Remember when you were a kid, and you knew there were delicious cookies not-so-locked-away in a kinda-sorta out of reach location? Did you ever take one anyway, even though you knew you “weren’t supposed to”? Why weren’t you supposed to? Because you’d spoil your dinner or “Because I said so!” Now that you’re (presumably) grown up, you might still have cookies semi-locked away somewhere, and you might find yourself in a similar dilemma. You’ve added a few more reasons to the list of why you shouldn’t have a cookie. You don’t want to gain weight. You’re saving them for someone. You already stuffed your fat face so full of pudding pops that to have even one cookie would make you puke all over yourself. All of those options basically boil down to, again, “Because I said so,” but in this instance, it isn’t your parent telling you, it’s your superego telling your id. You’re choosing whether or not it’s okay to have a cookie.

Let’s get a bit more philosophical here. When you were a kid, eating that cookie was wrong 100% of the time. Let’s call it immoral, just for shits and giggles. Now as an adult, eating that cookie is immoral, let’s pull this arbitrary statistic of 50% of the time out of my ass. Half of the time you feel bad about cramming your face hole with cookie goodness, the other half you just savour its deliciousness guilt-free because you found some way to justify it. Maybe you’re going to the gym later or maybe it’s your “cheat” day. Or maybe you just fucking love cookies, who knows.

At some point, eating that cookie became less immoral. Probably it’s when you moved out of your parents’ house. At that point, all of a sudden a whole lot of things became less immoral. Staying out past 10pm, bringing girls home, pooping in the bidet; now you are deciding whether or not these things are okay. The actions themselves aren’t imbued with any moral value, it’s strictly how you as an individual perceive them.

These are, of course, small fry examples. I think most people would agree that these trivial actions shouldn’t even count towards a form of morality. What about if that cookie was a shellfish? Or pork? Religion, the ultimate guide for morality, in some instances dictates dietary restrictions. So let’s look at religious law and see if it’s just as subjective as choosing whether or not to poop in a bidet.

If you’re religious, (I’m going to stick to Christianity in this instance because I’m fairly western centric in my thinking, though it does apply to every religion. Feel free to apply your own belief set to this theory) you would probably say the biblical law against murder is higher than the secular, governmental law against murder. What I mean to say is, you aren’t going around killing people helter skelter because of what God says, not because of what Johnny Law says.

What about slavery? The Bible, even the New Testament, advocates slavery. Ephesians 6:5-8 tells slaves to obey their masters as they would obey Christ. I sincerely hope that you would place secular, governmental law higher than biblical law in this instance.

So why do this? You might justify about how the Bible was written in a different time period, under different circumstances, and that it needs to be interpreted in a modern cultural context, and that’s fine. Go ahead and do that. I’ll allow it, but in return, I need you to understand that the only reason you’re saying that is because you were raised in that same modern cultural context, and because of this, you are choosing which parts of the Bible to follow. The morality dictated by the Bible isn’t inherently moral because of where it’s coming from, it is only moral if the person interpreting it declares it as such.

Even if you followed every letter in the Bible, it would still only be because you are choosing to do so, because that is your belief. Your choice. It’s only “Because I said so” if you let it.

I feel as though I need to take a step back and explain what I mean when I say morality. I’m going to do this super quick because this is a huge tangent and I apologize, but I want to make sure I’m being clear. An action is moral only if it is inherently viewed as moral. Because I said so, and because I’m going to punish you if you don’t, are not valid reasons for morality.  So governmental law, for example, isn’t a basis for morality because it’s a mix between because I said so, and the fear of being locked in prison. The only reason that religious law is exempt from this stipulation is because God is viewed as the source of Goodness. So God’s laws are already imbued with morality, simply because of their source. My argument is that that is not the case, as you as an individual already have preconceived notions as to what’s good or not, based on your upbringing, and use those notions to pick and choose which parts you like or dislike. Some folks attempt to use reason to dictate morality, but that always leads to trouble, and I’m not getting into that right now.

And we’re back. Okay. I have lost my train of thought. And this is why tangents are a bad idea.

Oh right. I remember. I’m going to give a few more examples of subjective morality that don’t involve cookies because that will just make me hungry.

Since everyone loves pop culture, and you’re a damn dirty liar if you say you don’t, let’s look at some situations where traditionally “wrong” actions are looked upon in a favourable light. Aladdin, for example, steals things. Disney, the production company for kids, says that stealing is okay. Sure he shares the bread, but he still steals. What is the message here? There are some options. Stealing is always okay. Stealing is only okay if it’s food. Stealing is only okay if it’s for the benefit of those who need it badly. Which reminds me that Robin Hood is another good pop culture example. Stealing is never okay and Aladdin should have his hands cut off, as was the tradition at the time. Of those options, which one did you relate to most? It’s going to be different for each of you, but that’s my point. Based on who you are as an individual, you are going to relate more to one version of morality over another. Especially in the grayer areas. Note: I hope you’ve caught on that my point is that they’re all gray areas. Some are just grayer than others.

Oh wait hold on let’s look at  straight up killing folks. This one is easy for those of us who are lucky to be born into such privilege where we can smugly assert that killing is wrong in every instance and that it is never justified (For the record, killing is always wrong and is never justified). What about those who live in the context of kill or be killed? Maybe you might change your mind if every day is a fight for your life. Pop culture reference here is City of God.( I wanted to give an example of a localized culture where killing has become the norm, but every action movie ever has us relating to someone who is killing dudes left and right. Maybe it’s for some cause or another, but it’s still death dealing that movie goers cheer for. The book and upcoming movie Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card has us relate to someone who commits genocide. Spoilers, by the way. Maybe you feel as though that every instance of death dealing is wrong, and that movies that perpetuate that culture are a hindrance to social progress. Kudos, but that’s still only because that’s what you’re choosing to believe based on your personal, unique life experiences.

There are countless pop culture examples of robots being programmed with “humanity’s best interests” and then being unable to properly understand this directive due to an acute case of Lack of Feelings, so they go on a murderous rampage or whatever, and then humanity has to assert its humanity in order to bring the world back to its chaotic interpretation of morality. Sometimes it’s wrong doing right, and sometimes it’s right doing wrong. Robots don’t understand this, but humans do, and that is because we choose our own morality, and it isn’t based on anything having intrinsic value, it’s based on how we happen to feel about it at the time.