Monday, May 19, 2008

What is Moral?

This is in answer to a question Chris asked on his blog which I, being such a global thinker, answered slightly incorrectly and then realized what I did only three or four paragraphs later...

So, I think the question is really what do I consider immoral? I mean, I think it's always easier to say what not to do than what you can do, in any situation because what you can do is endless, seemingly. So as long as you know what you can't do (and you don't do it), then you can go about your business doing everything else. There, I said it.

Immoral...means things like having sex before marriage, doing sex-like things before marriage (and where do you draw the line? Good question! Therefore, don't do anything...). Killing people is bad, we all know that. Cheating on your spouse is bad. Why develop a habit of doing it by cheating on your boyfriend/girlfriend now? Cheating in general is bad, really. Your genius is your own and if you don't got nothin' in that area I guess you'd better do something about it, or work with what you have. It's good to love the people around you. Or at least appreciate them. Don't hate everyone you run into. And being amiable is a good thing.

What is moral is a matter of opinion. Everyone can decide for himself or herself what is right and wrong. Some people choose to follow the Bible or some other book. But I believe that Common Law should at least be followed, because a lot of "immoral" things would be banned if we just went back to that. "1. Do all you have agreed to do. 2. Do not encroach on other people or their property." The government doesn't even exist with that law anymore, and won't because...well, they ARE the government, after all. Who can stop them?

Sex before marriage doesn't really fit as being something against Common Law. Unless it's rape, but that's a different sort of thing. I mean, I guess you could say that since a man and a woman aren't legally bound in marriage, the man and woman would be encroaching on each others' bodies. OR that, as in most cases, those who have sex before marriage do it noncommittal a lot of the times. That leads to broken hearts, which leads to the broken law #1 of Common Law. However, neither one of those is a very sound argument, so I'll leave Common Law out of this.

To me, it just seems like a silly idea. Every once and a while I come up with really good reasons which would apply to anybody and not just Christians, but then somehow I forget them because I don't need that sort of justification, I guess. They are REALLY good reasons, I assure you. I just can't remember them right now. Or maybe I just get too swept up in all the world's reasons why it's okay to sleep around, blah blah blah, and all I know to do is hold fast to Christianity and my purity. It's important! It's special! It's as far as you can go, so why do it with everyone, why not save it for the one you're going to be with forever?!?!?!?

Yeah, that's it. I remembered now.

Even not littering is a moral. I don't do it because...well, the only time I think of doing it is when I have a sticky apple core that I'm eating in the car. But I don't want to look silly throwing it out the window, even if it is biodegradable. And what if it misses the side of the road and flies back and hits the windshield of the person behind me? Yeah, I don't like making people angry, at least that way, anyway.

So, does that answer the question? "Somewhat," you're probably saying. And you'll probably ask more questions in the comments, which is okay.

And for the record, I don't think chivalry is dead. I think some people wrongly assume it is, but those people can just go along their merry ways, and I'll just go about mine.



Lizzie said...

"What is moral is a matter of opinion. Everyone can decide for himself or herself what is right and wrong."

So... you believe that there is no absolute right or wrong?

Kor said...

There is obviously absolute wrong... unless you start to go off into the really hazy space of Neo-Darwinism where if you kill someone it isn't murder its natural selection ect...

Absolute right is tricky since in different situations it means different things... If a government is oppressing the people is it "right" to resist? The Bible says submit to authority/government (somewhere in there I'm not going to bother looking for it atm) what is right in that situation...? There are way to many options for any one universal right...

jessica said...

Lizzie-- I don't believe there's absolute right or wrong because I think it is quite possible for an individual to justify everything he or she does as being right, even if it's murder. Maybe Jack the Ripper thought he was doing something fantastic for all of mankind...

Nick-- Ha ha, no, I'm not too into Neo-Darwinism. Maybe Jack the Ripper was. OKAY, enough about him. I think God didn't really mean we MUST submit to government/authority. Instead I think he was advising us to. Like on the film about the Davidians from Radical Wednesday. They didn't submit, and look what happened. Sure, the Government was violating Common Law, but the Davidians chose to set up the compound in America. And, yes, America is supposedly a free country, but should we be so naive as to suppose that any longer?

Allie said...

"Lizzie-- I don't believe there's absolute right or wrong because I think it is quite possible for an individual to justify everything he or she does as being right, even if it's murder. Maybe Jack the Ripper thought he was doing something fantastic for all of mankind..."

Ok, first off I have to say I disagree. I believe there is absolute right or wrong. Obviously, right is more tricky, like kor said. But it is still there. And there is definitely an absolute wrong.

Your example of jack the ripper shows how interpretations of absolute truth can vary. Not how there is no such thing as absolute truth. It's still there, Jack the Ripper just justified it to mean something different.

Lizzie said...

I agree with you in a way, Kor. In some situations, there is absolute right. Like, for instance, in situations with only 2 choices, like, murder, or don't murder. By process of elimination, absolute right is to NOT murder. There are some situations where there are more than one choice that isn't absolutely wrong, but neither choice can be absolutely right, because both choices AREN'T wrong. Wow. I just confused myself.
All that just to say that there are SOME absolute rights.

So, Jess. You're saying that an individual's ability to *justify* their actions eliminates absolute right and wrong? Just because they can justify something doesn't make it right. I'm kinda confused as to how that really relates....
So in light of your beliefs about absolute right and wrong, I have a question (or maybe it's 2..): Is the Bible absolutely right when it says that "ALL have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" and when Jesus said, "I AM the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me"?
(Just a friendly discussion, I don't mean any of this to be mean or anything. I'm just want to understand what you believe. :) )

Jessica said...

No offense taken, Lizzie. I know what you mean...known you long enough to know you're not getting angry. :)

Of course, we as Christians know right from wrong (we're supposed to, anyway) because God tells us in the Bible. But not everyone follows the Bible. If there was no God (of course there is, but saying there isn't), I am sure there would be some sort of "Absolute" up there in the sky, saying what is right and wrong. We all have these conceptions in the back of our minds of what we think the "Absoultes" (if you will) are, but which one of us is really right? We all think we're right, and we think that our conceptions of absolute right and wrong are really absolute right and wrong. Only God knows, though. It's just like how we may have a picture in our minds about what Heaven looks like or is like, and we all look forward to whatever that is. But nobody except God knows what Heaven is like (of course, all the people up there know what it's like too, and they know what absolute right and wrong are, too).

So there IS absolute right and wrong, I just don't think we know exactly what it is. So until we do, I'd say *on this earth*, there is no absolte right and wrong, basically, because nobody knows what it is. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Does that make any sense?

I believe the Bible is right when it says those things. However, Christianity could be a cult and we'd never know it. I choose to believe it anyway. But other people are entitiled to their own beliefs and therefore may not feel that the Bible is right by saying those things, if you know what I'm getting at.

Chris said...

From my philosophy class, there is not right and wrong when it comes to morality. Kant thinks different from John Mill, and Peter Singer, despite being a utilitarian like Mill, thinks different from him, and Nietzsche completely thinks different from the rest because he sees a day when religion dies out and people make decisions for themselves.

So its really pain and pleasure and the balance of the said two.

Michelle B said...

Thanks for this post- Very thought-provoking!

You said, "Only God knows, though". That's very true because so many things are fuzzy to us.

And yet he did make one thing very clear to us- that whatever is wrong, we're all doing it. And trying to change that won't save us, because we could never be good on our own. Even if we knew with complete clarity what good is, we could never be capable of doing it completely.

That's why we need Jesus, isn't it? I think perhaps many Buddists, Muslims or Athiests follow Common Law better than many christians. But that can't save them.

Maybe we don't know exactly what's right and wrong (in every situation). But God has made it clear that whatever we do, our hope must be in Christ. He knew what was right and wrong, and he lived it for us. It's because we are so incapable of knowing and doing what's good or bad that we must trust completely in Christ- whose already done it for us.

"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing."
-Paul, Galatians 2:21

Lizzie said...

Okay, I think I'm starting to understand. So let me ask some more questions. (On the premise that on this earth, there is no absolute right and wrong because we can't know what it is.) Do you believe that God requires a person to live an "absolutely right" life to get into heaven? And if He does, isn't it unfair that we don't even know absolutely if we need Him to save us or not? Obviously, if there is no absolute wrong and right for everyone that we can KNOW while we're on earth, then maybe it's true that not everyone needs Jesus.

I think I do know what you're getting at, but just because someone may feel that the Bible is wrong doesn't make that true. To say it bluntly, those who aren't saved are going to hell. If they aren't sure that they're absolutely wrong, then God is sending people to hell and those people don't even know for certain that they had to do something to avoid it! They may have THOUGHT that they were right!

jessica said...

That's the thing. They DO think they are right. It just happens that way. And we think we're right, too. But Muslims think that if you don't believe in Islam, you're going to hell. They think they're right. They may be right. I'm not planning to convert any time soon, but that is the problem with this world. Everyone thinks they are right to no end (which is why we're having this nice little debate here).

God doesn't require that we live an absolutely right life to get into heaven, because it's impossible to do so. As a Christian I personally believe everyone needs Jesus for that very reason. I think Michelle hit it right on the head (as she is amazingly always doing).

I'm not saying Christianity is wrong, and that the rest of the world is right necessarily...

jessica said...

....or the other way around. I'm just saying no one knows. If we end up existing without this knowledge of right and wrong, then does it really exist in this world? It's like the tree of the knowlege of good and evil. We weren't supposed to mess with it.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is an interesting debate. Here's my two cents:

I do believe that there is an absolute right or wrong.
For example, murder is always wrong - has there ever been a "good" murder?

Many non-Christians believe that whatever's right for you is good for you, what's right for me is ok for me. This is shown today through things such as gay marriages, abortion, etc.

As for absolute right - something I do know is that, as Galations 5:22 says:"love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" - these things are always right!

I may write more later, but for now, I have to eat supper...


abigail said...

Yes, an interesting debate, but also more than a little confusing :/

I just wanted to be a good girl and do as Jessica asked and explain my vote... I voted that chivalry is not dead, because my brothers are chivalrous.

Jessica said...

Thank you, Abigail, for being so kind as to pay attention to my simple little requests. And my brothers are chivalrous, too. They will make fantastic husbands someday!

So I think the conclusion we've drawn is that God knows what absolute right and wrong is. But we don't. Christians can look in the Word and get an idea of what it is, and apply what they can to their lives, but we will never know EXACTLY what it is. So let's at least stop naming things we think are "absolute right and wrong" and accept that only God knows for honor of Natalie I ask again, "Does that make any sense??"

I am not in any way trying to be worldly, and I'm not getting into existentialism or anything. We are a very opinionated people, though, and we just need to stop saying "such and such is right or wrong because I said so and you can't do anything about that" because we never really know the whole thing for sure.

Lizzie said...

*sniffle* I paid attention to your little request too... my answer is on the previous post though. Because I was so prompt that this post wasn't available when I explained my vote. *is smug* :P

And I have to respectfully disagree on your wording.... *you* have drawn that conclusion, but I do not agree. I do agree that God knows what absolute right and wrong are. And I believe that He's shared them with us through the Bible. But you also have to consider the gray areas, where there isn't absolute right, and it all has to do with personal conviction. Unfortunately I can't figure out how to put my opinion into words, so for now I'll agree to disagree, and maybe sometime in the future I'll do a blog post on my opinion and we can pick up this lovely discussion again. :)

Jessica said...

Good idea...and I did, for the record, see your comment from the last post about the chivalry thing. I just didn't say anything about it, and I was simply referring to everyone else besides you and Abigail who did NOT elaborate on their poll choice. I especially want Kor's opinion on this. Maybe I'll just do another blog entry on chivalry... ;)

Will said...

Christians can look in the Word and get an idea of what it is, and apply what they can to their lives, but we will never know EXACTLY what it is. So let's at least stop naming things we think are "absolute right and wrong" and accept that only God knows for sure...

My printer was not working so I sat down at the family computer and saw this comment and while waiting for my paper to print I figured I might as well respond to the above quoted text. There is absolute right and wrong. How do I know that? Because there is a manual for life called the Bible, in which every word is from God and is absolute truth.

We don't read the Bible and "get an idea" of what is right or wrong, we read the Bible and have sure knowledge because it is from God and like you said He knows absolute right and wrong. It would obviously follow that since the Bible is from God to us, He would use it to make known to us, creation in His likeness, absolute right and wrong.

If we read the Bible and don't "know exactly" what is right and wrong then we degrade it to just another old religious book like the Vedas, Qur'an. or Pali Canon.

I do agree there are gray areas, there is no absolute right or wrong way to go about education and getting a job after high school and there is no absolute right or wrong way to eat an Oreo etc....But when it comes to absolute right and wrong in terms of morality there is no gray area. The current degrading of our society can be directly attributed to the preposterous postmodern philosophy that there is no absolute truth and therefore there is no absolute right or wrong. We as Christians should know better, there is absolute truth and therefore right and wrong, it is God's righteous word given to us through the Bible.

Well my paper has finished so I leave you now to your regularly scheduled discussion....

Natalie said...

in honor of Natalie I ask again, "Does that make any sense??"

Ha-ha, thank you! :p

I'm slightly confused as to whether this discussion is referring to common law, or Biblical standards, or something in between.

If you're referring to common law, you can only obey the law. I think outside of that, and yet not within the Bible, there is no real moral compass: how could there be? At that point all you have left is to either "follow your heart/instincts/etc." (and the heart is sinful) or lacking any law, you see no reason for morality at all.

As far as what we as Christians can go by, the Bible is fairly clear on most issues...of course there's always the sort of questions like "What does the Bible say about listening to rock music?" and stuff like that that always seems to come up.

And I don't think absolute right is at all defined by whether a person can justify what they're doing. The Jews justified killing Christ by their law.

Okay, I'm not trying to offend anyone, just trying to voice my opinion in a somewhat coherent manner...ha!

And all I was planning on doing was explaining my choice on your poll: chivalry shouldn't be dead, but I see very little of it anymore.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin