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Ethics and Morality

Michael Bauman

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Many contemporary ethicists, such as Peter Singer, William Allen, John Harris and James Hughes, have created categories of non-persons for whom ordinary ethical and moral concerns do not apply: babies up to two years of age, the disabled, and the aged. Their ethical thinking affirms nothing and strengthens nothing. In fact, it only weakens the ability of people and cultures to respond in a genuinely ethical manner.

In many cases, their ethics are based solely on the Western dualism of rationality and desire that become the justification for narcissistic longings that end in the murder of others. By denying the centrality of God in their approach to ethics, these ethicists confirm the statement of St. Athanasius that when we deny God, we are capable of anything. All morality and ethics founded upon a denial of God is an attempt to deny death by controlling it. Unfortunately, they dominate the bioethical debates of our time.

Many who follow such ideas believe that the longing for communion with the divine is merely an artificial construct expressed in myths, poetry, and dead symbols which have individual emotional significance only; a sort of a rarefied desire designed and used to complement our rationality. Religious expression is regarded as sentiment that must never encroach on a rationalism that draws its meaning and bases its moral inferences on the "facts" of the natural world.

But a materialist rationalism can only lead to utilitarianism. It denies the transcendent and reduces man to animal, (despite its claims to the contrary). Classes of people can therefore be reclassified as non-persons and disposed of. The natural bonds of love, affection, and sacrifice that shape culture and hold communities together are gradually weakened.

Our personhood is an ontological reality, not a philosophical construct subject to a manipulation that justifies all types of dehumanization. Personhood is deeper than what desire, rationality, or biology can explain. It is an essential mystery expressed in the longing and realization of communion with a loving Creator.

Those who deny the true nature of what it means to be human attempt to deconstruct, minimalize, and even destroy those who challenge them -- especially the people who believe in God. There should be no misunderstanding: ethics is always a matter of belief. The beliefs of the modern ethicists such as Singer, Hughes and others feed the twin passions of pride and power. They are unable to accept, and perhaps even see, the divine love that is at the heart of their own being. Isolated from real humanity, they live in a hell here on earth and will likely do so when they die. They seem to live by the words of Jean Paul Sartre: "Hell, is the other person". They love death.

Christianity repudiates the love of death in the strongest possible terms. Christ died to destroy death.

Christians must reject and counter every argument that defines the human being as rooted only in the material creation and that celebrates death. We must continue to affirm that man is not fully human apart from communion with his Creator. True ethics is founded upon that communion and the life it brings.

Michael Bauman attends St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral in Wichita, Kansas.

Posted: 24-Sep-06

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