You will all be relieved to know that I am not offering up a 'Monday funny' today because most of you idle lot are not working and, if truth be told, this being Christmas Eve, my 'funny' today would probably have come from a cracker - and they can only be classified as not so much non-jokes as 'anti-jokes'! Anyway, I have just finished the ironing - what? - oh, yes, I do the ironing in this house! Years ago the British army had a slogan on its recruiting posters along the lines of "You Learn A Trade in the Army". Well, if you call learning to iron your own clothes 'a trade' then I suppose that for once the recruiting sergeants did not lie! It's about the only thing, or at least, useful thing, I took out into 'civvie street' - and the 'Memsahib' has taken full advantage over the years. Now, where was I . . . ?
Oh yes, as I was doing the ironing I was gazing out of the bedroom window across to the Church in exactly the same view as my Christmas card (see below) except that instead of beautiful snow I was peering through what looked like a tropical rainstorm! As 'I dashed away with the smoothing iron' I began to muse on the subject of morality. Who decides on moral laws? And from whence do they originate and upon whose authority? Are they innate or are they taught? I would describe myself as 'an immoral moral man', by which I mean, that I possess a moral sense and code but frequently break it. I only (just) qualify as a moral man because at least I usually know when I have been immoral. I have been intrigued by these musings recently as I slowly read my way through Jonathan Sacks' superb - and I do mean superb - book, The Great Partnership. I am reading it slowly because, like a top class claret, it needs to be savoured gently - not gulped!
I have been struck recently - because until recently I had never given it a thought! - at the remarkable speed at which Christianity spread through the ancient world. When you consider the difficulties of travel and communications it is extraordinary that within two or three generations it had reached the limits of the Roman empire and huge numbers of people had adopted it as their prefered religion. Part of the explanation seems to lie in the attraction for ordinary people in having a personal God, that is, a God to whom they were responsible on a one-to-one basis and, moreover, a God before whom they would stand side-by-side on equal terms with kings and princes. According to Sacks, the attraction of the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, was unstoppable.
I, of course, was born and raised in a Christian country but I was not in any sense indoctrinated with Christianity. The family with whom I lived during the war were not practicing Christians and my mother, having 'suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous Scottish Presbyterianism' certainly had no truck with churches of any kind. Of course, I suppose (because I can barely remember) that I must have had the obligatory one-lesson-a-week on Bible studies in my infant and junior school but they made little impression. And yet . . . and yet . . . I do possess a moral sense - it's a mystery! Also there is another mystery because two of the moral precepts which I hold dear - and which I have broken from time to time - do not actually appear in the Ten Commandments. There is no 'Thou shalt not tell lies' nor is there any 'Thou shall keep promises'! They are two precepts I hold dear and which I have always assumed was part of the bedrock of Christianity. On the subject of the Ten Commandments, I am always amused at the unintended irony contained in the fact that the first four are strictly concerned with precepts designed to safeguard the organisation of the church! They have the smack of religious civil servants rather than the word of God, methinks! Nor, I confess, am I too impressed by this: "I the LORD your God am a jealous God,visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me". So much for 'innocent little children come unto me'!
Even so, I am content to accept as the basis of a moral code all that stuff about honouring Mum and Dad, not murdering, or stealing, or committing adultery, or calumnating, or coveting, not so much because I think it is the word of God but because it is commonsense! All those 'rules' plus the unwritten ones concerning truth-telling and promise-keeping, should be re-inforced by the law of the land, not because that would put an end to sinning, that will never happen, but because a constant moral pressure makes an excellent foundation for a civilised society. We have seen recently in all areas of our political, business and social life how quickly lying, cheating, coveting and so forth become very attractive, very quickly - with disasterous results.
But all that is the musings of an old man and I am still wondering where I obtained this moral sense of mine? Also, given the times in which we live, why should I bother? As Sacks reminds us, there are some intellectually powerful and brilliant men out there telling us, very pursuasively, the exact opposite:
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all the murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we invent? Is it not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves become gods simply to appear worthy of it? 
That bleak assessment is not lightened by the knowledge that Nietzsche eventually went mad and was confined to an asylum for his final eleven years. The fact is that when a brutal 'truth' hits you like a bucket of icy water it is necessary to face it without flinching. Nietzsche, himself, found his 'truth' unbearable but followed it grimly to the end, insisting that when a society loses its Christian faith, it will inevitably lose its morality:
If one breaks out of it a fundamental idea, the belief in God, one thereby breaks the whole thing to pieces: one has nothing of any consequence left in one's hands. 
Grimly, but in a way bravely, logical he trudged on to the fateful conclusion:
The biblical prohibition 'thou shalt not kill' is a piece of naivete compared with the seriousness of the prohibition of life to decadents; 'thou shalt not procreate'. - Life itself recognises no solidarity, no 'equal rights', between the healthy and the degenerate parts of an organism: one must excise the latter - or the whole will perish. - Sympathy for decadents, equal rights for the ill-constituted - that would be the profoundest immorality, that would be anti-nature itself as morality.
And we all know where that led! But here I sit, or slump, more like, sharing Nietzsche's disbelief in a supreme God, but still clinging to my moral code without very much in the way of justification for it. I can see and feel the power of the incoming logic from Nietzsche's atheistic passion, just as, a few weeks ago, I felt exactly the same barrage of logic coming from 'Deogolwulf' in the opposite direction. Like a member of the PBI (the Poor Bloody Infantry) in 1915, I can only dig myself in a little deeper out here in no-man's-land and hope for the best! How pathetic is that?
1: The Gay Science: With a prelude in songs and an appendix in rhymes
2: Twilight of the Idols
3: The Will to Power