Do we as a nation really need a moral foundation?
Most people would answer yes. And I would agree, as long as our moral foundation is not based on, or rooted in, any particular religion.
History tells us that nations founded on religion, or that have religion thrust upon them, usually end up marred in despotism.
There is a difference between being moral and being ethical. Our nation should certainly have a foundation based on good ethics. But morality has a religious connotation.
The problem with morality is that few people agree on what constitutes it. Is it morally acceptable to engage in premarital sex, to use birth control, to have an abortion, to masturbate, or to use cloning techniques to produce embryonic stem cells for the purpose of curing diseases?
That’s a single question, but there are a multitude of answers. A faithful Catholic could probably answer that question with a resounding "no." On the other hand, a Methodist or a Lutheran might have different answers for different parts of that question. Some might even answer in the affirmative for all its parts.
But is it morally acceptable to tell a lie, take someone’s property without their knowledge, kill someone, or do bodily harm to a person? Few people, regardless of their religious affiliations, would answer that question in the affirmative.
So there is a line drawn somewhere between using birth control and murdering someone. The problem is that different groups of people want to draw that line in different places.
When talking about morality, or even ethics, not much is truly black and white. That is why it should be painfully obvious that those who draw the line separating what is right from what is not should err on the side of tolerance.
Our moral foundation should read something like this: A person should have the right to do whatever that person desires, so long as his actions do not bring harm to another person or his property.
Of course, that brings up the question of what constitutes a person. Is a newly-formed human embryo a person? What about a first-trimester fetus? What about a 38-week fetus?
Those are questions for the legal experts and courts to ponder with the input of all those concerned. But even lacking a firm answer to that question should not hinder the moral foundation statement from being readily applied to everything else. We can all agree that once a child is born, he or she is a person.
The thing that must be stressed is that religion, of any species, should not be allowed to play any part in determining the moral imperative of the nation as a whole. Not everyone in America is of the same religion. Not everyone even subscribes to a religion at all, and their rights need protecting, too.
Also, contrary to what some right-wing activists might tell you, this country was not founded on any religion, including Christianity. So there is no reason to include it in our moral foundation.
On that subject, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."
Jefferson also offered this warning about religion, "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty."
Thomas Paine added, "I do not believe in the creed professed by…any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church."
Pres. Bush has used his construct of morality to thrust his personal agenda onto society, even over the objections of most members of Congress. And that flies in the face of what the Founding Fathers had in mind for the way their government should run.
"Nothing is more dreaded than the national government meddling with religion," wrote John Adams.
Religion and liberty seldom go hand in hand. There is just too much orthodoxy to justify liberty. In America, personal liberties should always trump religion when it applies to the masses.
I have no problem whatsoever in allowing people to believe whatever they want, as long as they do not attempt to transcribe their beliefs into the laws of the land.
Some people find safety and solace in religion, and that’s fine. But Benjamin Franklin wrote, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain…safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
We, as a nation, should in fact be well grounded. Our moral fabric should be strong and unwavering. We just need to keep religion out of it; else our liberty will be at risk.