I know that people tend to wax philosophical over morality and ethics but I think, under normal circumstances, the Golden Rule is all one needs to be moral: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." As we mature, human experience and empathy naturally leads to an understanding of morality -- we know what hurts us, so we know what hurts others. It's really very simple: don't cause unnecessary harm (including to oneself).

Unless you're autistic or raised by jungle apes, you know right from wrong. Any religious claim of moral authority, or scriptural claim to bequeath morality, is bogus.

Although most of our choices are pretty straight forward, there are also many difficult moral choice to be made. Abortion, social policies, capital punishment, euthanasia, declarations and prosecutions of war . . . there are many moral conundrums in life.

It seems to me that many moral conundrums involve the value of human life. But what IS the value of human life? Humans seem rather cavalier about it. We kill each other in violent crimes, wars, capital punishment, suicides and vehicular collisions. Sometimes killing is justified. War can be necessary. Euthanasia can be humane and merciful. Even capital punishment is popularly supported.

So when and how do we uphold the value of human life? I think the answer must be, "When we can, as best we can." In war, this means taking all reasonable efforts to prevent civilian casualties. In abortion, crime and other social policies, this means education that emphasizes the value of human life so that people will think twice about taking or diminishing the life of another.

If the value of human life is relative, then we need to make people mindful of their own value in a relative system. Then the Golden Rule will enjoy a finer focus when choices aren't so simple.

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I've always been a fan of Wilde's quote "The right to swing your fist ends where another man's nose begins."
The golden rule can be subjective. What one person would like done unto them can be abhorrent to another.

Here is a question for moral angst: Should it be legal to have cyber/virtual/roleplaying/video games with pedophilia? Obviously the images are only that..images.. created electronically with CG graphics, no human models. The abuse of a child is a horrible crime, but if someone is acting out his or her fantasies with no party being harmed, is there anything morally wrong? Legally wrong?

Now apply the same to murder and violence. I go online and blow up people all the time on Halo 3. That's considered good fun.

Just food for thought.
Hi Misty,

Yes, I get your point. I wrote with the assumption here that the human condition is not shared by everybody. That's why I said "under normal circumstances" and mentioned autistism, as well as feral children (raised by jungle apes). There's growing evidence that there are neurological anomalies behind various "deviant" behaviors.

So, if you could remove those with neurological anomalies, would the "normal" individuals remaining share a common experience of morality? Not in all matters -- but I think it would be normal to expect that others know better (if not DO better) than to cause unnecessary harm.

Please also note that I was speaking of KNOWING right from wrong . . . not DOING right instead of wrong. We all venture into wrong territory on occasion despite knowing we're rejecting what we know is right.

As for your examples, on the face of it, they appear to cause no harm to anybody. But if you extend empathy to the victims of pedophilia or war, wouldn't you then recognize their pain at the mere thought of making a game out of the sickness and violence that victimized them?

Don't get me wrong . . . I have no desire to be a goodie-two-shoes or holier-than-thou. I'm just arguing that the Golden Rule (cause no unnecessary harm) CAN be applied to most situations and is an excellent guide to live by. But an angel's life is a little too boring for me. The devil in me likes to spice things up once in a while. That's why it's the Golden Rule . . . not the Golden Law.

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