Discovering Religion: Episode 23 – Secular Morality – Primal vs. Refined
Critics of secular morality state that under this code of conduct there is no way for someone to claim one action is better than another. For instance, a secular humanist might claim everyone has the right to individual autonomy and the preservation of well-being, and any violation of these rights must be considered immoral. Therefore, it is objectively wrong to murder someone in cold blood because we can objectively determine the victim’s autonomy and well-being are in violation. However, the opposition will continue to argue the idea that “it is wrong to violate autonomy” is still ultimately based on a subjective opinion. So, what gives any individual the authority to claim their personal understanding of morality is any better than another?
What we must realize is that certain aspects of secular morality are based on opinion and others that are based on fact. However, before we examine the details, the logic of secular morality follows from a single question: Is something of greater value than nothing? If this statement is true, then it follows that life is of greater value than death. Although no one can say for certain what happens after death, it is disputable that a living, breathing human being has great intrinsic value than a decomposing corpse body. Therefore, anything that promotes the character and quality of life is beneficial and adds greater value to that life. Continuing with this line logic, the following facts can be derived: health is more beneficial than disease, happiness is more beneficial than sadness, comfort is more beneficial than pain, liberty is more beneficial than oppression, freedom is more beneficial than slavery, and so on. If all these statements are true, then we now have a basis upon which to assess certain actions. Any action that promotes the character and quality of life is a beneficial action. While any action that diminishes the character and quality of life is a detrimental action.
However, there are some opposed to the idea of secular morality that may disagree with the factuality of the claim “Life is of greater value than death.” There are certainly many people that have painful terminal diseases, or that suffer from chronic depression, who might find suicide to be a more desirable alternative to continuing to live with extreme suffering. And there are also psychopaths that do not value their own lives, let alone the lives of others. However, these examples are clearly outside the norm of physical and mental health, and anyone that sincerely believes “life is of lesser value than death” is dis-invited to the moral conversation, because moral issues only concern the lives of the living, not those who are already dead, those who wish to die, or those who desire to extinguish life. If we are truly concerned about what is right and just, then morality MUST be concerned with the lives of individuals that the moral principles are influencing, otherwise the conversation ends right here.
The reason many people appear to be confused about the topic of morality is because of the failure to recognize our code of conduct is organized into a moral hierarchy, which can be define in two parts, that of Primal Morality and Refined Morality. Primal morality consists of instincts and other psycho-social guidelines that ensures individual survival and preserves the well-being of the group as a whole. Primal Morality involves a “pack mentality”, and other natural instincts, that can be found in many social groups, both human and animal alike, for they are guidelines that MUST be adhered to or the extinction of the group, and even the entire species, is at risk. Such guidelines might even go against the personal desires of an individual so as to preserve the integrity of the group. The adherence to social hierarchy and the rules against stealing, raping, murdering, and so on, fall under this category.
Then there is Refined Morality. These are rules that have been developed over thousands of years of social consensus and can be informed by scientific discovery. Although man-made laws can improve the quality of life, they are not always crucial for survival and thus they can vary from one century to the next and from culture to culture. Primal and Refined Morality are essential aspects of any healthy, functioning civilization, and both work toward the ultimate goal of preserving individual autonomy and the well-being of society, although, each appears to be shaped by slightly different influences.
Refined Morality is named so, because it is able to be tuned and refined over time, and it is this aspect of secular morality that can be seen as purely subjective, for Refined Morality can be voted on by a society and it is continually shaped by the question, “How can we best improve our well-being?” However, Refined Morality must cautiously ride the line between the well-being of society and its constituents, verses the preservation of individual autonomy.
For instance, a situation might arise where a government could best protect the well-being of its citizens by implementing laws that place extreme limits on everyone’s right to do, say, and even think what they want. Although the well-being of society can be ensured, the cost of eradicating personal freedom violates the first principle of secular morality, and any such laws instated by the government would be completely immoral and unethical. In contrast, a situation might arise where saying whatever you want could result in such severe repercussions that it violates the second principle of secular morality, such as hate speech that inspires racism or violent crimes, as well as making false statements that incite mass hysteria, such as falsely reporting a bomb threat or fake terrorist attack.
The reason moral nuances of various civilizations so greatly fluctuate between cultures and across time periods is because our understanding of human well-being is such a dynamic concept. Several hundred years ago it was perfectly acceptable for a 12 year old girl to be married off by her family after receiving her menarche, even to man more than three times her age. Although cultural perceptions about marriage have changed and it is no longer a common practice to arrange marriages in order to unite households for political or financial gain, science is the primary factor in the creation of Western laws regarding the age of consent.
Over the past several decades medical science has better informed our understanding of the psychological development of adolescents, the results of which have led to the creation of laws establishing an age of consent within the Unites States at 16 through 18 years of age. Such laws are instated to protect minors who are not mature enough to understand the consequences of their actions, who may be taken advantage of and abused by adults. In fact, public opinion has been so drastically reshaped about the age of consent that any man in a first world country who wishes to marry a 13 year old girl, which was considered acceptable a just few hundred years ago, would be labeled a pedophile in Western cultures. However, in less developed countries, and even in certain religions like Islam, the marrying of a pubescent girl to an older man has remained a common practice until present day.
A little over 100 years ago coca and opium were widely believed to be cure-all drugs, and they were commonly added to tonics, elixirs, and even some beverages. However, medical science has demonstrated that powerful stimulants and opioids are dangerously addictive substances and their use by the general public is now outlawed due to health concerns and all the social ills that result from uncontrollable, physical addictions. In both of these examples, observations and scientific data were used to inform public opinion, and laws were adopted based on the acceptance of new scientific facts about human well-being. Additional laws against practices that were once considered acceptable, but are now deemed immoral or unethical, include: child labor, the inhumane treatment of animals, gender inequality, sexual harassment, and improper disposal of industrial pollutants.
In contrast, there are many laws have been repealed due greater scientific understanding and the resultant cultural shift in perception. These laws have been voted on, and due to a social consensus, practices once thought to be immoral or taboo are now widely accepted, such as: a woman’s right to vote due to the suffrage movement, the consumption of alcohol due to the repeal of prohibition, the permission of all races to use the same public facilities due to the repeal of segregation, the allowance of interracial marriages due to overturning of anti-miscegenation laws, and the repeal of anti-sodomy laws allowing homosexuals to come out of the closet without fear of persecution by the State . In fact, it wasn’t until June 26th 2003 that both homosexual and heterosexual sodomy became legal in the United States (under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas).
Our understanding of human well-being is constantly remolded as scientific investigation reveals new facts. And even though one’s personal well-being is a subjective state of consciousness, we are still able to define an objective standard of human well-being that every society must strive to achieve in order to have the happiest, most flourishing civilization possible.
In much the same way we can use an objective standard of human flourishing to assess a civilization’s level of societal well-being, a medical professional can examine a patient, and without ever being told how that patient personally feels, the physician can accurately and objectively diagnose the state of physical well-being. A properly functioning body meets a standard of health, falling within the limits of an optimal temperature, blood pressure, bone density, and so on. Of course, asking a patient how he or she feels in an important diagnostic indicator. However, a post-menopausal woman might feel perfectly fine, but her subjective sense of well-being makes no difference to insidious onset of osteoporosis, the results of which a bone density exam, daily vitamin D intake, and estrogen levels can indicate whether the patient is at risk for pathological fracture. Therefore, despite how a patient might personally feel about his or her state of physical well-being, an accurate, objective, and most importantly, a factual diagnosis can still be made regarding a patient’s health.
Every human being values and desires certain things, which can range from the morally good to the morally bad. The way we assess the actions and desires of a person in relation to society is similar to how we assess the actions and desires of a person in relation to their own physical health. There is a myriad of different foods that we can consume, but not all foods equally promote the standard of physiological well-being. It is objectively and factually true that fruits, vegetables, and lean meats promote human health much better than foods containing refined sugar and that have been deep fried. Even though someone might desire to eat nothing but fast food and candy every day, we can still objectively and factually determine that this behavior negatively affects the health of a properly functioning body. In the same regard, there are a myriad of different ways people can obtain money, although not all tasks equally promote the standard of societal well-being. Even though burglars might desire to rob houses for a living, we can still objectively and factually determine that this behavior negatively affects the health of a properly functioning society.
As a side note, comparing physiological and societal health serves to illustrate the important point that human well-being can be scientifically evaluated through observation and data collection. Although, this is not to suggest it is unacceptable to eat candy or fried foods. Such actions can be performed in moderation, so long as healthy blood levels of cholesterol and glucose are maintained. However, this is not to say we can burglarize homes in moderation. Under the heading of secular morality, if someone chooses to exercise their right to personal autonomy by consuming fatty foods, smoking tobacco, or drinking alcohol, then that is their personal choice, so long as they fully understand the consequences of their actions and the effects are limited to their own bodies. However, any action that violates the personal autonomy of someone ELSE, such as stealing, raping, murdering, and so on, must never be performed by anyone. End of side note.
Just as we can assess the negative consequences of destructive choices, such as eating fatty foods every day and burglarizing homes for a living; we can similarly provide an objective assessment of the positive consequences of constructive choices, which benefit the human body or society as a whole. Eating a healthy diet and getting daily exercise promotes physiological well-being, just like the ability to do and say as we please, to seek happiness, to not be enslaved, to be able to work and make money, to purchase the things we want, and to be generally uninhibited in our ability to make decisions, all serve to promote societal well-being.
Although not every opinion on moral health is viable, some opinions can ride either side of the line between the defining principles of secular morality. For instance, take the legality of alcohol consumption in the United States. In the early 20th century alcohol was made illegal upon the grounds that is was a social ill, it was addictive, and lead to health problems. However, the prohibition of alcohol created a black-market that lead to even greater social ills. Banning alcohol production meant that it was no longer regulated by the government, and instead of making the consumable ethanol found in beer wine, and liquor, inexperienced bootleggers often produced methanol, a toxic variety of alcohol found in antifreeze, the consumption of which results in blindness. Speakeasies began popping up in major cities, whose alcohol supply was controlled by the mafia and organized crime. Although prohibition was designed to prevent a social ill, it inadvertently fostered a deadly war among gangsters in the grab to control territory filled with the alcohol-deprived masses. Eventually, society’s demand for alcohol, and the social disharmony prohibition created, became too great, and in 1933 prohibition was repealed.
Here can we see Refined Morality at work, where the influence of personal autonomy and the well-being of society can sway a moral issue. Although consuming alcohol creates a burden upon society through addiction and other related health problems, bootlegging and the black market, the social costs of organized crime, and the lost of autonomy are much greater negative consequences. Different societies may disagree on particular moral issues, but one opinion does not have a greater moral value than another, so long as a balance is struck between individual autonomy and societal well-being. What works for time period may not work for another. Therefore, morality, in this regard, depends upon the subjective desires of the people who apply it and who are being governed under the law, but always within an context that upholds the basic principles of secular morality.
Primal morality is named so, because it is the primal, or fundamental basis of all social human behavior — and it is this aspect of secular morality that can be seen as purely objective, for Primal morality does not greatly differ between cultures or even time periods. Although, at its core, Primal Morality still works toward preserving individual autonomy and promoting the well-being of society, it is not determined by social consensus nor can it be voted upon. In fact, without Primal Morality human beings would be unable to effectively interact with one another, resulting in the destruction of societal integrity and even the extinction of our species.
Imagine you invite some new acquaintances to a party, and one of your attendees is the guest from hell. He shows up two hours late, tracks in mud all over your home, eats all the hor dourves, raids your medicine cabinet, drinks the expensive bottle of champagne you’ve been saving, spills cocktail sauce on the rug and never bothers to tell you or help clean it up. To make matters worse, he is extremely rude and hits on all the wives of your other guests. Would you invite this person to another party? If this individual called you for a favor would you bother helping him, let alone answer the phone?
The way we treat others in a social setting is very important to the evolution of morality. To further explore this concept, think about the characteristic traits that you find most attractive in your relationships with other people. Qualities like honesty, integrity, respect, generosity, and a willingness to cooperation, endear people to one another, solidifying bonds of trust, friendship, and even love. Therefore, people are likely to surround themselves with others that display those qualities and keep at a distance those who do not. Indeed, the fact one finds negative qualities like dishonesty, arrogance, rudeness, jealousy, wasteful, and uncooperativeness to be so distasteful, it is motivation to not display such behavior in oneself, because of course, we all want to like ourselves and you are the one person you must live with 24 hours a day.
Within the group dynamic not only is it beneficial for individual members to display positive qualities (to achieve group acceptance) and refrain from displaying negative qualities (to avoid being ostracized), we must all ask ourselves, “In what kind of society do we ultimately want to live?” Would you like to live in a community where anyone can murder you for no reason? Do you want to be part of a culture that permits you or your loved ones to be raped without any consequences? What about a society where someone can break into your home and take your belongings without fear of incarceration or any punishment at all?
Of course, the answer to all of these questions is, “No.” No one wants to be murdered, raped, or robbed, and that goes for the very same individuals that perpetrate these crimes. A rapist does not desire that he himself be raped, nor does a thief desire to be stolen from, although, there may be some exceptions to this rule. Therefore, any properly functioning society is compelled to outlaw such destructive behavior or risk its own demise.
However, critics often propose a scenario of an alternate evolution of morality, where the majority of all people actually WANT themselves to be murdered, raped, and robbed. Then the question is raised as to whether we can tell if this alternate society is moral or not. Before we examine this hypothetical scenario, and how it relates to the principles of secular morality, we should note that the language surrounding this example is very misleading.
The term “theft” implies one’s money or belongings are taken without consent. However, if someone desires or consents to having their money taken away, then it is no different than giving one’s money away, otherwise known as charity. By definition the term “rape” refers to forcible sexual intercourse against one’s will. However, if someone desires or consents to sexual intercourse, then the term “rape” cannot apply, for it is simply “sex” between two or more consenting parties. Murder, by definition, also refers to a non-consensual act. However, if someone consents to having their life taken away, then it is commonly known as euthanasia. If someone no longer desires to live due to extreme suffering or severe depression, and they’ve sought help but cannot find a suitable alternative to dying, then under secular morality that person has the autonomous right to end their own life or request someone to end it for them.
But even if an alternative version of morality were to evolve, where the majority population desires to be inflicted with horrendous acts of violence and other crimes, for those few individuals that do not, their right to refuse any unwanted violation of personal well-being and access to their belongings is still in effect. Therefore, according to secular morality, even though someone might desire to have their autonomy violated, one’s personal desires do not grant them the right to violate the autonomy and well-being of others.
As a side note, here we can see the first principle of secular morality is much more informative than Golden Rule on its own. The Golden Rule is not exclusive to Christianity, for its practice dates as far back as ancient Babylon. However, if one were to live their life solely according to the doctrine of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, then it would allow for a very dangerous loophole, namely, someone that does not care if they themselves are robbed is morally justified in robbing others. Likewise, someone that is suicidal and desires to be murdered is morally justified in committing murder. As we can see, the preservation of autonomy is an essential aspect of any sound moral philosophy, which the monotheistic religions fail to recognize. Once again, Biblical morality falls short of being an all-encompassing code of moral and ethical conduct. End of side note.
We can also assess the actions of the people abiding by this alternate evolution of morality by examining the general health and well-being of their communities. Certainly any population of people that went around murdering, raping, and robbing one another would foster a society engulfed in chaos and destruction. Furthermore, such a society could never hope to archive a similar standard of human flourishing and well-being experienced by other societies that protect their citizens from being robbed, rapped, and murdered in cold blood.
In a previous example we were able to objectively and factually determine that even though someone desires to eat fast food and eat candy every day, that doesn’t make their actions acceptable according to the medical standard of human physiological health. Similarly, we can objectively and factually determine that even though someone desires to perform harmful acts, that doesn’t make their actions acceptable according to the standard of societal health. Therefore, according to a secular understanding morality, even though someone might desire they themselves be inflicted with violent crimes, one’s personal desires do not grant the right to destroy societal integrity and well-being.
The negative moral worth of theft, rape and murder should be obvious to everyone, because these actions exist on the extreme end of the scale of social behavior. Additionally, the positive moral worth of actions like charity and helping those in need are equally obvious, for they exist on the other extreme. But how do we determine the moral worth of ambiguous actions involving personal conduct, which lie somewhere toward the middle of the scale?
For instance, John is a homosexual male that enjoys eating red meat, but strictly abstains from drinking alcohol and smoking, because such actions are in accordance with his personal wants and desires. However, his neighbor Jane is a heterosexual female, who adheres to a purely vegan diet, but enjoys drinking wine and occasionally smoking tobacco, because such actions are in accordance with her personal wants and desires. How can we say which individual adheres to the greater standard of morality? Indeed, we cannot, and this brings us full circle back to Refined Morality, for it is aspect of secular morality is subjective and morally relativistic. The gray area that exists between the extremes of social conduct is reserved for differing opinions on lifestyle choices, and according to secular morality, one opinion regarding lifestyle cannot hold moral worth over another.
Anyone that is truly concerned about moral issues, and the lives of the people these issues are influencing, would never argue for the positive moral worth of actions like theft, rape, and cold blooded murder, no matter if that person belongs to a monotheistic faith, a polytheistic faith, or no faith at all. Therefore, it appears the true source of moral conflict that people experience does not concern primal morality, but rather, involves disagreements over lifestyle choices, such as what clothes are acceptable to wear, what food is acceptable to eat, what substances are acceptable to ingest, what actions can be performed upon oneself, what actions can be performed among two or more consenting adults, and even what gender it is acceptable to have sex with.
When it comes to the moral worth of issues involving lifestyle choices, secular morality states that all opinions are equally as valid as the next — the only stipulation is that individuals must be free to pursue the lifestyle of their choosing without infringing on the autonomy of others to do the same. However, this is a far cry from the monotheistic traditions that propose an all-powerful, supernatural being is obsessed with micromanaging human behavior — which they believe regulates everything from our cloths, food, and sexual partners, to what medical procedures we are allowed to have, and even words we are allowed to say. In fact, they even go so far as to believe our own thoughts are not safe from moral scrutiny.
According to a secular understanding of morality, not only is it immoral and unethical for god, the Church, or any Religion, to control every aspect of their followers’ lives, it’s down right tyrannical. Furthermore, any religious believer that proposes someone else is immoral for not following their belief system, and coerces non-believers with threats of eternal damnation for failing to adhere to their particular religious lifestyle, is in violation of the first principle of secular morality, and therefore, any religion that encourages such behavior is completely immoral.
The only time secular morality can actually interfere with human behavior is when there is a risk that certain practices might deny other individuals their rights. If someone wants to eat, dress, or behave a certain way as part of their religious or even non-religious lifestyle, then that is perfectly acceptable, so long as those who wish to refrain from a particular lifestyle are allowed to do so. But even though we must have the right to do and say whatever we want, that right does not extend to the freedom of inflammatory hate speech that incites others to perform crimes. Nor can we call in a false bomb threat or a fake terrorist attack with the aim of inciting mass hysteria. We can do and say whatever we want within reason, but not at the cost of other people’s autonomy or the well-being of society at large.
Before we conclude our examination of Secular and Biblical Morality, we must further clarify the use of the terms objective and subjective, in addition to addressing certain criticisms regarding how these terms apply to each version of morality. When the term objective in used in the context of Biblical morality it refers to the concept of morals existing independent or outside the human mind. In turn, the source of morality is independent of the human mind as well, and monotheists attribute this source to god. The main implication of the Biblical moral framework is that morality is objective to humans, but subjective to god, because god’s characteristics and desires are upon what all moral principles are ultimately based. However, this belief produces a very difficult problem, namely, moral truths can sometimes change depending on god’s subjective desires at a particular point in time.
For example, it is generally immoral to murder children. However, as we have already examined several times throughout our discussion on morality, if god were to kill children himself, or even command his followers to do so, then this action would indeed become moral. Any monotheist that examines the story of Passover would not find fault with god’s indiscriminant killing of every first born male, from the son of Pharaoh to the lowliest prisoner, and even the livestock!
“At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, to the firstborn of the prisoner, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well… and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.”
Numerous times throughout the Bible god commands his chosen people to murder their enemies, including woman and children, among many different nations belonging to the region, actions which are consistent with god’s divine will:
“However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you.”
Obviously, monotheists do not believe it is always acceptable to murder the children of one’s enemies, but in cases where god so desires, the immorality of toddler-murder can change, becoming an objectively moral and pious act:
“Their bows will strike down the young men; they will have no mercy on infants, nor will they look with compassion on children.”
“Ephraim is blighted, their root is withered, they yield no fruit.
Even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring.”
“Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”
“Blessed is the one who grabs your little children and smashes them against a rock.”
This appears to be quite a significant loophole in Biblical morality, for anyone that feels inclined commit a heinous crime, such a infanticide or even genocide, is morally justified in doing so, the only stipulation being that they believe the command has come from a divine source.
Not only do we observe such atrocities perpetrated in the Bible when the Israelites murder children and destroy non-believing civilizations, we find evidence of heinous acts of violence, along with their divine justifications, all throughout history as well, such as numerous crusades and campaigns by the Catholic Church to murder opposing heretical sects of Christians, like the gnostics. We see similar justification employed by white Christians living in the 16th to 19th Centuries in order to legitimize their exploitation of black slaves taken from Africa. And more recently, such justifications are being used by Muslim suicide bombers to legitimize acts of terror.
“Every year brings with it multitudes of this [mixed race] class of slaves. It was doubtless in consequence of a knowledge of this fact, that one great statesmen of the south predicted the downfall of slavery by the inevitable laws of population… if their increase do no other good, it will do away the force of the argument, that God cursed Ham, and therefore American slavery is right.”
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (page 13)
So long as someone truly believes they are objectively abiding by god’s divine will, then the most horrendous acts of violence can be morally justified. Although a vast majority of Jews, Christians, and Muslims would object to the actions of the extremists belonging to their respective religions, who is to say these people are not acting upon orders from god? Who is to say the suicide bombers aren’t acting exactly according the god’s will, or that Christians of the 16th to 19th centuries were not keeping slaves according to a divine decree. How can we know whether the Church wasn’t acting on divine orders when rooting out and murdering heretics? And who is to say the Hebrews were not acting upon divine orders when plundering the towns of their neighbors and murdering the men, women, and children of opposing belief systems, as recounted in the very pages of the Bible itself? If we cannot determine an answer to such questions, then Biblical morality has an extremely important flaw, and is thus inconsistent and inaccurate in its ability to guide human behavior.
In contrast, the objective truths in secular morality are accurate, consistent, and most importantly, they are independent of the human mind. There is often a disagreement as to whether objective moral truths can really exist within secular morality, because the rules that govern human behavior, and the humans being governed by these rules, are inextricably linked.
However, in order to determine whether Primal Morality is dependent or independent of the human mind, let’s imagine a scenario where a pandemic suddenly sweeps across the planet, killing every single human being, but leaving our cities unscathed. Although the human species no longer exists, the record of our existence is still preserved on our computer databases. Two thousand years pass, when an alien race encounters the earth and is able to recover the electronic records our civilization. They study our history, culture, art, scientific discoveries, as well as our knowledge of medicine and the human body.
However, the fact human beings are now extinct does not mean the principles that governed our health have suddenly changed — 98.6°F is still the optimal temperature and 120/80 is still the optimal blood pressure of a healthy body, despite the fact human beings no longer exist. The anatomy and physiology of the alien race might be entirely different than our own, but that does not prevent them from learning about the nutritional values and physiological conditions within the human body that were needed to be maintained in order for us to live a healthy life.
Although there are no longer human bodies for the standard of physical health to guide and influence, the standard itself does not change, just as there are no longer human societies for the standard of secular morality to guide and influence, this standard, too, does not change. Just because human beings no longer exist, it does not change the fact that IF we existed, preserving autonomy promotes human well-being. The principles of secular morality are always upheld, regardless if human beings are alive or not, which means this moral standard is truly objective and independent of the mind, divine or otherwise.
As we can see, within the framework of secular morality there is no conceivable way to justify atrocities like genocide, infanticide, slavery, rape, plundering, and other horrible acts of violence found throughout the Bible. Even if there are objective moral truths within Biblical morality, these truths are ultimately based on the religious follower’s subjective interpretation of what they believe god wants. There is no way for anyone to validate whether someone’s actions are truly inspired by god, because there is no way for an independent third party to verify what the believer thinks they have been inspired to do.
Just imagine the pastor of a church or the Imam of a mosque standing up in front of his congregation and proclaiming the divine revelation that all of them must sacrifice their first born child, just like Abraham was commanded to do. How would these followers verify whether the words of their spiritual leader are true and accurate? To the contrary, there is no chink in the armor of secular morality to exploit. Actions that promote the character and quality of life are morally good, while actions that diminish the character and quality of life are morally bad. So long as a balance is struck between the preservation of personal autonomy and the well-being of society, then the principles of secular morality will continue to produce the happiest most prosperous civilization possible — one free of acts of terrorism and horrendous atrocities that are justified through the non-verifiable orders of a non-verifiable deity.
The objective moral truths within secular morality are independent of the human mind, but they are not based on a god’s ambiguous will, rather, these truths are determined by how well human beings are able to flourish given certain conditions and behavioral restraints. Although there might be individuals that genuinely, or even disingenuously, claim they are exercising their autonomy by performing acts of theft, rape, murder, or hate speech, the fact there are opposing views about social behavior does not mean these views are legitimate alternatives to what constitutes ethical and moral conduct — just as differing opinions about what constitutes a healthy diet does not mean every single opinion is correct when it comes to promoting the objective standard of physical health. We can objectively and factually determine the actions of theft, rape, murder, and even racism, do not promote the standard of a happy, healthy, prosperous, and flourishing civilization. Therefore, criminals that want to live in a lawless society are removed from society, for they are no longer welcome in a stable community that wishes to maintain its stability.
Indeed, it is because of this very concept the early members of our species adhered to social boundaries. Just imagine how a small community of hunter-gathers would get along if everyone had free reign to steal from and murder one another. The community would be in utter shambles, full of mistrust and suspicion. Without the tools of organization and cooperation their society would sink into chaos and then inevitable extinction.
But for all we know, there could have been many different variations of Primal Morality, where groups of early humans went around clubbing each other over the head and taking whatever they wanted from other members of their own group. But even if other versions of Primal Morality evolved in early groups of humans, such lawless societies would have quickly gone extinct, because only the fittest groups of our ancestors were able to survive. However, survival of the fittest does not mean the strongest male going around killing his rivals and taken whatever he wants.
Within the scope of group dynamics, survival of the fittest refers to how well members are able to cooperate with one another to find food and how well they care for the sick and weakest members of their group, ensuring everyone has equal opportunity to resources so that they may in turn contribute to and further strengthen the group. Therefore, the evolution of Primal Morality is no accident, because in order for a group to prosper and flourish, which consists of interdependent members, their collective behavior could not have evolved any other way.
The ability to more easily survive as a contributing member of a caring and cooperative group, rather than as a lone individual only concerned for one’s personal well-being, enabled our predecessors to refine the social tool of moral behavior as they thrived and prospered under a hierarchal rule of law, much the same way as pack animals, like wolves. Humans are sometimes inclined to think of themselves as being outside the animal kingdom. However, evolution demonstrates that humans ARE animals, and if we wish to obtain a deeper understanding of human nature, the origins of morality, and the development of social structure, then we are compelled to study the behavior of other animals.