My team at work tends to generate a lot of interesting lunchtime conversation (we go out for team lunch once a week) in part due to our Indian/US cultural split. We have two Hindus and one Jain on the Indian side and a Baptist, a Methodist, a "sort of spiritual" ex-Catholic and me on the American side, which certainly provides a variety of opinion. (The day our boss, the Baptist, was out, it turned out that all our Indians doubted reincarnation, while our Methodist and ex-Catholic both believed in it.)
One day our Jain team-member (he keeps all of Jainism's dietary requirements, but he says his beliefs are untraditional enough in regards to the gods that he upsets his mother) threw out a question that generated it's due share of controversy: Why do we have morality?
He contented that morality essentially set up a second and parallel set of laws, enacted by those without the political authority to control the legal system. Why have both religiously determined morality and legality? Why not just have a single authority with a single set of rules?
This struck me as an interesting question, because for the life of me I cannot imagine people not having ideas of morality that deviate (or may deviate) from whatever legal/societal restrictions they find themselves under.
Imagine for a moment a situation in which a priest/aristocrat class sets all laws and there is no religious our moral structure separate from that single set of leaders. It is announced, one day, that having a beard is a moral abomination and all men must shave daily or have their heads cut off. Everyone follows this lead but one man, as he lifts his razor in the morning, thinks to himself: "This is not right. I should be able to grow a beard if I want to. Cutting a man's head off because of his hair is wrong."
That man has just invented a personal moral system. So long as we are capable of receiving instruction from some other source and thinking, "No, that's not how it is. Things are actually this other way," we will have systems of morality which are separate from the law.
Now I should say, this line of argument did not win over my colleague. He argued that when someone looks at an precept that is given to him and thinks, "That is not right," he is simply wishing that he were in charge instead.
That really, is what leaves me most confused about the line of argument. I am frankly rather flummoxed as to how one could not see the holding of such a conviction as morality.
Put the Shrove back in Tuesday!
4 hours ago