(Originally posted on Recovering from Religion South Africa)
Morality is not understanding RIGHT from WRONG, it is knowing what the right thing to do in a situation is. Think of it as the difference between being told “It’s wrong to hit your brother in the head with a cricket bat” and having compassion to know you should use a sponge bat. Morality is more than about learning the rules(laws) of a society, it’s about being able to discern what is the most correct action. This practically means that you will at times choose the wrong action or words or emotion, but morality is a practice of humanity, not a final state.
Morality is about being compassionate and having empathy.
Compassion is often misunderstood as offering forgiveness or letting it go, even if you are angry and filled with rage. Compassion is about feeling and understanding that your actions have results, some which can not be undone. Saying an unkind word, or hitting your brother with a cricket bat because he ate your cup cake, without thinking and feeling about how you’re going to influence the other person’s emotional and physical state, leads to immoral actions.
Compassion is when you empathise before inflicting hurt.
Empathy on the other hand is when you can feel and relate to another person’s emotional state. It doesn’t matter if the person is hurting, or filled with happiness, what matters is that you can share that feeling without needing to explain or validate or move the person beyond it. It seems strange to say that a moral position when someone is hurting, is not to do anything to make them happy or solve their pain, but by doing this, your compassion grows and your understanding of pain (real or not) is clarified.
Empathy is sitting with the deep emotions of being human and not moving from it.
Religion often tries to own morality, but morality is a practice – not a possession or final state. You can not put morality down in a book of laws and rules, even hard guidelines are impossible to implement and get a positive result in every situation. Religion also demands that it knows more about right and wrong than you do. So you are trained to ignore your own feelings, ignore your compassion and empathy, and dismiss you humanity, even when you feel something is wrong about what you are doing that your “religion” says is “right”. The more you trust yourself to KNOW the right thing to do in a situation, the more you practice your compassion and empathy, the better able you are to solve problems in life in a positive way.
Morality is about connecting with your humanity, with or without a belief in a god/s.
As non-believers we accept responsibility for our actions. There is no confessional, no prayer, no nothing that will forgive our acts of unkindness, it makes you more thoughtful of how you go about living. Owning your life in a more connected way, understanding the humanity within you, and practicing compassion and empathy without the need for a reward is not just an arbitrary set of rules, it is a choice and a way of life… And without an afterlife to correct any wrongs, the moments in life where you choose to practice morality are more immediate and important.
We have one life to do good.
Practice your humanity.
GooD be with you.