What is morality?

December 7, 2015

“We are not old men. We are not worried about petty morals.” – Keith Richards, 1968

In this series I have been discussing religion and its relation, if any, to morality. I have claimed that morality and religiosity are separate and distinct having no direct correlation on each other. Religion, I have claimed, is equally capable of inspiring the greatest good and the worst evil. Morality is possible within any religious or non-religious worldview. I then discussed  what the true purpose of religion might actually be if it is not the formation and preservation of morality. I determined that in my opinion the true function of religion is community–to form, preserve and perpetuate communities. In all of this discussion I haven’t really elaborated what morality itself is or even determined if it in fact is a “good” itself.

I think it might take a few posts to hammer the issue of morality out so let’s start with a preamble of questions, scenarios and ideas.

Is morality primarily about personal life choices? That is, what you wear, what you eat, what you think, what you say, what you drink, how/who you date, whether you marry, who you sleep with, how you conduct your business, how you spend your money, what you do for entertainment, and overall how you treat your friends, families and neighbors?

Does morality affect (or should affect) your politics–how you vote, how you are involved in your community?

Is morality the same for every person? That is, is every person expected to hold the same morality and if so do you have the right to hold your neighbor to the same moral code as you hold yourself?

Is morality timeless or fluid? That is, can one thing be moral in one time and circumstance and not so in another?

Is morality a human construct? Is morality a sociological invention relative only to the time and place it emerges? Therefore, is morality determined by a group?

Is the concept of “sin” in theism (primarily Christianity) synonymous with “morality”? If not, in what ways is it different and is it applicable to non-Christians or even non-theists?

In current affairs what is the moral choice? For example is it moral to urge for the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the US or is it moral to forbid that on the chance  a terrorist might exploit the process to enter and do harm? Is it moral to urge for gun control and the limit of sales to certain people or the outlaw of sales of certain types of firearms or is it moral to forbid such limitations in the name of personal liberty? Is it moral to urge action on climate change and to work to reduce ones own carbon footprint, to care for the animals, vegetation and waterways of our world or is it moral to forbid any action be taken that may damage the economic lives of individuals who depend on certain ways of life to have their jobs? Is it moral to allow individuals to make their own biological and reproductive choices–when how and if at all to bring a life into this world or is that choice one that the group must make for the individual? If a person has the right to make such choices for themselves is it immoral for one who doesn’t believe in the morality of such a choice themselves to equate those choices with unequivocally immoral acts and  thereby endanger that individual right?

Is war ever moral? If not what responsibility does a moral person have in the face of their country at war?

I’ll leave it at that for now.







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