Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Do we need an Ideology to be Moral?

What do we mean by an ‘ideology’? My understanding of the word in this context is 'a body of doctrine that guides behaviour’. Certainly an individual, group or an organisation that has such an ideology may try to conduct their behaviour so that it never breaches the ideology to which they subscribe. In these circumstances the ideology does become very relevant to their morality. However, by no means all individuals, groups or organisations would point to a particular body of doctrine if asked to explain the basis of their own morality. Even if they did profess such an ideology - such as “I’m a Christian” - it would often be found that both their definition and knowledge of the body of doctrine referred to would vary considerably between individuals.
No. At its heart, morality is subjective. Each of us develops our morality as we grow and mature. It is a function of our genetic make-up, our upbringing and the social rules/mores of the society in which we live. If we do subscribe to an ideology this, of course, may well become very relevant to our code of morality. Relevant but never essential. If an individual becomes disenchanted and abandons a particular ideology to which they once subscribed, he/she may find his/her moral compass changed but not obliterated.
Those in any particular society are all conditioned in common by the rules/mores of that society and therefore tend to develop relatively similar codes of morality. The variability in morality caused by innate and 'experience of the world’ differences remain however. Hence the good, the bad and most of us in our society with a bit of both!
As a case in point, I don’t subscribe to any particular ideology but I would claim to have a strong sense of morality. Of course, I may well have assimilated bits of morality from the ideologies of which I have knowledge; but no particular ideology has been “essential” for my moral compass.
In general, one can be a good and moral person and live a good and moral life without having a particular religion or any other source of ideology. A corollary is that one can profess to follow a very clear ideology yet exhibit a disgusting lack of morality. I’m sure there is no need to remind readers of recent notorious examples. It gets worse of course. If the profession of an esteemed ideology is taken as clear evidence of goodness by others, it can operate as a cloak to hide wicked wrong-doing. Does that also sound familiar?
I suggest that we know the man/woman by his/her deeds rather than by his/her words. If Thomas Aquinas didn’t say that, he should have done.

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