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Criminals Of Conscience


The Sage Nabooru
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Who here believes that crimes of conscience should be punished or, do you even think they exist?

 

This is another one of those things that if I find myself thinking too deeply about it my head starts hurting. For example, I could say that a Christian is committing a crime of conscience for disagreeing with me on some issues. But what makes me the better man (or woman, rather)? Surely I think my methods work better, and I don't think his work at all, but am I, ethically, morally, truly speaking, in a place where I can think myself "above" him in such a way as to dictate what his thinking should be? Surely others do this to me, and to each other all the time. But that doesn't make it right. Or does it?

 

And, is it truly a crime? I remember reading in the Princess trilogy (which is a true story of a Saudi princess's life), about Sultana's daughter once, in a teenage fit of emotion, proclaiming that there was no God. Her family was so distraught that they put her into psychiatric care. Suppose if the mujahideen had found out? Would they tolerate a girl's atheism? Personally I put no more weight on this particular teenager's statement (being where she comes from, and her upbringing, and most of all her age and situation) than I would on any other teen's emotional outbursts, but is "not knowing any better" or being in an agitated state an excuse for her? Would the religious police tolerate the circumstances?

 

And should it be possible for a person to be arrested for a crime of conscience? I've heard rants about how Christianity or Islam or Theism or Atheism should be outlawed, but really, do we want to live in such a world? And one thing to consider is that while you can force a person to pray (or forcefully keep them from praying), does it really make a difference on what they truly believe? Atheists have emerged from Iran, and theists from Soviet Russia. Just because one keeps one's true feelings secret doesn't mean that one's beliefs are any less legitimate and real. You could put me in an abaya, put a prayer rug in my room, and force me to pray facing Mecca five times a day. But I wouldn't really be a Muslim. I wouldn't believe in what I was doing.

 

If my real beliefs were uncovered, should I be punished? What if I was found to believe in religion where it was illegalized? Would my simply believing in other than what I was taught constitute a crime? What if I set up an altar in my own home, and prayed at it every day. If I didn't compel others to do so, would I be still be committing a crime?

 

This can be applied to many other areas of criminal behavior, such as, if I'm a pedophile, and I never touch a child but think of touching them, would I be a criminal? Does intent or desire serve as a good reason to arrest?

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There certainly are crimes of the conscience but only God and the indivdual are in a position to judge what these are and if a person is guilty. The only reason I deconverted is that I believe in crimes of the conscience. I never heard the term before but I have to live with myself. If I conclude that there is no evidence for God's existence, but I continue believing in such a god, professing such a god's existence, and imposing such belief on others, in my own heart and mind I would know that I am committing a crime of conscience. I don't want to live with that kind of condemnation so I deconverted no matter what the price. Others can and do condemn me for this level of integrity but I don't have to live with them. Nor they with me.

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Should my personal beliefs be punishable by law? Of course not! Unless it hurts someone in this life. Does anyone have a right to punish anyone else for their beliefs? Of course not! Doesn't mean they listen to this idea of mine. They go right on persecuting me and others for personal beliefs, whether or not this is right.

 

Sorry, I can't give indepth and detailed attention to this topic right now. Just closed up Word Document because my brain is about fried from writing a heavy paper.

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Some ridiculous figure like 90% of drivers think they are among the best 10% of drivers. Very nearly 10% THINK they among the top 10%, and they are right. That leaves 80%, 4 out of 5, who are simply wrong in their self assessment.

 

I think there's the same sort of dynamic involved in people's ideas that they're a "better" man (or woman) than most others. I happen to be convinced that you and I are both among the top ten percent of people in terms of the morals/methods etc. you are talking about: we've certainly confronted the tough questions head on, most haven't. Of course, someone posting on some xian board somewhere, is certainly saying the same thing, in stronger and definitely more inclusive terms, and their gulf is so wide that their path brings them eternal paradise while you and I will burn in a lake of fire forever. Of course they haven't examined their own mythology nearly so carefully as we have in the course of rejecting it.

 

But if we CAN arrest someone for a crime of conscience, for holding dangerous beliefs, just whose standard should we adhere to? Remember 90% of probably THINK that we have a superior morality, and assuming for the moment that there is some objective meta-standard for evaluating people's morality it's most likely that the policy makers will NOT be among the most virtuous 10% (the existence of an absolute morality would be the most convenient basis for such a standard, but not the only possibly one).

 

Thus, I think it's dangerous to punish anyone for a thought crime: it has to be based on behavior. And we must also somehow guard against these sorts of laws being enacted because certain groups of people become powerful enough to attain critical mass because they were free to think that their morality is better and everyone should be forced to conform to it. You're right, it's not easy or simple.

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If I ruled the world, would I make Christianity illegal?

 

Suppose I had the greatest army ever seen. (Hell, if I ruled the entire world, I certainly would.) That my law would be enforced is not even a question. But would I do it?

 

Certainly, I'd consider myself more "advanced" than those that close their eyes and jump into a well of denial and ignorance, but the ultimate problem is: Do I have the right to say "I'm smarter, so I make the rules, and since I make the smartest rules, you're not allowed to do what you want anymore"? Do I ultimately - within the deepest depths of ethics and morality - have the right to enforce my own vision of what the perfect, well-adjusted person would be?

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If I ruled the world, would I make Christianity illegal?

 

I guess you are asking if you were God what would you do. I guess this way because no single person can rule the world. Unless, of course, if by "world" you meant to say USA, or Canada, or the UK, etc. I'll go with the idea that if you were god what would you do.

 

Here is what you would do:

 

You would make every person smart enough not to need religion, give everyone enough self-discipline to carry through on the ideal life,

 

But on second thought I don't think that is your question.

 

Do I ultimately - within the deepest depths of ethics and morality - have the right to enforce my own vision of what the perfect, well-adjusted person would be?

 

Sage, any possible answer to this depends on what value system one speaks out of. The value system by which I live says no you have no such right.

 

I personally have had to practice this. I was in a situation where I had the psychological and intellectual powers to impose my beliefs or value system on another person. I felt I did not have that right because I want the right to make my own choices.

 

I will discuss and argue for the other person to understand my point. Beyond that I will not take it.

 

Many people do not know that there is a difference between understanding and agreeing. Thus, I have run into very serious fights.

 

Sage, I think I know what your problem is. You see so much stupid injustice that it is driving you crazy. You feel you absolutely have to "save the world." Join the party, my friend. You're not alone. The best I have yet figured out is how to survive myself. I have to let the world go its own crazy way. THAT takes faith. And it's not religious faith. It's just simple common sense faith.

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Do I agree with Christianity? No. Would I expunge from history if I could? not sure. I regard it as a growing pain of the species. It's like inappropriate girlfriends/boyfriends, tattoos, piercings, being a Goth or reading Byron while sighing heavily... it's a stage most people go through. Although the present neoteny of the species makes me wonder if we'll ever get beyond adolescence.

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Sage, I think I know what your problem is. You see so much stupid injustice that it is driving you crazy. You feel you absolutely have to "save the world." Join the party, my friend. You're not alone. The best I have yet figured out is how to survive myself. I have to let the world go its own crazy way. THAT takes faith. And it's not religious faith. It's just simple common sense faith.

 

Well, sort of, but I wouldn't say it's quite that.

 

Really, what gets me is when such-and-such a person proclaims that life on earth will only be truly tolerable or acceptable once everyone is Muslim/drops religion/theism altogether/Jesus comes back. I just don't think we really can say that. It's not that simple.

 

Basically, when I hear such arguments, it makes me think of saying, "As soon as the entire world agrees with me, and does what I say, there will be peace." Well of course they'll be peace, but will it be a good peace? Would life be worth living if everyone participating in it was beaten into submission to one core ideology?

 

A lot of people really aren't interested in peace, I think. I think they're still interested in the seperation theology or seperation society, where everything is "us vs. them", you're either on the right side or the wrong, and that includes your way of thinking. If you're not thinking the right way, then you're not worth the time. Either change to conform to our ideas, or begone. That's really what frustrates me: The idea that there can be no peace, harmony, or happiness until everyone agrees that we have the only acceptable answers.

 

To educate people so that they wouldn't need religion: What if they got educated and still wanted religion? What then? Are they still simply not educated enough if they're not willing yet to drop their god, and if so, do we need to educate them more until they give in? Or do we simply ostracize them and within our society present such people as "stupid"?

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Sage, I think I know what your problem is. You see so much stupid injustice that it is driving you crazy. You feel you absolutely have to "save the world." Join the party, my friend. You're not alone. The best I have yet figured out is how to survive myself. I have to let the world go its own crazy way. THAT takes faith. And it's not religious faith. It's just simple common sense faith.

 

Well, sort of, but I wouldn't say it's quite that.

 

Really, what gets me is when such-and-such a person proclaims that life on earth will only be truly tolerable or acceptable once everyone is Muslim/drops religion/theism altogether/Jesus comes back. I just don't think we really can say that. It's not that simple.

 

Basically, when I hear such arguments, it makes me think of saying, "As soon as the entire world agrees with me, and does what I say, there will be peace." Well of course they'll be peace, but will it be a good peace? Would life be worth living if everyone participating in it was beaten into submission to one core ideology?

 

A lot of people really aren't interested in peace, I think. I think they're still interested in the seperation theology or seperation society, where everything is "us vs. them", you're either on the right side or the wrong, and that includes your way of thinking. If you're not thinking the right way, then you're not worth the time. Either change to conform to our ideas, or begone. That's really what frustrates me: The idea that there can be no peace, harmony, or happiness until everyone agrees that we have the only acceptable answers.

 

 

Thanks, that is a lot clearer what you're getting at.

 

To educate people so that they wouldn't need religion: What if they got educated and still wanted religion? What then? Are they still simply not educated enough if they're not willing yet to drop their god, and if so, do we need to educate them more until they give in? Or do we simply ostracize them and within our society present such people as "stupid"?

 

I see.

 

I don't think it's as black and white as that.

 

I don't know enough about the psychology of religion to answer the question about education. Maybe the connection we feel to something larger than us indicates that such a being exists. Maybe it indicates that humans have an organ in the brain that, when stimulated, gives the individual the feeling that there is something "out there."

 

I don't know which it is or if it is still something else. All I know is that I feel more peace if I assume it's just a stimulation in the brain, but that does not make it a fact. I think so long as we don't know exactly what it is we cannot--and have no right to--"educate" it away. In the meantime, I feel satisfied that our legal systems are as good as can be expected given human nature and limitations.

 

I think we should be tolerant and respectful of other people's beliefs so long as they don't hurt anyone. The fundies like to throw that back in our faces and claim we are being intolerant, too. Yes, I am intolerant of intolerance but I'm not killing or hurting anyone and they are. That's where the difference comes in.

 

I don't know if I am anywhere near on track as to your question. My own personal issue is that no matter how much I analyze and study the fundy problem, it's still there. I don't know how to make it go away. A major part of the problem is that some moderate and liberal Christians refuse to see fundamentalism as a problem.

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Basically, when I hear such arguments, it makes me think of saying, "As soon as the entire world agrees with me, and does what I say, there will be peace." Well of course they'll be peace, but will it be a good peace? Would life be worth living if everyone participating in it was beaten into submission to one core ideology?

Kinda reminds me of the dark ages.

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I'm seldom tolerant of people's loud idiocy. If I don't respect someone's belief in an imaginary friend called 'Bob' I don't see why I should of their imaginary friend Jesus, Allah or Ganesh... however, if they don't try and tell my how fucking marvellous Bob is, and how 'true' it all is, then I won't tell them they're insane. I think that's a reasonable trade off...

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There are/have been more and less enlightened societies. More and less superstitious societies. More and less peaceful societies. More and less educated societies. More and less religious societies. And these attributes seem to be related and correlated to each other. You can't force people to be educated, peaceful, enlightened, and not superstitious, but I'm sure you can foster these values somehow.

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Beyond the not killing, not stealing, not lying, and not abusing people, values are just a judgement call. IIRC Nabooru is a vegan. I'm a nose to tail carnivore... in fact my metabolism all but grinds to a shuddering halt with out some meat. Their value call is not mine. I'm all for human slaughter of animals, and if I have to I can kill them to eat them (but holding down a life other than hunting and gathering is hard, so a local butcher who supplies local meat is my preference...) I don't regard Nabooru's life choice as 'odd' or 'wrong', just not something for me. It's a judgement call... although I really don't thirve on a vegetarian/vegan diet (I tried when I lived with a house mates who were... they were as fit as fleas)

 

Point: Values are not baseball hats... one size does not fit all...

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Basically, when I hear such arguments, it makes me think of saying, "As soon as the entire world agrees with me, and does what I say, there will be peace." Well of course they'll be peace, but will it be a good peace? Would life be worth living if everyone participating in it was beaten into submission to one core ideology?

 

Kinda reminds me of the dark ages.

 

So that's it? As I read history and see how there was one despot (or tyrant or wise king as the case might be) ruling mindless masses I wonder how this even remotely resembles reality. When I read about caste societies such as the ancient Greeks and Romans where there was no class mobility I feel sophocated and trapped and nearly get a panic attack. It's too much like being born in an Old Order Mennonite community with no access to higher education and nothing but condemnation and ostracization when one aspires to get it.

 

The only problem is that not even with heroic effort would it be possible to move into another vocation if one happened not to be a military-minded guy like one's father. I can't even think about the lot of women in those places. I choose to be a lower-class business woman because they had perhaps more independence than any other citizen--that is, if they remained single and childless. The aristocrat ladies had to be porcelain dolls. UGH.

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The most sucessfull religion ever has been Christianity. Ever wonder why? Because it was made the official religion of the Roman Empire after the Council of Nicea. All Roman Citizens were compelled to convert to Christianity. Then those who did not were persecuted and slaughtered and their books destroyed. That was the Dark Ages and it got worse under the Holy Inquisition. The Holy Roman Catholic Church so brainwashed it's faithfull and was ruthless with non-believers. No one was allowed to think and question. This is why parents who are Christian brainwash their children with chlrdren's bible stories so, by the time they get into school, they can't accept science as fact.

 

And this is a big problem in the United "Christian" States of America.

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There are/have been more and less enlightened societies. More and less superstitious societies. More and less peaceful societies. More and less educated societies. More and less religious societies. And these attributes seem to be related and correlated to each other. You can't force people to be educated, peaceful, enlightened, and not superstitious, but I'm sure you can foster these values somehow.

 

But ultimately, why should we? The issue is not simply fundamentalist Abrahamic religions but simply faith at large. Should we foster the idea that one can't believe in anything supernatural and still be an intelligent person? Should not we not outright state that in our schools, but hint at it?

 

But then that brings back the question: if saying (however subtly) that it's okay to believe in that and not this, is that really a good and fair idea?

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Imo, one can be irritated and frustrated with another person's opposing Life View, but until anybody's Life View is framed into law which has actual, material, detrimental consequences for those unaligned with it, irritation and frustration can be embraced as a goad toward living better within eternally-diverse humanity.

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Thoughtcrime should not be punishable, no matter what the thoughts entail. I have horrible thoughts sometimes, but I don't act on them. No matter how dumb or homicidal or racist someones thoughts are, until they commit a crime they haven't done anything wrong.

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People can believe what they want, but it's what they do that may merit punishment. Beliefs should never be called into question in any court of law, unless someone uses them as the basis of action that causes harm to innocents.

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Personally, I like that there is some Christians around...they are stupid as sheep, afraid to question, and easy as hell to manipulate...LOL....

 

It's nice to see the spirit of W.C. Fields lives into the 21st Century. :wicked:

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There are/have been more and less enlightened societies. More and less superstitious societies. More and less peaceful societies. More and less educated societies. More and less religious societies. And these attributes seem to be related and correlated to each other. You can't force people to be educated, peaceful, enlightened, and not superstitious, but I'm sure you can foster these values somehow.

 

But ultimately, why should we? The issue is not simply fundamentalist Abrahamic religions but simply faith at large. Should we foster the idea that one can't believe in anything supernatural and still be an intelligent person? Should not we not outright state that in our schools, but hint at it?

 

But then that brings back the question: if saying (however subtly) that it's okay to believe in that and not this, is that really a good and fair idea?

It is a good question.

 

I think that we humans should make an honest effort to learn about our universe, striving to understand the things that we don't yet understand by using our minds instead of making up answers.

 

But how can we mandate this? Couldn't it possibly backfire and lead to people with new ideas being labeled as crackpots? What would we do with those who wanted to believe in a religion? What right have we to mandate that they don't? Would we not be robbing them of their dignity by telling them what to believe?

 

But what if we say it's equally OK to believe in anything you want? Should we really, truly be so generous as to give ID or even creationism equal air time and credence with evolution in our schools? I can only answer "no" to that one in good conscience. That would also set us right back on the road to the tyranny of whatever the predominate religion might be rather than fostering freedom to believe anything you want. You KNOW no culture's school system is going to teach, "OK, here's what scientists think about how the universe, the sun, the planets were formed and how life started, and here's the christian creation theory, the hindu theory, the Norse theory. We don't know which is right, but they all seem equally probable to us!" And it would not be fundamentally honest to put ancient superstitions based on flimsy and unsupported premises on an equal footing with hard wrought knowledge gained from hard work, study, careful observation and experimentation.

 

Maybe it would be tyrannical to prohibit religion, but it would certainly result in tyranny if everybody else was fair enough to leave no superstition unchecked while some predominate cult gained enough power to impose ITSELF on everybody. I think it's important to guard against that scenario.

 

So yes, I think we should encourage critical thought by doing what we can to make it an important societal value, but stop short of mandating how people should think.

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