More on Morality
© 2017 Vernon Miles Kerr
A regular reader of this blog has probably figured me out by now; near three-quarters of a century on this planet and still agonizing over the big questions: Is there a God (with a capital “g”)? Are the “Holy” books of the world only clever and creative human concoctions, or are they (at least in part) inspired, telepathically, by a superior, spiritual — or even physical — mentality? Are human beings and their broken institutions of governance fixable, or are we incorrigible and headed for a self-created global melt-down and species extinction? And the final question, can a general, worldwide set of agreed-upon moral do’s and don’ts exist outside of religion and if so, would they fix this downhill slide? I labored over this question in some detail in a recent post “Can Morality Exist Without Religion?”
The basic premise was that morality was abandoned, along with the concept of God, during the rise of Nineteenth Century academic Liberalism. Since morals were deemed relative, not absolute, making moral judgments was considered tabu. My friend, fellow blogger and Christian, Mitch Teemley posed an interesting question in his blog recently. “Are all sins the same?”
His article made me think about the definition of sin I heard in Sunday School. “Sin is simply the violation of one of God’s Ten Commandments.” Then it occurred to me that perhaps a partial answer to the question I posed in my own article, above might lie in those Commandments.
“For the purposes of this essay, Secular Morality means a generally-agreed-upon set of moral absolutes that have passed the test of “healthy-or-unhealthy” and have been codified into a succinct list. No such list currently exists. The reader is encouraged to leave suggestions in the comment section of this article.”
Could the beginnings of a list be found in the Ten Commandments? The first four of those commandments are wholly religious in nature. They tell how to worship God, so they could not be included in a Secular Morality.
- You shall have no other gods before Me.
- You shall make no idols.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
- Keep the Sabbath day holy.
The final six Commandments, however, define human beings’ relationships to each other and to humanity in general. Can anyone argue with:
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery. (Oops, some will want to delete this one.)
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Lying, Cheating)
- You shall not covet. (Unbridled Greed)
After some analysis, the “You shall not”s could be expanded by a list of correlative “You shalls,” which would give related duties that flow from those prohibitions. For instance, after “You shall not commit adultery” the duties would be “You shall honor the marriage promises you made to your spouse. You shall protect your children from the embarrassment and insecurity of having a philandering parent,” etc.
Finally, as I mentioned in my comment at the end of Mitch’s article, those final six Commandments really do nothing more than define the six largest issues affecting healthy vs. unhealthy behavior. Of course they, in themselves are not the be-all and end-all of creating a generally accepted Secular Moral Code, but they would be a good beginning. As I mentioned in my above article, the reader is vigorously encouraged to make suggestions.