Saturday, December 10, 2011
Good and Evil, True or False
"What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others."
In the words of Jesus Christ of the Christian Bible, "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you." Of course, that particular line of reasoning came about hundreds of years before Christ in China and Greece without the help of Christianity. This powerful realization applies today, just as it did in ancient times: I am like you; you are like me; therefore, I should treat you how I expect you to treat me. All of morality, in my opinion, stems from that one phrase, from avoiding theft to being faithful (if you are in a relationship where that is the mutual understanding) and raising your children responsibly. This is a simple concept that can be used as a reliable compass while attempting to navigate one’s own moral positions, no matter the complexity of the topic. It also serves as the foundation for social order.
Beyond the Golden Rule, individual morality is entirely up for grabs. And why not? As long as no one is being physically or psychologically harmed, there is no reason to limit behavior if there is no outside influence demanding compliance to an arbitrary set of rules. Good and evil become true or false, true being good, because it provides meaning to individuals, creates a stable society, and allows us to further our understanding of reality and technology; false being similar to society's perception of evil, because it works against those goals.
After stripping the spirituality that has clung to the words good and evil with a deathly grip for far too long, we're free to create a set of universal moral values that can apply to all human beings, purely for the sake of maintaining social order. These are neither right nor wrong; they are necessary for a functional, productive society. They might also be referred to as ethical standards. If certain people prefer not to abide by them, they are free to live outside of society, but they can't expect to benefit from the environment created by those who live according to the rules unless they submit themselves to the conditions necessary for social order. To what end, though? Other than the obvious, which is a society wherein people can experience freedom of choice and quality of life at its peak, there is overall human accomplishment to be considered.
I think the Tower of Babel is one of the most fascinating stories the Christian Bible contains. At the beginning, all of humanity is united with one language and, presumably, one culture. They are building a tower that will reach toward the heavens, and their success in this endeavor is imminent. At this point, God expresses concern. He says, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6). His solution is to cause them to speak in different languages. The first important thing to note, here, is that God attributes mankind with infinite power. The second thing is that this is deemed to be a problem rather than a positive attribute. Of course, it would be a problem to anyone who desired to control humanity rather than encourage its success. In fact, the Christian God’s behavior is consistent with that of a totalitarian dictator, especially in the Old Testament. Finally, God’s solution is of particular significance. Dividing humanity by inventing new languages may seem like a roundabout way of dealing with the problem, but given the basic principles of Structuralism, it would actually be the most effective method short of global mass murder, an act God has already promised never to commit - again (remember the flood?). Language deeply influences thought, and is the foundation of culture, which regulates the behavior of the masses; therefore, if one controls language, one can manipulate the thoughts and actions of humanity.
It is apparent that the author of this powerful story was thousands of years ahead of his time. Humanity’s ability to reason, pass on increasingly complex information from one generation to the next, and then build upon the previous generation’s foundation of knowledge, is unique among all life on our planet. It has allowed us to create, foster, and develop technologies that have been used to cure diseases, harness the energy of the atom, examine the relationship between space and time - even explore beyond the very heavens. These abilities afford us superhuman potential, and if there were a god or superior being, it would be no surprise that our as yet unrealized self-actualization as a species might make it uneasy; but no one man is capable of any of this. It is only humanity as a whole that can deliver the future, as one massive organism, unified and cohesive, working towards common goals. This is why the cultural and religious barriers built by mass indoctrination must be exposed for what they are: nonexistent, fabricated mental projections that serve only to divide us and impede our progress, progress that can only be achieved in a socially responsible society.