5/27/2003 | Share this article:Morality vs. Ethics
by Earl Lee
In debating various self-proclaimed "Christian" spokespersons over the years, I have discovered that they present many vague and erroneous ideas as established truths. These are three of the myths used by Christians quite often in defending their dubious ideas:
Myth 1: Christianity is important to our society because it serves as a moral rudder. Morality is necessary for a society to exist. Some standards must exist for people to follow or society will decay and eventually collapse, as did the Roman Empire.
Answer: The ancient Greeks proved that it is possible to have an ethical culture without having a religiously "moral" culture. The focus of ethics is on behavior; for example, the ethical standard "If you can do no good, at least do no harm" focuses on making choices in behavior. The focus of morality, on the other hand, is to avoid behavior proscribed by political and religious authorities. Many of Christ's teachings have a strong ethical content, above and beyond the Judaic law and its moral commands of "Thou shalt not . . . ." For example, the teaching of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is an ethical teaching that is often perverted by Christian moralists who interpret this to mean: "Do unto others as God (the Bible, the Pope, etc.) would have you do unto them." The ethical teaching is lost in the effort to enforce a religious code or standard.
Generally, from the standpoint of ethics, Christianity has been a dismal failure. Centuries of religious intolerance, warfare, and persecution have proven this beyond any reasonable doubt. Even without the perspective of history it is clear that many religious people are not very ethical. This is true not only of ministers and television evangelists but of religious communities in general, as evidenced by numerous recent sexual abuse scandals. People who complain about sexual abuses are often themselves ostracized by their church. The book "Doc": the Rape of the Town of Lovell shows in glaring detail how a Mormon church in Wyoming rallied around a rapist who was an elder in the church in order to defend him from his accusers.
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