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There was a troubling opinion piece in the Telegraph Journal tonght by Charles W. Moore and entitled “God’s Law: why religion is essential to good government”. If you’re a subscriber, you can read it here.

I think it’s pretty obvious why this troubles me. Basically, it goes against everything I believe about religion, ethics, morality, and government. I feel like I should write a response to the editor… I need to think about it carefully though because I think I’m liable to run off into senseless rambling. That’s fine for my blog, but not so much for a provincial news paper! This is why I need to write all this stuff out in advance….

In the second paragraph, Moore essentially says that because most religions agree on “broader basic moral principles” then we should believe that there are moral absolutes. He does talk about the argument that everything is morally neutral, but I get a sense that the discussion is very biased. He claims, for instance, that this would cause “order and civility” to break down. I think it’s obvious that if the government were to decide one day to throw away all laws and say it was every person for themselves, we could very easily see civilisation descend into chose. However, it is not obvious that this would happen.

Where do I get my morals? I think Moore would argue that I’ve learned them from growing up in a religious society, and I think he’s probably right. But, I do not believe in any “objective authority” such as God or even “a cosmic moral order”, which Moore seems to claim is a necessary and sufficient requirement for a “sustainable moral order”.

Are murder and rape obviously wrong? It is Moore’s assertion that “liberal humanists” cannot claim such things because it contradicts their believe of all moral neutrality (“Either it is just an opinion, or it has objective authority. You can’t have it both ways.”) Moore is right, I don’t think it can be both, but he seems to ignore the possibility that it is only an opnion. I don’t know anything about liberal humanism specifically, but based on what Moore has laid out, this is exactly what they would claim as well.

It is likely a controversial claim, which would explain why Moore seems unwilling to entertain the idea. Of course it is generally accepted that rape is wrong – this is something I believe myself. But I admit that this is only because I would not like to be raped myself.

My morals come from a desire to do no harm. (That is a form of one of two of the only two guiding principles I have… and I have a sneaking suspicion that the two are not independent, so possibly it is a form of my one guiding principle.)

Perhaps Moore is right that you can’t have complete moral neutrality, but does the principle “Do no harm” constitute a religion? Even Wicka, which has essentially only that as it’s moral guide (or so I’m led to believe) has much more to it. And really, my one main affirmation of “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you” is by definition subjective. This is the very thing that if we all abided by it, would cause our civilisation to descend into chaos! Granted this same rule is manifested in the major religions, but, similar to Wicka, it is not the core of their respective dogmas.

This, I guess, is my thesis. The so-called “Golden Rule” is a statement that defers judgment to no objective authority (be it God or the universe itself) and does not even require a society previously formed by religious principles. It is not a religion in itself nor does it require one to function. But, I think it really is all we need.

(Perhaps there are some difficulties and contradictions that may arise from this. If so, please tell me what they might be. In fact I eagerly await any feedback!)

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