The "New"moral code of 21st century

Hello everyone,

My name is Wlayche and I live and work in Serbia. I am using this opportunity to introduce myself and to start a conversation in which I hope to find more clarity and insights on a matter I consider highly important in our daily lives – moral code and how we understand it, how we build it and what influences it, and how it affects what is 21st century religion or spirituality. In the ever-growing complexity of life, it is difficult to fully understand how to help people not to feel restrained by the moral code determined primarily by traditions and religion (which I believe need redefining and adapting).

To me, a moral code is a set of values and principles a person adopts going through life and which is then used in all situations to determine her course of actions. Those values and principles originate from different sources – our family, education, religion, traditions, but are also shaped by experiences. I believe that although there is a national culture, dominant religion and tradition, we are mostly exposed to them through contexts framed to us by our family, teachers, friends and people we meet. Our moral code is not only that, but what ends up “written” in the code depends on how we and to what extent do we apply dominant interpretations, which has much to do with situations we experienced ourselves – on a very individual level. With me, as with most others, it all started with my family. In our house, taking care of each other, spending time together, being kind to people and always learning new things were the biggest religion. I was 16 when I figured out we were religious (Orthodox Christians) – I was so focused on the family customs and studying that I missed out on the God part completely.

I tried to understand the religion and traditional customs better, and how they applied to my life. Debates in my high school made it easy to challenge a lot of the concepts and to reflect on different opinions. Various authors I read, the people I hang out with from the Science Centre, university, debate, NGOs made me realize that I do not agree with how traditions and religion interpreted most of the things around us. They teachus to cherish and love our family, but the Church also seems to indicate that rule somehow does not apply to LGBTQ people or people of other race and class. They say women are the core pillar of society and family, but domestic violence is overlooked and women’s sexual harassment issues ignored. The traditions put too much burden on a society by prescribing who should do what and how, and who is entitled to it.

Those traditions and religious inputs collided with things that felt more naturally to me – if all humans are equal than the rules should apply to all, and not to some; that it is important what we think about how we treat each other and not be guided in our actions by some supposed higher authority; that being fair won’t always pay off, but one should be fair anyways. As I was growing up it became more and more difficult to deal with all the contradictory inputs and insights I got from the exposure from all these different sources (cultural and societal norms which are set by tradition and religion, my own sense of morality, things I read and taught doing NGO work and volunteering and things I saw happening on a wider economic and political spectrum).It feels that we have to deal with many more and faster changes than our parents and grandparents had to, when information was not only a click away and they relied much more on the storytelling of the families and experiences from school and work. It was easier then to follow the “moral” code – it was primarily connected to religion and to tradition, and there were less people challenging those codes and values. I am still grappling with living my life according to my own moral code, which I do not feel is shared by majority of the nation. Most of the time It feels like I live in a bubble in which spirituality is not connected to some sort of God or some stone-written principles, but rather to a group of values which can be interpreted differently and are flexible enough to adapt to new realities. I will use just one example – I was taught by my family but also by our dominant culture and religion that family is the backbone of society. To me, this meant that this rule applies when your child is LGBTQ/decides not to have children/decides not to go to college/doesn’t have a steady job, but our societal and dominant moral code for now fails to adapts to the reality of this and to truly embrace what loving and caring for your family means (in my opinion).

In my life I try and apply this minority moral code to everything I do – I didn’t like the work cultures I worked in before, so I created my own when I became an executive. I am not giving up on fighting for women empowerment, marginalized groups and pushing for climate action. In this I used to feel lonely, but in the past years a movement is starting to rise and narrative of what is dominant desired behavior is slowly changing. Having said that, even though people who share my values and “moral code” are still a minority, it feels like that minority is rising in numbers. If the term “national” can still be used in the framework of the globalized society, I believe that the new culture and new spirituality, one that is human-centered and not tradition and/or religion oriented, can only be brought by bringing in more people to act on their beliefs and by showing that those who think like I do are not – in fact – alone.

It feels impossible to say what spirituality means in 21st century on a global level –there are opposite (again) sides of the spectrum and so many options in between. From being full on religious and seeing spirituality in believing in a higher force, be it God, aliens or…well, spirits, to believing in people as the only arbitrators of what is moral, there are so many options. In the complexity and interconnections of different cultures, religions, traditions, trends - it is difficult to formulate what a national moral code is or what is indeed spirituality. The fluidity of concepts and constant challenges of the traditional moral code and constant changes make it difficult to understand what the code is. But in these times it is of utmost importance to try and understand our own moral code, as it then serves as the personal compass in this big net of interpretations and alternative moral codes.


Hi, very well thought and written. Check
I have friends I,n Novi Sad and Belgrade I can put you in touch with (mail me at and also thinking about a meeting/workshop on this after summer, salut, Rob

Hi Rob,

thanks for the comment, dully appreciated. I will reach out via e-mail for the contacts and please share the details about the workshop - it would be great to participate :slight_smile:

Hi @wlayche and welcome to edgeryders! If I’m not mistaken, you are, after @zmuc, the second active community member on the forum, from Serbia!

I’m Noemi, one of the long timers around here, and aa couple of years ago when I turned 30 and moved from Romania to Belgium in a series of radical life changes I also started to think about spirituality in a broader perspective.
I think complexity is the norm, and navigating it is even harder for those of us coming from fairly traditional societies. The Orthodox Church and traditions in my country are still highly influential both culturally and politically, so if you are walking away from them - including a simple thing, like not wanting to be married in a church! - will, even in progressive bubbles, still require, at a minimum, for you to explain yourself. It can be tiring.

But more than breaking away with prescriptions, I find challenging routing yourself in new morally support systems. Especially social and family. If you read this story from the Czech Republic, it’s telling how difficult it is to be culturally open and wanting to travel and experiment, and still find a home:

Feel free to reply there in another language, Maria, the author, will translate.

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Hi wlayche, thanks for introduction. I guess that a “new” moral code for 21st century does not differ from moral codes from previous centuries, but we tend to forget what morality is, overwhelmed by the influx of various information “just a click away”. As much as high school philosophy did to young minds (in my case early 80s) basic principles do not change. Starting from categorical imperative we all develop certain set of rules applicable to contemporary contexts. Sometimes they work but more often they don’t, and saying that I admit the struggle to become a better person will be even more important in this century.

Hello All - to chip my bit. My initial question: Is the complexity of life / society increasing or is it the rate of change (over time, by geographical outreach; both for a given individual / group) increasing? Follow-up question: Does decreasing ‘authority of authorities’ (or: increasing autonomy of the individual) make a given complexity more challenging for a given individual / group? Part of my thoughts about these and related questions, please look at this link. Regarding ‘moral code’ (= code authority of the authorities) and its adjustments to contemporary needs, possibly the reply can be found in the enlightenment approach that has served to build the modern world. Hence, ‘tu felix terra, sapere aude!’


Hello @wlayche. I am a researcher, so my professional duties include looking at the ethical aspects of any research I participate in. In research, moral codes are more or less uncontroversial: everyone agrees you should refrain from exploiting others, make sure anyone participating in research does so with full consent and awareness, and so on. Much trickier, and more interesting, than moral codes is ethics, that @markomanka defines as “how you translate your moral principles into action”. If my research uses other people as subjects and leads to a discovery, is it enough of a reward for them that my discovery could benefit the entire humanity? If I could patent my discovery, should I? If I do, should I share my proceedings with those people? And if I share them, what is a fair share for me to give them? 10%? 50%? 99%? You get the idea.

As you say, moral codes have not changed that much. We still understand human decency more or less in the same way. But maybe we have more agency, so more potential for action, so maybe more need to make choices that have an ethical dimension. This does not translate necessarily into confusion, but it can be stressful. I am emphasizing the “maybes” because I have no hard data on any of that.


Hi Noemi,

Yes, you said it - fairly traditional societies are under stronger influence of whichever is the dominant church/religion and they are all more all less preaching the same. It’s tiring indeed and many people take the easy way out when they can - sure, lets do the traditional wedding, otherwise we will never hear the end of it. It’s a quick fix solution that usually leads to more damage eventually - no one is happy and any other alternative options later become more and more difficult to explain and justify.

The Czech story reveals a big truth - in the existing complexities it is more difficult to navigate relationships with other people as well, especially when they are multi-ethnical, multicultural, of different spiritual beliefs. It’s a huge burden as well. And I feel it should be burden for the traditional carriers of spirituality - the Church had bright spots in history in delivering exactly the experiences people needed to experience togetherness and gather strength for fighting injustice. In Montgomery bus boycott and M.L.King’s journey the church played a central role. In Serbia - the churches and monasteries were crucial places for everyone who was fighting back the Ottomans, and held that role for over 400 years.
But the challenge today really is how to make dominant churches back out of the secular arena in a healthy way, how to leave room for all the cultures , but also find ways to create those spaces of togetherness for those who need them and would want them from the church.

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I doubt that Churches feel like they have that responsibility in countries like ours where they have become institutions pursuing their goals politically.

@MariaAlinaAsavei do you have any data on secularism of churches or any transformation in recent times?

Good Morning - the work of some colleagues of mine may be a contribution [*] - see chapter two If you like to get a pdf copy please contact me through researchgate. regards, Martin.

Responsible interaction of people with the Earth system calls for deep engagement with ethical considerations. Due to their professional knowledge and skills, geoscientists in particular should reflect on the ethical implications of their work that could guide responsible interactions. Geoethics offers geoscientists a framework for operationalising and exercising this responsibility whilst also orienting other professions and society towards responsible interactions with the Earth system. This chapter explores the meaning of geoethics in detail and describes the current state of geoethical thinking and its application to geoscience research and practice. It argues that reference values and general principles should be reconciled with context-dependent perspectives in complex decision-making settings, and reflects on the potential of geoethics to inform a more ‘responsible anthropocentrism’.


Hi @alberto, sorry for not replying to this sooner.

I feel that the question of agency is tremendously important nowadays - for any given individual the agency must be bigger than it was in previous centuries. The human rights, the technology, medicine, preservation, everything is more advanced than ever before and progressing and developing at a faster speed. There is almost in all cases more exposure, more opportunity. Do we have a responsibility to think and act - I think we do. And I do agree that it is very stressful, which you outlined in a great way in your example of research.

I also think that the huge complexity of any given issue has contributed in making more noise in each of our heads when making decisions and choosing which way to act, even when it’s not about the big ethical questions. Although, some might say that all the choices we make are now related to big moral codes - from buying vegetable for a salad to anything else (do you buy locally produced, are you sure it’s fair trade, do they wrap it in plastics, etc).

Fascinating and timeless concerns, @wlayche . I think that a possible route to address them is an ecumenical way of performing and understanding faith in relation to morality (although for many people morality does not necessarily depend upon religious/spiritual faith). This perspective might foster empathy, compassion, and above all reciprocity. In light of this civic and political philosophy of reciprocity the mutual exchange between those who belong to different religious traditions can foster spiritual well being. At the end of the day, "religion" has done little to prevent unhappiness, metaphysical loneliness, violence and social, political, economic and epistemic injustice (see…). This political philosophy of reciprocity is doubled, I assume, by a "new comparative theology" that is not easily embraced by everyone. It seems that what Christians lack is embracing other religious traditions (though not only Christians). I fond this short article illuminating in this regard: The main idea is that "the “new comparative theology,” as it has been christened, is a confessional theology seeking to explore the meaning of one’s own religious tradition by critical investigation of another or aspects of another. While it utilizes the most sophisticated knowledge of such traditions, it is not a disinterested endeavor where the comparer seeks to bracket the truth claims of her own religious worldview. Rather, this work is done faithfully, moving beyond one’s own tradition, asking questions of the religious other’s texts or practices, seeking correlations and novel insights, then returning to examine what has been discovered in the process…" In a nutshell: To what extent religious pluralism enhances a concept of God that embraces "all people" (irrespective of their religious tradition)? Can this concept of God help us make better sense of the “new moral codes” adapted to contemporary needs and concerns?


I “discovered” as my truth something. Spirituality and religion should be separated from the church. I know they pretend to be representatives of God on our mother Earth and they would love to set the moral/ethical standards for humanity but my truth is: They have become disconnected from spirituality, churches are institutions, organisations full of corrupt men which don’t live what they preach. I know there are good men in there as well but, I researched the subject a lot and I must say my feeling is they were corrupted by enormous power.
Throughout history religions had many roles, most of the time necessary. I read the Bible, Qu’ran, many books on Budhism, Hinduism, myths of creation from different cultures, historical books on the subject as well. I also regularly have discussions with Priests, whenever I get the chance actually, so I am not a total outsider there.
When I read the holy books I understood parts addressed the issues of that era, they often offered good solutions for those issues. Most of it shouldn’t be taken literally as far as I am concerned :wink: .
However i believe Churches need to evolve, accept reality in which they exist at this moment. They also need to work on their credibility if they want to have a chance of participating in future decisions. Their structures protect some very corrupt people and as long as that is the case they will keep losing members.
As far as the moral code goes, I focus on human interaction and try to make sure the end result in any case is beneficial for everyone involved.
For me key things are empathy, humility, understanding and taking responsibility: if you at least try putting yourself in other person’s shoes, if you try to understand them then you hardly can have negative intention and act in a way which would be detrimental to someone else. Combine that with owning your actions, taking responsibility for your actions, words and thoughts, would also naturally lead you to a better moral code…simply because ego wouldn’t find excuses so easily :wink: .

As you said, family and our immediate surrounding are crucial for establishing that set of cores values, which becomes our guide in life…to each his own perception of this reality.


@ jasen_lakic I agree with you that spirituality and religion are distinct things and the terms as such should not be conflated. I also agree that in the current climate of pervasive economic, social and epistemic injustice churches (institutionalized religions) do not do much to restore the trust in the universal moral values of love, compassion and so on. What I have noticed -mostly in Central and South Eastern Europe, but also in the West - is that religious institutions and their commitments have a decreasing social significance whereas their political significance has increased (at least in some Central and East European countries). We have to also keep in mind that nationalisms (sometimes viewed as a secularized religion) also play a substantial role in fostering epistemic and moral values only for the in-groups, excluding “the others.” You said that “Spirituality and religion should be separated from the church.” I fully agree that while churches need to work on their credibility as “God’s houses,” the interest in non-institutional forms of religious practice and spirituality grows. I am only not sure whether family and immediate surroundings can always nurture the set of values that focus on reciprocity, love, compassion …I am not saying that this is never the case but in some contexts one “cannot be prophet in his own land” :wink:

Everyone should know The Bible is a compilation of 66 books, over time many were added,removed or changed, whatever fit the institution’s needs best. That means someone already filtered information we are getting if we want to research the subject.

Well, in Eastern Europe over at least last 1000 years their political significance was reduced only during communism :slightly_smiling_face:. In west they have greatly diminished it’s political influence because it’s no longer in their interest. Money is the new god, works perfectly for those who have enormous amounts of it :wink:. I believe the interest in “alternative” religious practices and spirituality grows and it is my understanding it must grow, there is a real need for it. People need to believe in more than what’s being offered to them at the moment. Deep within, everyone is looking for a life of meaning. That cannot be become a drone and work, make money, consume always newer things,which last less and less by the way :wink:, pay for crap food, then spend what’s left on poisoning yourself further with big pharma…beautiful circle.

Yes, I couldn’t agree more on nationalism…it has taken a role of a religion, the way it affected and still affects the creation of new social structures. As far as I am concerned, one cannot be free as long as one has a banner, emblem or a flag above one’s head.

While it is true kids now are influenced greatly by wider world out there,l I believe they can nurture those core values always, the secret though would be to know when you can apply them and when not :wink:. As far as I am concerned, the biggest mistake someone can do is think I can be used because I am guided by certain set of rules which seem to make me naive or sheepish…some people meet the wolf, or hit the wall and wonder what hit them.

Considering I lived through civil war I know very well there are many situations in life and not all rules apply universally.

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