One of the things I liked best about what Aristotle had to say was that religion had no place in the realm of ethics. You gave your due to the gods, but endeavored to live your life by the laws of your civilization, and by an internal understanding of what was right and wrong.
Certainly, religion contains wisdom on how to develop that internal understanding of right and wrong, but it seems to me that simply setting down rules of behavior that come with either promises of rewards, or fear of punishment, without having any sort of understanding of "why", just doesn't work.
So, if your religion makes you ethically lazy...you're doing it wrong.
I know there are people out there of all faiths who work actively to be better people every day. To embody all that is good and beautiful in their religion to be as close to the ideal as possible. These are obviously not the people I'm talking about.
I'm sure most people have seen the bumper sticker, "I'm not perfect, I'm just forgiven," or some variation thereof. What exactly is it saying? I think that the spirit of it is saying something to the effect of, "I cannot be perfect, as even though I try to be so every day, I fail. But I am forgiven for my failing, and that gives me the comfort and strength to continue." I know that there are those who actually believe this.
Unfortunately I also think that the majority of the people who would put this sticker on their cars tend to act as if it saying, "I can be as big a jerk as I want, because all I have to do is ask forgiveness." When all bad deeds are forgiven, why take responsibility for them?
I'm sure everyone knows of at least one person who does whatever they want, without really caring about the consequences, but still claims to be a good Christian of some flavor or another. I never understood how this was possible and it is probably one of the reasons I'm not Christian anymore.
I think the world would be a different place if everyone considered, and cared, how their actions and words affect those around them.
The Wiccan Rede states, "An it harm none, do what thou wilt," or some variation thereof. At its core, I believe this means, "I have used all the tools and gifts at my disposal to see whether or not my actions will harm another. I am not omniscient, so if there are circumstances that I cannot foresee that would harm another, may my actions come to naught." And again, I believe there are those who hold to the rede in this manner.
However, I know there are those who use the rede as a disclaimer, tack it on the end of whatever spell they're doing to cover their bases. They do whatever they want, trusting that the rede will take care of them, still taking no responsibility for their actions. This isn't any better than believing that divinity will forgive their transgressions so it's ok to behave however they want.
I suppose the core of my argument here is responsibility. If your religion helps you to *not* take responsibility for your actions (The devil made me do it!), then it's just not working. Giving your will up to god, letting the universe interpret your wishes, figuring your life is wholly predetermined, so do whatever you want...these points of view are, in my opinion, entirely to passive, and are part of what is wrong with society today.
Everyone makes an impact on the world around them (rings in a pond anyone?), and if we were more aware of this, and endeavored to do as little harm as possible, how could the world not be a better place?
I give my due to the gods, but do not give up my will to them, or let them decide my behavior because I am hoping for a reward, or afraid of a punishment.
I choose a different way, and so should you, whatever it may be.
Till next time, be well,