If you begin the process of making policy with a skewed perspective, the policy will be skewed. If you begin policy making from the perspective of what should be, rather than what is, you will get skewed policy. Religious morality is founded on the assertions of people in the context of their metaphysical contemplations rather than fact, whether they believe in God or Christ, Mahmoud, polytheist or some variation on a given theme. The challenge with the irrationality of religion being mixed with policy is that people are busy effecting control over the populous rather than managing societal outcomes. Religious morality came into being to manage human interface in a beneficial manner, morality is in no way created to stop behavior, but rather to effect societal outcomes – as a person subjecting themselves to theocratic rigour one has the right to ignore outcome, one involved in the governance process must hold outcome as paramount.
To assert religious belief as irrational is accurate, in that, the notion of faith absent tangible proof is irrational as a result of the assertion being unsubstantiated. This is, in no way an affirmation of atheism, but rather, a criticism of the misapplication of religious morality in governance which results in outcomes that contradict the basic premises of the Christian faith (in the Canadian context) and conflict with the enlightenment / secular ideals as they are want to find expression in a free and democratic society. There needs to be a detachment from religious belief in the policy creation process to ensure rational policy that meets the requirements of society at large.
As an aside, a comment on the Christian moral perspective. Metaphysical contemplation has inherent the reality that it must start where human knowledge ends, the Christian moral perspective evolves from the views and general understanding of people who, in many cases, lived in excess of 2000 thousand years ago. The assumption that order is preexisting, as opposed to realizing universe is in a state of flux, assumes that all creatures and things were the product of a single Genesis and are fixed, when the world indicates differently. Assuming a fixed point of origin provides a reference point, but creates a distortion in perception, as the “fixed point of origin” occurred in a state of flux. The beginning and the end are unknown and unknowable, and are the place of metaphysical contemplation; assumptions that distort this reality serve to confound thought, distort progress and generally limit humanity. The ardent adherence to orthodoxy oft times generates an immoral circumstance; one would think that in our modern society “orthodoxy” as it relates to any religion & government policy would have folded, it does linger however, so we have to work to ensure that the negative outcomes generated by orthodoxy get remedied and the positive preserved.
Moral Relativism is a term normally murmured as a pejorative; I, on the other hand, see moral relativism as a philosophy that permits “traditional believes” to provide direction, while allowing people’s conduct to evolve with advancements in knowledge and technology. When one permits the “reexamination” of moral tenets, examination undertaken with the desired outcomes of the “founders” of a given m oral complex in mind – one can begin to expand the human endeavor and achieve the worthwhile “societal” outcomes we all desire. One is also permitted to examine an issue absent prejudice, to really examine an issue from a place of reason. Many of (y)our most vexing challenges – even in modern Canada – paths to solution are blocked by the inappropriate adherence to “outmoded” moral perspectives. Rather than taking a public health perspective, a populist perspective or just the most efficient solution perspective, we are locked in repeat on bad policy the attempts to adhere to a single moral perspective with outcomes that marginalize and effect grossly immoral outcomes on our most vulnerable.
If it is your goal, as it is mine, to have whole and well - adjusted family units – which is the underlying desire of much of the religion based moral complex, then build policy that addresses that goal – rather than directing resources to blocking “vice” for example. Prostitution will occur, it is contrary to the aforementioned goal, however, by directing resources to stop it you starve the governance energy to support family or what some may term as the more “wholesome” aspects of life. It is necessary at times to “ignore” behavior to address the root causes of the behavior your wanting to correct or redirect. The public health perspective on prostitution brings people in the “trade” into the ambit of health professionals, people who can offer a way to a different life should a different life be desired. In the process of “fighting” vice, we marginalize and alienate people drawn to the “trade”, oft times by unfortunate circumstance. There is a paradox that exists in developing policy – the ardent adherence to moral orthodoxy often leads to a damaging outcome. It is the ardent adherence to the institutionalized Christian moral perspective with respect to the altered state that has us “warring” against our own people in the realm of drug policy; even when it was our very drug policy that has imposed illness on a given individual.
The correct basis in thought for good policy has firstly, the desire to find the best overall outcome founded on science and fact, and secondly, the willingness to expose policy execution to honest, rigorous post application assessment. Only by establishing indicators, benchmarks and milestones based on a clear set of metrics can we ensure policy is doing what it is intended to do.
Morality is far too idiosyncratic for government to manage; morality belongs squarely in civil society. Any given person’s moral perspective evolves, most often absent conscious thought, from their family and their family’s religious practice or the absence of religious practice. So you may disagree with a person’s actions, fear for their sole – so speak to that person; you may enlighten them to another perspective. I should emphasize that this commentary is in no way an attack on any given religious perspective. The challenge arises when institutional credibility rides on dogma challenged by substantiated fact and government authority is appropriated to further dogma. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, all we need for reason to prevail is to accept another’s truth to be as valid as our own. It is critical however, that government policy generates neutrality in the public square. A child should be able start down any street with a given moral perspective and level of awareness, and emerge out the other end unchanged, save a parent’s chosen direction.