Sunday, January 27, 2013

Should you be held accountable for actions you don't understand?

This week my reading included Revelation 13 in which the entire world worshiped the beast which represented Satan. A quote from the Christian commentary really caught my eye:
As people worship this beast and bow down before his government, it may be that they do not know they are bowing down to Satan himself; but it is worship of Satan none the less. 
It got me wondering about justice and if it is really fair to judge these people if they are unknowingly worshiping Satan. I look at the situation here and I think it is pretty clear that these people aren't really at fault. They are up against an incredibly powerful being, which they are worshiping because they feel they have little choice, and as the Christian puts it, they aren't really even aware of who they are following. And yet it would seem that they deserve punishment, as they are indeed worshiping Satan, even if they don't know it.

This is a theme that has come up in the bible at least a few times, but as far as I can think of, the best other example is Adam and Eve with the fruit in the garden of Eden. They are punished for eating the fruit, which granted them knowledge of good and evil. Of course this means when they were committing the sin, they didn't understand that it was bad, they had no knowledge of evil. So it is really unfair for them to be punished for it.

This idea permeates Christianity, I can definitely remember being afraid of accidentally sinning. "What if I break some rule I don't know about and wind up going to hell?" I'm sure I wasn't told that this could happen explicitly, but I was clearly picking up on the attitudes of those around me, as the quote above demonstrates. The message is that if you break a rule you deserve punishment, regardless of how well you understood what you were doing.

Luckily, this is not the way we handle things in court system. I remember a court case from years ago where one child killed another doing some kind of pro-wrestling style maneuver. Obviously the child didn't get tried for murder, he had no idea that his actions would lead to the death of the other kid, they were just playing around. Would it make sense for that child to spend almost his entire life in prison? I hope you would agree with me in saying no.

I think I'll end this post with wise words from Marcy Darcy "If you give a gun to a chimp and it shoots someone, you don't blame the chimp"


  1. I think you bring up a great point with Adam and Eve. I also wonder, as many others have, is why does Satan get the bad rap? God knew what he was doing when he created an angel that would battle with him and then create an evil underworld and tempt mankind. Who is the evil one here? Satan was actually offering knowledge. God didn't.

    1. It's very interesting that Satan gets all the blame in that story. Since it is all according to God's plan he should at least share in the blame, if not be held accountable moreso.

  2. From Adam and Eve, to curses continuing through the "seventh generation", to Revelations 13, the Bible is full of God punishing people who either did nothing wrong or didn't understand what they were doing. How can Christians consider God compassionate and just when he punishes people who didn't know they were doing anything wrong?

    1. Yeah, it is definitely puzzling. I think they usually justify it by saying that deep down, people knew that it was wrong. It's that whole "God's morality is stamped on your heart" thing. This is of course, complete nonsense when the person is unaware of the consequences of their actions, especially when they are being tricked. This applies any time there is mention of false prophets, or when God tricks people directly as in 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12


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