CONSCIENCE-Do you have a conscience? If so, why?—where did it come from? If you don’t have one, why not? Just what is a conscience anyway, and how do we go about getting one?
One might define ‘conscience’ as an intellectual inner voice which tells us right from wrong. Obviously, each person’s conscience differs from all others in some degree or another, because each person’s life experiences and inculcations are somewhat different. Strictly speaking, we are not born with a conscience—only the ability to develop one. So, how do we get a conscience?
There are many sources for conscience formation. The most basic is our parents and/or guardians. From day one, so to speak, we are counseled repeatedly about what to do and not do—later on about what to think and not to think. Then comes the big ‘conscience producer’—religion(s). Consider this; world-wide there are thousands of different religions and/or religious sects—over 33,000 so-called Christian religions alone. Each religion proclaims to be the best and, in some cases, the only way to heaven. Of course that ‘heaven’ is different also from one religion to the next.
It should be very clear that each person’s conscience must be somewhat different .As in literally all considerations, consciences vary from one extreme of no conscience at all to extreme scrupulousness, and fit very nicely on a ‘bell distribution curve’. How, then is it possible to have a limited conscience? I suspect that in most cases it involves little if any parenting—children in such circumstances are exposed to very little if any discipline. Therefore, they have little regard for other’s rights, and seemingly, no respect for law, either civil or religious—witness the blatant irrational civil unrest and rioting of today.
On the other hand, at the other end of the spectrum, we observe people who are extremely ‘reserved’ about everything—often to an very irrational degree. They are so ‘tied up in knots’ of scrupulosity that they have difficulty functioning in everyday society—some cannot and require institutionalization. Others are mandated to be under the influence of mood altering drugs including possible heavy alcohol intake in order to function. Legitimately, one might ask, ‘why is that?’
If we look back to Genesis, we see that Cain had no problem with slaying his brother Abel. Later on, the folks of Sodom and Gomorra had no problem with all sorts of sexual deviations. Fast forward to Moses—he had no problem killing someone, but he did know he’d better run for sake of his own life. Later on, in a desperate attempt to control his subjects, he gave humanity the concept of sin and the guilt associated with it—he gave us the Ten Commandments. They were, in fact, good ‘civil law’ but went unheeded until he put a price on their violation—God’s vengeance—‘vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord’. Instantly, sin, guilt, fear of punishment from God, and religion were invented—all for the sake of enforcing ‘civil law’.
Follow the history. Those ten laws eventuated into six hundred plus Jewish laws which addressed literally every aspect of Hebrew society. Then comes Jesus and Christianity—what an explosive development of God’s Laws. In the beginning, it was a conglomerate of squabbling between various settlements about what the conscience was to think. It became so bad that Emperor Constantine called the authorities(bishops)in those little settlements together and mandated that they establish once and for all a religion (conscience generator) of their liking—it would be the ‘law of the land’ enforced by the Roman army. Only a few came to the generation site (Nicaea), but those few succeeded in reaching a consensus—Catholicism was born. Three to four hundred years later, the Prophet Mohammed appeared with a new religion, Islam—the three Abrahamic religions were established and each with its own set if values.
In the meantime, in the Far East, Buddhism and Hinduism were flourishing—they were/are vastly different from the Abrahamic religions. Simultaneously, native cultures world-wide were establishing their own endemic religious understandings and practices.
Early on in Catholicism, the Ten Commandments, plus some Church laws were sufficient. However, as is usual, loopholes began to appear—peoples discovered ways that their consciences could avoid some of the dire consequences. No way was that to be allowed. So, gradually, as one loophole was closed with a new law, another loophole appeared. It reached a fever pitch during the Inquisitions but even then it had just begun to gain steam. Loopholes were appearing, seemingly from nowhere, and each mandated closure.
When I was a child studying Catholic Catechism daily, the ‘Baltimore Catechism” was relatively small—likely a 70-80 page 4″x5″ pamphlet. Guess what, the collective conscience of Catholics became so cunning and created so many loopholes that the current Catechism of the Catholic Church consists of 904, 6″x9″ fine print pages. The question is ‘who knows exactly what’s in those pages, and better still, how are they regarded’ (who really cares). As Catholics and Protestants alike have come to realize the irrationality of many church teachings, two things have happened—many have quit churching—most seem to ignore the rules. Both of those attitudes are conscience reliving ‘tools’. Observing the lack of Church attendance with the attendant loss of income prompted Pope Francis to proclaim; ‘No rules have changed. We just got to stop talking about them’.
It would seem rather obvious that of the five billion or so non Catholic people in the world, not many of them would know or care about what’s in that Catechism. So what about their consciences—very obviously, they would be vastly different. That’s not to say that we all couldn’t agree on some items. Let’s try ‘murder’ for instance—no way—there are people who consider everyone else in existence to be an ‘infidel’ and must be murdered according to Allah’s dictates. What about sex—try getting a consensus there. I could go on and on and point out countless instances of major societal attitudinal differences regarding what we may consider right or wrong. It would be impossible to get a significant consensus about literally anything.
The point I’m trying to make is that there is no such thing as a ‘universal collective conscience’. Neither is there the possibility of any two people having identical consciences—similar, yes—identical, no. The reason is very clear—religion and ideology.
If everyone in the world could be like-minded, then every conscience would be identical, and guess what—peace would break out.
I have written extensively about these subjects in my two books, Wilderness Cry, and Peace in Spirituality. More importantly, my frequent blog posts, such as this one, elaborate on some aspect of my philosophy. It all begins with an irrefutable definition of the essence of God. God is a Perfect Rational Being. That awareness dictates that the “Spirit of God’ (Holy Spirit) is imprinted on each and every particle of God’s energy which makes up everything in existence. In that real sense, we and everything in existence are ‘one’.
That knowledge prompted me about two years ago to call for the understanding and acceptance of The World-Wide Communion of Spirituality—the absolute only way peace can prevail.