The Morality of Amorality
I am an amoralist, the same way that I am an atheist, and for the same reasons. Both morality and religion (which can overlap, but can also exist without each other) are based upon deception and false promises, and are driven by hidden agendas.
Both the preachers of faith and the preachers of morality serve their masters and their own interests, with no regard for truth or for the needs and interests of others.
Neither morality nor religion have ever been effective in protecting the weak, the innocent, the persecuted, the abused, nor have they ever prevented violence, opression or injustice. And this is not due to their, or our own, shortcomings or imperfections — this lies in their very nature.
Both, morality and religion, do more harm than good, by far, and have always done so.
And then there is human law, which, too, claims to define right and wrong. It cannot be said that the law, as such, necessarily does more harm than good, but that it often harms is beyond question.
Religion is the obligation to believe in the reality of a bizarre fiction, to obey the commands of non-existent supernatural entities, and to strive to please them and their self-appointed representatives and apologists.
Morality is the obligation to think or not to think, to do or not to do, to feel or not to feel something, because, well, you shouldn’t. (God, nature, or customs may be called to testify as authorities.)
Law, of course, is codified power.
The law has four sides (which to some degree blur into each other):
– it provides rules by which a complex society can operate
– it protects the weak
– it protects the rich and the powerful, allows them to enjoy their privileges, and upholds the structures that allow the powerful to stay in power, and the rich to further increase their wealth
– it enforces select religious and moralistic agendas, in accordance with the interests of the rich and the powerful
The relative strengths of these four sides vary greatly, between societies and over time, but we haven’t yet seen one of them to be absent.
But this is not about law. This is about morality.
Rejecting religion helps to tell true from false.
Rejecting morality helps to tell right from wrong. I am an amoralist for ethical reasons.
When has “Thou shalt not kill” ever stayed the hand of an executioner, or kept a war from being waged?
But only by the millions can those be counted who have been killed, or whose lives have been destroyed, in the names of religion or morality.
For the sake of those who feel unduly inconvenienced by the commandment not to kill, it has recently been rephrased by some as “Thou shalt not murder,” which they say is what God had meant to say in the first place. About this, see my essay Thou Shalt Not Kill.
Everyone should be able to live in peace, freedom, safety, and reasonable comfort. (This, obviously, would include universal health care and universal basic income.) If morality could get us there, or at least get us closer, I’d be a moralist.
The things that people lack to live a good life, or even just to live, will not be granted to them on moral grounds by those who, materially or emotionally, profit from other people’s lacks. Moral considerations will not make the privileged give up their privileges, no matter how small or out of proportions these privileges are.
At its best, morality makes people give alms to the poor. At its worst, it serves to explain why the poor deserve to be poor (due to their own lack of virtues), why the serfs deserve to be serfs (due to their own nature), and why the oppressed deserve to be oppressed (for their own good). Do not count on morality when you hope to see poverty, servitude and oppression abolished.
If you do not let your thoughts, feelings and acts be guided by the demands of religion and morality, what, then, may keep you from ruthlessly and selfishly pursuing your own advantage, at the cost of others?
The others. The contracts, spoken or unspoken, that you make with them. And your own selfish interest to get along with them, and to be able to hope for their support, when you need it.
And, of course — when and where you feel them — your own sense of justice, sense of responsibility, kindness, compassion, love, and desire to contribute to other people’s safety and happiness.
And when you do not feel them, you can still try to act decently towards people, animals, and the planet.
Religion and morality, though, are tools for the select few to draw on the support of others — to exploit them economically, politically, emotionally, sexually — through real and imaginary threats, and through offers of imaginary rewards.
Trying to force your own morality upon others, for moral reasons, is an unjustifiable act of aggression.
Defend your interests. Stand by your values and convictions. Live them. Fight for them, preach them, if you are so inclined — I do it, too — but appeal to reason, and do not claim that you have a deity, nature, or some universal moral truth on your side.
And yes, I may still judge you if you do what I deem to be wrong. Or I may not.
More often than not, it are the innocent who feel guilty, while the guilty, as long as they profit from their acts, feel justified, victorious and smug.
When you say you are a good person, I am wary of you.
Who is a good person? Someone who always acts how you think they should act.
Which, quite often, will not be how someone else thinks they should act.
Striving to be a good person will come at other people’s expense. Ultimately, it will be self-contradictory.
Claiming to be a good person is claiming to have chased down a phantom.
Those who say “I am not a good person” are those whom I fear the least.
We have fought for our right that our thoughts have to be free — that thought crimes are not crimes, that the thought police has no mandate to enter our minds.
Morality, though, still — if not increasingly — feels entitled to tell us what we have, and what we have not, to feel.
You feel what you feel. Right or wrong do not apply. The feel police has no legitimate mandate, either.
Your feelings, and your thoughts, are your own. Do not impose them upon others, though. Do not even impose them upon yourself.
If you never have thoughts or feelings that contradict each other, you may as well never have any at all.
Also, being interested in something, being fascinated with it, being sexually aroused by it, neither constitutes nor necessitates approval.
But you are still looking for a rule which you can use for guidance?
The search will inevitably lead you to Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative — no better answer has been found, or, probably, can be found:
Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
Which maxims can possibly meet this condition? It’s an equation that needs to be solved.
(And no, “I do what I want, and everybody else should do what I want” is not a valid solution. “Universal” means that your maxim can be everybody else’s, from their own points of view.)
A universal law cannot be asymmetric.
A universal law cannot include arbitrary terms.
And a universal law cannot include moral terms.
When you introduce a moral term, the equation becomes unsolvable.
Any moral term will necessarily imply a recourse to a moral authority, outside of the universal law — it will then necessarily always be someone’s universal law, and thus not universal.
One person’s virtue will be some other person’s sin. One person’s sinner will be another person’s saint. One person’s guilt will be another person’s pride. And vice versa, of course.
To solve the ultimate moral puzzle, you have to let go of morality.
And I claim that these two sentences together, and they alone, meet the categorical imperative’s condition, and constitute a universal moral law that serves its purpose, being free from morality.
The purpose being to protect, as far as possible, the planet from humans, and humans from each other and from themselves, without, in the process, to cause more harm than good.
I could write many pages about this, I could write a whole book, but in the end, you will either accept this as the one universal law, or you will not:
– Take what you need, and leave the rest
– Never betray a friend
And yes, I could elaborate on both these sentences, and on why they are essential, but instead I let you figure it out for yourselves.
My thanks to (among a great many others): William Blake (The Marriage of Heaven and Earth), Max Stirner (Der Einzige und sein Eigentum), Mary Kingsley (Travels in West Africa), and Camille Paglia (Sexual Personae).
(2019 – 11/2021)