Author Topic: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond  (Read 14065 times)

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Offline Boots

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Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« on: July 13, 2012, 11:46:36 AM »
This is a serious question to anyone who believes in any kind of religion in which there is a god/gods who grants some form of reward for "good behavior."  It is also intended for those whose religion also espouses punishment for "bad/sinful behavior," but that part isn't even necessary.

How is a reward (/punishment) system supposed to teach you morality?

I'm not talking about "doing what you're supposed to do." That's not morality, that's following orders.  I'm talking about doing what is right/avoiding what is wrong because it's right/wrong, regardless of who's watching.

Take this hypothetical.  You have two children, identical in every way except one (wait for it).  Both behave in a manner that any reasonable person would call "good."  They tell the truth, show respect to their elders, share, all that good stuff.  Here is the difference.  Jamie behaves this way because he knows if he does, he'll be rewarded and if he does not, he'll be punnished.  Johnny behaves this way because it's the right way to behave.

Who is more "good," Jamie or Johnny?

I put it to theists who believe in a rewarding(/punnishing) god that it is literally impossible for you to be truly "moral."  You simply cannot get away from the fact that your god can always see you, has a perfect memory, and keeps track of your transgressions and successes.  No matter how good it feels to do the right thing, no matter how quietly you do the right thing so that "the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing," you simply can never escape the fact that the "Most Important Being" will always know about it, and will always reward(/punnish) you for it.  This is not morality, this is behavior modification at best, coersion at worst.

Those of us who eschew the belief in invisible sky daddys are free to behave in a way that, we hope, is for the betterment of ourselves, our families, our species, and our planet.  We can do so without fear of eternal reprisal for possible screw-ups; we can do so completely anonymously if we so choose so only we know what we have done.

I ask you two questions.

1) Who is "more moral" or "more good:" he who does good to avoid punnishment and gain reward, or he who does so fully expecting neither?

2) Even assuming a divine being who has stipulated moral rules, is it not better to follow those rules because they're good (when they are, that is!), regardless of the source and the potential reward/punnishment?  Would not Yahoo-Wahoo be MORE impressed with me, who does not believe he exists yet still follows the (modern) judeo-christian ethic, than with YOU, who knows if you don't follow that ethic you jeapordize your immortal soul to the lake of fire that burns but does not consume??  (this is the reverse of Pascal's Wager, btw)  Who is more sincere?
It's one of the reasons I'm an atheist today.  I decided to take my religion seriously, and that's when it started to fall apart for me.
~jdawg70

Offline Mooby

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2012, 03:54:33 PM »
Which religion specifically are you thinking about that equates good deeds to heaven and bad deeds to hell in a similar fashion to how Santa Claus decides who gets presents vs. coal?

Because that's certainly not how Christianity approaches morality...
"I'm doing science and I'm still alive."--J.C.

Online Azdgari

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2012, 03:57:12 PM »
Who is this "Christianity" person, and how might we go about talking to him or her to get his or her opinion directly?
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Offline Avatar Of Belial

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2012, 04:05:42 PM »
Because that's certainly not how Christianity approaches morality...

That may not be how the bible approaches it; but that does not mean adherents would not (mis?)interpret this kind of system from their upbringing.  The question, therefor, is not directed at a religion, but at a person who believes in the reward(/punishment) system of morality - regardless of what they label themselves.
"You play make-believe every day of your life, and yet you have no concept of 'imagination'."
I do not have "faith" in science. I have expectations of science. "Faith" in something is an unfounded assertion, whereas reasonable expectations require a precedent.

Offline Boots

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2012, 04:34:06 PM »
Which religion specifically are you thinking about that equates good deeds to heaven and bad deeds to hell in a similar fashion to how Santa Claus decides who gets presents vs. coal?

Because that's certainly not how Christianity approaches morality...
Actually, Xianity was one of the big ones in my thought processes.  I was born and raised a Roman Catholic, and I'd definitely say that *my* experiences of Catholicism, at least, were exactly what you are describing as an approach to morality.  Most, if not all, people of the cloth and folks most would label "devout" at least hinted at the "do good, go to heaven, don't do good, well . . ." mindset that I'm talking about.

Is your experience different?  How do you support the claim that this is not how Christianity approaches morality when my experience tells me differently?
It's one of the reasons I'm an atheist today.  I decided to take my religion seriously, and that's when it started to fall apart for me.
~jdawg70

Offline Mooby

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2012, 06:03:51 PM »
I was born and raised a Roman Catholic, and I'd definitely say that *my* experiences of Catholicism, at least, were exactly what you are describing as an approach to morality.  Most, if not all, people of the cloth and folks most would label "devout" at least hinted at the "do good, go to heaven, don't do good, well . . ." mindset that I'm talking about.
One of the features of Catholicism is its claim to universalism.  Regardless of what an individual Catholic says or implies, Catholic beliefs are determined by official church teachings.

The Catholic Church does not teach that salvation is obtained as described in the OP.

Quote
Is your experience different?  How do you support the claim that this is not how Christianity approaches morality when my experience tells me differently?
By the fact that I've never seen any evidence of any denomination ever claiming it.

It's certainly not taught by Catholicism (the Catholic Church teaches salvation through union with God's grace), it's not taught by the sola scriptura Protestants (they go for faith in Christ), it's not taught by the predestination groups (they say God determines who will be saved), it's not taught by the "born again" Christians (they emphasize a personal relationship with God.)

So which group am I missing?
"I'm doing science and I'm still alive."--J.C.

Online Azdgari

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2012, 06:13:12 PM »
It was taught by my father's church, though it was not their emphasis.  Mooby, you are missing the fact that the emphasis for each group that you describe does not preclude them also teaching that you should follow what's considered by the church community to be good in order to join God (go to heaven) and to avoid Satan (not go to Hell).

That said, as atheists, I think we get a lot more exposure to this kind of thinking than actually exists in religious communities.  Pascal's Wager is often thrown at us, for example.  Yet how many believers, actually hold their beliefs on the basis of Pascal's Wager or anything similar?  An insignificant minority, I'd wager.
I have not encountered any mechanical malfunctioning in my spirit.  It works every single time I need it to.

Offline Aspie

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2012, 08:21:28 PM »
For the sake of clarity it's worth pointing out that the thrust of Mooby's objection isn't to deny a social expectation among Christians that they should behave morally for the sake of reward and avoiding punishment, but to declare it irrelevant to official church doctrine. He's challenging the OP's opening statement on the grounds that moral behavior is taught as a consequence of a covenant with God and not a cause.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2012, 08:34:37 PM by Aspie »

Offline Mooby

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2012, 09:09:31 PM »
It was taught by my father's church, though it was not their emphasis.  Mooby, you are missing the fact that the emphasis for each group that you describe does not preclude them also teaching that you should follow what's considered by the church community to be good in order to join God (go to heaven) and to avoid Satan (not go to Hell).
No, it does not preclude them from doing this.  I'm just pointing out that the view that behaving morally earns one heaven Santa Claus style is not a tenet of any religion or denomination that I've ever heard of.

Quote
That said, as atheists, I think we get a lot more exposure to this kind of thinking than actually exists in religious communities.  Pascal's Wager is often thrown at us, for example.  Yet how many believers, actually hold their beliefs on the basis of Pascal's Wager or anything similar?  An insignificant minority, I'd wager.
But again, Pascal's Wager says nothing about moral behavior.  It speaks only about belief in God's existence.

For the sake of clarity it's worth pointing out that the thrust of Mooby's objection isn't to deny a social expectation among Christians that they should behave morally for the sake of reward and avoiding punishment, but to declare it irrelevant to official church doctrine. He's challenging the OP's opening statement on the grounds that moral behavior is taught as a consequence of a covenant with God and not a cause.
Exactly.
"I'm doing science and I'm still alive."--J.C.

Online Azdgari

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2012, 09:32:23 PM »
No, it does not preclude them from doing this.  I'm just pointing out that the view that behaving morally earns one heaven Santa Claus style is not a tenet of any religion or denomination that I've ever heard of.

If the leadership of the church in question (such as that which was formerly my father's) teaches X, then isn't X - in practice - a tenet of the religion of the people who attend that church and adhere to its teachings?

But again, Pascal's Wager says nothing about moral behavior.  It speaks only about belief in God's existence.

Agreed, it's not the same thing.  But it is in the same line of thinking - whereby threat of hellfire, and reward of heaven, is used as a motivator (or at least, what is intended to be a motivator).  Which is why I mentioned it.
I have not encountered any mechanical malfunctioning in my spirit.  It works every single time I need it to.

Offline Mooby

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2012, 01:42:21 PM »
If the leadership of the church in question (such as that which was formerly my father's) teaches X, then isn't X - in practice - a tenet of the religion of the people who attend that church and adhere to its teachings?
If a government employee says X is legal, then isn't X - in practice - legal?

The answer to both is "no."

Catholicism has a well-defined system for determining what its tenets are.

Quote
Agreed, it's not the same thing.  But it is in the same line of thinking - whereby threat of hellfire, and reward of heaven, is used as a motivator (or at least, what is intended to be a motivator).  Which is why I mentioned it.
Ah, I see.  Pascal's Wager is a mess anyways--Christians forgot what Pascal's actual point was soon after he made it, and instead turned it into a rather weak apologetic attempt.
"I'm doing science and I'm still alive."--J.C.

Online Azdgari

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2012, 02:20:52 PM »
If a government employee says X is legal, then isn't X - in practice - legal?

The answer to both is "no."

The details matter.  Which government employee?  The legislative branch?  There is more than one church, Mooby, and more than one Christian religion.  You may consider most of them to be "false", but they still exist.

Catholicism has a well-defined system for determining what its tenets are.

Yes.  Now, bonus points for where I mentioned the RCC!
I have not encountered any mechanical malfunctioning in my spirit.  It works every single time I need it to.

Offline Mooby

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2012, 05:44:56 PM »
The details matter.  Which government employee?  The legislative branch?  There is more than one church, Mooby, and more than one Christian religion.  You may consider most of them to be "false", but they still exist.
Any employee you choose.  Barack Obama walking up to you on the street and saying, "Hey Azdgari, X is legal" doesn't make X legal.

Unless you're living in some sort of dictatorship where the dictator's word is the law, government employees are separate entities from the law.

Yes.  Now, bonus points for where I mentioned the RCC!
Whoops!  That was a holdover from my reply to Boots, and I read "church in question" in that context.

I can't speak for your father's church.  Get one of its members in this thread?
« Last Edit: July 14, 2012, 05:48:03 PM by Mooby »
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Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2012, 06:19:17 PM »
Actually, I think what most churches teach is even worse than the Santa Claus Clause.

The real deal is that if you follow all the rules, have god's grace, do good works, are predestined and so on, you get a chance to go to heaven. It is more like playing a rigged arcade game at a cheap amusement park. You can hit all the targets and still not get the big stuffed bear. It's all up to god, the big carny guy in the sky. He leers his green snaggly teeth at you in your tube top and short shorts, and he gives you the bear. Or you remind him of his ex-father in law, so you always lose. Just because.

And many religious people will tell you that this is so.  No guarantees. Except one: if you are an atheist, you will never get the bear, because you are not playing the rigged game. You are not even in line with the other suckers, waiting for your chance at the bear.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Online Azdgari

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2012, 06:31:05 PM »
Any employee you choose.  Barack Obama walking up to you on the street and saying, "Hey Azdgari, X is legal" doesn't make X legal.

Unless you're living in some sort of dictatorship where the dictator's word is the law, government employees are separate entities from the law.

You're missing my point (and are smart enough to know better).  I'm talking about, for example, the small Baptist church of the village I grew up in for my first 4 years of life.  It has some church leadership.  They have a religion.  Who determines their doctrines?  Are you saying that the RCC does?  Because otherwise, you must concede that their doctrines might actually differ from those you hold to.

Whoops!  That was a holdover from my reply to Boots, and I read "church in question" in that context.

Got it.  Did you read the rest of my post in that other context as well?  Because your responses make more sense to me if you did.

I can't speak for your father's church.  Get one of its members in this thread?

It's a village of 800.  Most of the members of that church are over 60 years old.  And I don't particularly feel like having it out with one of them on the forum, if I could even find one who'd join - which is unlikely.  My only point was that yes, such Christian churches do exist who teach the Santa Claus theory of morality (even if it's not their emphasis).
I have not encountered any mechanical malfunctioning in my spirit.  It works every single time I need it to.

Offline Mooby

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2012, 06:46:11 PM »
Who determines their doctrines?
They do.

As I said, I don't speak for them.  As I also said, I'm not aware of any group that holds the OP's view as a tenet; that doesn't necessarily mean such a group is nonexistent.  I've just never heard of it.

Quote
Got it.  Did you read the rest of my post in that other context as well?

Yep
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Offline Boots

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2012, 09:31:21 PM »
So, Mooby, what is the punishment for sin?  That might not be the proper question: what is the *consequence* of sin?  (Sin=disobeying god, please correct me if I'm wrong)
It's one of the reasons I'm an atheist today.  I decided to take my religion seriously, and that's when it started to fall apart for me.
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Offline Mooby

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #17 on: July 14, 2012, 10:50:37 PM »
Sin draws us away from God through conscious rejection of Him.  Or, as the Catholic Catechism states, "Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it."
"I'm doing science and I'm still alive."--J.C.

Offline Boots

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2012, 07:01:08 AM »
and the consequence of *that*?
It's one of the reasons I'm an atheist today.  I decided to take my religion seriously, and that's when it started to fall apart for me.
~jdawg70

Offline bertatberts

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2012, 07:03:30 AM »
Sin draws us away from God through conscious rejection of Him.  Or, as the Catholic Catechism states, "Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it."
So out of fear of that happening, what must the Christian do.
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Offline joebbowers

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #20 on: July 15, 2012, 07:09:03 AM »
Which religion specifically are you thinking about that equates good deeds to heaven and bad deeds to hell in a similar fashion to how Santa Claus decides who gets presents vs. coal?

Because that's certainly not how Christianity approaches morality...

That's exactly what a huge chunk of Christians believe. Probably the majority, I suspect. Despite that whole "salvation through Jesus" garbage, I'm sure that they believe in simple terms good people go to heaven, bad people go to hell.
"Do you see a problem with insisting that the normal ways in which you determine fact from fiction is something you have to turn off in order to maintain the belief in God?" - JeffPT

Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #21 on: July 15, 2012, 07:30:54 AM »
Neither is "more moral".  What's important is that a person lives morally, not the internal justifications they come up with for it.  It's not as if the result of making moral decisions differs based on the motivation for it.

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #22 on: July 15, 2012, 07:36:39 AM »
It matters to the habits the person forms in the process, and to predictions of his or her future behaviour.  These are real-world effects.
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Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #23 on: July 15, 2012, 08:00:37 AM »
Again, if you have two people who essentially perform the same actions but have different reasons for them (which was the example in the OP), then my point stands.  Their habits will essentially be the same, and predictions of their behavior will also essentially be the same.  There won't be distinct differences in the results of their actions based on their motivations.

Now, if you had a person who acted morally because they expected tangible gains from that behavior, then it would be like you describe, because they wouldn't necessarily act morally if they gained no benefit from doing so, or if it actually harmed them some way.  Their habits would be different, and predictions about their behavior would also differ.

Offline Boots

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #24 on: July 15, 2012, 09:50:45 AM »
Again, if you have two people who essentially perform the same actions but have different reasons for them (which was the example in the OP), then my point stands.  Their habits will essentially be the same, and predictions of their behavior will also essentially be the same.  There won't be distinct differences in the results of their actions based on their motivations.

Now, if you had a person who acted morally because they expected tangible gains from that behavior, then it would be like you describe, because they wouldn't necessarily act morally if they gained no benefit from doing so, or if it actually harmed them some way.  Their habits would be different, and predictions about their behavior would also differ.

How is my example not "tangible benefits?"  If they believe they're going to heaven/avoiding hell, what's the substantive difference between that and whatever you feel might be "tangible benefits?"
It's one of the reasons I'm an atheist today.  I decided to take my religion seriously, and that's when it started to fall apart for me.
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Offline Truth OT

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #25 on: July 15, 2012, 11:52:20 AM »
What has become more and more clear to me as I look at the Abrahamic religions scriptures is that practicioners are reading a lot of morals into them that simply aren't present. In the scriptures for the most part, good and evil as well as right and wrong are based more on compliance than morality.
That said, what we can more clearly understand is that rewards and punishments aren't merit based in any moral sense. What it is is a merit based system centered around submission and obedience. This explains why those the texts speak of as having the hope of being eternally rewarded by God with a place in "His Rest", are those who in the course of their lives have exhibited faithful compliance. In religion, faith and compliance trumps all else. Good works and virtuous living are not the focus though from time to time may result as a byproduct of obedience just as bad things like discrimination and hate can arise due to the same faithful compliance.
Seeing the above as a reality illustrates just how much (little) care the Gods of these religions have for us, our concerns, and our world. Fodder, that's all we really are to the deities.........

Offline Mooby

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #26 on: July 15, 2012, 09:24:13 PM »
and the consequence of *that*?
That is the consequence.  The consequence of being drawn away from God is that we're separated from God.

That's exactly what a huge chunk of Christians believe. Probably the majority, I suspect. Despite that whole "salvation through Jesus" garbage, I'm sure that they believe in simple terms good people go to heaven, bad people go to hell.
You may be "sure" of this, but I've yet to see it, outside of tv and movies.
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Offline Poseidon

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #27 on: July 15, 2012, 10:08:01 PM »
Bible god is known to be, or at least widely advertised to be, vengeful, jealous, and judgemental. In such a case his/her/its objectivity is brought into question. We are left with the dilemma of having to second guess a quirky boss in the sky.

There are some distinctions between personal discipline, regard for the general welfare of others, suitable stewardship of the earth, socially acceptable behavior, and that which we presume constitutes a level of morality that may or may not be endorsed by god. Our theist accusers have not sorted out those distinctions with mutually agreed and  acceptable degrees of precision. If so we would still be second guessing a supernatural being who is widely acknowledged to behave in mysterious ways that are not understandable by humans. Gods will ?   Who knows what it is?

Offline Fiji

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Re: Challenge: any theists encouraged to read and respond
« Reply #28 on: July 16, 2012, 01:09:27 AM »
Islam, of course, has it all worked out. The quran lists a number of things as good moral behavior, taking care of the elderly, taking care of the poor, not kicking your pregnant wife out of the home (you get to do that, three months after the baby is born). But anyway, there ARE a number of things the quran says are moral. Things that the Christians, at the time didn't do.
Now, how does Islam enforce this 'good' behavior ... well ... not at all.
You might think, person A has plenty of camels, sheep, a big olive orchard, a nice home, good health, lots of wives and children who, in turn are in good health.
person B is poor, childless, his wive (singular) died after a long and painful disease and he himself is in agonizing pain daily.
So, person A is being rewarded by Allah and person B is amoral and is being punished by Allah ... right? RIGHT?!
Well, no, it specifically says in the quran that a person's fortunes in the proximate life say nothing about his destination in the ultimate life.
The reasoning is that, say you award points for ones fortunes. In the example above A is at +1000000 and B is at -10000000 but if A goes to hell and B to heaven then the end total is A: -infinity and B: +infinity ... B wins!!!

So, does the quran teach moral behavior? Hell no!
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