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What Are Flexible Ethics?

The Lutheran Brotherhood compiled the following statistics: Nearly two-thirds of all adults believe ethics “vary by situation” or that there is no “unchanging ethical standard or right and wrong.” Nearly eighty percent of all adults from age 18 to 34 believe ethics vary by situation, but even forty-eight percent af all adults aged 65 and up believe ethics vary by situation. Never did a majority of adults believe that there is one standard for every situation.

Now, I needed to look up the word “ethics” to make sure I wasn’t getting confused with my terms. According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Tenth Edition), “ethic” has the following meanings:
1. the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation,
2. a set of moral principles or values,
3. a theory or system of moral values,
4. the principles of moral conduct governing an individual or a group,
5. a guiding philosophy.
This made me want to look up “moral,” just to make sure I had this all clear:
1. of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior,
2. expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior,
3. conforming to a standard of right behavior,
4. sanctioned by or operative on one’s conscience or ethical judgement.
What these statistics say is that eighty percent of adults from age 18 to 34 believe that what is “right” and “wrong,” what is “good” and “bad,” can change from situation to situation. What these statistics say is that eighty percent of adults from age 18 to 34 believe that the principles guiding themselves and change from moment to moment. What these statistics say is that eighty percent of adults from age 18 to 34 believe that a “guiding philosophy” cannot be consistent.
I looked at these numbers and was astounded. If the philosophy an individual uses to guide their life is not consistent, it’s not a philosophy at all.

Consider it from a religious standpoint. In Catholicism, for instance, you should not have sex before marriage, or commit adultery. Religious leaders may forgive an individual if they have sinned, their god may forgive them if they repent, but in Chritsianity is it wrong to have sex before marriage or commit adultery. But there are Catholics who break both of these promises they have made with their religion - with their philosophy. And although the adulterers may ask forgiveness, there are Catholics who claim to be Catholics but still have no problem with having sex before marriage (as long as you don’t get caught, I suppose). But what this means is that these Catholics have claimed one philosophy and followed another. If they really believed in their Catholic ethics, they would not want to break them. It’s that simple.
And this was in no way to pick on Catholicism versus any other religious belief - or any belief system, for that matter, that an individual claims to follow but does not follow - it is merely to show that a belief system is consistent, and it is the individuals who choose not to follow it consistently.

Consider, as another example, the fourth definition of “ethic.” What if the principles of moral conduct for a group that you were in weren’t consistent, what if they changed from situation to situation? What if one week it supported you as a member of the group because you got a job at a good business, for being good at what you do, and the next week they were condemning you because a black person should have had the job instead of you? What if one week the group supports your skill in creating a new product to improve people’s lives, the next week they are telling you that your time is better spent feeding people who don’ t work for themselves? What if one week the group said they should support life and wouldn’t let a woman in the group get an abortion, and the next week it decided it should reject life and kill your brother, who was falsely accused of murder and is in prison? What if one week the group said the government should lower taxes, and the next week it proclaims that it’s the government’s responsibility to help the poor, with more of your tax dollars?
I won’t even talk about the fact that this “group” is merely a collection of individuals, each with rights that should not be violated. I won’t even talk about you as an individual having the right to your own life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
But imagine not knowing what laws will be enacted, not knowing what freedoms will be given to you and what freedoms will be taken away. Imagine not being able to gauge what will happen to your future. This is what it’s like to have ethics that “vary by situation.”
This is what is currently happening in our society today - people do not have a consistent set of values, of morals, of theics - and it makes living a chronic state of terror.

Why do people, knowing these inconsistencies, living as if there are no absolutes, why do people continue to live this way?
Our current philosophy classes teach people that “the world is in chaos.” That “you can’t make a difference.” They question whether you can prove that you’re not dreamiung through your entire life, or tell you that you can’t even prove if you are merely a part of someone else’s dream and do not even exist. They tell you to answer any difficult question with, “How should I know? I’m only human.”
People are rational beings - that’s what separates us from animals. People need to use their rational faculties in order to thrive. But they can choose not to use their mind - and the consequences are evident in the current trends in philosophy.
People, when faced with these alternatives for philosophy, turn to the religion that was forced down their throats as a child, to the same religion forced down their parent’s throats when they were children, and claim that as their philospphical system. But they don’t really believe in it, they don’t really follow it.
But they need something, their mind keeps telling them, they need some sort of system of beliefs.
And so they keep telling their mind to shut out the fact that the system they chose isn’t working for them.
But what they should be doing is listening to their minds, following logic and reason, so that they can find a consistent set of answers to every question they face in life.



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