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Article > Moral Authority?
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Ensis has invited me to explain on what grounds I have the "right" (that's my own word, but I think it's fair) to judge, say, Israeli actions against Palestinians or, for that matter, much of anything. Without a God, he seems to posit (at least, he did so in private conversation,) I have no basis for morality, no higher authority to point to, and likely no power to enforce my morality in any case (as per his description of the UN.) Therefore, the conclusion seems to be that I should be quiet until I can prove I have the authority to speak on such issues.

I do not believe in a morality-giving deity of the supernatural sort. In that much, at least, Ensis is quite correct. I cannot point to the God of the Bible, Thor, Zeus, Buddha, or any other such entity and say "that is where my morality comes from." I can't, and I don't want to anyhow.

How do I speak on these things? Simply with the same freedom of speech as I exercise in the rest of my life. I speak about that which pleases me, displeases me, amuses me, annoys me -- really, I speak about whatever I like. And I like it that way. My country has promised me that it won't attempt to punish me for doing this -- it is my birth right, it has not been taken away from me.

So then, beyond speaking, how may I judge? We all judge, all the time. The very basis of relativism, which underlies Ensis' claim that I have no authority, is that you are the judge of things. You and I are responsible for assessing the truth of things, their value, their importance; we are responsible for establishing our own opinion of things, whether it be the color of a rose or the goodness of a government's actions. I need (at least, do not feel that I need) anyone else to give me this authority, this right. It's not a question of expertise, where I'm simply unqualified to render judgement for lack of understanding. (Granted, I'm no lawyer. But law, war, violence: these things do not affect only lawyers, or only persons with full knowledge of them. They affect all of us, and we are all equally responsible for knowing and talking about them ourselves.) I have the power to judge, and the right to do so. This, however, is distinct from sentencing and execution of sentences. I will not punish Israel, I will not punish my neighbor. I, along with my neighbors, agree to fair arbitration in court and I will respect that social contract. I am too weak to punish a country -- but apparently our nation, as a whole, feels no such weakness. As on the individual level, you may punish those you like (violence) if you have the power to do so. I have chosen to relinquish that power when dealing with my neighbors. Our nation has not chosen to do so; we do not respect the authority of the international criminal courts, we hardly listen to the UN, and we generally make excuses for ourselves that we would never accept from our enemies whenever our soldiers are accused of some misdeed, or our government of some deviousness.

I am my own moral authority, make no mistake about it. I feel no guilt in this, no shame. I am no minion, no puppet, no prophet of some god or philosopher. I do not extrapolate complicated ethics from historical or mythical examples, nor interpolate between given rules to find what I need on a daily basis: it may be my downfall, but that worries me not in the least.

You might think now a good time to remind me of my own interest in consent-based ethics: that which injures me not concerns me not. Again, I will state this: I judge, but I do not sentence, I do not execute. I judge because it is my right, because I want to, and because it gives me concrete examples on which to test my ethics, refine them, and explain them. It helps me create a context in which to describe my utopia; a sort of fiction work in which I explain how I wish things happened. They don't, and won't, happen the way I wish they would (and perhaps I will even change my mind as to what I would wish!) but it hurts noone for me to do so, does it? Does it harm Ensis? Does it harm me when he tells me that his god dislikes what I do? Should I ask him for proof that his god has the authority to make such declarations? No. It simply doesn't matter.

I am my own moral authority. I may be judged by other standards, I may be sentenced by other standards, but I will continue to make my own decisions as to what is right and wrong and why. If you dare, join me (and oppose me!)

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Owned by Unordained - Created on 04/07/2004 - Never edited

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