If you trudged through a suffocatingly religious childhood, hearing the word moral might make your ears bleed. Your eyes may be bleeding while reading this...my fingers are bleeding writing it. Perhaps the reason I hadn't thought of what "moral" meant on a deeper level is because of my (ever so slight) lingering PTSD from Bible School. Growing up, the word moral was almost always in the same sentence as Hell, or Satan. Ah, morals, a guilt sandwich with a side of judgment and self-loathing. It never felt good. It never felt right.
Like most everyone, I had been programmed by my social group to identify certain words in a way which was palatable to the bell curve. Not too long ago, someone challenged me with a new definition of "moral"; and I was resistant. "Moral" resonated in the "Christian" sense to me; and since I am not a fan of certain Christian beliefs, I recoiled away from the word "moral". Here's the thing, it wasn't a new definition of "moral" at all. This new definition was simply the actual definition without all the social connections to religious, spiritual, or familial mandates: the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character. There isn’t an “according to the Bible, Torah, Quran, etc.” at the end of that definition; and there doesn’t have to be.
I have spent years actively discovering and destroying my programming; but this precious "moral" gem had somehow eluded me. I wholeheartedly believe a human is not dependent on religious beliefs to understand right and wrong behavior. Alas, there is an influx of people avidly fighting to "bring God back into Country", claiming "Godlessness" is the most logical reason that bad things happen. As a deeply spiritual person, I see where they're coming from, but...
Moral behavior is not dependent on beliefs or values; but a lot of people have painted themselves into a corner believing so. Moral behavior is not dependent on values, what you value often has nothing to do with your morality. I empathize with the people who believe social issues are a religious problem; but there are plenty of religious assholes running amok. There is a great argument that education is the cure for our social issues; but there are plenty of smart assholes running amok too, my friends. Social problems aren't caused by a spiritual issue, or an education issue. We keep falling back on religion and education as explanations because we're lost for another one.
Our social problems are a moral issue. Sure, one can educate people about morals, or teach people to act morally. A spiritual community can certainly dictate or inspire a set of morals. We do this as a culture now, but how's that working out for us? All things considered, pretty good.
Of course, our society is not perfect: unnecessarily heated political traumas, horrifically violent acts on the news, drug and alcohol addiction, and sometimes we run into people who are...unsavory. Realistically, our society could be far better; but it could also be far, far worse. Considering the size of the human population, and how emotional we can all be, it is a miracle we haven't blown everything up. What has kept us from blowing it all up? It's morals. Morality is what has helped us keep our poop in a group all this time; but we don't honor this truth to be as profound as it is, because we are too busy arguing over what “morality” is.
"The goodness or badness of human character"- it’s so simple. Although we all (generally) grasp this simplistic definition in simple situations (i.e. it is not good to kill someone, steal someone's car, or beat someone up), we find ourselves lost in more complicated situations. For instance, is it good to kill an armed intruder in your home to protect your family? Is it good to steal a car to take someone gravely ill to the hospital? Is it good to beat someone up if they are attacking someone smaller than them? Is it good to be gay? Is it good to be an addict? Is it good to be Christian? Morality isn't black and white- it is simple, but not easy. Our emotional attachments to our personal beliefs is often what makes morality more difficult to understand.
We often build a wall between us with regard to morality, largely due to people considering morals and beliefs to be synonymous. If this were the case, all beliefs would have to be truth. One cannot reasonably expect someone who does not share their beliefs to practice them, because all of our beliefs are so different. However, one CAN reasonably expect someone to not randomly, mercilessly slaughter their children in the night, because the vast majority of us would never commit that act. It would be immoral. We innately know this as humans. Morality is not synonymous with beliefs, it is synonymous with humanity. Despite this, we are constantly judging one another as moral or immoral based off beliefs, which are not truth. My beliefs are not truth, they are true to me. Your beliefs are not truth, they are true to you. How can it possibly make sense to deem someone immoral because they do not abide by your beliefs? That's like penalizing someone for breaking soccer rules when they're playing baseball.
Humans have learned so much from religion, and perhaps there was a time when we needed it to navigate the concept of morality and goodness; but we have evolved past this need, just as a child evolves past training wheels. There is certainly still a place in society for spirituality; and if everyone could drop the judgment nonsense, they could just focus on joy, faith, and love. When we drop our belief based judgments against others, it becomes possible for us to see morality clearly; and when we can see something clearly, it is far easier to work towards it.
As a influx of people are fighting to "bring God back into country", there is also an influx of people fighting for Human Rights. Ironically, these groups often criticize each other, even though they are fighting for the same thing: morality. However, their personalized beliefs prevent them from seeing this. Because most people aren't willing to admit their beliefs are not absolute truth, a vicious cycle of judgment, contention, and compromised morality continues. We all want to be safe, we all want people to be good, and we all want an environment we can survive and thrive in. Obviously, there are extremists on either side; but they are few and far between.
Imagine if everyone took a deep breath, maybe a nap, and let go of their judgments towards others. Our moral issues would fade away, and a moral awakening could begin.