Moral Standards or Consensus?

The Origins of Right and Wrong

The issue of morality is a tricky one when people begin to discuss community standards.  Whose standards will be adopted and codified into law?  Why should the morality of one group be preferred over another?  Why shouldn't one individual's opinion be considered just as valid as that of others?

One person may say, "I live by the Golden Rule: Do to others what you want done for you."  Another says, "Anything goes so long as it doesn't hurt anyone else."  Still another puts it like this, "The only one I have to please is myself."  All of these are definite standards for making ethical decisions and all of them affect other people.  But where does true morality come from? 

In North American society, the current approach is that morality is defined and decided by majority rule.  This idea sounds eminently reasonable to our democratic way of thinking.  Yet, thinking a bit deeper brings up some troubling problems with the idea of morality by majority consensus.  Where did the majority get their views?  Who are the shapers behind that public opinion?  Why should the views of the morality-shapers be allowed to dominate the minds of so many?  In other words, what guarantee is there that the moral  opinions of the masses are right or good?

Consider Germany in the 1930s.  The Nazi Party was steadily gaining power.  It controlled the press, the educational establishment and even many of the churches.  Nazi propaganda took advantage of certain ideas and feelings already shared by many Germans, and cleverly shaped those notions into the kind of public opinion it desired.  As a result, the world was torn apart and millions died, including six million Jews.   Yet, if we agree that morality should be decided by public opinion, we have little room to criticize the morals of Nazi Germany.  Their consensus was just different than ours, that's all.

Some will point out that we aren't like those terrible Nazis or the German people they duped.  Really?  The moral standards of North Americans as just as subject to shaping by the media, government and education as any other culture in history.  Others will point out that we are different because we value tolerance.  The truth is that it really depends upon which side of the current notions of tolerance you fall on.  There are a sizable group of people in our culture right now who would claim that intolerance, not tolerance, rules the day.  North American society may be tolerant of some people and beliefs, but certainly not all.  It just depends on who is in and who is out of power at the time.

Another problem with morality by consensus is that it is subject to constant change.  Like a ship with no compass and no chart, a society which has no external moral standards is directionless.  External principles are essential both to individuals and to cultures simply because they provide a necessary corrective when standards become out of sync with reality.

So what is the alternative?  Let me put it plainly: there is a God.  He created the Cosmos.  He built into his creation certain moral laws based upon his own nature, by which people should live.  The truth is that right and wrong, good and evil, exist independently of what people may think about them.  Thomas Jefferson referred to this in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote about, "..certain inalienable rights endowed by our Creator."

In the final analysis, workable moral standards are only possible when they are based on a source external to the changing whims of the masses or of those who generate public opinion.  That external source is God.  He is both truly good and truly wise.  He alone is impartial, favoring no one.  To follow his standards, which Jews and Christians believe are given in the Bible, is to have both a compass and an anchor.  In contrast, morality based on the ever-changing opinions of some manufactured majority consensus is biased, arbitrary and chaotic.  It seems that we are not far from this in our own times.  

We must think clearly about this issue: If there is such a God as is revealed in the Bible, then it follows that there are external standards of right and wrong.  In that case, what the majority happens to believe is irrelevant.  On the other hand, if there is no such God, then morality is indeed invented by people and agreed upon by each generation.  But in that case, true moral principle ceases to exist, and in its place is a mere scramble to shape and dominate the masses.  That is why, if God does not exist, both Nazism and Communism make perfect sense.  Power is all there is.

No matter what notions are currently popular, our consciences still tell us there there is a God and that his standards are good and fair and right.  So the question is, who will we listen to?  Those who say, in effect, there is no right or wrong, just power?  Or the God who created us and loves us?

Michael Bogart  For more articles like this one, check out my website: mbogart.com

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Comments 4 comments

Cagsil profile image

Cagsil 6 years ago from USA or America

Interesting to see how you tie in morality to god??? A god you cannot define or even relate to. As for your conscience....believing it came from god is another assumption you take for granted, as knowing the answer is true.

I see two things wrong with this article and believe it or not, from a moral perspective, your individual integrity is severely lacking because you purport what you believe to be truth, as truth, when facts of life says what you are saying is an untruth. The other thing I see wrong with your article is about the Nazi....you are beating a dead horse and apparently you, like others, continue to live in the past, instead of trying to deal with the future or even present situations.

Morality comes from our conscience and our ability to live within our own integrity. Thus, we discern the real truths about life and understand our own individual purpose of living. Religion was started to control society, because too many people did not know the difference between right and wrong at that time. However consciousness has evolved and continues to evolve further each day, and through that, we learn that their is NO god looking out for anyone and the self-realization that we are in control of our own life is where the truth comes into play.

So, with that said- I have many hubs on the misconceptions and deceptive practices of religion and others...you might consider reading, unless you rather your faith not be challenge, then do nothing.


mbogartministries profile image

mbogartministries 6 years ago Author

Hi Cagsil- Thanks for reading my hub. Sometimes I wonder whether anyone does, so the fact that you responded so quickly was encouraging to me. We obviously disagree because we have divergent worldviews. I wish you all the very best. M. Bogart


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

I am sure there is a God and I hope there is some higher spirit than humans. Whatever it is we call God. The poeple who say there isn't don' explain where it all comes from. That alone proofs it. I don't believe the way the religion or the church makes it out. They only use it for their advantage. I also believe that churchgoers do not live according to the preaching. I believe rather go one less to church and live accordingly. Thank you for an excellent hub.


mbogartministries profile image

mbogartministries 6 years ago Author

Hello Hello--

Yes, I agree. Of course, as a committed Christian it seems obvious to me, but many people who are not committed to a specific religion see it the same way. How could there be such apparent design in the universe (down to complex detail in so many things we see) and have it all be a cosmic accident? It makes zero sense.

I am the father of 4 children and 5 grandchildren. Just the amazing chain of complex events which must happen in sequence as a child develops within the womb shoots atheism out of the water in my opinion. M. Bogart

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