I’ve asked a lot of questions about religion on Yahoo Answers. One question in particular I want to bring up from a year ago:
Most of the Christian answers were that they wouldn’t sacrifice heaven to save others from hell. To be clear, I’m talking about the most common idea of heaven and hell among Christians (hell being eternal torture in fire, only Christians get into heaven). This interpretation isn’t universal among Christians, but among the answers it was understood what I meant.
The problem with the idea of hell is how lightly so many people take it. Eternal torture in hell is literally the worst fate imaginable. Yet people are willing to condemn others to hell on the basis of personal beliefs. What I don’t get is how anyone can justify this punishment for people simply because they didn’t choose the “correct” religion.
To make my case, I’ll try to justify punishing Hitler with hell. Hitler was an obviously evil man, was responsible for millions of deaths both from the Holocaust and World War II, and someone who deserves as great or greater punishment as any person who ever lived. To calculate how much punishment is necessary, consider the damage Hitler caused. Under an eye for an eye system (what many justice systems have to a degree), Hitler would have to experience the entirety of the pain he caused to both his victims and his victims’ loved ones. If we blame Hitler for the entirety of World War II deaths, and the entirety of people killed during the Holocaust, he would be responsible for the death of up to 90 million people. Let’s say that the punishment should be a lifetime of pain for each life he ended (a harsher punishment than jail, but could be argued for). Let’s also say that Hitler deserves a year in pain for every year of pain he caused the victims’ families. No one has these types of statistics, but let’s say each victims death averaged 100 combined years of pain for relatives. Using these numbers (and considering a lifetime to be 80 years), Hitler would deserve 16.2 billion years of pain for his crimes.
Now the question becomes, at what point has Hitler received enough punishment for his crimes? If he does the full 16.2 billion year sentence, does he still deserve to be punished further? How about if he serves 100 times his sentence? 1000? This could go on and on. But as awful as Hitler was, there has to be a point where he has been punished enough. 16.2 trillion years of pain, or a thousand times the amount of pain he caused, would seem a harsh punishment. However, 16.2 trillion years is literally nothing compared to an eternity. Can we justify that punishment, even for someone as evil as Hitler?
The point of the Hitler case is to show how insane the idea of hell is. How can we justify this punishment for people simply because they didn’t choose the “right” faith? Even for criminals, it is not possible to cause enough pain in a human lifetime to justify an eternity of pain.
The insanity of the idea comes when people believe hell is justifiable because of God. God, if omniscient, would be more than able to comprehend the idea of eternity. Knowing this, it’s impossible to imagine how hell could be justifiable.
I’m going to put a new argument up within the next couple days about the ideas of heaven and hell in organized religion. The philosophy of religion is actually the area I’m most interested in so I’m hoping there are a few people with strong enough opinions to argue with me. Also I’m always open to learning about something new or thinking about something different, so if you have something you want to debate let me know and I’ll write a post about it.
I’ve been discussing the morality of drug prohibition in my Ethics class for a few weeks. The focus has been on heroin prohibition and the arguments of Douglass Husak and Peter Marneffe. Since Prop 19 is being voted on next week, I’m going to generalize the argument to all drugs to include marijuana.
Each type of drug has a different effect and a different set of risks for use. I’m going to generalize this argument for all drugs without referencing a specific drug yet. Since I’m generalizing, I’m going to just say that all drugs are unhealthy and can make you lose opportunities in life.
For any argument about drug laws, it’s more important to justify the law than to defend legalization. Putting drug users in jail is a much harsher penalty than many people realize. Jail time is dangerous, tears families apart, and cripples job opportunities. It can also leave lasting psychological damage. If we’re going to put people in jail, we need a very good reason to do so.
The question is: it morally justifiable to punish drug users? There are two main arguments for drug prohibition, and I want to refute each one.
The first is a paternalistic argument. Basically, this argument says that drugs are unhealthy and can ruin a person’s life, so the government should punish drug users to stop them from using drugs. There are two obvious problems with this argument. First, it is not the government’s place to punish us for our unhealthy choices. No one could rationally defend the government punishing people eating fast food in order to protect our health. The second problem is that punishing a drug user only worsens their life. While being addicted to drugs can seriously hurt someone’s life, being jailed for drug use will only make things worse.
The second argument is a mitigation argument. This argument says that laws against drug use are justified to prevent people from abusing drugs. Basically, since drug use means risking jail time, many people are unwilling to risk using the drug. To refute this, I’m going to classify two types of people that drug laws affect. The first type is the group that the mitigation argument is trying to protect. These are people who would use the drug if legal, but are deterred from use by drug laws. The second type is the group that use the drug even when illegal. The mitigation argument says that it is morally justified to punish the second group in order to protect the first group. Basically, if we didn’t punish the second group for using drugs, the first group wouldn’t be able to resist using drugs and would therefore suffer. However, in no other area do we use this type of logic. Think of any potentially dangerous recreational activity (football, skiing, skateboarding, etc.). It wouldn’t make any sense to punish football players so young athletes avoid football, even if this lead to the young athletes not getting injured.
It is a legitimate goal to stop people from ruining their lives. The problems with drug laws is that they make the problem worse and there is no moral justification for punishing drug users. When it comes to Prop 19 and marijuana, the moral justification for prohibition is even more difficult to defend. Marijuana is the safest recreational drug, safer than alcohol, tobacco and all illegal drugs. Marijuana is already socially acceptable and it is already readily accesible to anyone who wants it. What our current prohibition does do is: imprison non-violent recreational users, create the largest portion of the criminal market, and waste tax money on “the war on drugs”.
If anyone wants to debate any part of my argument or would like to add something, please leave a comment.