A Ethical Question: Sacrifice or Not?

This question is for my Religious and Spiritual friends. Think hard about this and try to look at the big picture as well as the small.

Let us hypothesize that a very wealthy man promises to donate millions, perhaps billions, to an organization of your choosing. This can be a church, a community, a charity, research institute searching for a cure, anything you like. But there is a catch. You have to sacrifice. You must forsake your faith. You must damn your belief in a God.

What would you do? Would you damn yourself for the good of the many? Would you shut yourself out from God if it potentially could save thousands? And to complete this ethical problem, we must believe and accept that there can be no redemption. This must be a complete sacrifice.

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12 Responses

  1. One can never lie in that way or forsake your faith, even if it brings about some good result. It is the same reason we should not torture or kill innocent people even in light of a good end. You might be interested in: http://speciouspedestrian.blogspot.com/2011/11/on-lying.html. The simple answer to the “bigger” picture as how to help these people is that there are always thousands of other ways to help the poor, none of which involve perjuring yourself or apostasy. One never furthers the Kingdom by withdrawing from sanctifying grace.

  2. How does one damn their beleif in God? I mean at times, I say I wish I didn’t give a shit about x, but I do still give a shit.

  3. Paul says yes: Rom. 9:3

  4. bobcargill,

    I don’t think Rom. 9:3 clearly affirms your interpretation; there are many interpretations of this, but no interpreter thinks this means accepting eternal perdition. To quote one gloss that gives an overview of the interpretations:
    “The sense of this place is differently expounded. Tolet, by the word I wished, or I did wish, thinks that S. Paul might speak of the time before his conversion, when out of a false zeal, he wished to be separated from Christ, and from all Christians: and that he brings this to shew his brethren how zealous he had been for their religion. But this wish of S. Paul is generally expounded as proceeding from the great love and charity he had, when he was an apostle, for the conversion and salvation of his brethren, the Jews, who mostly remained obstinate and incredulous: and some will have it to be no more than a hyperbolical expression of his great love and affection for them. Others, with S. Jerom, ep. ad Algasiam, tom. iv. p. 203. Ed. Ben. think that by this way of speaking, S. Paul signifies himself willing to be sacrificed, by undergoing any death for their conversion: but S. Chrys. (hom. xvi.) thinks this far short of the sublime charity of S. Paul; for by such a death, says he, he would not be separated from Christ, but would be a great gainer by it; since by that means he would soon be free from all the troubles and sufferings of a miserable life, and blessed with the company and enjoyment of Christ in the kingdom of his glory. He, and many others, think that S. Paul was so troubled and grieved to the heart at the obstinacy of the unbelieving Jews, at their blasphemies against Christ, and their eternal perdition, that an extraordinary charity and zeal for God’s honour, and their salvation, made him wish even to endure a separation from Christ, and from the glory prepared for him in heaven, though not from the love, or from the grace of Christ. If this, says S. Chrys. seems incredible to us, it is because we are far from such heroic dispositions of the love of God, and of our neighbours. Wi. — The apostle’s concern and love for his countrymen, the Jews, was so great, that he was willing even to suffer an anathema, or curse, for their sake; or any evil that could come upon him, without his offending God.”
    St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, also makes a similar point. St. Paul cannot be speaking contrary to the order of charity, by which we must love God and obey Him above all else – otherwise, one is disobeying Jn 15:15. He interprets this separation, then, as one of two things: first, to be separated from Christ by remaining in the state of sin and sorrow that persists on earth; second, one could see St. Paul desiring something like Phil. 1:23, where he desires to remain in the flesh rather than go into the glory of heaven.

  5. (It’s an issue in Mahayana Buddhism as well.)

    This is the big question: would you sacrifice your life (and afterlife) for the salvation of others?

    The Apostle Paul suggests that he would (Rom. 9:3), but it does come down to what the believer wants in return. Would you sacrifice heaven to keep others out of hell? Obviously the Xn tradition says that Jesus dis, but he has the benefit of magically overcoming death (and the Harrowing of Hell according to the creeds).

    Now, most will say, “Thankfully, that’s not an option,” but it’s essentially a cop-out. I would guess that most people would say no, they wouldn’t, because most people are still in it for themselves.

    (Ironically, it would be grand if that was the test for true salvation: willing to forfeit heaven for others. But alas…)

  6. Bob, I like your commentary here. I believe you’re right on the button with it. I would like to think that people would not be so selfish about it. The truth is that many people will come up with any way possible to ignore this option or find a loophole around it, which is unfortunate.

  7. My answer would be no.

    But, this depends on exactly what is entailed by saying that “You must forsake your faith. You must damn your belief in a God”.

    I am assuming that this entails the concomitant idea (in traditional Christianity) that you would then suffer eternal conscious punishment in hell.

    I generally approach hypothetical ethical questions from a utilitarian perspective of the greater good, and in this case I don’t see how relieving the temporal finite sufferings of a person (or even a million people) justifies the infinite punishment of one person in hell for eternity.

    Would I be willing to jump in front of a bullet for someone knowing that it would kill me. Yes. Would I be willing to suffer eternal punishment to bring some sort of finite and temporal good to the world. No.

  8. Well, from a Christian standpoint, if you bring people ‘into the fold’ then you are in effect saving hundreds, potentially thousands, of eternal souls.

  9. I think at this point it devolves into too much speculation as to whether this wealthy man’s money is going to actually have an overall positive or negative effect regarding whether people spend an eternity in hell or not.

    BTW, I do not believe in the traditional Christian perspective of hell (i.e. where people undergo eternal conscious punishment in a lake of fire). I only brought that up because of the Christian context I saw in the original post and the comments following.

    I think the comment by Michael Wilson raises a more pertinent question regarding this ethical dilemma: if I was thrust into this situation, would it even be possible for me to actually forsake my faith? I don’t see how a wealthy man offering to spend billions of dollars could actually make me reject my belief in a God. Its like asking the same question except substituting

    “But there is a catch … You must forsake your faith [in God]”

    with

    “But there is a catch … You must forsake your faith that 2+2 equals 4.”

    or

    “But there is a catch … You must forsake your belief in democratic ideology.”

    What I mean is, I don’t think a wealthy man offering to spend a lot of money can actually make people forsake a belief which really can’t be bought for money.

  10. I do love hypothetical ethical questions though! Really makes you realize that one’s (religious) beliefs can not always be so readily and easily applied to life.

  11. It’s irrelevant of the hypothetical ethical scenario, is it not? According to my presentation, one must assume that it is possible to damn oneself. Remember, this is an ethical question. Don’t shift goal posts. ;-)

  12. Ok, my bad, was not trying to intentionally shift goal posts.

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