morality and tolerance

by michaelhodges3

According to things I’ve read, from a number of religious and spriritual traditions, the practice of ‘morality’ ‘is the first stage of spiritual development (the final stage being the ‘heart experience’, which according to what I’ve read, leads to full ‘enlightenment’).  I’m not qualified to discuss anything beyond this first stage.  However, I’ve read that conventional churches, mosques etc are bodies that can properly teach these basic matters, and I thought I would venture a few comments.

One issue, regarding morality, is ‘multiculturalism’.  How can one have moral norms within a multicultural society?  How can one have ‘universal’ norms within a society where a person from a particular background can be convinced that something is very wrong, when their next-door-neighbour, who is from a different background, thinks it’s OK or a good thing?  One answer, I suppose, is for individuals to have a well-functioning conscience.  The kind of conscience that can tell if something is right, or wrong, even when authority says the opposite.  Another answer is to have a society within which moral dialogue and discussion is possible, so that people who disagree can move forward without violence.

I suppose that what it all comes down to is having a society in which people can discuss, consider and learn without coming to blows, and a society with a strong degree of tolerance and forgiveness towards individuals’ well-meaning mistakes.   Because learning, both spiritually and otherwise, is partly about making mistakes, and learning from them.  And partly because morality is about people’s motives and intentions, not just about actual outcomes.  And finally, because virtues such as kindness and empathy are themselves things of meaning and value.

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