Man has argued over the principles of morality for ages. Oscar Wilde penned in Ideal Husband, “Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.” Earnest Hemmingway wrote, “So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” Even Frederich Neitsche, who called himself the “Anti-Christ,” in his similarly titled book, wrote, “What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness.” Needless to say, all of humanity has an opinion of good, evil, and what morality means to them.
Morality can be viewed three different ways; no morality, subjective morality, or ultimate authority morality. The first stance of morality is that there is none. Good and evil do not exist. Few take the stance that there is no real morality in the world. It is a weak philosophical opinion that C.S. Lewis handily disarms in Mere Christianity,
“But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real right and wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking on to him he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair’ before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter, but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong–in other words, if there is no Law of Nature–what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?”
Simply put, a majority of the world is at least morally subjective. Which leads to the second perspective of morality. Relativism.
Judges 17:6 AND Judges 21:25 both tell of the subjective morality of man, ” In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.” The moral relativity is a popular perspective. It is much like a buffet of good and evil. If you like to lie, speed, and cheat feel free to put that on your plate; however if you would be greatly offended by murder, stealing, and adultery simply steer clear of those options. This subjective stance can be very controversial because similarly to the argument of Lewis against zero morality, the moment two subjective moralists impede on the other’s law of good and evil the one cries, “Foul!” while the other denies it based on his moral pleasing. Essentially, to head towards a more peaceful world there must be one ultimate morality based upon a globally agreed upon authority.
The ultimate moral authority could be based upon a few different things. The first is a man’s opinion. Coming from a President, King, or Dictator, morality can be commanded to people. We can see from Hitler and the crusades that an enforced ultimate morality has dire consequences. The weakness of humanity to create laws that seek to satisfy their immediate need, and not the needs of all for all time, shows our inability to be absolutely moral.
Another source of ultimate morality could come from a community, or a democratic society, which hears the needs of it’s people and attempts to produce an environment that serves all. While there is great strength in community relying on one another for ultimate good, it is impossible to please all people. Because some people within the community may have no morals, they would fight against those with relative morals, and in the end no one is fully happy. We can see by the President’s approval rating that even in a democratic society there is a 50/50 split in agreement.
The final perspective of ultimate authority comes from a higher power. Whether that be Jehovah God of the Christians, Allah for the Islamic community, Hinduism primarily in India, Buddha of Asia, or any one of the many other spiritual authorities found across the globe (Krishna, Confucius, Daoism, etc…). These authorities on morality dictate within their scriptures the way a man ought to live. The scriptures, usually written by a prophet, give information to the reader on how to walk rightly among mankind and how to please a deity and achieve enlightenment or an eternal paradise.
Doing a small amount of research into the big three religions of the world (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism) we can find a few differences between what morality really means. I am admittedly a follower of Jesus, the Christ, and am attempting to just present facts about Islam and Hinduism by quoting their sources and not allow my subjectivity to influence this piece.
For Islam, the believer and his good deeds are the key to morality. From IslamReligion.com, “Given its importance in a healthy society, Islam supports morality and matters that lead to it, and stands in the way of corruption and matters that lead to it. The guiding principle for the behavior of a Muslim is ‘Virtuous Deeds’. This term covers all deeds, not only acts of worship. The Guardian and Judge of all deeds is God Himself.” (Source)
Hinduism is similar to Islam in its requirement of people doing good. Hindu followers believe morality is summed up as quoted,
“…there are two underlying principles in the Hindu world that are and have been shared by virtually all Hindus: dharma and karma. These principles fundamentally inform Hindu conceptions of moral thought and action. Dharma is one of the most complex and all-encompassing terms in all of Hinduism: it can mean religion, law, duty, order, proper conduct, morality, righteousness, justice, norm. Karma is understood in Hinduism as a universal law of cause and effect. Positive actions produce positive effects; negative actions produce negative effects.” (Source)
Christianity is a little different from the other large religions in that it’s perspective on morality depends more on God and his grace than man and his works. Jesus said in Mark 10:18, “‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good–except God alone.'” Paul, a follower of Jesus in ancient Palestine echoed Jesus when he wrote about man’s inability to be good in Romans 1, which culminated to the often quoted Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The Christian doctrine teaches that after man chose his desires above God’s commands, in the Garden of Eden (See Genesis 3), all of humanity was infected with the seed of sin.
Based on these religious beliefs of morality we can see a difference between Islam and Hinduism is that man is essentially good, and should do good deeds, and the Christian belief that man is inherently evil and only God is good, where by only through faith in Jesus can one be deemed righteous.
One way I have come to believe that man is born evil came through the birth of my daughter. It was right about the time she was 8 months old that she began fussing and yelling, “Nnnnnn!” at me or her mother when she wasn’t allowed to have her way. It amazed me because I could see her desire to rebel against us even before she could walk or feed herself efficiently. My wife and I would steer her away from hot ovens or sharp objects to protect her, even saying, “No, Sylvia.” She would then defiantly looks at us, acknowledges the command, then turn to head toward what she wanted.
Similarly, God, as creator of the world, loves each human as his own child. God does not want us to suffer harm, whether at the hand of another or our own, yet we and others abuse our power to choose as we will, and needlessly inflict harm upon ourselves and those around us. We all have an internal “Jiminy Cricket” that tells us what is right and wrong, attempting to guide us toward what is right, good, and beautiful. We also have the voice of ‘self’ that pursues temporal desire and fleeting passions. The voice we choose to follow betrays where our morality lies.
This is not a salvation message, though it may have tugged at your heart about your own morality. If you would like to talk more about Jesus, his life, message, and what it means to follow him please let me know. I have included the following contact form to fill out. It would be an anonymous, you and me, grab a cup of coffee conversation.
Otherwise I hope that you see that there is good and evil in the world. That we can either pick and choose what good and evil are like a buffet a moral plate of relativity that is momentarily pleasing, or choose an ultimate authority that guides us to living in peace that transforms and causes our cultural sphere to be influenced towards a greater good.
*I wrote this blog entry as a Student Learning Requirement for completion of my B.A. in Theology for Global University class Man and Sin THE1042.
I need responses to this blog according the following questions:
- What did you like best about the student’s presentation?
- How could the student improve in the way he or she participated?
- What other words of encouragement do you have for the student?
- Name of person commenting and his or her relation to the student: