A Facebook friend (you know who you are) started a conversation about whether religion is a moral guide. It was a pretty deep conversation for Facebook, but that happens every so often, especially if you’re a college student who needs to write a paper. Does religion serve as a moral guide for people?
A friend of hers who is not a Facebook friend of mine, commented that she is agnostic and her kids are very moral, even though they were not raised with any religion. And I will not argue her point. It is entirely plausible to me that a person could be highly moral without any religious influence. After all, social mores are passed along in our culture and absorbed by children starting before they can even talk and interact.
I think agnostics and atheists can be some of the most moral people on the planet. I think they may take morality even more seriously than many religious people. You’re waiting for a but here. Really, there isn’t one. I’m not writing this to take down atheists or their arguments against religion.
The whole conversation made me think about what drives our moral behavior. People follow laws and moral rules; why? They don’t want to get into trouble. They know they are “supposed to,” that God wants them to. Maybe they are afraid of what will happen if they don’t, even beyond getting in trouble. If they do reckless things, they may hurt other people or themselves.
I think a lot of our motivation for our basic cooperation with societal rules comes from habits and wanting to go along to get along. We all come up against situations, however, that cause more of a struggle in our hearts about what to do. Eventually, I think each person will come to a choice that is too difficult to make alone. That’s when being good and doing right may turn out not to be enough.
In those situations, I am so glad to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father. His guidance has made all the difference to me when those difficult decisions get me turned and twisted and confused. Prayer, godly counsel and reading the scriptures have led my life down a path very different from the one I would have taken using just my own logic and wisdom. I am thankful for God’s guidance in the moral decisions of my life. I am thankful for the motivation of wanting to please God, which helps keep me making right decisions even when societal dictates and religious rules are not strong enough to keep me going in the right direction.
And what about those times when I still do something wrong? Being an imperfect person, this is bound to happen sooner or later. As humans, we are good at denying and justifying our behavior. I do this often, even though I do have a relationship with God. But eventually, these defense mechanisms break down and we have to admit that we have failed to keep to our own moral standard. What then? My need for God becomes glaringly apparent in these times. And how grateful I am for His grace (through Jesus) and His forgiveness, which allow me to move forward. It’s my relationship with God that motivates me toward morality, and that same relationship redeems me when I inevitably fail.
“. . . in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37