Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Moral Law

I’ve been giving this post an awful lot of thought lately. It was when my socially conscious 13-year old brought it up that I finally decided it was time to write it down.

For millennia philosophers and theologians have debated that nature of good and evil. Some argue that good is simply that which god desires. Basically because God likes it, it is good and because God dislikes it, it is evil. This is called the divine command theory.
Others ask questions like “Why does God like it?” and “Is there something about this that makes God like it?” the answers to these questions imply that there is something more than just the divine command. I tend to agree with this philosophy. Whether something is good or evil stands on its own. God’s opinion is not necessary to define good or evil. I believe that the converse is true. Good and evil are necessary in order to define God.

Along these lines Aaron was very concerned about some of the news reports he had seen the last couple of weeks. It seems that many people try to require belief in god as a necessity to being a good person-that somehow morality itself cannot exist without a belief in God. It’s easy to see how believing in a direct correlation between moral behavior and a belief in God can cause more than a little consternation. This is the dilemma that Aaron was having. The federal government has just cracked down on several “Christian” ministers around the country for their misuse of funds that we supposed to go to charities and to help the poor. All too often these ministers were using the cash to buy more elaborate homes, cars and planes. If morality and belief are codependant then why does this happen?
On the other hand why do so many atheists have such good hearts and behave so morally and “Christian” to their neighbors? I don’t think Angelina Jolie is very good actress, but I can’t help but admire how she spends her money. When others would just focus on themselves she is making a difference in the lives of children. Yesterday I read that she and Brad have committed to build 150 homes in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans to help rebuild the city. Now I put the question to you in the words of James.

"If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?"

I realize that there are millions of believes who behave morally and unfortunately millions of non-believers who behave immorally or amorally. I only focused on the above examples because they tend to disprove the rule that God is a requirement for moral behavior.
I enjoy the works of C. S. Lewis, but I take issue with Lewis’s constant insistence that the existence of morality proves a higher power that created that morality. Some scientist have even taken the quantum leap and claimed that the existence of morality is all the scientific proof needed to prove that God exists. I believe that morality exists separate from a belief in God. The examples that I’ve given illustrate that one does not necessitate the other.
Perhaps this belief is why I am so comfortable with learning the doctrines of other religions and philosophies. Lately I’ve read several books with serious atheistic themes. I’m much more concerned that I teach my family to live morally than religiously. As long as I can make the two go hand in hand I will continue to do so. I’ve never been in a position where I’ve never had to choose one over the other and I hope I never have to. However, from the real life examples that I have seen, I’d much rather keep company with moral people no matter what their religious beliefs.

1 comment: