In comments on my last post, everyone's favorite hater of atheists, Zdenny, was kind enough to express his distaste for non-rigid moral framing. He expressed the opinion that the reason atheists would not care for Kant's model for morality, was because we want to be able to do whatever we please. Aside from showing an abysmal ignorance - to be clear, a willful abysmal ignorance about athiests, it also shows a rather abysmal ignorance of Kant's model for morality. Unless of course he really does agree with Kant, in which case he follows a dogmatic form of Christianity that is patently unfamiliar to me.
Kant believed that any use of another person, was inherently immoral. One of the universal axioms he believed is absolute, is lying. No matter what the circumstances lying is inherently immoral and unacceptable. The facts of a given scenario are irrelevant, one should never lie.
An example that was discussed by Kant, was a scenario in which a friend is being sought by someone who wants to kill them. Said friend flees into a house to hide, while you are in front of the house. The person who wants to kill them comes and asks you if they are in the house. According to Kant, you cannot reasonably lie to that person. Because you cannot know for sure that the friend has stayed in the house to hide, you cannot say "no, s/he is not in the house," because that may well put the would be killer to searching outside where he may find the friend. The only reasonable response, not knowing for sure what the friend has actually done is to tell the would be killer you do not know.
So lets translate Kant's response to real historical situations. Situations in which Christians were quite thankfully not inclined to follow Kant's model for morality.
Some abolitionists of the nineteenth century created underground railroads to help escaped slaves find their way to safety, in territories where they would be welcomed to freedom. At many points these underground railroads were located in places where law enforcement was very keen on returning escaped slaves to the south, often to brutal beatings and sometimes hanging. Even in places that had a more neutral attitude, there were bands of bounty hunters who were often times rather brutal in their attempts to infiltrate underground railroads and cut off these pipelines. A great many of the abolitionists involved in these efforts were Christians who believed it was their God-given duty to lie and misdirect slavers and slave bounty hunters. No few of them were inclined to lie about their abolitionist beliefs, to draw attention away from their roles in the railroad. In a few recorded cases, people involved with the railroad actually infiltrated bands of bounty hunters seeking escaped slaves, so as to more effectively misdirect.
In Nazi Germany, when people had become more fully aware of what the Nazi's were doing to the Jews, a lot of people became involved in trying to get the Jews out of Germany safely. Like the underground slave railroad, they were hidden in houses and moved in secrecy, until they were safely out of Nazi controlled territories. And like the slave railroad, there were many times when people hiding and moving the Jews were questioned about it and many times they told lies to misdirect the Nazis. A great many of the people involved in this effort, like those involved with the slave railroad, were Christians. No few of them became rather vocal and ardent supporters of the pogrom, so that like the abolitionists, they could direct attention away from their attempts to save the lives of as many Jews as possible.
In both of these cases, not only were Christians involved in lying outright to misdirect, something that Kant would consider immoral in itself, there were a great many Christians who would live a lie in public, to draw attention away from themselves and their activities. And the interesting thing about this is, they have biblical examples from which to justify their actions. Early Christians were not very well accepted. Being a Christian meant risking imprisonment and even death. Early Christian leaders had to sneak about, to visit many of the cities they visited to minister to the local, hidden Christian populations. I daresay there were a great many hosts of Christian leaders who had to outright lie to guards, when they came to the door looking for said leaders. And while the early Christians may not have been terribly inclined to live an outright lie, they were certainly very keen on not admitting to their beliefs.
I could go on and on with this. There are numerous examples throughout history, of Christians lying to protect people. There were Christians who did so during the rise of Protestantism. There were Christians who did so when Martin Luther was calling for the slaughter of Jews. There were Christians who did so when churches schismed and violence was to follow. There were even Protestant Christians who lied to protect Catholic Christians and Catholic Christians who like to protect Protestant Christians in Ireland, in particular and a lot of other places where violence between the two groups was rife.
So ZDenny, while I am not a believer in universal moral axioms, not buying into Kant's model for morality, or that of the utilitarians, does not equal not buying into universal moral axioms. The moral framework of Christianity has traditionally understood that there are times when the consequences outweigh the intent. That the moral thing to do is to do what it takes to save lives and show others what Christian charity and love is really all about. When you support the rigidity of Kant, you are denigrating the memories of Christians from the time of Jesus to the present. You are denigrating the memories of Christians who risked and in innumerable cases sacrificed their lives for what they believed was the right way for Christians to live and to be a living witness for Christ.
When you support the rigidity of Kant, you are no different than the Sadducees and Pharisees who put their religion before their god.