Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Fluid morality

There was an exchange on twitter about abortion. The secular humanist involved was pro-choice. The theist was anti-choice. Not unexpected. 

At the end of the conversation the theist tweeted that she would never trust anyone whose morals would 'change with the wind' implying that unless your morals were locked in stone by a supernatural deity you were somehow inferior. 

It lead me to think about whether a locked morality was a good thing. My first thought was to slavery. Although there are regimes and areas where slavery still occurs, it can't be reasonably denied that the modern attitude towards slavery differs from the past. Any decent person I know would think the owning of another person as property was abhorrent. Not that many generations ago, slavery was common in even the more 'advanced' societies. 

This is one example of the shifting of morality. There are others, such as interracial marriage, and marriage for same-sex couples. People as recently as the 1960s protested marriage between a black person and a white person. In Australia two people of the same sex cannot be married at the time of writing. In the US now though, any person of any colour can marry any person of any colour, even if they are the same sex. The first part of this is true for Australia and although it's a long and tedious process, the second part will eventually be true. 

In my own life I have shifted my morality. Many years ago I was in favour of the death penalty. I thought that if you'd committed a crime that was heinous enough, you deserved to lose your right to life. I also thought that it was the cheaper option. Surely it would be cheaper to execute someone than to house and feed them for life. 

Although I was young and hadn't given it much thought, I don't want to excuse it. It was what I thought was right at the time. I came to realise that it wasn't cheaper to imprison someone for life than to execute them so I could no longer use that 'reasoning'. (As though the taking of someone's life could be an economic decision)

More so I came to understand that for a society to be anti-killing, the state couldn't engage in the practice of executing its citizens. I didn't see how a state could kill people but demand of its people that they don't do the same. 

Since then I have read more about the death penalty and my opposition to it is stronger than ever. I'm at the point where I can't see how someone can claim to be a secular humanist and in favour of the death penalty. 

I recently read a six part series on the death penalty written by Godless Mom. You can find it here. It is extremely well written. It evokes emotion without being an appeal to emotion and backs up its points with supporting evidence. I challenge anyone who is favour of the death penalty and calls themselves a secular humanist to read this and make a reasoned case for having capital punishment. 

There are few jurisdictions now that have the death penalty. Australia last executed someone in 1966. Our morality toward  the death penalty has certainly moved on to the point where we now plead with foreign governments to spare Austalian citizens who have found themselves on death row on foreign countries. 

I'm glad to live in a society that's not locked into one way of thinking. I'm glad I am a person who can reasses an opinion I hold and change it based on new evidence or being presented a point of view I've not previously considered, or even just reassessing my own thoughts and conclusions. 

The alternative is a society that sees owning people as okay. One that stones people to death for adultey or cuts off someone's head for blasphemy. Something we still see on the more barbaric societies of today such as ISIS, Saudi Arabia. 

We will forever need to be able to look at what we do as a society and say, you know what? This isn't good enough. We need to change it.