Vol.X No.IV Pg.6
June 1973

Godly "Morals"

Robert F. Turner

In this day of unbelief the student of Comparative Religion (specially those who are smatterers) may conclude that all religions are but social developments. He sees external points of likeness, and if his grasp of Christianity is limited to ritual and traditional dos and donts he is woefully unprepared to make a true comparison. Couple this with today's wide rejection of established religions, and it is easy to see why our youth, without chart or compass, have turned to pagan forms of Animism (spirit worship) and like cults.

But careful students of pagan cultures, where the light of Gods revelation has not shown, see a different picture. We quote from The Worlds Religions, edited by J.N.D. Anderson; Eerdmans Publ. Co., p. 21-f. In the chapter on Animism the author examines the effects of man-developed morals (having no higher source than man) upon life patterns. The complete absence of any conception of love on the part of the spirit world or the spirit worshipper deprives the individual of any of the consolations of religion. You may go through heathendom anywhere, in the Indian Archipelago, in New Guinea, in the South Seas, and in Africa, and you will nowhere find humanity, mercy, kindness and love. Selfishness reigns nakedly everywhere, and self-complacency is boasted of as a virtue. For the old and infirm life has few comforts; once they have become useless to the tribe, their existence is only just tolerated, and nothing is done for their comfort in sickness. Death holds only terror for the living, for it is a passing into the darkness of the unknown. A vague and shadowy, dismal existence is envisaged without any certainty of meeting again the loved ones left behind on earth. The spirit-worshipper is without hope.

Some primitive tribes are remarkably free from lying and stealing as a general habit, and adultery is a crime often punished with death. Superficially, one might conclude that here is a clear differentiation between good and evil; but on closer examination one finds that practices which would tend to break up the social life of the family or clan are taboo for that reason, and are not a sign of intrinsic virtue. Adultery is not viewed on criminal or moral grounds, but because the wife is the purchased property of the husband and probably of the family into which she has married. Custom and taboos are the binding factors, but the idea of morals is entirely absent. While adultery among Jinghpaws is regarded as a heinous crime, promiscuous intercourse among the unmarried youth is not only condoned, but encouraged by the elders of the tribe. There is no sense of sin; yubak really means punishment— the consequences of mis-behaviour. Misfortune may be regarded as a crime, for death in childbirth or by accident is treated with horror as though the victim was responsible in some way for inflicting this manner of death on the community. Sin is offending against tribal custom or taboo, and what is morally evil may be regarded as good if it does not transgress tribal law.