The Moral Compass: Why Teaching a Sense of Right & Wrong Is Necessary to the Maintenance of Freedom in a Democratic Republic

“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).”  —Ayn Rand


Why Some Believe in Cultural Relativity

Without an ethical foundation of morality, you need more rules to help guide you.  Now, there are those who take the position that values are all relative, anyway—just different cultural systems, the particulars of which are unimportant and which all must be equally respected.  But, indeed, all systems are not created equal.

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The Superiority of Principled-Based, Judeo-Christian Ethical Systems

A system based upon the morality of ethical monotheism—belief in one god—is superior to all relativity-based systems.  For those who are not religious, it should be pointed out that whether you believe in God or not is beside the point.  Look at God as an idea, if you will, which stipulates that human events must be guided by a set of higher values which holds that everyone is due, as a child of God, fairness and equal protection under God’s law.  If you take the word “God” out of it, but leave the ethical system in place, you are left with a set of rules much more valuing of human rights than other systems of jurisprudence.  For example, the value that all men are created equal is a Judeo-Christian value, based upon the Golden Rule, which is stated, in Leviticus 19:18, as follows: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.”


Fighting & Dying for the Golden Rule

Whereas many law codes have prescribed differing ways of treating people, based upon social class, birth lineage, or political position, American republican law is based upon the equal dignity of all human beings, who all have the exact same rights, due to the fact that they are all God’s children.  These are unalienable rights that—all people being equal—no one has the right to take away, not even if a majority of people agree.  This republican ethical standard was recognized in the writing of Thomas Jefferson, in America’s first founding document, the Declaration of Independence.  It is a Judeo-Christian, Jeffersonian standard that determines, to this day, whether or not we are falling short in fulfilling the promise of America.  What makes America exceptional is that it has been able to overcome many of its shortcomings as it has grown and matured, paying the blood price that was exacted in Lincoln’s prosecution of the American Civil War, as well as pushing hard during the Civil Rights movement for equal opportunities and equal justice for all.  Many have, in essence, fought and died for enforcement of the Golden Rule; indeed it is the only standard that merits such sacrifice.


Judeo-Christian Traditions

moralityThe principles embedded in the Bible, which promote serving one god and not many, have allowed religious leaders to avoid conflicts among the varying moral visions of different sects honoring different gods—for example, Athena versus Bacchus or Mars.  One god with one value system means that all those values apply across all peoples and cultures.  The Bible does not say, “You shall not murder a fellow Jew,” but simply “You shall not murder.”  It raises the level of abstraction in how the rule is stated, making it applicable to all God’s children, not just the people of Israel.


The First Commandment

According to Jewish tradition, the First Commandment (of what, in Hebrew, are actually called the Ten Statements) begins thus: “I am the Lord your God. . . .”  This means there is but one god, therefore only one set of moral standards.  Even secular unbelievers can admit to the value of the Golden Rule and of having only one legal standard for everyone.


The Second Commandment

The Second Commandment prohibits improper worship: “You shall have no other gods. . . .”  This selfsame principle is found in Article Six of the US Constitution, making only the US Constitution the supreme law of the land.  Laws of other countries are not allowed in American governance.


The Third Commandment

The Third Commandment, “You shall not carry the name of the Lord your God in vain,” is a prohibition against doing evil while carrying the name of God with you—or committing evil in God’s name.  In secular terms, you may not commit a crime for someone’s own good and be allowed to get away with it.  Beating your wife or child “for their own good” crosses a line, as does committing an act of murder or terrorism while claiming to do it for religious reasons.


The Fourth Commandment

The Fourth Commandment to “[r]emember the Sabbath . . .” expresses the ethical importance of time off for rest and recreation.  It is immoral to require non-stop work.


The Fifth Commandment

The Fifth Commandment, “Honor your father and mother . . .” is important, because authority must be respected, and those who teach this principle in action is parents.  If a person is abused, responsible guardians must be found to substitute.


The Sixth Commandment

The Sixth Commandment, “You shall not murder,” forbids unjustified, or illegal, physical harm to a fellow human being that might cause death.  However, acts of self-defense, the lawful execution of murderers, and warfare to defend the people are all legal.


The Seventh Commandment

The Seventh Commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” prohibits destabilization of the family, even if the consenting adults and their partners all agree to the adulterous relationship; this rule is for maintaining the integrity of the family unit for the children’s sake.


The Eighth Commandment

The Eighth Commandment, “Thou shall not steal,” includes kidnaping, and therefore abduction-slavery as well.  (The slavery mentioned in the Bible, under the rules for slaves, is debt-slavery, also known as indentured slavery or indentured servitude.)


The Ninth Commandment

LIarThe Ninth Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” prohibits lying, especially if it harms someone.  Freedom of speech, as well as freedom to argue, is prized in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but using speech to harm others is considered unethical.


The Tenth Commandment

The Tenth Commandment says, “You shall not covet,” and the Hebrew word entails in its definition the idea of not only feeling jealous, but planning to take away the object coveted from its rightful owner.  Covetousness is a feeling that drives a great number of destructive behaviors.


Justice for All

Learning ethical principles, that are written to a high level of abstraction, and learning how to think in terms of them, so as not to injure your fellows, will prevent the necessity of drawing up too many overly-specific rules at all levels of government.  Too many constraints can only decrease liberty and will eventually give birth to tyranny.


How a Lack of Golden-Rule Morality Brings Tyranny

A moral citizenry will not necessitate the over-prescription of rules by government fiat.  Thus a moral citizenry, based upon the idea of ethical monotheism and the Golden Rule, can remain much more free than other societies that are not convinced that one set of rules and values should apply to everyone—that there should be equal protection for all.


How Tyranny Happens

Indeed, there are two main problems that bring about tyranny: the first is an immoral and uncivil society that can only be controlled by government mandates, which become necessary to protect the weak from those who have no moral compass; the second is the failure to protect everyone in society equally.  The creation of protected classes of people, who then demand special protections that exclude all others, causes competition among groups vying for special rules of their own.  The disunity and cross-purposes bred by these factions tear at the moral fabric of civil society, until it is damaged beyond repair.


Abandoning Justice for All

For special interests to get along, having abandoned the principle of equal protection for all, many rules must be written to stipulate how the interactions among them are to occur, in order to protect everyone’s special status.  The rules under such a system multiply, crushing freedom and discouraging people from carrying out their ethical predilections, since they no longer serve any useful purpose in the practical world.  Religion becomes increasingly abandoned, as impractical, under such a system; it can no longer easily prove its own worth or relevance, since ethical monotheism cannot sync with the corrupt ethical system of “special rights for me, but none for thee.”  Democratic republicanism thus gives way to democratic socialism, and individual freedom is lost.  And, since the individual is the smallest minority, only totalitarianism remains, for a government can no longer claim to protect minorities, once it fails to protect the individual.

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