Legislating Morality is Morally Bankrupt

One issue that has been cropping up again and again in our recent political landscape is the idea of homosexuality and morality in legislation and in particular what is “morally allowable” versus what is not.  This has been big especially here in Iowa with the recent buzz concerning the Supreme Court Justices and their past ruling of same sex marriage.  Throw in DADT and we now have homosexuality thrust into the public spotlight again.  To this point I’d like to raise a very serious question to those that consider themselves against same sex marriage for theist reasons or really any law based on theist beliefs. This can include laws concerning homosexuality, marriage in general, holidays, oaths, tax status, drugs, whatever, I am very serious in this question: Do you really, truly believe legislating morality is the best way to run a Republic?

Now this seems very flippant at first, I mean, we all agree that we should have laws concerning murder and rape and theft and the like. However, we have laws against that in our country not for religious reasons but because of their effects.  When we have laws on the books that state “don’t kill other people” it doesn’t say “because you’ll go to hell afterwards” or “it’s a sin”, the law is there to protect people and their property from negative consequences.  The law isn’t there to keep people necessarily moral, though that is great side effect (we’re going to assume all the readers of this blog think murder is immoral), but it is there to keep negative things from happening to people.   The same goes for theft, for rape, and to a limited extent, certain drug use.

Now, let us turn to other things that aren’t so black and white for most of us.  Contentious things like banning same-sex marriage, banning abortion,  stopping homosexuals from serving  in the military, prayer in the classroom, being religious to hold public office for example. A lot of these topics focus on theist beliefs to justify there being a “do or don’t” attached to them. The proponents of these above mentioned things are advocating them not on their consequences for society but rather on their religious beliefs and their own personal moral view of the world. As a country that is made up of mostly Christians it is very, very hard to see how dangerous this line of thinking is for most people. Social norms and tradition are the best guides many people have for their moral choices and tend to view things through the lens of their immediate environment unless significant effort (read: secular education) is able to dispel preconceived notions.  If most of the country as perceived by the individual regardless of how true it is disparages homosexuals in the military, there probably won’t be any outspoken homosexuals in the military. This goes for same sex marriage and all of the other issues mentioned before; it’s all shaped by individual world view. Back to the dangerous bit, the reason it’s all so dangerous to view the world this way and attempt to impose morality through legislation is because you are imposing one world view on a larger society without taking into consideration those positive or negative consequences.

Let’s take Iowa as an example. Same sex marriage has been legal in Iowa for some time now and there has been no huge spike in deviant behavior, no “reduction” of heterosexual marriage, no negative consequences for society. Rather, we’ve seen more beneficial effects as acceptance of all Iowan citizens as equal under the law is a good thing with positive benefits for same sex couples and by being a part of the Iowan community, all Iowans.  Where is the argument to legislate that same sex marriage should be outlawed on theist grounds? Where are the negative consequences? Where is the removal of the thin lens of theist community view and an acceptance that there is a world out there that does not exist within that lens.

It is nowhere, that is where.   It has no right to exist.  Legislating morality results in nothing more than “I do not personally like this kind of thing, so I am going to ban others from doing it”, which is wrong. For those that do not see this as obviously wrong, I don’t like peaches. No more peaches allowed within Iowa because Jason K does not like to eat them.  If this seems silly and stupid, that is because it is. This is not a mischaracterization of the arguments against same sex marriage or abortion or religious oaths before office.  This is the actual platform that people like Bob Vander Plaats and Fred Phelps operate on.

Now, I’ve harped on same sex marriage a lot because that is in the spot light quite a bit here in Iowa and also at the national level. To get away from that single issue we can bring up another point that is sure to strike fear into the hearts of moral legislatures is this: what if a state was made up of a different religious group? How then do we know where to stop, say, Muslim fundamentalists from putting women in burkhas, or from a Jewish Congress from banning the production of pork products?  Where does it stop when we begin legislating how people behave in private or how they are viewed by the Constitution?

The point is it can’t stop and will inevitably lead to conflict and a breakdown of government. When this happens, the biggest losers are the citizens that government represents.  This is why legislating morality is not only bankrupt as a political philosophy but also why a government that is secular and apart from any religious taint-and it is a taint- is of paramount importance to the citizens of that nation, state, or even small community.   The sooner we as a people recognize that in the grand scheme of things that only scientific consequence-based reasoning is the best way to create law the sooner we can truly understand equal rights and protections under our Constitution as well as equal opportunity in our economies.

 

Jason K.

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5 comments on “Legislating Morality is Morally Bankrupt

  1. Dan Reed says:

    You hit the nail on the head.

    “I do not personally like this kind of thing, so I am going to ban others from doing it”

    Irrespective of whatever viewpoint someone is coming from be it theistic or secular – Government involvement in what people can or can’t do when it doesn’t involve the harming of others is just plain wrong. You can adjust the definition of “harming of others” but it all comes back to the same idea, that judgements that restrict the free will of the people that do not involve the harming of others should be the domain of individual choice, not regulation or law.

  2. Mike says:

    “Do you really, truly believe legislating morality is the best way to run a Republic?”
    Jason, your focus on “legislating morality” continues on the things that YOU and your idealists what to take part in and support. But the fact of the matter is that there is more to legislating morality than drugs, homosexuality, abortion, etc. Again, not legislating morality is one of the main reasons that the Roman empire fell. This was recognized by the great men who helped establish a Republican form of government. If you will notice in our Declaration of Independence our Constitution’s framers knew that ALL law came from the God of the Bible. If it were not for God, there would be NO LAWS. There would be NO MORALS, which is self evident from the ideals of Humanism, Atheism, etc. Even Cicero who was not a Christian or a Jew, recognized the reality of the Creator and His Laws when he wrote, “True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions, it is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. There will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge.” Franklin wrote: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” Morality comes in a variety of packages. From murder, to stealing, abuse, incest, manslaughter, kidnapping, slander, just to name a few. What makes these things wrong? God said they are wrong, so humanity has accepted His standard of right and wrong and implemented them into their laws. Not necessarily as a set of rules to live by, but also as reminders (because we tend to forget), that these types of activities are wrong.
    The founders recognized the need for morality to be maintained in society if our nation was to continue in the way they envisioned it. But virtue and morality has to be learned and cultivated. They knew that religion and morality were indispensable supports to prosperity and freedom. Samuel Adams wrote that he thanked God that he was able to live in a country independent and free as long as it maintained its virtue. Proverbs 29:2 says, “when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked bear rule, the people mourn.” Our founders understood if we were to have true freedom that morality had to be taught in the home, and when taught in the home, society would then choose virtuous leaders to represent them. In most of the world, homosexuality was the death penalty, which might not be a bad thing.

    “Now this seems very flippant at first, I mean, we all agree that we should have laws concerning murder and rape and theft and the like. However, we have laws against that in our country not for religious reasons but because of their effects.”
    Now Jason, please use a little reason here. Why do we all agree that we should have such laws against these things? According to your ideals there should be no laws, that is if you really are a full-fledged humanist. Or maybe, like most of you, you are really just a confused skeptic, that really doesn’t understand what you believe?
    “When we have laws on the books that state “don’t kill other people” it doesn’t say “because you’ll go to hell afterwards” or “it’s a sin”, the law is there to protect people and their property from negative consequences. The law isn’t there to keep people necessarily moral, though that is great side effect (we’re going to assume all the readers of this blog think murder is immoral), but it is there to keep negative things from happening to people. The same goes for theft, for rape, and to a limited extent, certain drug use.”
    Again, you have no understanding of law, yet state assumptions to cause the unreasonable to agree with you. There is no need to state those caveats because every reasonable person knows that it is implied. Most people realize that all law came from God, and He has already stated the consequences. Which are really secondary consequences, since the local, state and federal consequences are stated within our laws. Since none of you believe in God, or that all law comes from God, then my question is, why have any laws? Doesn’t that fly in the face of your humanistic doctrines? At this point your ideals are logically contradictory.
    Now, let us turn to other things that aren’t so black and white for most of us. Contentious things like banning same-sex marriage, banning abortion, stopping homosexuals from serving in the military, prayer in the classroom, being religious to hold public office for example. A lot of these topics focus on theist beliefs to justify there being a “do or don’t” attached to them.
    ALL LAWS are based on theist beliefs, again you want to accept some of them, but reject others.
    “The proponents of these above mentioned things are advocating them not on their consequences for society but rather on their religious beliefs and their own personal moral view of the world.”
    Your argument is fallacious because you make assumptions that are untrue. While I can’t speak for every denominational person, what the Word of God teaches is that there are certain behaviors, or actions, that are wrong because of their consequences to society, and therefore to make society a better place for all to live, laws are put into place for those who care not about society.
    “Let’s take Iowa as an example. Same sex marriage has been legal in Iowa for some time now and there has been no huge spike in deviant behavior, no “reduction” of heterosexual marriage, no negative consequences for society. Rather, we’ve seen more beneficial effects as acceptance of all Iowan citizens as equal under the law is a good thing with positive benefits for same sex couples and by being a part of the Iowan community, all Iowans.”
    Again, a fallacious argument, based solely upon rose colored glasses. Since you are so supportive of homosexuality, I would like to know how this lifestyle squares with your evolutionary theory? It sure seems contradictory from where I’m looking.

    “It is nowhere, that is where. It has no right to exist. Legislating morality results in nothing more than “I do not personally like this kind of thing, so I am going to ban others from doing it”, which is wrong.”
    So here you have just added yourself to the list of people who ban things of others because you don’t like it, without even realizing you have done so. Remember you agreed that murder, rape, and some drug abuse was wrong – according to who? Because YOU are uncomfortable with it, so no one else can do it?
    “This is why legislating morality is not only bankrupt as a political philosophy but also why a government that is secular and apart from any religious taint-and it is a taint- is of paramount importance to the citizens of that nation, state, or even small community. “
    As I have repeated said on various posts, I agree that religion has “tainted” some people’s view of morality. However it is not the religion of God, but the religion of men that has done so and will continue to do so. True religion will be recognized as a force for good toward one’s fellowman, thinking of the needs of others first, before our own. Legislating morality is only “bankrupt” in the minds of the selfish and irrational.
    “The sooner we as a people recognize that in the grand scheme of things that only scientific consequence-based reasoning is the best way to create law the sooner we can truly understand equal rights and protections under our Constitution as well as equal opportunity in our economies”
    Again, you do greatly err not knowing the Constitution or the foundation upon which it was created. It was and is based upon scientific reasoning that we are the result of intelligent design, and that that designer left for us a standard of right and wrong. Our Constitution, bill of rights, liberties are ALL based upon scientific reasoning, as is true religion. Like most of your arguments, this one too is built upon argumentum ad hominem, which is not using critical thinking, scientific reasoning, or any logic whatsoever. Your arguments are completely based upon emotional conjecture, which disproves practically everything you have stated.

    • jastiger says:

      Lets see I think we have about 3 “No True Scotsman” in that post, a bunch of ad hominem, a whole lot of begging the question, and a few equivocations in there too. Thats pretty impressive, even for you Mike!

      I don’t have a lot of time or really want to put a lot of effort into responding to you on this one because its obvious you are not only unwilling to understand, but may even be unable to understand a view point different from your own. I’ll just ask you one question then;

      For people that have never heard of god, a Christian god, or whatever god- for those societies like the Inuits, the Native Americans and other cultures, why is it written in their law and built into their culture to not murder/rape/steal? If morality comes from God how do you explain morality without god?

    • Dan Reed says:

      Wow Mike, just wow.

      “When we have laws on the books that state “don’t kill other people” it doesn’t say “because you’ll go to hell afterwards” or “it’s a sin”, the law is there to protect people and their property from negative consequences. The law isn’t there to keep people necessarily moral, though that is great side effect (we’re going to assume all the readers of this blog think murder is immoral), but it is there to keep negative things from happening to people. The same goes for theft, for rape, and to a limited extent, certain drug use.”

      Again, you have no understanding of law, yet state assumptions to cause the unreasonable to agree with you. There is no need to state those caveats because every reasonable person knows that it is implied. Most people realize that all law came from God, and He has already stated the consequences.”

      Mike, what exactly do you mean here by “stat[ing] assumptions to cause the unreasonable to agree with you.”? He was straight knocking your arguments down before you could make them. So you blow by it by calling it “unreasonable”? “Most People realize that all law came from God”??? Really? I would like to know where you got those figures

      It all boils down to preventing negative things from happening to people. I think you can agree that these are the laws no one is questioning. The laws that people like myself question are those that are “Moral” choices.

      The best example of this is in my own back yard. I can’t even see titties at the local titty bars anymore. What kind of shit is that? Since my wife and I occasionally have enjoyed visiting such establishments, it is something that I don’t agree with.

      Is it harmful to the women to allow those that are over the age of consent to display their breasts to men or women who are willing to pay them for the privelege? The answer is no. Is it a choice the women should be allowed to make? I believe the answer to be yes but this is an issue which was legislated. Does the use of Marijuana hurt your neighbor? You? No. Is it a choice people should be allowed to make, whether to use it or not? I believe the answer to be Yes, but it was legislated so that choice is not an option. Does that gay mans sex life down the street from you, the one you’re sure is gay, but never really sure – does that harm you in any way? No, of course not. Should he be given the free choice to be gay openly enough to marry? I believe the answer to be Yes, but yet again, moral legislation prevents it. All of these things are examples of “legislating morals” being a bad thing from my point of view. I know you and those like you would love nothing more than to legislate your morals until everyone is forced to strictly adhere to doing only those things you believe to be morally right. I however, consider THAT to be just plain wrong.

      • jastiger says:

        Interestingly enough, people like Mike do too. They find it abhorrent that they should have to adhere to a moral teaching from on high-if they disagree with it. They do not see the inherent contradiction that by attempting to establish their own morality as law, the same can be done in the name of some competing ideology. Rather than attempt to work out a solution that is evidence based and universal, they just assume that their own views will hold majority sway and be seen as “common sense”.
        I shiver to think how horrible they would feel if morality was legislated from an Islamic, Jewish, or Pastafarian perspective. They would quickly change their tune.

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