Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where Are Your Morals?

The biggest question I have had posed since leaving (or taking a break from) the Mormon church is where my values will come from.  I find this query to be the most offensive.  To infer that values only derive from the Mormon religion is to a) accept a very negative view of humanity (à la Thomas Hobbes) and agree that all men are inherently evil; and b) suggest that only Mormons have a strong-hold on acceptable values.  

I do not accept either proposition.  While I think religion has a role in society--it has done much good over the centuries--I also believe we fail to recognize the corrupting influence of religion.  Recall the many wars (i.e. crusades, 100-year war) fought over religious differences and the horrible acts (i.e. witch burning, slavery) done in the name of religion.  To exclude Mormonism from this history is to ignore controversial subjects like blacks and the priesthood, the mountain meadows massacre, and gender inequality.

Ironically enough, at least in how I viewed morals before, I have become more compassionate and less judgmental as I shed the confining coat of religion.  I have become a moral relativist (despite Elder Oak's harsh criticism of this philosophy) as I research and consider others in situations significantly different from mine.  Consider the woman in China.  Given the harsh laws aiding the one child law (applied to about 35% of the population), can a person logically condemn her choice of abortion?  It is what she's been taught her entire life.  She does not have the same regard for human life as a person living in the United States.  Her government does not allow that.  But does that mean she is someone who has no values?  Most likely she is not religious (as religion is also strongly punished) yet I have a hard time believing she doesn't want her child to learn basic global values: honesty, selflessness, and working hard to make a living.

Not going to church doesn't mean I will engage in acts of debauchery.  It also doesn't immediately dispel my reverence toward chastity, modesty, and the word of wisdom--though I practice/view them in a markedly different manner that is not misogynistic nor misinformed.

As I consider how I will raise Emily and Andrew, my first goal is to teach them to prize love.  They will learn the value--through shared experiences and via my example--of serving the less fortunate and giving any excess they have, monetarily, to people who really need it.  Our emphasis will not revolve around money.  Instead, I will teach them to give of themselves--their talents and their resources--rather than hoard or seek after riches.

So where are my morals?  Inside.  I would like to believe that I am fundamentally a good person and that I passed this gene to my children.  (Lame science joke.  I am such a nerd.)  I would also like to believe that all of you are inherently good.  You (and I) might forget and/or push aside thoughts of humanity during times of crisis, but when reminded will do anything we can realistically do to help the unfortunate.

Please don't misunderstand me.  I do respect religion and people's views toward spirituality, but my history of hurt as led me on a quest to define my spirituality.  I still take the kids to church (just not a Mormon ward at the moment) and appreciate Jesus Christ's message in the New Testament.  Don't disregard my questions and I won't disregard your beliefs.  Deal?

**On an unrelated note, don't forget to write about your own parenting beliefs/experiences/philosophy tomorrow (whether in the comments, on Facebook, or in your own post) regarding sleep.  The more people participate, the better the experience is.  Perhaps we can turn the tide against harsh criticism and remind others that parenting is hard work.  Let's give people leeway for their parenting decisions.


  1. I completely agree Amber.
    We are born with an internal conscience, or sense of right and wrong. Even those raised with no religion know without being told that murder, lying, stealing is wrong - though they may practice those things. Everyone has a conscience - but we can either train it and work along with it, or ignore it and have our conscience become completely dull (which will elimate feelings of guilt over the bad we do).
    I know you will do a great job raising Emily and Andrew, helping them to become good, loving people, no matter what religion (or lack thereof) you practice in your home.
    P.s. Love the new header. Your kids are gorgeous!

  2. Hey Amber! It's been too long since I've visited you again! I hope all is well in your neck of the woods!

  3. I was not raised in a church. This doesn't mean I was raised without morals. My parents have strong compasses that point toward behaving right - honesty, respect, kindness, generosity and compassion - and I find these strong guideposts in life.

  4. I don't buy into moral relativism because I believe there is objective truth. A really good description of this concept comes from my friend Leila's blog:

    "Truth cannot contradict itself. So, it's either true that killing innocents is wrong, or it's not. It's either true that rape is wrong, or it's not. It's either true that God exists, or it's not. It can't be "your truth" or "my truth" -- objective truth exists outside of ourselves and will remain true even if the whole world doesn't believe it. Truth is not ours to determine, it is ours to seek and find."

    Re: the example you gave of the woman in China - procuring the death of her child would be objectively wrong, but her moral culpability would be lessened due to the circumstances involved (government coercion, etc.).

  5. I have to say whether I'm a Mormon or not I would disagree with this post. First of all I do not want to fall into the trap of intrinsicism. I googled intrinsicism and the first hit gave me this: http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Evil_Intrin...
    I don't think this was written by Mormons yet it exposes this type of thinking. That was the first red flag I got when I read the "inherently good" sentence. Plus I don't see how you can say you appreciate Jesus Christ's message yet are a moral relativist. That might feel good, but think about what you are saying. Thanks Christ for dieing for my sins but there really wasn't a reason for it because morality is relative. I wouldn't want anyone to be killed for me if I didn't believe there was a reason.

    So where do my values come from? I value life. Based on the identity of an object I create a set of values for it and call it ethics. For example if I were a plant. I value water and sunlight. I reject poison. I value water and sunlight because they increase my life. It turns out I'm not a plant. I am a child of God. At least that is the most logical conclusion I can come to. Despite what people might say, science has not proven there is no God and we are not his children. As a child of God I have to account for spiritual as well as physical laws. As there is a spiritual life as well as a physical one. A good example of this is the law of chastity. Meaning if I do not abide by this law I am in danger of spiritual death.

    I wouldn't give Dallin H. Oaks all the credit for the harsh criticism of moral relativism because that is something harshly rejected by a whole lot more people than just Mormons. It just seems bizarre to read a post called "where are your morals" like it was something important and than defend a value system where moral judgments are meaningless. Did I miss something?

  6. This topic has enough importance that Moral Relativism Magazine dedicated its second issue to it. (The magazine is currently reading submissions on the theme "How Not To Be Wrong.")

    Another point of weakness in the theory that "values only derive from the Mormon religion" is that many people make the same claim using a different source religion. How do we know which religion is the right one? How would a child, raised by parents of two different faiths, decide which religion was the right one for any given moral decision? It seems that values can be tied to religion but they can also be derived from other things.

  7. Hey Joe, I have needed to think before responding so I could reply with a good response. When I talk about my moral values, I am not using intrinsicism as my basis. What I am referring to is that values come from society and all societies are different. What people are taught in China is not the same as we are taught in the USA (think individualism <a href="http:// [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individualism]" target="_blank"> <a href="http://[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individualism]" target="_blank">[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individualism] vs. collectivism <a href="http:// [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collectivism])" target="_blank"> <a href="http://[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collectivism])" target="_blank">[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collectivism]). I find it arrogant to assume that one religion can capture all the different values and morals taught in all the countries in the world. Is God really so exclusive that He doesn't recognize the different places and environments people have grown up in? Christianity is wonderful, it has beautiful messages it sends, but so does Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and so many other religions that populate this world. Each coming from different sources of a culture's spirituality.

  8. Thank you for the link and your comment. I agree with you that values "can be tied to religion but they can also be derived from other things." It isn't that I disagree with religion teaching people values, I just feel that values do not only come from religion.

  9. Yet, the words 'right' and 'wrong' are in themselves relative. What is right for me is not right for everyone. What is wrong for you is not wrong for everyone. Yes, we may all agree that murder is wrong and rape is wrong. But is being married at 16 wrong? It is for me, but it is not for Amber. Is having kids right? It may be for you, but not for me if I am unequipped to be a proper mother. I have never attended church. Does that make all my decisions immoral? Because I FEEL like a pretty moral person.


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