In our secular public schools, religious history and literacy is never taught or taught well and thus, many people, young or old, fail to learn that many of the most coveted principles & laws within our secular, global governments evolved from religious doctrine as well as ancient philosophy. The U.S. and other countries where Christianity still reigns as the most prominent religion in practice, often fail to acknowledge that their “morally” inspired laws are primarily a function of biblical principles.
Morality & Law
The concept of morality has been a philosophical and religious “football” among philosophers, writers, priests and ministers for well over 2,000 years. Since the time of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, many discourses and debates were documented where questions on whether man is inherently moral, amoral or an immoral creature. While there is no universally acceptable answer to this question in the strictly secular world, the laws governing what is right vs wrong in the U.S. for example, operate under the following ethical assumptions.
- Man is inherently a moral being
- Man should be entitled to life
- Man should not kill except to preserve life
- Man should live in peace
- Man should value actions that benefit all others equally
If we examine these assumptions using a religious lens, we can see that they also align with all of the Judeo-Christian religious teachings about the nature of man’s inherent morality as well as man’s restrictions and rights related to life and charitable behavior.
Christianity teaches in Genesis 1:27 that man was created in God’s image. God is assumed to be perfect and the scripture further teaches that Adam was created with freewill and thus, the capability to disobey. We see this narrative told in Genesis 2 and 3 with the story of The Fall.
The important lesson here is that Christianity’s position on man’s inherent nature is that man is moral per his God-like image but that the Fall caused man’s soul to be corrupt and thus, man should continuously seek forgiveness and to seek his true moral essence via salvation through Jesus Christ.
Judaism holds an identical view per the Genesis however, obviously, they don’t recognize Jesus Christ as The Messiah. Judaism’s version of atonement is that man needs to seek his true moral atonement & guidance solely from God.
Laws governing the benefit of others are thus by default, operating under an inherent subordinate assumption that “moral man” should do what is accepted as “right”. However, because there is a spectrum or scale involved where right vs wrong is identified and measured, the “right” must first be defined as such.
What is the origin of “right vs wrong” within U.S. law?
United States laws governing what is “right” were founded on the egalitarian objectives of the Enlightenment period of the late 18th century during the American Revolution. This era, where man declared himself capable of self-governance exclusive of subservience to the British crown also ushered in a veiled expulsion of Christianity from statutory and national powers. Thomas Jefferson, a proponent of Deism, outlined his platform for the separation of Church and state in an ingenious “sales pitch” which appeared to be geared to strengthen religious freedom by removing government regulation of the Church and the variations of Christianity in existence within the U.S. at the time. However, the agenda was bilateral as it also removed the Church’s own laws/doctrine from the government’s evolving secularism.
The effects of this separation were twofold with a) an emergence of Secularism and b) the rise of indeterminate or incomplete laws governing ethics.
The “Creation” of Secularism
The aforementioned separation of church and state thus created a hybrid body of laws which can be called “Secular Religion”. The name of this term is obviously an oxymoron however it is clear that the U.S. tried to create a “Religion without God” in the form of the Constitution as a “sacred text” or Bible. To be clear, the Constitution has no references to God and yet, the expulsion of the Church from state governance during this period created a pseudo or “God-less” version of an American secular, almost-sacred text which demanded allegiance and reverence/worship. Secular lawmakers agreed that while man is indeed an inherently moral creature and is entitled to freedom and the pursuit of happiness nevertheless, should not be governed by Church doctrine.
Morality Loses Its Identity
Religion cannot be dismissed without a viable alternative construct for regulating morality. Without an established body of principles governing ethics, and justice, such as the Church, man falls upon himself to determine what is right vs wrong. This leads to moral relativism where an individual’s mode of morality is not absolute but subjective,or “relative” to the laws or beliefs of a particular group and thus prone to corruption and exploitative behavior.
The consequences of relative morality have also snowballed or converged within the postmodern movement’s advocacy of creating one’s own relative reality. Their reasoning is that a universal reality doesn’t exist or that it cannot be known other than from an individual’s perception. This is also the postmodern’s take on morality. This is, however, a failed proposition since it requires the individual who is imperfect by nature to objectively “step outside of themselves”, transcend their own human limitations and establish arbitrary views on what is right vs wrong. This is analogous to a failed mathematical solution where a variable cannot yield its own solution without some other variable present.
Without getting too mathematical here, if we were to attempt to write a simple algebraic formula for the secularist view of relative morality, we might setup the following equation:
Let X = right
Let Y = wrong
Let z = x – y
Solve for z
This equation is obviously unsolvable since “right” and “wrong” are not established values but that is exactly the position that moral relativist advocates want to promote. Their view is that morality is not objective but what they fail to consider is that their “flavor” or morality is also not egalitarian.
To further illustrate the effects of advocating secular moral relativism, we can consider the following questions.
- What does it mean to do the right thing when the “right thing” has not been defined?
- What is greater or less when no compass or means of measurement has been established?
The answers to such questions have only arbitrary solutions and are thus useless for determining truly egalitarian moral codes.
What Happens to Man In The Absence of Morality?
Despite all the centuries of debates on virtue and morality, the typical digressive or secular “fall” of man ends up going into one or all of these routes.
Worship of “Self”
- Egocentrism – Man becomes self-centered and looks inward towards himself as the sole arbitrator or right vs wrong
- Selfishness – Man begins to value his own arbitrary worth above those of others.
- Secular Worship of Alternatives – Man ascribes value to objects and man-made constructs such as corporations and eventually descends into the aforementioned principles of postmodernism.
- Materialism – Man begins to covet things of greater monetary value in a failed attempt to increase his own secular worth.
- Business Mechanisms and Corporate “Church” – Although this is not typically discussed, for-profit corporations have developed mission statements and hierarchies that can rival monarchies and their failings in many ways.
- Descent into Postmodernism – Where there is no objective reality, there can be no universal truth and thus no universal view of morality.
Morality’s “End Game”
Realistically, it’s unlikely that secular law will ever align with any absolute or universal morality as is present with the Bible or other sacred texts; however, as described above, the embedded assumption of ethics within modern secular law nevertheless assumes that man is endowed with inherent values and thus man operates with moral agency. As such, religious ethical principles cannot really be removed from modern secular law in the U.S. as we know it.
Postscript: The Atheist Ethical Paradox
There is a paradox here that proponents of atheism really don’t understand with regards to legal ethics. Their advocacy for the expulsion of religion completely from secular law would not yield their desired “morally” founded, egalitarian world. The atheist’s “truth” would mean a world where despots could reign and set the moral standards to zero. Their world would assign man an opening standard of immorality or that of amorality. The atheist’s world would not be assured of freedom or that of equality. In their world, man would be treated not with inherent rights but only with those rights that exist and appease the ruler and epoch of day.