Dé Luain 24 Deireadh Fómhair 2011

Secular morality, 'being good' and harnessing the dark side (basically people should have more sense)

The actions of my fellow people have hurt me over the past two days, and as a result I am entering hermit mode, forsaking society for the solace of books. But before I go, I just want to share a few jumbled thoughts. Yesterday I watched a film about poachers in Africa slaughtering and mutilating elephants and rhinos for ivory, because a lot of money can be made out of it. Today I hear of a much-beloved young man in Scotland who was tied to a lamp-post, beaten and scorched, possibly as an attack on his sexuality. In recent times, there is a general feeling amongst 'ordinary folk' that the people with positions of power are deliberately selling out their fellow people just so they can keep the wealthy wealthy (which has prompted 'the 99%' to come out and protest against the injustice of 'the 1%'). I am not saying that things are getting worse in our time, because I know that these types of horrors have been a reality forever. What I am suggesting, however, is that things should be getting better.

I recall a conversation with a friend of mine about morality; he studies philosophy and is an atheist, while (as you may know) I identify as a pagan, with a belief in some force that interconnects every living thing. We basically came to the agreement that a 'secular morality' is a higher form of morality, in the sense that a person who does good just for the sake of being good is far more noble than a person who 'does good' because they fear the wrath of a god who watches their every move. You do not need a religion to be moral. The Dalai Lama has suggested that qualities like love and compassion are human values that are independent of religion, and so can be promoted without the basis of a religion. If anything, religious organisations have propagated more hate and intolerence against certain groups throughout history. The manner in which they preach from 'holy texts' is negative, as they express morality (for the most part) in terms of prohibitions. This method merely discourages people from being their very worst, as opposed to encouraging people to be their very best. We're all here at this present moment, and the existence of everything under the sun is dependent on everything else, this is all we know. Though I don't agree with Objectivism, I'll quote Ayn Rand: "existence exists". Why would you want to hurt and exploit your fellow humans, your animal friends and your environment when all it does is cause suffering? We all came from the same basic source, we're inter-related. How could someone take pleasure in torturing and killing? Even people with a god looking over their shoulder do this. Perhaps this belief in 'the next life' has caused humankind to have so little respect for the life we're living now.


Admittedly, the world is governed by opposites, antitheses, so good cannot exist without evil. I think the first thing we should do is acknowledge the dark side that exists in every one of us, for if we repress it, the darkness will manifest itself in an unprecedented and powerfully negative manner. We need to accept that we are not perfect. This is extremely difficult to do, but my interest in Jungian theory has spurred me to keep trying. Sometimes, I feel like a saint (a saint who swears a lot, but however...); I have a great love for everything that lives and exists, and I can often act passively for the benefit of others. An example, which might seem silly to others, is going slightly out of my way to walk around a foraging blackbird so as not to disturb him. If you keep to your path and walk too close, he'll be forced to fly away in fear. (That's just me!) That is not to say that I'm a passive person - definitley not! I just think that there is a certain power to be found in passivity, that it can be actually active. Think of how powerful silence can be. Anyway, I'm not sure how the dark side works once it is understood and accepted. I suppose I use it in a creative way. So does Florence Welch. 

I started this out with the intention of expressing deep thoughts and ideas... Now I just don't have the energy.


  1. Bhuel, is creidmheach mé féin ach níl an Dia a chreidim ann ag féachaint thar mo ghualainn. Mar Chríostaí, tá an samhnas céanna orm faoin na gníomhartha a luaigh tú thuas; sílim gurbh é eithne na ceiste ná go bhfuil an teoiric Críostaí - go bhfuil an nádúr daonna gonta & tarrtháil de dhíth air, fíor.

  2. Cé as a dtiocfadh an tarrtháil? Aontaím go bhfuil tarrtháil de dhíth orainn. Braithim go bhfuil an domhan agus ainmhithe foirfe, ach go bhfuil rud eicínt cearr leis an gcine daonna. Tá muid chomh scartha...

  3. There is a depressing amount of cruelty, directed particularly at vulnerable people and other creatures. I don't think it's evil so much as immaturity writ large and monstrous: the casual kind of cruelty we see in children, and might even remember from our own childhoods. As a species we're still infantile, with all that that entails: greed, impatience, ignorance, violence, self-absorption, suspicion, thoughtlessness, craving for power. Some people grow beyond these; many don't. Not long ago I watched the documentary The Cove, and it saddened and sickened me deeply. We have so far to go, and not very much time. But we do what we can.

    'Perhaps this belief in 'the next life' has caused humankind to have so little respect for the life we're living now.'

    Certainly institutionalised religion has played a significant role in allowing people to justify their exploitative domination of nature. Your remark about going out of your way to avoid disturbing blackbirds made me smile. I do the same thing, especially on the shore, where I walk often. If there are wading birds (mostly turnstones and oystercatchers, here), I take elaborate detours so as not to trouble them. It doesn't feel at all silly; indeed, it would seem wrong and self-centred not to. Now, rescuing worms from the pavement and replacing them on grass or soil — that would probably seem silly to most people. And yet. ;-)