need to do to survive that fate, even if you are not happy doing it.

    I have had to learn many things along the way, because my upbringing taught me a lot about how to survive (and I did) but it did not teach me about love and compassion etc, I learnt this along the way.

    To me it's very important to be balanced in everything I do (not easy) This is because I believe in fair justice, honesty, integrity and good morals. It's a hard slog on some days but all you can do is to be your best and sometimes it feels as if I'm going against my very nature.

    1. I agree, if people believe they will go to hell if they don't behave a certain way, they will follow these rules. But I am not sure whether that is the right motivation. And I think nowadays most people don't believe in the existence of hell anymore.

      I can relate to that, I had learn these things by my own too.

      From what I know about you, it seems to me that you are doing a great job.
      Thank you for commenting!

  3. hmmhm... some really tough questions.. I think that God is often used as a moralistic crutch for people who don't have that moral compass- or for people who prefer to ignore the same.

    Values are hard to be out in a definite manner. I think that whatever you enjoy doing- finally comes out as values. It may have different faces in different places and cultures. Like anger and love may look different in practice from where I am to where you are- but the values --- I think are more or less of the same tones, once you remove all the masks.

    1. That is an interesting thought.
      I agree with you that those values, love etc, are the same in their core. But I do also think that there are some values that are not so important in some cultures as they are in others. For example, in Germany, punctuality and preciseness are generally thought to be very significant values whereas in other cultures these might not be so important.

      Thank you for your comments!

  4. waow thts a serious one ! ...does Goodness have to be linked with God? - a question I myself get asked that a lot .well the thing is , when u believe in God & do right , you are automatically seen as more moral than someone who is exactly the same but doesnt believe in God ! its a thing of religion nd mind I think . but a good person is a good person and these things should not reduce or add goodness :) iv been very away lately :( I'm soooo busyy shopping for my family bck home & for university next yr as well ..justincase u were wondering if I'm still alive ! hihi .

    1. Yes, probably people who believe in God are sometimes seen as more moral. But I think in the end it doesn't make much difference, I don't think someone has to be religious in order to be good. As you said, a good person is a good person.
      Good to know that you're still alive! :) I know what you mean, I'm pretty busy too. I wish you all the best and hope you find some nice things for you and your family. :)

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  6. To start with, I think two quotes have morals explained to a T:

    “About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” -Hemingway

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” -Gandhi

    For me, those are the only two things you need to describe morals and you're golden. For me, personally, I can't think of morals without thinking of my favorite person in the world, my Mom. In my eyes, she is the best person at being "good" in the world, and she has taught me everything she knows about being that way, aka her 'morals'- these are the things I strive at doing so I can be the person I see her being like- you simply can't describe her in words, in my eyes, perfect.

    Also, on this topic I think to the only 'moral' I have ever kept 100% on in my life: no sex before marriage, and I think to why I have and still do keep to this moral: sex is the most amazing, most beautiful thing and most God-struck wonderous gift that any one human could ever humanly possibly give to another human soul, and I think of my future wife and I almost cry thinking of how much she deserves that gift of mine, even if I can't get the same in return. For me- for me, thinking of that describes the apitimy of what a moral is.

    1. I like those quotes and I think they do describe morals in a good way.

      It is amazing that you have such a wonderful Mom and that she taught you what is good in life.

      If this is the most important moral to you, it is good that you kept it. About sex being the most beautiful gift, well, I think it cannot be sex alone (but I think this is not what you meant anyway). In my opinion, for it to be a gift to another human soul, as you said, there has to be more than that. For me, the most wondrous thing is love (I mean real love) and sex is a part of it. OK, I admit, I am a bit of a romantic.
      Thank you for your opinion on this!

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