Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Thoughts on Morality - Nov 3

Thinking is an art form, just like Rodin's well known piece of sculpture. In like fashion, a flash of inspiration hits me and seeing as I have time, I decided to attend forthwith my train of thought and write it down for posterity's sake.

The Trouble with Humanism and Morality

I have a quarrel with those who reject Christ yet still claim a high moral ground. I have no problem conceding the obvious: That it is possible to be in a state of unbelief and yet still be a moral person. There are many Atheists/Muslims/Pagans/Hindus/Sikhs etc. in Canadian society that would be regarded as 'moral' persons by average secular standards. So yes, both a Christian and a non-Christian can be moral. The question then becomes: Who will be more faithful over the long haul in their morality and ethical conduct?

The Limits of Earthly Sanctions

We intrinsically know that certain things are wrong. Our parents instructed us so when we were little. We regard others who likewise hold to the same common beliefs in a positive light. For those of us in the legal field, we familiarize ourselves with the laws that govern Canadian society. We are warned not to break the law or to engage in unacceptable behavior. Once those moral boundaries are breached, certain penalties or sanctions will be levied against us. Seems fair enough to the rational and reasonable person. But what of the classic case where temptation comes along (which invariably catches us in a position of weakness) and we have every reason to believe that any sanction(s) has been momentarily lifted. What do we do then?

Is a Cost/Benefit Analysis Sufficient?

Can a moral society which believes in the rule of law prescribe acceptable behaviors to its citizens and regard that on its face to be wholly sufficient? Would it be enough to ask those committing unlawful acts to give pause because of public moral sentiments? In a business setting, decisions are made based on the cost involved and the benefit that will be the reward. Profit is the key motivation for that businessperson in their decision-making process. Taking care of the bottom line is indeed critical. However, can the same approach be used for the individual in all cases? That is do we refrain from 'bad things' merely due to cost considerations and carry out 'good things' because of the benefits it confers?

The Superficiality of such an Assumption

Here lies the problem of such thinking. On the face of it, we engage in approved behavior because we fear being ostracized. We do good in order to gain the advantage over others (a sort of 'pay it forward' tribalism) in order to 'cash in' the favor at a later date. The 'good' that we do for the most part is based on self interest and is rather narrow in its scope and effect. This is precisely where the humanist model falls apart. There has to be something substantive in our morality that guides us in our everyday lives.

God and Man

Here we enter the crux of the argument. Morality that is divorced from God is a cynical and cruel one. A God-fearing Christian will not cause harm simply because statutory and common law forbids it. He will faithfully seek out goodness because he knows who he is ultimately accountable to. The impetus towards godliness and the desire to uphold the law is significantly higher for those who believe in a just and holy God. That is why such criminal acts as murder are seen in a particularly harsh light. The taking of life is not the problem per se. After all, we routinely slaughter livestock and think nothing of it. No, the murder of a person is special, because of the unique relationship that God has with Man. Plants and animals were created 'according to their kinds' but in the unique case of Man it is God who makes him in His image and gives him special custodial privileges over His creation. If there is no God (and therefore no superior relationship with Man to speak of) than Man becomes nothing more than a clever ape.

Man Apart From God is a Sorry Lot

So what do the ungodly do with these 'clever apes' who do not wish to conform? The totalitarian impulse to 'wipe them off the face of the earth' has never really left us. A godless man might be moral, but he will not stay moral for long if sanctions are removed. A Christian nation such as Germany learned the hard way when it chose the promises of a false messiah over God's unfailing love. Even in hard times, God is still with us. A sobering thought for those who wish to embrace morality apart from divine guidance.

Johnny Cash

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