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Lacking Celestial Motivation and a Thought Experiment

November 25, 2009

When we talk about the ideal world…the world that perhaps may only be realized in heaven…many of us take for granted that our ideal is the same as another’s ideal. Or, at the very least, when ideals differ, we might say it is because one or both parties see through a glass darkly. Many times, people assume that if only other people could taste, chew, digest and comprehend the truth from God, they would agree that what God wants is ultimately good. What heaven will be is ultimately desirable.

But what if that is not the case? smallaxe has a great post at Faith Promoting Rumor entitled Lacking Celestial Motivation that discusses this idea.

I’ve been thinking of something somewhat similar for a while, and I’ve tried to devise (and tweak) a thought experiment based on it. I like to figure out how people think and figure out what people would do (or, at the very least, what they believe they would do.)

Let’s say God is known. God is known beyond a shadow of a doubt. God’s requirements and ways are known, and the stakes of obeying (or disobeying) those requirements are known. And God is good.

Many people think that this perfect knowledge would negate faith. After all, if people know God exists, everyone would choose to follow God!

But I wonder…is that the case? Is that necessarily true? So I have further questions.

Let’s take this God, who is known. His commandments are known, BUT you find one critical commandment abominable. You know that God is good (and God has presented his plan for the world, and you know this plan), but at the same time, you feel within your bones that this commandment is a bloodstain on your hands. You get queasy thinking about it. You have doubts, even though you know God and know all he has done for you. You know that if you do not follow this commandment — which you cannot shake the queasiness from it — you will not go to Heaven. You will, by your own agency, be walking into Hell. Complete estrangement from God.

Do you follow the commandment and live with the queasiness, the uneasiness, the sense that you’ve betrayed yourself? Or do you break the commandment and accept that you have walked away from salvation and God to Hell?

I guess I have to bring in the Euthyphro Dilemma, although I’m not quite sure how to fit it into what I am saying. The gist is: is the moral comanded by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is commanded by God? Either way, let’s determine that whatever thing commanded by God (which seems to you abominable and terrible) is, in fact, moral. It is objectively moral and good. Yet…you feel uneasy to even think about it!

To make a comparison, God is asking you to do something that should make sense with his plan, with the plan of the universe. It is as correct (objectively) as 2+2=4, and yet, you cannot make the connection…it seems so very wrong to go with what he says even though it is correct.

So, do you go with what is correct, even though you must live with this uneasiness (perhaps forever?) or do you go with what is incorrect because you want to uphold your integrity — regardless of its flawed nature?

The way I see it is this…if I were to break my integrity in a fundamental way, I would never recover. If I truly had such uneasiness, such anguish, such queasiness, then Heaven would be consumed by the uneasiness. Being in a heaven full of other people would exacerbate the queasiness, especially if I found people who wholeheartedly agreed with the actions they took. In fact, heaven would be hell. So I would have to be wrong with internal integrity, rather than right with internal anguish.

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  1. Joy permalink

    It seems like an obvious answer to such a question, but the question itself is hard to imagine.
    I have this queasiness in regard to any organized religion, though. They all have basic problems in their doctrines that tells me they can’t be right and true. As you say, it breaks my internal integrity.

  2. Joy:

    I don’t think the question is that hard to imagine (at least, not for me). My position is…something has to be the case. It may be that every one of us is wrong and we don’t like what reality truly will bring, but then we will still be blindsided by the “way things are.”

    I think reality becomes irrelevant when we are thinking about what we will…even if we are all wrong (and we are unaware of it), we don’t let that stop us from going by what feels right to us…even if we don’t know what is *truly* right (or if there even is a true “right” answer), we know what feels right to us…and that’s what we go by.

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