What Is the Best Ethical System

PART ONE: RELIGIOUS ETHICAL SYSTEMS ARE NOT THE BEST

An ethical system is a group of related beliefs about how to determine what actions are good or evil. Good actions are actions that should be done and encouraged, and evil actions are actions that should not be done and should be discouraged. There are two major types of ethical systems: religious and secular. A religious ethical system is based on a religion, and a religion is a system of beliefs based on faith. Faith is one’s ability to believe something although it is not proven to be true. Supposedly, whatever a religion says is good is good, and whatever a religion says is evil is evil. Why? In most cases, because something supernatural such as The Divine founded that religion and speaks through it.

Here, The Divine is defined as the person or persons who purposefully created the universe. Most Christians believe that The Divine is three persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These persons are coequal and co-eternal, and share the same essence. Most Jews and Muslims believe that The Divine is one person. However, the universe could have been created by a group of persons who do not share the same essence. The following is a working definition of a person: A person is one individual thing that is alive and that is at least as intelligent as an average human.

In most cases from this point on, The Divine will be described as if The Divine is one person without gender. The purpose of this policy is to keep the writing herein pleasant to read and easily understood. It is not an endorsement of monotheism or The Divine lacking a gender. Maybe The Divine is many persons, and maybe The Divine is female or male. I have my suspicions, but I do not know for sure; and neither do you.

In contrast, a secular ethical system is not based on a religion. Instead, it is supposedly based completely on reason. Reason is one’s ability to perceive reality as honestly and completely as one can, and then make logical conclusions based on what one perceives. Believing in leprechauns requires faith, and believing in the moons around Jupiter requires reason. The reason is that no one has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that leprechauns exist and, using visual observation, many people have proven beyond reasonable doubt that the moons around Jupiter exist. I have never seen a leprechaun directly with my own eyes, but I have seen the moons around Jupiter with my own eyes using a telescope. Furthermore, to use Carl Sagan’s teaching, the claim that leprechauns exist is an extraordinary claim without extraordinary evidence while the claim that Jupiter has moons is, thanks to the telescope and scientists, no longer an extraordinary claim without extraordinary evidence. It is an ordinary claim backed by much ordinary evidence.

With all this in mind, we should conclude that the best ethical system will probably not be a religious ethical system, although one might be able to learn some useful teachings from various religious ethical systems. Instead, the best ethical system will probably be a secular ethical system.

As if the aforementioned advantage of reason over faith were not enough by itself to automatically favor secular ethical systems over religious ethical systems in general, there are at least three more compelling reasons.

Reason one: either good and evil exist regardless of the The Divine, or else the The Divine invents good and evil based on its own preference. In the former case, good and evil have nothing to do with the The Divine, and humans should be able to understand good and evil (at least to a large extent) without supernatural help. In fact, if the The Divine did not invent good and evil, it might be more evil than good. Thus, it might be a very untrustworthy teacher of what is good and what is evil.

In the latter case, good and evil are just arbitrarily picked. If the The Divine decides that murder is good, it is good. If the The Divine decides that murder is evil, it is evil. An invented ethical system is not an ethical system based on objective reality; it is merely based on the subjective preference of one of more persons. Even if that person or those persons are all-powerful, very knowledgeable, and the creator or creators of the universe, that does not necessarily make its or their ethical system based on any reality other than its or their preference.

Reason two: there is disagreement between different religions about what is good and what is evil. Therefore, at least one of them has a flawed ethical system, and perhaps all of them do. In fact, perhaps all of them have very flawed ethical systems. To be fair, at least in many cases, secular ethical systems often disagree with each other about what is good and evil. That is why there are many of them. However, secular ethical systems do not claim to be established by a supernatural revelation and are thus open to being proved or disproved using reason. The opposite is true of religious ethical systems.

For example, a Christian might always believe that drinking alcohol in moderation in this life is good because, supposedly, The Divine taught humanity this truth through Christianity. In contrast, a Muslim might always believe that drinking any amount alcohol in this life is evil because, supposedly, The Divine taught humanity this truth through Islam. If their faith in their respective religions is strong enough, no amount of evidence or logic will dissuade each of his or her belief.

However, secular ethicists should (and usually do) allow their opinions to change based on evidence and logic. If the evidence and logic which led them to embrace Secular Ethical System A are proven insufficient and/or flawed, and the evidence and logic which support Secular Ethical System B seem to be both sufficient and flawless, they will abandon the former for the latter with little or no struggle. In the case of alcohol consumption, secular ethicists will not ask The Divine or some book that was supposedly written by The Divine for the answer. Instead, they will ask themselves questions such as these: What is good, and what is evil? How can I tell what is good and what is evil? Based on my answers to these questions, should people drink alcohol? If yes, then when, why, and how much should people drink?

Reason three: if The Divine exists, it remains hidden and silent, at least to most people. Therefore, most people are wise not to believe those who claim to speak for the The Divine.

Here is a truth so important that it deserves to be repeated again and again, even though it should be obvious to every human over the age of ten: People often lie, and people often lie in order to promote their particular religion. One should not trust a human who claims to be The Divine or a spokesperson for The Divine without an extraordinary amount of evidence. What might such extraordinary evidence be? I might require an astonishing miracle such as a giant hand scooping us (the one talking to me and me) both up and taking us for a remarkable tour of the entire universe; and even if that happened, I would still be a little skeptical because I know that I can be tricked and that some tricks can be very impressive and sophisticated. Perhaps I was drugged and/or electric wires were attached to my brain so that I only believed that I was given a remarkable tour of the universe by this incarnate deity or prophet. In general, skepticism is a virtue because it saves us from accepting lies as true.

 

PART TWO: SECULAR ETHICAL SYSTEMS AND HOW TO JUDGE WHICH ONE IS THE BEST ETHICAL SYSTEM

With these truths in mind, we should now concentrate on secular ethical systems in order to determine which ethical system is the best. The following are the two main categories of secular ethical systems with popular examples of each.

Consequentialist ethical systems: the consequences of one’s actions are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the goodness or evil of one’s actions. In other words, obeying good rules is less important than having a good result.

1. State Consequentialism: whatever benefits one’s nation is good, and whatever does not is evil.

2. Utilitarianism: simply speaking, whatever makes the most creatures, especially     humans, the happiest is good, and whatever does not is evil.[i]

3. Ethical Egoism: whatever is best for oneself is good, and whatever is not is evil.

4. Ethical Altruism: whatever is best for everyone but oneself is good, and whatever is not is evil.

Deontological ethical systems: the action itself, not the consequences of the action, is the ultimate basis for any judgment about the goodness or evil of that action. In other   words, obeying good rules is more important than having a good result.

1. Kantian Ethics: One should always do one’s duty, regardless of the consequence of one’s action. One’s duty is to follow the best moral rules, and the best moral rules are the rules that one would want all humans to obey at all times and in all places. For example, because I would not want everyone to lie, steal, and murder; I should not lie, steal, and murder. Part of my duty is to obey the following rules: Do not lie. Do not steal. Do not murder.

In other words, whatever rule would be best for everyone to follow in all cases is good, and whatever action violates that rule is evil. Good moral rules apply to all people at all times without exception.

2. Natural Ethics: whatever Nature “tells” us to do is good, and whatever action       violates Nature’s “command” is evil.

Nature is the phenomena of the physical universe collectively, including plants,               animals, and landscapes, as opposed to humans or human creations. I just invented the phrase Natural Ethics for the purpose of this essay. However, many people believe in Natural Ethics, at least to an extent, even if they do not call it that.

 

To proceed further, it will be helpful to affirm the following five truths.

Truth Number One: Simply speaking, all sentient creatures want to maximize their happiness. Therefore, they want to maximize their pleasure and minimize their suffering.[ii] Maximizing one’s pleasure and minimizing one’s suffering maximizes one’s happiness. (A sentient creature is one thing that is alive and can feel pleasure and/or pain. Suffering is undesirable pain, and pain is desirable if it helps a creature more than it hurts a creature.)

Truth Number Two: We should always obey The Perfect Golden Rule.

Perhaps the most famous version of The Golden Rule is “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” What that means is do to others what you want them to do to you, and do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you. The Golden Rule is an excellent moral rule, but it can be improved into The Perfect Golden Rule: “Imagine or realize that you are very sane, very intelligent, very knowledgeable, and very kind. As you do this, treat other creatures the way that you want to be treated.”

Why is The Perfect Golden Rule better than The Golden Rule? The word “creatures” is added because “others” by itself is too vague and we should generally try to do what is best for all creatures. The words “very sane, very intelligent, very knowledgeable, and very kind” were added to promote good results. If someone is very sane, very intelligent, very knowledgeable, and very kind, she or he generally knows and wants what is best for him or herself and other creatures. Therefore, it is almost certainly good if she or he treats others the way he or she wants to be treated. However, if someone is very insane, very unintelligent, very ignorant, and/or very cruel, she or he might not know and/or want to do what is best for him or herself and other creatures. Such a person is likely to do evil when obeying The Golden Rule. For example, masochists enjoy feeling pain, and I do not. So I do not want masochists to hurt me because they are treating me the way that they want to be treated.

It should be noted that a defender of The Golden Rule is likely to say that a creature’s desires should be considered when one follows The Golden Rule or The Perfect Golden Rule, because we want our desires to be considered when others choose, or choose not to, do things to us. Therefore, we should consider the desires of others when we choose, or choose not to, do things to others. I agree with this defense.

Anyway, the reason we should always obey The Perfect Golden Rule is that doing so maximizes the happiness of all creatures collectively and individually. For example, on December 14, 2012, twenty-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot twenty children as well as six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, for unknown (but certainly evil) reasons. If Lanza had obeyed The Perfect Golden Rule, he would not have done this horrific action. Choosing to refrain from this massacre would have made humanity collectively happier because less humans would be horrified and grieving. It would also make individual humans happier because they, individually, would not be horrified and grieving, and they would not be killed if they were doomed to be one of the victims. (I am assuming that those victims would be happier living than dead.)

Truth Number Three: Each individual should be most concerned about what helps her or his species rather than what most helps other species. There is at least one reason this is true: This goal of life is given to each individual creature and each species by The Divine and/or evolution through natural selection.[iii] Simply speaking, each individual creature is programmed to do whatever he, she, or it needs to do to ensure the survival of her, his, or its genes. It will struggle mightily to stay alive in order to successfully reproduce, and then it will struggle mightily to ensure that its offspring has a chance to successfully reproduce. And since each individual creature of a species is thus programmed, it can accurately be stated that each species is programmed to do whatever it needs to do to ensure the survival of its genes. With these facts in mind, we should believe that humans should focus on the happiness of humans most, dogs should focus on the happiness of dogs most, snakes should focus on the happiness of snakes most, frogs should focus on the happiness of frogs most, fish should focus on the happiness of fish most, etcetera.

The fact that I have stated that The Divine might have programmed creatures is not an endorsement of any religious ethical system because I do not believe, and I am not advocating the position, that any religious ethical system was given to humanity by The Divine. I believe that The Divine always remains hidden from and silent to us mortal humans. That is why we mortal humans must invent our own secular ethical systems in order to create the best ethical system.

Likewise, the fact that I have stated that evolution through natural selection might have programmed creatures is not a strong endorsement of Natural Ethics, if it is an endorsement at all. The fact of the matter is that, in order to embrace one of the secular ethical systems as the best ethical system, some important truths have to be adequately articulated. These truths, although debatable, are the best truths that I can think of to help us accomplish this task. The Divine and/or Nature as expressed in evolution through natural selection made us who we are. Our happiness is most likely to be found working with it or them, at least to an extent.

If I am a sentient robot who was built by humans to fly and not to swim, I will probably be happier flying and not swimming. Creatures tend to like doing what they are good at, and creatures tend to be good at what they were designed to do. As far as I know, the most likely candidates for the person, persons, or thing that designed humans is The Divine and/or evolution through natural selection. Therefore, as much as reason permits, we should cooperate with the design that we were given. In general, we should favor humans over non-humans. History has generally proven that we were designed to do so, and doing so tends to make us happier.

By the way, here the word “designed” does not necessarily mean intentionally created. Evolution through natural selection is likely to have accidentally created all life on Earth as we know it. Suppose that three trees fall in a forest in such a way that they form a triangle without any help from any sentient creature; the design is a triangle although the design was not done on purpose. Gravity accidentally designed that triangle. Nonetheless, it is a triangle.[iv]

Truth Number Four: All humans should be treated as if they have equal worth. Why? There are at least four reasons.

The first reason is that it is literally true in the sense that all humans are of equal worth as humans. They are all equally human, and they are all one species. They are like $1 bills. One $1 bill is equal to one other $1 bill. (Yes, rare and collectable dollar bills can be worth more, but I am talking about regular, commonplace $1 bills.)

Of course, some humans are better at some things than others. General Patten would be better than Gwyneth Paltrow for leading armies, but Gwyneth Paltrow would be better for sex (at least for me) than General Patten. I admit that there are top humans and bottom humans in every category. For example, Shakespeare was an excellent writer, and some extremely mentally handicapped and illiterate person is a horrible writer. Many, if not most, modern humans are in between such greatness and un-greatness. Take me, for instance. I do not write as well as Shakespeare, but I write better than my hypothetical mentally handicapped and illiterate person. So, yes, I do concede that some humans are better at some things than others; and in that sense some humans are worth more than others. Give me General Patten to lead my armies, and give me Gwyneth Paltrow to lead my orgasms!

However, all humans are still of equal worth as humans, and now I get to the second reason that all humans should be considered of equal worth. It is much more practical. Yes, those who are most qualified for a job should get that job, but I am primarily talking about how the government and its laws should treat humans. Who should get the right to vote and why: the soldier, the actress, or the writer? Who is more valuable for society and why? Who should get the lesser jail sentence, and who should get the harsher?

I submit for your consideration that the soldier, the actress, and the writer can all contribute greatly to society and that it can be impossible for us mortal humans to precisely quantify which one has contributed the most. The same is true of every other human. The poet Charles Bukowski might have been a low-life drunk, but he might have benefited more humans than any CEO alive today.

My point is that, since it is too difficult to calculate the exact value of a particular human, it is more practical to just consider all humans to be of equal worth in terms of laws, rights, and responsibilities.

The third reason that all humans should be considered to be of equal worth is that it seems more fair—especially to those who would be treated as if they are of lower worth. Those who are treated as if they are of lower worth might actually be of higher worth than some of those favored by the government or a particular ethical system. Think of nations that have a few aristocrats and many peasants, or think of societies that had masters and slaves. Many peasants are kinder and smarter than many aristocrats, just like many slaves were kinder and smarter than many masters. The same is true of poor and rich humans. Many poor humans are kinder and smarter than many rich humans.

The fourth reason that all humans should be considered to be of equal worth is obviously related to the first and third reasons. Treating humans equally tends to stop rebellions and retributions before they start. Humans who are treated as lesser humans generally know that they are being mistreated, and it doesn’t seem fair to them. If too many humans are treated as lesser humans for too long, they will violently revolt, and perhaps rightly so. And long before that violent revolt happens, some of those angry and mistreated humans will find ways to strike back at their oppressors. Waiters can spit into the food of those they serve, and poor humans can steal and vandalize the property of the rich. There are probably countless ways that the oppressed can hurt their oppressors.

Truth Number Five: It is better to have a happy outcome than to just follow rules that usually promote happiness. In other words, it is better to have good results than to just follow “good”[v] rules. The following questions and answers explain why:

Q1: What does it mean to say that the ends justify the means?

A1: It means that a good outcome excuses any harm done to attain it. For example, if a politician is campaigning with illegal funds to be president, wins the election, and then does much good for her or his nation, that politician might easily say that the ends justify the means.

 

Q2: Isn’t it likely that someone might do many horrific actions, claiming that the ends justify the means?

A2: Yes, that is why it is important to remember another saying: “The means contain the ends.” For example, if one wants a kind society, one can best accomplish that through kind means. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, educating the ignorant, and healing the sick are much more likely to make a kind society than not doing these things or than doing blatantly cruel actions such as stealing food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care from the needy. The goal of every voluntary action should be to maximize the happiness of the greatest number of creatures, especially humans. Usually, that goal is best accomplished by following good rules, such as “Do not kill humans” and “Do not lie.” However, sometimes it is best accomplished by disobeying good rules or at least changing the good rules to better fit a situation.

 

Q3: How might one change good rules to better fit a situation?

A3: One might add qualifying statements. For example, one might change the rule “Do not kill humans” to “Do not kill humans unless they are purposefully trying to kill another human who does not deserve to be killed”; and one might change the rule “Do not lie” to “Do not lie unless you believe that telling the truth will cause much more unjust suffering than telling the lie.”

 

Q4: Why not just make the rules perfect in the first place and then live by them without ever questioning them further?

A4: There are at least two reasons. One, the rules would be too difficult to remember and apply. For example, changing “Do not kill humans” to “Do not kill humans unless they are purposefully trying to kill another human who does not deserve to be killed” is still incomplete/imperfect. A more complete/perfect rule would be “Do not kill humans unless they are purposefully trying to kill, rape, kidnap, mutilate, and/or disfigure another human who does not deserve such treatment; begging to be killed because they are suffering greatly and will suffer greatly until they die; in a permanent vegetative state and are unnecessarily using all the financial resources of their family to stay alive; convicted of premeditated murder, high treason, military desertion during war, or raping a child under the age of seven; accidentally killed during a just military action; unjustly holding someone captive and killing the captor is the only way to free that captive; or one must choose to let one human die so that more humans will live.” (Note that I have not even dealt with the very controversial topic of abortion. If I chose the Pro-Choice side and defined abortion as killing a human, this very long rule could get much longer.) The second reason is that the goal of all these changes would still be the same: Maximize the happiness of the greatest number of creatures, especially humans. Thus, it is better to live according to one simple rule, such as The Utilitarian Rule, than many rules which are very complex. The Utilitarian Rule is explained later in this essay.

 

Q5: Is there a simpler way to prove that the ends justify the means but that the means contain the ends?

A5: Yes. I would rather have someone try to hurt me and accidentally help me, than someone try to help me and accidentally hurt me. However, someone is much more likely to hurt me if he or she is trying to hurt me, and someone is much more likely to help me if she or he is trying to help me. All this is true for me, and this is probably true for everyone (or at least almost everyone).

 

With those five truths adequately articulated, we can now give a broad answer to the question, What is the best secular ethical system? The best secular ethical system (and, thus, the best ethical system) is the one that maximizes the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of creatures, especially humans. It is focused on happy outcomes rather than following rules that usually lead to happy outcomes. Why? The happiness of all sentient creatures should be considered important because we should treat others the way that we want to be treated. Yet, we humans should be most concerned about what helps humanity more than other species, and we should treat all humans as if they have equal worth. Finally, it is more important to do good than to try to do good, because it is better to promote happiness than to try to promote happiness.

 

PART THREE: THE BEST ETHICAL SYSTEM IS UTILITARIANISM

 State Consequentialism is not the best ethical system because it does not maximize the happiness of the greatest number of creatures. Its focus is on what benefits a nation rather than what makes creatures happy. If a nation full of suffering slaves most benefits the nation, then State Consequentialism indicates that the nation should be full of suffering slaves. Perhaps Nazi Germany would have been such a nation if it had won World War II. In the Nazi German Empire, there might have been far more non-Germans than Germans; and the Germans might have contemptuously treated the non-Germans both as slaves and lesser humans. All the while, most of the Germans would willingly work to make the German Empire militarily and economically powerful, and long-lasting. And all the while, most of the Germans would have forced most of the non-Germans in the German Empire to unwillingly do the same.

Utilitarianism can be confusing and can seem to indicate that, in certain extreme cases, one should take a very morally questionable action. However, ethics is a complicated subject, so probably the best ethical system is at least a little complicated too. I actually have much to say about Utilitarianism because I believe that it is the best ethical system. The following questions and answers explain why:

Q1: Why is Utilitarianism the best ethical system?

A1: Utilitarianism is based on reason, not faith; it focuses only on the happiness of sentient creatures, especially humans; it only seeks to maximize pleasure and minimize suffering; it treats all humans equally; and it is focused on happy outcomes rather than following rules that usually lead to happy outcomes.

 

Q2: What is good?

A2: Good is treating sentient creatures the way that they should be treated.

 

Q3: What is evil?

A3: Evil is not treating sentient creatures the way that they should be treated.

 

Q4: Why is the focus of good and evil on sentient creatures? Why not The Divine, non-sentient creatures, or non-living things such as rocks?

A4: In many cases, we can make sentient creatures be happy or miserable. However, as far as we know, The Divine is too powerful for us to physically help or hurt, and The Divine should be so wise and mature that The Divine should not be very emotionally affected by anything we do. The Divine purposefully created the whole vast universe, and we humans are just an extremely tiny part of the universe. The Divine probably has much more important things to do than to worry about how one species on one planet thinks about it.[vi] As for non-sentient creatures and non-living things, they feel nothing. Therefore, we cannot make them be happy or miserable.

 

Q5: How should sentient creatures be treated?

A5: At least in most cases, we should obey the Utilitarian Rule: Always try to make every voluntary action you do achieve the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of creatures, especially humans.

 

Q6: Why is it called the Utilitarian Rule?

A6: Simply speaking, Utilitarianism is the ethical theory that every voluntary human action should attempt to achieve the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of creatures, especially humans. I wrote “Simply speaking” because there are different types of Utilitarianism.

 

Q7: Why is happiness good?

A7: There are at least two reasons: 1) All humans very much want to be as happy as possible, now and always. In fact, it can be argued that happiness is the ONLY thing humans want. 2) The same is true of many other sentient creatures.

 

Q8: But what about humans who willingly sacrifice themselves for others, such as parents who willingly sacrifice themselves for their children or soldiers who willingly sacrifice themselves for their nation? Aren’t they giving up their happiness for the happiness of others?

A8: I am not saying that happiness is the only thing humans want. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. I don’t know. What I am saying is that even such humans might willingly sacrifice themselves for their own happiness. They probably feel happy sacrificing themselves because they are doing what they believe is good, they are not doing what they believe is evil, and they are helping those and/or the cause that they love.

 

Q9: What is happiness?

A9: Happiness is mentally feeling much more pleasure than suffering. It is the opposite of misery.

 

Q10: What is misery?

A10: Misery is mentally feeling much more suffering than pleasure.

 

Q11: What is pleasure?

A11: Pleasure is a type of feeling which every (or almost every) sentient creature wants to feel. It is like a color. You either understand it, or you don’t. Someone blind from conception cannot completely understand the color green because he or she cannot see it. Likewise, someone without the ability to have feelings cannot completely understand pleasure because she or he cannot feel it.

 

Q12: What is pain?

A12: Pain is an unpleasant feeling which can be either desirable or undesirable.

 

Q13: What is suffering?

A13: Suffering is undesirable pain, that is pain that is more harmful than helpful.

 

Q14: What is the purpose of pain?

A14: At least one purpose of pain is to make a creature change his, her, or its behavior to increase her, his, or its chances of successfully passing on his, her, or its genes to the next generation. For example, suppose that a human’s hand touches some fire. Touching the fire will make the human feel pain, and the pain will make the human withdraw her or his hand. In other words, it will make the human change what he or she is doing. Withdrawing a hand keeps the hand operational and less likely to get infected. An operational and uninfected hand greatly helps a human to survive, beget children, and successfully raise those children to adulthood.

 

Q15: What is the difference between suffering and pain?

A15: Pain is an unpleasant feeling which can be either desirable or undesirable. Suffering is an unpleasant feeling which is only undesirable. Pain can be either helpful or unhelpful. Suffering is always unhelpful because it is just pain that does not cause one to change her, his, or its behavior to increase his, her, or its chances of successfully passing on her, his, or its genes to the next generation. An example of suffering is the pain caused by arthritis. Simply speaking, the pain caused by arthritis does not cause one to change behavior for the better. It only makes one experience an unpleasant feeling.

 

Q16: What causes pleasure?

A16: Having reasonable desires and having those desires fulfilled causes pleasure. Reasonable desires are desires that are obtainable and worth the effort. Unreasonable desires are desires that are not obtainable or just not worth the effort. An example of a reasonable desire is the desire to not starve to death, and an example of an unreasonable desire is the desire to eat all the cheeseburgers on Earth in one day. Reasonable desires promote happiness because they can and should be fulfilled. Unreasonable desires promote misery because they cannot and/or should not be fulfilled.

 

Q17: What are some reasonable desires?

A17: Desiring adequate air, water, food, sleep, sex, excretion, physical and mental health, financial security, friends, family, lover, self-respect, respect from others, freedom, and to come close to being the best that one can be at many worthwhile activities.

 

Q18: What are some unreasonable desires?

A18: Desiring all the air, water, food, sexy lovers, leisure time, money, land, oil, diamonds, and popularity on Earth; desiring to enslave and/or unjustly hurt humans; and desiring to be better than all humans at everything.

 

Q19: What causes suffering?

A19: Not satisfying reasonable desires, desiring something that one cannot and/or should not have, and/or feeling unhelpful pain.

 

Q20: With all this in mind, how can we be as happy as possible now and always?

A20: We can do everything in our power to maximize our pleasure and minimize our suffering for as long as we consciously exist. We maximize our pleasure by having and fulfilling all our reasonable desires. We minimize our suffering by not having unreasonable desires and by not having unfulfilled reasonable desires.

 

Q21: Is the above answer too simplistic? In other words, isn’t there more to being happy than maximizing pleasure and minimizing suffering for as long as one consciously exists?

A21: Maybe there is, and maybe there isn’t. I am not certain. What I am certain about is that the above answer is more true than false and that I want this essay to be understandable for the vast majority of humans. Therefore, I will try to keep the ideas in this essay simple and easily understandable, even if there are some exceptions to my assertions.

 

Q22: What are some possible exceptions to the Utilitarian Rule?

A22: Supposedly, sometimes blindly obeying the Utilitarian Rule would cause us to do evil. For example, it would cause us to 1) murder an innocent child if doing so would make more creatures happier overall, 2) work like slaves for the rest of our lives if doing so would make more creatures happier overall, and 3) let our mother burn to death in a fire if we could save two other humans we never met before instead, simply speaking.  (I wrote “simply speaking” because I can imagine at least one exception: Our mother is very evil, and those two other humans are very good. If that is the case, we probably should let our mother die.) In at least most cases, murdering an innocent child, working like a slave for the rest of our lives, and letting our mother die in a fire to save just two strangers’ lives are evil acts. Furthermore, although it is good to not unnecessarily hurt or kill creatures, sometimes we have to choose to hurt or kill one creature in order to help another creature. For example, suppose that one had a beloved pet dog that was face to face with a rattlesnake, and one’s choice was basically to let one’s dog get bit or to kill the rattlesnake. One should probably kill the rattlesnake to help the dog.

 

Q23: Is it possible that the Utilitarian Rule is always correct?

A23: Yes. Although at one level there seem to be exceptions to the Utilitarian Rule, these exceptions have the same basic goal as the Utilitarian Rule. That goal is to promote human happiness and the happiness of the creatures whom humans impact. In general, we humans are much happier when we don’t murder an innocent child, work like slaves for the rest of our lives, and let our mothers burn to death. Thus, at the deepest level, it seems that the possible exceptions to the Utilitarian Rule ultimately and paradoxically promote the Utilitarian Rule, at least to an extent.

 

Ethical Egoism is not the best ethical system because it is very unlikely to maximize the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of creatures, especially humans. In fact, Ethical Egoism is very likely to do the opposite, that is maximize the greatest amount of suffering for the greatest amount of creatures, especially humans. One reason this is true is that Ethical Egoists are like parasites. Parasites feed off other living creatures, and they need those creatures to be alive so that they can keep feeding off them. If a creature dies, the parasites in that creature will die too. And because the parasites hurt the creature more than help it, if there are too many parasites, they will kill the creature and, thus, accidentally kill themselves. Thus, Ethical Egoists tend to metaphorically kill the happiness of others first and their own happiness second.

Ethical Egoists feed off society, that is they generally take more help from society than they give. Ethical Egoists benefit most when society is healthy. For example, when society is rich, Ethical Egoists can more easily get and maintain wealth. When society is safe and free, Ethical Egoists can more easily be safe and free. If society is unhealthy, Ethical Egoists tend to suffer along with everyone else. They tend to be poorer, less safe, and less free than when society is healthy.

The smaller percentage of Ethical Egoists a society has, the healthier that society is because it has more people helping it be healthy than draining its health. The larger percentage of Ethical Egoists a society has, the less healthy that society is because it has more people taking help from it than giving help to it. In short, it has more metaphorical parasites.

To understand my point, imagine a society composed only of Ethical Egoists. Every member of that society is only seeking to help him or herself without unnecessarily helping others. Military personnel, police officers, and firefighters risk their lives much less. Teachers have much less sympathy and do much less work; in fact, many more teachers quit because teaching is very stressful. Politicians, business people, and entrepreneurs have even less morals than they do now. Everyone is stealing from each other, and everyone is very afraid to be stolen from. Everyone lies to each other. No one can be trusted.

Would you want to go to a doctor who is an Ethical Egoist? I wouldn’t; she or he might lie to me just to get more money from me. The same is true of all types of people: financial advisors, lawyers, bosses, employees, “friends,” relatives, etcetera. A society with too many Ethical Egoists cannot endure for long and is a horrible society to live in while it lasts.

Here, someone might argue that Ethical Egoism encourages people to follow certain rules of conduct that help everyone to be happy, because one is better off if everyone obeys these rules. Smart Ethical Egoists realize that members of a society have to give up some happiness sometimes to achieve the greatest amount of happiness overall. I respond that, at least in many cases, even smart Ethical Egoists will break good rules if they believe that the consequence for them personally will be more positive than negative. Thus, a doctor who is a smart Ethical Egoist will lie and say that the purpose of healthcare is primarily to help people be healthy; it is not to make healthcare professionals rich. However, he will lie to become richer if he believes that he personally will get away with that lie. Maybe he will require his patients to have unnecessary procedures, or prescribe them more expensive drugs to receive kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies.​

I also want to add the following: Ethical Egoism is a selfish philosophy because an Ethical Egoist cares about the happiness of him or herself much more than the happiness of anyone else. By being an Ethical Egoist, one is constantly thinking in selfish terms: “What is best for me, regardless of how it impacts others?” I suspect that when one is constantly thinking in selfish terms, such thinking becomes a strong habit that is very difficult to break. Thus, even when an Ethical Egoist wants to always follow selfless rules of conduct (rules of conduct that help everyone be happy) because she or he will be better off if everyone obeys these rules, he or she might find it impossible to consistently do so because she or he actually follows a selfish ethical system. Like tends to beget like, and selfish thoughts tend to beget selfish actions.

Of course, there are other reasons not to be an Ethical Egoist, and I will just briefly mention them to avoid being unnecessarily boring. Many human laws reward people for doing good, The Divine is likely to reward relatively good people after death, relatively good people are generally more liked and loved than relatively evil people, doing good makes this universe a better place to live, and one can get more pleasure overall from doing good than from doing evil. Furthermore, most human laws punish people for doing evil, The Divine is likely to punish relatively evil people after death, relatively evil people are generally less liked and loved than relatively good people, doing evil makes this universe a worse place to live, and one can get more suffering overall from doing evil than from doing good.

 

Ethical Altruism is not the best ethical system because it lacks many the strengths of Utilitarianism. It is not based on reason because there is no compelling rational argument why one should do whatever is best for everyone but oneself. In other words, simply speaking, the happiness of every human is as important from an objective point of view as the happiness of every other human, because all humans are of equal worth. Ethical Altruism could focus only on the happiness of sentient creatures, especially humans—which is good. However, it neglects to focus on the happiness of oneself, which is evil. Lastly, it does not treat all humans equally because it treats oneself as less important than all other humans.

Utilitarianism is like the best compromise between Ethical Egoism and Ethical Altruism. Like Ethical Egoism but to a lesser degree, Utilitarianism stresses that oneself is important; and like Ethical Altruism but to a lesser degree, Utilitarianism stresses that other creatures besides oneself are important.

 

Kantian Ethics, although it gives some good ethical guidance, has at least three problems that make it less helpful than Utilitarianism.[vii]

 

  1. “The first difficulty is Kant’s claim that outcomes are irrelevant to doing the right thing. . . . It isn’t irrelevant that the choices you make could harm [others]. . . . [T]here are times when we can predict pretty accurately what will happen if we do act A versus act B!” In other words, unlike Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics is not focused on happy outcomes rather than following rules that usually lead to happy outcomes.

 

  1. The best moral rules are duties, and “duties are universal and apply without exception.” One problem with this assertion is that there might be more than one acceptable way to do a duty, and sometimes different ways can conflict with each other. “For example, we all have a duty to respect the dead. . . . Suppose in one culture respect for the dead requires burying and praying over them, while in another culture, people respect the dead by eating them.” Utilitarianism easily avoids this problem by indicating the following course of action: 1) Do what maximizes the greatest happiness for the greatest number of creatures, especially humans. 2) If two or more actions both achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number of creatures, especially humans; feel free to choose any of those actions. Thus, it is probably best to allow each of the aforementioned cultures to respect the dead in their own particular way.

 

  1. “We aren’t told what to do when rules come into conflict.” For example, “[w]e know that doctors have . . . the duty to save lives and the duty to prevent pain. . . . [I]f the doctor fulfills the duty to save lives, she will end up prolonging the life of her patient. But if she prolongs the patient’s life, she will fail in her duty to prevent the patient’s pain!” There is much less conflict in Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism has only one rule, The Utilitarian Rule; and it is much easier for one rule to avoid conflicting itself than a group of many rules. Also, what was stated before still applies here. Utilitarianism urges us to do at least two things: 1) Do what maximizes the greatest happiness for the greatest number of creatures, especially humans. 2) If two or more actions both achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number of creatures, especially humans; feel free to choose any of those actions. If you are a doctor, help your patient to live longer if you believe doing so will maximize the greatest happiness for the greatest number of creatures, especially humans. However, if you believe that doing the opposite will maximize the greatest happiness for the greatest number of creatures, especially humans; do the opposite.

 

Natural Ethics is not the best ethical system because it often leads to less pleasure and more suffering. If Nature likes anything, Nature seems to like suffering, death, and selfishness. All sentient creatures on Earth suffer and die, and many are programmed by Nature to kill and eat other sentient creatures just to survive.

As for selfishness, it is often rewarded in Nature. For example, penguins steal rocks from each other to build nests, male lions murder the cubs of other male lions to cause the mother of the cubs to go into heat, and many kinds of cuckoo birds deceive other birds into raising their young. These examples teach that stealing, murder, and lying are natural activities that benefit the thieves, murderers, and liars. A society full of thieves, murderers, and liars will almost certainly be much less happy than a society full of the opposite kinds of people—people who (at least in most cases) do not steal, murder, and lie. If such good people do choose to steal, commit homicide[viii], or lie, they do so because reason tells them that such a normally evil action will maximize the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of creatures, especially humans.[ix]

The bottom line is that Utilitarianism is the best ethical system. All people should study it, embrace it, and promote it. If all humans voluntarily did these things, humanity would be as sane, good, and happy as possible for as long as humans exist. Also, the more sane, good, and happy humans are; the more likely they are to treat other creatures well. The more Utilitarianism, the more everyone wins!

 

WORKS CITED

“Homicide.” Wikipedia. 6 Jun. 2017. 9 Jun. 2017.

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homicide&gt;.

 

Ingram, David Bruce and Jennifer A. Parks. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding   Ethics. New York: Alpha Books, 2002.

 

ENDNOTES

[i] I wrote “Simply speaking” because there are different kinds of Utilitarianism.

[ii] I wrote “Simply speaking” because there might be some unusual creatures who, for some reason or reasons, do not want to maximize their happiness and/or minimize their suffering. To keep matters simple, I will respectfully ignore the possibility of such creatures at this time. If such creatures exist, they are probably insane or at least have very irrational beliefs.

[iii] There is a chance that The Divine never existed; or that it once existed, created the universe, and then died. For the sake of pleasant writing style and understandability, I write as if The Divine not only existed, but that it will always exist, and that it will always be very powerful, knowledgeable, and intelligent.

[iv] If you still do not believe that a member of each species should favor his, her, or its species over all other species, ask yourself these questions: If you (a human) had to choose to kill a randomly selected young human or a randomly selected young creature of any non-human sentient species, what would you choose and why? If you choose the human, the vast majority of humans would believe that you were very evil, although they might not be able to say a compelling reason why, such as each species should favor her, his, or its species because this goal of life is given to each individual creature and each species by The Divine and/or evolution through natural selection.

The average human would choose the human over the non-human and then give one or more of the following unconvincing reasons: 1) The Divine favors humans over other creatures, 2) humans are smarter, 3) humans ponder deep philosophical questions, 4) humans have a written history, 5) humans are so powerful that they can save or obliterate every species on the planet.

There is little evidence, if any, that Reason 1 is correct. Simply speaking, humans suffer and die just like all other sentient creatures on Earth, and the whole time The Divine stays hidden and silent. In fact, countless species have become extinct and humanity will probably join that long list someday. If The Divine does not favor a species enough to save it from extinction, The Divine does not favor a species much.

As for Reasons 2, 3, 4, and 5, an objective judge might easily conclude, “So what? Yes, humans might be smarter, more philosophical, better writers, and more powerful than any other species on Earth; but that is just a human arguing for human superiority based on what humans do well. It is like a tuna fish arguing that tuna fish are more valuable than humans because tuna fish can swim and breathe underwater better, or a sparrow arguing that sparrows are more valuable than humans because sparrows have feathers and can fly without help better.

“Besides, what if it gets proven that dolphins are smarter and more philosophical than humans, which might happen? Does that mean that humans should start favoring dolphins over humans in all cases?

“A written history is impressive, but many species write in a way by making marks on trees, which is a type of written history that states, ‘Beware! This is my territory!’ Does that mean that American black bears, which scratch trees to mark their territory, and humans should be valued equally?

“The ability to save or obliterate every species on a planet full of life is also impressive, but suppose there is a species of bacteria that can do the same. The vast majority of humans would not say that one of those bacteria should be valued equally with one human.”

Like it or not, there is no compelling objective reason that humans should be valued over all non-human creatures. However, there is one compelling subjective reason: One is a human, and The Divine and/or evolution through natural selection has given each species the goal of keeping its genes alive and increasing their number.

[v] The reason that I put the word “good” in parentheses is that I am using it imprecisely. An action is probably not good (i.e. the morally best choice) if it does not maximize the greatest happiness for the greatest number of creatures, especially humans.

[vi] There is a chance that The Divine never existed; or that it once existed, created the universe, and then died. For the sake of pleasant writing style and understandability, I write as if The Divine not only existed, but that it will always exist, and that it will always be very powerful, knowledgeable, and intelligent.

[vii] In the next three paragraphs (Paragraphs 1, 2, and 3), whatever is in quotation marks comes from pages 174 and/or 175 of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Ethics.

[viii] I changed the word “murder” to the phrase “commit homicide,” because, in English, murder almost always has the meaning of an evil act of killing. Usually if not always, either an action is more good than evil, or it is more evil than good. If it is more good than evil, it might (or might not) be best to consider it a good action; but if it is more evil than good, it is probably best to consider it an evil action. An evil action should not be considered a good action, even if it is done by good people with good intent. Thus, murder is always evil.

[ix] I have been thinking of examples when it is morally better (i.e. good) to steal, commit homicide, and lie than when it is morally worse (i.e. evil) to not do those actions. Much depends on how one defines those words. With that fact in mind, here are the definitions that I will use. Steal means to take another creature’s property without permission or legal right and without intending to return it. “Homicide refers to one human killing another. Homicides can be divided into many overlapping legal categories, including murder, manslaughter, justifiable homicide, killing in war, euthanasia, and capital punishment, depending on the circumstances of the death. These different types of homicides are often treated very differently in human societies; some are considered crimes, while others are permitted or even ordered by the legal system.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homicide). A lie is a false statement used intentionally for the purpose of deception.

 

Stop Gerrymandering Now!

  • I wrote the following email and sent it to all my elected representatives in congress and my state legislature. Some of the wording below has been changed to protect me. I am a public school teacher and am afraid that I will be fired for telling unpleasant truths about popular religions and policies.

 

Dear Congressman Jingleheimer Schmidt,

Today is the eve of Independence Day. Thus, it is a fitting time to remember that the United States started as a great improvement over the British Empire. A democratic republic that promotes and protects human rights is far superior to a not-so-limited monarchy. Yet the United States was not born as good as it is today. Originally, only white men who owned property were allowed to vote, and it took a long time for all adult citizens to gain that most cherished right.

Gerrymandering has been a longstanding and detrimental practice in the United States. Short of outright cheating, gerrymandering is the most effective way for one candidate or political party to steal an election. Through gerrymandering, voters do not choose their representatives; representatives choose their voters. This is backward and evil! It should be stopped now! Just as the United States eventually allowed all its adult citizens the right to vote, it should change again and stop gerrymandering.

I strongly recommend that you support H.R. 278, sponsored by Congressman Steve Cohen, and get the word out about the need to stop gerrymandering. http://www.endgerrymandering.com is an excellent resource.

Sincerely,

Jayson X

__ Grade English Teacher

Concerned Citizen of Noneofyourbusiness, East Nowhere

A Story about God Creating and Using Evolution

Once upon a time, God existed, but the universe did not exist. Then God decided to create the universe with a Big Bang. From one point, all the matter and energy of the universe came into existence; and it spread and spread and spread. In fact, the universe is still spreading today. Scientists know this for a fact by observing galaxies.

God is smart. God is not stupid. So God made energy, matter, and the laws of physics in such a way that creatures would evolve on many planets. Thus, God created evolution and uses evolution as a tool to make new species. God does not bother to create every species individually. Why would God work very hard to create countless species individually, when God could create the conditions for species to evolve, then relax and occasionally watch new species develop?

Humans are stupid compared to God. They start off as stupid creatures called babies, and only some adult humans have the ability, desire, and opportunity to become smart. But no matter how hard humans try, they still are stupid compared to God.

Ancient humans had a problem. They did not know very much about how the universe works or the God-given purpose of their existence. To try to solve this problem, some ancient humans wrote books such as the Bible and the Koran. God did not write those books, but some humans lied and said that God wrote those books. One reason that they lied was so that other humans would not feel stupid because, if those other humans knew the truth, they would know that they know very little. People often feel stupid when they admit to themselves that they know very little. Yet before they die, all humans know almost nothing about God, how the universe works, or the God-given purpose their existence.

The irony is that humans are smartest when they admit to themselves what they truly know and what they truly do not know. When humans accept a false religion as true, they often feel and believe that they are smarter than they would be if they did not accept that false religion as true, but they are actually stupider. It is smarter to admit that one does not know something than to believe that a wrong answer is true.

When modern science disagrees with an ancient book such as the Bible or Koran, the odds are that modern science is correct and the ancient book is incorrect. Why? Because reason is a much better guide to true beliefs than faith, and most modern humans understand reality much better than most ancient humans did.

As stupid as humans are today, their ancestors used to be much stupider. Ancient humans did not know that the Earth revolves around the sun, thunder is caused by lightning, earthquakes are caused by shifts in tectonic plates, and most species that exist today evolved from other species. But then some relatively smart humans invented something called science. They thought, Hey, instead of believing whatever bullshit our ancestors believed, let’s study the universe and do experiments. If what we believe agrees with the universe, we will keep on believing it; and if what we believe does not agree with the universe, we will change our beliefs until they do agree with the universe.

Using science, humans have gotten much smarter. They have discovered great truths, invented wonderful materials and machines, cured diseases, and fed millions of hungry people. If humans keep on basing all their beliefs and actions on science more and more, they are likely to be much more sane, good, and happy in the future. Who knows? Maybe someday God will come out of hiding and say to all humans, “Well done, my children. I knew that somewhere, somehow (when I created the universe), that very sane, good, and happy creatures would evolve. You have learned and chosen as I wished. Let us rejoice together forever!”

 

The End

Why Life Is Worth Living

Life is a quality that living creatures have which distinguishes them from dead creatures or things that have never been alive. It is characterized by functions such as metabolism, growth, response to stimulation, and reproduction. A personality is the behavioral, temperamental, emotional, and mental traits of a creature. Consciousness is the state of having awareness of one’s own existence, sensations, and thoughts.

Living is better than being inanimate because one has to be alive to learn, choose, and experience sensations. But why are learning, choosing, and experiencing sensations good and, thus, make life worth preserving?

Learning is desirable for at least the following seven reasons: It helps one to improve intellectually and morally, provide for oneself and others, turn one’s dreams into reality, save one from being fooled and/or cheated, become more self-confident, get more respect, and understand reality better, including good, evil, and the purpose of life. In short, learning what one should helps one to be as sane, good, and happy as possible, which I believe is the goal of human life. The following paragraph briefly explains most of the assertions of this paragraph.

1) The more facts we know, the smarter we are and the more good we can do. The smarter we are and the more good we do, the more improved we are intellectually and morally. 2) Learning helps us provide for ourselves and others in at least two ways: It can give us a skill that enables us to get a decent-paying job, and we can learn how to get and keep the things we and our dependents need to live and be happy. 3) We have to learn how to do things in order to achieve our goals. 4) Learning saves us from being fooled and/or cheated because we have to learn who and what to trust and distrust and why, and how to deal wisely with various people and situations. 5) Learning helps us become more self-confident because increased knowledge means increased ability to successfully accomplish certain tasks. The more tasks we can successfully accomplish, the more our self-confidence justly increases. 6) It helps us have more respect because people rightfully respect those who have greater knowledge. 7) Learning helps us understand reality better because it is how we get to know more facts.

What about choosing? Why is choosing desirable? Here are some reasons.

Choosing keeps one from being an automaton. An automaton usually refers to a robot or someone who acts like a robot, but I will use the word in a broader sense here, for lack of a better word. In this case, an automaton is anything that just does what it is “programmed” to do, always behaving in an automatic and mechanical fashion. Thus, according to my definition, stars, rocks, clouds, fire, viruses, plants, and simple animals are automatons. In contrast and simply speaking, the ability to choose makes one a person with freewill rather than an automaton. If we consider all the creatures and inanimate objects that are automatons in the universe, we will soon realize that freewill persons are relatively rare. And what is rare is usually very valuable in one way or another.

Choosing allows us to express ourselves. We can choose to talk or keep silent, and when we talk, we can choose what to say.

To an extent, choosing allows us to create ourselves and our lives. We can choose to be brave and good, or we can choose to be cowardly and evil. Heck, in many cases, we can choose to succeed or fail, choose our career, choose to become parents or remain childless, or choose to live or die. Et cetera.

Choosing allows us to try to accomplish goals in order to fulfill our desires. We can choose to work hard in school, earn a college diploma, and get a good-paying career that we enjoy. More mundanely, we can choose to eat food that we like or go where we please. There is almost no end to the choices we can and have to make!

Choosing is related to learning too. It helps us learn because our choices teach us about ourselves and the results of certain actions. Do you think that you are a very good person? Well, wait until you choose to cheat on your significant other, or until you choose to unjustly favor someone just to keep something you value, like your job. That choice might teach you that you are not as good as you thought. Conversely, do you think that you are a very evil person? Well, just wait until you sacrifice your own happiness for the benefit of someone else, just because you care about her or him. That choice might teach you that you are not as evil as you thought.

How does choosing help us know the results of certain actions? That’s easy. You choose to do something and then learn the result. One time, I chose to take my parents’ car on a long trip which my father somewhat forbid me to take. He said that I could go on the trip, but I shouldn’t take that car because it was likely to break down. To make a long story short, I chose to take that car, and I learned that my father was right. The car broke down hundreds of miles from my hometown, and some bad things happened as a result.

The ability to choose also makes us happy because most (if not all) sentient creatures enjoy being free. Put a man in a jail, and he is likely to try to escape. Why? Because he has more freedom outside the jail than in it, because he can choose to do more of the things that he desires beyond the prison’s walls. More choices generally equals more happiness.

It is important to realize that, like learning, choosing what one should helps one to be as sane, good, and happy as possible, which, as I stated earlier, is the goal of human life. God put us rational creatures in this universe to learn and choose certain things while we live here.

What about sensations? Why is it desirable to experience them? At the very least, we could not experience pleasure and happiness if we were dead or inanimate; and those of us who have experienced those things certainly find them very valuable. We know firsthand that it is better to feel pleasure and happiness than to feel nothing. Also, if you are not alive, you cannot help other creatures in the same way that you could if you were alive. Rocks are inanimate, and by themselves they cannot give water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, shelter to the homeless, defense to the innocent, conversation to the lonely, and teaching to the ignorant. But a living human can.

With all this in mind, choose life over death and love life. Your life is God’s gift to you. What you do with your life is your gift to everyone. Give everyone the best gift that you can with your life!

An Analysis of Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Up Stand Up”

This week, I came back from a wonderful vacation in Jamaica. (Yeah, mon!) During that vacation, I was reacquainted with the music of Bob Marley, including his profound song “Get Up, Stand Up.” The following is my understanding of what it means. Every word that follows that is not bold is a song lyric, and every word that is bold is my commentary on the preceding song lyrics.

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don’t give up the fight!

You should be very active to protect and promote your rights.

Preacherman, don’t tell me,
Heaven is under the earth.

The singer does not want to hear some doctrine about Heaven being somewhere other than Earth.

I know you don’t know
What life is really worth.

Christian clerics often talk like they know the meaning of human life in this universe and how valuable it is, but they don’t.

It’s not all that glitters is gold;

Many of the doctrines of the Christian clerics sound pretty, but they are not valuable or helpful.

‘Alf the story has never been told:

Simply speaking, when it comes to religion, the Christian clerics only tell partial truths, when they tell any truths at all. They tell their beliefs, but they do not tell their listeners that they (the clerics) might easily have false beliefs.

So now you see the light, eh!
Stand up for your rights. Come on!

Now you understand the truth, so be very active to promote your rights.

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don’t give up the fight!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don’t give up the fight!

You should be very active to protect and promote your rights.

Most people think,
Great God will come from the skies,
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high.

In many nations, most people believe that God will intervene in history sometime in the future and fix every problem. God will take away all suffering and death, and make everyone feel very happy.

But if you know what life is worth,
You will look for yours on earth:

In contrast to that hope-in-God-fixing-everything-in-the-future belief, we should work to make this life better now. We should work to make Earth more like Heaven rather than wait for God to do it for us.

And now you see the light,
You stand up for your rights. Jah!

Now you understand the truth, so be very active to promote your rights.

Get up, stand up! (Jah, Jah!)
Stand up for your rights! (Oh-hoo!)
Get up, stand up! (Get up, stand up!)
Don’t give up the fight! (Life is your right!)
Get up, stand up! (So we can’t give up the fight!)
Stand up for your rights! (Lord, Lord!)
Get up, stand up! (Keep on struggling on!)
Don’t give up the fight! (Yeah!)

You should be very active to protect and promote your rights.

We sick an’ tired of-a your ism-skism game –
Dyin’ ‘n’ goin’ to heaven in-a Jesus’ name, Lord.

We people who are not deceived by religions don’t want to hear any more about what religion is true or false, and we don’t want to hear any more Christian theology.

We know when we understand:
Almighty God is a living man.

We know the truth when we understand that we living humans will do much more to fix the Earth’s problems than God will–assuming that we choose to fix those problems.

You can fool some people sometimes,
But you can’t fool all the people all the time.

The promoters of religion have tricked many people into believing their false teachings, but they haven’t fooled everyone.

So now we see the light (What you gonna do?),
We gonna stand up for our rights! (Yeah, yeah, yeah!)

We people who are not deceived by religions now understand the truth, so we will be very active to promote our rights.

So you better:
Get up, stand up! (In the morning! Git it up!)
Stand up for your rights! (Stand up for our rights!)
Get up, stand up!
Don’t give up the fight! (Don’t give it up, don’t give it up!)
Get up, stand up! (Get up, stand up!)
Stand up for your rights! (Get up, stand up!)
Get up, stand up! ( … )
Don’t give up the fight! (Get up, stand up!)
Get up, stand up! ( … )
Stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up!
Don’t give up the fight! [fadeout]

You should be very active to protect and promote your rights.

* In summary, work to make your life here as good as it can be, and don’t rely on a better life to come through some miraculous intervention or life after death. Demand equal and fair treatment now, and don’t settle for being treated unequally or unfairly.

Christianity Is a Horrible Fairy Tale!

Once upon a time, God made the Earth in six days. On the sixth day, God created the first man (Adam) and told Adam that Adam could eat the fruit of any tree except the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Then, because Adam was lonely, God created the first woman from one of Adam’s ribs. Her name was Eve. Unfortunately, a talking snake tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, and then Eve tricked Adam into doing the same. God punished Adam and Eve and all their descendants by forcing them to live in a harsh world. Their lives would be full of suffering and end in death.

But God still loved Adam, Eve, and the rest of humanity, so God decided to save some of them. To understand how God will save some people, you have to understand that God is three persons who share one essence or substance. Thus, God is not only one; God is three. And God is not only three; God is one. God is the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You also have to understand that death is not the end of a human’s conscious existence. God made Heaven and Hell so that humans will live forever, whether they want to or not. Because the first two humans disobeyed God, God (who is love) decided that all humans deserve to burn alive in Hell forever after they die. But because God loves all His creatures, God decided that He will save some humans from Hell and get them into Heaven. And this is how God will do that saving.

The Holy Spirit impregnated a virgin girl named Mary with the Only-Begotten Son of God. The result was a baby who was both fully God and fully human, named Jesus. Jesus united God and humanity in Himself, thus ending the separation between God and humanity caused by the original sin of Eve and Adam. Not only that, but Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life, never sinning and always doing what was good. This perfectly righteous life ended with a perfectly righteous death, which somehow atones for the sins of all humanity. A sin is an action that breaks a commandment of God, and any sin requires a perfectly righteous sacrificial death to make it not a Hell-worthy offense. Someone must pay a debt so that the debtor will not be punished. Humanity owed the debt of Hell to God for disobeying God’s commands, so God paid that debt to Himself by having Himself murdered.

You might be confused here. If Jesus’s incarnation, life, and death atoned for all of humanity, why will many people still burn alive in Hell? The answer is that people need to be baptized, believe in this nonsensical story, eat Communion, and live a very good life. It’s like having one million dollars and being hungry. To get food, you have to spend some of that million dollars. Likewise, to go to Heaven after you die, you have to get a magical bath, believe the right nonsensical story, eat some magical bread and wine, and generally be a good person as defined by God’s holy organization (the one, true Church) and/or God’s holy book (the Bible).

Jesus will come again soon, although Christians have been saying that for approximately 2,000 years. After Jesus returns, He will fix the entire universe so that it will be a nice place to live again, rather than a harsh one. Jesus will also resurrect the dead and give all people immortal bodies. Some of these immortal people will have uninterrupted happiness with God in Heaven forever, and the rest will have uninterrupted misery without God in Hell forever. So some people will live happily ever after. The end.

 

How Much Should We Support a Nation?

The more humane, secular, free, and democratic a nation’s government is, the more we should support it. The less humane, secular, free, and democratic a nation’s government is, the less we should support it. It is good if a nation is officially very humane, secular, free, and democratic; but it is important to realize that being officially so is not enough. A nation should also be so in practice.

Why Modern American Schools Don’t Teach Subjects Such as Grammar Directly Anymore

“Why Modern American Schools Don’t Teach Subjects Such as Grammar Directly Anymore”

by an anonymous English teacher

Capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and spelling (CPGS) should often be taught directly so that students will speak and write logically and according to standard rules. Not teaching CPGS directly results in poor capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and spelling, and illogical and undeveloped thinking. One cannot consistently think logically or deeply if one does not know a language well, and (at least in most cases) one will not know a language well if one is not directly taught its rules frequently. One might end up fluent in the language without being directly taught its rules frequently, but one will not master it. Mastering a language means being able to speak, read, and write it in a very sophisticated way without making many mistakes.

What is the difference between directly teaching CPGS, which is what almost all English Language Arts teachers used to do frequently, and indirectly teaching CPGS, which is what many modern English Language Arts teachers are strongly encouraged to do now exclusively? (For the record, English Language Arts teachers used to be called just English teachers. I suppose that the name change has to do with some goofy political correctness.) Directly teaching CPGS is telling students in a systematic way how to properly do capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and spelling. For example, for capitalization, an ELA teacher might teach the students many capitalization rules and then have them do a capitalization worksheet; for punctuation, an ELA teacher might teach a particular punctuation rule and then have the students write a sentence or two that follows that punctuation rule; for grammar, an ELA teacher might make the students memorize the definitions of a noun, pronoun, verb, conjunction, preposition, prepositional phrase, adjective, adverb, interjection, subject, and predicate, and then teach students how to identify those things in sentences; for spelling an ELA teacher might regularly give students spelling words to memorize for upcoming regular spelling tests. It makes sense, doesn’t it? That is why it was done for decades, if not for centuries.

Indirectly teaching CPGS is usually something like this: Have students read, write, and speak and, while doing those things, figure out capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and spelling by themselves. I kid you not. Indirect teaching can be a useful supplement to direct teaching, but it should not be the only method. One should be told how to read, write, and speak well as one attempts to read, write, and speak well. One should not just be told, “Go ahead. Try to read, write, and speak well. You’ll figure it out.” No, you probably won’t, at least not to any great extent.

I used to be a wrestler, and my wrestling coaches didn’t just tell me, “Go ahead. Go out there on the mat and try to wrestle. You’ll figure it out and become a great wrestler,” which is what learning CPGS only through indirect teaching is like. Instead, my coaches taught me wrestling moves and parts of moves, and they had me practice them over and over again. Then they had me go out on the mat and wrestle. That is the type of ELA teaching that I recommend. Teach directly and indirectly mixed together, with the part of the direct instruction often coming before the indirect instruction. In other words, tell students a little about how to read, write, and speak well, and then have the students try to read, write, and speak well. I’ll tell you what, in a match between a wrestler who has had both good direct instruction and good indirect instruction versus a wrestler who has had just good indirect instruction, 99 times out of 100, the former will easily defeat the latter. Likewise, comparing readers, writers, and speakers who have had both good direct instruction and good indirect instruction with readers, writers, and speakers who have only had good indirect instruction, the former will almost always read, write, and speak better than the latter.

CPGS were directly taught to the vast majority of American students for at least a century, and since about 1968 with the rise of much hippie-ish thinking in American academia, they have been directly taught less and less. This is bad for individuals and society as whole, so why doesn’t the modern American public school system frequently teach them directly? Why is it that, in many American public schools, English Language Arts teachers are greatly pressured to NEVER teach CPGS directly? I am currently a public school English Language Arts teacher in the United States, and here is my honest answer. Get ready to be sad and/or angry.

1) Many people, even many ELA teachers and facilitators, are bored by CPGS, In other words. CPGS are supposedly too boring.

I did some research, and the following is the structure of a typical school hierarchy in Texas, which is where I teach. Principals and assistant principals have been omitted from this hierarchy because the focus of this hierarchy is on who decides what will be taught and how. The first mentioned is the most powerful group or person, and the last mentioned is the least powerful group or person: the voters, state legislature and federal government, Texas Education Agency and state board of education, district board of education, superintendent, executive director and/or assistant superintendent, director, facilitators, teachers, teacher aides, students. My understanding is that the national standards (a.k.a. the Common Core) and the Texas standards (a.k.a. the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) are good enough. The problems come when people such as the superintendent, executive director and/or assistant superintendent, director, and facilitators insist that they be implemented in a foolish way. For the sake of convenience, I lump all these these people under the title of facilitators. I define a facilitator as someone with authority over a teacher whose job is to tell teachers how they (the teachers) should teach.

To be fair, the facilitators are also told by their superiors to do stupid things such as lump fast learners and slow learners in the same classroom, and they might not be given adequate funds to educate students properly. Ultimately, I blame the voters for our less than stellar public schools. If they demanded and were willing to pay for excellent public schools, that is what they would get. Instead, too many cooks spoil the broth. In other words, the public school system is trying to satisfy too many people (such as people who do not want to reward and challenge the most advanced students for fear of upsetting the least advanced students, or people who do not want to separate poorly-behaved students from well-behaved students, even though the poorly-behaved students are greatly detracting from the education of the well-behaved students), and in the process the broth of public education satisfies very few people. It certainly does not satisfy the most intelligent, virtuous, and compassionate people–whether students, parents, or teachers.

2) Many people, even some ELA teachers and facilitators, lack the intellectual ability to learn some aspects of CPGS easily. In other words, CPGS are supposedly too difficult.

3) Some misleading studies insist that CPGS should not be taught directly.

4) Maybe the powers that be, such as certain sections of the government and certain influential plutocrats, want to keep the vast majority of Americans stupid so that they can be easily managed and manipulated.

5) Maybe facilitators want to undermine teaching CPGS directly so that they make teaching students how to read, write, and speak English more difficult. That way, they force teachers to rely on them for guidance and, thus, the facilitators get to keep their cushy jobs. For example, it would be easy to use a well-written grammar book to teach English grammar. Take that book away, and teachers have to find another way to teach. Then tell teachers that they can’t even teach grammar directly in any way but must rely on the “expert” guidance of the facilitators, and the facilitators have unwarranted job security.

6) English teachers and facilitators have been hearing, reading, and speaking against directly teaching CPGS for so long that they have been indoctrinated to believe that it is bad.

7) People seem to look cool and smart if they seem to know a better way of teaching than the well-established way, especially when the well-established way is very disliked by many people; and, as was mentioned in Reasons 1 and 2, many people are bored by CPGS and/or find learning CPGS very challenging. These anti-CPGS teachers and facilitators are like dentists who say, “Go ahead, eat all the candy you want, and don’t brush or floss either. The good news is that you can always have a great smile without doing anything unpleasant.” Translation: “Go ahead, forget about capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and spelling. The good news is that you will be smart, articulate, and well-respected without learning those things very well.”

8) Computers will fix our spelling and grammar problems for us. Don’t misunderstand me. Spell Check is great, and Grammar Check is OK. The English language has much illogical and confusing spelling, and Spell Check points out many possible mistakes. I love it! However, Spell Check does not catch homophone mistakes. (A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning, and may differ in spelling.) For instance, Spell Check will not point out that your is the wrong word in the sentence, “Your coming home tonight.” Your without an apostrophe is pronounced the same as you’re with an apostrophe, but has a different meaning. The latter, not the former, is the correct word for that sentence.

Grammar Check is sometimes helpful, but often its suggestions are unnecessary if not plain wrong. As far as I know, no computer program yet made is close to being better at grammar, capitalization, and punctuation than an intelligent, educated human.

Now, let’s talk about Autocorrect. At least in many cases, it is crap. It often makes mistakes that cause the user to seem very stupid or perverted. For example, you might text a friend, writing, “I’m so hungy I could eat a dog,” and Autocorrect might write, “I’m so horny I could eat a dong.” Unlike Spell Check and Grammar Check, Autocorrect does not even give the user a chance to approve or disapprove of the computer program’s suggestions, and it can be very difficult to turn off. I absolutely hate it, and, almost needless to say, an educated human’s language skills are generally far superior to Autocorrect.

Furthermore, even if a computer program exists that always capitalizes, punctuates, does grammar, and spells correctly, one should still know how to do CPGS correctly, because it makes one smart and it helps one master the language thoroughly. A person who has a computer program with perfect Grammar Check but who does not know grammar well is like a person who owns a vast library but has barely read a book: ignorant. It is generally better to have knowledge in one’s brain rather than in one’s computer or books. Moreover, most people still write with pen and paper, at least occasionally, and no Grammar Check that I know of will perfectly highlight handwritten mistakes.

OK, what can I do about this problem of CPGS and American public education? Not much. I have little power to improve the American public school system, and I need to keep my teaching job. I guess that I can tell the world the truth about this problem, at least through this article, and I can directly teach CPGS to an extent behind the facilitators’ backs. In other words, I can sneak in as much direct CPGS instruction as I dare. Not all change is progress, and most of the changes regarding the instruction of CPGS in modern American public schools are regress. I believe that our society is regressing to a noticeably less enlightened level when it comes to reading, writing, and speaking English.

Don’t Elect Fundamentalist Christians

“Don’t Elect Fundamentalist Christians”

August 14, 2015

John David Smith was raised to believe

that the Bible is inerrant.

Either literally or figuratively,

everything it says is true.

Of course, it takes a good preacher

to help people understand those truths,

and John David Smith listened attentively

to every good preacher that he could.

From them he learned that Jesus

will remove all true Christians from Earth

in an event known as the Rapture.

These lucky people will be rewarded in Heaven,

while missing the Tribulation.

Back on Earth,

the Antichrist will come to power

and will make a covenant with Israel for seven years.

This seven-year period will be the Tribulation,

during which there will be

terrible wars, famines, plagues, and natural disasters,

because God

(Who is love)

will be pouring out His wrath against human sin.

About halfway through the Tribulation,

the Antichrist will break the covenant with Israel

and make war against it.

He will even set up an image of himself

to be worshiped in the rebuilt Jerusalem temple.

The Tribulation will end with the Antichrist

launching a final attack on Jerusalem,

which will culminate in the Battle of Armageddon.

Then Jesus will return,

after being absent for thousands of years,

destroy the Antichrist and his armies,

cast them into the Lake of Fire,

and bind Satan for 1,000 years in some abyss.

During that 1,000 years,

Jesus will directly rule Earth,

and life will be very good there.

After that reign of peace,

Satan will be released, defeated again,

and cast permanently into the Lake of Fire.

Then Jesus will resurrect all dead people,

judge everyone,

eternally damn all evil humans and angels,

perfect the universe,

and establish the New Jerusalem as the eternal dwelling place

of all true Christians.

There will be no more sin, sorrow, or death on Earth.

John David Smith was not bothered

when there was trouble in the Middle East;

he was excited

because the Middle East would have to be in great turmoil

before Jesus would came back.

John David Smith was also excited

that Israel was founded again in 1948

because Israel had to exist before Jesus would come back.

And he rejoiced that Israel developed a nuclear bomb in 1966

because nuclear bombs would help make terrible wars.

The constant fighting between the Israelis and the Arabs

was a source of joy too,

because the Tribulation wouldn’t happen

if the Middle East remained peaceful.

Another reason that it was good

that Israel kept stealing land from its Arab neighbors

is that, according to the Bible,

God gave Israel the land

from the Nile River,

which is in modern Egypt,

to the Euphrates River,

which is in modern Iraq.

Thus, for the Bible to be true,

Israel would have to keep growing

until it reached those proportions.

Birth-control was evil because it showed a lack of trust in God,

who provided for all babies

(except for when He didn’t).

Banning birth-control was also good

because it caused overpopulation,

and overpopulation was good

because it caused wars and famines.

Stopping Global Warming—

more accurately called Climate Change—

was not a concern,

because Climate Change would cause drought

and drought would cause wars and famines.

It even seemed like a natural disaster!

Who knows?

Climate Change might cause plagues too.

Thus, Climate Change was like

one-stop End-Times shopping—

a single source for wars, famines, plagues, and natural disasters.

There was no need to worry about such problems.

Once humanity destroyed the Earth,

God would fix it

and make it even better.

John David Smith was elected president of the United States.

Besides hindering birth-control and the fight against Climate Change,

he encouraged Israel to replace

the Dome of the Rock with a new Jewish temple.

President Smith secretly rejoiced that

a billion Muslims angrily wanted revenge

for the destruction of their revered mosque,

because that would probably bring the Tribulation.

Besides, the temple had to exist

to fulfill End-Times prophecy.

To make a long story short,

a terrible war did happen.

Fundamentalist Christians and Fundamentalist Jews

fought against Fundamentalist Muslims

over a tiny desert land.

All cities in Israel were nuked,

along with many other cities around Earth.

A nuclear winter,

followed by a nuclear summer,

killed countless people, animals, and plants.

From a secure underground location,

President Smith surveyed the damage.

He was one of only a few thousand humans to survive.

There, he waited and waited and waited.

John David Smith died of old age,

never understanding why

the Rapture didn’t happen

and Jesus didn’t return.