Today, black tea in the hopes of waking up enough to finish packing before the movers get here.
There are people who will do the right thing even when there is no extrinsic reason for them to do so. To some people this sounds obvious – to others it comes as a surprise.
It came to me as a surprise. I was raised to believe that people only acted based on extrinsic motivation. That was why you shouldn’t trust people who weren’t Christians. Without “love for God” pulling them and fear of hell burning behind them, they’d rape, lie, cheat, and steal whenever no one was looking. After all, we are all born with a fallen sin nature which is totally and completely corrupt and we would all do every possible thing wrong if we had not been saved by the grace of God and had our sin nature replaced by God’s grace.
It came as a surprise to me when people who didn’t believe in God or hell could have hurt me and gotten away with it, but didn’t. It came as a surprise to me when I experienced random acts of altruism from atheists. And that was how I learned the very important fact that some people don’t need the carrot and the stick to do the right thing, or go beyond it.
And at that point, this aspect of some religious teaching began to bother me. I don’t see the ethics of convincing twelve year old girls that they would be sleeping around, taking drugs irresponsibly, and shoplifting if they had not, by God’s grace, been a part of that church. It certainly isn’t true and it doesn’t give them an accurate and useful understanding of themselves and others.
I also have a problem with the presentation of the carrot and the stick. Perhaps in some religious systems, the carrot and stick kick in only for those psychopathic personalities that need it in order to behave at all ethically. But when you terrify normal, decent people into stopping to trust their instincts towards ethical action (because “the heart is deceitful and wicked above all things – who can know it?” – all our natural inclinations are towards ‘evil’) and replace their natural moral compass with the carrot and stick, you create a situation where a person can be ethically manipulated by moving the carrot and the stick.
When you have people who can be ethically manipulated by moving the carrot and the stick, you get carrot and stick holders (priests, respected ethical teachers, etc) overriding natural ethical boundaries with what God ‘really’ wants.
So you’ve taken psychically normal individuals (those born without psychopathology), people who have an internal moral compass, and gotten them to act like psychopaths, that is, to base action on extrinsic rewards. Only 4% of American are psychopaths, but far more than 4% act based on extrinsic rewards (being heaven and hell). Some people who have full capacity for internally guided ethical action are instead lying, deceiving, even killing (terrorism) because of carrot and stick manipulation.
Many people think carrot and stick motivation is good – but it’s only when they get to say where the carrot and stick get placed. Problem is, once you detach someone from their moral compass and attach them to the carrot and the stick, you don’t necessarily get to decide how the carrot and stick are used on them. You’ve just made them easy to control, and what happens when they aren’t controlled by you?