The Nature of Morality
S. D. Tyree, godhi
The nature of morality
When a culture tries to modify the self-destructive behavior of
its people through a codified morality, then that culture is already beyond
saving. The code of chivalry created by the Chatholic Church was meant to subdue
the excesses of the landed class in Europe. It is a good example of a failure of
a moral code being implemented on a decadent society. Contrary to the numerous
romance novels, and the subsequent movies, the code of Chivalry was broken as
often as it was kept. The proto-knights eagerly accepted, as a drowning man
accepts any help, the code of Chivalry because these men had nothing to define
themselves with. There were, certainly, other reasons that Chivalry became the
dominant social philosophy in that time period. However, that is for someone
else to elaborate on. Chivalry is not a bad code to live by for someone enjoying
power in the Middle Ages and believing in the Christian faith. It does contain
some very noble ideas. The problem with it is that it was based on Christian
theology and that has some serious flaws. Christianity promoted the idea that
man is corrupt because of the "original sin" and destroyed the natural honor of
the heathen warrior. True, the conversion was far from complete, and remnants of
the Germanic people's "heroic code"did survive, but this was in spite of
Christianity and not because of it. There was, of course, lip-service to the
ideals of Chivalry, but the actions of the men responsible for upholding it were
far from glowing examples virtues. In history we do find those who shine as
individuals, but these are aberrations and not the norm. The question which must
be answered by Christianity is this: How can someone who is in-inherently
corrupt have nobility?
The core elements of a truly moral person is their sense of self-value, and the recognition of the value of others and life itself. All morality flows from someone's sense of self-value. Morality is not a public display, nor is it for, or dependent upon, the "common good". The reason for moral behavior is to add value to the life of the one practicing it. It is true that a community of moral people will flourish, but that is a side effect and not the primary objective. Again, morality is self-expression. When someone has a high self-value, they will express themselves in a way which is constructive and adds value to their lives. Conversely, when one has a low self-value then they will demonstrate self-destructive behavior.
The first job of any religion is to promote acceptable moral behavior. Christianity does this by the carrot and stick method. Heaven is the carrot, and Hell the stick. For the Christian, obedience to Biblical teachings (and the Church) is the only way for a person to come to know God. God is somewhere, out there, apart and separate from them and they can only hope that someday, through blind servitude, they will be reunited with their divinity. This is the inherent wrongness in the Judeo-Christian religion. Asatru is a religion based on the fact that our souls are an aspect of divinity manifested by the universe within us. We see ourselves not separated, but apart of the divinity of our pantheon of gods and goddesses. In other words, we have a value which is independent of all other factors. If the religion of Asatru is going to produce moral people it must first establish that people are not separated from our deities, and that we all have value as humans. This is the first task of a our religious leaders. We must stress to those who are here, and those who are to come, that we are worthy of our ancestral gods and the blessings they will bestow upon those who live an honorable life. This "self-value" concept is certainly more psychologically healthy than the "original sin" concept of the Christian faith.
The idea of "original sin" may not be good spiritualism, but it is an effective method in controlling people. It convinces people that they are sick and then sells them the cure. What is the price? Total obedience to the Church, and ten percent of the money you make (you get your reward after you die).
As morality flows from self-value, so right actions flow from morality. The Nine Noble Virtues are the way we, as divine creations, express the nobility of our souls. They are the means by which we can know prosperity, social harmony, and most importantly, allow us to maintain our sense of self-worth. For the Asa-man or Asa-woman morality and honor are synonymous. For us Honor is the fundamental expression of self-esteem. Indeed, as Ayn Rand states, it is self-esteem in action.
The basis of morality
What is the value of human life?
No system of morality can be established until that question is answered. To be truly moral, the answer has to be that life has infinite value. This is inherent and does not rely on any external conditions or opinions. The American Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights were written in an era known as the Age of Enlightenment. Our founding fathers rejected the earlier beliefs of the Calvinistic Puritans who colonized the country. Man was not inherently corrupt as the Puritans and other Christians thought, but a creature of inherent nobility. The Age of Enlightenment came to an end when the world witnessed the French Revolution. It was so cruel and brutal that intellectuals dismissed the idea of the nobility of man. So, is man inherently good or inherently evil? The correct understanding of man is that he contains within him both the "good" and the "evil". Each individual must choose which aspect will be dominate their life. As a Asa-man or Asa-woman a person must choose to live an honorable life or they cannot be true Asa-folk. This choice toward an honorable life is made because we can use our ability to reason and understand that honor actions increases the overall value of our lives. When one is honorable, one will seek other honorable folk to be around. Invariably, there will be those who have chosen not to live honorable lives. To associate with this kind is to lower the quality of life. Of course, associating with those who are honorable will increase the value of life. This is the basic idea behind a kindred or hearth, to associate with other quality people as well at to share in the expression of our spirituality.
To be Asatru is to recognize the choices that we have to make and to choose correctly that which will bring value to our lives. The fact that we can choose implies that we have free will. There are many schools of thought which dismiss this idea. Currently the idea that we are primarily the results of genetic programing with some influence by our environment is popular. Within this idea-system we would not be capable of making choices. We are simply fulfilling biological functions. For most of us, this concept is fallacious. Too many times have we chosen poorly and had to reap the consequences because of our choice. We recognize and accept that the result could have been different, and if we are wise, we will make the correct choice the next time.
It would be foolish to dismiss that our environment and our genetics do not influence us, but it is more foolish to believe that we cannot determine what our lives will stand for.