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Absolute moral laws: Real life doesn't fit so neatly

January 13, 2013 12:10 am

Once again we have someone claiming that morality cannot exist apart from a supernatural Supreme Being ["There's no moral law without moral lawgivers," Dec. 25]. Just what is this "absolute moral law" on which all morality supposedly depends? The Bible in its entirety? There are dozens of laws in the Old Testament that Christians and many Jews completely disregard. The Ten Commandments? Does the letter-writer obey the one that says no work of any kind on the Sabbath (and the Sabbath referred to is Saturday, not Sunday)?

What about the New Testament? St. Paul tells women they must cover their head in church, and Jesus says that divorced people cannot remarry, but no one pays much attention to either of them.

Would the writer consider it part of the "absolute moral law" that one must never kill another human being? If so, I hope that he's not only opposed to capital punishment but a serious pacifist.

What about killing in self-defense? If someone had produced a gun and shot the Newtown killer just before he slaughtered those children, would that have been good or evil? Or some of both?

Real life does not fit neatly into the "all good people think like me" theology. We all must decide what basis to use for our actions. If we do not obey civil laws, then we pay the consequences. Those of us who are theists must consider what God desires, but even people who belong to the same denomination often cannot agree on what that is.

Perhaps a basis is the principle, strongly espoused by Jesus but found also in the teachings of every other great religion: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This is the basis of all sound morality, and it works whether one believes in a supernatural Supreme Being or not.

Sarah G. Marcus


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