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Tag Archives: Morality

It has become fashionable recently for political leaders to apologise – on behalf of their nation, or their party – for deeds done in past generations, now considered unjust in our more enlightened times. It is not simply cynicism which leads me to doubt the sincerity of the contrition and remorse of these apologies, but that I consider it is not justifiable to call the descendants of long dead people to account for their misdeeds.


It is just and fair, undeniably, to seek restitution if the descendants are still enjoying advantages gained by their ancestors, if they are continuing to disadvantage the living descendants of those originally wronged. For example: It is hard to advance any moral argument against the return of artworks and other property looted throughout Europe during the Second World War to the survivors who would have inherited them. The indigenous people of Australia and New Zealand, and of both North and South America – and of many other countries colonised still by others who took land by force – have the moral high ground in seeking either the return of the land which was theirs, or compensation, based on the principle that the descendant colonists still profit from the benefits of the misdeeds of their ancestors.


It is unlikely that the Government of the USA would – or could – return the land to the survivors of the Native Americans who formerly populated it, and, given that the population of Native Americans is now very much smaller than it might have been, had so many not been killed by the colonists whose descendants now own the wealth of the country, any award of compensation is likely to be an inadequate gesture in the light of genocide.


In the glitter of publicity accompanying the Oscar success of the movie; “Twelve Years a Slave”, the descendants of slaves are calling for compensation. Slavery continues in countries worldwide, but by the end of the nineteenth century, it had been abolished in most developed western countries.


It is possible that our great great grandfathers may have been connected by oppression to the extent that yours owned mine, or vice versa. Personally, I would not visit the sins of the father on the son, nor – if he was neither guilty nor complicit in the sin, the brother, sister, wife or mother. Moral precepts change. Benjamin Franklin, who became an abolitionist, was formerly a slave-owner. I would not doubt the remorse and contrition underlying an apology made by Franklin for having owned slaves. It’s likely that he used his wealth to benefit his former slaves, offering them education, employment, and – so far as he was able – social freedom.


If my brother, wife, mother, son or any other relative murders someone, I do not believe that I should suffer retribution for their crime, nor would I owe you an apology or compensation. This does not mean that I would not feel regret or compassion. If a driver killed my wife accidentally with his car, I do not believe that an apology would be of any use whatsoever to me or my family. Nor would any amount of money paid to us by his insurers compensate for our loss. There are circumstances in which compensation is of practical value – where someone is faced with extra costs and reduced potential in life due to such things as medical accidents or even incompetence, and in some cases of incompetence it is just to prevent future incidents by dismissing the person responsible. Apologies have little value. Even when grounded in genuine contrition and remorse.


If someone is culpable for a loss, then it is just that they restore that loss to the victim. Stolen property returned – or replaced. There is another fashion for arranging meetings between offenders and their victims. Apparently it reduces the incidence of re-offending, and victims ‘feel better’ through forgiving the offender. It is supposed to engender feelings of contrition and remorse in offenders. I’m not sure there is great benefit for victims who have lost something irreplaceable – the life of a family member; their family albums or items of sentimental value; a laptop, computer or even a smartphone with the only records of their work, or their treasured contacts. In many cases, the loss will lead to further – perhaps even greater – losses, especially where fraud has stolen a pension fund, or documents to enable identity theft.


A third fashion is the Compensation Culture, partially driven by the numerous calls and texts offering to win large sums ‘because you had an accident which was not your fault’ from which nobody with a telephone seems immune. The recession has spawned a growing number of people for whom the only hope of a brief escape from poverty is to win a TV ‘reality’ show, the lottery, or a bonanza compensation payout.


A friend who specialises in representing people with valid claims for compensation tells me that his waiting room is filled, every Monday morning, with people wishing to make claims against the local authorities for injuries which, they assert, they received due to tripping on uneven flagstones. He says that he turns away many, whose injuries bear strong evidence that they were caused by knuckles, some of them with the clear imprint of a signet-ring.


Advocacy on behalf of others is an interesting phenomenon. Lawyers earn by doing so, although they may also have a strong moral commitment to justice. Politicians do so as part of their role in representing particular constituencies. It would be ungenerous to suggest that they sometimes do this without conviction, other than the belief that it will secure their re-election.


But there are those great amateurs, who claim to be allies of groups of which they are not members, whose advocacy is done ‘for the public good’. They have a good store of righteous indignation, which exalts their moral superiority over anyone they identify as offenders or merely complacent with respect to their cause. With evangelical zeal they apportion culpability to those who have not seen the light. Sometimes they are a source of great irritation to those they claim to represent.


By and large, most people would prefer that misdeeds were prevented or avoided, rather than enjoy the spurious and often vacuous apologies (with or without genuine contrition or remorse) with which genuine attempts at compensation are fended off or mitigated. If something wrong can be ‘put right’, it should be so.


I would rather that the leaders would not apologise on my behalf for misdeeds in which I was not culpable, feel no contrition nor remorse, and for which I owe no-one compensation. They do it with the blithe arrogance of the people you can observe any day on our city streets. They hurry along, full of their own importance, bumping into other people ever few yards, and turning their heads to say, “sorry…” – some of them even say “sorry…” before they push others out of their way.


And, you and I know: they are not sorry.  

Lust, according to Saint Augustine, is an overindulgence, but to love and be loved is what he has sought for his entire life. Saint Augustine says the only one who can love you truly and fully is God, because love with a human only allows for flaws such as “jealousy, suspicion, fear, anger, and contention.” According to Saint Augustine, to love God is “to attain the peace which is yours.” (Saint Augustine’s Confessions)


Quoted from an article on ‘Love’ on Princeton University Website.


Lust is simply a natural drive, like the need for warmth, shelter, food and water.   Psychologically, the sex drive – libido – can be stronger than the hunger for food.  But it is not intrinsically an overindulgence


The problem with the suppression of sex by the major religions; Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism, is that the rules were set by men who sought socially to engineer conditions in which women become the ‘property’ of men, and men are supposed to be assured of the paternity of all their children, so that they see it as worthwhile to invest their effort to provide for their upbringing. 


The natural impulses of both men and women are to enjoy sexual relationships with as many people as possible, in order to ensure the survival of their genes to the next generation.  As women are always assured that the children they bear will carry their own genes, the selection and retention of the father is not as important as it is for men, who tend to seek to invest only in the children they are convinced are their own.


This has resulted in social models of ‘love’ which are based upon men having exclusive sexual access to their woman or – in the case of polygamous religions – women.  The virtuous idea of ‘courtly chivalrous love’, featuring exclusive pair bonding, mutual sexual fidelity, and lifelong companionship, is a taught behaviour which forms part of the social conventions of civilisations led by men.


Matriarchies and polyandrous societies are rare.  The type of ‘love’ to which St Augustine was alluding is certainly not the same as any type of love as understood between human beings.  It is certainly not sexual erotic love (although cases of religious extremists having erotic fixations on the deity are not unknown) nor is it the kind of Platonic relationship that might exist between human mutual admirers, sometimes distinguished by the Greek description of Philos as opposed to Eros.  Nor is St Augustine’s love of God akin to Storge which is the type of love the Greeks believed typified parental love for children, which is characterised by unconditional tolerance of however the beloved might behave. Storge is a bit like the other Greek concept of love; Agape, which describes, amongst other ideas, the kind of non-sexual bonds which can exist between married couples.


The notion of the love of God is an interesting phenomenon.  If your belief is based upon a concept of a deity or deities which is or are in some way similar to human personalities, then it is reasonable to project a theory that to love the deity results in a reciprocal love of the deity for those who love the deity. 


Clearly these kinds of religion act as a sort of comforter for believers, who can imagine that – even if the world appears to be entirely hostile towards them, they are not ‘alone’ and that at least the deity loves them.  These religions often act as  kind of spiritual insurance policy, in which the reward for a life well lived will be paid-out after the believer dies, and attains some form of post-mortem consciousness.  In it’s simplest form it is the promise that the ‘virtuous’ will go to heaven, and the sinful will go to hell.  Often the representations of each are based on physical pleasure or pain, so that a religious martyr might be promised the sexual love of multiple virgins when  they arrive in heaven, whereas a sinner might be threatened with everlasting genital torture.  It seems that visions of heaven often incorporate freedoms to behave in ways that would be considered sinful if they were enjoyed before death.


St Augustine was said to have asked God to make him virtuous, but added – being keen on enjoying a wide variety of ‘sins’ -‘not yet’.


Spirituality is not limited to paths which require belief in a deity which in any way resembles humanity, and some belief systems can be said to be ‘mystical’ in that they merely acknowledge the existence of some unified force within all universes which is unknowable, and beyond full human ability totally to understand.  Unlike most deities, this ‘force’ incorporates all that is both positive and negative in existence, and includes as a part of itself, every natural phenomenon of the universes, and human individuals themselves.


Given that spiritual pathways are used by people to come to terms with both the joys and pains of existence, and to try to identify a way of living that is best for themselves as individuals, there are often distinctions made between the ‘left hand’ (or sinister) pathways and the ‘right’ (both as a descriptor of relative direction and of that which is correct or true).


Broadly, to chose to explore potentially destructive phenomena is to choose the ‘dark’ or ‘left’ approach, and the ‘light’ or ‘right’ path is often approached by employing a kind of ‘enlightened self-interest’ and seeking to live in accordance with those things one can observe as being ‘creative’ or positive.


The kind of extreme sexual behaviour often considered to be ‘debauched’ which can lead to damaging other people, or causing other people to be provoked to damage the protagonists, can be seen as belonging to the ‘dark side’, and is usually proscribed by people who seek to be ‘righteous’, however it is possible to see lust as a positive force, and to include it validly as an act of worship for the unified force which drives the universe.


Most of the ‘good’ reasons why sex is commonly kept under strict control by organised religions are simply practical ‘bathroom’ issues of health and safety.  Obviously the sexual transmission of diseases is a problem in any society concerned with the health of all its members, and the possessiveness of men often leads to violence, injury and murder when women are permitted total sexual freedom.  Interestingly, in the few matriarchies that exist around the world, sexual promiscuity of women is not considered to be sinful, and probably causes less problems than the consumption of pork and shellfish would cause if regularly eaten in hot countries without refrigeration technologies – the practical reasons for the dietary laws of Judaism and Islam.


It is entirely sensible to see sex as a positive and natural part of the creative forces in the universes, and hence a perfectly valid aspect of life to celebrate as part of a life of ‘worship’, just as one might celebrate food – enjoying it, but not to the excess which leads to obesity, morbidity and mortality.


In my own opinion, the most sublime religious experience is shared orgasm between male and female, as a transcendence of self – humanity being far more than either gender alone, and as an expression of the origin of human life, as our only relationship with everything that comprises the universes of which we are a part, and the only way to ‘experience the love of God’.


To believe that we are loved by a benevolent and caring personality is, in my opinion, merely a comforting act of self-delusion, and leaves us liable to many other sophistries which result in us behaving in ways which are destructive to each other and those aspects of the universe which lie within our sphere of influence.  Sex can be highly moral, including unbridled promiscuity.  Our immoralities concern destruction of our planet and its environs through warfare, greedy exploitation of natural resources and other species through technology and lack of a balanced approach which not only threatens other parts of creation, but humanity ourselves.  That’s where we have over-indulged, and accelerated climate change and potential pandemics are only symptoms of how unbalanced we are.  God will not save any of us; if the balance overtips, we’ll be as beloved by God as were the dinosaurs.