And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion...reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
- George Washington, from his Farewell Address
I have said many times that morality, indeed any issues of right and wrong, must have a God of some sort behind them. Without an objective norm to fall back on, any and all questions of good and evil, even issues of simple prudence, are nothing more than your word against mine. In such a case, problems would be resolved only through might makes right, whether at the hand of a single tyrant or that old saw consensus, which is but a name for the tyranny of the majority. We must do right because it is right on its own terms as instituted by the Creator of the natural law.
Consensus cannot make something right. Consensus is merely what the majority of the people at a given time happen to want which they are able to subject upon the minority. I have been told further that morality 'develops' as people 'discover' what works and what does not; that sounds like consensus in a varied form, and little more. Do we honestly believe that such is the best way to create good law and rational public policy?
Obviously it is not. We require a Supreme Being, a supreme and final Law, in order to do well and avoid evil. To those who object, which God?, I say, the one whom philosophy as much as religion insists is there. From that point we can safely speculate on how such a being would expect us to act. It is then when we start to cross into religious principle because at that point we begin to realize that people are special, that doing wrong against them is an evil in itself because it is an affront to their dignity as individuals. A dignity they have by virtue of their humanity, as given them by God. It does not come from them or anything they do.
So there is no reason to base morality and law on anything slippery such as convention, which can and will change as generations do. We need that eternal sense, that eternal reality, if we are to make a good society, and become good people. For any ideal of dignity must come from the religious ideal that everyone deserves proper respect. That cannot come from any simple human act. It can only come from above, overarching each individual. We recognize that and live accordingly, or we slowly perish.