by Randy Walker
"You don’t need religion to have morals. If you can’t determine right from wrong, then you lack empathy, not religion."
If you are still reading, I want to offer my perspective on what this quote implies. I feel suited for this infamous task because, while I consider myself spiritual in a broad sense, I am agnostic when it comes to religion and its associated dogma.
First, let’s define the key terms: religion, morals, and empathy. ” Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, defines religion as “belief in a divine or superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and worshipped…” The same source defines morals as “good or right in conduct or character.” Continuing with the same source, empathy is “the projection of one’s own personality into the personality of another in order to understand the person better; ability to share in another’s emotions, thoughts, or feelings.
How do we act “good or right in conduct or character”? I believe that we can presume that if we act in self-destructive ways, we are not only harming ourselves, but we are also harming those who love us, look up to us, or depend on us in various ways. Obviously, committing acts that harm others, whether physically or emotionally, shows a lack of morals; however, broadening that perspective to include self-destructive behavior seems valid and logical. So, if we practice empathy (not mere sympathy, which is a measly recognition of and sorrowful feeling toward another’s plight), we are more likely to behave and conduct ourselves in “good or right” ways. Such behavior stems from positive character traits.
by Randy Walker
Life may be a journey, but it also feels very much like a steep climb at times. Sometimes we fall down, get up, brush ourselves off and continue our climb. There are times when we consider our chosen paths, its obstacles, and the difficulty of the climb. We may look for easier paths, or we might look for ways around obstacles even if it means backtracking around them. Other people can make suggestions or even help us climb, carry us, or otherwise help us along the
Imagine the following scene: you are hiking a mountain trail that leads to the top of the mountain. You are picking your way around obstacles, stopping to rest and absorbing the beauty around you when, suddenly, you are confronted by a group of people who berate you over the path you have chosen. They insist you are on the wrong path, and that you will never reach the top, or they implore you to choose their path because you are headed for destruction. Perhaps you are curious, and you ask them to lead you to their path. “Oh no, you cannot hike our path dressed like that,” they say. “You need to shave and get a haircut before you join us on our path.” Sound familiar? I can’t recall encountering such a group on a literal hike up a mountain, but when used as a metaphor for life journeys, it begins to make sense.
There are plenty of people who eagerly use every opportunity to tell people with different spiritual or worldviews how the same are on the wrong path, and how the only way is their way. Often, self-righteousness triggers indignation toward those people who are different from them. When this happens, informing turns to berating and seeking fault just to make them feel superior to others.