Do you want people to be free? I know that I do. And a large part of being free is having the ability to make up our own minds about choices in our lives. Take abortion. Personally, I do not agree with it, and would never condone having one done. However, I do not think that I am near smart enough to make that choice for everyone else. So I will let people make the best choices that they can. If they choose to do things that are, in my opinion, ethically wrong, I cannot judge them. I have not travelled in their shoes, and I do not know their mindset nor what caused them to make that choice.

When thinking about forcing your opinion and religion upon others, recall the following :

Matthew 7:1,2 “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

John 8:7 “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

Thunder Bay Buddhist Fellowship: “We must be ever mindful of our actions. We must live in awareness. Are we filling our mind with angry judgmental thoughts, which will impact the way we treat others? Or are we cultivating empathy toward those around us?”

7 thoughts on “Freedom”

  1. The harm principle is not a bad way to think about what should be legal or illegal and I tend to agree with it in many cases. I am not convinced that it is the only principle we should ever apply, but I think anything else requires great care.

    It has nothing to do with not being ‘judgemental’ or ‘limiting freedom’ though.

    Outlawing murder limits my freedom just as much (perhaps more) as outlawing abortion. Both require similar amounts of judging anothers action.

    There have of course been times when murder didn’t seem so easy to many people. Killing a slave or an indian for example. This was excused because the victim wasn’t really a ‘person.’

    This makes me somewhat uncomfortable with the current arguments that a fetus isn’t a person.

    On the other hand, pregnancy does involve specific and considerable intrusion on the body of the woman carrying the fetus.

    To return to my point in all of this though, I don’t necessarily have an issue with your view on abortion. I have an issue with saying we can’t outlaw abortion because that would be ‘judgemental.’

  2. <blockquote>In your original post, you argued against applying legal penalties for certain actions, because doing so damages individual freedom and constitutes judging others.</blockquote>

    Yup. And I stand by that. If an action does not effect another person’s rights, folks should be allowed to make up their own minds about how to proceed.

    With the specific case of Abortion – the ‘grey’ area is if a person is in fact harmed. What makes it a grey area – there is no preponderance of evidence that we could point to and say ‘side A is right!’

    With Murder, on the other hand, it is very easy to see if a person is harmed. There is no grey about it.

  3. In your original post, you argued against applying legal penalties for certain actions, because doing so damages individual freedom and constitutes judging others.

    Although you have not expressly stated this, I think you agree, that there should be legal penalties for murder.

    You have provided no means of differentiating murder (or any other act that has legal penalties you support) from acts that you don’t think should have legal penalties.

    Limiting freedom and judging would, apply equally to both types, which is why (unless you advocate complete anarchy) this argument is useless in determining what should be legal and what should be not.

    Of course a successful suicide bomber has moved beyond legal punishment, but if we change the example to a una-bomber type killer, I certainly think that legal penalties should apply to his actions.

    While we should probably love everyone, even the una-bomber, and not judge the state of their soul, I would not advocate translating that moral principle into not applying legal penalties to him. We should judge him, and apply penalties as a response to his actions.

    You gave two quotes in your original post from the New Testament. I think that there is some difficulty in applying some of the words of Christ to what a just government should do. Christ was not particularly concerned about earthly governance, his most pithy quote on the subject is ‘render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s’ which I don’t think we can take to mean that the Roman government at the time was the model of what a good government should be (or even that Roman tax policies were fair.) Jesus didn’t govern a nation, and we don’t really have a good idea of what he would have done if he did.

    This has given Christian philosophers a lot of trouble over the years, with a variety of solutions. Almost all though seem to agree that a ‘Christian Government’ would be unjust if it behaved like a Christian individual.

    Similar difficulties exist with Buddhist pacifism, as you are no doubt aware, with various Buddhist governments over the centuries trying to square to obvious need of a government to have a monopoly on the use of force and to defend its citizens with pacifism.

  4. I guess that we are using different definitions of ‘judge’. To judge some one has very serious negative connotations in my mind, and in the context of the quotes I used.

    My judging of a action that I preform inherent rightness or wrongness, is of course part of life.

    For me, Judging means to look down upon, to think less of some one because of the actions that they take. We are all guilty of doing this – after all how can you not think less of a suicide bomber then a Mother Theresa?

    What we need to strive towards is a world where we would be able emote the same <em>agape</em> towards all people, even the suicide bombers.

    If I see that suicide bomber trying to harm others, I will, of course, attempt to stop him. However, that does not mean that I should hold "<em>angry judgmental thoughts</em>" towards him.

    When I was taking Kendo, one of the things that was stressed repeatedly was to act from calm. Not to let emotion sway or grip you. Disregard your fear, anger and triumph. Exploit those emotions displayed in your foe’s face.

  5. I don’t disagree that there is a difference between abortion and murder. What I don’t see, and this point is broader than simply abortion as well, is how you can say that we can’t judge things that are ethically wrong, if you still want to maintain any sort of society.

    In both murder and abortion, their are people who think that that behavior is ethically wrong. Their are also those who disagree with that view (in the case of murder, the number is much smaller but not zero.) Saying we cannot judge one doesn’t make sense to me.

    We have to judge both what behaviors we should personally engage in, and what behaviors society should prohibit.

    I don’t think that ‘gray areas’ are the demarkation between what should be legal and illegal. The vast majority of people consider lying to be wrong, it is not a ‘gray area’ in that sense, but in only very specific circumstances do we consider lying to be a crime. This isn’t because it is ‘gray’ it is because most of us consider that the harm that would be done by trying to enforce such a thing, and the degradation of freedom that results would outweigh any benefit. One the other side of things, most people don’t consider drug use to be a gray area either, and are happy to support it being a crime. I think that is a mistake, not because it is gray (I don’t reommend drug use at all) but because it (by itself) doesn’t directly harm anyone else, only the user.

    We must judge. Hopefully we will judge wisely, and with a degree of humility, but saying we can’t judge as a base principle is crazy in my opinion.

  6. Not to pick nits – but there is a huge difference between murder and abortion – just in the fact that people disagree on if abortion is in fact murder. There is no clear cut anything when dealing with it.

    My point was more broad then simply abortion. Abortion is just an example of certain people feeling ‘justified’ in taking actions that remove freedom from others. Is abortion right or wrong? I really don’t know. Will there ever be a preponderance of evidence one way or the other? Perhaps, but right now it’s a gray area. Grey areas are where we, as advanced beings, make choices. With out the freedom to choose as we see fit, what do we become?

    We could make and enforce all of the laws to create a society where no one was offended, where no one’s morals were impinged. What a boring place to live!

  7. All of those arguments could be applied to murder, as well as abortion. If we can’t judge abortion, why can we judge murder?

    I don’t think that most abortion is murder, although very late term abortions draw quite close to that line, but I do think that the ‘we can’t judge’ argument is falacious unless you want to apply it across the board (and that would be a horrible mistake.)

    Better arguments have to be constructed as to why abortion should be legal than that.

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