It has been awhile sense I posted something in the OF TWISTED WORDS series (Here is a post that links to series of posts on how people abuse words => OF TWISTED WORDS => FEMINISM.). Mostly, I have been busy with this last election. However, when it struck me that we have twisted something so fundamental as the meaning of the word “unethical”, I decided to write a post.
Are some people unethical? Do some people fail to meet high moral standards? Well, none of us do a good job of meeting other people’s moral standards, but that does not make us unethical. Consider the definition.
Definition of unethical
: not conforming to a high moral standard : morally wrong : not ethical
//illegal and unethical business practices
//immoral and unethical behaviorUnethical | Definition of Unethical by Merriam-Webster (merriam-webster.com)
From where do we get our moral standards? We get them from our religious beliefs, and even Secular Humanists and Atheists have religious beliefs. Consider this excerpt from a comment I made to sklyjd – Gravatar Profile.
Words represent concepts. What is the concept that religion represents? The word religion refers to the various ideological systems that concern themselves with the answers to ultimate questions.
- How did we come to be?
- What is our purpose?
- What is the difference between right and wrong?
- Is there life after death? What happens to our soul when we die?
Since Atheism is a belief system that deals with all those questions, it is a religion. It looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck. We are supposed to believe Atheism is not a duck? Why? Because enough people believe the lie that Atheism is not a religion, Atheism currently has a monopoly in the public school system. (from here)
While Atheists, Secular Humanists, Agnostics, and the like may prefer to be thought of as bereft of religion, each of us believes something. Even an Agnostic believes the truth cannot be known and makes ethical choices based upon that belief. Therefore, even Nazis, Communists, and Socialists of all sorts see themselves as extremely ethical. The problem is not the absence of their ethics. The problem is the nature of their ethics, the system of religious belief upon which they have based their ethical choices.
What then does it mean when we call someone “unethical”? If all of us honor and worship something or someone, if all of us have an ethical system of some sort, then all of us uphold a personal religious ideology based upon that something or someone we each have chosen to worship. Therefore, we each derive our personal ethical system based upon what or who we worship. That means someone is behaving “unethically” when they fail to live up their own religious beliefs.
What happens we fail to live up to our own religious beliefs? As a little boy I can remember stealing a toy, and I still feel guilty. In part, it is guilt and shame that drove me to turn to Jesus.
But what about when we see someone do something we think wrong, and they do this wrong shamelessly. Is this person being unethical? Probably not. It may be that they don’t share our religious beliefs.
We live in a world — even in a nation — where different people increasingly uphold different values. This is why it is important that we study each other’s religious beliefs. Otherwise, we will inevitably have unrealistic expectations about what other people consider ethical behavior. For example, if we are dealing with someone who sees nothing wrong with lying to you, what is the point in trusting them?
It seems like a fairytale. Once upon a time, when our leaders swore to uphold the Law of the Land, most of them took that oath seriously. Once upon a time, we lived as a People under the rule of law.
Now? Now our legislators deliberately pass laws that they know are unconstitutional. Now local prosecutors, state attorney generals, and our nation’s Attorney General pick and choose which laws they want to enforce. Now, instead of living in a nation that respects the rule of law, we are becoming a nation ruled by men.
Perhaps our misunderstanding of that word, “unethical” has much to do with the passing of a fairytale land, a People that lived under the rule of Law. Because too many now worship something or someone besides the One True God, too many of us lack respect either for our oaths or the rule of law.