The Christian Moral Compass
Morality predates even the first religion. It implies ideals of rightful human conduct and is built on our ability to be empathetic. Morality therefore is directly linked to our conception of human suffering. As a social species that has adapted to a communal livelihood, our species has adapted to living in harmony with each other and sensitive to the suffering of fellow human beings. Morality has helped our species survive and build the complex society we call civilization today.
If we are to cut across every culture, we are going to find that the basic rule morality is present. The same way our different primates have that “scratch my back and I will scratch yours” concept, is the same way we complement every individual’s existence in our society. We have a common humanity and are capable of social intelligence. Religion however has been identified as the central reference for morality by our society today.
There have had over four thousand religions that humanity has worshiped; all of them encompassing a lot of aspects, morality being just one of them. The only thing common about all these religions is that they have the basic rule of morality. The rule of morality; commonly known as the ethics of reciprocity, is found in Christianity as the Love thy neighbor clause. Where the Bahai faith says, “Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself,” the Brahman faith says, “This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you” (Mahabharata, 5:1517). In Buddhism we have the verse that says, “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful” (Udana-Varga 5:18), while Jainism says, “In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self” (Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara). The list goes on if we account for every religion that has ever existed, most of them older than Christianity which is popular in Zimbabwe. This goes on to prove that we have a common humanity. Why then do we have so many religions if we all share a common morality?
The answer is; religions are not based on morality, but divine command. The ethics of reciprocity we all relate to in every religion do not belong to these religions but to our nature as human beings. This principle is what we Bantu people knew as Ubuntu before the European imperialists came with a bible in one hand, and a gun in the other. As the Pan African writer Dr. John Henrik Clarke said in relation to the Christianization of African people by European imperialists, “To hold a people in oppression you have to convince them first that they are supposed to be oppressed.”
This describes the “morality” of the bible. The original sin happens in the magic garden after a talking snake tells Eve to eat a forbidden fruit. This gesture makes every human being sinful, the omniscient and omnipotent God even regrets having ever created human beings (Genesis 6:6–7) and decides to drown all of them except Noah and millions of animal pairs he was going to carter for on an ark he made. After centuries of turmoil, God gives his son as a human sacrifice to himself, so that people ritualistically eat his flesh and drink his blood so that they’ll be forgiven of the original sin from the magic garden in the creation story, and they do not have to be accountable for the sins they commit themselves. John 3 verse 16 which is the most memorized verse in the bible summarizes Christian faith and morality. It says you all you have to do is accept the human sacrifice of Jesus to stay moral and this would save you from eternal torture meant for unbelieving “souls.”
Salvation is not morality, yet it is what numerous Christians in Zimbabwe and beyond have accepted as the ultimate moral standard. Morality is doing what is good regardless of what a book says. Religion on the other hand is doing what a book says regardless of right and wrong. The God of the bible was happy with Abraham, not because he did not kill his son Isaac but because he almost did on God’s command. This spells out divine command instead of morality. Arthur C Clarke, the British Explorer once said, “The greatest tragedy in human history is when religion hijacked morality.”
The Christian moral compass points to the wrong direction, as do many other religions with dogmatic doctrines. Morality should be based on reason and social intelligence. With time, we will cover more of these aspects in greater detail.
Takudzwa Mazwienduna is a humanist and writer on progressive issues. For feedback, email email@example.com