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What Shapes Your Values?
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I went to do my laundry today, and found a pamphlet from The Watchtower, the Jehovah's Witnesses folks. The title of it was "What Shapes Your Values?", so I was intrigued.

The title article was actually surprisingly well-written. It talks first about the scourge of moral relativism.

"The day of shared moral standards is gone," says religion sociologist Alan Wolfe. He is also quoted as saying: "Never in history has there been more a sense that people can't rely on traditions and institutions to guide them, morally."

Maybe that's because many of those institutions, like the Catholic Church, have been shown to be increasingly morally bankrupt.

Regarding the past 100 years, the Los Angeles Times notes philosopher Jonathan Glover's observation that the decline of religion and universal moral laws played a major part in a global collapse into violence.

Huh? If you read your history, the world has basically been in a state of constant war. The numbers have gone up because populations and means of killing have both increased, but historically-speaking, the world is actually much more peaceful now. Plus, while the 20th century saw both World Wars, it also saw the massive rise of civil rights, women's rights, and democratization of large parts of the world.

Anyway, one thing they did get right was this:

Is it enough, however, for us to be directed only "by natural instinct" when we try to decide what is right and what is wrong?

They answer no, but of course they say it's not instinct, but religion we should look to for our values. The problems with doing that have been adequately pointed out.

And happiness as a ruler for moral judgments is also out.

That leaves us with good old fashioned reason. I'll take the Bill of Rights over The Ten Commandments any day, and they were fashioned not on the basis of scripture or authority, but by reason. In fact, they were purposefully designed as checks against authority. That doesn't make the Constitution a complete basis for a moral system, but it's a pretty slick example of how human reason can articulate values.

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