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Monday, May 02, 2005

Once Again: Whence Comes Morality?

Another reader asserts that spiritual religion is unnecessary for moral behavior.

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A reader sent the following email:

I read an article you wrote at theRealityCheck.org in which you said the following:

?Thanks for fighting to defend the United States.? I honor your service.? But I don?t see any conflict between that and my assertion that liberal-socialists are moral free riders.? You are evidently a non-socialist atheist and inclined toward entirely moral behavior.? But people like you are a rarity.? Questions of right or wrong have no place in the realm of atheism and agnosticism.? If an atheist or agnostic does take the issue of right and wrong to heart, he got the idea from the Judeo-Christian tradition, definitely not from atheism or agnosticism, for which value judgments are inappropriate.?

Your comments paint this as a black and white issue.? You surmise that determinations of moral right and wrong must be derived from faith and no other source.? You go further that saying atheists and agnostics must derive moral behavior from Judeo-Christian tradition.? So you do not think it is possible that an individual raised in a social structure devoid of religion can have a proper sense of moral right and wrong?? My children have never attended church, never been provided with religious writings, or teachings, or evangelism, and yet know that it is wrong to hit, steal, kill.?

I will tell you this much, I do not base my moral code off of any religious tradition, nor do I claim to be atheist or agnostic.? My morals derive initially from the teachings of my parents and in my adult life, from the personal exploration of self.?

It is very possible to derive morals from a secular source if it be internal or external.

My reply:

I appreciate your taking the time and trouble to write to me.  Please be assured that my intent is not to question whether good and decent people like you have moral standards.  The intent, rather, is to say that historically all moral codes took their legitimacy from the religious beliefs of the societies in which they were in force.  A prime example is the Jews coming out of Egypt and, through Moses, receiving a moral code from God.  At around the same historical period, Hammurabi legitimized his famous law code as deriving from his society’s god.

Some historian may confound me on this, but I do not believe that anyone will discover a single instance, before the French Revolution of 1789, in which political leaders presumed to impose a moral code based solely on their rational theories deriving from secular materialism.  Those theories, of course, are socialism and its American sect, liberalism.

It will be objected that many horrible things have been done in the name of religion.  Indeed that was the justification employed by the French Encyclopedists for destroying the Catholic Church, confiscating all its property, and making priests paid civil servants answerable to the civil authorities.

But nothing ever done in the name of the Judeo-Christian tradition came even remotely close to the French Reign of Terror (more than 70,000 men, women, and children, young and old, slaughtered simply because they were deemed enemies of the Revolution and its moral code of social justice conceived abstractly in the minds of intellectuals).  The same can be said, in spades, of the Soviet experiment in secular morality (more than 20 million citizens liquidated as enemies of the state) and other secular societies, such as Red China, Castro’s Cuba, and the Sandinistas’ Nicaragua.

You say, “My morals derive initially from the teachings of my parents and in my adult life, from the personal exploration of self.”  But I ask, where did your parents’ moral code come from and what were the sources you studied in your adult life? 

Again, my purpose is not at all to question your morality or your parents’ morality.  It is to say that, if you were able to trace back to the root sources of those conceptions of morality, they would prove to be the Judeo-Christian tradition, and not a secular and materialistic system. 

After all, as Thomas Huxley, Charles Darwin’s great champion, said, there is, in the secular materialism of Darwinian evolution no such thing as sin, or right and wrong, merely the struggle for survival.  In moral codes of social justice, based on socialism, behavior standards and social beliefs are no more than whatever university sociologists and the New York Times editorial board declare them, at the moment, to be. 

In the same manner, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, our first socialistic Supreme Court Justice, wrote that there is no such thing as a higher law of morality.  The law is simply whatever a judge declares it to be in a specific case.

This is the sort of arbitrary political and social dictation that led the colonists in 1776 to fight for independence from England.

Whatever the shortcomings of Judeo-Christian morality, it has two built-in boundaries that govern every individual: love God as the Creator of the universe,  and love your neighbor as yourself.  Striving sincerely to meet those standards was the foundation of Western civilization.  Religious morality produced the greatest degree of personal liberty and the highest standards of living ever experienced in human history.  To the extent that individuals inevitably fail to meet the mandates of Judeo-Christianity, it is a matter of human frailty, not a knock against spiritual religion.

Secular materialism has no such limits at all, beyond what the finite minds of intellectuals conceive as the proper policies to control an infinity of individual actions and options.  Secular materialism cannot appeal to the decency of people or to standards of right and wrong, because it explicitly rejects God and dismisses right and wrong as unscientific value judgments.

No Christian or religious Jew could say, as secular liberals did in the 1930s and 1940s, that perfecting humanity and implementing materialistic social justice legitimized the atrocities of Lenin and Stalin. 

History has proved with horrible exactness that however decent people may be as individuals, their benevolent impulses will inevitably be ground under foot by a secular and materialistic society that sees spiritual religion as nothing more than superstition and ignorance.  The first generations after imposition of socialism, and even the next one or two, will retain spiritual religion’s standards of morality, since they were the general beliefs of society.  But eventually, with an educational system ferociously dedicated to secularity, those standards of personal morality and personal responsibility will vanish, to be replaced with the belief that behavior is limited only by popular hedonism of the day. 

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