The Moral Foundation

This post from Clayton got me thinking about something I wrote last year when I was still writing on Live Journal for an audience of about 25 people.

When evaluating current events, a good knowledge of history is essential for being able to place those events in context and understand them. It makes sense why even very educated leftists often overlook history, or seldom appeal to it; leftism is a forward looking philosophy that desires to achieve the perfection of man.

The history of man is replete with evidence that he is not perfectible. Human history is really nothing but horror and brutality, followed by periods of civilization, which also contain horror and brutality, just on a lesser scale, and accompanied by wonderful achievements.

I am not a religious man, but I do think, as a philosophical construct, the Judeo-Christian notion that man is fallen from God is a worthwhile one. An agnostic would say that man is just a primate species that has language and thumbs, and otherwise isn’t all that different from most other hominids. Can we really expect perfection of a bunch of damned dirty apes with big brains?

I don’t believe in the perfectibility of man, but I do believe man can and should better himself, which is what our civilization, based on the values of The Enlightenment, is about. The radical elements of Islam wish to take us back to a pre-enlightenment age, essentially destroying our current civilization. Many people on the right and center right wonder how those of the radical anti-war left can be so dismissive of radical Islam as a threat, since it stands against everything the left claims to hold dear. But I think their desire to perfect man, rather than accept him as fallen, offers an explanation. While those of the left are products of our civilization, they despise its lack of perfection, and therefore have little issue with it being swept away and replaced.

I agree with John Adams that you need a moral society to have civilization, but you don’t need a religious society to achieve that. It is possible to achieve moral status without being religious. But you do need a population that buys into the moral constructs of your civilization. Where people like Clayton and I sometimes find disagreement is on what those moral constructs ought to be.

I think the moral constructs embodied in our Constitution, which I would note does not once mention God, and the other founding documents of our nation, which sometimes do, are our nation’s moral foundations. This was best summed up by James Madison in Federalist 51:

It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

Madison was aware that what was to become the federal government was to rely primary on flawed human being for its just administration. Our founders harbored few notions about man’s perfectibility, and thankfully our system was well designed to be administered by flawed human beings.

As much as I disagree with some religious folks on a great many social issues, the greatest risk we face as a nation is from those who desire to put too much faith in men, not those who put too much faith in God.

8 thoughts on “The Moral Foundation”

  1. “As much as I disagree with some religious folks on a great many social issues, the greatest risk we face as a nation is from those who desire to put too much faith in men, not those who put too much faith in God.”

    Well said indeed! It always seem to come down to ones individual strength of character and responsibility-or total and complete lack there of.



  2. What’s most ironic (and inconceivable) is the Left’s insistance that their programs would work – while requiring from Politicians the behavior of Saints. That’s a real serious disconnect.

  3. What was your username on LJ? Did you participate in the guncontrolnow community?

  4. I did not. I am a member of the guns community. E-mail me if you want my LJ username. I don’t want to hand it out in public.

  5. First of all: Lewellyn, it’s nice to see you still reading here. Your gracious approach the last time was very admirable.

    I know this post is long but Sebastian has touched upon a subject I have pondered ands discussed at depth. I have tried to be as concise but it seems I am a bit long-winded. I’m worse in person.

    The omission of the word “God” from the Constitution was likely a deliberate act. Many of the Founders were Deists but some were mainstream Protestant Christian, i.e., George Washington.

    Part of the struggle for the religious segment of Colonists under British rule was the tyrannical rule of the Church of England. Granted, some groups became as oppressive themselves such as the Puritans. Religious intolerance was a real sticking point. The Protestant Reformation had come into full swing a mere century before with Gutenberg’s printing of the Tyndale Bible.

    The Baptists in Virginia are credited with the inclusion of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment, in particular, John Leland, an elder (pastor) educated during the crest of the Great Awakening. The Baptist had become quite concerned about a “church tax” that had been proposed by some of the represenatives. The Baptists quickly stepped up to protest such a notion. What church? Who’s church? Jesus Christ had told us that His Kingdom was not of this world. The Founders seemed to be in strong agreement with this sentiment once it was presented to them.

    I view these things through the lens of a Christian. Unlike my friend Sebastian, I am a religious man. I am, in fact a Sunday School teacher and my primary experience with debate on the internet is rooted in a Christian message board where I post Scripture readings 25 days a month for the past 6 or 7 years.

    What does separate us from the apes? What is it about us that makes us somehow more noble that the animals? Sebastian has touched upon the correct notion in his post. I have debated atheists many times before and the issue of morality has come up. The question that always seems to stump them is: how does one determine a sense of morality without religion? One way or the other, the sense of morality we all possess stems from religion, whether it is first or second hand.

    God established three primary institutions on this earth. First was the family, second was the government and third was the church. Each of these institutions fulfills a different role in society. Each of these is reliant upon God to function in a healthy way. When God is lacking from, or is denied participation in, any of them, they flounder and lose their way.

    Each of these institutions function separately, each fulfilling its own role. The family, when it is God-centered, serves to give emotional stability and health (that includes discipline) as well as to propagate the species. The government serves to “wield the sword,” that is administer laws and fight wars. The church’s job is to teach morality – for on the road that leads to God, one will encounter one’s fellow man.

    Unfortunately, the three institutions seek to cross each other. This is the will of man, not God. The government can not legislate morality or raise a family. Sorry, Hillary, but it doesn’t take a village to raise a child, it takes parents who are willing to shape their children into functioning members of society. Families can not be executioners or law makers. Look at the crappy legislation we have gotten from emotional responses to crises. And few things irritate me more than an “evangelist” endorsing a political candidate. Jesus was not a political activist nor was Paul. John the Baptist never told the Roman soldiers or the Jewish tax collectors to quit their jobs.

    Whatever man chooses to do with the institutions God has created, His Purpose will be accomplished. He can use immoral people, wayward churches and heathen nations for that end as He has done before. However, if we are to remain healthy as a society we must seek to also function within His Will.

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