It is a bit shocking when we hear it for the first time. No moral right or wrong, no way. How can this be? What would happen if everyone thought there was no right or wrong? I don’t know why, but my first thoughts immediately went to childhood scenarios. Could I eat all the ice cream I wanted, watch TV all day, never go to school? Then I thought, what if societies and countries just did what they wanted? The world would be in chaos. There would be mass murders, wars, stealing, groups depriving others just because they are of a different race, religion, or culture.
But wait, that’s what’s going on now and has been for centuries.
Most of the world’s organized religions include moral codes in their holy books instructing their followers how to live their lives and the difference between right and wrong. Unfortunately, it also seems they give each group the authority to do horrific things to others. They do this by placing labels of blasphemy, heretic, sinner, etc., on anyone who believes differently from their religion. How can they all be right? How can they all be wrong? Interesting questions.
I first started thinking about the idea of no right or wrong when I read Neal Donald Walsch’s book The New Revelations, of the Conversations of God series. I review this and other topics in both of my Angel in Training books; A Spiritual Journey and 12 Lessons. Walsch explains the idea of this is to consider it from an ultimate moral sense. For example, if a person lives in New York City and wants to go north to Boston and begins their journey traveling directly west to Pennsylvania, they are not necessarily wrong; they are simply traveling in a direction that will not get them where they want to go. Or, if a person wants to have a good marriage and meaningful family life, they will not go on every business trip offered or stay out late at night with friends several times a week. Going on trips or staying out late are not wrong in and of themselves, but if a person wants to have a solid family life, they may want to reconsider their extracurricular activities. Just like a person heading to Pennsylvania might want to consider changing direction if they want to go to Boston. Neither is definitively “wrong,” they simply are not acting in a way that supports what they ultimately want to do
This is not a new idea. The concept has been batted around in philosophical and ethical discussions for centuries. Please keep in mind this is an introduction and the tip of the iceberg of this topic. Common terms used in these discussions are “moral nihilism,” relating to the idea that there is no inherent rightness or wrongness in anything, and “moral relativism,” meaning that ideas can be deemed right or wrong depending on a specific moral environment or moral code. For example, working on the sabbath is forbidden in one religion but not in others.
No right or wrong has two levels
For me, the idea of no right or wrong has two levels; the first one is easier to accept than the second. The first level relates to this moment in time and place in our everyday lives. I have been sensitive to the burden many people, including myself, have taken to be right and avoid being wrong. Pursuing the right career, going to the right church, buying the right house, reading the right books, or having the right friends all come to mind. Once a student told me that her parents didn’t want her to be a psychologist but wanted her to be an attorney.
“What should I do? I want to make the right choice?” she asked.
“It doesn’t matter what you do; there is no right or wrong in this scenario,” I replied.
“How can you say that?” She said, clearly exasperated. “They want me to be an attorney and think that a career in psychology would be lower pay and is not a real profession. I love psychology and the ability to help people improve their lives. I don’t know if I could live with their disapproval.”
“It’s like a seesaw.” I explained, “On the one side, you have their wishes and approval; on the other side, you have your passion for psychology and their disapproval. You can choose their approval over your interests, and hopefully, be happy and not resent them. Or, you could follow your heart and pursue the career you love, and hopefully, they will not disown you. Either way, whatever direction you take, there is no ultimate right or wrong decision; it’s your choice.”
I’m not sure what the student decided, but I believe she understood her decision had no ultimate moral implications.
Are there any limits to the no right/wrong perspective?
One question frequently comes up when discussing this topic. Are there any limits to the no right/wrong perspective? This is a tough one. In my opinion, the vast majority of human behavior easily falls into the “no limits” category. We are all free to be, do, or have whatever we want in this life. One thing to consider are laws that prohibit certain activities. Yes, I am free to go 125 miles per hour on the highway; however, I may get a ticket or lose my license if I do. I can go into my local bank and demand they give you all of their cash as long as I understand I will be most likely be arrested.
Other things to consider are religion, society, and family values. Does what I want to do go against my faith? How badly do I want to be a good Christian, Muslim, or Hindu? Relating to the road trip, if I want to stay on the road to being a good religious follower, I will do what my religion mandates. But If I want to go in another direction, I should turn and head that way. This is true for all other decisions as well, family, work, school, relationships. And it’s ok to align your life with any of these; it’s ok to want to be a good Catholic, good student, or worker. The important part for me is that people are aware of why they are doing it and if it aligns with who they are.
But what about extreme scenarios?
Another critical question comes up in thinking through this topic. But what about more extreme scenarios involving hurtful and severe actions? Are they not right or wrong either? This is very hard to answer and falls into what I call the second level of this concept.
The second level can be difficult to accept
The second level of the no right/wrong perspective can be much more difficult to accept because it involves looking at life from a spiritual and eternal perspective. This is the idea that we are eternal beings living temporary physical lives, maybe even hundreds of lives. Some of you may not buy into this and want to check out, and that’s ok. Others of us that accept this perspective look at our physical lives much more broadly. We can do this because we believe we are eternal, complete, and godly beings on a spiritual journey. In a real sense, it does not matter what we do in this life because we are here to learn through many experiences and lifetimes.
There is no “end goal” or destination to our physical experiences; we will never get it done. This implies that a person can be a saint, burglar, warrior, doctor, murderer, or monk to learn and experience what they need to help them on their eternal journey. In addition, we don’t know where others are in their journey or what lessons they are learning in their lives, but we can view them as fellow spiritual beings traveling on their own road.
The difficult part to grasp is considering how hurtful and seemingly evil people are spiritual beings on a journey. I’ve read the phrase “Hitler went to heaven” in a few places, and if we firmly accept the many lives and eternal journey idea, I believe we have to consider at least that it is true for everyone, no matter what they are or have done in life. Many people can view a suicide bomber as an evil person; however, I would think most would agree that the bomber strongly believed they were sacrificing themselves for a greater good. For me, this is the most challenging concept to grasp, and I still wrestle with it to some degree. But when I can step back and view life from an eternal perspective, I get it.
Freedom can be terrifying
It’s important to know that a significant underlying issue in viewing life with a no right/wrong perspective is that it allows us to be free, and that freedom can be terrifying. Many people need to either be told what to do or spend an inordinate amount of energy to justify their decisions and actions to avoid others’ judgment or earn their acceptance. I believe to be true to yourself, in all aspects of life, is the most important goal to pursue.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this, these are my thoughts and what I have learned along the way thus far. I welcome your thoughts on this controversial subject. So please respond and join the discussion!
To read more about my personal experiences and scientific investigation into spirituality check out my website
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