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Author Topic: Those in power determine what is right and wrong  (Read 481 times)

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Offline TaintedAndDelishTopic starter

Those in power determine what is right and wrong
« on: August 10, 2015, 01:10:36 AM »
This is a thought that I was wrestling with recently. I wanted to toss it out for discussion and see what others thought. This is not necessarily my belief at this point but more of a work in progess. For now I'll take this side of the argument and hope that others will choose and side and debate it. If you can destroy my argument with logic, then please do. keep in mind, the rules for this section of the forum.

Those who are in power determine what is morally right, and what is morally wrong. Right and wrong are judgments. They are subjective in nature and are true for the individual only, but not for everyone universally.  To one person, it may be wrong steal, while to another, the ability to steal and get away with it is something to be proud of. Among thieves, an honest person is seen as a fool who succumbs to his inability to steal. To others, the theif as a person who who is morally bankrupt and succumbs to his temptation to steal.

Where am I going with this line of thought?

If this is true, then you cannot have world peace without a universal agreement of what is right and wrong. One nation could decare theivery as a crime and another could call it an honorable skill. So long as there is overlap like this in their ideologies, they will have differences that cannot be reconciled in a way that is seen as fair to both parties. Some nations will value compromise and patience, while others will value intolerance and swift punishment for the smallest infractions of their law.

Does this mean that for world peace, you need a single, worldwide government or a single, universally accepted set of laws or set of morals, or a New-World-Order(tm)  ?

And perhaps I have this wrong. Could it be that there are things that are objectively moral? If so, how you dertermine and prove this?

« Last Edit: August 10, 2015, 01:11:58 AM by TaintedAndDelish »

Offline Caitlin

Re: Those in power determine what is right and wrong
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2015, 06:41:32 AM »
I believe that world peace is indeed impossible, unless there is a common goal that would require mutual cooperation or face extinction altogether. A common goal could be a global disaster, alien invasion, or such thorough climate changes that even the people most in denial can no longer deny that it's happening.

I've believed for a very long time now that those in power are the ones determining right and wrong, but only to a certain extend. A small group can become a rolling movement and eventually cause an 'avalance' which shifts the way of thinking. To take an example, going against the church and god could end up with you burning at the stake, though these days atheism is the fastest growing 'religion' in Europe. The power the church once held is diminishing and the opinions of people are shifting. Social media have a way of breaking the traditional powers and can give one opiniated person a platform that eventually leads to change in the believe of what is right and wrong. In the old days it was much easier for those in power to repress such opiniated people.

I'm deviating from your last questions, however, and to get back to those; I think there are too many different opinions of what's right and wrong to unite them in such a way that world peace would be feasable. If even neighbours have trouble sorting the arguments on a micro scale, than governments working together for world peace on a macro scale is impossible too. Most of the world can be at peace, but there is always some bleephead who messes it up for everybody else and makes a grasp for power to fuel his personal ambitions.

In short; right and wrong can be dertermined these days by one person, but I find true world peace highly unlikely, unless everybody has access to the same resources and unless those resources are infinite. Without those last two conditions there will always be a strife to get more than others have, thus war.

Offline ReijiTabibito

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Re: Those in power determine what is right and wrong
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2015, 09:53:40 PM »
Rewrote this as a Q&A thing, with an introduction, because otherwise wall.  Also, if religion is not your thing, then I highly suggest you do not read.

Intro segment
In short, T&D, yes.  It is impossible to have worldwide peace without there being one prevailing, common ideology shared amongst the populace.  And even then, it's not a guarantee.  Some would say that Christianity is a singular ideology, but look at how many different brands of Christianity there are now.  The closest that Christianity has ever come to being what you're describing is back when the RCC was the only church in town, and they controlled what the people were hearing because nobody knew how to read except the priests and other such folk.

The idea of moral relativism - that what is right for me is not necessarily right for you - undermines nearly any attempt to establish such an ideology.  'Do your own thing, it's okay' encourages everyone to do what is right for them, which is about the highest form of subjectivity you can get.  If it destroys any chance of peace, though, why would people embrace it?  Because people would rather accept the downside of a world at war with itself, than accept the downside of having to march to someone else's drum.  Rebellion and defiance are in our blood, it's one of the first human instincts.

Objectivity.  Yes.  It is possible.  And not just in the 2+2=4 sense of things.  When things are objectively right, or objectively wrong, though, it means that certain things are always right, and certain things are always wrong.  2+2 will never be 3 or 5, it will always be 4.

How do we determine that?  How do we figure out if something is objectively right or wrong?  We don't.  A friend of mine has a saying - 2 people, 3 different opinions.  Leaving the question of objective morality up to us, saying that we are the highest authorities (and when I say we I mean men in general), is bound to end in failure, because everyone has different ideas about what is right or wrong.  What is needed for objective morality, quite simply, is a figure who is beyond all of that.

"Hey, wait a minute, Reiji, it almost sounds like you're talking about religion..."

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
And I am.  Crazy as it might seem, religion is the thing that will get us closest to a unifying codice of behaviors, principles, and ethics as man can manage.  The thing we've desperately been trying to ditch for the last century - God (not necessarily the Christian one, just divinity in general) is dead, God is not necessary - is the thing we so desperately need.

Because if standards of right and wrong come from a source higher than men, one whose mind cannot be changed, then you have objectivity.

Objectivity in science derives its principles on how the world behaves from the universe itself - universal gravitation, for instance - and is not the universe greater than men?

Consider this: the French philosopher and writer Voltaire wrote - "If God did not exist, it would become necessary to invent him."  Voltaire recognized that for society to function, you needed a higher power, something that could be appealed to beyond the judgment of men.  Because if man is the highest authority there is, then there is a danger.  The danger is: man can establish law, and re-write it according to their will.  Similar to what you were saying with your thoughts about thievery.  If there is no higher power, no grand authority, then those who write the laws of the land can get away with anything, simply by changing the law, or having enough resources at hand that the law cannot be applied to them.

To put it another way - you can be a dick to as many people as you like in life, and never be held legally responsible for your actions, as long as it isn't illegal.  And if it is illegal, then change the law so it isn't.  Or if the law can't be changed, then make sure your lawyer can get you an acquittal.

If there is a higher power - God or YHWH or Allah or the Flying Pasta Monster - then when you die, you will be held accountable for your actions then, if you cannot be by man.

"But Reiji, if religion is so necessary, then why are we trying to dismantle it?"

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
Because if there is a higher power, one that we are beholden to in some fashion, then we cannot behave as we would like.  And, as I said before...we would rather accept the downside of a world at war with itself, than the downside of having to march to someone else's drum.  Peace sacrificed for freedom.

"What about the things we've heard?  That there are more than one ways to a happy afterlife?"

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
The idea that there is more than one acceptable codice of behavior doesn't work, for two reasons.  One is that then you have competing ideologies, which is the opposite of having one world standard of behavior is all about.  One means one, not two or three.  The other is that religions themselves stand against that idea.  To give you a few examples.

Judaism says the only way to be permitted entry to Heaven is to be circumcised and follow the Torah, that is, the Law of God laid out to the Hebrews.  The brother religions to Judaism - Christianity and Islam - are similar.  Acceptance of the central figure of the religion - Jesus or Mohammad - and following of the path laid out by each of those figures.

Or take Buddhism - a central tenet of it (one of the Four Noble Truths) is that all life is suffering, caused by an overabundance of desire for temporal things.  This causes man to die, and be reborn on the wheel of karma again and again.  A fellow tenet (again, one of the Four Noble Truths) is that it is possible to escape this cycle by following the Eightfold Path - that is, to practice Buddhism.

Or even the oldest still-extant religion in the world, Hinduism - which is currently the third largest, as well, right behind Christianity and Islam.  Hinduism teaches the veneration of their gods - such as Brahma and Parvati and Ganesha and the like, as well as the prescription of the 'eternal duties,' which are things like honesty, compassion, nonviolence, self-restraint...virtues.

In none of these major religions, does it say anywhere that following another religion is acceptable to the practice of that one.  You cannot be a Buddhist and a Christian at the same time.  Now, many of these religions will have overlapping principles - all of the ones I've detailed here say that honesty is good, and deception, or lying, is wrong.  But just because they have features in common doesn't mean that they're not exclusive.  A feature of an airplane and a boat is that they can take you across the ocean - but nobody would say that a boat and an airplane are easily confused.

Well, if these major religions all say a lot of the same things, then couldn't we say that those are universal ethics?

Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
We could, but the problem we run into there is the matter of consensus.  If we determine that 60% of people say that lying is objectively wrong, then we technically have a consensus that it is...but we also have 40% of people who did not say that it was.  How high do the numbers have to go?  80%?  90?  99?

Online Lustful Bride

Re: Those in power determine what is right and wrong
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2015, 10:32:06 PM »

The power to do good, or ill, lies within us all. Everyday it is a choice to do so.

I believe in loving all people, whether they be Atheist, Jew, Muslim, white, black, etc etc. What we believe in religiously, economically, politically, socially, is irrelevant. What matters is helping others because they are Human, and that means they are family and deserve our love and affection.

Governments and those in power may try to dictate what is right and wrong, but at the end of the day it lies more with the people. Remember how many people championed against slavery? For Equal rights for women and those of color? For Gay rights? Those things came about because people wanted them. Enough people saw how much the old policies caused pain and suffering, and we wanted to change that.

People today have shut themselves off, become too cold and cynical. We laugh at others and look at them as if inferior because they aren't us, when instead we should want to learn from them and see how they view life. I cant tell you how many times ive been insulted and mocked because I let it slip I go to church and pray to God sometimes. But I don't hate all Atheists just because a few of them insulted me, treated me as if I was an idiot. I know there are many good people who are atheists. Im dating one now, who is the kindest, most loving man I have ever met and who accepts my faith and loves me all the more for being my own person.

I love all mankind, for the moment we are born we are born with love and goodness in our hearts. Hate is something that has to be taught, it is a learned behavior, unless children are told to hate, they will still happily play together no matter the difference. If we were all this way, peace would be something achievable, but it isn't so. There will always be those who sow hate and violence to gain power. Look at ISIS, look at North Korea, the countless warlords in Africa taking child soldiers.

It is those people we must fight, to put them away, to build a beter world to work on building a bright future that it makes heaven on earth. Its possible because everyday people all over work to make it happen. With the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and coubtless other groups, That's how we determine what is right and what is wrong, by seeing what causes pain and what helps others, and choosing to act upon it.

Will World Peace ever happen? Probably not, there will be a lack of resources, money, education and they will need a scapegoat for their problems and it will lead to violence and ignorance and the cycle of suffering will continue on. But does that mean we should give up? Never. So long as people continued to devout their time to helping others and accepting them for their differences, instead of shunning them because of them, we will continue to make progress....and who knows....maybe a thousand years from now, it will be an age of true peace and love and those who worked to make it happen will be looked upon as heroes not because they did it to be famous, but because they listened to their hearts and did what was right.

Is it abit naiive? Probably, but if we were all naiive, maybe wed all have more smiles.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2015, 10:54:45 PM by Lustful Bride »

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Re: Those in power determine what is right and wrong
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2015, 10:45:37 PM »
Both Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens wrote extensively on this subject--how can humanity without religion manage to create a moral society?  It's pretty much established that it is in our genes to be a cooperative, altruistic species.  Just look at the possible number of actions all humans on Earth act upon every day...what percentage of those actions are directly harmful to another human being?  That percentage is amazingly low.  We get along for the most part.  If you're born a psychopath or created as a sociopath by poor parenting, all bets are off, but that is a small segment of the population.  Most people are basically good.  They follow the rules, treat other people decent, and live their lives.

The problem lies with the percentage of the people who hold considerable power.  I don't need to repeat the old saw about power corrupting--it's ridiculously obvious throughout history.  I think the gist of a good, altruistic society is finding a way to level the playing field for as many citizens as possible, to prevent the corruption caused by concentration of power.  It happens in all cultures and societies--just look at the corruption in the Soviet Union and the United States to see how communism and capitalism didn't change the fact there were still extreme differences between the haves and have-nots.

Human beings do need something; some form of structure, that teaches the society at large morals and values.  Religion has served that purpose.  Before separation of church and state, religion did the educating.  Now the government does.  The problem occurs when the government switches hands back and forth and there is no continuity of education.

Good people don't need laws to act good.  Evil people will not obey the laws regardless of punishments threatened.  Laws are for those who vacilate between the two, a population that varies depending on the security of those people as far as the basic necessities.  Unhappy people break the law more often, do they not?  So the question should be, how do we make as many people as happy as possible in order to reduce the frequency of problems?

It comes down to science, for me.  There are moral absolutes, I believe...not as many as religious people hold, but they are there.  However, those absolutes are not given to us by a higher power, but by the development of our species through our genes by way of evolution.  We are evolved to cooperate, so we should cooperate.  Within that cooperation we should strive for individual excellence, but that individual need to succeed has to be weighed against the value of a society that is healthy for as many people as possible.

In my mind, religion is an anachronism that has outlived its usefulness.  In the past, the threat of eternal damnation or spiritual punishment was useful and a far better choice to control populations that were not developed enough beyond a subsistence existence.  The Dark Ages are a perfect example of why religion was necessary.  Humanity was too close to barbarism.  Now there are many societies that prove meaningful existence is possible through altruism and cooperation, without the need for metaphysical threats or promises--look at the Netherlands or Sweden as examples.