QUESTION: Is human being’s future ethical or moral? Can the humans overcome the onslaught of evil by their ethical thinking? – Jacob Thomas
ANSWER: Jacob Parappally MSFS
The question about the future of human beings, whether it is ethical or moral, is very relevant though it may sound ambiguous and therefore, confusing. This question is raised at a time when right-thinking people are shocked by the capture of Kabul and the entire Afghanistan by the hard-core Islamist militant Taliban forces. They are securing power again after twenty years of continuous fighting supported by those nations who share their religious fundamentalist ideology. Before twenty years when the Taliban government wielded power in Afghanistan it imposed primitive moral codes based on the fundamentalist interpretation of the Islamic religious texts. Founded on the patriarchal tribal codes of eighth century Arabia, Taliban used barbaric methods of punishments like stoning to death, amputating the limbs of those alleged to have committed some crimes and preventing girls from having higher education etc. The implementation of questionable moral codes through brutal force would be signalling the slow death of humanity and the rise of morally-challenged humans.
Enlightened humans, thinkers and philosophers of all generations have affirmed that all humans have an innate sense of morality. This innate or inborn sense is that ‘good is to be done and evil is to be avoided’ or what is ‘right is to be done and what is wrong is to be avoided’. Even Charles Darwin who proposed the theory of evolution wrote in his book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, published in 1871: “I fully … subscribe to the judgment of those writers who maintain that of all the differences between man and the lower animals the moral sense or conscience is by far the most important.” What differentiates humans from other animals is their rationality and their ability to make ethical or moral judgments that flow from their self-understanding as humans using their reason. It is also held that the ethical sense is inborn in humans and the moral codes are determined by the context of a human being’s life. Religions and cultures play an important role in shaping moral codes. Besides these, ideologies, socio-political and economic systems create their own codes or laws which may not appear to be directly binding on one’s conscience but indirectly refers to the conscience of a person.
Problems arise when humans refuse to follow their innate sense of ethics or morality according to the evolution of their self-understanding as humans both individually and collectively and follow their self-interests blinded by fanatic religious doctrines, by perverted and inhuman ideologies and by unscrupulous and unbridled scientific experiments which may result in inventing something that directly or indirectly threaten human life and its future. In this sense, the future of humanity is very bleak. Without ethics and moral life that flow from it, the humans can invent means of annihilating the entire humanity.
No Future without Ethics or Morals
The inborn capacity to make ethical or moral judgments and to act accordingly is not only necessary for the survival of humans and their societies but is essential for humans to unfold themselves as humans. It would imply that humans need to recognize themselves as humans with their inalienable right to live, grow and seek the destiny of their life unhindered by any external forces but also at the same time recognize, accept and promote the rights of other humans as one does for oneself. However, from the known history of humankind it is also clear that there are thousands of incidents where individual leaders or societies entering into war and unleash violence and destruction against other nations, societies, tribes and ethnic groups or in general against “the other” they perceived as a threat to them. Every war is justified by the aggressor. In any justification for violence and destruction there is no place for ethics or morality.
Need for Morality and Religion
It is universally accepted that humans have the innate capacity to be ethical or moral in their relationship with other humans and to all that is related to human life. Whether one deals with or relate with others according to the norms of right relationship or not, it is an undeniable fact that every human being who is capable of reasoning knows what the right relationship and the wrong relationship with others is. They know that good is to be done and evil is to be avoided. However, humans are not always perfect in acting rightly in all situations of their life. A few may be even willing to give up their lives than give up the moral values they believe in. Some with a criminal bend of mind trample on all ethical values and moral codes. Whatever is the exercise of morality or the neglect of moral values it does not take away the innate capacity of humans to be good and right in their inter-relationships with others. For the very survival of humans it is necessary that at least a minority of the people of any society needs to be committed to practice morality. It is certain, that a group of people or even a single person who does not exercise the inborn capacity for doing good or acting rightly can eliminate humans in large numbers at the pressing of a single button.
All those who live an ethical life or practice morality in their life need not necessarily be an adherent of any religion. But all those who claim to be religious cannot be true believers in God and be members of any religion or religious sect without being ethical or moral in their convictions and actions. No justification for one’s evil or wrong action given by a person who belongs to any authentic religion or religious sects and groups is acceptable. Morality and religiosity are so intertwined that one cannot be separated from the other even though one can choose to be moral in her or his behaviour and deny the existence of God or exclude religious beliefs or religious rituals from her or his life.
It is also possible that those who claim to believe in dogmas and doctrines of their religion and scrupulously follow the rites and rituals of a religion can be very immoral in their behaviour and actions. Sometimes the worst cruelty to their fellow humans is committed by those who profess their belief in God. Certainly, there are also atheists and agnostics who perpetrate heinous crimes against humanity and give orders to their military or to their followers to commit genocide. The evil that people do and are prone to do, may or may not have anything to do with their innate sense of morality and their innate sense of the sacred. It has to do with the choice which humans make not to be true to their nature as humans. Humans are not created evil but they choose to become evil.
A question can be raised, why do humans choose to do evil? Why do they even choose a path leading to their own self-destruction and the end of the future of other humans? Why does violence lurk in some degree or other, in some form or other in the minds of humans? Human beings have not only invented highly sophisticated weapons of mass destruction or for the murder of individuals they perceive as their enemies as the consequence of violence in them, but they also use the sharpest weapon, their tongue, to prevent the unfolding of humans as humans. While it can be said that generally religions which are born out of the sense of the sacred innate in humans are necessary to educate humans to live and practice morality or follow ethical norms, if perverted can be used to exploit and oppress humans. Those religions which are not self-critical according to the evolution of human consciousness and self-understanding of humans as humans in imposing their rules and regulations, do more harm than good not only to their adherents but also to the rest of humanity. An enlightened understanding of ethics and morality and a discerning and liberating following of religion are necessary for the survival of humanity in the midst of self-destructive ideologies that are being propagated by those who have a warped understanding of human nature and destiny. Without liberating religious beliefs and commitment to follow one’s conscience that is formed with humanizing ethics and morality, the future of humanity is bleak and may even be doomed.
Power of Love and Might of Evil
The onslaught of evil whether it originates from perverted mind or from the still evolving and not yet perfect universe the believers in God and those who practice religion may interpret it according to their religious traditions as the will of God or as fate. Some may interpret natural calamities as a part of the process of the evolution of nature. In the former times famines, epidemics and even wars were interpreted in terms of the will of God and people who survived them interpreted them from the point of view of their faith. They need some reasons to answer those questions that arise in them concerning these evils without losing their faith in God, the creator or in the Ultimate Reality they believe as the cause of everything that exists. In our times people may not attribute the cause of famine, epidemics and pandemics like Covid19 and wars to the will of God but do so to the criminal and inhuman ways of human beings who have no regard for their fellow humans or their future. Generally, people all over the world today know it is not the will of God that humans suffer famines, pandemics and wars. It is due to the immoral and inhuman political and economic decisions taken by a few people who do not have any regard for God or other humans. They would go any extent to amass wealth and power and foolishly believe that they would be happy when they have achieved them. Even the source of the pandemic Covid19 is alleged to have been planned by some in China in collusion with others outside China or by an accident during the experiments on viruses to use as biological weapons in war or to win economic supremacy over other nations. In future, the truth about this pandemic may come out. But by this time millions would have lost their lives. Evil that originates in the minds of some humans have disastrous consequences for millions of innocent humans. But the known history of humans informs us that evil is short-lived in time and limited in space!
The Cross of Christ reveals to a believer in Christ that when crosses are made by some to torture and kill others, even the heaviest stones cannot keep the power of love and goodness buried in the tomb or be destroyed. The power of love overcomes death. Evil makes too much noise. It makes news. But the resurrection of the power of love and its consequences are rarely seen or heard. In the midst of the onslaughts of evil on the vulnerable people by those who trade in violence and death, there are thousands who keep alive their goodness and humanity reaching out to the victims and helping them to live in joy and freedom as humans. The quality of life for humans will depend on how ethical and moral they are in their day to day living. How meaningful human life is now and in future depends on how the humans organize their lives in their relation to God or the ultimate foundation of their lives!