HOME   People do good because they are human, not because they are religious! 

Do not give God any credit for the good they do, they did it!

 

CONSCIENCE and FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE

The conscience is what tells you what you think is right and wrong.   It is not a authoritive faculty - an ability which authorises me to act.  It is a judgment made by our thinking minds about the goodness or otherwise of deeds we have done, are doing, or are thinking of doing.  Conscience does not authorise you to do anything - it tells you the moral worth or otherwise of your act.  You can feel something is wrong when it is not. So going against your feelings does not make you a violator of your moral conscience. Only doing what you see as wrong can do that.


Most people believe in freedom of conscience though in practice they force their beliefs on others.

Religion, for example, forbids homosexuals to love one another sexually or romantically. The Law of Moses sentenced homosexuals to death. There was no concern for freedom of conscience.

Central to the debate about how far society and the law should go in respecting a religious conscience, a clear distinction is made between religious belief and religious action. We think what we think and our thoughts and beliefs are private. They are not the province of legislators or police. It is generally agreed that it should not be illegal to believe in religious extremism. It is generally agreed that if a person acts on that belief so as to infringe on the rights and freedoms of others that should be illegal.

You cannot let everybody follow their conscience. Social order would fall apart and everybody would be put in danger from those with erroneous or distorted consciences. People would take advantage if we were too liberal in respecting consciences. The consciences of the rich and powerful would end up coming first. The result would be people with bad consciences forcing their will on good people by abusing those people in the name of conscience. For example, the murderer may be forcing his conscience that bids him to kill on the innocent victim. So, you cannot respect every conscience but have to prefer the rights of the person with the informed conscience to one with an evil and traitorous conscience.

The rights of most consciences come before those of the minority when it is one or the other. This principle of the conscience of the majority coming first, though true, is impossible in practice for many of the same reasons that Utilitarianism, the doctrine that bringing about the greatest happiness of the greatest number is what is moral,  is impractical. For example, it means you have to take it for granted that most people are telling the truth about what their conscience says and that is impossible to know. Most people are afraid to express what their consciences tell them is right.

The conscience rights of those who know what right and wrong are, are to come first. They are to be given chief consideration even if they are in a minority – otherwise you cannot impede murderers and rapists. Religion puts a wall in the way for few can give you rational reasons for having the moral codes they have thanks to it and the ethical system. Religious domination of others is plainly seen then to be based on irrational malevolence and bigotry. It likes to dress evil up as good.

Religion puts God’s perception of right and wrong before anybody else’s for it says God alone is wise and deserves to be treated as the only important being. Any other wisdom comes from him and human beings are weak and fallible. And all that coming from religion when it cannot prove that there is a God! The evidence for our existence and that of other people is stronger meaning God should not come first – ever. The doctrine of Jesus that God must be loved and others loved only for his sake and not their own plainly proves that he intended each sect of Christianity that would appear, to strive for absolute power. And power over every detail of life for to allow some sin to go unpunished is to encourage it, which is against the conscience of God. It proves that that is their secret agenda. It has to be secret for they wouldn’t dare confess it. They do realise that they are after total domination for they say that right consciences, meaning consciences that agree with them, must prevail. They say that God’s wishes come before their own so they admit that domination is thought to be right.

The position of humanism is that the right consciences must prevail and education in ethics and the rationale is a must but since we are secular and the law is to uphold public order and not religion we pose no threat to religious freedom but allow as much of it as possible. We do not have to rule everybody in all things to avoid the encouragement to evildoing that derives from legal inaction. We will not have the consequences of our liberalism on our consciences because we are putting humanity first and not God and that is only right.

Conscience is really about making a decision for thinking of others or only yourself. But if religion is wrong to condemn self-centredness or if genuine self-sacrifice is an impossibility then it follows that all it is good for is making conscience hypocritical.

True self-love means that you honour yourself by doing good for others. If you sit around worrying about your problems that is called selfish. But how hurting yourself and wasting your energy could be called selfish is a mystery. If you help others then that is far more self-centred. This is not sacrificing yourself for others. You regard yourself as good for other people meaning you love yourself. You are allowing the good to flow out of you. This is you honouring yourself.

If you help others and do without for yourself, you want to do it under the circumstances. There is always some enjoyment in doing what you want to do. There is enjoyment in doing it. If you feel awful that is caused by a separate faculty – your emotions. The point is, we are programmed to be self-centred and our actions for others can never prove otherwise.

We are encouraged by the religious conscience to think that people put helping others before the enjoyment of doing their will to help. If you ignore that fact then does that say? It says you want to pretend people are not self-centred and you see them as bad and won't admit it!

If you do what you understand as a grave wrong against God and other people then you make yourself a bad person in your heart and will. If you do right or good while intending it to be wrong you are bad.

If you do what you do because it will possibly do good then in so far as you don’t know you cannot really intend to do good.

When you forgive, you accept the other person in spite of what they have done. When you forgive yourself, you accept yourself as good despite the evil that you have done. Forgiving means trying to stop the evil from continuing so you can’t forgive somebody who would do it again and that somebody includes yourself! Forgiving then has to be against your conscience - you do not forgive because you or the other person will not do it again. You can only guess that you or they will not. You forgive not because of you or them but because of a guess you have made.

The person who does evil wilfully without knowing it is evil is worse than the person who does evil intentionally. Surely it is absurd to say that the person who takes a donkey while believing that it is not stealing is worse than the person who murders someone and who knows it is wrong? The difference is that if you don't know your action is bad, you could do grave damage. If you know, at least you are in control of your evil.

The Church agreeing with freedom of conscience does not mean you have to let people always follow their conscience (the conscience of people who believe in murder is not respected) – just as agreeing with people having knives does not mean you have to let them do as they please with them. Catholics these days mostly say they follow their own conscience instead of listening to the Church teaching on sexual morality and some other issues. But if you are a Catholic you have to believe not that conscience decides but that conscience must seek out what God has laid down and let God decide what it should see as right and wrong (page 5, Does Conscience Decide?, William J Philbin, Catholic Truth Society of Ireland). In other words, you don’t reject the prohibition on contraception just because you see that the ban is harmful but you have to see that God can command what is harmful for a long term good so that may make you accept the prohibition. 
 
Conscience tries to tell you what is right and wrong. It can deceive. Roman Catholics hold that those who see nothing wrong with using birth control are fooled by their conscience. Another example is how people may do wrong and have no sense of having done wrong.
 
Conscience can be wrong. That does not mean it is wrong all the time. But it does mean it might or may be wrong all the time. Thus if you turn your heart to evil and defiance of God when you commit a mortal sin, then it follows that you cannot be 100% sure it really is wrong or that you intend it to be. Thus mortal sin is an oxymoron for mortal sin implies you fully know what you are doing but conscience prevents you fully knowing it. And you cannot sin unless you violate your conscience. It also follows that it is only me who should judge for it is all very personal. God has no right to judge. It does me no good if God judges me if I do not see for myself that he is right. In other words, a God who judges me instead of helping me to judge me is evil. In earthly life, there is no real justice because we force a judgement of criminality of people not caring how they see themselves. It cannot help them see the truth. If they do they do it in spite of it. It is not about helping. It is not about helping them to learn. Even if retribution - paying back evil for having done evil or giving a person the evil they have earned simply because they have earned it - is lawful it is only lawful if the person at some level knows it is his just desert. That is why you cannot punish a person who has just become seriously brain-damaged for murder.
 
Conscience for the believer in God is seen as the voice of God and it determines our view of God. For example, God is perfect. If you believe nearly everybody is evil and godless and such deserve to be tormented in Hell forever then you will see the perfect God as being one of strict retribution. If you believe in mercy, your picture of God will be merciful and forgiving. Talk about God though meant to be about a being is really about yourself. God is a projection based on what you want to be right and what you want to be wrong. You cannot sin against God for the only God you put before your eyes is your mirror image.

Conscience Clauses

Conscience is something that religion bangs on about to get special privileges and unfair benefits under the law.

An example is if the Queen of England refused to sign abortion into law on the basis that it contravened her Christian conscience. Elizabeth II signed in Britain's liberal abortion legislation despite claiming to be a devout Christian. It is true that the Queen can only delay laws she disagrees with but she cannot stop them but a real Christian would resign first. She got no conscience clause so why should anybody else?

The Roman Catholic Church says that doctors must never perform an abortion. They cannot even delegate other doctors who have no conscientious objections to abortion to do it for them. That is a sin too. This an alarming interference by the Church in the medical profession and shows how it is willing to force pregnancy on women.
 
Courts that argue that the Catholic Church funds its own hospitals and so should not be forced to provide abortion or birth-control insist that this can only be allowed if the hospital can send anybody who needs those services elsewhere. But even that is a violation of the Catholic conscience. The Church herself violates the conscience of those who have no problem with abortion or birth-control and see them as virtuous at least under certain circumstances. It may be that the Catholics running the hospital have a shift in opinion and do not deeply oppose abortion or birth-control or at least keep changing their minds and feelings about them. You cannot make laws based on conscience when you cannot prove that what a person says is their conscience really is their conscience.

Religion argues for freedom of conscience in order to force the law not to force it to say let gay orgies be organised in the Church hall or force it to perform gay marriage. The difficulty in that is, we all have to do things we consider bad. If you are an employee, you may consider it wrong that you have to part with your much needed money for a pension fund. We all have to compromise.

In the USA, employers may get a conscience clause that allows them to refuse to fund birth control for their employees if it offends their religious principles. But clearly this suggests that you must consider the boss's feelings in something that is none of her or his business.

The problem with conscience clauses that they set off an insidious and slow process to sidestep laws that seek to confer equality. An example is how in the name of freedom of speech, a religion can promote bloodthirsty scriptures as God's truth while anybody else publishing hate and violence like that in the name of God will be arrested. Another example is how you can be arrested for neglecting somebody but it is okay for a health professional to neglect to help a woman who needs the morning after pill after being raped. The professional's profession of religion is put before her well-being and her conscience.

Here are examples of people who demand conscience clauses from the law.

Hotels that oppose same sex relationships.

Bakers who will not make cakes for same sex couples who are marrying.

Counsellors who will not tell AIDS patients about using clean needles and condoms. They are more worried about their own conscience rights than the conscience of the society they belong to and the organisation than employs them.

Foster care agencies who refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

In America, some Catholic universities demand exemption from regulation under the Wager Act.

Giving conscience rights to religions and corporations will lead to the consciences of the individual members being sacrificed.

Conscience clauses award more respect to some consciences than others. Many religious people want special treatment. Mormons were never allowed to discriminate against blacks though their religion endorsed discrimination. So why should there be conscience clauses so that Catholic nurses can refuse the morning after pill to a desperate 12 year old girl who has been raped?

It is a strange kind of conscience clause that discriminates against one religion and not another? Why is discrimination not a matter for conscience then?

A Mormon believes that if he does wrong he will not go to Hell forever. The Catholic believes that if she commits certain sins - such as missing Mass on Sunday or facilitating contraception - she will go to Hell for it. Since you can't please everybody, are we to start putting the Catholic's conscience before the Mormon's? After all hers is more severe. She doesn't worry only about the "wrong" of missing Mass or facilitating contraception but also the infinite wrong of choosing everlasting hate for God and everybody else in Hell. Clearly if there should be clauses for consciences and you cannot please everybody then she is the one that should be given the conscience clause more than the Mormon in principle. If the Mormon health professional and the Catholic health professional both oppose contraception, then clearly if a conscience clause is set up so that they don't have to facilitate contraception then it is set up more for the Catholic's sake than the Mormon's. The conscience clause makes a slippery slope essential.

And some people get a buzz from getting special treatment. Are some of them using conscience as an excuse for getting their own way? Maybe the Catholic who won't pay for his employees to get contraception under healthcare laws is only pretending that he thinks contraception is wrong. Maybe he just hates women!

Doctors may be allowed to refrain from giving a desperate woman the morning after pill but they are not allowed to tell her lies to make her believe it is sinful and wrong to use the pill. They are not allowed to give her Bible texts or papal letters to convince her that taking the morning after pill is gravely sinful. The conscience clause then has limits. The Christian conscience that decrees that God's truth must be presented to all is trampled upon. The conscience clause is fundamentally incoherent.

Conscience clauses do not respect the conscience of the client or patient and others. For example, a doctor who rejects the morality of abortion will claim the right not to refer a patient to a doctor who will consider abortion as an option. She or he will claim that right even if the patient may die if the pregnancy continues.

Conscience clauses should not be created unless checks are made to make sure the persons claiming rights for their conscience verify that they have researched carefully in the process of forming their conscience. It would be a problem if the law considered the rights of a conscience that might not be there at all. You cannot risk a woman being refused the morning after pill by a professional who claims to be following their conscience when their true motive is just religious bigotry.

 

Conscience clauses are not the great respecter of religious freedom that they pretend to be.

Those who avail of them get away with it by claiming they are sorry they have to obey their conscience. If abortion is murder, how could a doctor really be sorry if he will not refer his patient to an abortion clinic? If sex between males is an abomination, how could the relationship counsellor tell a gay couple she is sorry he cannot accept them as clients? If you are doing the right then you cannot regret it and you cannot say you wished your conscience would let you do differently. The compassion and the sorries are just sheer manipulation and hypocrisy. If you are sorry for following your conscience then you should not get any conscience clauses. Conscience by definition is the feeling that some deed is morally wrong and intolerable.

The faithful believer has no problem approving and supporting a hypocritical religious and political system that tells lawyers who know they are defending evil monsters and trying to get them off the hook to condone the evil and tell themselves that the monsters are good people. After all, a good lawyer has to believe his or her own lies to be convincing and to convince others. Christianity does not really believe in freedom of conscience and virtue except when it suits its prejudices. A good lawyer aims to have witnesses under oath trip up so that it looks like they lied under oath. He does not care if they really did but just cares that it looks like they did. Also, he will take on the case when he feels that the accused has a reasonable chance of talking her or his way out of trouble.

Conscience clauses imply that choices come first. But what about the choices of others? If choice comes first then goodness or what is best for the person does not.

 

It is a pity that people won't leave their religions and stop having tax-payers' money and politicians' time taken up over the problems they cause by being part of a religion. It costs money and lives. The process of giving doctors the right to refuse to help a raped 12 year old who needs the morning after pill and giving them the right to refuse to refer her to a doctor who will help is costly and that money would be better in a hospital fund.

 
Let us think about conscientious objections on religious grounds.

 

The Christian Church in its Catholic and Protestant forms has ensured that in wartime, if you are an atheist, your conscientious objection does not matter and you will be conscripted. This poisonous and murderous decree is replicated in most countries of a Christian background. In the United States, the following definition of conscientious objection applied: "A firm, fixed, and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and/or belief." It is up up to the state to decide if a person is really sincere in their faith. And how do you prove a person really is firmly anti-war unless they have got chance after chance to fight but refused? So it is biased in favour of religious doctrine in that way. And there is no concern if your objection is ethical and not religious. It discriminates even against religious people if they do not base their objection on religious grounds but on ethical or humanitarian ones. The implication of the definition is that unless you go to Church regularly your objection to war means nothing and you must be compelled to fight. In fact ethical objections to fighting should be what matter in a secular state not religious ones. And it would mean that anybody could form a religion of one or two people to get out of fighting for a worthy cause.
 
Conscientious objections on religious grounds must not be encouraged but they must be merely tolerated - in serious matters. For example, doctors should not be forced to perform abortions unless they are very early abortions. Pharmacists must not be permitted to conscientiously object to dispensing abortion pills or the contraceptive pill. Registrars must not be allowed to opt out of performing gay marriages. Gay marriage is not a serious enough matter even if it is wrong.

Finally:

Conscience is said to be about working out the right thing to do in moral terms.  But in practice it is treated as God or as an authority - a bad act is thought to be made right or excusable if conscience says to go and do it. The worship of God is a sham - the conscience is the real God.  That is why people of conscience do terrible things.

 

The law can only respect conscience if it is a very serious matter. For example, if you feel you cannot fight in the war for it is wrong you should be allowed to refuse to serve. But if you perform weddings you cannot have the right to refuse to marry a couple who were previously married to others who are still alive but whom they divorced. Officiating at the wedding is not a serious enough violation of your conscience. The following is hypothetical. If legal exemptions are to be allowed to conscientious objectors, the law needs to be sure that it has evidence that it really is about conscience. You can only prove it is a matter of conscience by showing how strong your belief that the act is wrong is and it is your actions that best demonstrate that! Saying you believe something is wrong is not enough. You cannot open the floodgates to those who say, "I have the right to lock people out of the hall for I regard the scheduled boxing match as sinful. Boxing is a sin." You cannot please everybody's conscientious demands for they are all different and some only want the drama.