' Is the Conscience Dying?

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Is the Conscience Dying?
By Oliver Sutari

August 11, 2013

A satirist once said: Our phones are wireless; cooking is fireless; dresses are sleeveless; youth are jobless; leaders are shameless; relationships are meaningless; attitudes are careless; feelings are heartless; education is valueless; children are manner less; cigars are nicotine less; coffee is caffeine less; tyres are tubeless; infants are restless; laws are enforce less, religions are Godless; our actions are conscienceless.

Every time a crime is committed and reported online, a Pandora’s box of opinions gets blown open. In cases of rape, the worst possible comment are from people who may know nothing about the victim, but assume how revealing the victim’s clothes would have been, to making a derogative assumption of the kind of family the victim may have come from; to questioning the victim’s purpose of being at the place of the incident.

The reaction from some quarters after the recent incidence of rape of a medical student in Manipal was no different. The girl, who was subjected to horrendous suffering by three lustful youth, was a well-mannered individual. She never wore revealing clothes. It was not the first time that she visited the library to refer to books. With students’ hands full the whole day, it is not uncommon for them to visit the library late in the evenings. I know the girl because she is my next-door neighbour. Even if none of what I have said about the girl is true, no girl actually enjoys being raped and that is something many readers callously ignore.

No one can ravage another human being unless the conscience is dead, because it is this very conscience that sets humans apart from beasts. Albert Camus once said, “A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon the world.”

I remember during the schooling years of my generation we had a subject called “Moral Education.” I cannot recall my children bringing home a book on the same subject. In fact, largely there is little or no education in morals today. The CBSE English language text books alone are large enough to make teachers earn their salaries, not to mention the fat math and other books. So, there is no room for moral learning in schools. The same holds true in many homes. With both parents at work and so much school work to catch up on, there is no time for moral learning at home. Alarm bells start ringing only when the child enters college. A person without the encouragement of leading a moral life and without the fear of consequences can hardly be a blessing to the society. Thankfully, one loud exception is the catechism classes the Roman Catholic churches have for the young and it is compulsory in many churches.

Alexis de Tocqueville, a French political thinker and historian, was fascinated by the progress America was making after her independence. In 1831, he travelled to America to find out how a nation that was only 50 years old make so much progress. What he discovered was that America was build not just on intellectual values, but importantly on good moral values. Every classroom had a copy of the Holy Bible and teachers honed in moral values into young students. Tocqueville once said, “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair faults.”

Today, in America and other countries that were once built on moral codes, the school authorities will be taken to court if they try to introduce the Holy Bible to the students. Secularization entered with a dark veil through the back doors and over a period of time established a firm foothold. While communists drove God forcefully, secular thinkers began to drive God away systematically by intellectualizing and rationalizing everything. Today, so many nations are in a mess because secularization meant that laws stated in the holy books had no place in society. And so many youth are living in complete darkness, their souls seeking answers that have been systematically denied them by their mentors and parents.

With laws becoming more and more autonomous (making laws to suit one’s own taste), each person, depending on his ranking in society, began to set his own moral codes. What it meant is that I am happy with my neighbour as long as I don’t have one.

Most super-rich think that there is nothing wrong if their son has a little “fun”. After all, they reason, he is young and should have some fun. And it does not matter if part of the fun means ravaging an innocent girl’s dignity. Tell a girl it is wrong to have premarital sex and she will ask you what makes you think it is wrong. The retort is a reflection of a dead or dysfunctional conscience where pride supersedes all of God’s moral codes.

While handing out a sentence, judges in the old days would say, “I sentence you to three years in prison and I hope that this gives you sufficient time to examine your conscience.” With hardly any consequence from the law today, criminals have become fearless. Combined with the absence of a system almost devoid of moral teaching, you have individuals whose conscience don’t even prick them. Today, criminal lawyers succeed in convincing the jury that it was okay for the teenager to kill his parents, brothers and sisters because he had a bad childhood. The same criminal lawyers will convince the jury that the man on trial for hard core pornography was only depicting the human sexuality in an art form.

There was a time when homosexuals were not open about their sexual preference. Today, they are openly fighting for the legalization of gay marriage. They actually believe that it is not wrong because their motto is, “If it feels good, it cannot be wrong.” It is all about instant self-gratification. Who knows, some cults that are already engaged in sexual intercourse with animals, will one day demand the legalization of marriage between man and animal. And let’s not be surprised if they find someone to lobby for them in the higher echelons of the government, where the conscience of politicians have become numb with money and power. They have taken the place of God and are rewriting what God has deemed wrong.

Live-in relationships are on the rise and even legalized in many countries. When God and His moral codes were disowned by people, human laws become more and more corrupt and are today decided almost on the whims of those in power. No wonder the same countries that were once built on God’s moral codes are on the brink of disintegration.

The problem with such thinking is that we decide what is good and what is bad; and, it is precisely here that it gets dangerous. Look at some of what the “experts” have to say, when they decide what is good and what is bad: “Watching pornography can save your marriage.” “If it feels good, then nothing can be wrong with it.” “It is okay to have a fling with your colleague – as long as you don’t get caught.”

The reference for what is good or bad solely lies in the scriptures.

If you don’t believe in God, then you don’t believe there is such a thing as a moral law giver. Atheists with power made a great deal of effort to block out any concept of a moral law giver.

What happens when you have unprecedented power with no one to answer to? And, does it matter if you don’t have an army of your own to annihilate weak people you believe to be the scum of the earth, parasites that are meant only to be killed? History has provided the answer. Frederic Nietzsche was not a dictator; he was considered to be a brilliant thinker and philosopher, who during his time called out that God was dead. Ironically, his father was a priest and his grandfather was also in the church ministry. Somewhere down the line, Nietzsche began to intellectualize everything and held his own thinking supreme over everything else, and he viciously tried to convey that God, like all people in the graves, was also decaying.

Nietzsche’s writings greatly influenced Hitler, who personally took the writings and presented them to Stalin. Hitler, Stalin, and also Mao, Pol Pot, and other such leaders – all atheists – were the cause of the death of 130 million to 135 million people. Interestingly, it was Nietzsche himself who said that if God becomes dead to people, the 20th century will see anarchy and chaos. As it turns out, the 20th century saw more deaths from wars than all the previous 19 centuries put together. Ironically, Both Hitler and Stalin had religious backgrounds, but all those ideals were replaced with atheistic beliefs. No religious force, or belief of any other kind, has the dubious ‘achievement’ of causing the death of so many people. No one counts the number of people they left weeping in their murderous wake.

The bigger irony of Nietzsche’s life is that he spent his last 14 years in an insane asylum. His mother, a God-loving woman, spent most of her time at his bedside. For weeks Nietzsche would remain silent and then suddenly burst out with verses from the Holy Bible which he had memorized as a young boy. Somewhere deep inside, his soul was perhaps seeking comfort from the Creator.

Can the conscience completely block out any notion of God? When Mao burned one of the largest seminaries in China in 1966, he declared that with it God was being evicted from China and Christianity would never return to the land. Today, China is the fastest growing church in the world. It is estimated that close to a 100 million people have turned to Jesus.

Leaders like Stalin removed the name of God from every book, believing that by blocking out even the mention of God would remove God from people’s lives forever. What Stalin did not see is that people have sought a higher power even before any scriptures. Approximately 83% of Russians are Christians. Similar proliferation is being witnessed in other Eastern European countries that were once communist-ruled. It is evident that even during the toughest of times, the communist regimes could not keep God out of people’s lives. It would seem that God is necessarily in our genes. And so are His moral codes.

It is indeed true that when the conscience has become numb or dead, we can never recognize our faults. That being the case, how can we ever repair them? Tocqueville said it best, “When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.”

It is also true that both the believer and the atheist have God in their conscience. The believer goes about his life accepting God as his Creator; the atheist obsessively tries in vain to shake off the thought of God. Both have good consciences and both have the ability to choose between right and wrong.

Rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful, black, brown or white, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or a follower of any other religion, everyone hears a voice. The old saying, “A guilty conscience pricks the mind,” still holds true. The greed for money and power, and self-gratification appear to be the main reasons why we choose to ignore that pricking of the conscience.

Following God’s beacon is the only way to bring sanity back into this world and the only way to set ourselves free, because freedom without virtue is no freedom at all.


Oliver Sutari - Archives:



Comments on this article
Oliver Sutari, ManipalSaturday, August 17, 2013
Dear Jones,

Thank you for your comments and your idea. I work with alcoholics and have also addressed youth on the dangers of pornography and drug abuse. I can certainly write on this subject.
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Jones, ManipalFriday, August 16, 2013
Mr Sutari, a very good article. I pray this article may revoke the conscience of many.
However i wish you had written something about addictions that converts humans to beasts-may be drugs, alcohol, pornography etc then how can one be back into his goodness, or retain notion of God in his life.
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Oliver Sutari, ManipalFriday, August 16, 2013
Part 2 of my response to Mr. R. D’Mello’s comments:

The fact remains that more crimes against humanity were committed by a bunch of atheists than ALL religious movements put together. Today, there are 1,000 neo-Nazi groups operating in USA, Europe and Asia. This is a horrifying concern because at the core of their belief is that the weak should be exterminated. This comes from a very pure form of atheistic belief that we are merely part of an evolutionary process where the strong can who is fit or unfit in a society.

Imagine the changes this world will see if we believe that God has made everyone in His image.

I have not suggested that Nietzsche burst’s were a product of any miracle. No one can be sure it was because of his medical condition. I have merely said that his soul was “perhaps” seeking comfort from the Creator. After all, many people – after having gone through a sinful life – have found solace in God.

Perhaps I was not clear about the central message. All our problems are in fact because of our lack of following God. It is more than clear that following ones own rule of “if it feels good, it cannot be wrong” has led to the disintegration of many societies, and even countries. If the world has to see any good changes, then we will have to follow God’s ways. We cannot solely depend on our ways.
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Oliver Sutari, ManipalFriday, August 16, 2013
Part 1 of my response to Mr. R. D'Mello's comments:

Dear Mr. D'Mello,

Thank you for your comments and I appreciate the time you have taken.

I have not mentioned that “all good things come from religion.” I have clearly mentioned that both believers and non-believers have a good conscience.

Live-in relationships have not brought down the instances of rape. Per 100,000 people, in world rankings, France is 1 in rapes, Germany 2 and Sweden 4. Russia, notorious for its sex trade, is ranked No. 3. These are supposedly very "free" countries where sex is concerned. For all the flak she receives, India is ranked 100. One might say that Indian women may not come forward to report a sex offence, but that holds true even in forward nations. Even if that is not true, India is nowhere near western countries.

As with any addiction, those addicted to sex look for more thrills and then even children cannot be safe from sex offenders, including their own parents.

I have not suggested that only atheists are capable of crimes. The persecutions and crusades were not even vaguely suggested in Jesus’ teachings. This is mainly for the benefit of non-Christians: there is not one instance when Jesus has promoted any sort of violence, even in the form of retaliation. And not once has Jesus suggested that people who don’t believe in Him should be burned at the stake.
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R D'Mello, MangaloreTuesday, August 13, 2013
Though I believe the author was well meaning, the article suffers from several flaws. For one, the central point of the article is not clear.

Also, you mentioned that Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot. It is largely well established that they committed crimes against humanity not because of their "lack of being religious". Also, Nietschze's burst of the Bible was not because of any supernatural/miracle nature - it was merely a medical condition.

The author assumes that all good comes from religion - which is a false notion. Have you not realized how many have died due to political greed of the Church in history? Have you not read about the persecution and mass killings of Protestants after the Reformation in Europe?

It is also a fallacy to assume that religion is the source of "good". Also, being an atheist does not make somebody lead a so called immoral life. Morality as a form does not come from religion. Religion may be thought as an alternative voice of morality - not the true source. Note that most intellectuals, many of whom are honest people, are not religious.

On the point of sexual crimes in India, suppression of the urge stemming from a hypocritical thinking is the cause. In the western world, where people have live-in relations (which the author demonizes), the rape rates are low. It is also the same suppression that have driven many Catholic priests to controversy.

I am a Catholic. Blaming the vice on lack of following God is plain wrong and more so illogical.
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Anil Pinto, Mumbai/Abu DhabiTuesday, August 13, 2013
Mr. Waschnig - Your observation is also right in its own way although i'll beg to differ on certain thoughts such as the teachings of the bible. I am assuming you are referring more to the old testament wherein we come across slavery, wars and treatment of women but with the new Testament and Jesus' teachings a lot of things become clearer. In fact the new testament can be a de-facto self-help manuscript wherein through the teachings of Jesus we learn a lot about humanity. The moral foundation of some nations around the world are based on these teachings and not merely from some formulas from the old testament.

Also, agreed that different cultures, religions and nationalities bring in their perceptions on humanity and we find more equality now then in the olden days which is the need of the hour in today's world - thats the good side - the bad side is that there is too much of freedom and if this is not controlled can lead to chaos. One of the most popular Pope's (and my favourite), Pope John Paul II has this to say about freedom.

"Freedom exists in not doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought".
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A. S. Mathew, U.S.A.Monday, August 12, 2013
Fantastic article exposing the highly dangerous march of the society into eternal damnation.
"One of the deep guilts in our
present generation is the bad conscience so many people have about the truth" James T. Farrell.
As you have clearly indicated, the U.S. became the beacon of hope-the citadel of democracy and the land of prosperity and opportunity due to her strong foundations in the Biblical truths and compassion. Among the founding fathers of America, many had theological degrees (14). When George Washington got a sharp axe, he cut the tree planted by his father. When the father questioned him, he told the truth and George Washington later said " "honesty is the best policy". The ACLU (American Civil Liberty Union)" fought very hard and public prayer before school events are now challenged everywhere. The U.S. was once the granary of the world, but now both the young and old are going to bed with hunger. Humanity has buried their conscience but now living in tricks-greed-lies and undermining other people. So, the whole world has started to reap the deadly consequences.
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kurt waschnig, Oldenburg GermanyMonday, August 12, 2013
Our conscience is basically our ability to internalize rules – we know right from wrong and prefer the right to the wrong regardless of whether we are being observed and regardless of punishment. Again, this is ultimately a more efficient system for social rules and the evolution of the ability to internalize rules is not the least bit surprising, especially in light of animal behaviour which is highly suggestive of a rudimentary “moral conscience.” The fact that people and cultures all over the world have many similar ideas about what is moral does not justify the conclusion that there are objective standards, independent of human experience and reason, against which we are comparing our ideas. Yes, we are using some sort of standard – but why assume that standard isn´t a part of us? We are all more similar than different and we all share many experiences in life. Wouldn´t those experiences lead to many basic and common principles regarding matters like sharing, fairness and suffering?
In fact, the similarities in people´s ideas about right and wrong over time and across cultures helps support the idea that morality has evolved. If morality is part of our evolutionary inheritance, then we should expect there to be some broad similarities and agreements. If moral rules are ed for because they help social groups survive, then it is likely that most social groups around the planet would end up with relatively similar rules of behaviour – the possible variety of successful high -level standards won´t be that great.
The fact that our moral standards have clearly developed over recorded history is a further argument for the idea that morality is a product of human social evolution. A number of moral standards are different today than they were 100 years ago and many more a different than they were 1000 years ago. I think that is a very good thing. We merely need to look at the biblical teachings on matters like slavery, war, and the treatment of women. Do we still follow these teachings? No. Have we changed and moved away from these teachings? Yes – and we are all better off for it. Minorities have equal rights in politics, society, and business. People of different races can marry. Women are not forced to remain in the home. Human moral standards have evolved because human moral standards are originally products of evolution.

Best regards

Kurt Waschnig Oldenburg Germany

email: oldenburg1952@yahoo.de
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Ambrose Lobo, Mangalore/MumbaiMonday, August 12, 2013
Congratulations Mr. Sutari for this wonderful and thought provoking article. Today the world has lost its conscience and moral values. When we were small and schooling wen had compulsory catechism/moral science classes in our curriculum.
You have rightly said that today rulers/politicians' conscience do not prick them when they go on amassing wealth by foul and murderous means. We only ray that God's kingdom come and and the whole world turn to him.
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Anil Pinto, Mumbai/Abu DhabiMonday, August 12, 2013
Once again you have hit the nail on the head. The article is a real eye-opener in today's world. Its very easy in our stressful lives to doubt God. After all when you can get relief from worldly attractions then why look at God. But, the truth is that no amount of worldly solace can bring relief. We can only get temporary respites. In the end the dark prospect of death looms above all of us that this is where man fails and God succeeds - no one has been able to challenge this very important and perhaps only true reality.

Such articles help us introspect and attempt to bring us back on the true path of humanity and you are doing a good deed in sharing it with all.
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Peter, Bolkunje/MangaloreMonday, August 12, 2013
An intellectual, thought provoking, inspiring, meaningful article. You have brought out everything in this. I pray that many young people read and be enlightened. Of course the young have no time for the long article. As I began to read I too had similar thoughts but the suspense it provoked throughout kept me going. Keep up the good work. You have been rightly named Oliver.
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Antony D'Cunha, Permude/MuscatSunday, August 11, 2013
Well written article. We have had a subject known as "Moral Science" during our days at schools. We need to sincerely respond to our inner voice (warning call) and develop moral values at the very young age to keep our conscience alive.
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John DSouza, MangaloreSunday, August 11, 2013
Congratulations Mr. Sutari,
You have drawn the true picture which reflects our world today. Though the powerful light is on, we prefer the darkness only because our eyes, ears and tongues have been high jacked by the ruler of this world and controlling them. More dependency on this material and uncertain world than the eternal is the prime cause of disastrous and inhuman crimes in the society.
As our Lord has taught us prayers, fasting and charity is the only way to escape, which help us to follow the way, truth and life, Jesus.
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