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If There is No God, is Murder Wrong?

April 11, 2017

On the popular online site Prager University, the conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager recently posted the video “If there is no God, Murder Isn’t Wrong.”

Nearly two million people have heard his argument that without God, anything goes.

I’ve known Dennis for many years and have been a guest on his show a number of times. He’s a smart guy, and we agree on many issues, but on this one I think he is wrong.

Prager’s belief that without God there can be no objective morality is, in fact, a common one many people hold. It’s wrong for 4 reasons.

1. Divine Command Theory is Fallible

The argument that our morals come from God is what philosophers and theologians call Divine Command Theory, well captured by the popular bumper sticker:

God said it. I believe it. That settles it.

This argument was refuted 2500 years ago by the Greek philosopher Plato, when he asked, in so many words:

“Is what is morally right or wrong commanded by God because it is inherently right or wrong, or is it morally right or wrong only because it is commanded by God?”

For example, if murder is wrong because God said it is wrong, what if He said it was okay? Would that make murder right? Of course not!

If God commanded murder wrong for good reasons, what are those reasons and why can’t we base our proscription against murder on those reasons alone and skip the divine middleman?

In other words, if murder is really wrong in the moral universe, then it doesn’t matter what God thinks, or if there’s a god or not, it’s still wrong.

2. The Either-Or Fallacy

We are being told that we have to choose between a God-based Absolute Morality where there are clear distinctions between right and wrong, and a Godless Relative Morality where right and wrong are just opinions.

This is what philosophers call the Either-Or Fallacy, or the Fallacy of False Alternatives. It’s a classic debate tactic in which you argue that if my opponent’s position is wrong, then my position is right. It’s called a fallacy because (1) you have to actually prove your own position, not just disprove the other person’s opinion, and (2) there may be third choice.

In fact, between Absolute Morality and Relative Morality is what I call Provisional Morality, or moral values that are true for most people in most circumstances most of the time.

All societies throughout history and around the world today, for example, have sanctions against murder. Why? Because if there were no proscription against murder no social group could survive, much less flourish. All social order would break down. We can’t have people running around killing each other willy nilly.

That said, there are exceptions to the rule that murder is wrong, even here in the Judeo-Christian west. Murder in self-defense is an example for individuals. Capital Punishment murder is an example for states. Just War murder is an example for nations.

But the fact that there are exceptions to the sanction against murder does not gainsay the provisional moral truth that murder is wrong.

3. The Religious Source of Morality is Unreliable

Divine Command Theory implies that people get their morality from God. But how? Most people don’t see burning bushes, hear the voice of God, or receive chiseled stone tablets from the almighty. So where do these ideas about right and wrong come from?

Most religious people say that they get their morality from their Holy Book. The problem with this is that God apparently dictated different moral commands for different religions, so which one is right? Each makes absolute moral truth claims that contradict one another. They can’t all be right.

Even within the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, there is much disagreement about right and wrong. Members of these religions still commit violence in the name of God today—because religion has no method by which to determine right from wrong. It’s religion that gives us moral opinions, but science actually has a systematic method for determining truth claims.

Which brings me to my fourth and final point…

4. Absolute Morality Corrupts Absolutely

The belief in Absolute Morality inexorably leads to the conclusion that anyone who believes differently has departed from this truth and thus is unprotected by our moral obligations.

Historically this Absolutism led to crusades, inquisitions, witch hunts, religious wars, and genocides—all in the name of God. Today, it’s why suicide bombers shout out Allahu Akbar—God is Great.

These Islamic terrorists also believe in Absolute God-Given Moral Values of Right and Wrong, and they act accordingly.

What about Hitler, Stalin and Mao? Aren’t they examples of what atheism and Godless Moral Relativism leads to, as Prager says? No.

First, Hitler was not an atheist. He was a Catholic. And Stalin was Orthodox.

But all this is irrelevant because they killed in the name of ideology, not atheism, which isn’t even a belief system.

In fact, National Socialism and Communism were faux religions in those societies, and as such they provided their believers with Absolute Moral Values about Right and Wrong. And they serve as examples of why Absolute Morality Corrupts Absolutely.


Morality is not absolute. But neither is it relative. Where does it come from?

We get our morality from our parents, peers, mentors, teachers, books, and culture, and we listen to that still small voice within—our moral conscience. Morality is in our nature. We are moral beings, with real moral emotions that we can reason about, which we have doing for centuries.

Ever since the Enlightenment, religious-based theocracies have been replaced with Constitution-based democracies, and the result was the abolition of slavery and torture, the democratic rule of law, the decline of violence, and the granting of civil rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, gay rights, and animal rights, as our moral sphere has expanded ever larger.

As I documented in my book The Moral Arc, there is a real moral universe with real moral values about right and wrong, and there is an arc to that moral universe that really does bend towards truth, justice, and freedom. It’s up to us to make that happen.

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27 Comments to “If There is No God, is Murder Wrong?”

  1. Keith Foster Says:

    Thanks for this. I think you sum it up beautifully. Some might go further – Matt Dillahunty for example would argue that there is a kind of absolute morality, i.e. that if you accept the premise that the wellbeing of fellow humans is a good thing, then you can logically build some undeniable moral principles from there.

    As a good skeptic I’m not certain of many things, but I’m as certain as I can be that secular morality is the only kind of morality worth having. It’s also clear to me that, despite proclamations to the contrary, most (all?) modern democratic societies do not base their legal systems on the holy books or on any tenets unique to any particular religion.

  2. Tobin Crenshaw Says:

    Number 3 is simply not true. “Most” religious people do not claim to get their ideas from a holy book. In all of history “most” people could not read, and when people could read “most” people were forbidden from reading the Bible.

    Even the apostle noted we have a conscience that is either “accusing or else excusing” our actions (Romans 2:15). So when Shermer states that we get our morals from our conscience, he is in complete agreement with the Bible. Shermer says that conscience formed over time and chance, the apostle said it is given by God. That is where the real debate lies.

  3. Mark Says:

    Well said. In terms of relative vs absolute mortality, I think slavery sums things up pretty well. (Nearly) everyone today would agree that slavery is immoral, yet God clearly had no objection to it based on how it is addressed in the Bible. As you note in point 1 – slavery is wrong whether God forbids it or not, but we have only recently come to recognize that, and the static God of the Bible hasn’t changed his mind.

  4. Richard Francis Says:

    I agree with all of the above but there is another one missed out called Conditional Morality. It depends on what kind of society you want. If you want an Autocracy then slavery is a good thing, but if you want an egalitarian society (based on empathy and equality) then slavery HAS to be seen as bad, absolutely. If you want a patriarchal society then rape can be seen as a useful tool of control but, again, if you want an egalitarian society then rape HAS to be seen as bad, absolutely. So your morality is conditional on what kind of society you want. Thanks.

  5. Lminterests Says:

    Just a small point. You said Hitler was Catholic. Are you a Christian? His personal writings and acquaintances say he left Christianity in his early teens. He said ‘First we take care if the Jews then the church’. Didn’t he?

  6. Lminterests Says:

    Maybe we will see what a “Provisional Morality” looks like in several generations. It will take that long for religious morality to wear off. I hope you are right.
    My dog is drowning with a man. Save my loved dog not the strange man. No one will know.

  7. Lminterests Says:

    Richard, I agree the morality will depend on the culture and what stressed it us put under. In some places girl babies have been put to death because they where seen as a burden. A culture could easily decide that there is nothing wrong with slavery as long as you treat them well. As a side note the Bible mentions slavery but doesn’t command it. Christians where a driving force to end slavery.

  8. Antares Says:

    Slavery, though not explicitly commanded by God, is a socially accepted norm in the pages of the Bible. As Sam Harris has indicated in many debates, any Christian opposing slavery has been “on the wrong side of the theological argument.” As for morality coming from the Bible, though I used to believe such ridiculous nonsense many years ago, I have clearly seen that the God of the Bible, especially as described in the Old Testament, is a horribly brutal monster who has no moral inhibitions about ordering a host of evils against those who are not his favourites. When one sees clearly how capricious, bloody, and brutal God appears to be in the Bible, it completely mystifies me, except for “cherry-picking” all those well-loved verses, how anyone claims that morality comes either from God or the Bible.

  9. brad tittle Says:

    Morality can be derived from a fundamental set of premises. For me there are three rules. Survive, Survive, Survive.

    Survival of Self, Survival of Genes, Survival of Community.

    Using those I get to a set of rules that aren’t too far off the rules found in bibles for general living, as long as you ignore the absolute commandments of faith.

    But that all boils down to a different definition of morality.

    If something increases the chances of survival of a community, it is moral. If something decreases the chances of survival of a community, it is not moral. Early on, some things were immoral that are no longer immoral. There were actions that were moral back then that are not moral now.

    PragerU does a really good job with most of its videos. This one was off base. Skeptic Magazine does a really good job with most of its stories. Sometimes though, the editor loses touch with science.

    We call them out for their mistakes. Sometimes they listen, usually they don’t.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBVV8pch1dM

    is applicable to the subject. God help you if you attempt to get slow thinking guy off the couch in someone else’s head. The wrath that comes out is unbelievable.

  10. Herb Says:

    I once suggested that a sticker be placed on the front of the bible that would read:

    WARNING:
    “The contents of this book should be considered more as myth than history, more as wishful thinking than reason, more as escapism than inspiration, more as immoral than moral, and more as fantasy than science. The reader should take note likewise that there are numerous errors, contradictions, inconsistencies, and fallacies throughout this book.

    “Due to the graphic descriptions of atrocities, violence, torture, rape, child abuse, cruelty, misogyny, barbarism, murder, infanticide, genocide, and crimes against humanity, and due to the portrayal of the God character herein as a cruel, vindictive, paranoid, narcissistic, irrational, controlling, bigoted, irresponsible, and dictatorial tyrant, parental guidance is highly recommended.”

    In other words, don’t use the bible as a guide to morality — absolute, relative or anything in between.

  11. R. Akers Says:

    It appears to me, that Prager’s thrust is that morality is a fact only if there is a supreme being directing it, and if not, it is opinion. This is a “given” in his talk.
    I have no problem with that. In my humble opinion, murder is wrong. Billions agree with me.
    I am an atheist, and it is also my opinion that my opinions are just as valid as those of the devout.
    Welcome to the existential world. .

  12. Paul Krieger Says:

    Again MS answers an important “historical” question with clarity and logic. Thank you MS!

  13. dj Says:

    Most bible-believing Christians are convinced that a hell of eternal damnation awaits non-believers. Is the god that arranged that situation moral?

  14. Trish Says:

    Here’s why l think murder has to be worse if there is No God – specifically no Judeo-Christian god as specified by Prager. Without god and his afterlife, murder is much more final, and more tragic. The victim is forever gone.

    In the god-and-afterlife construction favored by Prager, where murder is bad because god said so, the murder victim may suffer the pain of the fatal wounds, and his loved ones and community suffer missing the victim and the loss of future contributions by the now dead victim. But the victim would continue to exist, forever, and loved ones look forward to a reunion at some later date, followed by eternal interactions.

  15. Brent Meeker Says:

    Something that would help in these discussions is to make a distinction between “moral” and “ethical”. It’s the distinction between what you expect of yourself, your morals, and the rules and customs for interacting with others. Sartre had this in mind when he said, “Getting out of bed in the morning is a moral decision.” Robinson Crusoe had to make moral decisions before Friday showed up; after that he also had to make ethical decisions. Of course this isn’t a sharp line, but it was a great advance of society that the Enlightenment introduced the idea of a private realm, freedom of conscience, beyond the legalized ethics of society. And it’s useful in these arguments because private morality can be accepted as incorrigble opinion (e.g. some people are racists), but that doesn’t mean that there’s no objective sense in which ethics can’t be contrary to personal ethics. Even if you’re a racists, an egalitarian society is a better society for it’s members. It will be more stable and productive and defensible, and it will provide more satisfaction to it’s people. So morals are individual and subjective. But based on the fact that people are social animals, ethics can be objective in the sense of providing better or worse subjective lives in a statistical sense.

  16. Ronald L. Vaught aka God L.O.L. Says:

    As God I agree you dont need me to tell you what is VVrRONgG. Is simple math don’t kill each other that way you can exist & i wont have to awake from my slumber & or playing.

  17. Brian C Says:

    The only quibble I have from Mr. Shermer’s video is the usage of “murder” in the context of say the death penalty being “murder.” Murder is by definition “unlawful” killing. Whether one agrees with the death penalty or not, it is lawful in some states and nations. “Killing” I believe, is the concept intended to make the point.

  18. barry jones Says:

    One wonders how the “Moral Arc” would have read, had it been written in Nazi Germany in 1940. I’m an atheist and disagree with Shermer’s contention that whatever moral direction humanity happens to be heading in overall at any particular time, is supposed to indicate that we are doing “better” than our predecessors.

    The only reason our cities aren’t even more full of homeless pukes than they currently are (Seattle is a glaring example of a crises about to bloom into civil war), is because many millions of people throughout the last 3,000 years have been wiped out by plagues and wars.

    I would ask Shermer how he can think these plagues were “bad” for present humanity, when its patently obvious that they are directly responsible for America’s current population problem not being far worse than it is. What if the billion or so people that died in those historic plagues/wars had never died? How much do you suppose America’s present population would increase if you could go back in time and undo all those unfair deaths?

    What happens to groups in nature when they are more and more insulated from predators? They endure a population crises that ends up mostly dying out because there’s too many of them to be supported by the food sources, that’s what. You can thank birds and reptiles for the reason your house doesn’t currently have bugs crawling over every square inch of it. Guess what would happen if those birds and reptiles started implementing Shermer’s Moral Arc, decided they would cease violating the individual rights of insects, and turned completely around and started entitlement programs to help less fortunate bugs enjoy the same benefits of housing and procreation that other tax-paying birds and reptiles currently enjoy?

    What does Shermer think will happen, should we suddenly discover a magic pill that cures all cancers and diseases, and start making that pill available worldwide? We’d see not just a spike in population densities, but a spike that grows exponentially.

    What would he say? Maybe the problem could be solved by “creating more jobs”? Yeah, that’s it. What a glorious blessing for your city when it opens up 5 more fast food restaurants. God forbid anybody should step back and ask whether ceaseless urban growth’s short term benefits outweight any negative long-term effects.

    Skeptics like Shermer never seem to anticipate that the more we try to extend utopia to every human creature, the more we’ll have to implement population control measures which presently seem to be draconian and in violation of basic human decency.

    How many people are born in the US every year? from http://www.susps.org/overview/birthrates.html

    “Each year there are approximately 4 million births in the U.S. and 2.4 million deaths. The growth due to natural increase (total births minus deaths) is therefore 1.6 million per year. Yet according to the Census Bureau’s decennial census, U.S. population is growing by approximately 3.3 million per year.”

    What is Shermer’s solution to the obvious overpopulation problem these statistics point to, in light of his belief that we should always be looking for cures to diseases and using technology to extend life for those who are otherwise naturally selected to die untimely?

    Maybe Shermer just didn’t watch a lot of tv in the 1970’s and therefore missed the Schoolhouse rock video “Elbow room”?

    Let’s take Seattle’s crises-level homeless drug user problem as an example of how ceaseless undying unconditional sympathy for our fellow man can be our fastest ticket to that civil war that Shermer said would justify murder: How long must we see homeless criminals/drug users increase in number, before we can safely declare that the prior liberal policies of using tax-payer money for needle-exchange programs and low-income housing, show more failure than success?

    Do you even have the slightest clue what WOULD qualify as a sign that prior more liberal attempts to address such a problem have proven to be greater failures than successes? How about the simple fact that this homelessness problem has steadily increased since the 1970’s?

    You’ll probably wish to deal a bit more sternly with these people when they become so numerous that you can’t even leave your office to get a Starbuck’s mocha down the street without hopscotching over sidewalk scumbags every step of the way, and having to say “no” to 65 different people looking to finance their illegal drug habit, for which the local cops mostly look the other way. Maybe I’m just crazy, but I really don’t like having to deal with a bunch of idiot scumbags just because I want to walk down the street. It is not irrational to yearn for the earlier decades when shopping downtown wasn’t an nauseating experience.

    Shermer also doesn’t answer the fact that the more parasites there are, the more hardened toward them most tax-payers, who have to constantly trip over them and deal with their crimes and litter and dangerous needles, become.

    According to Shermer’s Moral Arc, Seattle’s current majority choice to use more tax payer money to “help” such scourges is supposed to be the “better” thing to do, when in fact this bleeding heart approach is mired by the undeniably steady increase in the numbers of such homeless people over the last few years.

    Keep thinking they deserve life too? Then resign yourself to watching the numbers of resource-wasting parasites increase, it’s that simple. It would be very easy to intellectually justify asserting that Seattle is at “war” with homeless criminals and drug users (i.e., their increase in number are creating social chaos and ever-angrier tax-payers, so unless some solution actually reduces their numbers, this problem will only get worse and worse until there really is a civil war between those who contribute their fair share, and those who seek nothing but another handout), thus invoking Shermer’s acknowledged “war” exception to murder.

    When you stop foolishly thinking all Americans have inherent worth, its not difficult at all to see that the short-term solutions we currently employ, are deadly to our long-term stability as a nation.

  19. barry jones Says:

    Tobin Crenshaw Says:
    April 12th, 2017 at 2:36 am
    Even the apostle noted we have a conscience that is either “accusing or else excusing” our actions (Romans 2:15). So when Shermer states that we get our morals from our conscience, he is in complete agreement with the Bible. Shermer says that conscience formed over time and chance, the apostle said it is given by God. That is where the real debate lies.
    ———Barry: I disagree, in Romans 7:7 Paul contradicted his “conscience” argument by asserting he would not have known coveting was a sin, unless he had read the Mosaic Law’s prohibition against it. So please answer the question: Would Paul have known that coveting was a sin, if he had never read ‘thou shalt not covet’ in the scripture, yes or no?

  20. Jenny H Says:

    Most atheists are more moral than most religious people. Religion countenances killing of other humans.

  21. Jerry Says:

    It is a mistake, I believe, for persons, whether theists or atheists, to interpret/critique the Bible as a literal book. This simply validates the ignorance of such a view of it. Whether holy or not, it is a book of symbolic language presumably intended to communicate some general truths about life, as Shakespeare does. The misuse/ misunderstanding of a writing should not invalidate the truths held in it.
    It is a tautology to ponder morality first or God first. If God doesn’t exist, the point is moot and morality is an emergent property of our complex neural net called a brain. If God exists, morality seems logically derivative assuming creatio ex nihilo. Anyone who asserts that they know God exists or doesn’t is neither a good scientist nor a good theologian. We must agree that there is no evidence of God by the scientific definition. However, quantum physics leaves much unknown so I am not prepared to try prove the negative that God does not exist.

  22. Joe Says:

    It’s good to see Michael Shermer dismantle one of Dennis Prager’s typically vacuous arguments. And it’s about time. It’s difficult to understand why Shermer hasn’t been more aggressive toward Prager in the past. There is a toxicity in the stream of opinions Prager pontificates daily on his radio show. He erects strawmen, distorts opponents views, engages in biased presentations, makes claims to fairness and fair-mindedness that he often disproves in the following breath. Prager is smart, perhaps, but he’s not a thinker, and anyone who suffers through one of his books or a few hours of his radio show can see that. Shermer could spend a year revealing the fallacies and distortions that Prager utters daily and that are spread all over that ridiculous youtube channel “Prager U”.

    Jerry, #21 above, very succinctly and elegantly explains the fallacy of Prager’s argument that without god there can be no morality. You almost don’t need to think about it to understand how and why Prager is wrong. Jerry’s argument might serve better than Shermer’s 4 points.

  23. Barbara Harwood Says:

    If you want a scientific interpretation of the matter, it might be well to study the prison records of people who are incarcerated for murder to determine their religious status, if any. Any who claimed to be atheists would be examined to see if they requested a member of the clergy before facing the death penalty.
    The term, atheist, is a catch-all term that may include people who may have left an organized religion but still follow some of its practices. Others may be agnostics who might be encouraged to believe if the evidence is strong enough.
    Some consider religion a superstition that allows a group of people to believe that they have more control over life than they really do. The problem occurs when a group of people feel that their belief system is the true one and try to force it onto others.

  24. bruce Says:

    Barry Jones says:
    “So please answer the question: Would Paul have known that coveting was a sin, if he had never read ‘thou shalt not covet’ in the scripture, yes or no?”
    There is no way to know what Paul might or might not have known.
    And what makes coveting immoral exactly? It neither robs nor injures anyone. One could say that coveting is a moral good since it creates incentive to improve or emulate traits you approve of or even “covet”. Is it wrong to want something even if it’s not yours? Is it immoral to want? I want or covet something that Amazon sells. It’s not mine, it’s theirs. Is that immoral?
    Stealing is an immoral act which harms others and which may derive from uncontrolled coveting just like hunger may drive you to steal food. But hunger isn’t immoral. Nor is coveting.

  25. Grace Fury Says:

    Barry Jones, I find it rather ironic your big diatribe/post opens with a reference to Hitler, as you then go on to demoralize categorically those in your midst without money, as “resource-wasting” parasites, really only worthy of being culled from the herd. Perhaps we ought to gas those worthless “scumbags”, so that you can get your vital cup of overpriced coffee without inconvenience.

    Then again, it’s rather apparent that the wealthy can be far more successful at killing our resources and our time…(No one has to look further than our Twitter-in-chief to identify that factual reality), and I expect far more of them than a lost person on the streets. So, all things considered, the absurdity of what you describe just morally astounds. I mean, so you’re “a parasite” with more money…largely a reflection of human madness and consumer inanity – and certainly not necessary to identify human nobility, honor, and moral worthiness or potential that our currently narrow, superficial concepts of material trade and the track to “success” simply cannot handle or rather deliberately push out.

    …And your thoughts on technology, like birth control and safe abortion services? Do you think those medical benefits should be widely distributed as easily as possible — without money as gateway or barrier or without your personal measure of “worthiness” involved? You do understand that those technologies help women and families, rich and poor, to function more responsibly in harmony with our collective circumstances, right? Or would you prefer to have all poor, government-assisted users of such technology sterilized, without acknowledging their moral dignity or choice in the matter, simply because they don’t have the acceptable amount of sacred, collectively-enabled money to afford what they already possess as inherent traits?

    All people do not have money – but they all have problems. Clearly so do you.

    What is the human point or enterprise after all with a simplistic perspective like yours that tries to elevate the morality of our survival with a completely immoral attitude? What is survival really worth at that point?

    One could argue that nothing has made us more dependent on each other than technology for careless profit and a corporate order that seeks material gain, even if by mindless, trivial means and inherited fortune — no matter the human/planetary cost…Again, I am far more concerned about the depravity of those people that are thriving, called our “winners”, and allowed to consider themselves stronger for it, than perhaps the poor judgments of the homeless vet on the street with a drug problem.

    Moreover, all of us stopped advancing – mostly on our own – a long time ago.
    Simply distinguishing yourself as “taxpayer” certainly doesn’t make you any LESS connected or LESS morally responsible for the challenges we all help to create, every day, and must resolve collectively – mindful of the opportunity given to us, or, lest I sound religious, with reciprocal gratitude for all those scientists and pioneers in the field, who had respect for the human experience beyond their own…and were, at times, jailed for it.

    Maybe, if you’re willing to admit it, we might agree that humans need to work on moderating their needs and wants — more in accordance with our collective/planetary state of affairs — and according to the well being of others, precisely so that extreme disparities don’t drive the unhealthy domination of certain interests and priorities, like Starbucks coffee, into obscene excess that has its own ripple effects, leaving many worthy, but already discarded beings, out of the big picture and lost to a sense of mindlessness and meaninglessness, only reinforced by the likes of you and *your* silly little habits, escapes, and addictions.

  26. Activista Says:

    Barry jones says:

    “Let’s take Seattle’s crises-level homeless drug user problem as an example of how ceaseless undying unconditional sympathy for our fellow man can be our fastest ticket to that civil war that Shermer said would justify murder: How long must we see homeless criminals/drug users increase in number, before we can safely declare that the prior liberal policies of using tax-payer money for needle-exchange programs and low-income housing, show more failure than success?”

    If Barry’s manifesto apparently supporting what can be called “prior-extermination” of the homeless is somehow on-topic, then my comments are on-topic as well:

    I am a homeless student. I was injured on-the-job and a corrupt workers’ comp system left me unable to return to my career and unable to receive the retraining I was entitled to by law. “Liberal policies” did not cause my homelessness. A political-and-court system that considers corporations to be humans is the culprit. But I take my share of blame. When I was an advocate for children in special education, I offered my services to distraught parents for free, when I could have lined my pockets by charging these parents over a hundred dollars an hour. As an injured worker who spent ten years fighting in courts for my workers’ comp rights and meeting others who have been abused by our legal system such as in criminal-law matters, I’ve had opportunity to see how other advocates (attorneys) get rich – they take clients’ money and fail to diligently represent those clients. Even severely disabled, I could do that kind of “work” (since its barely any work at all to take someone’s money and run) and handle all the clients I can sign up, and thus get rich off of the desperate parents of autistic and learning-disabled and otherwise disabled children, who just want their children to be treated fairly by the education system.

    I have to presume that, like me, other homeless people have options they haven’t pursued, including every kind of crime imagineable, as a worst case, but the homeless could also get money by engaging in fraudulent schemes, like the kind of fraud I’ve been victimized by. Of course, unlike penny-ante criminals, the corporations that victimized me won’t ever face prison time for the lawbreaking (not called “crimes”) they’ve committed. Few homeless people have the resources to do on a small scale what the corporations do on a mass-victimization basis.

    Meanwhile, I cannot fail to recognize some possible-or-likely causes of the inhuman contempt Barry feels towards those homeless who harass (I use the term “bully”) passersby. Indeed, as Barry describes, they make it necessary for someone who is simply out and about, to have “to say ‘no’ to 65 different people” on a given day. I have difficulty persuading “liberals” to become outraged regarding certain behavior of certain street people that is unacceptable and even dangerous and frightening. I recently spoke to a waitress who has to keep chasing some of the homeless out of the establishment where she works; she is afraid of being jumped by some of them as she leaves work, in some kind of retaliation situation. I’ve recognized that many “liberals” have somewhat fetishized aggressive panhandling and other numerous inappropriate behaviors often perpetrated by street people, that truly must end. But I also recognize that cities have it within their power to offer people who live on the street, a clean safe attractive place to go 24-7, and many of the people Barry refers to would happily go to such a place if it was made available. The “shelters” kick their residents out first thing in the morning, and don’t let them return until evening, and in my city, this includes women seeking shelter simply because they are fleeing abusive spouses/partners. I shudder to ask what the shelters are receiving per-person to deliver such inadequate resources to those in need. I shudder to think they could house these people cheaper than the cost of warehousing them in shelters they can’t even stay in more than just overnight. The “liberals” in this case, are not “bleeding-heart” enough. When the Occupy movement was in full swing, business owners were constantly at City Hall in my city, demanding that the Occupy camp be removed, when in fact the Occupy camp was the BEST place the homeless had ever been able to go to. They could stay there day and night without being harassed by the police, and there were feeds which drew people from every level of the socio-economic spectrum to break bread together. The Occupy movement was doing the job of managing the homeless population without a budget. Now that the Occupy camp is gone, and the homeless are back living under the bridges and in make-shift tent cities which are routinely raided by the police. It is not “liberal” policies that Barry should recognize as the culprit, it is brainless public policies that cost money and solve nothing and in fact often cause problems that never existed before the “solutions” were implemented.

    I don’t expect anyone who is as apparently unthinking and reactive as Barry, to ponder what I’ve said, but I couldn’t allow Barry’s post to go unchallenged.

  27. Eric Zollman Says:

    @brad tittle:
    Brad,

    Sorry, I just had to reply to your comment. You stated that an action can be considered moral if it benefits your survival, or the survival of your community. I think that this is absolutely incorrect. I would argue that in certain situations a person or a group of people must act against their own moral and ethical codes in order to survive but those actions are still immoral. Take Jamestown and the Dhamer party for instance. In both cases the people resorted to cannibalism for survival. This didn’t change their moral opinion of cannibalism. I’m sure most of those people suffered from mental trauma the rest of their lives.

    On the other hand there are isolated tribes of people who practiced cannibalism up into the twentieth century (maybe even longer). But in those cases the act was not seen as immoral by that society and it wasn’t crucial for survival. As Michael pointed out our moral code is developed over time through social interaction. In essence Darwinian Moral Evolution.

    The only way I could see your opinion as valid would be if the survival pressures existed through time across multiple generations. Effectively removing the guilt and taboo of certain actions and molding a new moral code… But, as the pressures driving the change could be almost anything and are not limited to survival that puts us back with “Social interaction over time.”

    Sorry for the long reply.

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