Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Consequentism and Sin

Consequentialism is the belief that an action or omission is not sinful in and of itself, but can only be considered morally wrong based on its external effects.

Although the term consequentialism is not an everyday one, the philosophy is dangerously common. In fact, in common parlance, this perspective is employed most of the time when decrying the evils of an act. However, our Christian faith makes it impossible for us to logically hold such a point of view.

Examples of the consequentialist belief system are all too common in our world. Here are just a few:

1) Pornography is considered bad by some because of its potential to breed rapists and to cause men to treat women poorly. However, many would contend that without these ill consequences, there is nothing wrong with a man who engages in viewing such material. This is a consequentialist point of view. Pornography is bad in itself, not because of some negative effect it may have. The effects only make it worse. It is bad because it distorts the marital act and turns it into something selfish, when it is meant to be something which is shared between spouses.

2) In-Vitro Fertilization is considered a good thing by many because the consequence is the birth of a child. This is despite the fact that many babies often must die for this one to be born. The evil is overlooked because of a good consequence. But to bring this point even further, even if in-vitro fertilization did not involve the killing of one or several embryos, it would still be evil, because it separates the procreative aspect of the marital act from the unitive one.

3) Gay marriage and children is often debated on the basis of how well the kids are raised in this type of relationship versus a traditional family. It is argued that if the kids end up okay, then same-sex parents should have the same right to raise kids as opposite-sex parents. But once again, this is a form of consequentialism. The same-sex couple is inherently infertile and is at odds with natural marriage which is life-giving. Plus, a parent deserves to be raised by his parents. This is his natural right. By allowing children to be raised with possibly one parent and a same-sex lover, we are denying a child his right to be raised in a life-giving and natural environment.

These are three among thousands of examples of how people employ consequentialism in everyday life. A much stronger argument does not use this faulty logic, but rather relies on objective good and evil.

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