- March 15th, 2013
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Let us assume for the sake of my writing here that there is no god and no afterlife, I do not wish to argue theology, this is merely necessary for the purposes of examining my philosophy. It’s been said by many religious faithful that their faith is what guides their ethics, the commandments and tenets of their religion informing their daily actions. Some have taken this further and believe that were God not to exist they’d have no reason to behave morally. Should this be the case? I argue no.
I believe that, taking in the assumption that God does not exist, a new moral code can be defined that’s universally true and I believe one that is more pure of motive. If God does not exist then what should define the way we behave, what then becomes right and wrong? I believe we need to look at the commonality of all religion, that one common factor that has shaped them all. My answer is humanity itself. Humans are a highly evolved social organism, our biology and behaviour (for most) is adapted for group survival but as the last few millennia have demonstrated not for the species as a whole, demonstrated again and again by the ever present backdrop of violent conflict. Our drive at a primal level is the propagation of our species, at a higher level we instinctively seek and form social groups that become our primary loyalty above the species as a whole. It is my opinion that we can purify our motives by remaining in service to our fellow people rather than our morality relying upon a spiritual bargain for an afterlife, we can be good because it is good for all rather than because we expect to see returns from it.
How then, does one develop a meaning for life and a reason to behave morally without a belief in an afterlife, which under many faiths people attempt to qualify themselves for through meeting the moral expectations imposed upon them? The motivation I find is within a loyalty to my fellow human beings, a desire to advance myself and my fellows in security and leisure. In my opinion this is an immutable aspect of the fact of living. I dedicate my life to ensuring I will live comfortably and that at a minimum I do no harm but improve the lives of others where possible. I’m a firm proponent of some socialist ideals, it is our duty to work together so that everyone can live with the best average quality of life possible.
In defining a moral code in absence of religion we need to look at the needs of humanity as a whole and that of the individual. It’s possible for us to adhere to a moral code serving society for the benefit of all, we don’t need a religion to tell us how to do this. All that’s needed is a bit of introspection, to ask oneself the classic Doctor Phil question “and how does that make you feel?”. Despite my initial statement of keeping theology out of this, the Catholic bible has some good wisdom on this in Mark 12:31 “…You shall love your neighbor as yourself…”. It should not be difficult to extend the same courtesies and respect you expect for yourself to a stranger or loved one, the real challenge comes in not propagating ill will at those whom have already wronged us. Take care of your own moral identity first by remaining a good person, those that can’t abide and conform to an ethical culture are those that should be marked true criminals, their sin is against evolution.
History, both of the world variety and an individual’s have been marred by criminal transgressions against the individual as well as social, religious, ethnic and national groups. When and where does it end? In my personal actions I try to make the when – now and the where – here. Don’t let wrongdoing pass from you or by you, if you have the power to not become a victim then make it your personal mission to right wrong that is in front of you instead of staring it in the face and hoping it will disappear. Every now and then a cause so great may come along where it’s your moral imperative to become a victim for the greater good.
“All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”
- Edmund Burke