Legislating Morality pt.2

Yesterday I began answering the question of whether we can allow Christian beliefs to affect the laws of our nation.  The conclusion reached was that somebody's morals are going to affect all our laws, and there is no grounds for Christian morals to be excluded.

Now we come to the second part of this discussion, and the more difficult question - Where does morality come from? I hope that all the readers of this blog will agree that morality MUST come from somewhere outside of mere democracy. If mere democracy determined morality, then chattel slavery was morally correct. Also I hope that we can agree that morality has to have a non-human source. If morality is based in humanity, then whose morality matters more?   The ones who are powerful enough to whip everybody else, of course. Power to control others or to set laws does not make moral authority.  (Think about it, if morality was people-based, then it was perfectly moral for Hitler to murder Jews in WWII Germany, it only became wrong after we were able to impose our morality on them by winning a war. How dare we do that.)  Power to control peoples’ minds or control how they look at the world also does not grant moral authority. If so, then the artists and entertainers of the world would set morality, and all it takes is a look at a museum to see that the tastes and opinions of artists change like the weather.

If it is non-human in origin, then we are only left with only two possibilities of where morality comes from. It is either from God, or inherent in a godless nature. I find the second possibility to be completely indefensible. This is no new thought, but it is simple. If there is no God, there is no morality. Ivan, in The Brothers Karamazov, had this one right a long time ago. Scott Adams’s view that we are only moist robots comes from this same thought. I can see no logical way out of this conclusion, therefore leaving us with only one possibility...

Morality comes from God

We are now down to only one issue. I first was introduced to it when I read Plato’s The Death of Socrates in my philosophy of law class as a political science student.  It is known as Euthyphro's Dilemma, and it is presented with this question - is an action moral because God says so, or does God say so because it is moral?  (In Socrates’ original question gods was plural, of course.) in other words, is he law above God or is God above the law?  I am not going to get in to a full discussion of this dilemma but if you want to read an excellent summary, go here.

In short, the answer is, neither. An action is moral because of who God is. The law is not over God, nor is it subject to the whim of God.  God always acts in a way consistent with His character, therefore the law, (morality) emanates from who God is. It is not subject to change because He is not subject to change.

So if I can address the original question. It is not a violation of church & state to allow biblical morality to color the law, any more than it is a violation of physics to allow gravity to effect the design of an airplane. The fact is, biblical morality is true morality whether anyone believes it or not. My pastor often says right is right if nobody does it, and wrong is wrong if everybody does it.  SOMEBODY'S morality is going to affect every law. Let's hope that it is true morality.

I truly hope these posts were not too convoluted or unclear.  Feel free to coment.

Legislating Morality pt.1

This post is in response to a question, although it is not a direct answer to that question, the question is what got my mind working on this answer.

Here's the question:  Is it, a violation of separation of church - state to invoke biblical morals or biblical definitions of marriage or sin into law?

I often hear people say you cannot legislate morality. In fact, I believe all legislation is legislating morality. Let’s chose 3 random laws and see that they all convey some moral imperative.

  • Speed Limit – this law implies that as a society we value the worth of human life. Therefore there are restrictions on how you can drive so as not to endanger yourself and others with what is undoubtedly an extremely dangerous piece of machinery.
  • Voting age – this law implies that we as a society value the democratic process deeply. And we desire to have well-informed voters making decisions for our country. It is safe to assume that school-aged children are not well informed and would not make good voters.
  • Pay Taxes – this law makes it clear that we believe that many things must be done for the good of our entire society. The only way to pay for these things is for everyone to chip in. People won’t contribute without being forced so we make it a law.

Here are 3 laws seemingly unrelated to morality that have a moral principle attached to them. That human life is important, that freedom [therefore democracy] is important, and sacrifice for the common good is important.

If all legislation is tied to morality, then we have a duty to legislate morality.

If we believe it is morally wrong to do activity X, then we are wrong not to make activity X illegal. So let’s pick an obvious example; murder. Everyone I have ever known believes that murder is morally wrong. This is a non-gray area, and consequently, murder is illegal. Here’s another example; lying. Most people believe that lying is wrong under most circumstances. Consequently, we have laws against lying in important circumstances, such as, for example, in a court of law.

But what about areas where there is genuine debate in our society about what is moral and not? Then it seems that there must be some compelling reason to change the laws as they are currently established. For those people who, for example, believe that it is morally allowable to smoke marijuana, they would need to show some reason why the state would be better off by allowing it and changing a long-standing law. That is almost always a hard way to go.

Here is the final thought for this post - SOMEBODY'S morality is going to be reflected in every law.

(I have divided this post in two parts because it was entirely too long.  Please come back tomorrow and read about who decides morality.)