Friday, October 26, 2007

If There Were No Traffic Cops...

...would you turn the road into a demolition derby?

It seems some fundie commenters might just answer 'yes.' Take a break to read the nihilism of a troll my circle of friends is quite familiar with.

I don't need law enforcement of the natural or supernatural kind to behave. I have compassion for my fellow sentient beings. When I'm at the grocery store, I put up shopping carts that barbarians placed in the exact center of good parking spots. If I take an item off the shelf, and the remainder are way in the back, hard to reach, I will bring a few closer to the front for the next person's convenience. And that's just the tiniest of things I do. (Need to start getting my checkbook ready for a slew of donations, by the way.)

Why do I do these things? Well, for starters, the world would be a better place if everyone was generous. Altruism helps everyone, and altruism helps oneself: People have an instinct for reciprocation:

"Scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours."
"Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself."

It's the concept behind returning a favor. Doing kind things for others makes them more willing to do kind things for you. Hence, if I want something kind to be done for me, I should be kind to others. If I don't want nasty things done to me, I shouldn't do nasty things to others. It's probably written in our DNA somewhere. It's also taught to most of us at early ages. Even if it's not explicitly taught, we tend to learn by observation.

For the typical divine command theorist, such concepts are alien: They only know obedience, not love or compassion. They typically require bribery (Heaven) and blackmail (Hell) to reach a decision. When I try to imagine what it's like to be one of them, I think of an animal just barely intelligent enough to understand the concept of deferring gratification. This animal is locked in a cage, separated from all other members of its kind, and is promised a reward from the food slot if they hit the right sequence of buttons. They don't care what the buttons do (no matter how horrible it is), just whether or not something will come tumbling down from the machine.


Anonymous said...

In fairness, these people, as far as I can tell (and remember I was one of them) don't ACTUALLY have a total lack of basic human empathy. Rather, they just have one of the cruelest self-inflicted forms of poor self esteem there is in this world. Unfortunatly it's not just for them but they apply it to everyone.

These people were taught that humans, all humans, are garbage, worthless evil beings deserving, every last one of them, of infinite suffering. Of course in spite of how they actually treat people (whether they happen to be a jerk or are really nice, which if anything I have found is a completely seperate attribute from what religion they follow) they are still convinced they are garbage and so is everyone else. It really isn't any wonder they've convinced themselves that without god's grace/ridiculously extreme carrot and stick proposition, everyone would just smash each other's heads in and feast on the goo inside.

Most of these people, when I talk to them without religion coming up, seem just like me. They don't like hurting people because that person would be in pain if they did that, which hey for most except certain "damaged" individuals is a negative in itself. What a concept. Even certain people with low empathy are able to understand logically that if they themselves don't want to be hurt they can't limit that to themselves alone, reciprocation or no it logically must be applied to everyone.

A lot of religions do this though. It seems one of the easiest ways to get people to join your self-help program is to convince them beforehand that you are in fact broken and need fixing. It isn't surprising a lot of them have to say a diety invented morality rather than the reality, morality is a human construct that really should be focused on human concerns.

Laser Potato said...

If there were no traffic cops (or "Da POE-leece!" as my mom calls 'em)...I'd be really, REALLY scared. Why? Because there are far too many people around here who actually HAVE that kind of mindset, who think it's okay to act like daredevils as long as there's no cops in sight. Why do you THINK the Baltimore/DC era has the worst traffic in the country?!