The Universal Moral Code was created by Kent M. Keith in 2003 while writing a book about morality and ethics. Dr. Keith believes that there is remarkable agreement around the world regarding basic moral principles. The Universal Moral Code is a list of these basic principles regarding how we should live and how we should treat each other. Following these principles can provide each of us with the meaning that comes from living our values and doing what's right.
Dr. Keith comments:
"The Universal Moral Code is not a set of principles that everyone follows successfully every day, nor a set of principles that each of us would apply the same way in every case. (Sometimes we disagree very strongly about how to apply them!) The Universal Moral Code is a list of principles that describe the kind of behavior most people aspire to. Even when we fail to live up to these principles, we keep trying, because we believe that this is how we should live.
"In my reading and research, I have found fundamental moral principles expressed in both negative and positive terms. The Universal Moral Code intentionally includes both negative and positive statements. Taken together, they make up a balanced code.
"The moral principles listed in the Universal Moral Code are not the only moral principles that we call upon to guide us in life. However, I believe they are the most fundamental and universal.
"People around the world have been making a serious effort to live these moral principles for thousands of years - at least as far back as the Ten Commandments of Moses and the Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon. We know that we need to follow these moral principles in order to live together successfully in our families and communities.
"People who regularly lie, cheat, steal, and murder make up a very small percentage of the world's population- perhaps only 5 or 6 percent. These people cause a lot of pain and tragedy, but they are a small minority. The most significant fact is that literally billions of people - the other 94 or 95 percent of the world's population - follow fundamental, universal moral principles on a daily basis.
"People may attempt to live these moral principles because they have been trained by their parents and social institutions to do so. Perhaps they have been disciplined by their parents or punished by the justice system for breaking the rules, or they fear that they will be disciplined and punished for breaking the rules, so they follow the rules. Or, people may live these moral principles because they obey religious teachings that emphasize the importance of living a moral life. They fear God, so they live as morally as possible.
"There is an additional reason for living a moral life, which is that living a moral life is a meaningful and fulfilling thing to do. The people I have surveyed about the sources of meaning in their lives and work have given very high ratings to "living my values" and "always doing what's right." These are important sources of personal meaning, and personal meaning is a key to being deeply happy. The Universal Moral Code is a simple reminder of the basic moral principles that are the foundation for that meaning and happiness.