Thursday, August 26, 2010
As many people have noticed, in this world, the wicked frequently prosper while the righteous frequently suffer. For example, Mao and Stalin lived long, successful lives while many people who opposed tyranny met early and painful deaths. Considering this, it would seem clear that, in many cases, virtue is foolish and evil is smart. Crime can indeed pay very well.
That is, unless one believes in an afterlife.
The afterlife means that ultimately, justice will prevail. Virtue is always the smart choice and evil is always foolish. Whether in heaven, hell or some future incarnation, all accounts will be balanced out and good will triumph. Judaism firmly believes in such ultimate divine justice.
Of course, like any concept, the idea of an afterlife can be misused. Evil leaders can promise their followers a reward in the afterlife if they will do evil. However if one believes in a loving God who wishes us to help others and who will punish destructive behavior, then the belief in the afterlife is a powerful incentive to be a kind, patient and generous person.
The atheist, however, has no such incentive and on the contrary will quickly learn that dishonesty, selfishness and violence are often rewarded and, unless he simply has a very good natural temperament, he will behave accordingly. Atheism not only permits vice, a really virtuous atheist is simply a fool. His behavior contradicts his beliefs.
A belief in positive moral principles and an in an afterlife, where virtue is rewarded and evil punished, are the foundations of a successful society.
The decline which American society is now experiencing has been brought about by a lack in this belief. The traditional Protestant work ethic, the belief that diligent work is a sign of grace, has now been almost completely replaced by the ethic of the 1960s counterculture: "tune in, turn on, and drop out".
Posted by jewish philosopher at 2:54 AM