Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Enforcing Morality

Atrios has been making a point lately that I’ve made for some time: That despite the general label of “Christians” that is often used to lump them all together, they’re really comprised of lots and lots of differing beliefs and attitudes.  Even within the same church pew, you’re going to find myriads of different opinions on who goes to Heaven, what morals are really important, and all kinds of different things.

And I was just thinking about this after reading General Pace say:
I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.

And that’s an entirely absurd statement, even outside of the whole gay-immorality issue.  I mean, assuming it really is the military’s job to enforce morality, the question is: Whose morals?  Do we need to develop a particular set of agreed-upon morals, or should we just use someone’s own morals as the standard for their behavior?
Because Pace and other Christians who say this stuff are only referring to a small handful of issues, like homosexuality and abortion.  But what about eating meat on Fridays during Lent?  That’s a big no-no for Catholics.  Is that a rule the military should be enforcing?  What about Southern Baptists who are against drinking and dancing?  Or Mormons who are against caffeine?  Should the military be enforcing these morals too?  And some people have moral qualms with the death penalty and war.  Should the military be enforcing those morals too?

Or if we don’t develop an overriding morality, should the military be punishing people for violating their own morals?  Like if a Catholic has a burger when they’re not supposed to, should the military write them up for that?  What if they go to confession and have a chaplain forgive them for their misdeed?  Does the reprimand go away?  Who knows?  Can someone change religions to avoid a penalty?

But Pace wasn’t really referring to that stuff at all.  He doesn’t really believe that the military should get into the business of enforcing morality.  None of these people really believe that.  They don’t want a theocracy.  They’re just looking for an excuse to hang their hat on.  A justification for them to demand that everyone follow their preferred rules.  Even the “God” thing is often just an excuse for them to hang their personal moral preferences on.  They can’t explain their rules rationally, so they’re stuck relying on rules that work outside of the rational.  

For instance, no Christian will argue that murder is only wrong because the bible forbids it.  They can rationally explain why it’s bad.  So when they’re forced to relying entirely on a bible passage to explain their position, it’s strong evidence that they have no better explanation.  They’re relying on the bible as their only defense because it’s all they have.  

And after all, there is no Christian who follows every rule in the bible, and it is left to the individual believers to determine which rules to follow and what the bible ultimately means.  And in that regard, there is no holy oversight forcing them to believe anything; and any claims to the contrary should be seen as the strongest form of blasphemy.  But instead, they see my analysis as anti-religious blasphemy, while continually ascribing their beliefs to their god.

Overall, I’ll stick with the idea that churches will enforce morality upon their church members, and that everyone be responsible for their own immortal soul.  And that the government should only be responsible for enforcing the laws, which are entirely separate from morality.  There are legal things which are immoral and illegal things which are moral, and simply because there is much overlap between the two doesn’t mean that they’re permanently tied together.  And if the only reason for outlawing something is an arbitrary set of morals, then we most certainly shouldn’t be outlawing it.  And the absolute only reason why people like Pace make those arguments is because it’s all they’ve got.

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