My last piece on this subject proved two things: firstly, that there is very little room for intellectual flexibility in a debate involving the existence of God, and secondly, that science will never sufficiently rule out the possibility of God’s existence unless one is willing to place one’s trust in science that it possesses the future capacity to explain all things. Though the debate was often convoluted and verbose, there was general agreement on the above observations.
I now wish to veer away from the realms of science and explore the notion of morality and its relationship to God’s existence.
Human beings have since the acquiring of sufficient intelligence to comprehend existence and become conscious of some notion of ‘self’, subjected most behaviour to the peculiar test of morality. Morality serves as a reference point to regulate behaviour and ensure some form of conformity to a presumed standard. Its accepted origin, no matter what the Greeks say, is firmly rooted in some form of archaic religion and a simple internet search would dispel any doubt of this fact. Most established religions would teach God is good, this is what He says, so this is our moral standard.
Secular teachings however attempt to divorce the concept of God from morality and instead offer an interesting alternative. The terms Good and Evil are replaced with Right and Wrong, and morality becomes the principle under which certain actions are adjudged as either right or wrong. Actions which are right deserve applause and appreciation while those which are wrong deserve punishment or at the very least, some cold-shoulder treatment. However, the question arises as to what constitutes the substance of morality which in turn labels an action either right or wrong?
To make things simple, let us take a clear example of a so-called morally wrong act: stealing. It is wrong to steal. Why is it wrong to steal? Is it because one should respect the property rights of others? This is however not a satisfactory answer, because the question arises as to ‘why one should respect the property rights of others’. The answer to that question doesn’t seem as obvious. So then is stealing wrong because our conscience tells us not to steal? This answer doesn’t hold much water either, since most of us do not have a conscience. Well, suppose we do, still each person’s conscience would have varied degrees of what he or she thinks would be acceptable conduct. Stealing someone’s car is definitely wrong, but stealing some flowers from an overhanging branch of your neighbour’s tree? Well, that isn’t really stealing, is it? Perhaps it’s because he wouldn’t miss it. So why is stealing really wrong? One possible answer is that it is ‘considered’ wrong by the average reasonable person or by a majority opinion. However, the average reasonable person doesn’t really exist. If he does, he certainly wouldn’t be average. Majority opinion on the other hand is another figment of some statistician’s imagination, since we can only ascertain what the majority might say though we cannot ascertain what they really think. Ask yourself ‘is it really wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving infant?’ Also, the average-majority conclusion puts us in a precarious position since this would lead us to further conclude that the content of morality and the ingredients of right and wrong are subject to gradual change. So in two millennia or so, stealing may be rechristened ‘permanent secretive borrowing’. No, that simply wouldn’t do. It seems therefore, that one is left with very few theoretical options as to a satisfactory answer to the question ‘why is stealing wrong’. However, one may answer this question by reference to a certain rational chain of thought. The logical sequence that follows is that stealing is wrong because it is contrary to accepted moral standards. These moral standards are accepted because they are derived from tradition and conscience. However, what is derived from tradition becomes rooted directly in some notional experience as to what really works in terms of sustaining society, while what is derived from conscience is directly attributable to the education system, one’s upbringing and, like it or not, a fair share of social conditioning. So, are these elements, often considered as infallible moral indicators, really that reliable?
The underlined conclusion on the question of morality is one which points to something utterly basic and quite simple: survival. In my opinion, the secular version of morality can only be explained by reference to an assimilation of behavioural patterns which through a process of trial and error has turned out to be most conducive for the successful survival of the species. Therefore, every action becomes either right or wrong simply by reference to whether it is directly or indirectly compatible with survival.
If one is in agreement with my hypothesis, the question remains, does one human being have the right to enforce moral standards on another? Do all human beings have an inescapable obligation to propagate the species, and does that obligation justify adherence to some moral code of conduct? Unless, we derive our moral standards from a higher power to which all human beings are subject to, the idea that equals can enforce a standard which is arbitrary and essentially self-serving seems unjustifiable. Therefore, morality must necessarily be derived from some external source for it to be sufficiently compelling. It must precede human thought and existence in order to demand adherence. If not, one is forced to concede that the fabric of our civilization is merely based on a well-refined and cleverly disguised version of law of the jungle.
Thank you for reading.