All the great religions of the world have, at their core, a code of conduct that seeks to instill a sense of what is acceptable behavior and what is not, what is viewed as moral and what is not. The problem with organized religion is in following blindly the tenets of the religion, without questioning either the applicability of its teachings to the modern world, or its greater impact as an organization, upon the world. The more money an organized religion takes in, the more power it gains as an entity in its own right, the more corruptible it becomes. Catholicism is a great example of this, having historically used its power to shape and destroy millions of lives with edicts given from a largely unassailable source, supposedly the most holy and therefore most moral of all, the Pope and the Vatican.
We do not need organized religion, however, to live by a moral code. All of us have convictions that are held deeply in our hearts, boundaries we will not cross, values we are willing to fight for. Some of these are shared by the majority of humanity: Do not murder, steal, envy. Do unto others as you would do unto yourself. Simple common sense, really. All we want as human beings is to be treated fairly, respectfully, HUMANELY. And, at least in theory, we wish to treat other human beings with the same fairness and respect.
If we genuinely wish to live in accordance with our most deeply held values, and make efforts to do so, even when it costs us something in effort, time, money, or even pain, then we are living by our own moral compass. If that moral compass is inclusive of the basics shared by most moral codes, then it should be a simple, logical concept to accept that if we break that code, there are, and should be, consequences.
If we murder someone, shouldn’t we be held accountable? If we steal, should we not be made to return the item or recompense its owner? Why then, is it hard to understand that by our genocide of the indigenous population, we are guilty of murder? Why then, is it unreasonable to assume that our theft of the indigenous lands and resources must be amended by our return of those lands, and reparations for the resources we have stolen?
But that was generations ago, you say. Does that, in any way, absolve us as moral human beings? How can we justifiably say that the egregious crimes committed by our ancestors should go unpunished because those ancestors are long dead? We cannot.
By any reasonable moral code, the consequences of a crime committed stand, regardless of time. There must be a reckoning, a payout of the debts we owe. Moreover, though it is our ancestors that committed those original crimes, we have continued through to this day to enjoy the many and varied benefits those crimes have brought us.
We can choose, as decent human beings, to right the wrongs so long unanswered by those who came before us. We can CHOOSE to resolve the debts of our past and forge a new beginning as truly moral human beings. We MUST or we will forever be in conflict with not only those whose land we inhabit, but within ourselves. We carry the scar of that guilt. We cannot both act as virtuous and moral human beings, while also allowing our crimes to remain unpunished and our debts to remain unpaid.