“In the beginning …God created man in his image…but of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, you shall not eat; for in that day, you shall surely die.”
God is defined by many as the supreme moral good. Such a being, in his first communications with his earth bound image, lays down a rule. This rule, like all other rules, carries at least the threat of punishment. Try as we might, we all know that morality can not be legislated, whether it is divinely or mortally decreed. Morality is governed by principles which are an internal drive to do the right things.
Evidently, the pinnacle of God’s creation, while being created with a mind and language expansive enough to name all things and intelligent enough to converse with his creator, is unable to understand principles. Children can easily discover principles on their own, yet Adam, made in God’s image, was incapable of such?
It might be said that Adam needed to become a rule breaker to understand morality; and that is why he was given a rule first. This would mean that God desired Adam to be sinful l, so he could be either eternally rewarded or eternally punished. Or perhaps mankind needed to mature to understand good and evil properly. Yet thousands of years later, the young nation of Israel needed books of rules and laws divinely dictated. Had man and God not yet figured out that laws and rules bear the fruit of immorality? The Ten Dammandments only illuminate the juvenile fear of a juvenile God, who required that even obstinate children be stoned and the raped marry their rapists.
People acquire the basics of morality while still young. Parents love their children, and it is during the first decade plus of a nurturing upbringing that love, cooperation, fairness, and empathy fuse to form the roots of our morality.
Rules govern the physical world we live in. We can never bring rules and law into society without creating an elevation of the rights of some over the rights of others. Principles, however, are what makes a moral society. Therefore, let us be principled and free rather than ruled.
(Note: Letter was rejected for newspaper publication)