I think of ISIL when I see this sign, even though that seems more like evil people doing evil things. Even more, I think of people just like them right here in our own country. Not so obvious as terrorists, but sneaky people wealthy enough to buy congressmen and judges and corrupt the entire system from top to bottom while an addled public plays along. When the people who make the rules go bad, how does a mesmerized population act to straighten things out? Will they make the world go backward to make right what they see as right?—return us to times when men regarded women as property treated as children and when no child should go unpunished?—when men ruled their little flocks according to the will of a god named God who proclaimed different things to each of them, then sent them off to kill each other to determine which was right? How is this different from ISIL, whom we condemn with unchallenged vigor, and whom believers and atheists alike regard as worse than murderers and thieves. They are doing what they believe The God has told them, in no way different from anyone from history who went to slaughter those who disagreed with them about The God’s commands. What standard do we invoke who declare them wrong and deserving of our wrath as we set out to slaughter them?
I have heard those who insist that morality comes only from the Bible (Old Testament), from which, I have been informed, ISIL also draws instruction, as well as from the Koran. If that is true or not only reiterates the questions about why The God issues such different commands to different patriarchal men that they will murder each other to defend what they believe. Why would anyone with a functioning brain be willing to stumble down a path such leaders would lay?
The strongest answer is that they all have laid their paths over the simple trail provided by human nature. They learned long ago how to bury that trail under bricks and hewn rocks of their own design. Buried under macadam, crush and run and, some insist, copious manure, the basic earthen trail leads natural humans to the simple morality employed in secular legal systems at their start. It came from men who understood that human societies function best when:
- Each member is regarded as a free individual fully self-responsible to enjoy the rewards and suffer the consequences of their own choices;
- Reciprocity sets the law of fair play within groups of all sizes from couples to nations, stated as, “Treat others as they wish, and expect the same from them.” To do so requires people to learn to understand each other;
- Practice empathy and tolerance to gain that understanding;
- A secular representative democracy has so far shown itself to be the best form of government if the taint of money and religion can be kept away from the political process;
- Citizens are as responsible for others’ rights as for their own, which is what was meant by “created equal”;
- None will advantage themselves at undue expense of others, which gets understood as applying a punishment to those from which they sought exorbitant profit;
- Whether disabled by age or infirmity, those who cannot earn a living must be provided for;
- Education must be provided to all children capable to receive it, including math, language skills, and a true understanding of natural science;
- Religion must be kept separated from government in every way, as they both pose a threat to each other; except: No religious practice which harms, or poses an actual threat of harm, to individuals or domesticated animals, or to property, can be allowed;
- If ten commandments must be cited as the only source of morality and good government, let these be the ones.