The Carrot and the Stick

Written by:  Robert D Brinsmead

I suggest that the real issue is not whether we eliminate the important role of morality, but that we discover its motivation.

Down through history, the conventional approach is to encourage morality (right human actions) with a stick and a carrot, that is to say, fear of punishment if we don’t do the right thing on the one hand, and offer of rewards (approval of others, God and going to Heaven instead of Hell) if we do. We have to admit that the good ‘ol Bible has a lot of those kind of inducements.

But even good psychology now recognizes that fear of punishment/hope of reward is a poor educational foundation for either children or adults.

To mug people with a gospel that pledges all good things for those who believe and everything really bad for those who don’t believe is intellectual thuggery; it is brainwashing or Mafia stuff making offers difficult to refuse.  It is using intellectual thumbscrews, and it appeals to the wrong human instincts.  All of this belongs to the enslavement of humanity, and does not treat people as if they have the full dignity of being free individuals. When a person who is truly free acts, he acts from the perspective of enlightened self-interest (a favourite term of Bob Hawke, PM of Australia).  In that, Hawke was right.

If one acts in a certain way that is considered right and moral from the fear of punishment, he is acting like an animal under restraint, not as a free individual.  If he acts to obtain a reward, then the action is not coming from a free individual either but from one who is not a true sovereign of his own life.  There was a Puritan divine who used to say that true morality is not possible unless you carry a bucket of water to quench Hell and a fire to burn up Heaven.

If right is to be done, it has to be done from one acting as a sovereign individual who believes that the reward of the evil deed is the evil deed and the reward of the good deed is the good deed (old Rabbinic teaching).  It is what I freely choose to do and would do if there was no God to please and no devil to pay.