I just had a free session with Daniel Mullin, my philosophical councellor. This was thanks to nobody else showing up for his test run of the online socratic café. This free session inspired me to write this post, since we spoke about ethics and morality.
I have been trying to reconcile my christian morals with being an atheist for a long time. It’s not easy, believe me. Jesus Christ, no matter if he really is the son of God, had some very good ideas of how people should be to each other: compassionate instead of judgmental, focus on helping instead of punishing. Sure, punishment is necessary to control crime, but that is the job of the authorities. But without compassion and help, punishment can become meaningless. I’ve never been formally punished by the law, and I hope I never will be. I can only imagine the horrors of the penal system, and how dehumanizing it is. Dehumanization cannot be the goal of the penal system; after all, prisons are called correctional facilities nowadays. The people who are sent up the river are already broken, and attempting to break them even more will not enable them to rehabilitate, to be reintroduced into society in a meaningful way. Instead, their suffering is normality. They don’t even perceive it as such any more, similar to a spouse to a violent person, who, instead of trying to improve their situation by leaving, finds new justifications in their own behaviour for their spouses arbitrary violence. It is also a reason why I find the three strike rule pretty much nonsensical. If there’s nothing out there to live for, why should they mind a life in prison? I’m not saying we should go around pardoning murderers, I am saying we are cultivating them with the overly cruel penal system. Are there solutions to this? I do hope so. I hear the Anonymous Alcoholics method is very effective, not only for alcoholics, but for anyone trying to fight the urges of addiction. I’m not saying being a criminal is necessarily an addiction, but just being able to talk to an understanding audience about the struggles of walking the straight and narrow would make for excellent moral support.