A legalist will tell you that you can cause World War 3 if that is what it takes to get somebody who is in the Temple out to stop them burning it down.

A moral absolutist will say that warmongering like that is absolutely wrong and that the would-be arsonist is behaving in an absolutely immoral way as well.

Because moral absolutism bans exceptions and can lead to grave harm it is hard to see the difference it has with legalism.

It is obvious though that moral absolutism would have you let a mother of ten die rather than abort her 10 week old foetus it leads to legalism.  Though this is not the same as legalism you can use absolute morals as a cover for your legalistic attitude. You can weaponise.  You might weaponise charity to hurt somebody so this is the same thing.

Most people allege that many actions, no matter how terrible the consequences of doing them will be are still right. The Christian Church for example says that sin is the greatest of all evil and that it is better for the whole world to be blown to pieces by a mistake with the nuclear button than for one person to have sex outside marriage or to come to disbelieve in God. So involuntary evil is fine but deliberate evil is intolerable. Christianity is pure fanaticism and one of the most evil religions in the world that does what looks like good to entrap people into its inhuman doctrines.
Such people are clearly legalists. Their ethics are deontological or absolutist - they see things in terms of black and white. When consequences are considered it is only certain ones and the others are ignored. For example, they might tell you not to report your father to the police for raping you because he is your father or because jail is a bad place to send your father to. How you feel and the rehabilitation of your father and your safety and that of society do not matter. It is an incoherent mixture of absolutism and consequentialism, which in reality cannot be mixed.

Religion will tell you to make the most people better off at times and yet it will tell you to stay loyal to your faith no matter how much misery it causes everybody just in case somebody needs your heroic example.

The threat to logic and human welfare in so-called ethics which say that lying is always bad and giving up your own life for the sake of faith in Jesus Christ is good is apparent. Anyone could invent rules like this and if some should all should make up their own meaning that slavery is right and dignity is an accursed thing. Ultimately, it says there is no right and wrong.


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Roman Catholic Ethics: Three Approaches by Brian Berry


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