Emotions, Morality, and Religion

By Macabee Callard

    Are there good or bad emotions? It certainly seems like there are. While some principles like manners, respect and authority have to be cemented in us at a young age and don’t come at all naturally, simple emotions like anger or sadness may feel good or bad. This is sort of a “moral compass.” For example, empathy naturally feels like a good emotion and pride a bad one. But can emotions really be “good” or “bad?” Let’s look at some cases.

    As I said earlier, pride naturally feels bad. But if you really think about it, what bad does it do? It may not accomplish much, but it isn’t hateful or resentful of others or you. In fact, being utilitarian myself, it actually increases overall happiness for free! It could be argued for that it’s great! Now, I thought about this, and something didn’t feel right. And I came up with an argument for pride being bad. I think that all good things should involve some sort of mental or physical work or uniqueness. But Pridefulness is a simple, useless, unproductive joy. Kind of like drugs. But even if this is an example of an emotion being bad, it has nothing to do with the moral compass. It is something you had to think over. Still, you wonder where this moral sense comes from. It would be weird if evolution developed such a thing. It really isn’t practical.

    This is where religion comes into play. As I said before, I really don’t think our moral compass comes from evolution. No, I think early humans had it too. And I think some animals like elephants might too. I think early humans thought. “What are these urges to do or not do? Where do they come from?” They needed an origin.  And it made sense that the being that created these rules would be conscious, and smart like them. And that’s how the first religions came up. Gods warned humans about right and wrong. They really seem to hate pride. My favorite goddess, Athena, told humans they would become swollen with pride. She told them the ground would turn to metal, and the trees to iron spikes. (She was actually kinda right.) In the end, as the title says, this has been about a lot. But Human psychology is complicated. Guess we’re just human.

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