Morality in a changing world

Current developments in the world makes one concerned about whether humanity or civilization will survive for much longer. If you are a person that is concerned about more than just yourself and those dear to you, then you would want to do something to improve the situation. (Perhaps you disagree that the current situation is anything to be concerned about. That is a debate for another day.)

An obvious aspect of the current situation that is threatening humanity is the way people behave. To improve matters, one would need to change people’s behavior. That begs the question: “what is considered good behavior?”, which brings in the notion of morality.

Sometimes one gets the impression that morality is consider to be an old out-of-date notion. However, if our survival depends on how people behave, then morality is definitely not an outdated notion. Nevertheless, morality itself changes with time and different cultures view it differently. So how can we argue that morality would have anything to do with the survival of humanity if it is so variable?

The purpose of this post is to explain that although it is variable in the ways stated above, morality has structure that ensures the survival of humanity. To support this explanation, I use a source which has dealt with morality authoritatively: the Bible. I realize that there are many people that do not consider the Bible as an authoritative source. For those people, I ask that you do not judge on the basis of the origin, but on the statements themselves, their intrinsic value and their implied consequences.

In the Bible, it is stated that the command to love your neighbor as yourself, represents the complete fulfillment of the law. In other words, this simple principle forms the foundation of all morality. So, although morality may vary from culture to culture, unless such moralities are founded on this principle, they are basically flawed.

That still leaves much that can change within the different moralities. Which one would be the correct one? That is the wrong question. A better way to pose a question would be to ask: how should we view the different moralities?

Here I want to use two more statements from the Bible: The one is “For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” The other is “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” What is the common theme here? It means that moralities are based on how people define them. Each person should therefore live according to the morality within the context of that person’s culture. In other words, the morality that a person should adhere to is the morality as defined by the culture of that person.

The Bible does not say much about the concept of a culture and how we should view culture, at least not explicitly. But it does so by implication. If God created humanity, then obviously He also created culture and then one can conclude that culture was created with a definite purpose in mind. It is the mechanism that replaces the survival-of-the-fittest principle, valid for the animal kingdom, by the love-your-neighbor-as-you-love-yourself principle, which enables the development of a civilized humanity.

One last quote from the Bible: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

These words can either be understood to refer to all the various commandments as explicitly stipulated in the various books of the Bible, including those in the Old Testament. Or it can be understood in the context of cultures as explained above. The most widely used understanding is probably the former, which leads to much animosity, because how can we still be expected to obey those old laws which were relevant in the context of those old cultures? However, in face of our current world and all the changes, I think it more valid to consider the latter understanding. It then states the importance of being obedient to every aspect of the morality of the culture within which you find yourself.

So, if we want to change the world to become a better world in which humanity or civilization has a better change to survive, let’s uphold the morality associated with the culture within which we find ourselves. Let’s communicate these moralities to everyone, especially to the next generation. Although moralities may change, we need to make sure that it never violates the principle of love: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Have a blessed Merry Christmas!

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