The subject I observe presents such problems.
I was part of a government think tank looking at OFSTEAD inspections of schools; one of the things they look at is the moral part of the schools ethos. My problem is how does one obtain morals? In my small discussion group there where Moslems, Catholics, Jews, Evangelicals, and humanists; all of us apart from the humanist agreed that morals have to come from some kind of Law giver, and actually in all of our thinking that must be God, apart, that is, from the humanist, who said there isn’t a God so morals must come from somewhere else.
I went on to argue that in terms of generosity, in such things as tsunamis, famines and the like the UK is actually quite generous in its giving, I put this down to the Judeo Christian influence in the background of the nation. The humanist said, “now don’t be silly, its due to the fact that we were once great colonists.” To which I responded, “I thought that was about greed, trade, and getting lots of things for ourselves?”
I was one of those interviewed by Richard Dawkins for his ‘Religion is the root of all evil’ programmes. After which I found stuff all over the internet, usually from many of the so called ‘learned’ atheists poking fun at my opinions. Funnily enough I have read Richard’s book, The God delusion, and one of the things that struck me is how often the base of whom we are and where we are comes down to ‘luck’, at least according to that book. God seems a better thesis to me.
And of course both in the programme, on the net, and definitely in Wikipedia comes the discussion of mortality. I am amused that in at least one article, the fact that we live in a moral universe and one ‘without God’ according to the ‘atheists’ is argued from the fact that some fish have a symbiotic relationship with ‘cleaner’ fish, the action of the one fish on the other fish actually protects them; therefore arguing that we don’t go around on our streets killing each other because it’s wiser not too. One of the things that Richard Dawkins said to me in the interview for his programme, (which I have not seen on the programme or the Utube repeats, so I guess it’s on the cutting room floor), was, Richard said “I am more righteous than you. “ I of course said, “Oh and how is that?” to which he replied, “I don’t go around pillaging and raping, and I don’t need a God to stop me, you need one to stop you.” To which I answered, “bully for you, you maybe ought to watch the news!”
One Swallow does not a summer make.
Richard Dawkins often says that being an atheist is not one with a depressing philosophy, actually he say it makes one appreciate life more and love life. Again I say, ‘bully for you’, the problem is that you don’t have to travel very far to find people who are starving, people who have been enslaved, people who have every reason not to love life, if you now want them to believe that this atheism is the truth, and not be depressed by such a philosophy all I can say is HELP! It’s the most depressing view of life that I can imagine;
So where does morality come from, I note that even some of the comments on what I think that are listed in Wikipedia note that I am saying that we live in a moral universe, and there is a base line for morality and that comes from somewhere, God I would say. Yes that is what I am saying, morality without a giver is craziness, it is not morality; as Charles Finny would have put it: “Opposed to this is willing self-gratification; a practical treating of self as if the gratification of our own desires, appetites, etc., were of supreme importance. Now in this ultimate choice of the good of universal being, or of self-gratification as an ultimate end, moral character must reside. Primarily, surely, it can reside nowhere else. It is this ultimate choice that gives direction and character to all the subordinate actions of the will; that gives direction to the volitions, the actions, and the omissions of all our voluntary lives. This ultimate choice is the root or fountain from which all volition and all moral action spring.”
I guess even Richard would agree with some of that, as the basic premise is that morality only comes from our own selfishness to survive or not be killed that is why we don’t have mayhem on the streets. Although I wonder if we perhaps do, I live in an area where we have postcode crime, knife and gun crime, so the morality is you don’t live in my postcode area, you are there so you need killing. That seems a great morality!
Going back to that statement I made earlier, ‘bully for you’, seems to take no note of the Hitler’s, Pol Pots, and Stalin’s of this world, which again makes me think if morality is only up to our moving to a value system that selfishly benefits us only, and we can get around it, then why not? If it is to my benefit to circumvent the law? If there is not ultimate sanction or moral law giver?
It has always interested me that the Bible talks about giving ‘light’ to every person who comes into the world. What is that light? Personally I have always seen that light as being that conscience that dwells in each and every person. We can obey it or disobey it, it is, if you like, a little bit of God in us, if we obey it we feel good, if we disobey it we feel bad, but it does not force us either way, we have the freewill, we have choice. Again to quote Finny on conscience, he talks about moral insanity:
“Moral insanity, on the other hand, is will-madness. The man retains his intellectual powers unimpaired, but he sets his heart fully to evil. He refuses to yield to the demands of his conscience. He practically discards the obligations of moral responsibility. He has the powers of free moral agency, but persistently abuses them. He has a reason which affirms obligation, but he refuses obedience to its affirmations”.
So where do I think morality comes from? I think it comes from the law giver - God, he has created, and designed a moral universe, a universe that ultimately works towards the best good for all, the created order, us, and God too. We can pretend it is not there, we can work against it, we can listen to our conscience, we can ignore it, but none of those things make it not there.
For Adrian’s Blog
Edited by: Technicolour text