The Gross National Debt

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Poke in the eye with a sharp stick

Any idea what this is? Hint: it's semantics
The above image is the Hebrew letter Shin or Sin depending on who is pronouncing it. I use it periodically to annoy a certain group of people. I put it here today for several reasons.

A typical Baker household conversation

Sin lies only in hurting others unnecessarily. All other “sins” are invented nonsense.
Robert Heinlein
 A purty good definition of sin. It ain't perfect. Like all aphorisms, it's trite and open to a myriad of interpretations. Those mass interpretations are the reason we have contract lawyers. It takes volumes to fully explain all the nuances involved in that one apparently simple statement.

Sin, according to the late Grand Master, is something one person does which then causes harm to another person without just cause.
The perfect computer.

Christians will say sin is anything that separates the Christian from God. Too many Christians misuse the Bible to prove their own ill-formed prejudices. I have been accused, repeatedly, of sinning when I drink a beer. That's not Biblical. These Christians may be reading the Koran, which does carry prohibitions against consuming beverages with alcoholic content.
Yeah. I said it.

He didn't turn the water into Tang!
Other religious adherents will say sin is whatever separates them from perfection, complete union or whatever final reward is waiting for them.
Rational atheists will also agree on the general concept of sin. Yes, they will. You will not find a rational atheist who believes murder is right and proper. They will also say this is wrong. Why? Because it harms someone else to bad ends. That is included in the definition of sin.
Me? Only if you are incredibly myopic.
Pretty much any rational adult will agree with part of Heinlein's definition.

To expand it a little bit, sin is causing hurt, harm, pain and suffering to someone else without just cause.

Poking someone in the eye with a sharp stick is a good way of defining sin.
Without just cause is pretty easy to get a grip on. A surgeon causes harm to a patient in an operation. But the operation inflicts a lesser harm to achieve a greater benefit. So, this becomes a necessary harm. Just cause exists.
You can think of others I am sure.
 My chief problem with the definition is "harm."
To give you a better idea of what I mean by that, I give you another famous quote: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
 Eleanor Roosevelt
It is impossible to not hurt people.
What is hurt? Who defines it?

Aye, there's the juncture which needs a lubricant. 

Some kinds of "hurt" are universally accepted. Murder is wrong, for instance. Physical harm is pretty easy to define. Economic harm gets a bit tougher, but can be defined. Stealing, f'r'instance, is wrong.

But what about other kinds? Emotional? Mental? Other kinds? Is being offended a kind of hurt?

I can say something that will cause one person to erupt in paroxysms of laughter. Another person hearing the exact same thing would burst into tears.

What's the difference? Perception.

You say "You need to be more careful in what you say."
What you see may not be reality.

Why? I am more offended by censorship than I am the free expression of ideas. Under my definition, I am indeed hurt when someone's right to free expression is curtailed by another person.

I ask you now, who determines the hurt and who decides which person should be hurt and how much?

Am I less of a person because I am hurt by someone not speaking out as opposed to a person who is hurt by the speaking?

Judgment call?

You may say it is ludicrous from me to claim to be hurt because someone is not saying something.

You have now make a judgment against me and your judgment says I am less of a person. 

Who gave you that right? I could say such a judgment also hurts me. 

Now who is at fault?

I am not responsible for another person's perception. I refuse to be responsible. If you insist on making me responsible, then I will determine what the other person's perceptions are, not the other person. 
Sin may indeed be hurting another person unnecessarily. But who defines hurt?
Define it how you will. But be warned. I'm gonna apply those same standards to you.
Pick a standard, Stick to it.

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