A Person should adhere to the moral norms of society but not at the expense of himself or others.
Wikipedia starts out its’ entry about Morality thusly:
Morality (from the Latin moralis "manner, character, proper behavior") is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper. Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal. Morality may also be specifically synonymous with "goodness" or "rightness".
WARNING: I will reference the Christian Bible. This is not a proselytization of the Christian Faith, merely my basis of the moral standards on how to treat other people.
The oldest documented moral code is phrased, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This has come to be known as the “Golden Rule” and this is mentioned many times and in many ways for the past 4,000 years, across the societies of Egypt, India, Greece, Persia, Rome and the Middle East.
I have had Atheists and Agnostics both tell me, “The Ten Commandments were naturally derived,” meaning “Humans came up with them, they were not handed down by God.” I understand the point of the Atheists and Agnostics. According to their common sense, the Commandments seem as “man would have come up with those concepts without the help of God.” All I can say is, they’re wrong.
For the Commandments, they are speaking specifically about the 5th Commandment on to the 10th, as the first four relate to how Man should regard and relate to God. If you need a refresher, the applicable Commandments are:
- Honor thy father and thy mother
- Thou shalt not murder
- Thou shalt not commit adultery
- Thou shall not steal
- Thou shall not bear false witness (lying)
- Thou shall not covet
But what do these Commandments mean?
They mean what Jesus said in Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do unto you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus also spoke in Matthew 22:39, “…Love your neighbor as yourself.”
These Atheists and Agnostics were born and raised into a society where these Commandments were regarded as moral directives in our churches and are the basis of our laws for thousands of years. These concepts were ingrained into them and their environment just as much as the smell of the air in springtime at their childhood home. It is nigh impossible to conceive of concepts on how to treat others as anything else.
One of the roots that our laws today can trace back to are the last five Commandments. Other roots include the Code of Hammurabi.
I am no Anthropologist, professional, amateur, inspiring or interested. That being said, in my studies on and around this subject, out of the dozens of cultures and societies discovered across the world by explorers, we have not found a society, culture or religion with anything close to the Commandments above. The law of averages says some will come close on one or two points, and they have, however zero human cultures have had the above list in its’ entirety. Some Eastern religions (Confucianism, Dharma in Hinduism) have come close to the Commandments.
For example, in the Pre-Spaniard Central Americas, The Incas, the Mayans and the other cultures already there thought it was perfectly acceptable to lop off the head of an enemy and use it as the ball in a game of Soccer. They also had the belief that human sacrifice was the thing to do to worship their Gods. These acts were moral to them because they are “regarded as proper” in that society at that time. As another example, still in practice today, cannibalism still occurs in parts of Africa, along with slavery and genital mutilation of women. Western civilization considers those acts as horrendous and barbaric. In those cultures they are normal, expected and thus moral to them.
To me, it is quite plain that Man has never been able to develop such a moral code of his own. It took an external force to introduce these moral concepts and make them stick enough that it spread to other cultures. It is sorely lacking on the micro level in daily interactions between people. This does not mean it is something to not strive for.
A set of morals like this, important enough to die for, to spread the word to all we know, to be set high enough that we have great difficulty living up to them on a daily basis, I can get behind those kind of Morals. I hope you feel the same way.