Are ethics a thing of the past?

Are ethics a thing of the past?
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There are some who argue that one cannot lose what one never possessed. That is the view of a growing number of people. I am finding myself slipping into that camp, but I do not blame the teachings in most Holy Writings of the major religions. I blame those who pervert those teachings and call themselves priest, minister, rabbi, or imam.

In today’s political environment, when the extremes of political thought read something they do not like, or do not agree with the author, the tool of choice is an ad hominem attack on the writer’s character. I would be willing to bet somewhere, some evangelical read my first paragraph and pigeonholed me as an angry atheist, who just wants to bash the One True Religion.

Their logic is wrong. First, I am not an atheist. I have a religious belief, and it is one of the mainstream. It is also nobody’s business and is between God and me. Second, the teachings found in the Bible, Torah, Tanakh, and Koran do not seem to be in widespread practice. People give lip service to the moral lessons in their scriptures. Putting them into practice is another matter  

 

34 “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”-Jesus, Matthew Chapter 10, verses 34-38, King James Version

 Many in the narrow world of religious fundamentalism love the sections of their Holy words that glorify war and hate. Take the verse above. On Twitter, an evangelical Trump supporter typed those very words to me the other day. We were discussing DACA and the fundamental cruelty of Trump and conservatives toward the dreamers.

In a flash, he pulled out those very words from Matthew. In the speed of a copy and paste to a Tweet-box, he managed to pervert allegory into a justification for cruelty. He made tearing families apart, and causing pain and sorrow a Holy Act, sanctioned by scripture.

I find it disturbing that Americans would rather quit their religion rather than leave their political party. What is even more disturbing is when they change or ignore their faith to make it fit with their politics. That is what is happening in America today on both sides of the political spectrum.

I know many conservatives like the man in my story above, who change Christianity to suit their political bias. I am familiar with liberals who have quit religion because they see the hypocrisy by those who proclaim sincere religious belief and figure there is no God who would let that behavior go on unpunished.

Just like in the Opera Faust, people are making deals with the Devil and abandoning their ethics. I mean that as an allegory and not the actual Devil. Although in Donald Trump’s case, maybe it is not allegorical.

What does it mean to live an ethical life? In the Opera, Faust makes a huge mistake by agreeing to a deal with the Devil. So many people seem to do the same, and I wonder why so many people seem to be so ethically challenged?

Sitting on my high-horse with my laptop resting on the horn of the saddle, I should mention that it happened to me too. I can cite numerous examples where politicians, lobbyists, journalists, and now the religious, rationalize tossing away ethics, and I was one of them.

In my case, I took on many unsavory clients as a lobbyist. I had what my colleagues said tongue-in-cheek as Bob’s Penal Practice. Those were the bad-boys of Wall Street or those who committed procurement fraud, and they came to me to spin their behavior to the public and lessen their outcomes.

I represented despots and dictators. I had blood put in baggies and thrown at the entrance to our offices. I represented a celebrity who became famous for sleeping with a Princess as a client. My door was open to the dregs of the world, as long as they had money.

I did it to make money and considerable sums of money. To sleep at night, I had my rationalization for my behavior. Instead of perverting religion, I perverted the U.S. Constitution.

My justification went like this, “Under the First Amendment, everyone has freedom of speech. All I am doing is helping them tell their story, so my actions are ethical.” A rationalization is a powerful tool in helping one achieve blind ambitions.

There are all kinds of ways one can find to behave unethically making a deal with the Devil that later claims their soul, just like in Faust. Small trade-offs in our ethical code today will lead to significant compromises tomorrow. It is the slippery slope theory.

In Faustonia, the name I adopted for Washington, DC near the end of my life there, slid down that slope all the way to the bottom. I used to watch the incoming freshman Members of Congress closely. Most of them do not go from ethical behavior to unethical behavior overnight.

They make small pacts with The Prince of Darkness in their values that lead to the loss of all moral bearing later on.

That same cancer that has consumed Washington ethics now is working on religion. If a belief in a supreme being who calls us into account for our behavior is true, then those who have used God as a justification for hate sure will have a lot to answer for in the end.

As one Christian reminded me, he can say or do anything, including murder, because his sins are washed clean in the blood of Jesus. The blood of his victim may have something to say on that topic.

Religion is supposed to inspire hope in times of hopelessness, teach ethical behavior, and is not supposed to be used to justify blind ambition and cruelty. Unfortunately, it is being used in that latter way frequently.

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