The Narrow Roads Sept 2014

Bob_Anton_Narrow_Roadmo·ral·i·ty noun \mə-ˈra-lə-tē, mȯ-\

: beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior

In light of some of the horrific stories that have come out of the Middle East of late, I’ve been giving some deeper thought to what’s right and what’s wrong.  The recent tragic murder of reporter James Foley by Islamic extremists being a case in point.  Many Western world leaders have weighed in on the murder of Foley branding it a despicable and cowardly act, but what about the moral compass of other societies?

In some societies, a woman may be stoned to death for bringing shame upon her husband or family.  We say that’s immoral, they claim it’s not.  We say that using civilians as human shields is immoral.  Jihadist claim we are the immoral ones for waging war in their land.  Fundamentalist Islamists look at us and say we are a debased and immoral society at heart.  They look at our movies, our luxuries, our wastefulness, the way we dress and the way we act and cry immorality.  Many see us as a scourge to be resisted and ultimately eradicated.  Many of us see them, as being but a stone’s throw away from the Dark Ages.  Who’s right, who’s wrong, and is there an objective moral truth?  Or is it all subjective, a fabrication of the society in which one lives?

I believe that what we define as morality is both culturally and societally driven.  It is constantly changing and evolving and it is very much subjective.  For instance, many things that were once considered bad behavior, are morally acceptable today.  Things that today are considered questionable may be acceptable in the future.  And things that are acceptable today, may one day be soundly rejected.  But if this is an accurate appraisal of how morality evolves in human societies, the question remains, is it right?  In other words, is our evolving morality, itself moral?

World renowned atheist Richard Dawkins recently created a firestorm when he tweeted that it would be immoral to willingly bring a mentally retarded baby into the world.  In his opinion, such children should be aborted in order to save them, their parents and society the potential pain and suffering associated with such handicaps. “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice,” said Dawkins.  Not surprisingly, Dawkins was met with a ferocious response by many who believe very differently.  For them, to intentionally abort a child because of a suspected or even known handicap is what’s immoral.  Perspective plays such a great part in shaping our morals.  So again, I ask who is right? In fact, who’s to decide what is right, the one with the most power?  Shall morality be determined democratically?

I believe that it is true, that morality is in practicality, determined by individual societies.  But if this is also ‘right’ then perhaps Dawkins is simply ahead of his time.  Perhaps in the future, just like living together, out of wedlock pregnancy, divorce, homosexuality or any number of other evolving cultural norms, Dawkins’ position will turn out to be morally acceptable.  And if this is the case, then morality, matters, only in so far as one who breaks accepted norms may suffer persecution by society, the law or both.  In which case, the Jihadists are not ‘wrong’, but simply lagging a few hundred years behind our ever evolving Western culture.  We then, should not point fingers of condemnation at them, because we ourselves were in that place not too long ago. Remember, torture was common place during the European Middle Ages.   And more recently, the enslavement and abuse of human beings was morally acceptable in the U.S. South.

However, if morality is something bigger.  If what is truly right or wrong is not the result of cultural influence and societal evolution, but rather unchangeable, universal principles, then that would imply that something or someone bigger than man, is involved.  I mean, how and where would these high moral concepts come from, except outside of mankind?  How is it that people of good will from around the world, regardless of gender, race or creed, universally condemn the heinous acts being committed in Iraq?  Could it be, that these concepts of right and wrong, have been instilled in our hearts and minds by something greater than us, being revealed to us through what we call a conscience?  And what of those things in our own society, that were once considered immoral and have as of late, become morally acceptable?  Could it be, that the uneasiness that we often feel about such things, is the still quiet voice of a higher moral law?  A law which was intended to govern the lives of all men, but which we have abandoned for the sake of expediency?  If so, then we as a society may define right and wrong any way we choose.  But in the end, it may be the violations of our own consciences that rise up to condemn us.  You think about that.  God bless you and…….

See you on the road.

Bob Anton, Christian Motorcyclists Association

For more information on CMA or questions or comments concerning this column, please contact Bob Anton at 631-897-8122 or baftmny@aol.com

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