Some societies have adopted the thinking that everything is relative, with no moral absolutes. Others seem to demand the opposite by forcefully commanding others to follow strict rules for social conduct. History shows these societies have suffered the horrible consequences of both these destructive ideas.
When leaders or governments decided there are no moral absolutes (like the sanctity of life), and set up their own morality, than millions of people suffer horrible consequences. The Hordes of Ghengas Kan, Hitler’s Regime, the Soviet Union, Spanish Conquistadors, and Nero of the Roman Empire could all attest to the destructive nature of these types of governing thought processes.
Situational Ethics, Moral Absolutes and Religion
First lets look at a few simple definitions. Situational ethic is basically the belief that every ethical decision is determined by the situation. Moral absolutes are when a certain belief is absolute regardless of the situation.
It seems natural to me that one should take into account the events leading up to various situations to decide the appropriateness of that event. However, the idea of having no moral absolutes seems absurd when you realize that most societies and cultures do not accept murder, rape, or stealing as a proper or moral thing to do. There may be various outlying groups that justify these actions, but by-in-large there is a system of morality that is universal to all cultures.
For those who think freedom of the individual’s religion or spiritual beliefs are not a vital part of a country’s well-being I have just one word for you – Communism. Just ask how it worked out for the old Soviet Union or currently for North Korea, Vietnam, China, Laos or Cuba.
Communism’s basic idea is that everyone, in a given society, should receive equal shares of the benefits derived from labor. The glaring problem with this is that in order to do this one must limit the freedom of the individual and give someone the power to distribute these benefits. One of the earmarks of communism is the state basically sets itself up as the ultimate authority in control of everything from child-raising to religion. Every time a country has tried communism it has turned into a dictatorial society that has eventually crumbled (except for the five noted above, and the verdict is not in quite yet).
I realize this is just one example, and there are areas where the reverse has happened and one religious authority has caused similar problems. Either way history is full of various examples, but communism seems to be one of the most glaring examples of how not to run a country.
Does society need religion and moral absolutes – Conclusion
The other important aspect of a belief system is the ability for a person, group or nation to be given the freedom to build traditions that help establish unity and purpose for following generations.
The problem is that there are so many religions clamoring for attention, that in their zeal, they have lost the ethical teachings that made them what they are in the first place. However I do not believe it negates the ability of a society to use a religion to establish moral absolutes as a means to guide their system of justice.
As a student of religion I have taken the time to read and study the basic tenants of every major religion and familiarized myself with various religious books, dogma and supplemental teachings. After reading through many of these in my early days I was drawn to the gospels. This is because I noticed that Jesus spoke more about establishing relationships with our creator, but vehemently scorned those who blindly followed after the religious interpretations of the day.
Now as a believer in Jesus Christ, I believe in moral absolutes and the importance of building a relationship with our creator, but not so much the establishment of a religious institute. However, regardless of your religious or personal affiliations, it seems that having a moral compass is important for the free development of any person, cultural group, society or nation.