On Making Judgments
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from All-Creatures.org


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

On Making Judgments

It is crucial that we discern right from wrong in order to behave ethically, but this encourages us to judge other people as good or evil. Jesus discouraged judging other people, and he said, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3).

There are at least two good reasons for not judging others: none of us is perfect, and we don’t know what motivates other people. Perhaps they “know not what they do” (Luke 23:34); perhaps they believe they have no choice other than to act in harmful ways; perhaps they know something we don’t know such that what seems evil to us is in fact a relatively righteous choice.

This perspective favors treating all individuals with respect. What about those who are actively harming others? I think we need to do what we can to stop those who victimize others, and sometimes this means using force (possibly even lethal force). This raises another dilemma: Given the power of humans to deceive themselves, when we use potentially harmful force, how do we know that we are acting out of good intentions rather than justifying our own self-interest? In other words, how can we be sure that we’re preventing victimization rather being victimizers ourselves? I’ll explore that question next essay. 

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