Ethics vs Morals: The Great Struggle

“In ethics, there is a humility; moralists are usually righteous.”

-John Berger

All too often these days, we hear the words ethics and morals thrown around as if they were the same thing, but the truth is much deeper than that. As a rule, morals deal with, religious or philosophical behaviors that dictate the behavior of a group of people, but these beliefs are not always considered rational. Ethics on the other hand tend to be more rational and to do with what is in the best interest of the individual or group of individuals. I personally care for a healthy combination of the two in my everyday life.  How can it be problematic to make a moral decision? Can a decision be ethical without being moral?

Moral decisions stem from one’s spiritual view of one’s self. It shows how they can climb to the top to reach enlightenment on their chosen path or to be met in the afterlife with varying rewards, or in the case of many pagan and eastern religions, do better in the next life on this planet. When can this sort of thing go too far and become a problem? The answer can be found simply by viewing the world around us. When we look at our various media outlets we hear talk about “Islamic Extremist” or as we Americans like to call them, “terrorists”. Islamic extremists have a moral belief that the western world are infidels and ought to be exterminated. Wait, hold on, there is no way this is the only example of moral extremism in history. There are many other examples of this sort of behavior found throughout human history. There was once a time in Christian history when they too had similar backwards morals. During the rise of Christianity under the Roman Empire many of the early Christians believed in convert or die. They saw nothing morally wrong with it, and some might even argue that their beliefs may have encouraged such behavior. Look to what have been called the burning times by pagans. The burning times was a dark era in the world where religious zealots of the Christian variety would burn, hang, mangle, and deform many innocents who refused to join their faith. Many early Christians saw pagans and those of other faiths as lesser human beings. This belief would eventually set the groundwork for something we in Anthropology have come to call Uniliniear Cultural Evolution. This belief compared what was considered “the ideal form of civilization” was that of the western world, (i.e. Western Europe and their colonies). This theory stated that man went through various stages starting at savagery and on to barbarianism, and ultimately culture, or rather their culture. This belief, while moral to average white Christian European at the time, was not ethical to the overall field of study of Anthropology. Anthropology prides itself on its ethical treatment of all customs. Every religious or cultural belief is a direct outcome of said cultures environmental factors: what foods and raw materials were available, natural disasters, and how they explain that which science can now explain. But wait that still does not completely answer the question though. The reality of it is that it does, Unilinear Cultural Evolution is an ethnocentric viewpoint that discredits anything that is not deemed western or “civilized” and declares that which is not western is in fact inferior. Well that sounds a lot like racism. That’s because it is. Ethnocentrism is the mother of racism and racism is undoubtedly unethical. If that doesn’t help, well Anthropology has a quote about it that has been used in the Eracism movement in the world. The quote is as follows – “There is only one race, the human race, anything else is just culture.”


For as many unethical morals as there are out there. There are also immoral ethics out there. One such example can be found in the separation of church and state. Now I am aware that this issue is highly debated and that is where morals come in. The morals of many Americans state that “America is a Christian Nation.” While I believe that is a bunch of bogus and we only started using that as a propagated ethnocentric viewpoint against “godless communism” in Eastern Europe. With that in mind, one is more apt to understand that because we have separation of church and state as an ethical idea many religions, especially various protestant sects, have moral issues with this ideology therefore seeing it as immoral. In America, we have separation of church and state because it is ethical for the development of our country and for the idea of the real American dream. This law allows people of all faiths and religions to come together in harmony, to set aside their differences, and make way for the future idea of world peace. World peace is ethical. It teaches us that just because someone is different it does not make them any less than their neighbor. Ethics puts everyone on equal playing ground to help make way for the future and the end of hate and injustice. I believe this is the true point of ethics, to make way for a better brighter future for all of mankind. Similarly, in this manner, many will not agree with this sort of ideal world, but that my friends is how you answer the question of how that which is ethical is not always moral, depending on the individuals religious or spiritual view.


KRP ISP Edit 1


Tagged chapter 14, page 354, “Questioning the Media”


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