If I were to collect all my thoughts on morality and the meaning of life into one piece of writing – which I may, someday, actually do (more for my own betterment than as a pulpit) – the introduction would go something like this.
I do not consider myself to be morally superior to others. Or at least I try not to, for that would be immoral.
I do, however, think it is acceptable – compulsory, even – for people to judge the world around them, and the people that make up that world. The word "judge", and all words related to it, have taken on such a negative connotation – most people will consciously and subconsciously react negatively to the word "judgmental". But judging does not have to start with huge, mind-altering preconceived notions, or lead to ideas of superiority or overbearing feelings of resentment toward others.
Judgment, in and of itself, without all of the things that have attached themselves to the process as civilization has advanced, is simply another term for reason. It is the process of making a decision based upon information one's senses acquire from the surroundings. If I say, "The road is closed ahead," and you decide to take another route – or even if you decide to continue the way you are going – you have just exercised your judgment, or reason. It is a necessary process by which we make it through each day, and by which society continues to advance, for better or for worse.
The same holds true for judgments of morality. Whether a person is reasoning through choices and trying to judge which one is morally right, or that person is making judgments regarding their own character or the character of another person, the process is absolutely necessary. It provides a better understanding of the world and an individual's immediate surroundings, and it gives that individual the proper tools with which to make informed, rational, and sovereign decisions.
Reason, or judgment, is half of what makes us human. The other half is emotion. Science simply cannot and will never account for human emotion to an extent that pleases me. There are some emotions – fear and lust, for example – that are instinctual and can be explained in a Darwinian model. But then there are emotions that don't fit in any scientific explanation. Therefore, I firmly believe that most of human emotion takes place on a somewhat higher plane of existence than the physical.
If we allow our emotions to take part in the reasoning process, we open ourselves to a deeper connection to this higher plane. This connection – this emotion – binds the entire human race in a way that none of the superficial subdivisions we have created can ever possibly divide us. It's what allows us, if we open ourselves to it, to feel sympathy for someone we've never met when we hear about their dire circumstances. It allows us to wallow in sorrow or bask in happiness that no scientific theory could ever possibly justify. It allows us to love one another in all the various ways and degrees love is possible. It gives us gut feelings about some areas of morality that are more profound and moving than even the most eloquent writer and thinker could reason through them. It gave the founding fathers of the United States the "self-evident" rights that they founded the nation to promote: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. These things can be rationally justified, but even without doing so our emotions make them self-evident.
It is this combination of reason and emotion that both drives us to wonder what's right and wrong, and gives us the tools to figure that out. Whether our hearts and minds agree on a judgment or disagree, the fact that they are working together to form a sound judgment is what really matters. And since this judgment is key to survival as well as to understanding the world, it is therefore necessary, in order to live a full, rich life, for a person to reason and feel through the formulation of their own personal set of moral standards. These standards can then be applied to the process of judgment, as a sort of shortcut to the process. For example, one can reason through one single time why it's wrong to kill, and then apply that standard to all of one's judgments.
I admit that at this early stage of my life, my experience level is rather low. Nevertheless, I have spent a great deal of time in reflection about morality. Through this reflection I have formed the moral standards that guide my judgments and actions. I don’t consider them to be perfect, or somehow superior to all other ways of viewing morality. But they’re the best I’ve come up with yet.