Following God is the real ‘might is right’ perspective

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Mark Taggart (‘Right or Wrong is not determined by Public Opinion’ April 29) completely misunderstand the point of quoting polls on matters of morality.

It is not that morality boils down to majority public opinion but rather that the latter has matured to cohere with humane and tolerant values instead of being told what is good or bad by religious authorities.

The real ‘might equals right’ perspective is to slavishly obey those in positions of power in church or state rather than to follow our own conscience and make up our own minds.

Integrated schools are right because our children need to learn to love and respect others of a different tradition; abortion is right if that is the woman’s choice because she has the chief right to decide what happens to her own body, especially in the cases cited; and same-sex marriage is right for those who love each other and want to make that kind of commitment.

The ultimate ‘might equals right’ approach to morality is to say that something is good (or bad) because a God commands it.

As Plato put it more than 2,000 years ago, we would still have to ask: does God command it because it is good?

What makes something moral or immoral in the first place can be answered in a number of ways, including references to the Golden Rule and Kant’s categorical imperative that we should treat others as ends in themselves and never as means to our own ends.

According to Saintfield’s Frances Hutcheson, “that action is best which accomplishes the greatest happiness of the greatest number”.

If that is too much like basing it on public opinion for Mark’s liking, then I would suggest that what is good is generally whatever is positive and life-enhancing rather than negative and disapproving.

Brian McClinton, Humanist Association of Northern Ireland, Lisburn