Is morality a transferrable option, which is to say, can just anyone possess a sense of morality? Well if we listen to some of the greatest minds (modern day or the recent past), there seems to be some who say “yes” and others who believe “no”. The truth is, without a sense of objective truth, we are left to wonder just how objective we can be. Reality is, we all stake even objective perceptions in a subjective reality where justifications abide. This isn’t to say our subjective realities are always moving in a direction of sinful behavior, in some cases, we become more restrictive than is probably necessary (e.g. The Puritans). However, actions intended to be moral, but without the source of an objective morality being in place, our hopes of being objectively “moral” turn out to be self-serving actions which in their intent may be good or bad, but nevertheless of our own making. In a godless society, we’ve become, to take a point of modern atheists, our own gods. We keep our own counsel, and we determine the rightness and wrongness of our actions (which in a selfish society seem to hardly ever be wrong), and the degree of wrongness to which others have acted when not in concert with our interpretations of truth. That’s a mouthful, but in the end, within ourselves we become the judge, jury, executioners of modern civics up to and including social organizations which don’t meet our civic perceptions.
This topic is loaded, so I will do my best to keep things brief and concise as possible. The first part of this is to unload perceptions. I often have conversations with my wife, about the perceptions of those, who are neither well read, nor experienced in many things (e.g. failure, desire, success, life), but yet they have an opinion about everything, and to disagree with their opinions is tantamount to heresy in the court of public opinion. In truth, if the church of public opinion wants to cast me out, I’m good with civil fringe existence, this area of the cultural landscape is getting more populated by the day. I will also confess, I am super opinionated, and I’ve been this way since I could remember. Sometimes this can be good, but often times this must be taken with a “grain of salt” and be understood, although an opinion exists, we must not allow it to get in the way of actual truth. We can’t be so bound to our opinions, because they make sense to us, and be unwilling to look at all sides of an argument. This is where being well read and well versed in a particular topic stands to gain the most ground. This isn’t to say a veritable novice wouldn’t have a good opinion or judgement of any matter their not an expert in, but it does recognize those who are well read or studied on a particular topic as having more exposure and thusly being exposed to more viewpoints creating a more well-rounded opinion. This is usually the problem with opinions, we don’t know how narrow they are until exposed to further explanation and the creation or expansion of the original thought. This is good when learning about topics, but this can also be negative when it comes to topics of morality. Expansion is like the platitude of moderation, “anything in moderation is key to a balanced life”, this is true but too much exposure to one side or another on any topic, might create an unbalanced look at whatever topic is being considered.
As morality goes, our culture suffers from a relativism which is an unbalance expansive point of view. This is what I mean, western culture has been largely influenced by Judeo-Christian beliefs, which is to say a moral foundation created and is the base for moral and societal determinative efforts for areas such as the law, societal acceptance, and workweek activities. As a society has continued to age, the population naturally has increased considerably, but methods of exposure to morality has not. This effect of expansion is the causation of a gulf between objective moral sourcing and perceived moral behavior. Essentially, as the culture is aging and people are so busy, they are filling their time with activities which carry their attention more. Like an ever-changing list, they are constantly moving items of interest in their list to “top five” designators and creating importance from this list. Here is an example, if you were given two choices, go and listen to a speaker talk about the importance of financial planning or watch a movie you’ve anticipated for some time, which would you go to? Truthfully, twenty years ago, I would have picked the movie, but now I would give some consideration to the financial planner, eventually resting on the movie. My determinate behavior would be based on a few factors such as how much time I have to consider financial planning, maybe how much I’ve desired to see the movie, perhaps in just how bored I would be sitting in a hotel conference room listening to someone with more money than myself explain what I should do just in case I get some money. If I boil everything down to its most simplistic terms, I would be bored in the room listening and not bored being entertained. As you can see though, my perspective in life has caused me some pause to change my general outlook. As something becomes important to me, it carries more weight than whether or not I should be entertained.
Which brings back into focus the subjectivity factor, this is to say, and we need to unpack what motivates us, and creates the subjective behaviors we all act on. Now, as I was stating before the Judeo-Christian beliefs of kindness, love, compassion, and accountability are always there. However, there are those who find going to church and listening to someone they hold in contempt, perhaps don’t agree with, or plain bored with because of an incomprehension to what is being said or done finding a deviation of these objective teachings as a matter of subjective thought. So for instance, someone who doesn’t go to church nor do they believe in God, has all their life seen and heard the objective moral teachings of Christianity, and now they have molded the parts easiest or seemingly fair into a personal credo. They then apply this credo as a matter of personal thought even placing a sense of originality to the thought as they apply it. They thought it (at least this is what they tell themselves) and now they apply it and attain results. Here is where the subjectivity will let them down, they own nothing to a negative result, other than to say it is a part of their understanding which will need to be reworked until a positive result ensues. Their moral behavior has now become subjective, and their moral goals have now moved in one direction or another so as to achieve a result as they see fit. The problem this moral subjectivity causes is, when millions of people are doing the exact same thing, thinking the exact same way, it creates confusion tantamount to chaos. The chaotic whirlwind of secular morality is such as to create a relative point of view allowing for everything or nothing but all is good or all is bad. Extreme? Seems this way, but at the same time, if we don’t know there the line is, then who can we assume knows where this is at, and if we don’t know who knows then like lost lambs we await a shepherd to bring us into the proverbial fold.
Our need to find this shepherd becomes a search for anyone to give us the directions we so desperately look for. In an interview Jordan Peterson once made a point of the waves of men, especially young men, who flock to his presentations searching for anything which wets the appetite of their moral intellectual philosophies. They are searching for directions, the relative pathway seems nice for a while, but the gift God gave us to search for the light of truth, persists within us to find truth and seek a shepherd within our lives. The truth is a protection of sorts, it binds us to God, and creates within us a set of boundaries, a line as it were, and knowing where this line is creates a sense of calm within our restless souls. Knowing where the path is at allows us to walk to the path instead of becoming agents of opinion and spending an entire life in search of the pathway needed to find joy, essentially finding God.
This becomes a figurehead to the question as to why, if there are objective points of direction, do people stay away from these points (i.e. the church, families)? There are three basic reasons, as I can see, which would provide an answer to this question, but they may not be the only answers just the answers I’ve found to be of prominence. The first would be what Peter Kreeft spoke about in some of his lectures as the boredom and complacent position of humans, we tend to stay away from those things which we determine to either be boring or those things which may cause us discomfort by removing our contented way of life and creating a perceived turmoil (once again we tend to utilize a subjective opinion pattern to determine future actions). The second is a matter of familial subjectivity, take for instance my wife, she was not always Catholic, but when she converted, she was shunned by her side of the family, who were protestant and looked upon the Catholic Church as being an enemy to Christianity by some context. My wife though, is a strong a woman as I have ever known, she held her ground and continued to move forward in her faith. However, some people might have found this paradigm within their families to be absolutely debilitating and thusly cause them to stop. The final and probably most significant to all people is the appearance we all face, by believing in something which may appear (based on any media driven outlet) the antiquated and perceived incorrectness of an institution which has existed for some over 4,000 years (Jewish) or for others 2,000 years (Christians). Being bombarded daily by social media or reports from every news media possible about the inadequacy and perfunctory efforts of religion would create potential for anyone to rethink their position.
Morality is not interchangeable. Those who both claim to be moral and atheist or at least agnostic are a walking logical fallacy. An oxymoron of sorts, to be without an objective moral authority means to have no moral line to which crossing would be considered verboten, which is to say a sin. Instead, when there is no moral objective authority to counsel and direct us in our actions, then we make the decisions which will allow us (individually) the best outcome possible. In other words, as long as we benefit from what is happening, then we are “morally” sound in our judgement. However, the concept of morality, although it is based in a “rightness” or “wrongness” of decision, the principle of morality is a measure of sacrifice rather than selfish indulgence. Here is what I mean, when I choose to treat others with self-less moral behavior, I sacrifice me in the process by giving of my time for the benefit of another. Perhaps, I charitably give of my money to the benefit of anyone in need of it. Whatever the result of my objective moral behaviors, sacrifice is at the root. I must sacrifice what it is I want, in order to be supplied with what I need. The need for God’s light, love, and presence in my life is the main objective of the Church, and its objective is a proper interpretation of God’s word either in action or written down for us to study and expound a reasoning.
I’ve heard, recently, people who exclaim they don’t like the complexity of our times and wish to have it simple and a simple understanding of Christ, much like the Apostles did in the first century. Though, this leaves me somewhat perplexed, as a living body of the followers of Christ, we are set on a pathway of growth. A pathway which given a boundary of morality we are to walk and learn as our life progresses, and we are to learn those which others have learned along the way. This constant and hopefully consistent learning patter brings us form the proverbial mustard seed to a healthy growth determined to spread its branches as far as possible. This cannot be achieved if we are constantly in turmoil about the parameters of morality. The movement in morality is based on a person or person’s unreliable method of taking their own counsel in all matters. As we “cry out in the desert” we must “prepare a way for the Lord, and make straight his paths” (Matt 3:3)
To sum everything up, our morals are not up for change, and they are definitely not up for negotiation. When we assume to take our own counsel and interpretation of God’s word, what we run in to is a subjective point of view which will not carry with it a proper introspective understanding at one point or another. This is to say, if we only listen to the voice in our head, and claim it was the spirit, we might be more wrong more often than we care to comfortably admit. This isn’t to conclude we won’t get things right on occasion which might turn to bolster our confidence in our perception of what we know, but is the pitfall the devil is counting on, our arrogance to put us down the path to sin. Sin is a highway paved with good intentions as the saying goes. We don’t read and hope to enter life in order to get things wrong, but we do, and this is a constant. The need for an objective authority to point out and explain where the parameters of morality exist is the shepherd we are all looking for in life. As a father, I realize I must accept this, if I ever hope to teach true love to my wife and kids by example. The Catholic Church for me, meets this standard I’m looking for, and although there are problems with the inner workings of the Living Church, the bones of objective truth still exist and should be applied.
In case I haven’t sufficiently made my point clear, morality is found in the words of Christ and the teachings of the church. Nowhere else will you find the proper dissemination of truth in your life, but it’s up to you in what you do with this truth. It will be uncomfortable at times, and at other times you might even become disheartened and mad. These feelings you feel are the pain of tearing away the sin which has become infused with you in life. This pain is the pain of growth and of substantive understanding, of self-reflective capability, and above all else, like someone who has lived in the darkness their whole life and then suddenly is thrust into the sunlight, it hurts. If you’re not currently holding to a moral life, then be courageous and start, accept the pain which will follow, but start right now, I promise a life led in morality is one which will set your inner turmoil to rest. I pray God blesses you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!