Monday, May 11, 2015

Morality comes from the chest and stomach - not from a book

I thought for a moment that I was looking at the late Robert Schuller when I saw the picture:


But that is none other than Jeb Bush, self-proclaimed presidential candidate and champion of Christian values. Although the message from Mr. Bush is that the Christian voice should be louder, the subtext that I hear is this: "All Christians should rise up and make everyone else obey our way of life, for America is a Christian Nation."

The entire premise of any religion, is that religion comes from a book, written by men, for God. The problem with that premise is two-fold. Men are subject to and prone to error. The second is that the existence of God is not a certainty, not among believers and not even among atheists.

The point is, morality doesn't come from a book written by men who are prone to error. Thomas Paine noticed this more than 200 years ago in his book, The Age Of Reason. Thomas Paine, as some of you may know, was also a very significant influence in the wording of the Constitution. He wanted to be sure that government could not be used to enforce "tyranny beyond the grave".

I'm here to reiterate the point. It doesn't matter if you're atheist, Christian, Buddhist or Muslim. Morality doesn't come from a book. Books can only be used as guides to morality, a sort of string to your little finger to remind you to get the milk, a reminder of how to act when you don't know how to act.

I've reviewed different religions and their texts to see what fits for me. I've never really found one that is a perfect fit, but I've found bits and pieces that work for me. There is something in Christianity that works for me: A faith and reliance upon God, or a higher power. I don't know if God exists, so I act as if he or she or it, might just be there. It's all about faith.

Then there is the Buddha way, the middle. I look for the middle every day. The middle path, away from the extremes can help me to find my peace. With it, I avoid excess and deprivation. I find peace and contentment with what I have, and can relax knowing that happiness comes not from wanting or having more, but of taking stock of what I have and making use of that.

But there is one other part of life that can be used as a guide for happiness and contentment. The stomach and the chest. They are my barometers of morality, a sort of morale compass. I've done things in my life, like anyone else, that have caused my chest to burn with guilt. I've also done things in my life that have caused my stomach pangs of regret.

After repeated experiences, I've learned to think through any actions I am contemplating before I do them. If the ultimate conclusion results in a burning chest or stomach, I rethink my plans until there is no burning sensation. I might write about it, talk to a friend or family, and then plan my action. But above all, I avoid taking action out of anger or desperation.

If I'm still not sure, I can always read up and see what other people have done in similar situations. There's a book for any topic, any time, anywhere. But one book does not fit all. There is a reason why there are multiple religions. Not everyone wants to be Buddhist, Christian, Jewish or Muslim. Some even want to be atheist.

Allowing a stronger Christian voice, at the behest of any President, is dangerous. Not only to our nation, but also to our conscience. Some of the most horrific acts against humanity have been done in the name of religion. Some of the greatest acts to support humanity have been done by people of many faiths and beliefs. But to ask an entire nation to follow one belief, one book, and one "savior" is to go against everything the founding fathers have said. They have all consistently said that America is not a Christian nation.

I am here to say that morality doesn't come from a book. It's comes from our culture, our experience, and our gut. If you want morality, look inside and outside. Then check in and see how you feel. But be wary of any politician who says that the answer to our nation's problems are found in a book, written by men who didn't know what happened to the sun when it went down.
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