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Sunday, July 16, 2006

The virtue of justice

If I had to choose the one rational virtue that is the most maligned in Christianity, it would definitely have to be justice. This may seem like a counter-intuitive choice, but look at the basic premises of Christianity and how they oppose justice.

Original sin- We are all responsible for the crimes of our first ancestors, crimes that they didn't even know they were committing.
"Jesus"- God incarnates itself as a man and then sacrifices himself in order to somehow mitigate this responsibility.
Heaven and Hell- Eternal reward or punishment for finite crimes. This is usually justified by stating that any sin is a crime against an infinite God, which deserves infinite punishment.

The whole point of being a Christian is to believe in one travesty of justice (sacrificial salvation) in order to escape another (Original Sin). If Christianity is anything at all, it is an all-out attack against justice. If it means anything at all to be a Christian, it is to reject justice. And yet they whine that without God there is no ultimate justice in the universe! As far as Christian projections go, this one takes the cake.

Justice is the commitment to evaluate other people and act accordingly. As a moral agent, I am responsible for making sure that I associate with people who act benevolently (i.e. who consider me as a potential trading partner), and that I do not associate with people who do not. To do so, I must use my rational judgment and treat every individual as a fellow human being, not as a race, religion, social class, status, political group, or as a stepping stone for my own salvation.

What does Christianity preach? "Love your neighbour" and "don't judge lest ye be judged". In short, total non-confront. Why do they teach non-confront? Because their religion is based on submission and faith, and you can't very well be submissive or faithful if you keep evaluating everything for yourself. A belief system which is collectivist must necessarily be anti-justice as well.

As David Kelley says on the subject:

Justice is to society as rationality is to reality in general. It consists in identifying the facts about people and their actions, and evaluating them in terms of their effect on one’s life. This means rating people and their actions based on one’s own hierarchy of values.
(...)
Although one should be cautious about pronouncing sweeping moral judgments, one does need to form clear, if somewhat provisional, judgments of the people one deals with on a normal basis. The basis for such judgments should naturally be the facts that are relevant to one’s relationship with the other person. For example, the personal life of one’s banker may not be relevant to how well he handles one’s savings... But it is a vital necessity that one have good reasons to think he is of a rational, dependable, honest character in his financial dealings. Usually, one can reach a reasonable judgment in such cases based on his manner, reputation, track record, ideas and so on.
Logical Structure of Objectivism, p207 and 211


At a basic level, we all do this, perhaps unconsciously- even the most irrational Christian does. Indeed, fundamentalists tend to be very judgmental, although their judgment is not based on facts. But if we start applying this principle consistently, we find that many religious people aren't so great for one's values. What are we to make of people who can do nothing but deceive, brainwash children, and treat others as tools of salvation? This is an issue that all first generation atheists must confront.

By demanding that we non-confront other people's qualities and flaws, the moral system of Christianity ensures that its own peddlers of evil are revered without question. It also ensures that the family structure and the state structures will be revered without question. Non-confront is what keeps society stagnant.

So why is justice a virtue? I think this has been made clear by the discussion so far. Justice is a virtue because there are all kinds of people in a society, and we need to determine who can help us fulfill our values and who cannot, or can even hurt our values. Failing to make such a distinction means that we will be less able to effect our values. This is a pretty easy virtue to recognize.

Well, this is the last of the really anti-Christian virtues that I can see, so this is probably my last entry like this. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd be willing to make more.

Post a Comment


5 Comments:

At 7/16/2006 3:05 AM, Blogger olly declaimed...

Franc,

Great post, and thanks for the quotes from David Kelley... you've got me interested in reading that book now.

-olly

 
At 7/16/2006 3:45 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series. A question:

"A belief system which is collectivist must necessarily be anti-justice as well."

I am not sure how this follows. could you give me an example, or suggest some reading material?

I am no fan of collectivism, but I have problems existing as an individualist in a world that insists that I need a passport to move around, for example. I tend to believe that social order requires a hybrid system, and that this system is susceptible to imbalance.

Justice is a complex idea. If you are superstitious, you might believe that karma, or the god/devil boogeyman duo will settle the hash of those that have wronged you. Society feeds you this crap so that you will not make trouble. Why? Because "they" (control freaks, power junkies, conformists, those with a self-interest in maintaining the status quo, call them what you will) can, and because it works. If you are not superstitious, you look to the legal system to redress your problems, unless you are among the rare indviduals that mete out your own justice, thereby breaking the law. The ethics of taking the law into one's own hands is debatable, but the wide margin for error, or overcompensation given human nature is not. How then, do we acquire a sense of "justice" versus revenge or retribution, without at least a quasi-collectivist system? How do we decide upon the consequences of a harmful act without a consensus of opinion?

 
At 7/16/2006 3:52 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

"How then, do we acquire a sense of "justice" versus revenge or retribution, without at least a quasi-collectivist system? How do we decide upon the consequences of a harmful act without a consensus of opinion?"

What? You seem to be somewhat confused. How does "revenge or restribution" have anything to do with justice?

 
At 7/17/2006 8:21 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

From what I can ascertain, and all invisible and bullshit authority figures aside, "justice" is a social concept aimed at providing redress without resulting in the "Hatfield/McCoy, Irish/Brit, Arab/Israeli kind of conflict. In my experience, a person is in favor of justice until a gross injustice is perpetrated upon them, then they most often crave revenge. Cooler heads and alternative means of redress are provided by the social environment. Just what kind of "justice" are you talking about? That kind provided by generally agreed-upon law, the "King's justice", that which a reasonable man might consider a fitting consequence for an unjust act, or that which normally happens when someone gets fucked and then gets pissed off, a.k.a. street justice? It's a complex idea, so I'm confused. It also seems to me that you are idealistic. If you are anarchistic, then you either condone street justice, which quickly devolves into might makes right (or at least might gets the last word), or you have some idea about how to prevent that tendency in an anarchistic environment.

 
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