Purity Was Hijacked by Religion

Some weeks ago, I had a series of posts about morality, based on some research by Jonathan Haidt.

I've had some time to digest those ideas, and wanted to field a suggestion developed from them.

Specifically, Haidt suggests (at the end of his TED talks) that liberals could open their doors, so to speak, to a wider number of people, if it could find a way to tap into the three morals that are usually "overlooked" by the left. Namely: Loyalty to one's group, deference to Authority, and adherence to Purity. He gives an example of the latter: most liberals actually do believe in purity. For example, many of us are vegetarians. (I don't talk about it much, but I am a vegetarian. ...Well, mostly. I eat fish.) ; ) Even better, a majority of us are green. That's a great example, actually: we do believe in purity when it comes to being green.

The first thing that strikes me when I consider this is that the word "purity" was hijacked by religion.

What do we think of when we use the word? Well, for me, the first concept to come up (so to speak) is sexuality. But when you think about it, there are only two aspects of purity that can really be applied to sexuality: avoiding harm to your partners and not letting sex consume your life. Sex is, otherwise, a pure thing. Absolutely pure: it is, in fact, the basis of all the life we see on a daily basis*. Nudity is pure: clothing is something we've added culturally.

I suggest you take a few minutes to consider your definition of purity and wonder if it's really appropriate. If you decide there are incongruities there, then perhaps you'll find you care enough about it to begin reclaiming the word "purity" to mean something more appropriate... like, maybe, decreasing the amount of poisons we're pumping into our environment. ...Or into our own bodies. Maybe it has to do with hygiene and disease prevention. Maybe purity should mean how well we act as stewards for our bodies, our environment, our families, our friends. Maybe purity is has something to do with our thoughts: how many we dedicate to creating net gains for the world, as opposed to self-indulgence.

Because I could get behind the idea of purity, if that's what it meant.

And why shouldn't it?

* No disrespect meant to the little guys who get away with budding and dividing. More power to you. But being small means we don't see you doing the nasty down there.

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