If not by God, then by whose authority do we live by?
Not only our society but civilization is, and has always been, founded in the belief that a ‘higher authority’ exists. Either God Himself, and in his many forms, or in the guise of nature, or magic, or astrology. We’ve always depended on a moral authority ‘given’ to use in guiding our actions and interactions. This ‘higher authority’ grants to us a ‘moral authority’. It alone assigns morality, conscience, and also consequences.
If, as many now would have us believe, there existed no higher authority to guide our daily lives, what would we use as a benchmark between right and wrong? Could we even have such a benchmark? Majority rules? Might makes right? Accept that and you accept Hitler’s Germany, Mao’s China, Stalin’s Russia. Even Jim Jones’s Jonestown. Each thought that they were right in their beliefs. Their Rule. Majority ruled. Might, made right.
The world depends on an orderly, if not somewhat chaotic, dependency upon its own inhabitants. We humans don’t always appreciate, nor understand, the mystery that is our existence. We know that killing is wrong, yet death is necessary. The lion must eat. And to eat it must kill. Its justification comes in nature. So then, without moral authority, how can we say the rightness or wrongness in killing. All things will die. That for sure is one thing in nature that’s pretty much a given. It’s this moral authority that guides us, teaches us, if you will, the right and wrong of things.
Mankind has throughout the years had a changing perspective of morality that has always given in to conscience. We ‘conclude’ the rightness and wrongness of this by letting our morality decide issues, and our conscience guide our morality. But man, not being a perfect creature, has often seen fit to allow a certain amount of imperfection within the community of man. To an extent we live and let live, but only to an extent. It’s that matter of conscience and morals that has determined just how much “imperfection” we allow.
Our conscience is guided mostly by the strength of our belief in the higher moral authority. The less we believe in this higher authority and the consequences that go with it the less we are guided by our conscience. And the less we are guided by conscience the less moral we are. The less moral we are the more capable of justifying an action. Any action. Without this inward direction, outward actions become more selfish. We’ve slowly become centered on self, and not the right or wrong of an act. It’s easy to justify criminal behavior to ones self if there is no consequence other than “gett’n caught” and the legal aspects thereof. Self gratification becomes a priority. Catch me if you can, the “what’s in it for me” attitude that is slowly pervading society today. It creeps into our religious beliefs as well.
While abortion has been an ongoing issue of debate, the issue before us at present is homosexuality and the desired “right” to marry amongst a sex. Throughout our history homosexuality has been considered an abnormal and anti-moral behavior. Only in the last few years (and I’m talking about just a very very few years) have we found people accepting homosexuality as a normal behavior. And still today it’s far from universally accepted. The big debate today isn’t homosexuality itself , but whether or not the cohabitation of two of the same sex should be, not only legalized and codified, but legitimized and moralized. To accept it as ’normal’ and right. The courts in California have now said that it should be. They have opened the door. How wide? Maybe too wide.
We’ve now moved from allowing a personal choice for living a lifestyle that many still feel, at the least abnormal, and codifed it as a legally established principal or right.
When we begin to ‘normalize’, or legitimize what has been throughout history abnormal, and to many ‘immoral’, behaviors, where will the stopping point be. It’s no longer a private matter, but a public one. No longer a personal ‘choice’, but now a institution with legal ramifications beyond just an issue concerning consenting adults. If we cast aside our moral authority and cower down to an issue, what path are we choosing for ourselves and country?
Say we accept homosexual marriage as okay. We do so by accepting that feelings of right and wrong have no bearing on the matter. People can make a very strong argument on that behalf. That, if two consenting adults choose to live thus, then who are we to say no? By what right do we say no? And, if we don’t affirm moral authority over such matters do we abdicate the authority over other moral issues that confront us? Certainly the world changes, and along with it attitudes. But…, if it is perfectly fine for two males, or two females, to legally marry then why not three? Why shouldn’t a man be allowed more than one wife? A woman more than one husband? How do we criminalize prostitution? Two consenting adults is it not? The only real stake that the state would or should have in the matter would be whether or not taxes where collected. For what ‘moral authority’ would there be to say otherwise. And by whose authority would age matter? I mean, who says? After all, rights right and wrongs wrong, right? So, by what authority could you even assign adulthood? Maturity isn’t really age defined so much as a state of mind, isn’t it? And if it’s okay with all the concerned parties, who are we to make that choice for someone else? And what’s the value of our personal feelings in regards to our actions? The personal justification of “it’s okay if I say its okay?” The “I got away with it,” justification? The “no sweat off my back,” justification? We ARE talking about consenting people after all. But what would consent really have to do with it anyway? Wouldn’t might make right? Without moral guidance, what would be wrong with subjecting the weak to the will of the strong? Wouldn’t ‘right’ be whatever the strongest said ‘right’ was? Wouldn’t ‘wrong’ be whatever the ‘majority’ willed it to be? After all, what would be the consequences be? History does repeat itself however, and mankind has been down this road before…several times…never with a pleasant outcome…
In the 1930’s Hitler became Germanys ‘higher authority’. One of Hitler’s first acts was to attempt to rid the country of the ‘inferior’ human being. In that case it was the mentally ill. There must have still been some dying hint of morality there because he tried to cover it up. But soon the notion of ‘inferior’ became the non-Germanic person. First the Gypsy, then the Jew, the Negro, the Pole… Inferior came to mean that if you weren’t valuable to the German state you were disposable. Germany put itself over Humanity. It took hold of the notion that they were the mighty and “pure” race. They even disguised their lack of real morality within their religion. Might became right. They let evil pervade the notion of what’s right and wrong, and those that still had morals and values “allowed” it to happen. They stood by and did nothing. By not questioning the moral authority and conscience of the people as a whole, it was they that allowed the evil to exist. The good and moral people of Germany allowed the atrocities to happen. And not only Germans, but ‘moral’ people around the world turned a blind eye to what was happening. After all, it wasn’t really affecting ‘them’ was it. That’s Germany, and what happens there is only their concern, right? Certainly it was out and out evil that carried out the atrocities, but it was those that knew that what was happening was wrong, and did nothing, that are truly guilty. Evil will do what evil is allowed to do. It is only by our moral authority and conscience that evil is held in check. If we turn away from what we know to be right, and not at least lift a voice in opposition to that which our conscience tells us is wrong, we step away from that ‘higher authority’ that guides us. We find ourselves further removed from our morals and beliefs.
I believe in God. I believe that there is but one true God. I believe that He may be the same God that others believe in, and they may choose to worship Him in another way, or call Him by another name, but He is God. And in the beginning of mankind God allowed the choice of worshiping Him or one’s ‘self’ . He gave us conscience. Even though he knew God, man chose himself and turned away from God. But, even as man turned away from God, conscience remained. God remained near to man, and man near to God, but separated just the same. He gives us His authority through this conscience. But as we turn more and more toward ‘self’ we move further and further from God, our conscience and our morality fades. The more we interject ‘self’ into religion and push aside our objections to those things that we know to be wrong, the weaker our religion becomes. And the weaker our religious foundations and beliefs, this ‘moral authority’ that we have, the more vulnerable to evil and the immoralities of man we become. If we know God, yet turn to man and accept those things of man and not of God, will God continue to know us? How will we justify to God turning a blind eye to that which He teaches us is wrong? By not questioning this concept that morality doesn’t matter, and whatever happens is okay as long as it doesn’t ‘harm’ or do damage, we lose any justification of right and wrong. And when you lose justification of right and wrong, who decides what IS harm? What IS damage? Who are we putting in charge of our own lives? Do we stand still and allow that which we know to be wrong be proclaimed as right? Are we willing to abdicate a ‘moral authority’ over ourselves? Will our ‘higher authority’ just be whoever wields the most power? Will life become just survival of the fittest? Will might, truly become right? Will we still have a conscience to guide us?
I fight a battle each and every day between my ‘will’ and my conscience. I am nowhere near a perfect human and both God and the Devil constantly remind me of that fact. But, even though I’m not always successful and I do sin, I try to let my conscience guide me. It’s this conscience that lets me know when I’ve failed in the test between right and wrong. And it’s the pathway to where I want to go. Let your conscience be your guide. And follow the path which it leads.