Spooky in the South: Morality, Divine Ethical Code or Social Construct?

Spooky in the South: Morality, Divine Ethical Code or Social Construct? October 25, 2018

Recently, I was thinking about the moral rules we live by in our society, and it made me begin to question where our morality comes from. Many would say morality is a set of rules dictated by a deity or deities that have divine meaning, and people are meant to obey the rules. Others might say that it is simply an innate sense to do what is right to our fellow people. But there is still the unanswered question of where and why our morality originated?

“The Court of Death” Rembrandt Peale from WikiMedia.

As humans have evolved over the years we gained higher intellectual abilities, but there was a point in our history where we were nothing more than primates with animal instincts, and we would not have abided by any sort of rules for anything other than our own survival. Therefore, at some point in human history, we developed our sense of morality which spread across the globe as we grew and adapted to our newly developed cultures and ideas.

A sense of divinity within the natural world is something that can be traced back over thousands of years in human history, back to when religious ideas just started to form. People began making offerings to ensure that their crops would flourish and their livestock would survive. I often think that this was the beginning of what we now call Paganism. Similarly, in Pagan religious stories, we see that the deities do not abide by the same morality that humans often do, and they never ordained strict moral codes which humans had to live by, other than to honor them. While of course there are pieces of that history that are missing and may never be recovered, it does make me wonder when and why we as humans created an actual code of morality, and why do we choose to be moral?

I personally think that our morality is nothing more than social rules adopted over the centuries to keep the chaos at bay. If the Gods/Goddesses do not abide by any form of morality than why do we? Perhaps it is because there is something embedded in our mind that tells us that we should not hurt others, that we should not destroy things, etc. I do not think that our morality has any root in religion/spirituality, but rather was adopted over the years simply to ensure a functioning society which allows for us to live at a higher quality of life than our ancestors. We developed higher intellectual capabilities and therefore felt that we were superior to other animals and needed to prove it through a heightened state of living.

Now all this is not meant to say I believe that our moral rules are good or bad, but rather to cause you all to think and evaluate where our belief systems originated. I have always believed in questioning ideas we are raised with and taught to obey, and I encourage you all to do the same. Never take something at face value, and just because it is something that “everyone” does, does not mean that we cannot question it. Our heightened intellect allows us not only to be capable of creating morality, but to also be able to question the very existence of something which we created in our own minds. Please have a thoughtful discussion and tell me what your own thoughts on morality are!

About Sarah Franklin
Sarah Franklin is an undergraduate studying Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She runs a religious organization at UAB called Path of the Ancient Ones, which provides religious education and guidance to those seeking it. She has spoken on Interfaith panels in Birmingham and works to build bridges between religious communities. You can read more about the author here.
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