Please don't judge me

So, religion is important, eh? What I find most interesting about religion is the implicit desire to have morality embodied in the facts of the world. Next time you think about harming a stranger, remember that--if you are a Christian--you are both children of God. Next time you think about harming a stranger, remember that--if you are a Buddhist--in another life he or she was your spiritual teacher, or your mother, or your brother.

I like to note to myself that these relationships do have pretty wide appeal. Personally, I think people must unconsciously recognize that they could have been born into a different family, so they look for a way for reconciling that possibility with what actually happened to them (and what goes with it, e.g. deep love for their family).

To be honest, though, I wish morality were built into this world. The main difficulty with that, however, is that it requires one morality. Either a stranger is my brother or he is not. Either bad actions will always have repercussions (in this or another life) or they will not. Either I will have another life or I will not.

The factual devices that religion uses, however, are not really facts-of-the-matter. In one sense they are, which is whether a stranger is actually related to me, but in the sense that gives it force, which is the love I do have for the brothers that I actually grew up with, they are not. The relationships are general and shared across culture: facts, by themselves, do not tell. People must judge and assign values to them.

(We also share rational standards, and some religious believers value their religion in the same way as rational standards, based on the fact that they are both so prominent. It does make me wonder whether, since religion is so common throughout history and will continue to be so, some credence should be lent to religion based on its popularity alone. Consensus is not so outrageous. For this reason, I am no longer surprised at how people might rank religion and science as equally valid forms of obtaining truth, though I completely fail at understanding how that is so. I suppose someone who would regard inspiration, or love, or something like that as truth might regard their religion in a similar manner.)

A stranger being my brother as a point of fact should not truly matter in my decision to do something evil to him, should it? That seems a bit exploitative, and frankly only sounds good to me for a little while. Well, according to Christianity it is not just that we are children of God. It is that we are children of God. That is huge.

EDIT: Steven Pinker talks about this as a broader cultural attitude, perhaps stemming from human nature.