On morality

This is actually a response to another persons blog (http://hessianwithteeth.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/being-a-christian-does-not-make-you-moral)  but I thought it would be of value here too.

 

You don’t have to be Christian to be moral, and just because you claim to be a Christian does not mean that you are moral. This may fly in the face of some people’s beliefs, but it is perfectly reasonable.

That is because “morality” is not defined just one way. The actual definition is:

Morality (from the Latin moralitas “manner, character, proper behavior”) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are “good” (or right) and those that are “bad” (or wrong).

That is pretty clear at first glance, but the problems are caused by the words “good, bad, right and wrong”. When it comes right down to it, everybody has a slightly different view (a few wildly different, many different only in a few details).  And, of course, each person often thinks that their view is the only correct view. Thus, if a person follows “my” view, they obviously are moral, and if they do not follow that view, obviously they are immoral.

A general view (of good/bad/right/wrong) is usually “built into” each culture based on the specifics of that culture, and again, people from that culture consider those who follow that morality to be moral, and those who do not follow it (particularly those darned outsiders), to be immoral.

Another problem with morality is that the obvious benefits of (popular/common) morality are all for others, not yourself. Since the natural inclination of all life is to do for itself, this creates conflict. Some people realize (or at least hope) that the “hidden” benefits of being moral outweigh the obvious benefits of immorality. Some don’t see any benefits to themselves from popular/common morality and follow a “different” morality or even no morality (amorality).

The conflict between morality and personal benefit can be eased somewhat if the morality being followed is “natural” to the person (self-generated), as opposed to a morality which was “imposed” on them. Thus, a person who did not have any interest in a “Christian” morality would have a much harder time following it after becoming a Christian than someone to whom it seemed correct even before they came to believe “Jesus said it was”.

Note that morality includes intentions, decisions AND ACTIONS. It is entirely possible (and even likely) that a person may INTEND to behave in a manner which is moral to them, but when it comes time for the rubber to meet the road, have actions which are contrary to their intentions. This is a problem for some Christians, as the moral code they are instructed to follow is rather more restrictive and even less self-serving than some other moralities, and often conflicts with the “natural” morality they had previous to becoming a Christian.

Since intentions and decisions tend to be difficult to reliably determine, generally a person’s morality is evaluated based on their actions.  The negative results of being perceived as being “immoral” can be severe.  At the low end, people might tend to avoid others with conflicting morals, while at the high end, when the behavior is significantly harmful to others, it is likely that there will be legal consequences.

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