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Religion and Justice

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Wittgenstein’s concept of justice is closely connected to his attempts to explain the nature of democracy. He, as many before him, tried to work out a formula for assessing whether the social system contains justice as a characteristic. He also tried to substitute the notion «good» with words like «justice» and «balance», considering «good» to be too subjective and uncertain. In many ways, Wittgenstein’s views are considered to be the improved version of those that Socrates had. Using the heritage of Plato, Socrates claimed that justice, in itself, is the final goal and simultaneously the means for curing every social evil. Socrates tackled the justice issue in more legal terms, being convinced that punishment alone is the best way to suppress crimes and prevent them. Also, through timely and reasonable punishment, the state of universal balance and understanding is bound to be achieved. Wittgenstein continued the studies in this direction, searching for the recipe of a perfectly just community, forming a state system. He worked on determining the definite criteria for just actions, which would ensure a corresponding social system.

Nietzsche’s moral and political philosophy also contains the notion of justice. However, first of all, he questions the existence of social justice as such, arguing that in a society that includes inequality no justice can be found, because different moral requirements and standards are applied to different social strata and groups. Nietzsche sets forward a hypothesis that justice can only work in relationships on rather equal individuals or groups of people. In this case, application of just laws and regulations is merely an attempt to avoid mutual damage at both sides. According to this point of view, justice, in some, is a detector of status, and the least fortunate ones will always lack just treatment in their lives. Also, to Nietzsche, justice is, to a certain extent an idealistic term. In contrast to this picture of the world, Christian moral, as expressed, for instance by Jesus, claims that justice is not only possible, but also highly desirable and, in fact, is the highest most noble goal that humanity has set for itself. Also, Jesus saw inequality as a two-dimensional phenomenon: there are people who are poor in the financial and social sense, and there are the ones who are spiritually poor. In the materialistic realm, injustice can exist for quite a long time because of the imperfections of the material world. However, the spiritual realm is more sensitive to the moral issues, if so to say, it tolerates no injustice. In the end, according to the Christian dogmas, everyone gets what they deserve. According to Jesus, in social terms justice could be reached in a number of ways. First of all, the society needs to include all its members in its structure, with no outcasts and outsiders. No prejudice or stigma can exist against those who differ. By the way, this is virtually the ground basis for the tolerance concept of the modern world. Second, no existing or future theory can proclaim any social group, ethnicity, race or gender inferior as compared to the others.

In his most prominent work, «The Theory of Justice», Rawls proposes a two-leveled system of justice as he sees it, embracing the principles of liberty and difference. Being an advocate of the social contract theory, Rawls goes further than that and introduces the concept of the so-called veil of ignorance. According to this concept, true equality and justice is possible only in case if no one is aware of his or her own possibilities, weaknesses and strengths. In the conditions of ignorance as to the initial status of a person, no competition desires appear and, therefore, no imbalance can be spotted. Also, Rawls expands the equality principle by claiming that equality must work as equality of opportunity for everybody, not the equality of outcome. This seems perfectly just and logical, because this argument foresees equal startup chances for everybody and not the guarantee of benefits at any circumstances. King, by contrast, considers justice a result of hardly controlled conditions in life, unpredictable and difficult to understand. This is the main thing Rawls argued about with King.

Marx and Gutierrez have disagreements on the role of religion in the concept of justice. According to Marx, religion is one of the instruments fashioned by the political leaders in order to rule the crowd without using military force. Marx claims that religious regulations, especially in Christianity, idealize “the meek”, the poor and the deprived people and thus alleviate their desire to increase their social status. In this way, political and social stability and calmness can be achieved, and the society becomes controllable. In Gutierrez’s opinion, religion, vice versa, helps ordinary people understand the concept of justice and adjust their behavior in accordance with it. Religious notions of justice serve the purpose of orientation in the turbulent and ever-changing world and ease the life for those who have low social status. This is simply explained from the viewpoint of psychological science: religion gives people hope and spares them from the necessity to work out the dogmas themselves.

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