Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Small Sins"

I now turn to milder ways of not offending the devil. Nephi has given us the pattern or formula by which Satan operates:

“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

“And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.”

C. S. Lewis gave us a keen insight into devilish tactics. In a fictional letter, the master devil, Screwtape, instructs the apprentice devil Wormwood, who is in training to become a more experienced devil:

“You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. … It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. … Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Society’s oft-labeled “sin laws” exist to counterattack Satan’s so-called small sins of gambling, alcohol use, and drug consumption. Some who wish to appear broad-minded say, under the guise of not imposing religious belief, “I don’t drink or gamble, but I don’t think we ought to have any laws to control others who wish to.” This completely ignores the health and social costs to society of the vices. They foolishly argue that laws cannot control human behavior. My long legal career has led me to conclude that all criminal laws have a moral basis.

Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil
President James E. Faust
Second Counselor in the First Presidency


Charles D said...

I would agree that most, if not all, criminal laws have a moral rationale, which is not to say a moral basis. Morality has evolved over time and the criminal statutes have evolved with it. One has only to go back a few decades to find criminal laws that we now find morally offensive.

The reason is that morality in a free and democratic nation has nothing whatever to do with one religion's presumption of a "devil" or it's list of "sins". Introducing either concept into the legal system of a free nation is counter-productive, divisive, and intellectually bankrupt.

To deal with your specific points, gambling is not particularly problematic if the gambler has plenty of money to spend or is able to limit herself to an amount acceptable to the family budget. The problem is that many cannot. For government to sponsor forms of gambling that are attractive almost exclusively to poorer, less educated people as a way to reduce taxes on wealthier people - that is immoral.

In a free society the judgment about whether an activity should be proscribed rests on whether it causes damage to innocent others, not on whether some religious groups think it is a "sin".

Our society experiences very high health and social costs from smoking, automobiles, handguns, and rampant militarism, but we don't act to ban any of these activities. Why not?

Cameron said...

I think we agree that most if not all laws are based on some sort of moral framework. We might also agree that the morality of the people that comprise this nation has changed over time- sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. That is the strength and weakness of our democracy.

When most people choose the right, then right will prevail. However, the inverse is also true. Such is the case with your list of immoral actions/sins. In the case where the people have recognized a danger, they are heavily regulated. This is true for automobiles, guns, gambling, etc. Smoking has seen its share of persecution, but unfortunately has not been banned completely.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, both these debates are have been beaten to the ground over and over and over...
Yet the same conclusion, for both, still remains:

There is no scientific proof that yet that proves the fetus is born an actual being or with a spirit/personality/soul. Even religions, such as the Mormon one, treat abortion as a forgiveable sin...not as an unforgiveable one such as murder, which puts the two in completely different categories.

The down side to abortion is that it keeps people from the responsibility of their actions. But on the up side, it keeps women who DON'T want to be mothers from raising unwanted children.

Having children is a huge price to pay for a bit of fooling around. Having kids when one is unfit and unwilling makes even less sense than this.

The world is not black and white. What should be considered when contemplating you're stance on abortion is the individual person and individual circumstance. Why are we so anxious to define our thoughts by absolutes? Is it because it takes more effort to take each story into consideration? Do we feel safer with a definate yes or no?
Well, my vote is for maybe so...