Right vs. Wrong
by Jo Ann
Editor's Note: This article was originally published as Meditation 18 before a separate Ethics section was started. For consistency, it has been transferred to this section.
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I am going to resist the urge to defend my religious choices to those in the forum that are religiously prejudiced. Instead, I'd like to comment on a recurring theme in this forum, the issue of right and wrong.
When I was a Christian I did good for two reasons. First, I had a love for humanity. I believed that the people of this world were special children of God. Each and every person on this earth was created by the entity that I called GOD. That is a powerful belief. As a child of God, I had to do my part to make this a better world by showing respect, love and care for my spiritual siblings. Second, as a Christian I believed that morality would ultimately make me happy.
That is the part that I, like many Christians, occasionally struggled with. I was following God's commandments for a selfish reason. I wanted happiness. I believed that God’s morality was not just a set of rules to make us act a certain way, but a blueprint to happiness. His rules against this protected us from that.
Now, as an agnostic, I do good for two reasons. First, I have a passionate love for humanity. I am spiritually connected to my fellow humans. We are of one race. If we were created, then we were created by the same god. If we simply are without a creator, then we are all in that boat together. We are humanity and I am eternally linked to my fellow humans. As a part of humanity I am compelled to better the cause of humanity. The second reason for my goodness no longer causes me guilt. I want to be happy. I firmly believe that happiness is found in caring for my neighbors.
Now the true issue here is not why non-Christians are good. The true issue is how do we know right from wrong. I do not know how, I simply do. If it uplifts someone and does good for humanity then it is good. If it hurts someone and suppresses humanity then it is bad.
That is a very simplistic explanation but it is the root of goodness. The bare basics when we strip it all down is good helps, bad hurts. Of course it gets complicated and sometimes it is hard to determine if something will hurt or help. Sometimes an action will hurt some people and help others.
But the Christian way of determining right from wrong is not so clear cut either. Most Christians will agree that a woman in an abusive marriage has the right to leave her husband. But how abusive does the marriage have to be? And does this woman now have the right to seek a new husband? Determining right from wrong is no easier for Christians that for other religious groups.
There is another undertone to the debate of determining right from wrong. Many Christians have an honest concern and interest in knowing how non-Christians decipher good from bad, or at least think they do. Yet, there is an underlying attitude that the Christians of the world hold the market on morality! PLEASE! Christians have been the instigators of some of the most violent crimes against humanity.
In contrast, are we to believe that since the beginning of humanity, only the Jews and the Christians have known the difference from right and wrong? I'm beginning to tread on ground I do not have much knowledge on, but I hope a historian out there will offer a few examples of moral codes of societies before they were influenced by Christianity. Just like Christian societies, I am sure some will be barbaric and some profoundly righteous.