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Moral Absolutism and Religious Tolerance

A lot of things have clearly been pushing my buttons lately, so when this ridiculous letter came out, I just had to say something. Here’s another edition of a mangled letter to the forum which looks nothing like what I initially wrote. But at least the point is made.

MR GEORGE Lim in Monday’s Forum Online letter (“Let’s reinforce unity of purpose in fighting terrorism”) sayswe are not a morally relativist society, and argues that only good, absolute values exist in Singapore. How is that so when different religions have different ideas of morality and what is “good”?

Moral absolutism and religious tolerance cannot co-exist. If we are to be morally absolute, then there is no room for diversity or tolerance. For example, Mr Lim states that polygamy is wrong. Well, polygamy is allowed for Muslims in Singapore.

Also, religious freedom includes a person’s right not to be religious as well. If Mr Lim’s argument is to be upheld, what do we teach the children of parents who do not subscribe to a major religion? To describe a person who is non-religious as a heathen is wrong, and such a view has no place in a secular Singapore. It also contradicts Mr Lim’s calls for religious tolerance.

Indulekshmi Rajeswari (Miss)

And here’s the original:

I refer to George Lim’s letter “Let’s reinforce unity of purpose in fighting terrorism” on 20th July.
We can never overemphasise the need to remain vigilant against the threat of people who claim moral superiority over everyone else.
Firstly, George Lim says we are not a morally relativist society, and only good, absolute values exist in Singapore. I do not accept his unproven and extreme argument that we thrive on absolute morals. The fact is that different religions have a different ideas of morality and what is “good”. If we learn from our religious leaders, and since we are all learning different things, how do we draw the line between good and evil? Sure there are some overlaps, but there are differences. Moral absolutism and religious tolerance cannot co-exist.  If we are to be morally absolute, then there is no room for diversity or tolerance. For example, he says polygamy is a wrongdoing – whether or not he is right, he seems to be forgetting that polygamy is allowed in Singapore for Muslim men.

Secondly, religious freedom includes the right of the person to not believe in anything. What do we teach the children of parents who do not subscribe to a major religion? I take offence to his description of me as a “heathen”, just because I am not religious. He is creating dangerous boundaries between the religious and non-religious, setting this up as a war between the two sides. This is clearly against the Prime Minister’s objective to create a more harmonious society. Also, there is only one step from considering the non-religious as heathen, to considering everyone outside your religion as heathen. This attitude goes against his own calls for religious tolerance.

Thirdly, if I could remind George Lim teaching our children “values” through religion was already tried once in Singapore, through the Religious Knowledge program. This was wisely removed by the government after 6 years, as they acknowledged that the program was creating disharmony in a global and national climate of increased religious fervour.

Fourthly, abuse of human rights usually starts when one person or group starts considering themselves the morally superior group, and starts imposing their ideas on the rest. Do I need to bring up Nazis to make my point? I am pretty sure they thought they were being righteous, and exalting their nation.

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July 22, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion, singapore | 4 Comments