TIM WILDMON: Law, morality sometimes overlap

By Tim Wildmon

Last time I wrote here it was about that the fact that we all have a worldview by which we determine what is right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral. Generally speaking, a person’s religious persuasion, or lack thereof, seems to have the most profound impact on his or her worldview. One example of this is the annual story about Mississippi being among the poorest states and among the most charitable states at the same time. That would not make much sense unless you factor in religion. The reason for this is that Mississippi has the nation’s highest percentage of church attendance, and the church teaches that God expects his followers to put some of their income into the offering plate to advance Christianity here and abroad.
A growing percentage of Americans are defining themselves as “spiritual” rather than “Christian” or “religious.” Being atheistic or agnostic does not really appeal to most Americans because to believe in nothing seems void and meaningless, and Americans don’t like hopelessness. But by being ambiguously “spiritual” a person is able to define “god” in his own terms, which can evolve with the individual’s interest, wants, needs or desires. Neither does a “spiritual” person have to answer to “god” for anything. There are no rules to follow as with traditional religious teaching. The rules are whatever you want them to be, if any at all. This approach to “religion” appeals to the selfish nature of man who does not want to be told by anyone or any being that they must conform their lives to some fixed standards of behavior or suffer consequences.
The holy book of Christianity is, of course, the Bible. It is there for all to read and scrutinize. Even Christians disagree on how to apply and interpret some scriptures. You can intellectually rip it to shreds but at least it is written down in black and white so each person can decide for himself if he finds it credible or not.
With atheism there is no like document to scrutinize or criticize because there is nothing to believe in. And as we have said, with “spirituality” it can mean anything and everything under the sun, so here again there is no doctrine that can be held up to scrutiny as an unbeliever might do with the Bible. That leaves the atheist, the agnostic and the spiritualist the ability to attack the Bible without ever having to defend his or her own belief system because there isn’t one to defend. But this does beg the question for the person who believes this life is all there is: If you believe the Bible’s story bogus, why spend your limited time of existence attacking that which isn’t even real? Why care if others want to be what you would call “superstitious”? And if no absolute truth exists, are we not all just left with our own opinions? And what makes one man’s opinion morally superior to another man’s if there is no higher standard by which to judge opinions?
This leads us back to values and morality. There is personal morality and there is public morality, which is otherwise known as law. Sometimes the two overlap, but not always. You may have heard the expression, “You can’t legislate morality.” But the very purpose of law is to impose on all of us a collective moral order to uphold civilization and Americans have consented that civilization is something they want. Lawmakers decide what is good and bad, right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable behavior (morality) and then the police and courts enforce these laws.
So morality can be legislated, it happens every day.
Community columnist TIM WILDMON is a Lee County resident. He is president of the American Family Association, but the column represents his personal opinion unless otherwise noted. Contact him at twildmon@afa.net.