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When I was a teenager, it occurred to me that it would probably be virtuous to suicide bomb people who had just been to confession. After all, if you take the truths about eternal life seriously, the bomber would be launching the victims to heaven, and doing so in a maximally generous way, forfeiting not only her life but her very salvation. (Was it a lack of faith that was holding me back?)

When I asked my dad about this, he explained, somewhat taken aback, that this would certainly not be virtuous. Virtuous actions aren’t simply about maximizing good outcomes. Instead, they involve—among other things—obedience to the commandments. And, to give a more practical rebuttal to my idea, he pointed out that there’s no way to know whether the victims had made a good confession. You might, for all you know, be sending them to hell.

I remember feeling a bit relieved, as the danger of accidentally sending someone to hell gave me an out. (I wasn’t worried about actually becoming a suicide bomber, but—ever the egoist—I didn’t like the idea that failing to engage in terrorism would reflect badly on me.) At the same time, I didn’t find his claim about obedience to be entirely convincing. It seemed more plausible that virtue involved goodness-maximization, even when maximizing goodness involved disobedience or self-sacrifice.

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