A sense of virtue

Clerics will say anything, and they’re allowed to; that’s their job. In some jobs you have to try to get things right and then report them truthfully; in others you’re allowed and indeed encouraged to just make things up. Archbishops are firmly in the second camp.

Many Catholics see in the dismay over MPs’ expenses and the behaviour of the financial markets, a growing public conviction that all is not well in the moral life of the nation. They believe it presents a rare opportunity for the Church to make its voice heard, and see in the archbishop a forceful and articulate spokesman…[The archbish] said the revelations about expenses and the activities of the markets showed rules alone could not make a society work. He insisted they showed that some sense of “virtue” – such as that offered by Christianity – was also needed.

From an obvious truism to a ridiculous non sequitur. Of course ‘rules alone’ can’t make a society work, but who ever said they could? What’s that got to do with anything? Nothing, apart from the automatic slandering of all things secular. ‘Those pesky unbelievers – they think rules alone can make a society work – how shallow and uninformed and clueless can you get? Typical godless.’ Nobody said rules alone can make a society work, and in any case, why is the only other option ‘some some sense of “virtue” such as that offered by Christianity’? It isn’t, of course, the archbishop just felt like saying it is, and his job description says he’s totally allowed to do that.

So – what would this ‘sense of virtue’ be? Especially this ‘sense of virtue’ offered by Christianity? Think hard now. Hmmm. Is it anything like the virtue of
the religious congregations in Ireland? No, probably not. What then? Oh…humility, turning the other cheek, loving your enemy, that kind of thing. Unless you’re in charge of an industrial school, of course, in which case humility and turning the other cheek and loving your enemy is quite the wrong kind of thing. So that must not be what’s meant by a sense of virtue then? So what is? Hmmm. Not getting hitched to someone of the same sex? Yes, perfect! But then – that’s just a rule, right?

Well, the archbishop probably did have something in mind, but I’ll be damned if I can guess what it might be.

The truth is that religion has nothing to offer to morality. It may have some utility as a morality-assistant, but it’s worthless at moral reasoning. That’s not to say that no religious people can engage in moral reasoning, it’s just to say that the religious part doesn’t add anything to the reasoning. Well it doesn’t. Moral reasoning is secular, and religion either gets it dead wrong, or muddies the issues, or simply applauds what everyone knows anyway.

This is why I won’t be applying for any archbishop jobs soon.

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