Friday, January 02, 2009

did morality exist before the ten commandments?

I want to know what you think about the concept of morality. I've listened to some NPR podcasts recently, read about it some in this book I'm reading, and also, I found something in my journal about it. So now I'm wondering, is morality a concept that stands alone. Is it a self supporting independent "thing" that exists without the application of it's value in humanity, does it exist strictly with God? Or is "morality" a term we give to our own decisions and actions? It is it something that we manipulate, is it circumstantial? I had a conversation with Rob recently, about it. I think, in social context, morality is questionable. It's social organization, is it merely a social construct, a tool? Morality is a broad term. My friend thinks that morality is not dependent on the human definition, the social definition, but rather...it exists with God. Therefor, even "base" morality would be a product of God's will and creation. Is there a difference between God's morality and a human morality? Sure, the reason for practicing such morality would be different, but the daily application could be very similar. I think that people are strange. There are those who are very utilitarian, and morality for them is nothing but a tool, or a means to an end. There are those who can only have faith in a deity who's morality is perfection, and can't be tarnished or ruined...those hopeful religious types. There are those who have that pragmatic approach to morality, a "general morality"..and eye for an eye type of thing. All of these ideas lead to my idea that "morality" is merely a construct of our own. It's something we make perhaps. I wonder how the ten commandments changed the idea of morality? Before God's law, was there only moral anarchy? Was morality understood before the ten commandments, and did the ten commandments merely give these mysterious social parameters a name, a focus and a source. (perhaps my biblical history is off) I hope this post doesn't come off with an air of certainty. I've just been thinking about it a lot. I keep finding myself further away from believing that morality is a supreme concept, and unmoving ideal. If the application of morality is able to shift along with each new circumstance, can it be said that there is an unmoving and solid concept of morality at all? I'm not going to proofread this at all, I'm just going to post it. Everyone, correct me....lets' talk.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Hypothetically.... said...

Morality seems to exist regardless of definition or cultural context. People in the Amazon who have never heard of the Ten Commandments know that lying, stealing, murder is wrong because of conscience. Everyone has one regardless of upbringing that says the same thing. And evolution is not a good response because evolutionarily speaking a conscience is not a good thing.

10:38 PM

 
Blogger Melanie said...

Isn't morality, to some extent something that exists once we have the capacity to choose? Is morality circumstantial? I suppose it must be to some extent, but that is not to say that there are no absolutes at all or that the principles behind actions necessarily change with each new circumstance.

Do we manipulate morality? More than likely. Is there a difference between God's morality and human morality? Probably, since the ten commandments seems so impossible to keep perfectly.

The book of Romans is rather a treatise on human morality, so to speak. It also addresses the place of the ten commandments. I would have to say that history in the Old Testament, even with godly characters that predate the ten commandments, there were still right and wrong choices, so I would say that morality existed.

I have been reading The Language of God by Francis Collins, and he seems to think that the existence of morality is evidence of a Creator. (I've been rather stuck 50 pages from the end. I need to finish reading it. LOL)

Anyway, I ran across this article and found it somewhat interesting, at least. I'm not sure the dictionary makes a distinction between ethics and morality, but the idea that they are two different concepts may have some validity.
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-difference-between-ethics-and-morals.htm

You might try reading Romans, if you haven't lately. I'm curious what your take on it would be.

10:53 PM

 
Blogger David said...

is evidence about a general under current of morality only supported by very obvious "wrongs?"--lying, cheating, stealing? and is morality suspended when circumstances become extreme? is looting wrong when a mother can finally take for her baby which she can not normally afford? i wouldn't be so quick to separate morality from evolution. I'm not denying that there is right and wrong, but I do believe that circumstance dictates morality. if evolution is evidence of a species perpetuating its existence, and at the same time, it is not moral to kill someone..then couldn't evolution be thought to be in line with a general morality? is surviving a moral obligation? also, melanie, that is a cool little article. the only reason i bring this up is because of my own questions and also, because of the word "morality" being used in debates, or as something that justifies an action. you can download a podcast on this topic for free. The podcast series is called "radiolab" on NPR. The episode is simply called "morality"

7:04 AM

 
Blogger AJ said...

happy new year, zach! hope you are well. :)

5:57 PM

 
Blogger Jecca said...

thanks for the comment on my blog :) i'll be posting on the release day of all new songs over the year, and probably in between too. anything i can do to help you guys out. :)

-jess

ps: radiolab is absolutely amazing. it's been a while since i've listened to the one you mentioned. i don't have much to say about this topic unfortunately, but i agree with your friend...morality exists with God/because of God. without pure Goodness, there would be no concept of good/evil, right/wrong.

8:37 PM

 
Blogger Brittany K said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:58 PM

 
Blogger Brittany K said...

I don't believe morality exists apart from humanity, though I do believe the true sense of morality comes strictly from God. I just don't think there is a use for it in a world absent of life.

People don't choose their values. They recognize them. In the same way, morality cannot be redefined by any culture or individual and still called morality. At that point it becomes nothing more than a haphazard excuse. Therefore, there is only one true sense of morality. When we are unsure of our actions concerning the moral code, emotions are the problem. We are too imperfect as beings to make completely unclouded judgments and decisions.

I believe we have so much trouble distinguishing morality as God-given or a stand-alone entity because the majority of us come at it with the same perspective. There are some actions we just can't fathom being acceptable. Whether or not we are believers, most of us had at least a semi-decent life growing up. Just the simple fact that we were usually treated as human beings who had worth instilled a sense of good and bad, right and wrong. Not that it all rests in the upbringing, but those who endure horrible times and still believe are the exceptions. And naturally I don't know all the answers because I'm looking at it from the same place you are. I just figure that's a lot of the problem.

God challenges us. We accept him, repent for our wrongdoings, confess our faith, trust in him, and then get dunked in a tub of water. Really? The last step seems a little off. Why do we have to do that? God wants us to do His will even when it doesn't make sense. "If that's what you want, I'll do it." No, we aren't going to walk the perfect path set by the Ten Commandments or a sense of morality, but that's the point. We're imperfect and will never reach perfection, yet we still try because, though it seems useless to us, that's what God asks us to do. Try.

I have nothing to back up this statement, and I suppose no one does. To answer your question, I don't believe TRUE morality existed before the Ten Commandments. We were just too messed up in the beginning, so God had to fix us. =)


Sorry this is so after-the-fact. I don't often get time to make the blog rounds. Yours are always interesting, though.

6:01 PM

 

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