Authoritative Morality and Responsibility

The other day I discussed authoritative morality. As I stated in that post, authoritative morality is dictated by an authority figure and the receiver is expected to accept and obey without question. Today we address another problem with this model of morality: personal responsibility.

Authoritative morality dictates absolute rules to follow. By its nature, there is no room for questioning or adjustment. There are no fringe cases, no exceptions that prove the rule. Everything is black and white, requiring no input except obedience. A follower of an authoritative model has no agency in their own morality.

Without personal agency, an individual becomes divorced from the impact of their own moral choices. When your morality is given to you by an outside authority, it is easy to rationalize doing terrible things. If god wants you to murder homosexuals, that is no skin off your back. Your conscious is clear because your act is morally right. You are, after all, merely following the moral code dictated to you by god.

In the United States, the current “hot button” issues in politics are dominated by discussion of morality. Those who deny the rights of others rationalize this by evoking their authoritative morality. Abortion, sexual education, and homosexual marriage are all like this. If you ask an anti-homosexual marriage politician their reasoning, it always is an authoritative moral argument. “My god says that marriage is only between a man and a woman; anything else is immoral.” There is no rational thought here, no actual argument. It is simply repeating a rote explanation.

This is not to say that it is impossible to create position that is opposed to homosexual marriage. With the proper evidence, there is a potential to build that argument without evoking a moral authority. Unfortunately for those espousing that particular view,  the science tends to support the view that homosexual marriages have all the same strengths and weaknesses that heterosexual ones. But in general, it is perfectly acceptable to build rational arguments for positions traditionally dominated by appeals to authoritative morality.

Evoking authoritative morality to support a position is cowardly, and we should call out those who do so. Every single individual must be responsible for the impact their positions have on others around them. We can not let someone evade responsibility for hir actions. If a person take a position that a certain segment of the population is inherently inferior and thus deserves fewer rights, ze is a bigot, regardless of what moral authority ze evoked to support that position. By tolerating those who do harm in this way, we only empower them to continue doing so. That can not continue.

-That is all.


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