Thursday, May 15, 2008

When making moral judgments, the circumstances in which they were made have a significant effect. For example, if one lied to keep the peace, that lie may be acceptable but if one were to lie about having a contagious disease and this person was in constant contact with others, then this would certainly be unacceptable.

Another circumstance in which we are usually very forgiving is that of duress. If someone's life is being threatened or a person is threatened with torture, almost anything is permitted.

Those that believe in life after death, have the threat of hellfire over their head whenever this thought comes to his conscious. If a believer doesn't do his god's will then this person is under threat of hell. Should we excuse a believer's actions because of such a threat?

When thought of in this light, some have suggested that the belief in God and it's usual accompaniment of punishment or reward in the after life, is a psychological disorder, virus or disease. These are very strong words and seem terribly nasty towards a great majority of our planet's human population.

However, now, many years after the Age of Enlightenment, many of us have come to acknowledge that immoral and irresponsible behavior is inexcusable even when they have religious motivations. The terrorists of 9/11, the suicide bombings that happen too frequently in Israel , and terrorist activity around the world are condemned by the entire free world. Most if not all of these attacks were motivated by religious belief. We do not excuse the mother that let her child die because she refused to take her child to a doctor, preferring to pray to God.

Irrationality sometimes comes at a high price. Acceptance of intolerant ideas has cost us many lives.

To categorically condemn religious, dogmatic belief seems naive and intolerant. Hasn't religious irrationality motivated many people to do tremendous good?

There is a concept in Jewish Law known as "to sit and not do anything is better (shev v'al ta'aseh)." It comes in to play when one is faced with a dilema in Jewish Law to act or not to act. You may get tremendous benefits from doing the act but then again the loss could be just as great. The answer that is given at times is, "Just don't do anything!" Perhaps it would be best to apply this methodology to religious belief.