19 Good and Evil: Moral Values


Good and Evil: Moral Values

As a physical structure, composed primarily of complex compounds of carbon in an aqueous environment, man is beset with physical hazards on every side. If the temperature rises a few degrees above that to which he is adjusted, or falls a few degrees below that level; or if he is fully immersed in water; or if he enters a partial vacuum; or if he experiences a substantial increase in gravity; or if he encounters a high electrical potential; or if he accelerates too fast or stops too suddenly; or if he comes in contact with any one of thousands of common chemicals; or if he finds himself in any of a great many other such situations; he ceases to exist, or at least suffers severe physical damage. When we consider that the range of temperature in the universe is from absolute zero to millions of degrees, that the range of velocities in the material sector extends up to 186,000 miles per second, that there are pressures up to millions of atmospheres, and gravities millions of times as great as that on earth, and so on, it is evident that the human race is confined to an extremely narrow range of physical conditions, and is thus very severely limited from a physical standpoint.

Strangely enough, a complaint on this score is seldom heard. Whatever feelings an individual may have when someone dear to him drowns, for example, he does not protest the physical facts. He does not contend that there is anything wrong about the fact that life ceases to exist when the oxygen supply is interrupted. Nor is there any school of philosophy which argues that the existence of an all-wise and all-powerful Deity is incompatible with the existence of these extremely severe physical limitations.

But the same human beings who accept with good grace the physical limitations to which they are subject by reason of the laws and principles of the inanimate sector of the universe are quickly moved to protest when the operation of the laws of chance translates these physical limitations into hardships or bereavements, and they complain vehemently and bitterly about the handicaps and afflictions to which they are exposed because they are subject to the laws and principles of the biological sector. “A perpetual war is kindled amongst all living creatures… . The stronger prey upon the weaker and keep them in perpetual terror and anxiety,”309 wails David Hume. But this is the biological law. There would be no man to denounce the “perpetual war”—no David Hume nor anyone else—had it not been for that perpetual war which eliminated, or at least retarded, the less advanced in favor of the more advanced forms of life.

The same can be said for a great many of the items which Hume claims make the lot of man “very wretched indeed.” Disease, pain, pestilence, famine, fear, and finally death: all these are part and parcel of the process by which the primitive single-celled organisms evolved into man. They are part of man’s heritage as a biological organism, just as his vulnerability to relatively small temperature excesses or deficiencies is a part of his heritage as a physical mechanism. It is “impossible, at least for me, to believe that physical suffering is not evil,”310 says Joad. But this is a fact, nevertheless, if any moral significance is to be attached to the term “evil.” Suffering and hardship are not wrong or evil, nor are they right (in the sense of morally correct) or good (in the sense of the opposite of evil). Such concepts do not apply to them at all. They are simply inherent features of life as it exists in a space-time universe. As T. H. Huxley puts it, “suffering… is no accidental accompaniment, but an essential constituent of the cosmic process.”311

The words “right” and “good” are used in a great many different senses in ordinary discourse, but for purposes of a critical analysis such as the one on which we are now engaged, an unambiguous terminology is essential, and we will therefore restrict these terms, together with “wrong” and “evil” to their moral significance. An action taken in conformity with the laws and principles of Sector 3 is “right.” The consequences thereof, if not nullified or reversed by a “wrong” action, are “good.” Items such as physical hardship will be classified as “undesirable” and their opposites as “desirable.”

It should be recognized, however, that even though physical hardship has no inherent moral implications and is merely undesirable, the deliberate infliction of physical hardship on another individual, or failure to take advantage of an opportunity to reduce another’s hardship is a violation of the moral code and is definitely wrong. Man does not necessarily have to submit tamely to the natural forces that operate to his detriment; he can take actions to increase the desirable aspects of life and decrease those that are undesirable. He can reduce disease, minimize suffering, enlist the help of power as a means of lightening his labors, and so on. One of the requirements of the moral code is that due consideration be given to the interests of others in carrying out these activities.

If man were only a biological organism and nothing else, as an influential school of modern thought would have us believe, then this concern for the interests of others would not only be unnecessary; it would be definitely out of order. There is nothing in the biological realm, from the situation of the most primitive bacterium to that of the most advanced animal, that would suggest that any weight is, or should be, attached to considerations other than what is best for “me and mine.” The Law of the Jungle is the Law of Nature.

Natural selection should have sharpened those and only those mental abilities which assist man in the control of the environment… . All this would seem to lead to the ethic of “eat or be eaten.”312 (T. Dobzhansky)

The following extract from a summary of the views of T. H. Huxley makes the same point in different words:

Nature is non-moral. When we study it with our minds, we find cause for admiration; but when we view it in terms of our moral sympathies, we can only shudder… . The kind of fitness which enables an organism to survive bears no relation to the human ideal.313

Man, even though he is a biological organism, with all of the inadequacies and limitations of such organisms, does not accept the Law of Nature. “Anyone who endeavored in his action to imitate the natural course of things,” says J. S. Mill, “would be universally seen and acknowledged to be the wickedest of men.”314 The general use of the term “beast” as an epithet makes the same point in a different way. Man has repudiated the Law of Nature, the governing principle of the biological realm, and characterizes much of the behavior in accordance with this law as “wrong” or “evil.”

The existence of evil in the world—the “problem of evil,” as it is called—has been a source of embarrassment to theologians and religious leaders from the very earliest days, and an enormous amount of time and effort has been spent in attempts to devise plausible explanations that are consistent with basic religious doctrine, efforts as Julian Huxley says, “to evade the dilemmas in which they are landed by the acceptance of an all-wise, all-good and all-powerful God as ruler of a world in which chaos and ignorance, suffering, strife and evil are such regrettably prominent features.”315

When the conviction has taken root that there is One God whose power is the ultimate cause behind all things and whose character exemplifies perfect love and justice, the problem of evil at once becomes challenging and very puzzling. If God is supremely good, it would seem as though all His works would clearly display His moral perfection; if everything that happens in the Cosmos is the direct or indirect effect of His purposive power, how can He be honestly conceived of as good?316 (Edwin A. Burtt)

One of the expedients that have been called upon to answer this problem is to postulate that the powers of God are limited; that he rules only over the realm of the Good, and that he is opposed by another power—a Devil, or something of the sort—who rules over the realm of Evil. Such a conflict was entirely in harmony with the thinking of primitive people, accustomed as they were to continual strife between tribes or between nations, but as noted in Chapter 12, this concept has been gradually fading out, although it still lingers on to some extent because so much of the imagery of the Holy Books of the world’s great religions is based upon it. The “limited powers” hypothesis does not necessarily call for an antagonist; the limitation could be inherent in the nature of existence. But this conflicts with the prevailing conception of omnipotence, and it is generally rejected by the theistic religions.

Another recent hypothesis—perhaps it would be more accurate to say “family of hypotheses,” since there are many different versions of the same idea—asserts that evil is in some way necessary to accomplish the purposes of the Deity, the nature of which we are unable to specify, and probably would be unable to comprehend in any event. This is, of course, the theological equivalent of sweeping the dirt under the rug, but it gets away from the idea of a Spirit of Evil, which does not seem very plausible to the modern mind, and for lack of anything better, it is widely, if rather unenthusiastically, accepted.

According to the findings of this work, there is no Empire of Evil, no antagonist that exerts a conscious effort to counteract the forces of Good. To the extent that Sector 3 control is not exercised, the actions of men, like those of animals, are governed by the cold and impersonal mechanism of the space-time universe. The reaction of this mechanism to any particular stimulus is determined entirely by the laws and principles governing biological organisms, with survival as the dominant factor, and this reaction is completely indifferent—not antagonistic—to the governing principles of Sector 3: those principles which we call good. If the response happens to conflict with that which would result from the application of the laws and principles of Sector 3, it is wrong according to Sector 3 standards, and therefore evil, but this is merely because the standards of the two sectors are different.

It is simply not true that laws of nature are all benign and merciful. Neither are they evil or cruel—they are simply blind.317 (T. Dobzhansky)

The evildoer is not violating any natural laws. Indeed, he cannot violate these laws since a natural law is not a command; it is merely a statement as to what happens under certain circumstances. The evildoer is a biological organism, and he acts in accordance with the natural laws governing biological organisms: the laws of Sector 2. But he is also a human being, and as such, he has the option of another course of action. It is the failure to exercise that option that constitutes evil. The tiger goes about his predatory activities ruthlessly, but we do not call this evil because we know that he is following the natural pattern of his kind, the biological principle of “eat or be eaten.” We condemn the same ruthless behavior if we observe it in human life because man has an alternative that is not open to the tiger. He can subject himself to a different set of natural laws.

With the benefit of the foregoing discussion, we are now in a position to consider the “problem of evil.” It is evident, to begin with, that the statement of the problem tacitly assumes rationality. If either the physical universe or metaphysical existence were irrational, there would be neither problem nor answer. The inconsistency, if there be any, must be a logical inconsistency. But the usual concept of omnipotence—unlimited power: that is, capability of doing anything—is not rational, as can be seen by examining the familiar example of the irresistible force and the immovable body. If an irresistible force exists, then in rational terms there can be no immovable body, and vice versa. No rational power can evade this restriction. Thus, in order to give the problem of evil any meaning in a rational setting, we will have to redefine the term “omnipotent” to mean “capable of doing anything that is possible.” Furthermore, we must recognize that this is a human problem; the immediate issue is not whether evil is a necessary feature of existence in general, but whether the human race could have been spared this affliction by the exercise of omnipotence. The problem thus reduces to the question: Would it be possible for an omnipotent being (as defined above) to create a universe in which human individuals could exist free from the presence of evil?

In approaching this question, we must recognize that human beings are products of processes that occur within the physical universe. It is possible, on the basis of the considerations discussed in Chapter 4, that other types of intelligent beings may exist in other kinds of universes, but such beings, if they do exist, are not human, and they have no relevance to the human problem. The human race exists in the material sector of a universe of motion, and in this universe, the higher levels of existence are built upon those lower in the scale. Biological organisms are constructed of matter, and the characteristics of ethical man can be acquired only by biological organisms. Man is therefore necessarily subject to the physical limitations of matter and of biological structures, and to all of the consequences of those limitations.

From this it follows that if we define “evil” in broad terms so that it includes physical items such as pain and suffering, then evil is a necessary and unavoidable accompaniment of human existence. On this basis “human” and “without evil” are mutually exclusive, and in a rational existence, even omnipotence cannot accomplish the impossible. If we use the definition set forth in this work, which characterizes as evil only those instances in which a human individual deliberately chooses to follow his biological impulses rather than the code of ethical man, the existence of evil is likewise unavoidable under present conditions when mankind is still only a few short steps removed from its animal origins. This fact is strongly emphasized in Buddhism, where it is called the First Noble Truth. Edwin A. Burtt gives us this interpretation:

What he [Buddha] is saying is that, by virtue of being born into the realm of finite and changing existence in which events follow their own laws, no one escapes the conditions that bring pain, and therefore the problem of unhappiness is the universal problem of life.318

It should be understood that, so far as this present analysis is concerned, the problem of evil is purely hypothetical, as there is no such problem unless the existence of an omnipotent Power is assumed. Our findings to date do not go this far. They merely establish the reality of metaphysical existence and define a few of the properties of such existence; they do not reach any conclusions as to whether this existence, or one of these existences, is a Deity, omnipotent or otherwise. The present discussion is also limited to the human aspects of the problem. Some of the broader questions that arise when the possibility of existence of a different type in some different kind of a universe is taken into consideration will be discussed later.

Identification of the items which are in harmony with the code of Sector 3 and therefore qualify as good, and those which are in conflict with that code and therefore must be classified as evil, is the first step in constructing a system of moral values consistent with existence as an ethical man rather than as a highly advanced animal. Since man has the privilege of exercising a choice as to what actions he will take in any particular set of circumstances, he necessarily must have some basis on which he makes his moral choices. That basis is his system of moral values. It is likely that most individuals do not realize, or realize only dimly, that they do have value notions that govern their decisions with respect to moral issues. Indeed, there is one school of thought that contends that human beings are ruled only by impulse and instinct, and that the idea of the existence of moral values is nothing but a delusion. These so-called “irrationalists” argue that man’s mind, like his body, is a product of evolution from his animal ancestry, and that his “civilized” characteristics are no more than a thin veneer over the animal impulses that exercise the real control over his actions. They cite as evidence the frequency with which latent savagery comes to the surface in times of crisis even in the most advanced nations.

In the light of the information developed in the earlier pages, it is evident that this view of the situation is actually correct in application to those individuals who are completely, or almost completely, under the control of Sector 2, the biological sector. The moral code has no more meaning to such an individual than to a predatory animal. But none of the arguments put forth by the irrationalist school of thought is applicable to those human beings who are to any significant degree under the control of Sector 3; that is, are, at least partially, entitled to be classed as ethical men. To such a person, the moral code and the system of values based upon it have a very real meaning, and the extent to which that value system has been developed reflects the extent to which he has made the great transition from man, the animal, to man, the ethical individual.

The statement that x has a positive “moral value” is equivalent to a statement that x is “good.” This term “good” is generally used without any quantitative significance, merely to distinguish an item which possesses this quality from one which is “bad” or “evil.” An ethical system that views all morality in absolutes; that asserts, without qualification, that A is right and B is wrong, has no need for the additional concept of value. But few of our present-day problems lend themselves to this simple treatment. The great majority of them have multiple facets, and in order to make the correct decision as to the morality of any proposed action in connection with such a problem, we must strike a balance, weighing the good that is involved in the action against the bad that goes along with it. For this we need a quantitative term, and this we call “value.” Because of the subjective nature of value, it cannot be measured with the precision of a physical measurement, but rough approximations are sufficient for most purposes. Both good and evil can be related to the same scale. That which is good has a positive moral value; that which is evil has a negative value; and that which is neutral—without moral significance one way or the other—has zero value.

Recognition of this neutral category is essential for the proper assessment of moral values. The issue of morality arises only where there is a conflict between the rules of Sector 2 and those of Sector 3. Animals have no moral issues to contend with. Their actions are dictated entirely by biological considerations: the rules of Sector 2. The same biological considerations also apply to human life, and where the actions to which they lead do not violate the Sector 3 code, they have no moral implications one way or the other. Values can be assigned in these areas too, but they are not moral values.

Confusion between these different kinds of value is one of the major factors that has stood in the way of reaching any consensus on ethical principles. Philosophers have not usually recognized any distinction at all in this area. As James B. Conant puts it, “Without hesitation they label all reasoned choices as ethical or moral, however trivial they may be.”319 G. E. Moore, for instance, applies his discussion of ethics to “absolutely every action.”320 Some observers are beginning to call attention to the weakness in this position. A recent book by L. M. Loring, with the significant title Two Kinds of Value, is aimed specifically at this point. As summarized by Karl R. Popper in a foreword to the book, “Her [the author’s] first and central theme is that there exist non-ethical standards of value—or, if you like, standards of non-ethical value—and that these standards are in common use.”321

But the rather general acceptance of the “maximum happiness” criterion of morality (a subject which will be discussed in detail in the next chapter) practically closes the door to any widespread recognition of distinctions of this kind, and the tendency at the moment is to stretch the concept of morality to the point of absurdity. For example, Hazlitt, in arguing against Kant’s “categorical imperative” says that “there are courses of conduct which are certainly moral, even though they cannot be universalized,” and to particularize, he cites the fact that “a man may decide to learn the violin without wishing that everybody should learn to play the violin.”322 But playing the violin is not “certainly moral.” It is certainly not immoral, but neither is it moral. The error here is the assumption that an action must be either one or the other, an assumption that overlooks the fact that there is a category which is ethically neutral, a type of action that has no moral aspects at all.

Benefit and harm are, in the first instance, non-ethical values and disvalues… ethical goodness or badness, or rightness or wrongness, is in principle independent of the non-ethical values and disvalues of benefit and harm.321 (Karl Popper)

Because of the prevailing lack of distinction between ethical and non-ethical values, social, political, and economic issues of many kinds have been, and are being, confused with moral issues by both philosophers and religious authorities. “The essence of good,” asserts William James, “is simply to satisfy demand.”323 But his is not a definition of a moral good. There is no moral “demand” comparable to a demand or desire for economic goods. Since ethical man wants to follow the moral code, he may experience some kind of a sensation that could be called “moral satisfaction” when he is able to do so, but this has little resemblance to the satisfying of economic or social wants, and it is doubtful if the term “satisfaction” is appropriate in connection with moral choices.

The “good” which fits James’ definition is a non-moral good, especially an economic good. Each individual has a certain inherent capability of doing useful work. If he converts that potential into an actuality, the products thereof, or a portion of them, become available to him for use or exchange. Ultimately he experiences a certain amount of satisfaction from the results of his efforts, but the entire transaction from start to finish has been economic. Whatever values have been placed on labor or its products during this activity have been economic values, not moral values.

In the course of this process, the worker may have an opportunity to increase the economic values that accrue to him by making wise decisions as to the application of his labor and as to his expenditures in the market place. No moral question arises here, under ordinary circumstances. Negative values are balanced against positive values in the usual way to arrive at conclusions, but only economic values enter into these judgments. The correct decision in each case is that which leads to the most desirable economic consequences—the largest net positive balance of values—but there is no moral obligation to make the correct economic decision, unless the individual’s situation is such that maximum economic returns are essential in order to supply him with the resources that are required for carrying out his moral obligations.

This person may also encounter an opportunity to secure additional economic values by dishonest means, and the important point that most philosophical value systems fail to recognize is that these economic values are not commensurable with the moral values that are involved. We cannot compare the two and strike a balance, as we do with positive and negative moral values, or positive and negative non-moral values. Unless a dishonest act has some positive moral value that outweighs the dishonesty, the act as a whole is a violation of the moral code irrespective of the magnitude of the desirable economic or social consequences that may result. The religion-based moral codes recognize the difference between moral and non-moral values, but since they define morality as conformity with the “will of God,” this leaves it essentially undefined, as no one knows just what it is that God wills. In their efforts to find a more specific foundation for ethics, the philosophers, with the notable exception of Kant, have generally lost sight of the distinction between moral and non-moral values. The resulting atmosphere of confusion and contradiction is the factor that has opened the door to such ideas as ethical relativism.

Neither the religious nor the philosophical value systems give adequate attention to the fact that the status of an action as right or wrong depends on the net balance of the positive and negative moral values of all of the various elements that enter into the act or its consequences. If positive moral values of some kind are involved in a dishonest act, or an act that causes injury to another individual, that act is not necessarily wrong in its totality even though dishonesty and intentional injury are morally wrong in themselves. As brought out in the preceding discussion, the balance of good and evil in any complex action can only be ascertained by considering the act in the setting in which it takes place and summing up all of the positive and negative moral values, thus arriving at a net result. Progress toward a higher ethical level depends not only on strengthening the determination to follow the moral code wherever there is a choice to be made, but also on developing a greater proficiency in evaluating the moral aspects of these complex situations and arriving at the correct balance of values. It will not be possible to give this subject any comprehensive treatment in a work that is addressed to the metaphysical field in general, but there are a few points that should be mentioned. One thing that stands out clearly is the need for a critical review of the prevailing attitudes toward some of the specific items that enter into moral judgments.

Truth, for instance, occupies an important place in ethical considerations, so central in many respects that some moralists and many laymen insist that the obligation to tell the truth is absolute, and that lying is morally wrong under any circumstances. Those who subscribe to the “end” theories of morality counter this by citing cases in which serious consequences will ensue if the truth is told, a favorite example being that of the individual who lies to conceal a death from a critically ill relative to whom the news might be a fatal shock. Both of these schools of thought are guilty of oversimplification, failing to give due consideration to the complexity of human actions. A proper evaluation of the morality of the action must take into account both the act and its direct and indirect consequences. In the case cited, the positive moral value of avoiding a serious injury to the sick relative far outweighs the negative moral value that could be assigned to the untruth, even if we were to concede that lying is inherently immoral.

But when we examine the situation more closely, we find that such a conclusion is unwarranted. Lying is not actually wrong per se; it is merely a type of action which may be used for unethical purposes. This becomes especially clear if we look at the general category of deliberate deception, of which lying is only one form. It is obvious that we cannot condemn deception as inherently wrong. In many cases we want to be deceived. We are even willing to pay such persons as stage magicians and writers of mystery stories to deceive us, and most of us enjoy a well-executed April Fool joke even if the laugh is at our expense. Few games would be possible if deceiving the adversary was prohibited. Certainly much deception is aimed at unethical ends, but in order to avoid serious errors in ethical judgments, it is essential to realize that it is the use to which the deception is put that determines the moral status of the act. The deception itself is neither moral nor immoral. It is not analogous to such things as deliberate infliction of an injury, where the act is wrong, and accomplishment of some positive moral purpose is necessary in order to arrive at a net positive balance of moral value. The deception has no moral implications in itself and the net moral balance is determined entirely by its consequences.

Another example of misdirected criticism is furnished by the individual who is disinclined to work. The religious authorities commonly inveigh against the lazy man and brand his course of conduct as a breach of the moral code. But, in fact, this is a judgment based on economic values, not on moral values. The lazy individual has made an economic decision: a decision as to the relative value of the products of effort as compared to that of the leisure that would be enjoyed if the work were not undertaken. This is a decision that is continually being made by others, even by the strongest critics of indolence. The general adoption of the five-day week, for instance, is a recognition of an increased relative value placed on leisure by society as a whole. Laziness is no more immoral than asking for a reduction of the work week; the difference between the two is only a matter of degree.

Quite commonly, the result of laziness is that the individual in question fails to do something that the moral code requires, supporting his family (a contractual obligation), let us say. But the morally reprehensible item is the non-support, not the laziness, and there is no necessary connection between the two. This, and the discussion of deliberate deception, may seem to involve a considerable amount of hairsplitting, but the objective of the present discussion is to show that the new information developed in this work points the way to the specific and consistent ethical theory that has hitherto been lacking. For this purpose, careful and precise distinctions are indispensable.

The essential requirement of morality cannot be equated with or related to anything but morality itself, since it is simply the requirement of compliance with the moral code. In this respect, it is identical with the requirement for legality, the criterion of which is compliance with the law. In either case, we cannot arrive at a judgment on the basis of the nature of the act, or even on the combined basis of the act and its immediate consequences. If A shoots B, the legal verdict may be first degree murder, second degree murder, manslaughter, self-defense, or accident, and the moral judgment may vary within an equally wide range. The entire setting of the act and all of its legal and moral aspects must be taken into consideration in order to arrive at the proper moral judgment.

Whether or not there is legal culpability is one of the moral aspects, even though the legal and moral judgments may differ substantially. Every person has a moral obligation to obey the law, even where no other moral consideration may be involved. Likewise there is a moral obligation to honor any contractual requirements that may exist. If one accepts employment as a member of the police force, for instance, he has a moral obligation to do his best to apprehend a violator of the law, even though this may happen to involve risks that are far beyond anything that the ordinary citizen would be morally obligated to assume. This is a contractual obligation that the police officer accepts as a condition of employment. The moral code requires meeting these legal and contractual obligations. Any partial or total failure to do so is one of the debits that we enter, along with violations of specific provisions of the code, in our balance account and weigh against whatever positive moral values may be involved in the particular act under consideration. The net resultant determines the morality of the act in its entirety.

Inasmuch as the requirement for morality is conformity with the code of Sector 3, the fact that an individual believes that he has done the right thing does not make it right. If it does not conform to the code, it is wrong irrespective of any opinion. In extreme cases this is so obvious that it is generally recognized. It is now conceded by everyone but the ethical relativists that burning heretics is morally wrong, even though those who participated in the burning were thoroughly convinced that they were carrying out God’s will. But neither the moralists nor the general public have recognized that this is a general principle; that any violation of the code is morally wrong even if the offender does not realize that he has transgressed. Intent to do wrong is a violation in itself, even if no actual harm results, but good intentions do not excuse morally wrong actions. A comprehensive knowledge of the provisions of the code and a careful examination of their application to all of the factors involved in any issue are just as important from the moral standpoint as the desire to do right.

This view will no doubt meet with strong opposition, not only from those who contend that morality should be judged on the basis of intent, but also from those who realize that few individuals have a complete understanding of the code, and who feel that it is unjust to require individuals to live up to rules that are beyond their comprehension. But neither intent nor justice enters into the determination of whether the moral code is being followed. This is purely a question of fact that is independent of the intentions and the capabilities of the individual. Justice enters into the situation only in connection with the question as to whether a person should be held responsible for violations that he is not capable of recognizing as such. This is an important issue, but it has no relevance to the point with which we are now concerned. We will give it some consideration in Chapter 29. What needs to be emphasized now is that many of those who are capable of a better understanding of the code are not making the effort to acquire that understanding, or to apply all of the moral knowledge that they already have. The widespread tendency to base attitudes toward social, political, and economic issues on emotion rather than on reason that was noted in Chapter 13 is as definite a violation of the moral code as any of the acts that are commonly branded as evil, regardless of any opinions as to the relative seriousness of these violations.

The fact that religious leaders are among the most frequent and most flagrant violators of this aspect of the code makes the situation all the more serious, as invoking Divine authority in support of actions that are morally wrong when evaluated in their totality compounds the violations. No doubt most of the ecclesiastics are motivated by the best of intentions, but judgment as to the morality of their actions is not softened for that reason. As the old adage puts it, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Nor is the conclusion as to the morality any different if the religious authorities and their lay followers have been led into violation of the moral code by strict adherence to the tenets of their religion. Full compliance with this code cannot be achieved unless the moral precepts of one’s religion are given just as careful and critical scrutiny as if they originated elsewhere.

Here it may be asked: Is strict compliance with the moral code so essential that we must give it precedence when it conflicts with our religious beliefs? This is a legitimate question, and we will give it some consideration in the next chapter.