Morality doesn’t mean ‘following divine commands’. It means reducing suffering. - Yuval Noah Harari
From the beginning of mankind's existence there has been in an intrinsic body of standards around manner, character or proper behaviour. Morality as a code of conduct has been derived from a particular philosophy, religion or culture.
The idea that morality is dictated by a sacred list of writings that has been handed down by a deity who has always been slightly disappointed in our behaviour, is a view that has very little faith in the fundamental goodness that hides in the human condition.
Regardless of our religious, philosophical or cultural predilections we have all been gifted with a conscience that is actively reminding us that we all have something to contribute that benefits the human race.
Ironically it is the big three of religion, philosophy and culture that end up contributing to the warping or searing of our conscience around the conduct that we justify as reasonable. My religious inclination towards the sanctity of life sometimes becomes compromised by the acceptable death quotient of a war or super-hero movie that pronounces the victory of the ‘good guys’ over the ‘bad guys’ based on a clever act of script writing and a not so subtle appeal to my one-eyed justice bias. We often justify our position by deciding who gets to live and die all the while becoming the judge, jury, and executioner on behalf of God.
Morality is a confusing cacophony of ethical dilemmas that rage against my internal processing and external rationalisations. As a young man immorality was often described solely as a sexual impropriety that ranged from looking at another human with lustful imaginings through to the more extreme cases of exploitation. At one level it was a reasonable explanation but at another it had no grace for the natural wiring of my evolving sexuality.
Maybe morality is more than a ‘legal requirement’ or ‘naughty list’ that we concoct from our prejudiced readings of the sacred writ, but rather a much more practical acknowledgement of our capacity to care for our fellow-man.
How do I reduce suffering in the world today? How do I allow empathy, compassion, kindness and generosity be the drivers in my life?
Rather than contribute to the ongoing cycle of destruction and suffering by burying my head the sand of terrible eschatological interpretations of the apocalyptic prophets, maybe I need to ask my conscience to help me find the goodness within and exploit its benefits for others.
I am of the opinion that humans are fundamentally good but can find themselves corrupted by the distraction of comparison and competition. We are capable of some very immoral behaviour if we give ourselves the excuse or freedom to conform to the lowest common denominator of dehumanisation.
Isn't that why Jesus and the ancient prophets declared ‘REPENT’? Stop thinking about yourselves in that way, change your mind about who you are and who can evolve to become, and a kingdom that is not of this world will begin to reshape and reorientate your life.
For those of us who subscribe to a religious tradition maybe it is time to obey the third commandment and stop taking the name of the Lord in vain, not so much the use of inappropriate verbal expletives, but rather using the name of God to justify our behaviours that inflict suffering on others, for example colonialism, slavery, misogyny, ethnic cleansing, and just war theory, to name just a few.
We are all a work in progress so it is important to at least try to be less judgemental and more tolerant with others for maybe that's what turning the other cheek really means? After all, morality is a slap in the face to the prevailing culture of entitlement and privilege.
‘If you want to teach the next generation morals tell them a story because every story has a moral’
The driving story behind your life is an unfolding narrative that has been underpinned and nurtured by an innate morality. If you don’t listen to your conscience and follow your heart you may never get to experience the possible ‘happily ever after’ that awaits you. Morality is a gift that slowly awakens us to a new reality, a new way of being, so lets make the world a better place for me and for you and the entire human race…