By: Afuye Akinyemi
This piece is dedicated to my friend Blackson Temitope-Usman who encouraged me to write on this controversial issue. Moral decline (or regression) refers to the process of declining from a higher to a lower level of morality. The condition of moral decline is seen as preceding or concomitant with the decline in quality of life, as well as the decline of nations. In the words of British lawyer and jurist Judge Devlin (1905 -1992),
“an established morality is as necessary as good government to the welfare of society. Societies disintegrate from within more frequently than they are broken up by external pressures.”
In order for morality to be upheld and for regression to be effectively measured, standards must exist as points of moral reference. While legal philosophy may hold that immorality is whatever a moral person considers immoral, these judgments are typically based on or are derived from either transcendent religious sources or established secular ideology. On a corporate scale, all governments and their legal and educational institutions operate out some basic moral beliefs, making complete separation of State from moral ideology impossible. In America, it was widely held that, in the words of Theodore Roosevelt: “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society”, with the morality referred to being foundationally that of the Bible. In the realm of formal religion, moral codes are passed on via sacred scriptures and traditions, which usually transcend time. However, cultural adaptations may be made as needed, while upholding the principal of the original. This adaptation is an area of theology. According to the New Testament, conscience and creation reveal essential moral truth, with the Holy Scriptures being the more comprehensive revelation, and the objective and immutable authority by which the truthfulness of any light of conscience is determined. While all major formal religions usually possess many basic moral commonalities, they can critically differ in some areas, including their manner or degree of cultural adaptation, such as are seen in the contrasts between the Bible and the Qur’an. Under secularism, religiously based laws may be upheld without requiring formal assent to one formal religion, as was the case in most of the history of the Nigeria. However, as changes in spiritual demographics occur, one ideological basis may be exchanged for another, such as is seen in atheistic humanism increasingly becoming the basis for morality in Nigeria, and essentially being State-sponsored, and supplanting that which was more Bible/Qur’an -based as presently seen in the nefarious activities of the boko haram sect. In the ideology of secular humanism, which the most prominent Western form of secularism advances, moral values are highly subject to change, being based upon the presumed superior reasoning of man, who is set forth as the supreme law-giver. Being basically atheistic, it operates out of a materialistic foundation, and lacking an objective, transcendent moral authority and its moral absolutes, it offers no assurance of moral stability, and is prone to extremes of moral relativism. How materialism assesses morality can be describe in ordinary parlance as:
Modern science directly implies that the world is organized strictly in accordance with mechanistic principles. There are no purposive principles whatsoever in nature. There are no gods and no designing forces that are rationally detectable. Second, modern science directly implies that there are no inherent moral or ethical laws, no absolute guiding principles for human society. Thirdly, human beings are marvellously complex machines. The individual human becomes an ethical person by means of two primary mechanisms: heredity and environmental influences. That is all there is. Fourth, we must conclude that when we die, we die and that is the end of us.
The cause of moral regression continues be a subject of study. In the Bible, moral decline was always a result of spiritual declension, that of falling into idolatry (the worship of false gods), which is evidenced in the Bible to be the mother of all sins. In addition to the transitory and finite nature of such created gods, these are seen to be forbidden due to their being the product of man’s corrupt nature. Man also tends to become more like the object of his highest devotion and allegiance. God, who is stated to need nothing, and being omnipotent, omniscient and perfect, is seen to command man to worship Him as a matter of righteousness, and for the good of man. Certain environmental conditions are also seen as being conducive to idolatry and its spiritual and moral decline, these conditions most primarily being that of an abundance of sensual and material satisfaction, as well as ego fulfilment (pleasures, possessions and power). The Bible states that these created things are what the world “lusts” after, and exhorts all and sundry to set their controlling affection upon God and holy things. In early Nigeria, the tendency to drift away from faith in times of prosperity was observed early by the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987) who stated, “Religion begat prosperity, and the daughter devoured the mother”.
Moral decline begins when transcendent moral values, which have proven to be beneficial over time, are discarded in preference to various ideas which man finds more conducive to achieving ultimately destructive lustful desires. While people without religion may sometimes be considered relatively good, and contrasted with evil people, yet, in contrast to the Bible, atheism offers no objective transcendent authority which comprehensively defines good and evil, and which is proven to provide beneficial morality. In addition, the moral foundation of atheism is seen by many as having allowed atheists to easily justify their atrocities, these being pragmatically reasonable to them. The corresponding responses from atheists, such as which invoke Hitler as an example of a Christian, and/or charge God with immorality (paradoxically, by Biblical standards), is part of a renewed conflict.
AFUYE Akinyemi is a polyvalent thinker, social critic, transcendental mystic and multi-perspective philologist. His interest is in Law, insurance, religion, philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.