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Showing posts with label Dan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dan. Show all posts


The Red Light of Punishment

One counter theistic-moral-system argument that has become ubiquitous is that theistic morality is somewhat of, if not altogether, a sham since it is motivated by threats of punishment. Some who have made this argument are Dan Barker, Keith Parsons, Austin Cline, et al.


As Mr. Cline states it,
“Theistic and religious moral systems typically include prominent threats of punishment for disobedience, and even sometimes eternal punishment for the worst disobedience or disbelief. A truly moral choice, however, cannot be dependent upon a desire to avoid punishment.”

I would personally be quite grateful if anyone could direct my attention to any secular, atheist, non-religious country-nation-government-society that does not include threats of punishment for disobedience of their morals/laws. Such societies never seem to state, “Please do not beat up your neighbor’s pets. But if you do, then we will again ask you nicely to please not do it again.” Nay, every moral system includes punishment whether temporal, eternal or both but not neither.

The bigger issue is the statement, “A truly moral choice, however, cannot be dependent upon a desire to avoid punishment.” One problem is that the atheist must assume, by pretending to know a person’s motivations by some form of mind reading, that a theist is making a moral choice in order to, or solely in order to, avoid punishment.

The atheist cannot know this and it is a non-sequitur to claim that following a moral system that threatens punishment implies doing so in order to, or solely in order to, avoid punishment. We may also wonder if in judging theists of being moral due to presumptions about their inward motivations atheist are not so much attempting a Vulcan mind-meld but expressing their own prejudices since there is no way that they can know the motivations—if you disagree please present your evidence for an immaterial, invisible, motivation.

Allow me to pose the following question:

Why do you not run a red light?

This is asking why, when you are driving a motorized vehicle at some velocity and come upon a red traffic light, do you not keep right on driving but come to a stop? There are perhaps two main reasons which may interact so that no one of them may be our only motivators but act together to cause us to stop.

1. It is illegal to run a red light (unless you are driving an emergency response type vehicle).
2. Running a red light may cause you to collide with another vehicle.

Since it is illegal: you may not run a red light simply to avoid a legal punishment.
Since you may collide with another vehicle: you are risking your health and life and or the health and life of someone else.

Let us assume that I am so compassionate that I do not run a red light because I do not want hurt someone else. Does the fact that it is also illegal mean that I do not really have compassion upon others? Does it mean that my compassion is a fa├žade for my real motivation which is avoiding punishment? Not at all.

This argument may be ubiquitous but it is narrow and fallacious.

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