The moral problem is called by philosophers the ethical problem, but it’s the same thing, and it is interpersonal on the micro level, and more broadly societal — including national and even international — on the macro level. The two levels (micro and macro) constantly interact with one-another, but the biggest ethical (moral) issues are on the macro level, and they are downplayed or even ignored altogether in most traditional sources of ‘authority’ regarding what is right and what is wrong.
In order to think clearly about ethical issues, one must first get the epistemological issues (truth-falsity) correct, and this is what actual science is all about: it is about how to think clearly and accurately about true and false, instead of about right and wrong (which is dependent upon truth-falsity). Furthermore, unless one can think correctly about such policy-issues as global warming, or nuclear weapons, or social justice, no decision that one makes about the given issue can be any good. Goodness is intrinsically founded upon truthfulness. One must first be accurate about the science of the issue, before one can be accurate about what constitutes good policy, and what constitutes bad policy.
Authentic ethics extends far beyond the merely personal sphere of concern, but the merely personal sphere of concern — which is oneself, one’s family, one’s nation, and one’s religion — is what the average person is thinking the most about when thinking about ‘morality’. That is thinking which focuses upon faith instead of upon science, and those two modes of thinking are opposite epistemologies. Anyone whose main concern is finding truth is science-based, and anyone whose main concern is adhering to what some ‘authority’ says, is faith-based — regardless of whether or not the individual believes in any religion.
America’s political mess, like that in other countries, results from too much faith and not enough science; and this isn’t only religious faith, it is faith in anything at all.
Some faiths are nationalistic, others are religious, others are ideological, but what they all have in common is the authoritarian epistemological character, which has implicit trust in some scripture or person, instead of upon science, which has no scripture, because it is based instead upon empirical reality and upon carefully analyzing that so as to discover cause and effect, not upon interpreting what some supposed ‘authority’ said or supposedly meant, or dictated.
Every faith-based morality is personalistic, whereas every science-based morality focuses instead upon discovering cause and effect. That’s the basis for being able to deal effectively with issues of good and bad.
The archetype of faith-based morality is religion, because its scripture is Scripture — it is canonized, and therefore cannot be changed but can only be interpreted, so that it is like a nation’s constitution would be if that constitution prohibits any amendments being made to itself. That (canonization) is the source of any religion’s rigidity. Such a morality — regardless of whether it’s religious — is 100% faith-based, and it is the extreme opposite of science, which is constantly open to changing whatever laws it discovers. No matter how advanced a particular science (a field of scientific investigation) is, its laws are constantly open to being changed — none of them is ever canonized. Science is a constant search, in order to increase accuracy; it is the exact opposite of dictating anything; it is the exact opposite of faith. It is a constant process of discovery. It is the exact opposite of anything that is unchangeable, or rigid.
Religion-based morality tends to be obsessed with sex because the way to build a religion (and every religion is based on faith) is by promoting high birthrates of followers in order to create and raise many children in the faith. A succession of such generations can turn a mere cult into a religion. It’s how all religions actually came to be what they today are. But that’s not what humans need more of in our time (if ever), and it certainly doesn’t solve any problems (except for the faith’s clergy, who thereby expand their flock of followers).
Scientific morality focuses instead upon matters like reducing wars, poverty, disease, and global warming. The religious scriptures say nothing about those — the actually most important matters — but instead claim that holy people will cure the sick, and that God will take care of the rest (so, it’s laissez faire). Furthermore, at the extreme, people of faith — regardless of whether it’s in secular ‘authorities’ such as Marx or Plato, or in ‘prophets’ who are alleged to have transmitted some supernatural deity’s words — have been willing to perpetrate ‘holy wars’ or Crusades and thus have been encouraged by their interpretation of ‘authorities’ to invade foreign lands (like during the Crusades and 9/11) in the advancement of their faith (which may be nationalistic, but is always taken solely upon the epistemological basis of faith, regardless of whether or not it is religious). Science rejects all ‘authority’, all faith, and relies instead only upon rigorously analyzed empirical evidence. Conquering foreign lands in order to spread the religion or the nation or the ‘race’, is no part of that. “Spreading the faith” is no part of any science, though some people who try to be scientific get lost because they become focused more on spreading their beliefs than on discovering more realities, which might disprove what they believe. Any faith is obsessed with the content of belief, not with the process of discovery.
By distracting the public from the real crimes against the public (such as exploitative financial manipulations, and mass-murderous military invasions), the very personal focus on sex, as constituting the chief focus of a supposed ‘morality’, serves to distract the public from the actually bigger crimes — which aren’t merely personal, though only individual persons actually perpetrate, and thus should be held to account for, any actual crime, any victimization.
Here are some specific examples:
Moralistic lying is so obviously the case regarding the Republican Party’s Presidential nominee Donald Trump, that the Democratic Party’s news-media are now especially astir about it, as a basically partisan political matter:
The Daily Beast headlines “Trumpist True Believers See Coronavirus as Part of God’s Plan”.
The Atlantic headlines “Some of the Most Visible Christians in America Are Failing the Coronavirus Test”.
The Guardian headlines “Revealed: leader of group peddling bleach as coronavirus ‘cure’ wrote to Trump this week”.
But Republican Party news-media also show a religious focus, by their focusing on sex and other personal matters, and by what they won’t point out, regarding the Democratic Party’s Presidential nominee, Joe Biden, thus distracting even their own followers away from Biden’s bigger and more significant wrongs — wrongs that billionaires of both political Parties don’t want the public to focus upon (such as Biden’s neoconservatism, his consistent support for America to invade and conquer other countries). Here is an example of how that’s so:
Joe Biden got caught lying about (and denying) his having forced his finger into a Senate staffer’s vagina, and a lifelong Democrat then was publicized on Republican Fox News saying “Credible rape accusations are disqualifying or we have NO moral standards.”
But whether what Biden was alleged to have done there was done, or would qualify as “rape,” is for courts to decide — which won’t even happen — and yet such allegations get lots of public attention, while Biden’s entire political career is a succession of demonstrated, incontrovertible, major lies and frauds, which have thousands of victims and not merely one or just a few. And these major evils are proven, not merely speculative. On March 14th, I documented and linked to the sources, “PROVEN: Biden won the democratic nomination by cheating”, and the worst of those lies were effective in causing millions of Blacks to vote for him in the southern states where most voters in Democratic Party primaries are Blacks (as was documented there), and the issue for them was that Biden had a long career working with civil rights leaders and had done a sit-in against segregation in a restaurant — all being lies from him, not a shred of truth in any of his ‘civil rights’ allegations there (as I documented). He had thus raped those voters’ minds, in order to get their votes and win the nomination with them; and, yet, the possible rape by him, of merely one victim (who happened to have been a white woman who was in his employ) gets special attention from the Republican Party news-medium, Fox News, which trumpeted that a former activist for Hillary Clinton was alleging that Biden must be rejected by Democrats if he actually did “rape” the woman. (And evidence kept piling up that he at least was lying about that, regardless of whether the woman who was complaining was otherwise even credible.) There are far more significant reasons to reject Biden as our next President than such speculative ones, and they all are proven instead of speculative, and have to do with policies (policies for the billionaires who finance his career, and against the public), not at all with sex (which is the religious obsession), nor with other merely personal violations.
Overwhelmingly the two reasons why Biden instead of Sanders won the Democratic Party’s nomination were (1) the billionaires who fund the Party were united against Sanders, and (2) black Democrats in the former Dixie states, starting with South Carolina on February 29th, overwhelmingly voted for the fake anti-segregationist Biden over the authentic anti-segregationist Sanders, because they had faith in the billionaire-controlled Democratic Party Establishment, who were 100% supporting and advertising for Biden. That’s faith. Those were faith-based voters — they had faith in the Democratic Party, its billionaires. That faith by those voters gave Americans a Trump-v.-Biden choice on November 3rd instead of a Trump-v.-Sanders choice (which would have included an option that the billionaires feared, instead of two nominees who both were backed by billionaires).
We thus now have a situation in which a candidate, Biden, whose entire lengthy political career is filled with corruption and lies, is the opposition against another candidate, Trump, whose established record is likewise filled with corruption and lies. And we are being told by the Republican Party’s billionaires that the reason why we shouldn’t accept Biden is that maybe what he did to that woman constituted “rape.”
Joe Biden has so many real and proven victims — policy-victims — (and Donald Trump does, too), but some people suggest that Americans should make their voting-decision, for the U.S. Presidency on November 3rd, on the basis of one possible rape, that Biden might have committed? The reasons why Biden isn’t acceptable (just like the reasons why Trump isn’t) aren’t nearly so personalistic, nor so speculative, as that. The real problem is his real policies, not his real personality.
Everyone (at least except perhaps a majority of conservative Christians) recognizes that Trump’s leadership during the coronavirus crisis has been catastrophically poor, but Biden waited until April 12th to headline what his coronavirus policy would have been if he were President, “Joe Biden: My Plan to Safely Reopen America”, and his ‘plan’ entirely ignored the things that had made a failure the anti-coronavirus legislation which had been passed by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate and House and signed into law by the President, the corruption which had caused it to be far more of a bailout to investors than to workers and consumers — and that had caused it to be generous to Wall Street and hedge funds, but stingy to the public (who should have gotten all of it, every penny of it). As I pointed out on April 13th, “It’s just a string of goals, with no measures described for meeting them; and it ignores the real barriers that must be overcome in order to be able to achieve its goals. The hundreds of reader-comments to Biden’s ‘plan’ at a popular Democratic Party website, were worshipful: ‘Ah, President Biden! You cannot take over fast enough’ was the most-popular. Biden’s platitudes pleased his Party’s faithful, despite ignoring the real issues.”
On April 25th, Politico headlined “Biden wants a new stimulus ‘a hell of a lot bigger’ than $2 trillion”, and Biden there pretended that all of the blame is with the Republican President, and he pretended to be a progressive, by saying, “The last thing he [Trump] wants is anyone watching that $500 billion going to corporate America, for God’s sake.” But he didn’t say anything that would offend his billionaire backers. For example, he didn’t say “All of the money for corporations needs to be removed — all of the money needs to go instead to workers and to consumers, so that they won’t lose their homes, their cars, etc., and simultaneously go to the states to fill the gaps that have been created in states’ essential coffers, so that the states will be able to continue providing the essential services that they provide during this crisis.” (And as I had already pointed out on April 14th, “On April 9th, the Zero Hedge financial site explained in detail why even bailing out the airlines would hurt the economy more than help the economy.” In other words: all bailouts should go only to individuals, not to any corporations.)
Biden won’t bite the (billionaires’) hands that feed him, any more than Trump has been doing, but instead he uses vague promises in order to bring his Party’s faithful deceived voters to the polls on November 3rd. The same Democratic voters who didn’t even notice that Obama had dropped his plan for a “public option” within just days after his winning the 2008 election are expecting Biden to adhere to his promises to them. All of the winning politicians honor only the promises that they privately make to their billionaire backers. This can’t happen without their being distracted by the sorts of things that their own Party’s propaganda puts forth to distract from the candidate’s proven record. The flim-flam man isn’t only the Republican one who now occupies the White House. The billionaires’ dictatorship is bipartisan. And it succeeds only because of faith. That’s trust in some ‘authority’, and it distracts from the empirical proven reality.
Just like Democrats are far more concerned that maybe Biden “raped” a woman than they are concerned that he clearly did rape the minds of millions of Blacks in order to win the Party’s nomination, Democrats evidently don’t care about the corruption that produced all the failures in the anti-coronavirus legislation that was unanimously passed by both of the two U.S. political Parties. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress voted for it. Unlike what Biden implies, both Republicans and Democrats signed onto this corruption.
Just as Republican voters have faith in their corrupt Party, Democratic voters have faith in their corrupt Party. Faith is the opposite of science, and science is clear that neither Party is even close to being decent. Only faith tells people (some with the Democratic persuasion, others with the Republican one) otherwise — that “my Party is decent.”
The easiest and quickest way to understand how faith is destroying the United States is to see the great movie Dark Waters, a very accurate dramatic re-enactment of one major legal case which exposes not only the total psychopathy of the entire U.S. power-structure but also the refusal of its victimized public to recognize that their lives were being destroyed by the very same institutions that they’ve been taught (by the billionaires and their agents) to respect the most. It’s an accurate two-hour education in the reality of today’s America, so that the audience can understand the total immunity from prosecution that America’s billionaires enjoy, no matter how many people they’ve destroyed, and even murdered, in order to become as rich as they are. For example, regarding the “Dark Waters” crime, which was perpetrated actually by the top executives of many of America’s largest international corporations: on 20 February 2018, Reuters headlined “3M, Minnesota settle water pollution claims for $850 million” and reported that “Industrial group 3M Co and Minnesota’s attorney general have agreed to settle a lawsuit over polluted groundwater, with the company agreeing to grant $850 million to the state for groundwater projects, the attorney’s office said on Tuesday. Attorney General Lori Swanson had been seeking at least $5 billion in damages from 3M to help clean up the company’s disposal of industrial chemicals in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area over the past 40 years. … 3M said it would record a 2018 first-quarter charge of approximately $1.10 to $1.15 per share including legal fees as a result of the settlement. Shares in the company were down 0.6 percent.” That’s an inconsequential penalty, and none of the criminal 3M executives who were responsible for this poisoning of Minnesotans would face any punishments at all. On 2 November 2018, Bloomberg News headlined a 5,000-word history and timeline of this matter “Cancer-linked Chemicals Manufactured by 3M Are Turning Up in Drinking Water”. On 24 October 2019, The Intercept bannered about this, “Top U.S. Toxicologist Was Barred From Saying PFAS Causes Disease In Humans. She’s Saying It Now.” Uncounted thousands of people have had their health destroyed and have died from this poisoning, but none of the executives and investors who oversaw and profited from it were punished in any way. There is total immunity, for them. And the public is distracted from that.
If things keep on the way they are, then there is no realistic hope for America. Faith-based morality is destroying this country, and the destruction is bipartisan, and pervasive. Regardless of whether a particular case of it is explicitly religious (such as in the many ecclesiastical child-sex scandals), it is accepted only upon the basis of faith. The fundamental problem is epistemological, and nobody pays attention to it.
PS: A religious friend rejected this essay. He said:
“If God doesn’t exist, then everything (every crime in pursuit of self-interest) is permitted.”
Where you and I disagree is that you believe that only if there exists an “The Almighty” (a being who personifies power) can good exist — you believe that only if there is an ultimate punisher can good be rewarded — you believe that only punishment can define what is “bad,” and that if there is no ultimate justice in the world, then “every crime in pursuit of self-interest is permitted” (because there exists no purgatory, no ultimate justice). “Self-interest,” in other words, defines your concept of good and bad: only if there is a punisher for bad can there be any such thing as good and bad, you think. Your philosophy is therefore driven by some ‘ultimate’ self-interest and your mythological belief that justice, even final justice, exists.
To me, “good” has no relationship to what is rewarded, and “bad” has no relationship to what is punished. And I don’t believe in myths. Myths are based on lies. And, to me, deceit is worst of all sins.
I don’t define what is good by reference to who possesses power or how much power they possess.
You insult me by saying that “If God doesn’t exist, then everything (every crime in pursuit of self-interest) is permitted.” In my view, no wrong is allowed, because my conscience won’t allow it. ‘God’ (‘The Almighty’) has nothing to do with it. Whether I get rewarded or punished has nothing to do with it. You are the materialist. I am the spiritualist. I am guided by the spirit, not by punishment, or reward.
He came back at me with “Power is not the only divine attribute. Mercy and compassion are the first two on the list.”
The defining attribute of God is “the Creator.” That’s The All-Powerful One! It is the defining attribute of ‘God’ in any Scripture. Religion is power-worship. It is worship of the one-and-only All-Powerful Creator of the universe.
How much “mercy” do religionists have for disbelievers in their particular faith? Each ‘holy Scripture’ damns non-believers in its faith.
How many hundreds of millions of people have been slaughtered and maimed and impoverished in religious wars? A lot of ‘moral guidance’ there! (None — except to go out and conquer non-believers.)
How many non-believers were enslaved by the ‘superior’ people — the faith’s believers? (Plenty — countless millions, all entirely unnecessary.)
Can a worse basis for morality than religion even be imagined? I don’t see how. What can be worse than a “morality” that prohibits birth-control, enserfs women, allows slavery, ‘justifies’ war against non-believers, and provides no clear guidance on global warming? I can’t think of any.
I don’t argue for atheism. I argue against any faith: theistic, atheistic, nationalistic, ethnic, racist, or otherwise.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.