Religion and the Queerness of Morality Commentary

Religion and the Queerness of Morality

Before reading this commentary, click on the above link and read this very interesting essay of morality in a secular world. It is a unique take on the absurdity of moral values in a world that is void of a divine creator (God). 

In Religion and the Queerness of Morality article, George I. Mavrodes advocates for what how morality depends upon religion.[1]  His purpose is to show how one can deduce religion from morality by showing how worldview amendments required would move substantially toward a religious position.[2] The bulk of his thesis is a polemic against Bertrand Russell’s 1903 essay; A Free Man’s Worship wherein Russell posits that all things from humanity, in humanity, and causes of humanity are merely collisions of atomic articles with no real meaning or justifications. This is what Mavrodes calls a “Russelian Worldview” and is often naturalistic outpourings of those who are entirely naturalists; that is no true morality can be gleaned from the processes of natural selection and random variation. 

Mavrodes explains that the Russellian world, if true in the sense that all things are void of true meaning and morality, that people are just causes of space, matter, time, and chance than it would be natural to conclude that: “If the world is Russellian, then Russellian benefits and losses are the only benefits and losses, and also then we have moral obligations whose fulfillment will result in a net loss of good to the one who fulfills them.”[3] This Mavrodes concludes would makeup a crazy world in which net loss and net benefits would be the only motivators for morality, one would never do good if it counted as a net loss for his/her own benefit. This would be absurd, which Mavrodes aptly refers to as “queerness.” He advocates that in the Russelian world, moral judgements or inclinations to these absurdities would have to be eliminated in-that such queerness would, in fact, must seize to exist. Moral judgement is void considering purely beneficial standards set for by the speaker, in all cases that being the person advocating for net benefits.

Moreover, Mavrodes explains the contradictions of moral obligations in a Russelian world. These obligations would be attributed to feelings or emotions which are not scientific explanations of anything; therefore, moral judgements and duties could have no basis. Mavrodes concludes that in this worldview: “morality has a survival value for a species such as ours because it makes possible continued cooperation and things of that sort.”[4] This means that morality would be trumped by survival of the species and that could lead to some very absurd conclusions where humans could see the demise of fellow human beings as the cost of some greater good. Nazi Germany came to some of the very same conclusions in the twentieth century.

The basis for Mavrodes queerness analogy is to show the absurdity of this Russelian world in which these oddities would have to be viewed as not odd at all if the Russelian benefit system is implied. By drawing on these queerness examples and how one would have to dismiss them as not odd at all, Mavrodes is pulling the reader into a system of morality that can only be understood through a religious framework.

Mavrodes postulates that moral obligations and duties are performed out of respect to that moral law, one in which no natural benefit may be obtained in this life. This is a paradoxical view that is in direct opposition to what Bertrand Russell’s world requires. Without religion, morality is, indeed, extremely queer. To do something moral, not seeking immediate gratification or temporal benefit does not comport with atoms in collision set forth by only natural causes. To be moral personally is to understand that the world is that which has been created to uphold a cosmic sense of morality set forth by a moral law giver; “It makes sense only if there is a moral demand on the world too and only if reality will in the end satisfy that demand.”[5] That is, the queerness of morality from a Christian worldview where God creates a moral law in the Natural world is not queer at all, but the outflow of prohibition and the demand of moral obligation is the only justification of the natural conclusions one can draw upon in the world in which humanity now resides.


Mavrodes, George I. “Religion and the Queerness of Morality.” The Journal of Religion 69, no. 4 (1989): 578–586.


[1] George I Mavrodes, “Religion and the Queerness of Morality,” The Journal of Religion 69, no. 4 (1989): 578-586, 579.

[2] Ibid, 579-580.

[3] Ibid, 581.

[4] Ibid, 582.

[5] Ibid, 583.


1 Comment

  1. 1 Peter 3:15 suggests people will proactively ask Christians about the hope they have. Why? Because if they truly base their decisions on hope in Christ, they will constantly do things that seem irrational.


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