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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dahmer's morality

I happened to catch a bit of the MSNBC broadcast of an iterview with Jeffrey Dahmer and his father (who recently wrote a book).  I have no particular interest in the topic, and I lack that gruesome fascination that so many people have with serial killers and crime sprees.

However, I was struck by one thing that JD said, that if he'd had some kind of religious upbringing, he might have had a better ethical grounding and would not have committed the heinous crimes that he did.

Of course I understand that he was "saved" in prison and has probably been told this by his spiritual mentors.  I don't really take his claim at face value, but at the same time, he's suggesting something I find especially appalling, namely that religion is the only source of morality, which of course I completely reject (there plenty of moral people who have no religious practice to base their choices on). 

Also, to state the excruciatingly obvious, his crimes hardly fall on some blurry ethical line - he didn't cheat on his taxes after all, he murdered many people and kept their body parts as souvenirs.  It seems a stretch to believe that if he'd only gone to Sunday school he would have realized this behavior was wrong.

It stuck in my mind for several days, because it represents something I find quite troubling - believing that non-religious people are less moral is an attitude that I think damages our culture and complicates our political discourse.



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