Moral values: Immutable, Transient or Relative?

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A number of issues arising over the past week have made me reflect on this subject. [Mid April 2014]. These made me contemplate whether values were truly immutable as in a Biblical sense. Perhaps Biblical Values merely represent the outward manifestation of values rather than the core value. Maybe values are not immutable but are indeed transient and conceivably even relative. Anchored in another epoch, perhaps Biblical values reflect the norms and values of a bygone age rather than truth.

Let me commence with the issue in the Saturday Star which firmly set the ball rolling and that issue was sex on the Big Brother Show. We are not talking about movies or TV Shows where the actors are play acting sex scenes. This was the Real McCoy down & dirty or close & personal whatever one’s preferred idiom or metaphor is. It was raw unadulterated passion & sex.

What issues did the Reporter take issue with? Maybe it should have been the sex scene itself albeit blurry through the frosty glass or perhaps the fact that the guy was cheating on his girlfriend or even the fact that they were not married?

But it was none of the aforementioned!

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The Reporter took umbrage because the male was clearly not using a condom in spite of condoms being freely available in the Big Brother House.

A few decades ago what would have happened? Firstly the churches would have climbed on their high horse & pontificated about the lack of morals. If this had been in the UK, the Minister in charge of the BBC as well as the CEO of the BBC would have been forced to resign in disgrace. The national newspapers would have been overburdened with articles decrying the lack of morality & that people should take heed of their religious upbringing & teachings.

Instead there was nary a comment in the Sunday newspapers unless I was blind.

Sex

50 years ago this image would have been considered pornography but not any more

 

The reality is that sex is regarded as a normal part of life & is not regarded as some religions do as sinful.

Where does this leave traditional religions?

The Abrahamic Religions came to life in a different milieu. Despite being regarded as an epoch in which the peoples were regarded as being more religious, were they in fact moral?  Maybe they were religious but were they moral in spite of this?

Hence the tension.

bible

Religions maintain that they are not only the connection to some supernatural being but also the arbiter on morality.

Religion & morality are totally divorced from one another. How one may ask is that possible? Surely religion & morality are two sides of the same coin?

This article takes issue with this supposition.

ethics

Forget for a moment the issue that religion represents blind faith in a deity but rather focus on the supposed connection between religion & morality. Apart from the Ten Commandments, in the Bible one is faced with the injunctions in the Books of Deuteronomy, Exodus & Leviticus which can only be classified as plainly absurd & archaic.

For instance:

  • I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states that he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him? Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
  • I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
  •    I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
  • Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Zimbabweans, but not Malawians. Can you clarify?

Waterfall

A literal interpretation of the Bible would require adherence to the abovementioned precepts.

Clearly mankind is no longer so barbaric that they would countenance selling their daughter into slavery yet this fact is overlooked when recommending stricter adherence to religion.

The reason for this, I strongly contend, is religious correctness. Like its counterpart, Political Correctness, one is not able to question the whys & wherefore of religion under pain of being pillored or censored. Instead of engaging in open debate & contestation, religion is permitted to make any claim whatever whether based on fact or not. It then becomes blasphemous or religiously incorrect to challenge that assertion.

What can be more callous than the sexual abuse of young boys by Catholic Priests? Yet how did the church deal with this issue. The offending priest was transferred to another diocese only to inflict his depredations on a new slew of boys. That punishment is less than a slap on the wrist.

 

Catholic Church

Catholic Church

Did the Catholic Church in any way believe that its connivance in this practice was immoral? Apparently not! If there were just isolated incidents of such abuse, one could argue that it was unusual or exceptional. Instead it was widespread over many continents & many decades.

Surely the protection of young boys from the predations of homosexual priests is one of their moral duties. Clearly not. Instead the Church ranted about the immorality of unmarried couples living together in sin.

How hypocritical?

Another change in moral attitude relates to homosexuality. Up until a dozen years ago & even in the most liberal of societies, homosexuality was regarded as an abomination to be eradicated by all means possible – legal & by stigmatisation.

Homosexual men

Even if being a homosexual was a conscious decision which I totally dispute, that does not make it immoral yet religion showed no compassion for such people. Instead they were ridiculed & mocked.

Both of these issues raise an important question. Is morality immutable or a reflection of the epoch? I contend that it is the latter. The Abrahamic Bible is merely a reflection of society of those times. As such, these religions will increasingly be at a disadvantage as they will inevitably be in conflict with societal norms.

Perforce religion will become an anachronism stuck in a different milieu.

Because there is a possibility that today’s immoral act will become acceptable in future, who should be the arbiter of morality. Clearly the anachronistic Church cannot fulfil that role.

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It will have to be secular Society itself shorn from its religious underpinnings. Like the efficacy of democracy, Society’s ability as the arbiter of Morality will merely be a reflection of its citizen’s morality.

I contend that the imposition of morality on Society by Religion is both unworkable & unconscionable.

 


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