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Last May, Gallup asked Americans: How would you rate the overall state of moral values in this country today? Forty-seven percent said “poor.” Only 1% viewed it as “excellent,” 15% as “good,” 37% as only “fair.”
Generally stating, morality is not fixed and has been changing with time. Many point out that “amorality” and “immorality,” though they may appear similar, have various differences. Some suggest reading Aesop's Fables, The Dark Witch, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc.; to find moral values.
Frequently listed moral values include: acceptance; charity; compassion; cooperation; courage; dependability; due regard to the feelings, rights, traditions and wishes of others; empathy; equality; fairness; fidelity; forgiveness; generosity; giving pleasure; good sportsmanship; gratitude; hard work; humility; integrity; justice; keeping promises; kindness; love; loyalty; not cheating; not hurting others; patience; persistence; politeness; reliability; respect; respecting the dignity and freedom of others; responsibility; self-control; self-discipline; service; sharing; teamwork; telling the truth; tolerance; treating others the way you want to be treated; trustworthiness; volunteering for community; etc.
Lord Krishna told in the ancient Bhagavad-Gita: Be fearless and pure; never waver in your determination or your dedication to the spiritual life. Give freely. Be self-controlled, sincere, truthful, loving, and full of desire to serve. Realize the truth of the scriptures; learn to be detached and to take joy in renunciation. Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle; show good will to all. Cultivate vigor, patience, will, purity; avoid malice and pride. Then, you will achieve your divine destiny.
We asked our panel: What are the top 5 moral values?
Values provide compass of behavior
Muhammed A. Quddus, member, Northern Nevada Muslim Community
Moral values provide the key to the understanding of differences in human thinking, acting and behaving. Like the other faiths, Islam’s core moral values are inscribed in its scripture.
Honesty and truthfulness lie near the top of the hierarchy. These threads keep people and the community fair and square. Being loving and compassionate are frequently mentioned values in the scripture. "He who is not merciful to others, will not be treated mercifully (by God)" is a teaching of Islam. A much-emphasized value in the scripture is honoring one’s own commitments and promises. Another frequently mentioned quality is humility and modesty. Arrogance and superiority are much despised by God.
“Anyone who has in his or her heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enter Paradise.” Also, for a believer to be closer to God, he/she must be generous — give away to the needy his prized possessions.
Do good, avoid evil
Robert W. Chorey, curia moderator and chancellor, Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno
Catholic moral teaching has this overarching principle: Do Good, Avoid Evil. All the values that we believe — sacredness and dignity of all life, call to family, community and participation, protection of human rights, option for the poor and vulnerable, dignity of work and rights of the workers, solidarity and subsidiarity, and care of God’s creation — must all fall under this principle.
It means it is not merely sufficient to avoid doing what is bad; we must also do — meaning, take action — in what is good and just. An example of this may be that I never steal from anyone, which is a moral good; but I also never give to help anyone either, which is not a moral good. Morality also is never fully objective. The subjective, the human(s) involved, must always be taken into consideration. It makes morality complex, but also merciful, which is also a good.
Precepts for a spiritually skillful life
Matthew T. Fisher, resident priest, Reno Buddhist Center
The Buddha taught Five Precepts for moral foundation. All five begin with “I will practice” 1) ... love, and refrain from killing. 2) ... generosity, and refrain from stealing. 3) ... contentment, and refrain from indulging in passion. 4) ... mindful speech, and refrain from harmful speech. 5) ... mindful consumption, and refrain from intoxication harming myself and the community. This is an elegant moral code. Why these five? Love, Generosity, Restraint, Truth and Clarity — with life lived by these a person will experience spiritual growth.
These are not commandments against doing evil, but instead guidelines vectoring us toward a spiritually skillful life. Most Buddhists are aware of these precepts, few can keep them diligently without error, it just depends on our stage of spiritual development and is not a matter for judgement by the community. By following these simple principles, we rehabituate ourself toward living life in joy and gratitude.
The path to Celestial glory
Micheal L. Peterson, northwest Nevada media specialist, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Our thirteenth Article of Faith states that "we believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous and in doing good to all men; indeed, we follow the admonition of Paul — we believe all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." (Joseph Smith). Christ both lived and taught these moral values and the scriptures are replete with such counsel. If we would incorporate each of these virtues into our life, we would be on a path that would not only benefit mankind but would prepare us for our return to our Heavenly Father with clean hearts and hands, worthy and ready to become “just men (and women) made perfect through Jesus Christ and His perfect atonement” (Doctrine and Covenants 76: 69), and with our families receive our Celestial reward.
Commitment to spiritual goal is No. 1
Swami Vedananda, Hindu monk
According to the Hindu tradition, five things are important: The first, and most important requirement, is the commitment to strive for a spiritual goal, rather than being satisfied with a merely superficial and temporary achievement on the worldly plane. Then, secondly, we must cultivate the ability to discriminate between that which results in achievements that are only temporary in their nature, and that which results in the realization of the infinite and eternal reality of God, which is unchanging. The third requirement is to reduce one's yearning for the fruits of one's actions, considering one's actions to be a free gift for the welfare of all. The fourth requirement is the cultivation of all moral and ethical virtues. The fifth virtue is an intense yearning for spiritual fulfillment which consists of the actual experience of the presence and reality of God, which is said to fully satisfy all other yearning.
Compassion is key
Karen A. Foster, minister, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada
Compassion for self: If we do not prioritize caring for ourselves, we find ourselves empty when we try to care for others. Thank you, gymnast extraordinaire Simone Biles, for your courageous example toward changing our culture.
Compassion for others: I define compassion as walking in other’s shoes, leading to heartfelt efforts to alleviate suffering. As Brené Brown says, “we are hard-wired for human connection.” We need each other and it is our human responsibility to care for each other and lessen suffering.
Compassion for our earth: Caring for our earth and doing all we can to alleviate our climate crisis is paramount.
Systemic change: Dismantling systems and structures that are causing suffering — such as racism and white supremacy — is critical.
Spiritual growth: Growing and challenging ourselves to become better people, strengthening our spiritual connections (however we define those) to be more mindful, more present, and more compassionate.
Humility and more
ElizaBeth Webb Beyer, Jewish rabbi
Volumes are written on the many important character traits/moral values, how to acquire them and maintain balance. It’s an art to cultivate them in the correct amount. Many have a weekly practice (mussar) of developing them by focusing on one trait each week.
The top five moral values are unique to each of us. One person may have difficulty with anger and another with lack of patience. However, a general set of values is listed in Micah 6:8, “You have been told, oh human, what is good and what G-d requires: do justice, love loving-kindness and walk humbly with your G-d.” 1) Goodness; 2) Do what G-d requires; 3) Justice; 4) Loving-kindness (chesed — Hebrew term meaning compassion, courage, mercy, love and respect); and 5) Humility. Humility is the most important. After all, it’s why Moses was able to speak with G-d face-to-face … because he was the most humble person (Numbers 12:3).
Wholeness and holiness
Stephen R. Karcher, presiding priest, Saint Anthony Greek Orthodox Church
Transformation comes from the inside, not by imposing some morality or a code of behavior. Christian life is inspired by the Spirit that produces a transformation in which both soul and body participate. Christ’s Beatitudes describe life in the Spirit and the New Testament elaborates further without ever devolving into strict moralism (despite the wishes of some modern interpreters). The first of five values that characterize this inner life of the Spirit would be self-control. This allows us to put flesh and Spirit in the right order. Next would be patience because it is “by your patient endurance you will gain your souls” (Luke 21: 19). Faith, Hope and Love would complete the five because faithfulness to Christ is our task for the present age and our hope is always set on the Heavenly Kingdom. Finally, love, not romantic but selfless and sacrificial, abides forever, uniting us with each other and with God.
An ideal moral ecology
Nancy Lee Cecil, Baha’i teacher
One’s entire moral ecology can be encompassed in the term “integrity,” the most important attribute. Abdu’l-Baha wrote, “… Central to the spiritual life is the development of spiritual qualities that assist each of us in our eternal journey toward God … our actions must increasingly come to reflect the integrity with which each human being is endowed.”
Also critical are truthfulness and trustworthiness, which involve much more than not telling lies; they also embody the willingness to discuss, value, and uphold truth itself.
Justice is the “best beloved” of all things in the eyes of our founder, Baha’u’llah, as it is vital to unity and harmony at all levels of society. Social justice means that all — regardless of religion, race, creed, class, or gender identity — are treated fairly.
Finally, Baha’is believe humility should form the foundation of all human interactions, and must emanate from a posture of respect for the viewpoints of others.
If we get these right …
Bryan J. Smith, lead pastor, Summit Christian Church, Sparks
The first two values are nonnegotiable, eternal and relevant in all cultures and generations. Jesus said in Matthew 22 that we are to love God with everything we have and love our neighbor as ourself. If we can get these two right, everything else will fall into place. But we struggle to do just that.
The remaining are more flexible and fluid. These include justice, creation care and free will. Justice stretches across race issues, poverty, immigration, etc. Creation care calls us to steward God’s creation and care for it well. But we are seeing humanity move in the opposite direction. With free will comes the freedom to choose what we do, what we pursue and love. Unfortunately, we often use our freedom for selfish reasons, rather than using our freedom to draw near to God and serve our fellow man.
My top five
Kenneth G. Lucey, philosophy/religion professor emeritus, University of Nevada
Shakespeare provided my top moral virtue: “This above all, to thine own self be true, and then it must follow as the night the day, you cannot be false to any man” (Hamlet).
Another value I cherish is the Greek motto: “Gnothe se auton” found on walls in Greek temples. It means “Know thyself.” Putting these two together requires that if you are to be true to yourself, you must first have acquired genuine self-knowledge.
A third top moral precept comes from Confucius: “Do not do unto others that which you would not have done unto yourself.”
A fourth moral maxim is one I struggle with and demands “moderation in all things.” My struggle with this one is with controlling the size of my personal library.
Finally, I take it to be a moral imperative to seek for truth in all matters, and to require genuine demonstrable evidence for such
Next week’s topic: What should you do when your child doubts the existence of God?
Faith Forum is a weekly dialogue on religion produced by religious statesman Rajan Zed. Send questions or comments to [email protected] or on Twitter at @rajanzed.
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