Monday, July 18, 2005

Build Foundation on Ethics, Not Religion

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.


Christopher Trottier said...

Finally, someone who speaks knowledgeably about the differentiation between morals and ethics. However, who should decide the ethical foundation?

Jerry Wilson said...

Good question. But I believe it was answered in the original post. If you break it down to the basics, what's ethical is anything that doesn't result in harm to any person or their property. Everyone will agree that that is the base. The only thing people will disagree with is that some will want to be far more restrictive than that. But let's stick with the basics, the thing that everyone can agree upon.

Anonymous said...

I think it's our ethical values that decide how moral we will be. Or in other words our ethics could differntiate into this level of morality or that, it could be moral from our perspective and not from the perspective of another or it could be moral from both perspectives. The platform from which we decide what constitutes morality would be from the perspective of who has more rights and the harm done.

Jerry you talked about, ".......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."

I just wanted to say that, even if a fetus is considered a person, this person cannot have more rights than the person outside. To give this person more rights would mean that the mother has no rights over her own body. Since our first major right is for our own body, so the fetus either cannot be considered a person having rights or we would have to make a new law that if we consider the fetus as a person having legal rights then they will always be dependent on the mother's rights first. If anyone else by themselves or for the fetus as a person, except for the mother carrying the child, decides about the issue of abortion, I would consider it a violation of the mother's legal rights. Essentially, only a mother, no matter at what trimester can decide about abortion or not. Why do the courts have to get lost into the issue of, 'when life begins?' I don't understand.

Anonymous said...

I feel I won't be back on this blog again. It's goodbye Jerry!

Jerry Wilson said...

You stated categorically that "a fetus is a person." That sounds more like an opinion. A fetus has human DNA and might one day become a person if allowed to be born, but the legal definition of "person" is ambiguous.

Anonymous said...

I didn't categorize the fetus as a person, I said, IF we decide to consider the fetus as a person. Anyway, if any court considers the fetus as a person, then in the event of a mother dying because of child-birth and the child surviving, this fetus should be held responsible for murder and not some default. I know it sounds cruel and irrational, but not anymore than giving a fetus rights over that of the mother. Since a newborn is never held responsible for any handicap or tragedy to the mother whatsoever, like, going down in iron, calcium, 'losing a tooth with every baby,' death of the mother at giving child-birth, etcetera, the fetus cannot be considered a person having any legal rights. That's my view.

Anonymous said...

And just so this issue is very very clear in the anti-abortionists' mind, this would be my verdict for them, no matter if some of them be women - For putting a pregnant woman's mind in turmoil by playing with her rights over her own body and its welfare, all anti-abortionists must be necessarily sued and taken to court for interfering in the rights of a person having legal constitutional and natural rights. The fetus does not enjoy the same legal constitutional and natural rights as it is more like an organ inside the body. As a fetus, it is a parasite and not caring at all. The mother does not eat for a whole day, the fetus will still feed itself uncaring of the effects on the mother, which is the precise reason for the deficiency in iron that arises during pregnancy. Sound cold and callous to some anti-abortionists? Too bad! Next time LEARN what your rights are and what a pregnant woman's rights are and puhleeeeez no interference! I have written this note for the precise reason to make some people out there, the anti-abortionists precisely, to make them understand that they are violating someone's rights when they start to question the insides of a pregnant woman and her rights! I don't understand how the courts can allow something like this to happen. Arey! You don't see this big child, but you see the smaller one inside that probably doesn't even have consciousness yet or may not know that it even exists? What the hell do you care about a person? And you want to determine who a person is? Nice determination you will do. The fetus is like a liver or a heart that is life but may not know that it exists. It's mind may be yet the mind of the mother's. Which would be the precise reason why not eating for a day, the mother would still wish the baby eat and it does. And then the anti-abortionists want to come and tell me they CARE? Baloney!