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Why should We Be Good? : Salvation and Paradise

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by Enoughie, Nov 1, 2010.

  1. Enoughie

    Enoughie Active Member

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    Being “good” means acting in accord with the natural values of freedom, equality, honesty, and generosity (see overview of natural philosophy). But - without fear of hell, reward of heaven, Karmic retribution, or the coercion of law - why should we live in accord with these values?

    The answer is simple. When the natural values are violated the result is destruction (see origins of conflict). At the international level, excessive violation of the natural values results in violent conflicts and war (see geopolitics of morality). While actions that are in accord with the natural values promote life. Now let us try to make this concept a bit more tangible.


    Your House

    Suppose you live in a great city. You are building a house for yourself, your family, your children, your friends, and for future generations to enjoy. To build this house well you need to work in accord with the finest principles of construction.

    You probably want to build the house on a strong foundation, and construct it from materials that would make it last for a long time. You would also want the house to be comfortable and practical for daily life. But why should you bother to build in accord with the finest principles of construction, and not make shortcuts in your work? What would you get in return for your work?

    The answer to these questions is self-evident. This is your house. If you build it well the reward would be the product of your labor. If you don’t build it well - and make shortcuts in your work - the result would be ruinous to you and to those around you. This house is your life. The principles of construction are your values.

    Do you really need to believe in a supervisor (God) who will give you a reward if you do a good job, or punish you if you don’t? Of course not! Your reward is the product of your labor. If you don’t do the work well the punishment would be the destructive effect of your shortcomings.

    There is no need for any external rewards or punishments to promote such good behavior. In fact, external rewards can only corrupt our work: if your incentive is to avoid a fine from the government, you would make all the shortcuts you can get away with. If it is Karmic retribution, you would still make shortcuts here and there - as long as these are not too severe. And if the reward is absolute (heaven or hell), you would do the work just good enough to avoid damnation.

    If the primary motivation for your actions is extraneous to the intrinsic purpose of your actions your performance will deteriorate. The greater the external reward - the worse the behavior. This may seem counterintuitive at first, but this concept has been experimentally demonstrated over and over again.

    The Supervisor

    Nonetheless, there are many people who believe that the reward of their work is absolute: they either get to enjoy eternal bliss in heaven, or eternal torment in hell. But they think that they will only get the reward if they believe in a supervisor. Not only that, but they also believe that this supervisor has revealed himself to superstitious peasants many centuries ago, and gave them a guidebook with the divine principles of construction - for all to follow until the end of time.

    This guidebook has construction principles that far predate the modern era. This means that the house must be made out of mud and sandstone, and cannot have gas, electricity, or running water. But who needs gas, electricity, or running water? According to the guidebook these are just contrivances for the pleasures of the flesh - they “corrupt the purity of the soul” and “tear the fabric of society.”

    Is there any reason then to believe in the “perfection and beauty” of these divine construction principles? Is there any doubt that such primitive construction principles could not have possibly come from God? Or are we to believe that we must continue to follow - to the end of time - the same construction principles as did primitive Middle Eastern tribes many centuries ago. Are we to believe that it is impossible to build a house well without a guidebook that came from the divine? Or that without a supervisor nothing would prevent us from destroying our own house? I hope the answer to all these questions is clear and self-evident - absolutely not!

    City of Men

    Just like you would work in accord with the finest principles to build your house well, you would also want to act in accord with the finest principles to make your city thrive - after all, this is your city! These principles are the natural values of freedom, equality, honesty, and generosity.

    Acting in accord with these values would enable you, your family, friends, neighbors, and future generations to enjoy life and prosper in this great city. On the other hand, if you come short of these values the results would be ruinous to you and to those around you.

    Yet, you live in a great city. There are many people who live in this city beside you. Some of them are your family, friends, and neighbors. And many of these people do not always act in accord with the natural values (you may even be in this group). This means that many of the things these people do are harmful to the city’s welfare, and even to your own well-being.

    But why do they do these destructive acts? Perhaps they don’t understand that their actions are destructive. Maybe they live under the delusion that their destructive behavior is actually virtuous. Or maybe they want to gain some shortsighted payoff through these actions - without seeing the long-term consequences.

    Socrates said that “if you know what the good is, you will always do what is good.” I would have to qualify this statement and add: “..unless you are addicted to the bad.”
    So how can we prevent people from committing destructive acts, and promote constructive behavior? In other words, how can we convince people to do that which is manifestly in their own best interest? Should we just put everyone who commits bad acts in jail? Surely not. Such thinking is neither realistic nor effective. Because that would probably mean that most of the population would end up in jail. The only sensible solution is education.

    But what if people are so accustomed to their destructive behavior that they do it instinctively. What if they are so addicted to their pattern of behavior that no rational argument would do. Well, I never claimed this would be easy. But as I’ve explained - before people can change their behavior, they first need to realize that these behaviors are destructive (see education: #4 unconscious & unskilled). Rehabilitation is a slow and gradual process.

    Salvation and Paradise

    Then what about all the thieves and criminals? Should they at least go to jail? Obviously, if someone is a serious threat to the well-being of others he should be restrained. But punishment for the sake of vengeance is neither moral nor useful.

    Life is prosperous thanks to the contributions of the past and present generations. The inventions and innovations, discoveries and enterprises, artistry and hard work, and the dedication to raise and educate children. Life is diminished by the abuse and torture, war and oppression, rape and pillage, murder and destruction of past and present generations. No sacrifice can change or erase the faults of the past.

    The depraved actions that we and others committed in the past are done. We can regret and mourn the losses, but we cannot go back in time and revive the dead, or recover a destroyed home. No amount of prayer or submission to a supposed deity can change the past. Our only salvation is to build on top of the ruins, and act now to change the future. If we act in accord with the natural values, we’ll be one step closer to making our world a paradise.

    Taken from: Geopolitics.us : Why should We be Good? : Salvation and Paradise
     
  2. Levite

    Levite Higher and Higher

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    Since Judaism has no doctrines of salvation or Heaven and Hell, the answers to why one ought to behave well are intrinsic to our system. In the ideal, one behaves well and obeys the commandments because one loves God, and wishes to do what makes God happy. But even if not, one behaves well and follows the commandments because they are just, and the creation of a just, fair, compassionate, and lovingkindness-filled society is an end to be sought for in and of itself.
     
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  3. Enoughie

    Enoughie Active Member

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    What does Judaism / the Torah say should be the punishment of someone who works on the Sabbath? (something that has nothing to do with morality or justice)
     
  4. jarofthoughts

    jarofthoughts Empirical Curmudgeon

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    Altruism and foundational morals are Evolutionarily developed traits, elements of which can be found in all social mammals, including, but not restricted to bats, gorillas and wolves. Having a common moral structure and some level of altruism helps a group survive and those that had it lived to procreate and those that didn't...didn't.

    Next please. :D
     
  5. Enoughie

    Enoughie Active Member

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    "Descriptive" evolution doesn't quite cut it. Some great apes also evolved "war gangs" to terrorize and murder their fellow primates (and I'm not talking only about humans here). So what does it say about morality? Nothing

    I write about morality and evolution here: Does Morality Come from Evolution? | Natural Philosophy of Life
     
  6. jarofthoughts

    jarofthoughts Empirical Curmudgeon

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    Notice that I mentioned that a common system of morals WITHIN the group is essential, not an all compassing sense of altruism towards every other living thing, including members of your own species that belong to a different group.
    If we in any useful way can say that humans have a sense of morality and altruism then the same is true for other social mammals. I write about it here: Where Do You Get Your Morals From?

    I skimmed through it and I have a question: Do you meant to postulate that group selection is at work here or did I misunderstand you?
    Because I see no way that group selection could possibly work under an evolutionary system with no foresight. In other words selection must in some manner be due to either long term or short term benefit to the individual rather than the group if we are to claim that an evolutionary process is behind the resulting behaviour.
     
    #6 jarofthoughts, Nov 1, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2010
  7. Enoughie

    Enoughie Active Member

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    No, I don't claim that group selection is at work here. And that is why I say that "social" evolution (ie. refined adaption to behavior between individuals) takes much longer than physical evolution (ie. adaptation to the environment).

    But I also talk about the false altruism vs. selfishness paradigm in another post (The Fall of the Golden Rule : Generosity and Nature | Natural Philosophy of Life), where I basically explain that cooperative behavior (one-sided or reciprocal) promotes both the individual and the group.
     
  8. jarofthoughts

    jarofthoughts Empirical Curmudgeon

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    It appears that we are in agreement then. :D
    Unless you find other points in my post in which there is discord of some kind?
     
  9. tigrers99

    tigrers99 Member

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    "If we act in accord with the natural values, we’ll be one step closer to making our world a paradise." [Enoughie post #1]


    I believe that if this were true, we would have had Paradise a long time ago. If there wasn't a negative supernatual force influencing mankind, then perhaps there would be more moral goodness in the world. We would all behave more like well trained animals. History has proven that mankind is never going to behave according to the moral norms of his/her community if they can capitalize on something and believe that they will never be detected .
     
  10. St Giordano Bruno

    St Giordano Bruno Well-Known Member

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    Heaven and Hell could be just Zoroastrian invention, especially after the flow of refugees after Alexander the Great invaded Persia. That is my theory.
     
  11. Renji

    Renji Well-Known Member

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    Being good is "good". Why stop being good?
     
  12. Levite

    Levite Higher and Higher

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    This is a misleading question, as the Written Torah appears to prescribe the death penalty for violating Shabbat.

    However, we do not read the plain text meaning of the Written Torah in the absence of the interpretational guidelines of the Oral Torah.

    And fortunately, we understand through those interpretational guides that the death penalty for breaking Shabbat was only in the case of one who breaks Shabbat publicly, knowingly, and for the specific purpose of spiting God and rejecting the Covenant, and attempting to induce others to follow him in doing so. (Which, if you look at it that way, does have a moral meaning: it is to preserve the integrity of society and the social respect for God and Torah. That reason might be insufficient by modern standards, but it was a reason, and was likely quite important when the people were small, hard-pressed from without to abandon monotheistic following of YHVH.)

    We also know, from the writings of the Rabbis of the Talmud, that to put someone to death for anything-- whether ritual or capital criminal offense-- required the testimony of two eyewitnesses (who knew, if they were found to have perjured themselves in a capital trial, that they would be themselves executed in place of the defendant) who had given the defendant verbal warning of the severity and nature of the offense, and had heard him acknowledge the warning and reply that he was going to do it anyway, before actually doing the crime; it was tried before a court of 71 rabbis, of whom precisely 70 had to vote to convict and condemn the accused (less than 70 was an acquittal-- a unanimous 71 was deemed a mistrial, since it was unreasonable to suppose that among 71 people, not one would wish to save the life of the accused); and we are told that a court which executed one person in seven years or more was considered a "Bloody Sanhedrin."
     
  13. mohammed_beiruti

    mohammed_beiruti Active Member

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    suppose you have a sophisticated instrument , wouldn't you need an instruction manual?

    is there any instrument more sophisticated than human being?
     
  14. Enoughie

    Enoughie Active Member

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    That's a very good question!

    But it's not only a question of sophistication. It is also a question of the design of the instrument - a question of "Intelligent Design," if you will..

    Suppose you do have a very advanced instrument. What makes the design of such instrument great?

    Which gadgets do people value and enjoy most? Those that are so confusing to use that they require a massive instruction manual, or those that - despite being so sophisticated and advanced - are still very elegant and intuitive to use?

    Our best instruments are those that are advanced, yet still very intuitive to use - like the Mac computer, or the iPhone.

    The question is then - Is Steve Jobs a greater designer and visionary than the God of the Bible and Quran?

    Does Steve Jobs design products that are so simple and intuitive to use (despite being very sophisticated), while the Biblical God has to write 3 instruction manuals for his instruments, and still people are terribly confused about how to use them? Are you suggesting that God is even a worse product designer than Microsoft?!

    And we're only talking about great designs here. God's design is not just great. It is perfect. Which means the use of the instrument must be perfectly intuitive and elegant - with no need for a manual whatsoever.

    The answer is then self-evident. If God exists, he cannot possibly be the incompetent poor designer who wrote the Bible or Quran.

    http://geopolitics.us - a simple, elegant, and powerful alternative to religious dogma
     
    #14 Enoughie, Nov 2, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2010
  15. Enoughie

    Enoughie Active Member

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    In other words, while there is absolutely no moral justification to keep Shabbat, anyone who openly disagrees with this baseless rule and persuades others to do the same deserves the death penalty.

    I know that in Jewish history probably no one was actually executed for breaking Shabbat, but this is still a recipe for totalitarianism.

    You can't justify it as "preserving the integrity of society." You can say the same thing about the death penalty for leaving Islam, or for apostasy in Islam - it is a recipe for totalitarianism and extremism - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran are all good example of what such rules lead to.

    _________
    http://geopolitics.us - Natural Philosophy of Life - a simple, elegant, and powerful alternative to religious dogma
     
    #15 Enoughie, Nov 3, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2010
  16. Levite

    Levite Higher and Higher

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    Except that in the case of the Written Torah, if it were ever applied literally-- which is subject to considerable doubt-- it would have been so over 2500 years ago. Part of the precise reason that, as far as we know, the Written Torah was always intended to be interpreted considerably, using an oral tradition, is to prevent it becoming archaic, not merely in terminology or in sociopolitical realia, but in terms of what is deemed to be morally acceptable by society, also.

    If it helps, think of it this way. The Constitution of the United States also suffers from a severe and inherent moral incapacity: it permits slavery. And if you read the Constitution without ever reading the Amendments and the US Code of Laws, and history of Constitutional law, you would likely deem it deeply archaic and morally lacking, and wonder why anyone would ever base a society on it in this day and age. Reading the Written Torah without understanding it in light of the Oral Torah and Rabbinic Literature is the same thing as reading the Constitution without Amendments or the context of the legal realia it generated.
     
  17. mohammed_beiruti

    mohammed_beiruti Active Member

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    I meant the cautions parts.

    even steave Job would make cautions for those devices.
     
  18. Dunemeister

    Dunemeister Well-Known Member

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    Except that they do. They are not as explicit, robust, or as theologically central as they are in Christianity, but arguably one of the things the early (Jewish) Christians did was reorder the priorities in Jewish theology. As a result, formerly central things (e.g., the Law) were somewhat (although confusedly) marginalised, whereas other things (e.g., resurrection, the fate of the Gentiles vis a vis Israel) were made central. Another of the reversals was to make central and expand upon other eschatological concerns such as salvation, Heaven, and Hell. As the Church developed, its notion of heaven became more otherworldly than in the beginning, and one could well wonder whether she had gone too far by the Middle Ages (if not sooner).

    Christians weren't the only Jewish sect so speculating and revising. The Essenes (whether they are one group or many), for instance, had a fairly well developed eschatology, including much talk of judgment, hell and vindication. Although its conceptions are still very much this-earthly, the language strikes otheworldly tones that would be quite coherent even in middle-age Christian Europe.

    This is the motivation that appeals to me. I act rightly (or at least, I want to) not because I fear hell but because my better nature summons me to. I see that both as part of my own inner motivation and the gentle promptings of God Himself. I act wrongly because I submit to my baser nature and ignore those promptings.
     
  19. Levite

    Levite Higher and Higher

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    Judaism has a doctrine somewhat similar to Heaven, an afterlife circumstance we call Olam ha-Ba, "The World To Come." However, what this is precisely like, who goes there and who doesn't, and to what degree, if any, misbehavior in this life affects going there, are all up for debate and unfixed-- even today. Moreover, at the point in history when early Christianity was separating itself from Judaism, belief in Olam ha-Ba was neither universal among Jews, nor had it yet been adopted by Judaism as a formal dogma-- that was something that happened considerably later. It was also comparatively new, and was, as far as we know, entirely confined to Rabbinic Judaism, and was absent from non-Rabbinic sects.

    The closest thing to a doctrine of Hell Judaism has ever had is a concept called Gehinnom, which some Jews have occasionally taken to through Jewish history. This is much closer to the Catholic concept of Purgatory, though, since it was never thought to be a place of permanent damnation, but merely a place where the souls of those with unresolved sins at death could "work off" their sin debt before moving on to The World To Come. But more importantly, this concept has simply never been popular with Jews, and was never taken on by Judaism as a formal dogma. This concept also was very much in flux at the historical point when early Christianity was separating from Judaism, and moreover, it was a very new idea introduced by Rabbinic Judaism, and would not have been shared by Essenes, Tzedokim (Saducees), or other non-Rabbinic movements.

    However, it is quite certain that Judaism-- neither Rabbinic nor pre-Rabbinic nor non-Rabbinic-- has never had a doctrine of original sin, and therefore has never had need of a doctrine of salvation from that original sin. The idea of everybody being born in a state of sin is not compatible with the Jewish conception of sin and responsibility. Even amongst the Qumranim, and, we think, the Essenes, who believed that people tended to acquire ritual impurity with astonishing frequency and from nearly anything, a state of innate and inherent sinfulness would have been a foreign notion, to say nothing of requiring some sort of supernatural leader to cleanse one from said state. Original sin and the salvation from it are entirely Christian inventions.
     
  20. Enoughie

    Enoughie Active Member

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    And how exactly are cautions fundamentally different from instructions?

    Instructions tell you what to do, cautions tell you what not to do. It's the same thing.

    ___________
    http://geopolitics.us - Natural Philosophy of Life - a simple, elegant, and powerful alternative to religious dogma
     
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