Every religion charts a moral path for its faithful to follow. Their compass is a set of standards to guide the faithful through life’s sea of moral dilemmas. The teachings of the faiths are filled with thou shalls and shall nots, good deeds and sins. The moral codes of our day, even the secular ones, are heavily influenced if not derived from religiously based ideas. The laws of Moses. The ten commandments. The teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, and Confucius. These are the foundation on which the value systems of the world rest upon. The specifics of the moral codes of the various faiths have tremendous differences, but there are certain themes that transcend all faiths. Ashoka, the third century BC ruler ofNorth India summarized a universal religious morality:
Doing as little harm as possible, in doing good in abundance, in the practice of love, of compassion, of truthfulness and purity, in all walks of life.
In the west, we summarize the most important moral postulate as “The Golden Rule”:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The faithful are certain that their moral codes would meet with Ashoka’s approval. They are certain that their God, being the wisest in the universe, gave them the best set of standards to live by. They are also certain that doing anything less will make the world a bad place to live. Christians have added another dimension to their claim to moral superiority—if people do not abide by Christian standards, they will assuredly go to hell. Not only are individuals cursed for doing bad, but whole nations may be damned. The Bible is filled with stories of wayward nations who had to suffer the wrath of God because He was displeased with them. The horrifying consequences of an angered God make the faithful take responsibility not only for their own souls, but the spiritual direction of their whole nation. They are certain that if people displease God, He will curse their nation. All of these certainties give the faithful a purpose to their morals, and also the ability to apply selectively apply the Golden Rule to only those with the same purpose. Up until the eighteenth century, and even in many places today, it was taken for granted that religiously based moral standards are absolutely required in order to prevent society from digressing into evil, chaos, and cruelty. Without religion (i.e. religious morals), it is assumed that society could not find its way. As our history has grievously shown, they are wrong.
This is only a short summary of this chapter. To find out more, please read Why Adam and Eve Created God.