Monday, May 9, 2016

Can Thoughts Be Criminal?



I had always taken the idea for granted that "if one looks lustfully at a woman he has already committed adultery with her in his heart." I similarly saw hatred for someone as an evil in and of itself even if no crime was committed based upon it. I certainly never meant to indicate that people should be locked away for such things even if we could read their minds, but it seemed obvious that one should not do such things. I am now re-evaluating these ideas. Are "thought crimes" really all that bad?

It shocked me when someone considered Jesus' quote of mental adultery as being a ridiculous thought-crime. The idea that a god might care about our thoughts and consider them crimes seemed like a rather novel idea to me and yet others considered it quite repulsive. Should God not judge the heart and intent of a person? I originally understood such adulterous thoughts to be an indication of a person's heart and thus whether or not that person was good or bad. If we envision intimate relations with someone else's wife, is that not a terrible thing to imagine? Does that not indicate our heart is crude and corrupt? Would it not eventually lead to a debased mind and terrible acts? I guess I cannot say, actually. I have certainly had similar thoughts in my own mind on occasion and yet I have never done such a thing. I have never mulled such things extensively, however. If done regularly, does one begin to obsess and thus perform? Or is the evil only in the initial intention to act which is entirely apart from the thought itself? Is such a thought ineffectual if the thinker never has intention of making such a move? Perhaps it is nothing more than media with the screen being our mind and the actors being those we know.

If we consider our media, we see depictions of fantasy violence and sexuality all the time. We each have our own limits, but do such limits mean anything about the person? Personally, I draw the line on violence when it comes to torture or extreme gore. I had often considered such people who could enjoy Raiden's finishing move in the video game Mortal Kombat--where he saws his victim in half vertically right up through the legs while he or she kicks and screams--as an aberration of humanity. I presumed it required an awfully debased mind to take joy in such things. To joy in suffering is the worst of evils; who could do such a thing? And yet, I can take joy in a movie depicting war, and I can play games where I run around shooting people in the head without so much as blinking. Someone can easily say about me that I take joy in death and war. In real life, of course, this could not be further from the truth. I hate war and death. So how can I take joy in the game? Well, they are only images to me. They are not real in the slightest. Torture, however, becomes real to me even when merely depicted with images.

Torture happens to real people and I abhor such an idea. People also get shot in the head, of course, but death is far nicer and happens to everyone while torture is an inexcusable evil. When you die, you feel nothing, but when you are tortured, all you can do is hope for death. I do not want to think about, be reminded of, or consider how one feels who is or has been tortured because it makes me sick to my stomach and cry in sorrow within my mind. Maybe other people are less empathetic and depictions of torture do not become so real to them. Does that make them a worse person? I guess I have no idea. I presume plenty of people enjoy grotesque games and movies and yet might donate to different charities while holding a principle of no harm toward others. Does the media we consume truly matter? I often feel like it does, but does it truly?

If our choices in media do not matter, do our thoughts similarly not matter? Can we think highly of a person who might envision a coworker being hit be a car while they look on and laugh just like a movie might depict? Is that not a crime to take joy in such murderous thoughts? What about envisioning a sibling being squished? Or a spouse? Our own child? Can we envision running someone through with a sword or lobbing their head off while not feeling guilty as if committing a crime in our mind? What about raping someone? Is nothing off the table of acceptability? Is it truly nothing to be repentant about to envision such things for the purposes of entertainment and joy?

I have not really made up my mind yet. Such "media" in our minds seems terrible to me and still shows what manner of person we are from my perspective. But if our actions always demonstrate only love and peace without a hint of such a play being rehearsed in our mind, could it truly be said to indicate our character at all? Our character should be defined solely by our actions, should it not? I would like to think that the manner of person we are should be entirely defined by our actions, and yet I get an uneasy twinge when thinking that someone might be kind to me while secretly despising me and envisioning my demise. Is there not something to be said about such a slimeball? Perhaps what should be said is that such a person's character is exemplary for behaving rightly despite thier mind rather than thinking ill of them having done no wrong in action. I still have yet to make up my mind on all of this. Perhaps there is yet another aspect I am missing and have not yet considered fully to tie this all together. What makes a thought so wrong in my mind if there is no physical act to make it thus? Perhaps it is due solely to the culture in which I grew up. A culture which threatens eternal fire for those who commit crimes of thought. Or perhaps there truly is a deeper method by which we might define our character. I just don't know...

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