There is a loud clamor today among some who say that no one, especially Christians, has any right to tell someone else how to live their life. They argue that each person is free to decide for themselves how they want to behave, as long as they are not violating the legal laws of the land. For example, they say that homosexuals have as much right to pursue happiness according to their desires as do heterosexuals. Therefore, they say that no one has the right to condemn them for their gay behavior.
Those who engage in this kind of reasoning maintain that there are no absolute rules of what is "right" or "wrong." To them, what is moral behavior is a personal choice because what one person may consider morally right may not necessarily be true for someone else. Because of this outlook, they strongly feel that no one has the right to force their morality onto anyone else. This is especially true when a Christian professes their belief that people should live their lives in a certain way.
Interestingly, the word "morality" or "morals" does not appear anywhere in the Bible but its concept is woven throughout the scriptures and forms the very basis upon which all Christian doctrine is built. Because of this, many people think that "morality" means adhering to the belief system of a particular religious faith. Therefore, what a Christian may consider to be the morally right thing to do, a Muslim may not agree with nor would a Hindu or an atheist.
However, such a definition is not correct. The word "morality" comes from the Latin word "moralitas" which means "proper behavior." The dictionary defines the word morality as "conformity to the rules of right conduct; refers directly to what is right and wrong regardless of what people may think." This word is often used interchangeably with the word "ethics" and synonyms for it are: virtue, goodness, honorable, decent, just, decorous, respectful, and having good manners.
Those who are opposed to someone "imposing" their morality onto others argue that no one can decided for someone else what is "right" or "wrong" behavior. It is their contention that, even if morality means conforming to the rules of right conduct, each person must decide for themselves what they think is the best conduct for them.
However, in saying this, they deliberately misconstrue the word "morality" in order give validity to their argument. In other words, they purposely give the word "morality" a different meaning than that which is intended. In this way they are able to confuse the issue and subsequently can frame their argument in such a way that it favors their viewpoint.
But this technique is nothing more than performing a magician's trick. It's an act of misdirection meant to fool those who are not familiar with how the trick is done.
The intended meaning of the word morality expresses the idea of people treating others in the "right" way. It conveys the idea of behavior that is descent, honorable, and respectful to and of those with whom we come in contact. It's an attitude of treating others the way we would want them to treat us.
Christians believe that the God of the Bible not only said, "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise (Luke 7:31; Matthew 7:12) but He also taught "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:39). The Bible also teaches that men should be honest, patient, forgiving, kind, and gentle with one another. It teaches children to honor their parents and for husbands to love their wives. It counsels against becoming angry, drunk, and speaking evil against others. All of these things are examples of "right" behavior.
Those who say they don't want anyone to force their morality onto them argue that such sentiments are "religious" in nature and therefore have no place in the discussion of how the public at large should behave.
However, even among the critics of religious morality, no one teaches that it is acceptable to treat others differently than we would want to be treated, to be dishonest, impatient, holding a grudge, being unfaithful, or slandering others. Therefore, even by the standards of the critics, such Christian conduct is considered to be "right" and that's because no society can peacefully exist for very long without practicing this kind of behavior.
But regardless of what the critics say, there is a right way and a wrong way to behave. This is why God told the Isarelites, "Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man [doing] whatsoever [seems] right in his own eyes….[Instead, ye shall] Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, [as long as] thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God."
The words that God commanded the Israelites to follow were based on "good and right" behavior. As such, the Bible contains a code of morality that will bring peace, happiness, and prosperity to all those who follow it whether they believe in God or not.
Yet, the critics of morality don't want good behavior taught in the public schools because they say it is based on a religious belief in a Christian God. Therefore, they object to schools teaching such things as honesty and integrity, saying that is the parent's responsibility, not the school's.
As part of their reasoning, they claim that the Constitution places a separation between the State and religion, thereby preventing public schools from teaching anything of a religious nature. (This is a false claim. For a more in-depth look at this subject read Separation of Church and State ) However, such principles of moral behavior are universally accepted in all civilized societies and are taught in nearly all major religions. As such, moral principles are not religious in nature but are basic, fundamental rules that humans need to follow if they are to get along with one another.
There are some critics who have no problem with the basic idea of morality in general but they do object to specific things. For example, those who like to drink disagree with the biblical injunction against getting drunk. However, our society does place limits on being drunk while driving or being drunk at work. Yet, while these limits do impose penalties for improper behavior they are not based on religious beliefs but on right conduct.
When it comes to being faithful to one's spouse, most people agree that such conduct is proper and right, that is until they themselves want to be unfaithful, then suddenly they no longer see anything wrong in such behavior and are offended when someone begins talking about morality. Yet our courts of law do not look favorably upon such acts of indiscretion and often pass judgment against those who engage in such activity. However, those verdicts are not based a judge's religious beliefs but on what society itself considers good and proper behavior.
What we see in most cases is that those who object the most to someone talking about morality are the ones who don't want to follow the rules of right behavior and the reason they complain so loudly is that they don't like someone telling them they have to stop behaving badly.
To gain a better understanding of the importance of teaching morality in society, perhaps we can look at this subject from a different perspective.
Today there is a big debate over gun control. There are those who say that guns kill people therefore they argue that if we put strict controls on who can or can't own a gun that this would reduce crime and murders. However, a gun is an inanimate object. It is just a "thing" and "things," in and of themselves, are neither good or bad. They can't think or move, therefore it is impossible for them to be anything but neutral when it comes to morality. It is what people do with the things in their possession that makes such objects good or bad.
For example, in the "right" hands, a gun is good for getting food, for engaging in recreational sport, or for protecting ourselves. But that same gun in the wrong hands can be used to rob people of their possessions and cause serious harm to others. Yet a person could also murder someone using a wire coat hanger but that doesn't make a coat hanger "bad."
Food is also a "thing" yet without it we could die. However, if someone eats the wrong kind of food or eats too much food they could develop health problems that could eventually kill them. And all inanimate objects fall into this same category. It isn't the object itself that is good or bad but what we, as people, do with them that makes the difference.
What makes people do anything is dependent on the kind of thoughts they have. It is a well understood principle of psychology that our thoughts control our action. If a person's thoughts are "good" then their actions will likewise be "good" but if they think evil then it is inevitable that at some point they will do evil. When a person changes the way they think then they automatically change the way they behave.
But man not only thinks but he also has the ability to reason and because of this he nearly always has a reason for why he behaves as he does. For example, suppose an older teenage boy become irritated with the way his younger sister is acting so he decides to hit her. In this case he physically lashes out at her in anger. When the sister runs to her father and complains, and the father confronts the boy as to why he hit the girl, his first thought would be to answer that she irritated him but, instead he answers that she hit him first.
The reason why he doesn't tell the truth is because he knows this is a weak excuse which will only get him into more trouble. The reason he gives the second answer is so he can escape punishment by claiming it was an act of self-defense. And even if the father doesn't accept this reasoning, the boy is in a better position to defend his behavior.
What this example illustrates is not only how people think but how they use reasoning to justify their thoughts and actions. When a person has an idea or thought, almost immediately the brain begins to find a reason for acting or not acting on that idea or thought. But once that reason has been established in a person's mind it then becomes very difficult to get them to change their opinion.
The reason for this is because when someone becomes convinced that what they are thinking is correct, they then begin looking for reasons to justify their thoughts and actions. However, the problem with this technique is that not all reasoning is logical or correct, except in the mind of the person giving the reason. And should someone point out the fallacy of their reasoning they will either find another one to justify their viewpoint or simply ignore the fallacy and continue using the same reason as though it is still perfectly acceptable.
The solution to this problem is for people to use correct reasoning to begin with but that can't happen if they don't know how to reason correctly. This is where morals come in because it is a person's morals, or lack of them, that will shape their reasoning. If a person has a strong set of morals, meaning they have a strong sense of what is right and wrong, then their reasoning, and thus their actions, will be in accordance with that which is good, decent, and honorable. But if they lack a strong sense of what is right and wrong then they can easily form the opinion that anything they think of is "right" no matter what they do - good, bad, or indifferent. In that case they will find some sort of a reason to justify their behavior, but that reasoning will be based on their own desires rather than on the moral principles of justice, goodness, and respect for others.
We usually say that the opposite of" right" is "wrong" but the Bible uses a different word. In the scriptures the opposite of right is defined as being unright or behaving in an unrighteous manner. The purpose of the scriptures is to teach us what is good behavior and what is unright behavior. The prophet Samuel told his people, "I will teach you the good and the right way… But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed" (1 Samuel 12:23, 25).
Whether someone believes in the Christian God or not, when we discount the scriptures as a source of learning how to properly behave towards others then we will be consumed by our own lusts. If, as a society, we say that there is no such thing as "right" or "wrong" behavior and we define wickedness any way that we want then it becomes easy to justify any sort of conduct. It then becomes easy to excuse lying to our employer, spouse, friends or even under oath in a court of law. It then becomes easy to rationalize stealing or violence in all of their many forms. It then becomes acceptable to treat people unfairly or engage in unethical business practices.
There will always be people who seek to advance themselves at the expense of others. This is what con-men do, what unscrupulous businessmen do, and what unethical politicians do. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely eliminate these kinds of people from among us unless human nature itself changes. But, societies can still flourished as long as the great majority of their citizens have strong moral values that they believe in and cling to because it is those morals that will shape how they think, reason, and behave towards one another.
However, if the immoral population is allowed to grow, the problems their society will have will also increase and, if this trend is not arrested and reversed, crime and corruption will eventually cause their society to descend either into anarchy or tyranny.
When we as a nation forbid the teaching of morality in our public places then we are allowing people to decide for themselves what is right behavior and what is not. When the values that our former generation once believed in are mocked and said to be outdated and old fashion then we encourage the next generation to set their own standard of behavior. When that is allowed to happen, the next generation usually sets their standards lower simply because they are easier to follow. It not only takes less effort and less strength of character on their part but having lower standards also allows them to more easily cater to their lusts and desires.
There is no question that the teaching of morality rests primarily with parents but if that is the only place children have to learn it and it is not being taught there then all of society suffers. If public schools teach the principles of morality it can do no harm and only tends to reinforce what the parents should be teaching their children.
On the other hand, if parents are not teaching their children proper behavior or are teaching them immoral or amoral behavior, either by word or example, and the public schools are not allowed to teach morality to their students, then those children may have no one else to teach them what is good, decent and honorable behavior. And if they haven't learned how to live morally good lives while growing up they certainly can't teach their children how to live any better.
Not all Christians live according to the principals of their faith and some even misapply those very principles for their own purposes but the values that are taught in the Bible are good, decent, and honorable. If people would genuinely live by those standards, the world would undoubtedly be a better place because of it. That cannot be said if we engage in doing those things that the Bible says are unrighteous.
If morality is "conformity to the rules of right conduct" then it is imperative that we make the correct choice of what our society feels is right and what is wrong behavior. If we make the correct decision then our society will flourish and prosper but if we make an unwise choice then we will all suffer. In the final analysis, that is the real question of morality.
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