I have so much hate to give. (damonite) wrote,
I have so much hate to give.

War on Sin

I finished "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris recently. It's a fairly interesting book, has some good points and doesn't actually bring up atheism despite its reputation as an atheistic book. Harris simply talks about the irrationality humans display, and how it's generally viewed in a negative light everywhere except religious faith despite religious faith having no fundamental differences than most other forms of irrationality.

He does go into some detail about his issues with Islam, and takes a fairly hostile stance on it. However he does give his reasons and most interestingly posited that one of the best ways to deal with Islam would be to remove our dependency on oil as a method to force Islamic nations to modernize which he feels would bring about the same trends that Christianity went through to bring it where it is today. That is, less literalistic views and less use of the Quran as law and such.

The most interesting thing I found in the book were some of the chapters about modern Christianity. Specifically he points out that the war on drugs makes much more sense when viewed as the war on sin.

In legalization debates the relative harmlessness of certain substances is often touted as a reason to legalize some drugs given our allowance of tobacco and alcohol. Why is marijuana illegal when alcohol, which causes infinitely more societal problems than marijuana could, remains perfectly legal. Harris states that one of the largest reasons is that these substances remain illegal while society at large sanctions alcohol is that these substances provide beneficial effects with little to no inherent recourse. That is, if you smoke marijuana you will get high, then stop being high. Granted this could interfere with things if you weren't responsible with it, but the actual side effects of marijuana are essentially non existent. If you drink too much you will likely experience hang overs, have long term health issues, and possibly die from withdrawls should you drink too long and decide to up and quit.

On the whole, there is no logical reason to keep marijuana illegal while allowing alcohol and tobacco to be legal unless there's something more than society's good at hand. In this case, the concept of a substance that lets you enjoy it and then return to life none the worse for wear is something Harris states that the largely religious west finds problematic and on this basis alone these substances retain their illegal status.

And I agree. Legalizing marijuana would do nothing worse than is already happening after a period of adjustment. We may see more use, but we'd also lose the vast majority of the black market. It would still exist, but it would be much smaller. We'd free up a number of non-violent offenders, increase tax revenues, etc... These facts can be better researched in any pro-legalization papers or organizations, so I'll leave this here.

Drugs are more or less substances which alter your body chemistry. We tend to use the term "drugs" to refer to the illegal variety, but there's really no definition that would work for the illegal and controlled substances that wouldn't also apply to tylenol, coors, and a pack of camels. We tend to think of drugs as dangerous simply by their restrictive or destructive capacity, in that order. Most parents would rather their child be caught with a beer than a joint, despite the fact that alcohol is more potentially damaging to a developing body and a reckless teenager than marijuana could.

The legality of a substance seems to be a notch above the destructive nature of a substance in terms of what the general American population is concerned about. I used to think this way myself until I actually looked into some of the drug's effects. The legality of substances, and the classification in terms of perceived harm seems to have little to do with the negative effects to an individual and less so the negative effects to society. Look up the mortality rates and health issues associated with alcohol and then compare them to the various schedules of drugs.

The first thing to notice is alcohol is far and away the number one drug in terms of death toll, whether from overdose, incidents under the influence, or long term degredation of the body, or most any other way to index deaths by drugs. The next thing to notice is that the penalties cannot be associated by this view. Hallucinogens are rather risky legally, but many have almost no actual side effects. Marijuana jails more people yearly than many others, yet has almost no health risks aside from the method of ingestion - if you didn't smoke it, there would be nothing of significant concern. At least not more than an unhealthy diet could do to you, and I doubt we'll be banning oreos any time soon.

Viewing the war on drugs as a war on sin does make the categorization a lot easier to understand, but it just makes it that much more pathetic to think about what billions of dollars are being spent on each year - Punishing sinners. Now, I won't go so far as to say the voting populous and political committees running the war on drugs equate drug use with sin, but I can't imagine it's not something most of these folks hold in their minds when they consider the topic. Drug users aren't viewed as sinners and drugs a sin directly, there's no equivocation directly occurring, but the way society treats 'sinful' behavior seems to match up with how it treats drug use as well.

Do we really need to have society spend so much time, effort, and money enforcing a notion of sin? It's important to a lot of people, but is it more important to punish otherwise law abiding citizens who've committed truly victimless crimes than to disagree and let them be? If the issue can end there, why would we need to bring the legal system into it?
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