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The greatest cop-out I can imagine in a verbal disagreement is when someone accuses another of persecution. A good example is in Paul Mero's op-ed, "Secular disdain for religion" (Opinion, Oct. 20), which was a response to a column the week before by the Tribune's George Pyle, which argued that a free society does not require religious belief in order to function.
Let's think about this, and in the context that Mero suggested is missing in secular thinking.
First, let's level the playing field with Wikipedia's definition of what is moral: "concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character."
Humanity has always grappled with the question of morality. Even 7,000 years ago we realized we could not kill one another arbitrarily because if we did we would die out. Some societies couldn't figure this out and collapsed. Some conquered others, annihilating them for their resources. Others destroyed too many resources.
We learned early that if we continually stole from one another, nothing productive came of it. We realized we needed rules because we had to live together in some degree of harmony.
I argue that kindness, and rules against murder, theft, and running red lights are not instituted by religion, but by humankind.
Religion does not have a corner on morality, but nevertheless defines it according to its own belief system, sometimes right down to the beverage you should or should not drink.
Our sense of morality comes from many sources. Government is a source; you kill, you go to prison. Family is another. Your parents teach you their morality and you incorporate it into your life.
Of course, religions, governments and families sometimes break their own rules. Today, people are killed because of conflicts within each of these entities.
Some religions teach that one cannot have a good family outside the faith. I define family as a group that unconditionally loves each member, shares to survive and protect, sometimes in the smallest activities each day.
Family can consist of a mom, a child and a dog; a mom, a dad and four children; an aunt, a grandfather, a dad, and two children; or a dad, a dad, and a child.
Mormons of the 19th century defined family very differently than they do today. Not one of these family combinations has the last word on love. Each and every family maximizes love in order to live together day to day and to survive more happily together than apart.
Mero, president of the conservative Sutherland Institute, maintains that you cannot be good and decent without religion.
I believe that goodness and decency are internal and that we needn't rely on being taught to be afraid of ourselves. This belief requires a degree of self-confidence, but the moment you realize that it is you who chooses to be a good and decent spouse or a trustworthy citizen, moral aptitude and freedom are yours.
Truth exists within. Religion offers its own definition of truth for those who need that guidance. But don't always depend on religion to do the right thing. Experience, love, scientific discovery, emotional security and a fascination with life; these are my truths.
Mero need not feel persecuted when someone does not believe as he does. No one person or group has the final word on truth. Pretty much all of us, though, religious or not, see the need to get along, so we stop at red lights.
Kelli Lundgren lives in Cottonwood Heights and pretty much stops at all red lights.