I’ve come to the conclusion that the only source of morality we need is the Golden Rule. Morality is the code of conduct we humans impose on ourselves in dealing with other humans. I suppose we could have a separate morality for our dealings with animals and plants, but for purposes of creating a harmonious environment for humans on this planet, the Golden Rule is the key.
I notice that at any given time during the day, when I have to interact with my fellow man, I have conflicting and reinforcing impulses and results. There are times when I get pissed off, especially if I see someone doing something totally selfish and potentially harmful. This often happens when driving. Most drivers don’t have anything but a self centered view of themselves when trying to get somewhere in traffic, it seems. I actually find myself reacting this way at times, and have to force myself to act like I’m not the only one on the road.
But then there are times when people surprise me. A friend recently mentioned that she left her purse in her shopping cart after loading groceries into her car, and drove away without it. Another man found it, dug through the purse, obtained her ID and phone number, and returned the purse to her intact. A cynic would not expect that. Someone who operates his life according the Golden Rule would not be surprised.
In the parking lot at Starbucks today, a woman stopped to allow my car to pass, and I waved a thank you to her. I was rewarded with a big smile. I often find myself holding doors open for people, or have them hold doors open for me. A gracious “Thank You” either way always makes me feel good, and by the looks on their faces, others feel the same way.
There is nothing like a smile on a human face, even an ugly one such as mine, to make my day. I can be feeling the worst of the worst, as if there was no burden heavier than the one I am presently shouldering, and someone can take it away in an instant, with a kind word, a gracious act, and especially a smile.
What is it about a smile that is so life affirming? But I digress.
“Treat others as you think you ought to be treated”
If you read other so-called sources for morality, you find that they all boil down to either rules to prop up the religion that lays claim to them, or the Golden Rule itself. Take the Ten Commandments. The first four have nothing to do with morality, and everything to do wish slavish worship. The balance you could simply chalk up to doing that which you would want done to you, or not doing that which you would not want done to you.
Murder? Can’t imagine anyone who wants to be murdered.
Theft? No one wants anything stolen from them.
Adultery? Would you like your wife having sex with someone else?
Islam isn’t much different. Read this link on Morality in Islam. While the language of Islamic moral standards is wrapped in words echoing a supernatural or divine nature, much like Christianity and Judaism, it still boils down to a human element of the self.
1. The Commanding Self (Nafs-e-Ammâra) is the self, which incites the human being towards evil.
2. The Self-Accusing Spirit (Nafs-e-Lawwâma) is the second source of morality, the one judging the excellence of morals. It is the voice of the conscience which becomes loud when an act of indecency is being done. Every human being is endowed with this voice.
3. Love and Faith in the All-Mighty is the third and the ultimate source of morals.
The Third one is like the first four commandments, but the first two require an introspective analysis of human actions, intentions and motivations, much like the last 6 Commandments, and much like the Golden Rule. It’s right there in the explanation for number 2.
One aspect of getting a ruling from the voice of the conscience and from one’s heart is that when we are about to commit any action we should first imagine to apply such an action to ourselves. If we are not adversely affected by this action and if it proves to be good and effective for us, such an action would also be beneficial and good for others.
You don’t need God or Allah for you to come to the conclusion that if it’s not good for us, it’s not good for others, and vice versa. And the idea that religion, and in particular Jesus, discovered the Golden Rule, is total nonsense. While in may be in ancient scriptures, including the Old Testament, Hindu and Confucian books, and others, it is most certainly a humanistic rule, because it was long determined by unknown and unheralded pre-historic humans to be applied to humans, and later co-opted by religion. Should you ask “how do you know that?’, ask yourself how any organized and cohesive civilization could have possibly evolved without some sense of altruism, as opposed to pure, naked self-absorption.
I’m convinced that humans are inherently good, that we want good done to ourselves, we want good to happen to us, we want a good life. It’s a struggle to get through this short life we have, and life is full of competition for resources, love, happiness, etc. If we kick our fellow humans out of the way to obtain a successful passage through life, someone else gets hurt. If we are considerate in our dealings with others, and they with us, life is much easier.
I’m sure this probably sounds simplistic, and it’s certainly not new. However, it bears repeating.