Last Update: 24 Apr 00


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Seems like everybody has their own interpretation of what is or is not "moral". Organized religions certainly have their own standards for morality, yet morality is not something that is confined to religious individuals.
    "Morality" is most often defined as a set of rules for "right" and "wrong" behavior. In reality, however, it would seem to be somewhat more complicated than that. Morality seems to exist on several different levels.
    Individuals have their own personal morality. Small groups have their morality -- which may well differ from the views of the individuals within the group. As you combine people into larger and larger groups or change the yardsticks by which you group them, you find a different set of moralities for each different group. Clearly, then, "morality" would seem to be better defined as the interpretation of "right" and "wrong" as held by the majority of members of any given group and should hold sway only for that group.
    Who decides, then, which group is "correct" in its thinking? How can government seek to legislate morality upon all of the diverse groups over which it holds power? I think we can see the answer in the various levels of our judicial system -- both formal and informal. Disputes are normally resolved at the lowest group level according to that group's moralities. If no agreement can be reached, the question is decided at the next highest level and so on. Problems arise when the highest levels of government and the judiciary attempt to pass blanket legislation that will apply to everybody. Of course, the principle of "majority rules" is still valid and necessary, but the majority must carefully consider what it is doing.
    Is anything inherently and absolutely "right" or "wrong" in all conceivable circumstances? I doubt it (although many things require some rather fanciful stretches of the imagination to justify under *any* conditions) - and therein lies the problem with legislating morality. It's easy to label things "right" and "wrong", but difficult to account for all possible circumstances that might require a readjustment of thought.
    Come to think of it, there may just be one thing that would come pretty close to being "right" 100% of the time -- the old axiom sometimes called the "Golden Rule". There's not much that could be wrong with treating others the way you would have them treat you. Wouldn't the world be a better place if this was the only "morality" and everybody subscribed to it?

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