Abrahamic religions often hold that there is some sort of reward or punishment in the afterlife. These are, of course, heaven and hell. They hold that if you do or don’t do certain things, you’ll go to hell and burn in sulphurous hellfire for eternity. Similarly, they hold that if you do do or do not do certain things different things, you’ll be in paradise forever.
In a similar vein, other religions believe in karma. They hold that if you do or don’t do certain things, you’ll come back as pond scum or the like. Similarly, if you do do or don’t do certain different things, you’ll stop reincarnating and achieve Nirvana.
Recall how many of those religions emphasize the desirability of in–conversion. They often try to get you to convert by emphasizing what will happen to you if you don’t convert; that is, bad things will happen to you. To you. Notice who the emphasis is on. You. This is therefore immoral.
Because it’s selfish, that’s why. Belief in afterlife punishment or reward causes people to be motivated by a selfish desire to avoid something bad happening to them (such as burning in hellfire forever) and to get something good to happen to them (such as living in heaven). It causes people to directly consider what happens to them. Although it might indirectly influence someone’s interactions with others (for example, you’ll burn in hell if you aren’t nice to other people) it still ultimately motivates based on what happens to the actor. A truly good person would be good purely for the sake of being good; they would need no other motivation. When asked, “What is in it for you?” they would reply “Nothing, but I’m being moral anyway.”
I have thought of a few possible objections to my conclusions. Hence, I’ve taken the liberty of preemptively debunking them. And that is after the jump.
Creationist organization Answers in Genesis makes a “moral dilemma” where one shouldn’t be (via Pharyngula). The “dilemma” is whether it is permissible to lie in certain situations. The specific example used is lying to Nazi soldiers who are asking where a family of Jews is hiding.
I think the resolution is obvious: lie or if you can, say nothing. I’m pretty sure that almost everyone would agree that in this situation, it is better to lie than to allow people to die (whether you justify this through deontology, utilitarianism, or virtue ethics is up to you.)
However, in a stunning example of why moral absolutism is not the way to go, Answers in Genesis says you should be truthful. They even back it up with Bible verses. I doubt there is a better recent example than this of why the Bible should not be used to resolve moral dilemmas.
In the wake of the assassination of American President Lincoln, a rather crude joke was told: “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” This joke is committing the fallacy known as the overwhelming exception, where definitely relevant factors (in this example, her husband’s assassination) are ignored.
This sort of thing happened recently (via Feministing):
On Saturday, October 24, at a school dance in California, a fifteen-year old student was brutally beaten, robbed, and gang raped for two and a half hours. At least twenty people were involved, and some were joined in and encouraged it to continue. A few filmed the event with their cell phones. All this happened about half an hour after the security guards were released.
A spokesman for the school district, world-class asshole Marin Trujillo, said afterwards (emphasis added): “[The d]ance was successful event and safe for the students that were there. This dance itself was a successful event.”
Marin Trujillo, FUCK YOU.
Also, I think that the bystanders had a moral obligation to intervene. Doing nothing shows the negative character traits of cowardice (because they could have put themselves in to help someone but didn’t), maleficence (because they were allowing something bad to happen), and others. Had some bystander called for help they would have shown beneficence (because they were taking steps to end an evil act) and had they intervened personally they would also have shown valour (since they were putting themselves at risk to help someone else). Since it is unquestionably better to be brave and beneficent than cowardly and maleficent, by not intervening the bystanders did an immoral act.
Shorter Jill Stanek: Premarital sex is as bad as murder.
Steven Waldman of Beliefnet e-mailed Jill Stanek and asked her about why people like her were opposed to using contraception as a means to reduce the need for abortion. She mentioned that she was against it because she thought it led to sinfulness. Waldman then asked her for clarification, arguing that even if contraception led to the sins of hypocrisy and premarital sex, wouldn’t these be less bad than abortion?
Stanek then responded, arguing that there is no scriptural basis for allowing “lesser sins” to prevent “greater sins”. She then said (emphasis added), “That premise aside, it is no “lesser sin”to commit extramarital [sic] sex — both before marriage and during marriage.” Since Stanek thinks that abortion is murder, and since she thinks premarital sex is as bad as abortion, she thinks that premarital sex is as bad as murder! Since 95% percent of Americans have premarital sex, she clearly thinks that 95% of Americans are the moral equivalent of murderers. Since we punish murder with lengthy prison terms or the death penalty, I’d like to indicate that doing the same to 95% of the US population would be pretty brutal.
Stanek is entitled to her beliefs, and it may well be possible to argue that premarital sex is wrong, but is it as bad as murder? (Hint: no.)
Via RH Reality Check.