When Sergeant John came back from Vietnam, one of the first people he saw was hippie Lil. He noticed her because of her mini-skirt. Instead of giving him a hero’s welcome, Lil spat at him and called him a baby killer. A couple of decades later hippie Lil turned into liberated Lillian and secured a job at Planned Parenthood. On her way to work, she noticed a determined, good looking fellow on the sidewalk outside her office. The fellow was none other than Sergeant John, now calling himself John 4:8 John. He waved a placard at Lillian and called her a baby killer.
I find it baffling that two people, roughly the same age, raised in the same culture, could come to blows over morality. It’s even worse than I describe: Each person visualizes himself as a hero and the other as a monster. Each one cites the same text: ”Thou shalt not kill.” Each one has created an invisible world.
What are these morals, anyway? They are perfectly understandable from the Christian point of view. God makes laws called morals. If you break these laws, God sends you to hell where you suffer forever. If I park in a ”No Parking” zone, a man tows away my car and charges me a fee and a fine. I know where I stand in the universe. But religions aren’t that simple. The Christians tell me that I must believe that Jesus is the son of God. OK, but the Jews and Moslems tell me that it’s blasphemous to believe that God has a son. Now I’m confronted with conflicting claims. Which one should I believe? Maybe I should look at God’s famous love for mankind.
The Christians say that I must believe that Jesus is God if I want to avoid hell (thereby adding one more sin to the sins of the Old Testment). They tell me that God is my loving father. Well, I have two daughters. Let’s say that I dress up in a bunny suit and give them candy some Easter. I change back to my street clothes. My wife says, ”That wasn’t the Easter bunny, that was your father.” Let’s say that one girl believes that it was me and the other doesn’t. I give the believing daughter presents and treat her with every kindness. I tell the non-believer that she is not my daughter. I lock her in the garage and starve and beat her. I don’t call this the act of a loving father. I call it the act of a lunatic. God may well be such a lunatic; but if that’s the way things are, I can, at least, refuse to be a hypocrite or pretend to adore him.
Perhaps there is something called RIGHT. If such an entity exists, then it is also a God. Why should I sacrifice my interests for the interests of another being? Is the other being smarter than I am? Is it older than I am? Can it threaten me with punishment? I can find plenty of people on earth who are older, smarter, and more threatening than I am. I see no reason to believe that their demands should be treated with reverence. And so, I see no reason to treat God’s or RIGHT’S demands any differently. So many atheists believe deeply in right and wrong. Aren’t these just more abstract gods? From my point of view, such atheists are like children who throw away the chocolate cake and demand more brussel sprouts.
Right and wrong are subjective ideas. An act can’t be wrong; it can only be wrong to ( ) or wrong for ( ). It may be wrong to (you) for me to buy your TV for $50, but right for (me). What’s right for you or God or the Pope may not be right for me. Perhaps God is a being whose right and wrong always coincide with my ultimate right and wrong; but that is mere speculation. Even if it is true, I am concerned only with my own ultimate right and wrong.
But I’m filled with morals: morals,. scruples, and inhibitions. Maybe I attempt to justify them on practical grounds. I say that I would ultimately enjoy stolen property less or that violence against my fellow man would ultimately endanger me. I keep hearing that "what goes around comes around." But I’ve noticed that it doesn’t come around very quickly, if at all. This argument is, at best, statistical: immoral actions would increase my risks. Maybe violation of moral laws would hurt me on a psychological level. But this argument implies that there is a psychologically correct set of morals. With so many different moral codes in the world today, I find it hard to believe that this argument makes sense. Shouldn’t we all have gravitated toward the correct moral code? Shouldn’t we all agree?
Some Vikings were having fun slaughtering infants. One of them was sickened by the carnage and demanded that they stop. Afterward he was always known contemptuously as ”The Baby Lover.” On one hand, I regard this criminal as more saintly than all the hysterics that Christians so revere as saints. Like the Antony in Cleopatra’s dream, ”His delights were dolphin-like: they showed his back above the element they lived in.” But I know that all actions are ultimately selfish. They all originate in the self. Aren’t most morals based on fear, envy, or homeopathic magic? If we were to admit our selfish natures honestly, we might view others and ourselves correctly. The violent world of America today is a very moral place. But that doesn’t protect anyone. Our minds are divided and we pronounce violence an evil. And so we have violent criminals, violent government, and peaceful citizens. If the average person had retained his own use of violence, then violence would be integrated into the individual. Violent individuals would be forced to come to terms with each other. As it stands now, violence is integrated into society by having most people act like sheep and some people act like wolves.