Right And Wrong

The only stupid questions are those unasked!
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thrice
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Right And Wrong

Post by thrice » Fri Feb 27, 2009 9:53 am

The story of the 18 year old Canadian girl's suicide and the apparent "cheering her on" by a Minnesota nurse for his own gratification really raised a question for me.

It's pretty clear that our criminal laws will do little, if anything, to impose sanctions on this sick b*stard that got his jollies egging on a troubled young woman to kill herself before his eyes.

It would not be at all surprising if a parent in such a situation chose to seek their own form of retribution.

Here are the questions:

1. If there is no God, then how can the definition of right and wrong be anything but subjective and open to every thinking being's personal interpretation? Please don't propose any mystical "group concurrance" because obviously there isn't any. Who is the final Arbiter, the Decider?

2. If there is no God, then why would anyone restrain themselves and obediently wait for Divine Justice on others who have harmed us or ours if it is not going to happen? Why not just take care of business ourselves, right now, as we see fit?

Serious questions to consider.

nomnnice
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Post by nomnnice » Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:42 pm

I don't know what story you're referring to, thrice, but I can speak to your questions.

I don't believe in God, but I know that it is wrong to participate in the death of another person. I don't need the presence of a higher power to tell me that.

My opinion is that most people need to believe in a God, an arbiter, a decider. A "person" who is ultimately in charge because most people don't want to take responsibility for their own actions and realize that the world is completely random and shit happens.

Again, I don't know the story you're referring to, but it sounds like this guy is sick. Some people are sick. God didn't make them sick. A lack of God didn't make them sick. They're just sick. It's unfortunate, but it's nobody's fault. People just want there to be a God so they have someone to blame for the terribly random things that happen to them.

thrice
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Post by thrice » Fri Feb 27, 2009 4:07 pm

The story was up in the Crime section, NoMN. Apparently some guy on the Net posed as a depressed female and encouraged a depressed Canadian 18 year old girl to commit suicide- even urged her to set up a webcam and let him walk her through hanging herself. She later tossed herself off a bridge.

I guess my question was to ask what in right or wrong is not personally subjective, if there is no absolute standard? Group consensus is the fallback answer, but a lynch mob is a unanimous group, so force of numbers is not necessarily an indication of a correct or moral position.

dorajar
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Post by dorajar » Fri Feb 27, 2009 4:18 pm

thrice wrote:
I guess my question was to ask what in right or wrong is not personally subjective, if there is no absolute standard? Group consensus is the fallback answer, but a lynch mob is a unanimous group, so force of numbers is not necessarily an indication of a correct or moral position.
But even "God" wouldn't be an absolute standard, because whatever notion we have of "God" is just as made up as whatever notion we have of Justice or Beauty or any of the other philosophical vortexes. Even if a God exists (and I'm open to that possibility--I'm agnostic), anyone who claims to know His/Her "verdict" on anything is generally full of hooey. Know what I mean? It doesn't lend a point of view any heft or validity to say God sanctioned it. Because...uh...how do you know? And isn't it just convenient that God agrees with you?

nomnnice
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Post by nomnnice » Fri Feb 27, 2009 4:21 pm

I understand your question, thrice, and I'm not necessarily trying to knock religion. It obviously works for a lot of people. But, I guess I don't think that the presence of God really answers all the questions, either. I don't know how I know, but I just know that killing another person is wrong. To me, it's wrong. But, then, there's always gray area. How is it that we as a society have been able to justify that killing a person for a severe crime is right? (I personally don't believe the death penalty is right, but many people agree with it.) Secondly, what about loved ones who are very ill and have asked that extraordinary measures not be used to keep them alive? Isn't the point where we, as their "legal guardian" say, "Yes, pull the plug," still killing them? Is that right or wrong?

I guess what I'm saying here is that it's not a matter of right or wrong, objective or subjective. I think we need to deal with the fact that things aren't always black and white. I think we have an inherent desire to make things black and white, which is why we've developed "laws" and we want to believe there's a "God" who will tell us what right and wrong is. But, at the end of the day, there's always gray. There's always many ways of looking at things and thinking, "What is 'right' in this situation? What would 'wrong' look like?"

thrice
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Post by thrice » Fri Feb 27, 2009 6:16 pm

dorajar wrote: And isn't it just convenient that God agrees with you?
And there's exactly my quandry, Dora. As my religious teaching informs me, I am not permitted to go out and whack the guy who harmed my daughter or loved one, because the dispensation of that kind of justice is reserved to the Deity under my belief system. So the fact is that it is only in obedience to what I believe that I would refrain from dispensing the justice that I would feel appropriate. In that case, and in others, the Deity I believe in does not agree with me at all. The consequences I fear are not in this life.

And MN, let me tentatively step into an area I am not very educated in. It's my understanding that the accurate translation of the commonly mentioned commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is actually "Thou shalt not murder". It could be argued philosophically a long time, but at least under human law, there's a huge difference between the act of murder and simply ending someone else's life.

The whole deal is terribly complex. I can assure you that no matter what ethnic background you have, someone in your family tree lived in a society that believed it was a perfectly acceptable remedy to gallop over the hill and slaughter the neighboring village over what was considered to be a heinous deed committed by one or more of them. They followed their beliefs, and what they learned at their mother's knee. Was it right for them, and now has become wrong? Is morality relative and changing? Or does it come down to a democratic process in which the majority decides?

dorajar
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Post by dorajar » Fri Feb 27, 2009 9:04 pm

thrice wrote: Was it right for them, and now has become wrong? Is morality relative and changing? Or does it come down to a democratic process in which the majority decides?
I think what you're after is Truth. And it's possible to be wholly consumed with that quest and leave God out of it entirely (like Socrates did). Of course it's also possible to bring the idea of God into it, and then you're talking Theology. At the root of both are great mysteries that many have dedicated their lives to meditating upon. My take on it is that there is some great Truth that I'm not quite capable of grasping entirely, and it may or may not have something to do with "God" or spiritual energy or karma or The Great Oneness of All Things. I think the pattern of human evolution is toward that Truth. Understanding that killing is wrong, that slavery is wrong, that homophobia is wrong. I don't have a personal need for the idea of a stern and patriarchal God sorting out the lambs and the wolves, the compliant and the deviant, the right and the wrong. I lean much more toward a "Great Oneness of All Things" view of the world. That the sickest, cruelest criminal in the world has me in him and I have him in me. That we are joined in some necessary balance that I can't name or comprehend. And that any need I have to feel that he is Other than me, something that can be destroyed and eliminated, something of which I and the world can be cleansed, is wishful thinking. As is the notion that by killing one manifestation of Evil, that Good has somehow triumphed. Like NoMnNice says, we live in a world of grays. The need for black and white judgments is reductive and juvenile. Life is a great, great Mystery, and the most appropriate response to it, for me, is awe and reflection and humility. And I can have all those things without a shred of certainty about the nature or existence of God.

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