Hi Jack, thank you for a thoughtful response — however, I must disagree with some things you said. As for the universal moral system — I think it is not just impossible to establish, but may be harmful. We may indeed a universal legal system, to prevent crime and protect people from being harmed — but this is not the same as unified moral conduct. For example, when comes to sexuality — many religions try to impose on people what is “moral” and what is not in this respect (e.g. having sex before marriage is “immoral”). However, this is not a question of universal morality, but individual choices.

The harm that this kind of imposed morality can do is best described by Shannon Ashley in her story: Who’s Afraid of Their Big Bad O?

I could agree on a universal moral system only if it was formulated in a very generic way — like the Buddhist morality of following the behaviours that decrease suffering, rather than increase it. However, this is very situational and so we cannot say that, within this system, lying would always be a “bad” thing, proving that a person lacks integrity.

Consider a situation when someone is faced with an aggressive abuser, for example within a marriage. Let’s say it is a woman who knows she will be beaten by her husband if she tells him the truth about something trivial she did — e.g. speaking to a male neighbour. If she lies about that in order to protect herself from being physically harmed — is this a lack of integrity, or rather the best choice she can make in that situation?

This is an extreme example just to show that the same behaviour can be judged differently in different circumstances. So it is very hard to establish one universal moral conduct for everyone, regardless of their life context.

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