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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I fought the law and the law won

David the Physics Guy posted about legislating religion, and since I've been planning on doing the same, I will. After a couple of posts that made passing reference to puritanical moral values, here's one that can be applied to politics.

There are three types of sin: those that hurt others (violations of rights ethics), sins of omission (violations of duty ethics), and arbitrary sins that might hurt the sinner or anger God.

Hurting others is generally illegal, and so it should be. It is the sins of omission that define the boundary between capitalism and socialism, libertarianism and post-liberalism.

As a crazy capitalist, I do not recognize the legal authority of 'duty.' This is because 'duty' cannot be projected onto others. Even though an individual has a duty, society has no way of quantifying that duty, measuring right and wrong, and resolving the moral problem. The only thing society can do is give an individual freedom.

I do not mean society shouldn't define duty for a person; I mean it cannot. It has no ability to see from the individual's perspective. It cannot ever possibly examine all the circumstances of that individual's situation. By forcing someone to fulfill society's conception of duty, society assumes itself to be infallible.

This is an important point to make clear, because this is the crux of the major division in western civilisation. We may not be able to advance until this is resolved. The Left believes we can punish someone for inaction. The Right believes we cannot. All other differences, other than incidental demographic ones, can be traced back to this division.

This means that we can only legislate against those things that hurt other people. Some results:

*Abortion does not hinge on this argument, but on what constitutes a 'person.' So, oddly, religion does not affect the abortion debate in a meaningful way (except to sway some opinions on how to define personhood).

* Gay "marriage" cannot be outlawed, because it hurts no one. Neither can we grant special legal rights to married couples, because in every instance these rights limit the freedom of others or punish unmarried individuals.

* David the Physics Guy said:
"What if most non-Christians want incest to be legal? Or beastiality?..We must use some standard to decide what should be legal and what shouldn't,"

I wasn't aware that those were illegal. They shouldn't be, unless of course the relative is unable to consent. That's on par with punishing suicide.

*Whether anyone has the right to prevent someone else's suicide is a tricky question.

*"Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." - Jesus of Nazareth (translated from original)

What is Caesar's? The coin, the value it represents, or neither? The Roman patricians gave up the value of the coin when the treasury paid it out. Even following Jesus' advice, that does not necessarily mean we are morally bound to pay taxes.


Laws should be based on rationality, not religion. Granted, the word of God is absolute truth and preempts our attempts at logic; however, the word of God must be rational. Therefore, there can be no conflict between a rational, atheistic law and religion. What we often have to deal with is an irrational, atheist law, which is far worse.

Although I support extreme religious practices, self deprivation, celibacy, evangelicism, indoctrination of children, the rights of the fetus, et cetera, most of these should not be legislated.


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