Catholic for Life - No. 6 Morals without God
No.6 Morals without God
“After all’s said and done, I am not a bad person. I may have a few shortcomings, and who doesn’t, but I have humane values and principles, and I try to live by them. I am a friendly sort, reasonably fair by others, and I do not like exploitation and injustice, wherever it occurs. I am my own person, and live in the here and now, and am not interested in pie-in-the-sky. I make my own choices freely, and want to do so without interference. Thank you, but I do not need religion, or to turn to a God who may be no more than a figment of my imagination. Even less do I want to have to put up with the demands of religion, as these are bound to interfere with my right to act and live as I please. Finally, I do not want advice from you. So, ‘Goodbye!’ “
Such folk, like most people, make moral judgments about situations and actions and about other people, and decide, “This is right. That is wrong”. And, as with most of us, they get quite upset if told that they are mistaken and their principles “shonky”.
Moral Principles – some questions
What are moral principles?
How are they derived? What or who determines them?
Are they the product of public opinion?
What is their basis or point of reference? Is it I ?
Should morals be democratised? made flexible? their application depend on circumstances? or, on how suitable or appropriate they are?
Should I live by them consistently or should that depend on how I feel about them at the time?
Is there, in our society, a smorgasbord approach to morals?
Are there moral absolutes, which are not negotiable?
Morals and God
If there is no God nothing would exist. However, for the sake of our discussion, we say that if there is no God, there would only be nature, and human beings would be the chance product of natural forces. There is nothing good or bad, or right or wrong in nature. There is action and reaction. We would be born, live and die and our remains would be recycled through the ecosystem.
What we label as morals would be man-made: rules or codes of conduct devised for social or personal purposes, and valued for as long as they are deemed suitable. There would be diverse sets of ‘moral’ values, for different groups or causes, eg. for Al Qaeda, for drug syndicates, for the Ku Klux Klan, for conservationists, for dictators, and so on. None would be able to say which group has the right set and which the wrong set, for there’d be no authentic standard to go by. That would have to come from an authority higher than man.
There would be no accountability to anyone when life is over. What we get upset about and condemn, eg. torture, child abuse, and the like, may be uncomfortable for the recipients, but they’d be neither right nor wrong of themselves. All is passing. All is illusion.
Some religions (eg. Hinduism and Buddhism) believe in rebirth. They maintain that the good and the wrongdoing an individual commits in one existence determines his/her state when next reborn. Yet, offence, accountability and judgment cannot be with reference to or by an inexorable law, an automaton, a force or an abstraction, but only with reference to and decided by the One Who Is. (This bears thinking about.)
The Sure Way
Is there a morality that transcends human wisdom and construction? Yes, indeed there is. It comes from God.
“How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked and does not take a stand in the path that sinners tread, nor a seat in company with cynics, but who delights in the law of Yahweh and murmurs his law day and night. Such a one is like a tree planted near streams; it bears fruit in season and its leaves never wither, and every project succeeds” (Psalm 1:1-3. New Jeruslem Bible)
“Lord, our God, You have given us your Son Jesus, as our Saviour and the Way and Truth, and You say, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ ” (Matthew 17:5).
Please grant us the grace to do just that.’