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Written by: Enigma
Religion, morality, and law. Three sides of the same, umm... coin?
Of course the three are certainly interconnected. Many, but by no means all, people derive their sense of morality from their religion. However, many people also try to model law after their sense of morality... and therein lies the problem.
Like it or not, the three are distinct and separate entities. Religion, while normally coupled with a morality, does not inherently contain a moral code. Plainly speaking, religion is a faith-based belief system to explain the universe. Morality is a system of rights and wrongs by which one conducts one's self. Similar? Maybe. But the distinction is important.
What we must realize is that the three: religion, morality, and law, are not dependent upon each other. They are independent. This is a mistake many moralists and religious zealots make. They think that someone who does not share their religion cannot be moral or that some one who does not share their morality cannot be lawful. Take that train of thought to the next station, and they think that they must force their religion or morality on dissenters in order to make them lawful. They simply cannot conceive of someone who thinks diffrently from them as being a good person. Religious faith, "good" morality, and lawfulness are, to them, synonymous.
As an example of how morality and religion are different, take the following:
You have a Christian. Someone who truly believes the basic tenets of his religion. They don't doubt that Jesus was the Messiah and that there will be a judgement day. However, this person doesn't follow the moral code that's been bundled with his religion. He wants to fuck his neighbor's wife, he hates his father, and he works on Sundays. This person has a religion and a morality (a system of personal conduct). But the two are not the traditional "bundle". People like this are not unique, far from it in fact. And, from this example, we can see how religion and morality are independent of one another, despite how people often bind them together.
This same relationship applies to morality and law. The two are independent of each other. Law is a set of rules that society collectively imposes on itself. Recall that morality is a personal system of conduct. People may share moralities, but they are still personal systems. Therefore, it is unfeasable and downright wrong to try to make morality into law. The two are completly different concepts and should not be integrated. Every single attempt to do so has resulted in more problems than were solved (prohibition, drug law, prostitution etc).
Law, in a free society, should exist for 2 purposes: to protect citizens from being harmed unwillingly, and to protect the property of citizens from destruction without their consent. That's it. When you inject morality into the mix, you destabilize the system and it begins to break down. You get things like victimless "crimes" which are no more than attempts by people to use the force of government (law) to force their own morality on others.
And, in the end, that's one of the few absolute wrongs...