Legislating morality?

Morality – principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior…

Can we legislate it? We’ve certainly tried it at various times through the centuries…

I’m not sure we’ve ever really succeeded.

We can create laws to encourage (and sometimes force) individuals to behave in ways that the community believes are appropriate. We can create laws to protect the defenseless among us.

But creating laws to legislate morality? I don’t think so.

Morality comes from inside us. Yes, we may learn at least some aspects of it from obeying laws and observing what our parents (and peers) do. Some things are cultural, such as bowing to each other or kissing each other’s cheeks in greeting. They are behavioral, but they are considered “proper” in their cultures.

But there are other aspects of morality that are not cultural, and these are the things that spring from inside us…from who we are. Honesty…how we relate with each other sexually…how we run our businesses…our concern for those less fortunate…how we treat our enemies…how we treat our environment…our behavior in these areas–while possibly mandated by law–grows out of our personal understandings…out of our relation with the Divine…out of our sense of how we are connected with each other and with our environment.

I’m not against creating laws to encourage behavior that is helpful to the broader society and to the world we live in. But laws alone cannot create a moral society.

To love our neighbor as ourselves is such a truth for regulating human society, that by that alone one might determine all the cases in social morality. – John Locke

A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality. – Winston Churchill

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