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  1. RobT
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    RobT Active Member

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    Religious and moral convinction dilema

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by RobT, Jun 19, 2010.

    I have a MC that is deeply religious, knows right from wrong, has morals, and is a really good law abiding person.

    The problem I have is that in my story he finds a suitcase filled with five million pounds and I need him to keep it and not hand it in. He's never going to use the money himself, and I don't want the money to corrupt him. In fact in the end all the money goes back to the police, but it's key for the plot that he takes this money for a while as it's used as a lure.

    The dilema I'm having (or think I'm having), is that if you were really that religious and law abiding, how could you justify keeping the money in the first place and not hand it in to the authorities?

    The only thing I could come up, and the route I'm currently heading down is to have him briefly corrupted by the money, but that's really going against what I want write. Any ideas would be greatly received.
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    This is the exact dilemma your character should be facing. How to justify holding onto the money despite his beliefs. He doesn't need to be "corrupted" by it to briefly consider taking it, he might just need time to affirm his beliefs and decide what to do with the money. And there's the delay you need.
     
  3. Northern Phil
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    Northern Phil Active Member

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    If the character has debts or needs the money for some reason then any morally good person would keep the money.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why? Even the most pious man can struggle against temptation.That's called an internal conflict. Conflict is the essence of plot.
     
  5. RobT
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    RobT Active Member

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    Temptation seemed a little too easy, maybe I'm over thinking it and easy is good.
     
  6. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I think you already have the answer

    answer:

    Seems like he knows that he is going to return this money after luring whoever that he wants to lure. So, there is no moral/religious conflict..... and that I think will be your problem rather than what you are concern right now. Reason: see Cogito's post.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Five million pounds is a lot of temptation.
     
  8. RobT
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    RobT Active Member

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    It is, but having my MC tempted / corrupted is nothing to do with the plot of the story. In fact it couldn't be further from the mark.

    I realise with the scant details (no details) of the plot that I've provided its tricky to get past temptation. By having him taking the money he's effectively breaking two of the ten commandments, not stealing and lying and I really needed my MC to be holier than thou! :)
     
  9. Show
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    As a religious person, I am wondering if he is TRULY religious? Holier than thou religious types tend to be the kind most often stereotyped as hypocritical. Perhaps he is blind to his breaking of the ten commandments if he is a holier than thou type?

    Or if he is a truly self-aware religious person who honestly tries to follow his convictions, maybe he keeps the money because he thinks a greater good will come from it and ultimately decides against it in the end?

    It would be easier to help if I knew more about the plot. As a deeply religious person myself, I might be able to provide some answers as to what you can do. (Also, what religion he is specifically could also impact this.)
     
  10. RobT
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    RobT Active Member

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    The MC will be a member of the christian faith, catholic, protestant or C of E. When I say "holier than thou", I really mean he takes his religious beliefs seriously. He is a mister nice guy without a whiff of hypocrisy in site.

    At the point my MC would take the money he wouldn't know that he was going to use it as lure as that develops later on in the story.

    So this brings me to the point that I'm at. Basically there is something else in the story that my MC can't do because of his religious beliefs, and if he can't do one thing because of beliefs, I'm struggling with how I can justify him keeping the money at the start as effectively lying and stealing would also go against his beliefs.

    If i wrote it that way, it would seem to me to be hypocritical, and I don't want him to be a hypocrit.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, but if he is that solid in his beliefs, he will not for any reason keep five million pounds that do not rightfully belong to him. He will turn the money over to the authorities. After a waiting period, if no one presents a convincing claim, the police may return it to him, at which point he could in good conscience accept it to apply to a good purpose.
     
  12. RobT
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    RobT Active Member

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    You've hit the nail on the head, hence my post. I need to justify someway of him keeping the money in the first place.
     
  13. Northern Phil
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    Northern Phil Active Member

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    I think the only solution to your problem would be to add in another character, a wife or someone else who persuades your character to keep the money.
     
  14. RobT
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    RobT Active Member

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    Thanks Phil, that might work for me. The argument of someone non-religious about the good he could do with the money may be able to stall things long enough for me. I'll certainly give it some thought.

    I appreciate it would be far easier if I were just to tell you guys the plot, but I was hoping to avoid putting it up on the forum at least for now.
     
  15. natsuki
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    natsuki Active Member

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    Maybe he has some close relative (wife, daughter) who is sick and he cannot pay the treatment, or some other serious issue...

    So he prays for some cure, money, et cetera.

    And then he finds the suitcase, and assumes it must be a "Sign from God" and decides to keep it, and then the moral dilemma comes in (Is this money really from God? Can I keep it?)

    I don't know what your story is about, but that was the first thing that came to my mind, I don't know if it fits.
     
  16. theSkaBoss
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    theSkaBoss Member

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    Natsuki has a pretty solid idea there.

    Another thing would be getting bad vibes on his way to take the money to the authorities (subtle temptation or prompting from God or whatever you want to call it) and he now has the battle of "Turning it in is the lawful thing, but I'm getting the feeling it's not the right thing." Sounds weak at first, but consider: a guy who takes his Christianity THAT seriously isn't going to casually ignore a prompting when five million pounds is the subject at hand. Maybe he tries to find the owner in his own way at first. Which leads the money to being in his hands, unused.
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Could you do anything with partial ignorance on his part?

    For example, does he need to _know_ that he has the money? Could he just think that it's a suitcase accidentally left behind by Visiting Pastor Bob, that he's holding for him, and he's too ethical to open it and thus violate Pastor Bob's privacy? The idea being that it sits in the back closet for a while until he reaches Pastor Bob, who says, uh, no, he got all his luggage home just fine, thanks.

    If he does need to know that there's money in there, I guess that partial ignorance is difficult. It's one thing to think, say, that Pastor Bob left behind a crystal necklace that he was going to give to his wife, and discover that, no, it's actually a diamond necklace and Bob knows nothing about it. But money generally looks like money, and, "Oh, Pastor Bob, did you leave Sunday's collection plate takings behind?" doesn't really work.

    ChickenFreak
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I still have to say that a truly pious man would not (knowingly) keep the money. Any arguments about a greater good are rationalizations.

    For him to not immediately turn the money over to police (and to keep it safe in the meantime), is an inherently non-pious act. To put money that is not his at risk by using it to lure a criminal would be unconscionable.

    Like it or not, his not immediately turning over the money has to be a moral lapse on his part, and must result in an internal dilemma. Otherwise he is and remains a hypocrite, and that is far worse than struggling with his conscience.
     
  19. Show
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    It seems to me you are writing yourself into a bit of a corner. You'll have to give on something sooner or later.

    Even truly religious people could falter. Him keeping the money for no reason is something you cannot avoid. It's in conflict with his faith and he wouldn't just do it. You'd need to give him a grave reason to do it, like to save somebody's life.(It may not agree with his faith but as a human, he is flawed) And such a choice would bring him a lot of distress cause he knows it's wrong but he feels trapped. Unless he has grave motivation, he wouldn't do it so you might not to loosen up on something to make this work out.
     
  20. RobT
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    RobT Active Member

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    Thanks for all your comments. I think I'm going to have to write the MC in as a flawed character and hope he doesn't turn out as too hypocritical. Maybe his religious and moral dilema can add to proceedings. I guess I'll find out soon enough. :)
     
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Something to keep in mind is that "religious" and "moral" and "law abiding" aren't always compatible. Religious and moral principles may be in conflict with the law. Religious rules may be in conflict with moral principles. There are an infinite number of possible conflicts. There is no way to always be assured that you're doing the "right" thing.

    For example, if your character had substantial religious and moral objections to the death penalty, would he obey a law that required him to turn in a murder suspect, in a death-penalty state? What if he believed that the suspect was innocent but very likely to be convicted anyway?

    So, sure, the law says that your character should turn in the money. So he needs a moral or religious principle that outweighs the legal principle. So, going back to the death penalty thing, maybe the money is not just money, but evidence that might convict some innocent person?

    And if _he's_ using the money as a lure, to exonerate an innocent person, isn't that enough of a reason right there?

    I feel the need to offer examples:

    "Yes, I could have kept that schoolbus full of children from crashing, but to stop it, I would have had to run a red light,and that would have been illegal."

    "Yes, I could have caught that serial killer before he got on the subway, but to stop him, I would have had to jump the turnstile, and that would have been illegal."

    "Yes, I knew that her husband would probably kill her if he knew where she was that night, but if I denied knowing where she was that would have been lying, and that would have been immoral. What, you're saying that I could have warned her? But that would have violated his pastoral privilege, and that would have been wrong."

    I think that you'd agree that these demonstrate a dedication to rules that goes beyond rule-abiding, into something approaching mental illness. I'm hoping that your character would run the red light, jump the turnstile, and lie to the psychopathic husband. So I think that you just need a similarly urgent reason for him to delay reporting the money.

    ChickenFreak
     
  22. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    Perhaps he has one of those Messiah Complexes and wants to use the money for a good cause but then realizes whose he's taking the money from, or his girlfriend/fiancee wants material objects he can't provide without the money, but in the end she tells him she loves him for him. The latter option's a bit romance-esque, but love is a good explanation for many crazy things done in this world.
     
  23. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    You are. Temptation is a hell of a lot stronger than people give it credit for. Especially if you are in dire straits financially. People are imperfect. Even if someone is very close to God they still do bad things sometimes. Having a certain belief system isn't a guarantee that you'll never do wrong. While it's an encouragement not to it's never a guarantee.
     
  24. RobT
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    RobT Active Member

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    Thanks to everyone for your replies.

    ChickenFreak. From my MC's perspective he'd have no problem jumping a turnstile, running a red light etc . . . when there is a "greater" consequence to his actions or in-action.

    I think from the consensus of replies, I'll try a slightly flawed character going down the temptation route, and see how that turns out. Hopefully, I'll be able to post this part of the story in the review section and see what you all think.
     
  25. Islander
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    The lawful owner of the money is a well-known crime lord who's never been convicted. If the money is returned to him, the MC understands it will be used to finance more crime.

    If you want to pile it on even thicker: the crime lord has been trying to move in on the neighbourhood where the MC lives. Or even worse: he is responsible for the death/wounding/drug addiction of someone the MC has been close to.
     
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