What does it mean for something to be amoral?
Question: "What does it mean for something to be amoral? What is amorality?"
Answer: Amoral can have two meanings that are related but distinctly different. We consider something amoral if it lies outside the realm of right and wrong. For example, color is amoral. Mathematics is amoral. Neither can have any moral judgment applied to it. There is no inherent rightness or wrongness in the color blue; the equation 2 + 2 = 4 is not a statement of morality. However, when a person is called amoral, it means he or she has no concern about whether an action is right or wrong. An amoral politician will do whatever it takes to retain power—lie, steal votes, pay hush money, etc.—with no compunction about his actions.
Amorality, as it pertains to humans, is usually in reference to words, actions, or attitudes. Choices usually have moral judgments applied to them in some way, and a person who shows blatant disregard for any morality associated with his or her choices is said to be amoral. An amoral person seems to have no conscience.
Amorality differs from immorality in that the latter is a violation of a moral code whereas the former is merely a disinterest in it. An amoral person doesn’t care whether lying is right or wrong; he cares only about whether there will be consequences for him. An immoral person knows lying is wrong, but lies anyway. Many people may appear to be amoral when in fact they are immoral, since “the requirements of the law are written on their hearts” (Romans 2:15).
On the flip side of the issue of amorality are those who wrongly attach morality to amoral things. The Pharisees perfected this practice and kept the common people locked in fear and condemnation with their man-made rules (Matthew 23:4; Mark 7:7). Most false religions attach morality to amoral deeds or choices, as do some errant Christian denominations. There is nothing moral or immoral, for example, about Christmas trees; the tree itself and its decorations are amoral. Yet some try to turn having a Christmas tree into a moral issue. Legalistic rules about hairstyles, clothing fabric, shoe styles, or jewelry are other examples of amoral issues being given moral status by people without authority to do so.
Morality starts and ends with the character of God. Whatever is contrary to God’s nature could be said to be immoral; therefore, when we behave in ways that displease Him, we are behaving immorally. When we are past caring whether we are behaving immorally, we could be said to be amoral. Romans 1:28 calls this having a “reprobate mind.” Amoral people can sin boldly without apparent conscience or remorse. The result of continued, unrepentant immorality is often amorality. The conscience is seared. The heart is hardened. Arrogance has replaced feelings of guilt, allowing the amoral person to commit heinous acts beyond the comprehension of most moral humans.
Scripture is clear that God does not give a pass to amoral people (Romans 2:5). We will all stand before God to give an account of our lives, whether we consider ourselves to be moral, immoral, or amoral (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Amoral people can become moral through humility and repentance (Ezekiel 11:19; 2 Corinthians 5:17). The grace of God can soften the hardest heart and break the most stubborn will when we yield to His right to be our moral standard (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Recommended Resource: True Truth: Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic World by Art Lindsley
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Questions about Worldview
What does it mean for something to be amoral? What is amorality?