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Monday, April 15, 2013

Godless morality

In the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier today, a coworker struck up a conversation with another coworker right next to my desk.

“All this reminds me of a man I heard speak recently. He brought up a very good point. In the last 20 or 30 years, since these mass shootings and all this garbage has escalated, what is the main thing that has changed in society?”

I knew where this was going, so I tried to steer it another way by chiming in. “A lot of things have changed in the last few decades.”

“Like what?” I was challenged.

“Technology has come leaps and bounds. Communication is almost instantaneous, and it’s worldwide. Civil rights and tolerance of others’ lifestyles are expanding…”

Not what she was fishing for. “The lack of morals and values,” she explained. “This country has suffered a serious decline in the presence of morals and values. And it’s because we’ve taken God out of everything. God is out of government. God is out of our schools. God is not number one in everyone’s lives. Only God and the church can bring those morals and values back to our kids. We have to educate them and guide them or we are in real trouble as a country and a world.”

Coworker number two nodded in agreement and voiced her approval, “I agree with you 100%. It’s a sad state we are in.”

...I had to say it: “Well, I disagree.”

Coworker number two, who knows me a bit better than number one, said, “I know you do." And I could tell she didn't really want to hear more.

But I continued. ”There is no way to pin the decline of civilization down to any one cause. Too much has changed. There’s no control to compare against. Even if you could, there is no one magical cure-all that is going to fix it. And religion isn’t a necessary prerequisite for morality.”

That shut the conversation completely down. That was probably a good thing. I am getting tired of hiding who I am simply because I have an unpopular opinion. If people want to engage in theological discussion, they need to be prepared to actually have a discussion rather than a one-sided kowtowing session.

I was always told that three discussions do not belong in the workplace: religion, politics and sex. Our own HR videos state as much. But if the door is opened (and it is opened a LOT in this place) I’m prepared to go through it and into the realm of discussion.

I’m tired of hearing that the only way to learn morals is through Christianity. The qualities of empathy, altruism, love, honesty, respect, charity, compassion and kindness do not derive solely from the teachings of any one book, no matter how popular that book might be. They are ingrained in the human psyche, obviously in some humans more so than others. Deep down on a primal social level we realize that these qualities create predictable rules for behavior that are necessary to make society function.

Granted, putting those rules in writing and giving them a voice is one way to emphasize them, but they are already there for most people. Some people simply have no moral compass, or it is broken. Those are the ones doing the shooting, whether in the name of atheism, Satan, Jodie Foster or God (though I’ll bet dollars to donuts that God is the one on the top of the “blame” list).

How you come upon your sense of morality, it matters not. As long as you use it to make the world a better place, who cares? I do not currently get my social cues from a nonexistent, magical man in the sky, but he did have a hand in educating me about morality from an early age. Well, at least his book did.

Of course, during that education they left out most of the horrible bits about fathers stoning their own sons and such, focusing only on the positive lessons. I guess that book, if read from the wrong perspective, could cause a reader to come away with a… less-than-tolerant… and “holier than thou” position, which could actually be counterproductive to the betterment of society.