Friday, September 30, 2011

Three

We all agree that murder is a bad thing. Some of us believe that adultery and fornication are bad things. But, once you've permitted the killing of animals and bacteria, and the killing of human beings in war and self defence and euthanasia; and accepted that people may sometimes choose to commit suicide; then "Thou Shalt Not Murder" turns out to mean "You are not allowed to kill anyone except those people who you are allowed to kill". And even if you agree that the only permissible sexual intercourse is between married people, you can hardly to fail have noticed that society keeps on changing its mind about what counts as "marriage". Cousins are sometimes allowed to marry and sometimes not; the age of legal marriage can be quite young or surprisingly old; societies can't even come to a firm decision about how many husbands and or wives a man and or woman is allowed to keep on the go at once. So "thou shalt not commit adultery" turns out to mean "you are forbidden from having sex with anyone except those people who you are permitted to have sex with": a variation on "you should do whatever you should do".

I came across a person on the interwebs who affected to be genuinely astonished when I suggested that the Christian church, and therefore very possibly the Christian God, approved of some kinds of killing but not others. I said that it would be rather odd for YHWH to give detailed instructions about meat preparation if by "Thou shalt not kill" she had meant "Thou shalt not kill anything, ever, full stop". I said that since YHWH shows no sign of being a pacifist; and seems to think that very naughty people -- witches, for example -- should be executed, she probably things that the killing of one soldier by another solider in a properly declared war, or the killing of a criminal by an executioner after a perfectly fair trail wasn't murder. So there was no necessary inconsistency in being a Christian warrior or a Christian supporter of capital punishment.

But it says "thou shalt not kill" in the BIBLE, he kept saying, and yet these Christians support WARS. Haven't THEY read their own BOOK? HAVEN'T they READ their own book.

("Can you imagine Jesus in any army uniform" is not a very helpful contribution to the debate. I can't imagine Jesus playing cricket, and, come to that, I can't imagine the Queen going to the toilet. A clever person on the interwebs recently remarked that if you can't imagine Jesus with an erection, you a probably really a docetist.)  

Some people believe, or pretend to believe, that no-one ever really believed in witches. The whole concept was dreamed up by sad individuals who had a bit of a thing about setting fire to old ladies and needed a flimsy pretext to indulge their rather specialized proclivities. Mrs Thatcher (speaking of witches) used to comically and ludicrously claim that there was no political element behind the campaigns of assassination and bombings by the Irish Republican Army: they blew people up because they were the kind of people who liked blowing things up.

A world of bad people who were bad because they wanted to be bad; where no-one ever does a bad thing for a good reason, or a bad thing for a bad reason which looks like a good reason from their point of view.  How nice it would be if life were that simple.

I know: let's pretend it is!

4 comments:

  1. And I arrive at this late date to take up the cudgels for an old academic flame of mine, Herbert Marcuse. I had the honor of studying under a man who held one of the few doctorates Marcuse granted in the U.S., David Ober, and well remember his exposition of Marcuse's philosophy, though I cannot quote chapter and verse.

    Marcuse's main point seemed to me to be that beyond a certain point capitalism creates false needs, and he uses advertising as his great example. He was writing in the age of The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, and his idea was that Marxism would break us away from a hierarchy of false needs and return us to a more connected sense of life, nature, sex, and true society based on real needs.

    Not unlike the Campaign for Real Ale, in a way, but I was then in great doubt, and remain in great doubt as to whether Marxism is necessary for this process to occur.

    This is possibly not germaine to any part of the present discussion; though it does seem that when you're talking about the root of moral behavior, you're talking about real needs.

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  2. @Lizrael:
    You would be one of the Secular Secret Masters (or Mistresses?) of the BBC, then.
    Perhaps you were responsible for "The God Complex"? in wich case, thank you-it was quite good.
    (Minor quibbles, such as the confusion of "belief" & "trust", aside-you remembered the Nimon! Decent of you, what with destroying Western culture & so on)

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  3. "Mrs Thatcher (speaking of witches) used to comically and ludicrously claim that there was no political element behind the campaigns of assassination and bombings by the Irish Republican Army: they blew people up because they were the kind of people who liked blowing things up."

    It was so ludicrous that I assumed she simply meant it as propaganda to influence people against the IRA.

    Regards

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  4. 'Mrs Thatcher (speaking of witches) used to comically and ludicrously claim that there was no political element behind the campaigns of assassination and bombings by the Irish Republican Army: they blew people up because they were the kind of people who liked blowing things up. '

    I don't think she ever claimed that there was no political element behind the bombings; merely (and rightly) that any political grievance they might have had was no justification for the murder of civilians, police officer or soldiers; that they were imprisoned for those murders, not for the political views they held (as plenty of people managed to hold political views, even the same political views, without murdering anybody) and so therefore they should not be considered as 'political prisoners' but as murderers.

    Because that is what they were.

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