I read a blog somewhere criticizing the doctrine of “universalism” for supposedly insisting that no one will go to hell forever. The author then went on to basically say why read the bible or do good etc without the threat of hell. I responded with what became a bit of an impassioned mini-speech about the nature of morality:
If you do what you believe is the right thing because you think you will be punished if you do not, you’re going about it the wrong way.
Yes, as children we do chores and behave and eat our vegetables because we don’t want to get in trouble, but at some point we grow up and do these things not out of fear of punishment or hope of a pat on the head – we do these things for the reasons our parents told us to in the first place.
Even if there is a god, rape isn’t wrong because he decided it is, any more than eating ice cream all day is wrong because your parents decreed it so. It’s wrong because of what it actually is, and what the consequences are. Punishments and rewards are there only to make up for the times when people fail to do what they should do anyway.
And before law and order and prison and forensics and fingerprints and security cameras and all the ways we detect and punish the wicked in this life, people tried desperately to get people who wouldn’t otherwise be good to do the right thing by promising a reward or punishment in another life. But I’ve found the best christians are not the ones that are bucking for a heavenly promotion, but the ones that would do the right thing even if they thought they might go to hell for it. I mean jesus did what was, according to your religion, the right things to do knowing the punishment would be a gruesome execution. Morality isn’t looking for the angle or following an incentive or shrinking from a punishment. It’s about doing the right thing no matter what will happen to you, because someone or something outside of yourself matters a little bit more to you than your own skin.
This is why we honor brave soldiers, not because they were following orders or forced into complying with their government, we honor those that go above and beyond the call of duty, who do more than what is by force required of them. So do the right thing and literally damn the consequences. Because I’d rather go to some god’s hell for doing what I think is right than live in paradise for “just following orders”.
That, to me, is morality.