A consistent theme within my writings is that there are certain axioms which exist throughout the American lexicon that simply do not bear out the truth. There are many proverbs, and misrepresentations which have been said so often, and with enough conviction that they have simply become accepted as principle, despite their obsolescence, or lack of integrity. The insipidity behind these words often escape scrutiny due to a combination of their narrative longevity, and our own laziness. Indeed, conventional is wisdom is often not very wise at all.
Such is the case with how many of us associate religion, with morality.
Somehow despite our many advances, hate, bigotry and discrimination can once again be rationalized through scripture as taking the moral high ground. But the truth is, many of the things we call moral, or immoral are not what we have conditioned to believe them to be. While the Bible and the Koran are often cited as the moral justification of bias towards gays and women, the reality is that those very same tenets also advocate corporal and capital punishment, torture, murder, genocide and slavery. Can any sane person justify any of those actions as moral? It is demanded by God and Allah in the Holy writs, so some will certainly try. Just as anti-gay crusaders are doing now, slave owners held up their Bibles in defense of the indefensible.
Certainly, where it applies to morality, contemplation need be applied when quoting scripture.
For instance, if we look at truly immoral acts, such as killing, stealing, or slavery, it is easy to recognize that the common ingredient which makes all of those acts universally immoral is that they impose upon, if not adversely affect others. All of those acts involve a level of victimizing other human beings. So in order to rationalize gay marriage, health care, women’s equality, or birth control as an attack on morality, one has to employ a 3rd party deity in order to justify what amounts to a bigoted, self righteous indignation trying to impose itself on others. Moreover, I will make the argument that the very act of “morality based” social bias that religious fundamentalists routinely exhibit is in itself, immoral.
In a recent discussion with an evangelical Christian about how morality and homosexuality were connected, his claim was simply because god has apparently deemed gay sex to be an immoral act. But when pressed as to how gay people negatively affected his life — like say, killing or stealing does– his reply actually shocked me. The best excuse he could think of to label the private sexual practices of consenting adults as “immoral” was that legalizing gay marriage would hinder his ability to discriminate against them.
That’s right. The poor Fundamentalist’s right to be a bigot were being taken away from him by those awful, oppressive liberals and gay people. How terrible. Now if only our government would see fit to legalize stonings, I’m sure the good lord would find it in his heart to reward these United States for having rediscovered our moral compass. While we’re at it, perhaps we can teach kids that evolutionary science and creationist fairy tales have the same validity. Now we’re talkin’.
But most of us know better. We know that morality –first and foremost– involves the golden rule of doing unto others as you’d have them do unto you. We understand that morality is built upon empathy, and easing needless pain and suffering. We know the difference between right and wrong. We understand the morality of truth. Yet what many of us know to be moral in our hearts and minds is significantly different than how we would answer it on a questionnaire.
Still, our socio/political discourse is such that religious fundamentalists–those with truly immoral intentions– have claimed dominion over the use of the word “morality. It has been redefined by those who use scripture to justify a bigoted, self righteous wrath on those who they’d hope to impose their will upon, to hate gays and to tell women what they are, and are not allowed to do with their own bodies, and to teach hate and instill fear into our children. Somehow indoctrinating children to believe that they are born sinful and have to abandon intellective curiosity, and emotionally submit to an ethereal dictator is considered moral. Yet two people of the same gender who love one another is not.
But I think it’s safe to say that morality shouldn’t be counterintuitive. So perhaps for those of us who believe morality to mean empathy and good will towards others, curing disease, and helping people in need, to be used as a tool to end bigotry and violence, not propagate it, and who understand that there is nothing more moral than love…. it’s time to take the word back. It would be the moral thing to do.