Posted by: SandreS | June 8, 2013

How Scriptural Is “Morality”?

Here is an example of how steeped in religious traditions we are. One would think, listening to the teachers of religion, moral crusaders and the political right-wing pundits of our day that the words moral, morality, immoral and immorality surely would be spread extensively across the pages of the Holy Scriptures. One probably would be shocked to find out that they do not appear, not even once.

It is amazing how words such as these have worked themselves into the framework of Christendom. Morals have nothing to do with the Scriptures themselves. What they have to do with is the customs of one’s particular social or religious culture; for “custom” is the actual meaning of this word moral.[1] Thus, instead of an absolute standard, like the Scriptures, morals are based on the customs of ever changing and varied cultures within societies.

In spite of the fact that the “moral” family of words do not appear in the Bible, a society’s system of morality is often made equal to the Scripture. One can hear the religious moralist, “A good Christian would never _____” – and the blank would be filled in by a currently accepted traditional religious moral taboo.

The fact is, religion loves and incubates things like the “Moral Majority,” i.e., customs based on popular consensus (the so-called “majority”). Religious legalism adores dominating others by pressing its version of “morality” on the masses! They are moral lords over the people. This is the oppressive heart of Roman Catholicism, and it is alive and “well” in Roman Protestantism.

One must be careful not to confuse religious “immorality” with the biblical concept of “sin” or “missing the mark.” God has no problem identifying “sin.” We do not need to assist Him by adding our customs as “sins.” Adultery, theft, murder, slander and gossip, for example, are all wrong. They are not wrong because they have anything to do with “morality.” They are wrong because God’s Word says they are. Religious customs and traditions have nothing whatsoever to do with the issue.

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.

(Taken from the author’s book, Due Benevolence, Chapter 9 – Morality: Social and Religious Folkways.)


[1]The etymology of the Latin word moralis, from which we obtain our English family of ‘“morality” words, has the meaning of “custom.” cf.:
John Ayto, Dictionary of Word Origins
Oxford Concise Dictionary, Oxford University Press
Walter W. Skeat, The Concise Dictionary of English Etymology
Ernest Weekly, An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English
Robert K. Barnhart, The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology
John Ayto, Dictionary of Word Origins
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