Morally, morally on our way.

I recall someone who once posed a question to the effect ‘does being a more intelligent person make you a morally better person?’ My immediate response was that it couldn’t be the case that greater intelligence would give one a better moral sense, a reaction which was based on a lecture I had heard by Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad. In that lecture the Sheikh was speaking about the Higgs Boson (the so-called God particle), and about whether an irrefutable scientific proof for the existence of God was possible. His opinion was that such a proof would never be possible because it would entail an elite minority being granted privileged access to God- but God is supposed to be equally accessible to all human beings irrespective of contingencies like race, intellect and language.

By extension, I thought that the intellectually more privileged couldn’t possibly be more capable accumulators of good deeds. Otherwise, it would entail an alarming injustice, with certain people-seemingly arbitrarily- born for salvation, and others for doom. And yet my experiences had shown that more intelligent people tended to make morally better decisions and less intelligent people making morally worse decisions. For example, there was a young man who was employed at my father’s convenience store who was an absolutely wonderful human being, but whose moral reasoning was sometimes slightly askew. On one occasion he asked me ‘so what’s wrong with smoking weed since it is a plant, it’s natural, God has created it; and why else would he have created if not to be used by us?’  So for him, using marijuana was a perfectly legitimate action. But the point is that his reasoning led him to consider an action widely considered to be morally suspect, to be morally laudable.

The bit that he disregarded was the aspect of religious instruction, which prohibits the use of substances that cause harm to the body- he reasoned around it, not realising that his reasoning was faulty. That made me realise that, to a greater or lesser degree, all human reasoning is faulty. Whether you have the IQ of a Steven Hawking or a Jodie Marsh, you will never be completely infallible. And so it made complete sense that moral actions are instances of rule following, and not reasoning. A rule applies to both a Steven Hawking and a Jodie Marsh, so that neither can make a morally bad decision as a result of bad reasoning- even if Jodie Marsh is much more likely to reason badly, Hawking is not immune from ever tripping up in the realm of moral decision-making. Because religion involves rule following (or dogma), the more intelligent do not have a better chance of salvation than the less intelligent. In other words the less intelligent can always behave just as morally as the more intelligent.

My experiences since then have supported this idea. Yesterday at work, for example, my team leader acted in a way that I thought was morally wrong. His reaction was ‘no, it’s all in your head and you’re over-reacting’. At that point I realised it was futile attempting to convince him that I had made the morally better judgement, and that if he had just followed an item of religious instruction, there would not been an issue. And if I had also adhered to (a separate) item of religious instruction, the situation would not have escalated to the degree that it did. To an extent, we both promoted ourselves above the rules we ought to have applied in the given conditions, which made life more difficult for us both.

So, Religion- there’s no better way to distinguish right from wrong.

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