Do you have a conscience? If so, where did it come from? More importantly, why is your conscience different from someone else’s, and just what is a conscience anyway? Have you ever considered any of these questions before? I would suggest to you that all these considerations are extremely pertinent to the understanding of the concept of civility or lack thereof in our entire world community. Just as important or more so, the idea of a conscience determines our relationship with a God or the lack thereof and the blanket of guilt and accompanying punishment imposed by such a relationship.
So, likely, everyone has a conscience of some level. Conscience may be defined ‘as an inner feeling or understanding of right from wrong’. And where did that feeling or understanding come from? — parents, teachers, preachers, and religious leaders mostly. No human is born with a conscience – it must be developed from the instructions and teachings of others.
Every living creature is born with the same basic instinct which I have labeled the ‘universal evil’ called selfishness. And who caused it to be that way? If you believe in a creator God, then you must say God caused it. If you do not believe in a creator God, then you say it ‘just happened’, but always in identical fashion – a strange coincidence.
That selfishness I refer to means that ‘everything is directed at self and self must be satisfied before everyone else’. Of course, everyone else has the same ‘selfish’ inclination, so what happens? In the untamed animal kingdom, the biggest and strongest goes first and is in control. Hence, when it comes to food, the biggest and strongest eats first and gets the most. When it comes to breeding, the biggest, strongest males get to breed the females. Neither is it hardly ever a peaceful process – almost always a battle of some sorts determines the winner. In general, biological terms that is called ‘survival of the fittest’. Needless to say, wild animals have no conscience.
So how did humans come to have a conscience? I’m not certain when the first remnants of conscience began but I am certain when it became firmly established. If we can believe and accept anything in the Bible, we must accept that conscience became firmly established by Moses and the Ten Commandments. Moses himself was a murderer and was forced to live in exile for many years to save his life. Then miraculously God appeared to him in a burning bush thereby assuring him of his dominance and again, miraculously, he became the ‘dominant’ leader of the Israelites.
You know the story. Moses, with the help of his brother Aaron, was guiding the Israelites through the desert as they fled from their captors in Egypt. Moses had told them about God and His guidance over them. But they seemed to be hopelessly lost, starving, and desperate. So, they gave up on their guiding God and began worshiping pagan gods and living a life of hedonism. That frustrated Moses because he could see clearly that he had lost control. He was no dummy — he sat right down and drew up a set of perfect rules for human civility, the Ten Commandments. Can you imagine his frustration and anger when they laughed at him and his ‘dumb rules’?
Immediately, he treks back to the hilltop and draws up an identical set. This time he presents them as God’s rules with the admonitions that all violators will incur the ‘wrath of God himself – sin was created, and conscience was firmly established. All humanity has been shackled with conscience since that time.
That collective conscience of the Israelites was seldom inhibited when dealing with hostile neighbors, as most seemed always to be, and strangely, still are. So, conscience had to be justified with concepts of just aggression, as well as self-defense.
AS luck would have it, the Israelites were continually disobeying God’s rules and, sure enough, incurred God’s wrath — something had to be done. That ‘something’ turned out to be the greatest disaster the world has ever known — sacrificial religion. It became, and still is, the biggest money-making machine in the world. That ‘biggest machine’ still greedily wishes to control all others, and guess what – the wars go on – the ‘big bulls’ are continually fighting for the ‘breeding rights’ of the rest of the world. That will be the perpetual legacy of human history, and sadly, the archeological evidence of mankind’s ‘once upon a time’ existence.
From my perspective, the idea of conscience has absolutely no place in human spirituality – God is a Perfect Rational Being. He cannot possibly be pleased or displeased. He cannot possibly be hurt or helped. He is Perfect Love – therefore he cannot possibly look with disdain or wrathful brow on anything of his own creation. After all, he is in all his creation – nothing could be without his Will, The Holy Spirit, residing in it– he cannot possibly hate himself.
It should be noted that the Ten Commandments represent, as Moses originally intended, an excellent guide for good civil existence. Most of the Western World’s legal system, including punishment for breaches, is rooted in them— an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. However, I believe without doubt that our legal system is badly flawed because of the near total lack of understanding of how it is not only possible but rather, seemingly desirable, or even mandatory, for criminals to break our laws. That falls under the massive heading and understanding of personality development. No one is born a criminal—they develop that way from lack of proper guidance in civility. Threats from God (religion) may be likened to spitting on a red-hot stove — it evaporates instantly but always with a stench. That represents a discussion for another day.
If you have not read my little book, Wilderness Cry, and its sequels Peace in Spirituality and Provocative Catholic, I strongly urge you to do so – your eyes will be opened to a way of thinking and understanding you never thought possible. Growing Up In Fancy Farm Kentucky will likely ‘tickle your fancy’.
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