FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Better Moral Creed

Last October Attorney General Bill Barr delivered a speech at Notre Dame during which he claimed that “Judeo-Christian moral standards are the ultimate rules for human conduct” and that “the fact is that no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion.” Barr, like many other Catholic and Evangelical fundamentalists, believes that without the moral standards defined by religion, society is doomed. That simply isn’t true. Look at Sweden and many other countries that are far more secular than American, yet have much lower crime rates. And in America, Christians are 20 times more likely to find themselves incarcerated than atheists. But Barr goes on to say that his moral standards “are like God’s instruction manual for the best running of man and human society.” Are they?

Barr would find himself at odds with Franklin and Jefferson. They believed in human nature. They were inspired by the philosophical positions of the Enlightenment thinkers, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, and Rousseau, and Spinoza, who thought that the best hope for a just society was [hu]man’s ability to reason. They looked back on darker times before the age of reason when religion worked hand-in-hand with monarchy governments, and saw that both were capable of great injustices, like the horrors of the Inquisition, hanging Mary Dyer, and the Salem witch trials. Their aversion to theocracy was as strong as their aversion to monarchy, and so they conceived a better form of government, democracy, free from religious influence, like the one we enjoy in America.

There is one reference to God in our Declaration of Independence, but it is not the God of Christianity or Judaism. It is to “Nature’s God,” the God of Deism. And while our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, God is not mentioned there at all. People are free to adhere to the tenets of any religion they choose, or to not have any religious beliefs.

As products of the Enlightenment, our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution do not depend on religion. The foundation is set out in the Preamble of the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice and insure domestic Tranquility….” It is “the People” who would establish Justice and insure Tranquility; it is “the People” who would establish the moral creed.

Contrary to Barr’s assertion, our Constitution and legal system, as designed by the founding fathers, a creed that is based upon equality and justice, and defined by reason, is a far better “secular creed.” It is reason of the People that governs our moral conduct, not religion, fantasy, or superstition.

Basic principles of our nation, equality and democracy, are not Christian principles. Christianity teaches that some are chosen and rewarded with life everlasting, while those not chosen are condemned to eternal suffering. Given that more than half of the world’s population is never exposed to Christianity, it is difficult to see this as just or compatible with the idea that humans are created equal. As for the principle of democracy, Christianity supported the “divine right of kings,” and Jesus said “render on to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Unlike the founders, he did not say rise up and rebel against Caesar’s unjust taxes. And while the bloody civil war was fought to resolve that all men are created equal, pro-slavery forces appealed to the Bible to justify their belief in white superiority. To preach that this nation is, or ever was, founded on Judeo-Christian principles, one must overlook glaring inconsistencies.

Years ago my very good friend Phil passed away. Admired for his understanding, decency, kindness, and his bright intellect, Phil’s friends thought him to be one of most moral and ethical people they knew. Phil was an atheist. He did not use the Bible to tell him right from wrong. He was his own moral compass, and his life demonstrated that religion is not necessary for a moral and ethical society.

Phil realized that the Bible is neither a perfect nor complete guide to ethics and morality. Consider truth. Without it, our society, any society, cannot function. Even organized crime syndicates depend on truthfulness. The eighth Commandment, “Thou shalt not bare false witness against thy neighbor,” touches on truthfulness, but forbids only one type of lie and then only against a neighbor. But our legal code is comprehensive, covering every variety of falsehoods, and misrepresentations. Law libraries are filled with volumes dedicated to contract law, slander, perjury, libel, fraud, false advertising and much more. Our legal system is dedicated to ensuring truth and justice, and does so more thoroughly than the Bible. In fact, society’s requirement for moral truthfulness predates the Bible.

Our secular creed may be imperfect but is more just and even-handed. Consider that while the Bible prescribes stoning for adulterers, the eighth amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishment. And we know now that homosexuality is not a choice; that the lines between masculinity and femininity are blurred, and that a continuum exists between female and male. Today most people, especially young people, understand that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender are what Nature’s God wanted them to be. That they deserve our respect is something that our courts have recognized and their rights as human beings have been confirmed. And while no one likes abortion, our courts have also recognized that a prohibition based religious belief is not sufficient to deny women access. There is simply no real evidence to support the fundamentalist’s views on abortion or homosexuality, and so our courts rightfully decided there can be no prohibitions. Compared to the Judeo-Christian moral creed, our legal system does a much better job of ensuring justice and is far more compassionate.

Barr’s thinking poses great danger to a free society. The imposition of Christian beliefs on non-Christians is precisely what the founders and our Constitution sought to prevent. Refusing service to someone who does not agree with a religious belief is not a right of religious liberty, it is a right to religious prejudice to harm others.

It is better to follow the founder’s example; respect religion but recognize that in this enlightened age, it is not the ultimate authority on moral conduct any more than it is on science, medicine, or engineering. That is not to say it is irrelevant. Jesus’ most important message: “Love thy neighbor” is as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago.

Theocracy is a form of government that draws its authority from religion. Advocating for Judeo-Christian moral standards in favor of reason and our Constitution, as attorney general Barr does when he claims that those standards are “God’s instruction manual for the best running man and human society,” is, in essence advocating theocracy. That is at odds with the first amendment of the Constitution he has sworn to uphold. And to see where that might lead us, we need only look at the theocratic regimes in the middle-east. To address the problems of today, like global warming and wealth inequality, it will be far better for us to emulate the founding fathers and understand that the solutions are not in the Bible, but rather with good people reasoning together.

More articles by:

Bob Topper is a retired engineer and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
Weekend Edition
February 21, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Election Con 2020: Exposing Trump’s Deception on the Opioid Epidemic
Joshua Frank
Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Billion Dollar Babies
Paul Street
More Real-Time Reflections from Your Friendly South Loop Marxist
Jonathan Latham
Extensive Chemical Safety Fraud Uncovered at German Testing Laboratory
Ramzy Baroud
‘The Donald Trump I know’: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics
Martha Rosenberg
A Trump Sentence Commutation Attorneys Generals Liked
Ted Rall
Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label
Louis Proyect
Encountering Malcolm X
Kathleen Wallace
The Debate Question That Really Mattered
Jonathan Cook
UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements was Dead on Arrival
George Wuerthner
‘Extremists,’ Not Collaborators, Have Kept Wilderness Whole
Colin Todhunter
Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  
Stephen Reyna
A Paradoxical Colonel: He Doesn’t Know What He is Talking About, Because He Knows What He is Talking About.
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A New Solar Power Deal From California
Richard Moser
One Winning Way to Build the Peace Movement and One Losing Way
Laiken Jordahl
Trump’s Wall is Destroying the Environment We Worked to Protect
Walden Bello
Duterte Does the Right Thing for a Change
Jefferson Morley
On JFK, Tulsi Gabbard Keeps Very Respectable Company
Vijay Prashad
Standing Up for Left Literature: In India, It Can Cost You Your Life
Gary Leupp
Bloomberg Versus Bernie: The Upcoming Battle?
Ron Jacobs
The Young Lords: Luchadores Para La Gente
Richard Klin
Loss Leaders
Gaither Stewart
Roma: How Romans Differ From Europeans
Kerron Ó Luain
The Soviet Century
Mike Garrity
We Can Fireproof Homes But Not Forests
Fred Baumgarten
Gaslighting Bernie and His Supporters
Joseph Essertier
Our First Amendment or Our Empire, But Not Both
Peter Linebaugh
A Story for the Anthropocene
Danny Sjursen
Where Have You Gone Smedley Butler?
Jill Richardson
A Broken Promise to Teachers and Nonprofit Workers
Binoy Kampmark
“Leave Our Bloke Alone”: A Little Mission for Julian Assange
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail