What is Morality?

I stumbled across this question today: ” When it comes to questions about ethics what is the yardstick in Asatru to measure if something is right or wrong?”

And there is no good answer because morality is relative. It boils down to the question, “If killing one person would prevent the deaths of millions, would you kill the one to save the many or save the one?”

In my experience, most people faced with this ethical dilemma will choose to save the one person they know they can save and hope that something will happen to keep the person from killing millions of others. It’s the whole, “If you could go back and time and kill Hitler, if by doing so you would save millions of lives, would you?”

Most people say no to that question because there is an inherent understanding that changing the past is somehow intrinsically wrong. There are a few people who say yes, but the majority say no, even though Hitler did incredibly horrible things. In some ways, Hitler taught us who we don’t want to be, which is just as important as learning who we do want to be.

I think, in Heathenry, acting morally comes down to a decision – your own sense of ethics vs. the community’s sense of ethics. There are times when a community’s sense of ethics are flawed, when persecution is embraced, and that’s when you can’t allow yourself to be fully swayed by the ethics of the society you live within.

At the same time, if your sense of morality tells you that a man should be killed for killing someone else, but the community thinks that imprisonment is a more viable option, then your sense of ethics needs to be put aside in favor of the community’s.

Figuring out when your ethics should be embraced over the community’s sense of ethics and when you should embrace the community’s sense of ethics is, in my mind, what defines morality.

I might think it a kindness to allow terminally ill patients to euthanize themselves, but society says that it’s cruel and illegal, so I abide by that decision. Laws are, for the most part, what guide the overall framework for society’s moral stance.

Morality is an incredibly hard concept to define because it’s more than a simple right vs. wrong argument. Because sometimes what seems right is the wrong thing to do, and sometimes what seems wrong is the right thing to do. We don’t live in a world where right and wrong are so clear-cut that mistakes can’t be made. But it’s through those mistakes that we learn where we stand on moral issues, and it’s also how we grow into our own humanity.

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3 comments on “What is Morality?

  1. I always find the ‘if you could go back in time and kill Hitler’ question and, questions like it, interesting, because the questioner seems to assume a single cause for an event, whereas there are usually multiple causes, which makes the answer complicated. As you say, morality is difficult to define, and the world isn’t clear cut right vs. wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. Given the circumstances at the time I believe killing Hitler would not have prevented the Shoah or WWII; things are not that straightforward but too intertwined. If Hitler had died young chances are his world would have produced another maniac.

      Also … if we start killing people before they commit a crime, where do we stop again? Is it okay to kill somebody / lock somebody up just because they test positive in a statistical algorithm for future mass murderers? In a way, for me, this is where my Heathen morality comes in because it tells me no matter what the odds against you, you are till in charge of your actions. And if you are then you deserve a chance to prove that you are better then the predictions and the statistics and whatnot.

      Liked by 2 people

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