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Should not intelligent, reasonable men of good will be able to agree on all things that matter?

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to
  one who is striking at the root."
- Henry David Thoreau
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"Morality is doing what is right, no matter what you are told. Religion
is doing what you are told, no matter what is right."
- H. L. Mencken

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." - The sentiment
known as the Golden Rule, was reiterated many times down through history.

Ethics and Morality
Updated: 05/03/2021

The premise

The physical world works via laws that are inviolate, where what works or happens is always in accordance with physical law. When there is an attempt--intended or not--to do something that violates natural law, it either does not work at best, and at worst it imposes a heavy penalty. There is no liberty, flexibility or wiggle room, no tolerance or patience, no mercy or forgiveness.

The spiritual world works by principles, where what is ethical is always contingent upon the context and situation. This is called "Situation Ethics", which is the reasonable, human alternative to legalism. Legalism is trying to treat the spiritual world as the physical world in terms of law, treating the Creator as the great lawgiver instead of the great founder of eternal principles.

From my perspective, our legalistic or law-oriented religious culture and society a long tine ago has confused and conflated two different terms and issues and have made a rat’s nest out of the terminology that relates to ethics, ethical, moral and morality. These words relate to the same aspects of human behavior and its effect, but originally pointed in different directions, toward the effect on others or toward  the effect on ourselves.

To me, ETHICAL relates to how we treat other people in a way that is good, fair, supportive and constructive for THEM; UNETHICAL would signify actions that are bad, harmful, unfair or dangerous for OTHERS.  MORAL relates to how our actions affect US, whether they ultimately increase our morale and self respect., or whether they are demoralizing.

IMMORALITY is largely a false, confused, shallow and  legalistic construct based not on eternal principles but on freedom-and-liberty-restricting fiat law constructed by catastrophically, spiritually damaged human mythmakers. If an action or activityis ethical and not harmful or dangerous, and increases MORALE, it would be moral. Let us be mindful that increase in MORALE is the only defensible or justifiable purpose/objective for the existence of reality. Actions and developments either increase MORALE or they are DEMORALIZING. In my opinion, we should drop the word IMMORAL and use MORALIZING and DEMORALIZING, the only two things that ultimately matter.

Ethics and morality are related and affect each other but are NOT the same thing. Few issues are as confused and conflated as the difference between morality and ethics! Morality is concerned with the increase or decrease in our morale, and ethics is concerned with what is good, beneficial, uplifting versus hurtful, harmful or dangerous to others. Of course, in this noisy, confused world they have been conflated or amalgamated, and the difference has been blurred. The difference between the two can be said to be in the direction they are pointing. What is moral is that which increases our morale while being ethical. This dictates that legalism is actually demoralizing..

God's revelation has nothing whatever to do with
morality.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.
- Jacques
Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity, Wm. B.
Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, p. 69.

Of course, Ellul is right because he is referring to the traditional yet false and arbitrary "morality".

One of the issues, if not the key issue, is which one should we be more focused on, be more concerned with? The quick and easy, "traditional" answer according to the definitions above would be "ethics". Think of others before you think of yourself! But of course, this is wrong headed because it violates the spirit of inspiration and enlightened self interest.

"You cannot love others unless you first love yourself!"

Enlightened Self Interest

The best, highest and purest form of motivation comes within the context of enlightened self interest. This is where ethics and morality lose any tension and fuse into a two-sided reality. When you know who you truly are, you know that being unethical will ultimately reduce or limit your own morale. The person you HAVE to live with is yourself! The key word, of course, is ENLIGHTENED!

Besides the conflation of these two different aspects, there seems to be two additional major problems that confront us in sorting these issues out. The first is, of course, that we do not live in an ideal world, with ideal parents, ideal values, training and thinking, and therefore it is unreasonable to expect perfect behavior. The second problem is that we are awash in artificial, arbitrary fiat, false "moral" instruction that comes to us from the legalistic faction of the various religions. And then, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave!"

Morality is the best of all devices for    
leading mankind by the nose.

Of course, Nietzsche, like Ellul, is also referring to the traditional yet false and arbitrary "morality".

The Role of Influence

American schools are awash in moral instruction–on sex, multiculturalism, environmental awareness and so on–and basically none of it works. Sex ed doesn't change behavior. Birth control education doesn't produce measurable results. The fact is, schools are ineffectual when it comes to values education. You can put an adult in front of a classroom or an assembly, and that adult can emit words, but don't expect much impact. - The New York Times, Sunday, July 01, 2007

The article then presses on by explaining why it doesn't work, but doesn't really address what DOES work, which is actually the more important issue.

Shouldn't it be rather obvious that solid, wholesome, rewarding relationships have the most influence, because we don't want to lose respect and rupture such an important aspect of our lives? When those persons with which we have such relationships model and expect good ethics, then isn't that the MOST powerful influence?

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