Uncommon Sense

September 15, 2018

Ethics and Morality without God

In a recent post on Daily Kos I read the following:

“I once said to a Native American friend that I thought that the Golden Rule was a perfect expression of social ethics, and before I could put the period on my sentence, he shot back, ‘No, it’s not … because if you’re a misanthrope who hates people and just wants to be left alone, you can behave that way in clear conscience. In my tribe, I have responsibilities to widows, orphans, and the ill. I have to hunt for those who can’t. That’s mutuality.’” (sfzendog)

This attitude toward the collective responsibility we all have, as well as individual responsibility, might be summed up in “love thy neighbor as thyself” but it isn’t made at all explicit in Christian ethics/morality.

Many people do not know that the “tithe” which has morphed into a fundraiser to support the church building fund and minister’s and staff’s salaries, was originally a tax. The Jews had a theocracy. Even when outsiders came in and established a new ruling structure, the Temple kept its own governing structure and the tithe/tax was a way to support widows, orphans, and the afflicted. That is what it was for, explicitly. The Jews had a structure in place regarding the collective responsibility of all to support those in need.

Christian ethics/morality on the other hand stops at “love they neighbor” and “turn the other cheek,” with little parsing of those instructions. There are clear signs that early Christians were communal (that means communists, Comrade). As Christianity was rewritten by pagans, that collectivism was written out. The Republicans are doing their damndest to wipe out collectivism in the U.S. right now, so this “battle” is quite longstanding.

We still haven’t answered the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We are still trying to address mutuality.

Many studies on democratic socialist states show that as they collectively (through government) care for those less fortunate or less capable and just ordinary citizens, the less the need for religion in their population. It therefore seems that religion has a vested interest in opposing government providing basic support for their people. The widespread evangelical support for the current administration therefore is less perplexing looked at in this light.

February 14, 2014

GOP Preaches Individualism as an Act of War

The GOP is all about individualism right now: if you are poor it is your fault; there is no War on Women, it is all about individual choices women make (bad ones typically); if you are doing poorly in this economy you need to borrow from your parents and start a business; and so on. All freedoms are defined as individual freedoms and collective action is bad, bad, bad. Unions are bad. Bleeding heart social programs are bad. The social safety net is bad, and so on.

The other day, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas screwed members of his own caucus by filibustering the debt limit bill. Consequently members of his party trying to get re-elected had to vote “yea” on a bill unpopular with their conservative bases. Why did Cruz do this to his own Party? His reasons are due to his personal (individual) ambition.

What is driving all of these displays of support for individualism.?

Just maybe it is part and parcel with the 40-year campaign to reshape this country to one more to the liking of the very rich. There are very few very rich people investing in politics. To counter their prestige, power, and influence would take a great many ordinary citizens working together to have any effect at all. So is “working together” now the target? It seems so.

College students used to demonstrate in the streets for issues of social justice. Four decades into the Conservative Class War and students have huge financial debts hung around their necks, debts that make them beholden to the system and less likely to oppose the plutocrats plans. Unions, especially teachers’ unions, used to support progressive agendas and candidates with both the cash and their bodies. Four decades into the Conservative Class War and teachers have had their social positions eroded substantially (all education woes are due to bad teachers, if we could just get rid of the bad teachers, et. al.) and their unions are under duress in state houses in red states.

The success of these efforts have lead to the battle plan of taking the idea of the “Me Generation” and embracing it in the form of more and more focus on “you” as an individual. Narcissism is promoted (Take another picture of yourself and post it on Facebook; it is all about you!). Collectivism is pooh-poohed. We aren’t all in this together. You have to think about yourself. You have all of that debt to pay off. Keep your nose to the grindstone and shoulder to the wheel. There is nothing to see here, just move along.

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