Sunday, February 28, 2010

Conversation with rayzinside

rayzinside wrote:

I found your answer interesting about OJ (Hitler, Stalin, Polpot) and heaven. I was wondering if you were the one who decided who goes to heaven would there be any requirements or standards? This would define "deserve".

It is my understanding that "deserve" is Biblically defined as choosing who one will follow, Satan or Jesus, and not based on bad or good deeds.

If you base going to heaven on being a good person, then who is good and who is bad? Would there be a dividing line? Would all have an equal chance of going to heaven? Would that chance be equal to all?

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

My response:

Thank you so much for these very thoughtful questions. You sound like a Christian, but you are far more intelligent than most of your siblings.

If I were the one who decided who goes to heaven and hell: First, I'm not sure I'd go with the eternal life thing in the first place. I'm not sure that it's healthy for human beings to be able to sidestep all of the big issues in this life by looking forward to an afterlife. For example, grief. If you think you're going to see Grandma again, you never really, really give her the honor she deserves by fully grieving for her. It's not genuine grief. You just miss her for a few years. Not to mention planetary stewardship. I think you'll agree that we'd take better care of our planet if all of us believed that it's the only one we have.

If I did go for an afterlife, I'd eliminate hell altogether. I don't believe in good and evil as absolutes, and I don't believe that anyone is evil in the morally culpable, damnable sense. Yes, people do terrible things, and justice must be served. But we don't have to punish. We could reform. Those who can't be reformed are not bad, they're psychos--literally incapable, due to unavoidable brain chemistry, of functioning. These guys just have to be locked up to protect the rest of us, but they should still be treated as humanely as possible.

I often have trouble with the concept of "deserve" in any sense. It is part of a life-philosophy that implies a life of reward and punishment. I consider this a subtle pathology of the more natural, biological mechanisms of pleasure and pain. In the wild, we go toward pleasure and we go away from pain. No morality involved there. If I rape my sister and the other men beat the crap out of me in anger, well, I am less inclined to rape my sister a second time. No one had to shame me or guilt me to make me change my behavior. It was just a natural consequence resulting from my brothers' rage over my sister's pain. Having grown up in a society where such deterrents are publicly known hinders me during my formative years from over-contemplating rape. By the time I'm big enough to rape someone, my mind is under the restraint built during the formative years. A lot like a trained bear, of course with the exception that I really could override my long-solidified restraint. But in the vast, vast majority of people, such an override is a difficult task, not to mention that it causes some internal psychological scarring.

I have a huge problem with the claim that "deserve", or if you'll allow me to say "morality", is determined by whose philosophy is being followed. In fact, if you look at it closely it's no morality at all. Consider. Just for the sake of argument, let's say that God tells you to murder. Now he told us in the book not to murder. And we decided that his reason for saying it is that murder is inherently immoral. So if God tells you to murder, then something is wrong. Either murder is a moral act and our reason for restraint is "dad says don't do it, at least for now", or murder is immoral and God's command to you is also immoral. I don't see any other option, but feel free to let me know if you see something I'm missing.

I'm not sure I can answer your last few questions. The meaning is not clear to me. Hopefully I have answered somewhat. This is an interesting conversation. Please feel free to continue. --Rob

rayzinside wrote:

It appears to me that "deserve" does exist in one form or another. In the animal world if you cross into their territory you might get killed. Did you "deserve" to get killed? In your scenario those brothers beat you up because they felt you did wrong and "deserve" punishment. They weren't trying to rehabilitate you; they were wanting to punish you. If you were rehabilitated in the process that is a bonus. So no matter what words we want to use right and wrong do exist and punishment exist and is metered out in some form. When punishment is metered out it is based on the idea that it is deserved. If you speed do you deserve a speeding ticket? If you fail a test do you deserve to get rewarded? Our world in one way or another operates on the concept of good and evil, and we received what we "deserve" on that basis. So do we deserve what we get if we don't meet a particular standard? Then should we apply this concept to heaven and hell if these places do exist? Then who "deserves" to go to heaven and hell? What is the dividing line? "Deserve" is a reality and whether we like it or not we are forced to live with it and abide by it. --Thanks.

My reply:

Sorry, I disagree with much of what you have said.

I do not believe in a philosophy of punishment. I do not believe in a philosophy that uses the word "deserve".

The brothers may have been motivated by a feeling that I deserved punishment, but that would not make the attitude of punishment correct. The best motivation for the brothers to harm me would be to deter me and anyone else who might behave that way in the future. That is not associated with deserving punishment. It is simply a way to protect my sister's rights, and the rights of all people to have their bodies respected.

Does that help? I do not believe in "deserve" or "punishment".

You say, "Right and wrong do exist". I agree. There are moral actions and there are immoral actions. Yes.

You say, "punishment exists". I agree. But I believe that punishment is immoral. Correction is moral. Let's go back to my sister. My example before was a quick grasp at something that might have happened among us in the wild that would serve as a precursor to morality. Let's imagine a very advanced society, and say again: I rape my sister. I have violated her rights and harmed her psyche. She will need help from trained professionals, but we'll just focus on the perpetrator. The first thing that must happen is that I must be apprehended, in case my mind is so broken that I might do it again to her or someone else. Next, I must be psychologically evaluated and treated. Because of the horror of the crime itself I must be kept away from society, to keep them safe, until the reasons for my behavior are understood. See, no punishment anywhere. Hopefully, at some point, with treatment, I will be able to see clearly the harm I did to my sister, and genuinely apologize to her and freely offer some kind of restitution.

Punishment goes beyond discipline: in your world, perhaps my brothers beat me severely, beyond all reason. Or maybe in their rage they kill me. Yes, society may have gained a deterrent, but I have lost all. That is immoral. If I am a psychopath who cannot be trusted in decent society, then I must be removed for the safety of others, but I should be cared for humanely, because a psychopath is broken. Not an evil person who deserves punishment. A broken mind who needs compassion and respect, and who must sadly be kept away from the rest of us so we can be safe.

You say, "When punishment is meted out it is based on the idea that it is deserved." I agree with you only because of the technical meaning I assign to "punishment" and "deserved". I do not agree that the reason I received a speeding ticket is because I "deserved" a speeding ticket. I received the ticket because it is our society's current mechanism for discouraging behavior that impinges on the safety of others.

It is not about "deserve". In this negative sense, the word implies a moral culpability, a response to some fixed claim about morality, as though speeding were immoral. I am thinking deeply about "deserve" now, and I think that there is no "deserve" in the negative sense, but there is a lot of "deserve" in a positive sense, as in, children deserve to be loved and respected by adults; adults deserve the right to have consensual sex without state interference; that sort of thing.

You say, "Our world...operates on the concept of good and evil..." I have to disagree with you. Your world might operate that way, your mind, your circle of friends, your circle of influence. My world absolutely does not work that way at all. My world operates on love and beauty and kindness and understanding and compassion. I become angry at my daughter quite often, but I have never, ever, ever told her that she is bad, or wrong, or defective in any way. She is not, and never will be. In fact, some times when I become angry she becomes obviously sad, and I immediately tell her explicitly that she has not been bad or wrong. Her behavior will have consequences. I am teaching her the ways of love and compassion and understanding, and these will have very beautiful consequences. I will never put the idea of punishment or the negative form of "deserve" into her mind. That, THAT, my friend would be terribly immoral.

So I have to reject your question, "Do we deserve what we get if we don't meet a particular standard?" For me, that question has no meaning. Standard? There is no standard. There are consequences, and those consequences over the eons have led humans to think, and think, and think about the best ways to be. And now we are setting our own standards, but not standards for punishment. Standards for how to treat each other. And I know, much of society doesn't work this way--YET--that's one reason I'm out there on the boards. Religion is dominating our thinking with guilt, shame, deserve, evil, sin, punish, reward--these are terrible, empty, ignoble concepts for the beautiful creatures called humans. We are capable of so much more.

I challenge you, friend, think about it for a while. Have a child of your own and cry your eyes out when you see how much she loves you even when you're fuck-all as a dad, when you wish that you could kill yourself rather than have to face this overwhelming responsibility. When real love hits you from a real, breathing person who depends on you for everything, your concept of "deserve" will utterly wither.

I'd love to continue this conversation with you. It is interesting to drag all of these deep feelings up for examination. I've never articulated any of this. Thanks for bringing it up, and for reminding me to weep beautiful tears for my beloved daughter.

rayzinside sent one more response, but it was very short on argument and very long on assertions, basically attempting to impose his paradigm of punishment. I sent back a goodbye...

We will have to agree to disagree. I have to reject your notions of "deserve" and "punishment" and "payment" and "correction of wrong" and "penalty" and "reward" and especially and emphatically "punishment in love". This last is the saddest phrase I have ever heard. You and I simply live in different universes. I assume that my universe looks twisted or unstable to you. Yours looks very sad to me.

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