February 1, 2008March 7, 2008Meeting Report

February 17, 2008

Panel Discussion: Religion, Morality, and Humanist Ethics

Bill Potts moderated a panel consisting of Chuck O’Neil, Wayne Luney and Leon Lefson. Chuck led with definitions of humanism, morality and ethics.

Leon followed by correlating societal morality to economic structure as viewed through a Marxist lens. Leon’s commentary pointed to Marxism as being a morally superior economic model because of its attempts to overcome greed and promote altruistic outcomes. He pointed out that Marx came to his conclusions after in-depth study of societies that came before and the economic models they embraced.

Wayne Luney quickly disassociated himself from Marxism and countered Leon’s opinion that Marxism failed, not because it was flawed, but because Western forces systematically undermined it. Wayne continued by making an argument against moral relativism. He pointed out that he felt some morality crossed all cultural boundaries, negating the idea that what is good for people in one society might not be good for those in another. Instead he argued by way of example that morality laws in Saudi Arabia prohibiting certain sexual behavior, even in the privacy of one’s own home, punishable by death, constitute an immoral code of conduct.

Chuck O’Neil claimed a middle ground between Wayne’s largely capitalist point of view and Leon’s Marxist point of view. He reiterated in his own words Wayne’s take on moral relativism. He stated that he feels our institutions including economic ones develop based partially on the physical situations we find ourselves in. He said too that he isn’t a moral relativist to the extent that he feels the Golden Rule is a universal moral constant.

When questions from the audience were called for, Paul Geisert took issue with Leon’s claim that children are born as a blank slate, or “tabula rasa,” countering with certainty that roughly fifty percent of who we are is determined by genetics supported by numerous twin studies.

Other threads of discussion that ensued were the tribal preservation motivation in decisions of war and peace, the role of education in providing people with the tools to form moral frameworks, oil dependence (and how we deal with it) as an obstacle to peace, and a brief digression into matters of historical fact surrounding the conflict near the end of World War II between the Germans and the Soviet Union.

Interestingly, more than once, members found themselves expressing common ground with others having opposing points of view. A measure of the success of this meeting was expressed by Bill Potts, who pointed out the meeting could easily extend for many more hours.

Report prepared by Brian Jones, Recorder

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