Morality, Secular and Spiritual

It is sometimes claimed that as intelligence has increased so we have also become more moral. Setting aside whether intelligence really has increased or whether our brains and thought patterns have simply been educated into the modern technological way of thinking, good in some respects, poor in others, this assertion must surely depend on what kind of morality one espouses. For me, or anyone acknowledging a spiritual reality, morality is first and foremost about loving truth and attempting to coordinate oneself to that. And this means knowing, to some degree at least, what truth is. Hence the humanist morality, which is one referred to in the article, being largely atheistic as it either denies or ignores the spiritual reality, is almost the least moral attitude one can take. This implies that much of the perceived improvement is merely a matter of greater conformity to the prejudices and ideologies of the day.

Every society or culture must have some kind of morality or else it will collapse. Its morality will be based on its formational mythology, and in the case of contemporary Western (and really nowadays global) culture that mythology is rooted in the ideals of the 18th century Enlightenment, on the one hand, and the theory of evolution on the other. Both of these, if they don't actually dismiss a Creator, certainly pave the way for that dismissal. So you could say that our modern morality is based entirely on the assumption that there is only humanity, and human obligations and duties and responsibilities are only to other humans. Of course, that's not completely true because many of the moral ideas that fed into and shaped this belief system were actually inherited from Christianity (even if this is frequently unacknowledged today), but it is the way modern secular morality tends to perceive itself.

Now, this basing of morality, and how we approach life, ourselves and others, on a purely humanistic level may seem to have much to recommend it, but if it arises from an incorrect or even downright wrong view of the world, then it is insufficient, to say the least. It may even be, in some respects, immoral.

For a proper morality has two strands, a vertical one and a horizontal one, and these are plainly identified by Jesus in his two commandments. To love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind, and to love your neighbour as yourself. These sum up the essence of any morality based on truth, but here's the interesting thing. It is no accident that the commandments were given in that order because if the second is to be in any sense real then it must grow out of the first. That is to say that the love of man, to be true, can only really derive from the love of God, and that is because what you are loving is not man in and for himself but God in man. For God is both the source of love and its end. There is no other. If he is not present then, whatever feeling you might think you have, it is not love, not in its true, spiritual sense. And love is spiritual in origin. Anything that is not spiritually derived is not love. Beware of imitations!

So you can only really love your neighbour if first you love God. Without that you can have good will or even empathy towards your neighbour but not love, and, in the long run, only love can overcome the self-centred ego and so bring about a morality that is true and innate rather than a mainly intellectual or ideologically derived thing which can, and will, crack under pressure.

What this means is that our modern morality, which only acknowledges the horizontal, cannot be properly effective even on that level. The first moral requirement is to love God. Everything else springs from that, from the vertical, and if that love is not present then any morality is flawed and ultimately, dare I say it, will fail. I am not disputing that the modern approach to morality has improved on the past in some respects. For one thing it has done so because the past failed to live up to its ideals. People can be worse than their beliefs and they can also be better than their beliefs (which is not to say that beliefs don't matter). But there is also the fact that exclusive focus on the horizontal will necessarily bring advancements in that particular area.  However these improvements take on much less significance once you realise that this approach has lost sight of the essential for it is founded on a falsehood, namely the primacy of man.

I have said that a true morality must have a vertical and a horizontal component, and that the latter must derive from the former. The atheist may well dispute this and say he can have a perfectly good morality without bringing God into the equation. Perhaps he can but without an absolute reference point what do we base our morality on? For when God is banished from reality there can be no morality resting on something true or real but only one that depends on opinion and preference.  If there is not something that stands above us and unites us by virtue of its transcendence and its absoluteness then there is no unchanging right or wrong. There is only custom, convention and what is deemed to suit a particular society at any given moment.  If we are just the product of a directionless, purposeless, meaningless evolution, as the atheist and materialist appear to believe, then nothing really matters, nothing is true and nothing is better than anything else. A human being is not the crown of creation and the means through which incarnate life may transcend itself but just one material form among many. As for the individual human being, each one is isolated and locked in itself with no real connection to any other human being. Morality is just a theoretical thing, utilitarianism by any other name, with no relationship to any kind of universal truth because there is none.

This is why it might reasonably be said that the only truly moral position is to acknowledge God, or certainly to acknowledge a real and eternal transcendent principle. Without this foundation no exclusively worldly morality can stand for long. It’s built on sand. Conversely to deny God might be considered an immoral act. First of all because it denies truth and substitutes that with a lie, but secondly because it does away with the only real support for a moral system that has any meaning beyond the purely practical. I am not claiming here that a believer is automatically a better person than a non-believer but a genuine believer has at least opened himself up to some form of truth while, in contrast, a non-believer has to a large extent closed himself off from truth.


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