Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Theist: Naked Women Worse than Bombs

Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir recently declared that images of naked women on television are worse to society than the Bali nightclub bombings of 2002:

Ba'asyir, who was released from jail on June 14 after serving 26 months for his involvement in the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people, said pornography was more damaging because it destroyed people's morality.

"So if you ask me which one is more dangerous, nude women or the Bali bombs, then my answer would be the women showing off their skin," he said as quoted by Antara.


According to this guy, pornography destroys morality, but bombs don't, and destroying morality is worse than destroying people. Of course, this guy is wrong on all counts.

Seeing naked human female bodies does not destroy a person's ability to determine what is a moral or immoral action. Indeed, people with active sex lives and easy access to sexually stimulating material tend to report feelings of satisfaction and release. People who act mean, bitchy, uptight, or otherwise grumpy are often described behind their backs as in need of a good fuck. People report tensions and stress being released from their bodies immediately after they have a sexual release, even one that is achieved through the viewing of images of naked human females.

So this cleric's morality and porn premise is basically unsupported, as well as contradicted by a collection of reports of the personal experiences of numerous individuals. As I've said before, indulgence leads to healthy expression, while repression leads to unhealthy compulsion.

But more disturbing is this man's belief that bombs somehow do not destroy morality... or at least that they do not destroy morality as much as images of naked human females do. I must contend that bombs destroy morality and much more! Even if porn were to destroy Joe Smith's morality (which it doesn't), a bomb will literally and physically destroy Joe Smith in his entirety, not just his morality.

And what worldview is it that enables Ba'asyir to make such perverse and backwards statements about morality and destruction? It is Abrahamic Theism!

Abrahamic Theism is by far the most popular form of afterlife-belief in the world today. This includes the big three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All of their respective holy books declare in no uncertain terms that a woman is worth less than a man. All of their holy books treat the consent of a woman with complete silence, as if it doesn't exist. All of their holy books put restrictions on a woman's appearance and behavior as if it were their fault that men tend to sexually assault them; as if the woman is to blame for being the object of a man's lust.

Applying these concepts to the Bali nightclub bombings, we can envision and evaluate two scenarios:

1) A video of a naked human female is displayed in a nightclub. What happens to the clubbers when they encounter this event?

2) A bomb is detonated in a nightclub. What happens to the clubbers when they encounter this event?

Which scenario will produce the "immoral" results? Which scenario will produce "anti-life" results?

Abrahamic theists just love to attack anyone that expresses sexual pro-life sentiments, because their moral system is ass-backwards. And clubbers are the perfect target, as General JC Christian, Patriot, so cunningly discovered not too long ago.

The act of sex is the expression of life-oriented values. The act of violence is the expression of death-oriented values. Anyone who supports violence, especially as being more "moral" than sexuality, is unmistakably at the height of the anti-life mindset. That person is evil to the core, and wants to destroy himself by proxy through the destruction of the very thing that created him: hot steamy sex.

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir's abhorrent statements bring new meaning and relevance to the phrase "make love, not war."

59 comments:

Robert O'Brien said...

What a dumb cracker! When it comes to boobs or bombs, there shouldn't even be a contest.

Aaron Kinney said...

Here is the perfect litmus test to see if a person is evil or not:

Show them a video of some people fucking, then show them a video of those people getting blown up by a bomb.

If the person gets sexually stimulated at the sex and repulsed by the bomb, then he/she is a healthy adult.

But if the person gets stimulated by the bomb and repulsed by the sex, then that person is a warped and evil motherfucker.

BlackSun said...

Good post. I think we should take such people at their own inhuman words: let's test their faith by strapping them to bombs.

Check out the Amish afterlife nonsense I've posted here:

http://blacksunjournal.typepad.com/bsj/2006/10/afterlife_fanta.html

say no to christ said...

Aaron

Great post! I am so glad there are others that can see just how fucked up our world really is. Studies do show that people who are having really good sex are much nicer and more compassionate.

Paul C. Quillman said...

" All of their respective holy books declare in no uncertain terms that a woman is worth less than a man. "

Aaron, your quote is less than accurate. In the New Testament, Jesus reportedly first appeared to women, and told them to tell the diciples. In that culture, a woman could not even testify in court. However, Jesus went to women first to make His ressurection known.

Jesus also allowed women to join Him at the dinner table, another thing that was not done.

Looking through the writings of Paul, men and women are given equal restrictions on dress, and appropriate actions toward the opposite sex. Paul even goes so far to say that husbands and wives should not withhold sex from each other, except by consent for a set period of time.

And speaking of sex, have you read the Song of Songs? Oh, and that great war protest song from the 60's, Turn Turn Turn? I think that the chorus is striaght out of the Old Testament, and does actually say that there is a time for war, peace, love, hate, ect. It isn't just some protest song. There is really a time for all of these things.
Paul C. Quillman

Sandalstraps said...

Aaron,

Of course you, in attacking quite possibly the most warped and twisted argument against pornography that I've ever seen, have left out a few reasonable positions on the subject.

It is quite possible that a responsible moral agent could look at the two videos in question and be repulsed by both. A less responsible moral agent could be stimulated by both. Someone else could be ambivalent toward both. Each of these are in the realm of probability.

I understand that you placed pornography and bombs in opposition to each other because the Islamic cleric that you are responding to did it first; but you don't have to fall into that trap. You could do a reasonable exploration of both violence and sexual behavior, and find that neither are as simple as the cleric would have them be.

He is building an argument with a theological agenda, attempting to use the depravity of Western culture as a justification for using violent means to overthrow that culture. As you have no such theological agenda, you could simply sidestep his categories.

Doing so would allow you to say a few more reasonable things:

1. Violence is morally serious, and rarely justified.

2. Human sexuality is also morally serious, but much more frequently justified, and generally less destructive in its unjustified forms than violence is in its unjustified forms.

3. Expressions of human sexuality vary in their respective moral value, just as they vary in their relative health. That is, some expressions of human sexuality are healthy, others are less healthy, and some, in fact, are harmful.

You could then build up an argument concerning the realtive health of various forms of pornography, and then use that to discuss its moral value in less monolithic terms. But to do that would require much more serious critical thinking skills, and it is so much easier to take cheap shots at the worst expressions of religion.

BlackSun said...

sandalstraps,

Sexuality, both personal and cultural, is a matter of individual choice. If a person doesn't want to participate, then don't. If you don't like pornography, don't look at it. But don't try to pass rules or laws for others. THAT's reprehensible. You can't make a moral argument about human sexuality, unless you are talking about children or coercion.

There is no comparison of sexuality to violence--on any level. Unless you are talking about rape.

Your insistence that Western culture is 'depraved' is a clear signal that you are a theist, and most likely an Abrahamic theist. (Since somewhere around 85% of people in America share at least elements of your faith, they must also share 85% of the responsibility for the 'depravity' you perceive. Or more likely for pathologizing normal human behavior, and creating the perception of depravity itself.)

You're not bringing critical thinking skills to bear on this subject. You have nothing to justify your position except scriptures, which are simply fictions written by power-hungry men.

Sandalstraps said...

Blacksun,

What the fuck, man?!? Did you even read my comment?!?

I made no argument concerning either rules or laws, nor did I, in my own voice, call Western culture depraved. If you look at the context of my comment, you'll see that the word "depraved" was used only in describing the argument that the Muslim cleric was attempting to build, which is far from my own argument.

In my comment I intentionally refrained from making any moral evaluations about specific sexual behaviors, except to say that there is no monolithic moral value for any sexual behavior. Such situational morality is far from the position you are arguing against.

I can tell that you are used to dismissing anyone who challenges a position you hold with blanket condemnations such as

You have nothing to justify your position except scriptures, which are simply fictions written by power-hungry men.

Given that you know nothing about me or my positions, and have clearly read none of my writing on any subject, much less a complex subject such as sexual morality, is that a safe tactic?

The reason why I refrained from making my position any this subject clear is multi-layered:

1. I do not think that it is safe to say that any behavior is in all cases wrong or in all cases right. This is especially true of sexual behaviors, which can build up or tear down an individual.

2. It is impossible, as you noted, to discuss the moral value of sexual behaviors without also noting the all too frequent connection between sex and violence (both physical and emotional). The weak are often exploited by the strong, even and especially in sexual ways. Such exploitation must be taken into account in any serious discussion of sexual morality.

3. I am uncertain as to the moral value of specific instances of pornographic material, in part because I do not have enough information to establish the conditions under which the hypothetical material in question was made. And this, for me, is the more serious issue. In the case of pornograph, much moral activity (and, of course, much sexual activity) has taken place before the consumer/viewer is involved. The moral value of the consumer/viewers actions depends a great deal on the moral value of the actions prior to the point of consumer contact, by virtue of their participation in an economic transaction which may or may not be just.

4. "Pornography" is a word which is used in many different was to describe many different prodicts and media. Because of this, it is highly improbable that all objects which carry that label have the same moral value.

If you were interested in reasonable dialog on an important subject, I would happily give you some of my ideas about sexual morality, helping to build an ethos which could be applied to various sexual behaviors to identify all of the relevent moral concerns. But it looks like you're too busy theist baiting to even ask yourself whether or not you've got reason to believe that I even am a theist, much less whether or not the presence or absence of theism makes me qualified to explore moral subjects.

In the unlikely event that you or anyone else here is willing to engage in a more thorough exploration of the moral issues raised in and around this post, you should know a few of my assumptions, so that you'll stop positing reckless assumptions for me.

First, and most importantly for our consideration here, I am a consequentialist. That is, roughly, I think that the moral currency of any action is found in the consequences of that action, generally some mixture of benefit and harm. When the benefits of an action outweigh the harms, as measured out over all of the persons impacted by the action, then that action is a relatively good one. It could become a better action if it could be made to cause more benefit or less harm by adjusting some component of the action.

This is a bit like utilitarianism, but in the unlikely event that you press some of the issues you may get to see where I differ from most utilitarians in how I distinguish between benefit and harm, and in how I evaluate all of the relevant concerns within a particular action.

I am also, as you may have guessed (though there was no evidence in my comment itself which should have led you to this conclusion), I am a Christian. However, I am not a theist, as theists are generally understood. Theism, generally, posits the existence of a God with at least these attributes:

1. Omniscience
2. Omnipotence
3. Benevolence

As you may be aware, the problem of pain calls the compatibility of those attributes into question. That is one of the many reasons why I, with the process theologians, hold that God must be in some way limited. But I have no wish here to enter into the tired debate about the existence of or lack of existence of God, especially not with someone who has demonstrated not the least amount of tact or charity.

Try reading more carefully, and assuming less. And especially avoid the reckless assumption that because someone disagrees with you they must be incapable of critical thought. Such arrogance is rarely justified, and never critical.

BlackSun said...

sandalstraps,

First off, an apology. You are right I wrote my comment in a hurry. I will respond at greater length when time permits.

But I think to even dignify this outrageous comparison (of sex to bombs) as an argument is rash. Whether or not you believe in whatever type of god is not the issue.

Sexuality, or its portrayal in the media is life-affirming, while bombs equal death. Of course I am for people taking responsibility, and understanding the consequences of their actions. Part of this includes what type of media they consume, or choose to avoid. In a free society, media itself is morally neutral.

Apparently there WAS enough information in your comment for me to decipher that you were a follower of Abrahamic scripture. Maybe you don't share them, but the types of anti-sexual attitudes taken by most Christians only serve to repress and enslave humanity.

I am also curious how you can be a Christian and not a theist? Do you think there was a historical Christ, and was he the 'son of God'?

Pax

Sandalstraps said...

Blacksun,

I think that you still misunderstand me a little, but I gratefully accept your apology, trusting that it was sincere.

I say that you misunderstand me because you are getting on me for the same thing that I was getting on Aaron Kinney; that is, falling into the trap set by the Muslim cleric by comparing the relative moral values of sex and bombs. I don't think that the moral value of sexual acts can in any reasonable way be compared to the moral value of detonating a bomb in a crowd, and any argument that justifies the one by attacking the other is a poorly constructed argument, whether it is the cleric's argument that bombs are justified by the sexual degradation of the West, or its inverse, as implied by Mr. Kinney.

I do not share your tendency to treat sex as a monolithic act which is always morally permissible because it is always life affirming, though I do share your general assumption about the value of sex. That is to say that sex, absent certain conditions which would change its general character, is a unitive and, as you said, "life affirming" act which builds love both for one's self and one's sexual partner.

As for my theological positions, I hesitate to share them with you. Many of them are, of course, a matter of public record, and as such you can, for instance, click on my Blogger profile and visit my blog. But I suspect, particularly in the way in which you frame your question, that you are not asking an honest question wherein your primary concern is to obtain information for the sake of information. I suspect instead that you are asking a hyper-critical question, wherein you seek to trap me by finding an apparent contradiction in my stated belief system, and then use that as rhetoric ammunition against me. While I enjoy stimulating conversations on all manner of topics with all manner of people, I have no interest in advesarial conversations in which one person seeks to gain some sort of advantage on the other one.

I say that particularly here, because none of my arguments or positions concerning sexual morality rest on the existence of a God of any description, and so, for our purposes, what exactly I believe about God has no bearing on the conversation. If you convince me that your inquiries into my faith are honest and charitable - or, at least, not malicious - I will do my best to satisfactorily answer whatever questions you ask.

In the meantime, you are more than welcome to read any number of posts from my blog, from which, if you read both critically and charitably, you can begin to construct some sort of mental picture of my religious beliefs.

I will, however, answer one of your questions, because I take the word "curious" so seriously:

My claim concerning theism was not that I am or am not a theist, but that I am not a theist in the traditional sense of the word "theist," as one who believes in a God with at least these attributes:

1. omniscience
2. omnipotence
3. benevolence

I do not believe that an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God is compatible with a world full of pain and suffering. But that does not believe that a God of some more limited description is in any way incompatible with such a world.

Oh, and what the hell, I'll answer your other question, too. I do believe - with the overwhelming majority of scholars - that there was a historical man named Jesus, described in both the cannonical and non-cannonical Gospels. I do not, however, believe that Jesus was in any way divine in and of himself. I am by no means alone in claiming to be a disciple of Jesus - that is, one who follows the teachings of Jesus, belongs to a community of others who follow the same teachings, and sees Jesus as in some special way revealing the nature of God - while denying that a human being can also be God.

But, if we wish to discuss the relative moral value of certain sexual issues - especially pornography - then we should stick to that subject rather than getting distracted by my apparently "novel" beliefs.

Aaron Kinney said...

Sandalstraps,

I appreciate your comment. While I wrote this post in the context of showing how Abrahamic theism leads one to equate pornography with immorality and equate violence with Godly morality, I am still happy to repond to your comments the best I can.

I see that you mentioned in your second post that you are a consequentialist, which is more or less utilitarian.

I am most definitely not a utilitarianist. My moral system is a fact-based individualist morality.

In a nutshell, the only immoral actions are coercive ones. Raw gay sex with 100 men at once is not immoral assuming it is consentual.

Similarly, pornography is not immoral assuming that it is consentual.

In this instance, the pornography is assumed consentual. But when is blowing people up with bombs consentual? That is coercive.

You admitted that you are a Christian. While it seems that you reject theism as we know it, and therefore may be more of a functional atheist or functional agnostic, I dont think its too farr off for me to assume at the moment that your moral system is in accordance with the rules laid out by God in the Bible. Is this correct?

In other words, is your moral framework based on premises in the Bible, or is it based on premises you came to on your own?

According to the Bible, consent is not the deciding moral factor in sexual or violent interactions. I wholly reject that as a moral system.

So I must unreservedly declare that if pornography that is viewed or produced does not involve actual coercion, then it is quite impossible for the porn to be "immoral".

It is principles that decide the morality of a given action, not the effects of a given action.

It is quite impossible to objectively measure morality based on some quantifiable effect.

The ends do not justify the means my friend.

I dont think you can possibly present a scenario where consentually produced pornography can be "immoral," or the consentual viewing of same pornography could be "immoral" either, at least as how I define morality. You are of course welcome to try and explain how in a given instance the viewing or producing of the porn is immoral according to your moral code.

Sandalstraps said...

Blacksun,

One more thing:

You say, rather emphatically:

Apparently there WAS enough information in your comment for me to decipher that you were a follower of Abrahamic scripture.

I disagree with your assumption that a correct inference necessarily implies justification for belief. You can believe a great many correct things, and yet, by virtue of failing to have good reasons for those beliefs, fail to obtain any reasonable justification for them.

In logic there are many examples of this, generally lumped under the heading of "false cause" fallacies. And since I am the sort of insufferable fellow who is inclined to discuss logic with unwilling victims, I will assume (perhaps incorrectly) that your statement here indicates that you have no formal training in logic, and will give you the most basic primer in this sort of fallacy.

A false cause fallacy is an informal fallcy, and a very specific kind called a fallacy of weak induction. That is, a fallacy in which, according to Patrick J. Hurley (author of one of the standard logic texts) "the connection between [the] premises and [the] conclusion is not strong enough to support the conclusion."

The standard forms of a false cause fallacy - that is, a fallacy in which the cause of an event (or in this case, a belief - your belief that I am a theist, or at least a follower of the Abrahamic scriptures) is falsely attributed to something which did not cause it - looks little like the argument you made above. They are as follows:

1. Post hoc ergo propter hoc ("after this, therefore on account of this")

During the past two months, every time that the cheerleaders have worn blue ribbons in their hair, the basketball team has been defeated. Therefore to prevent defeats in the future, the cheerleaders should get rid of those ribbons.

2. Non causa pro causa ("not the cause of the cause")

Successful business executives are paid in excess of $50,000. Therefore, the best way to ensure that Fergeson will become a successful executive is to raise his salary to at least $50,000.

3. Oversimplified cause

The quality of education in our grade schools and high schools has been declinging for years. Clearly our teachers aren't doing their job these days.

Each of these arguments are obviously fallacious, though I could explain exactly why if you need me to.

Your own argument does not obviously fall into any of these categories, but I consider it to be an example of the first kind, the post hoc fallacy. That is, you argue that you assumed I was a theist after I posted a comment disagreeing with one of your positions (possibly because everyone who disagrees with you is a theist), therefore you assumed I was a theist because of something in that comment. But absent the ability to point to any portion of that comment which tips my hand, you cannot reasonably assume that I am a theist based on the content of the comment. Therefore the casue of your assumption, your belief, must lie outside of the comment.

However, there is another for of informal, weak induction fallacy that might work just as well: hasty generalization.

You make a number of stated and unstated hasty generalizations, some of which were apparent in your assumptions about me after your assumption that I was a theist. One of Hurley's examples will do nicely to show you what such a fallacy looks like, so that you can then see it in your comments to me:

Four Arab fundamentalists [this is from a pre 9-11 text, though this sort of argument is even more popular now] were convicted of bombing the World Trade Center in New York City. The message is clear: Arabs are nothing but a pack of religious fanatics prone to violence.

You use this on me in the final paragraph of your first comment:

You're not bringing critical thinking skills to bear on this subject. You have nothing to justify your position except scriptures, which are simply fictions written by power-hungry men.

Because I am a religious person (though you had no reason to assume that at the time of your first comment to me), and because some religious people whom you have encountered fit the description you apply to me, that description must be applicable to me as well.

I think that this sort of fallacy was also at work in your assumption about my religious beliefs:

People who disagree with you tend to be religious, so I must be religious. Of course, just as the absense of critical thinking and the presense of a sola scriptura approach to truth are not necessary conditions for being religious; neither is the presense of some sort of theistic belief system a necessary condition for disagreeing with you. It is incidental, and making such a certain inference from such an incidental condition is at the very least hasty. And, even when it is a correct inference, it is not a justified one.

I offer this as a sort of primer for what to expect from me if you choose to engage me in dialog. Such hasty and fallacious thinking will not be tolerated, especially not from someone so willing to mock the treasured beliefs of others.

Sandalstraps said...

Aaron,

I typed my last comment before your posted. I'm putting my son to bed now, and will read and respond to your comment in the morning.

BlackSun said...

sandalstraps,

I didn't really use logic at all to figure out you were religious. I guessed, (assigning it a, say, 85% probability) because you were making theistic type arguments.

But I still say that there is no justification outside of scripture for looking at consensual sex or depictions of sexuality as immoral.

As far as your theology is concerned, I think it's kind of cool that you don't really believe in an omni-x god. It's a step in the right direction. Buddhists think that way too. Except some of them go one step further and eliminate the need for a deity altogether. After all, if god is something less than perfect and omni-x then he's only different than humans by degree. Therefore much of the theistic nonsense falls away (sin, redemption, being saved, having had someone die for your sins, the rapture, etc.)

But you say you believe in "Jesus as in some special way revealing the nature of God." So there is still a thread of idolatry, or that there is a persona bigger than us or better or wiser, without whom we can't make it, etc.

I say this not to mock or put you down, I'm just trying to re-state what I think your views are. I'm sure you have a more sophisticated way of looking at it, having been a minister and all.

I was actually a minister too, of Church Universal and Triumphant. I didn't go to divinity school, but I did read the bible more than a few times, as well as the other CUT scriptures.

So I know something of what I speak, though it's been about 13 years since I resigned as a minister and left the church.

I simply don't see any point to it all. You or I or Aaron know as much, if not more, about life as those who wrote the gospels. So what's the point of looking at what anyone wrote thousands of years ago. Especially when they had an agenda.

I know you say you are a consequentialist. Which means taking into account all of the consequences of what we do before we decide to do it. Well, everything in life has winners and losers, and part of our genetic programming is to look for opportunities to find an advantage. Sometimes other people get hurt. And most of the time that hurt is far removed: such as when we buy cheap goods at Wal-Mart and children in China are poisoned from the ensuing pollution. Yet there is a check and balance. I would argue that a person has a proximate responsibility to look for a framework in which to be responsible. But we can't just stop buying products--there's nowhere else to get them. So we can't practice consequentialism without onerous and draconian regulations that would paralyze us. So essentially it's a little different position than utilitarianism.

I'd personally like to see corporations pay for their externalities to protect the disadvantaged from being hurt. But the reality is that until those people organize their own environmental movement, no matter how difficult that may be for them, they will continue to be affected.

So this is just one example of how consequences ultimately cycle back to the individual. Likewise if you are going to block porn viewing or prostitution to 'protect' women, you are taking away their power to solve their own problems and make choices in their lives.

To me, if you're going to justify taking these rights away from an individual, the burden is on you to come up with a damn good reason. I don't think Utilitarianism fits the bill. Utilitarianism allows coercion for the 'greater good' which in my mind is not justified. The only way to serve the greater good is to serve the individual.

beepbeepitsme said...

Yeah.. Naked women is all eve's fault...

Bruce And Sheila In The Garden Of Eden - An Australian Bible Parody
http://beepbeepitsme.blogspot.com/2006/10/bruce-and-sheila-in-garden-of-eden_06.html

Sandalstraps said...

A great deal of time and energy has here been wasted by failing to make an important distinction between making moral evaluations and establishing contrived consequences for behaviors which end up on the negative side of such moral evaluations.

What I mean by that is this: Every time I mention the possibility of making a negative moral judgment (that is, saying that such and such a behavior is not, under these described conditions, morally permissible) the discussion shifts to the impermissibility or impracticality of enforcing such a position.

If I insinuate, for instance, that shopping at Wal Mart might be immoral for reasons that Blacksun has outlined (I boycott Wal Mart, by the way - not that they notice!), the conversation then shifts to how impossible it would be to enforce such a moral judgment. But these are two separate issues, and they should for the moment remain separated for a number of reasons.

First, in a plural society no one's moral judgment can be imposed on the plurality without consent, and consensus. (By plural society, I think you know what I mean - I society in which multiple belief systems/ideologies/moral intuitions etc. come together.) In our society, for instance, we have Christians are various stripes (who cannot often agree with each other), Jews (who again have a hard time bridging the divides between Conservative, Orthodox, Reform and Reconstruction), Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Democrats, Republicans, Freemasons, Mormons, and just about everything else. While these categories - particularly after I added a couple of political parties - are not entirely exclusive, they each have their own philosophic or theological commitments, and their own ethical systems. While there may be some overlap between these, they each bring their own concerns to bare on any given issue.

The price of living in peace is seriously considering each viewpoint, and mediating between them to try to build consensus. This social compact is violated when one group obtains power and imposes their own views on the rest of the plural society without their consent, and without some sort of consensus. This creates angry and alienated groups who may no longer wish to participate in the plural society, and may even become threats to it.

With that in mind, it is important to understand that just because I make a moral judgment on a particular issue, I am not advocating that such a judgment be imposed on others. That does not mean that I cannot morally evaluate the actions of other people just as I morally evaluate my own actions - it just means that I cannot impose those judgments on others by imposing contrived consequences (that is, legal punishments designed to curtail a behavior that has been deemed immoral) for certain behaviors.

This is also important because, on many issues, imposing contrived consequences fails to significantly impact one's moral behavior. The best example of this I can think of on a non-contentious issue is speeding. Our government has made a kind of moral evaluation concerning how we drive. That is, it is unsafe, and therefore (at least in my own consequentialist framework) immoral to travel over a certain speed in certain conditions. That is, it is deemd in some way immoral to go over 35 miles per hour in my neighborhood, and over 55 miles per hour on the main thoroughfare that gets to my neighborhood. The government, as such, has attached a certain contrived consequence to this behavior - a fine. But because that consequence cannot be universally imposed, and because, as such, enforcement of it seems almost random, the driving habits of most drivers are not significantly impacted.

This is true of almost every case of establishing contrived consequences for immoral behavior. Most people, for instance, do not commit murder because a particular contrived consequence has been established for it, such as death, or a certain jail term. Rather, most people refrain from commiting murder because murder violates their own moral judgments. They agree that murder is wrong, and so they do not murder.

And that is the goal of making and discussing moral judgments - to bring people into agreement on important moral issues. That aim is not helped by those who impose their moral judgments on others without dialog, without discussion. So I make a sharp distinction between making and discussing moral judgments and imposing penalties on those who don't comply with said moral judgments, and not just because, of course, I lack the raw power to impose such penalties.

So let's not waste more time and energy building arguments about how impossible it might be to impose some contrived consequence on a population for violating whatever moral judgments I may make in our discussion, as I have no intention of imposing such consequences. For me, by and large, the natural consequences are sufficiently reinforcing for positive moral behavior, and sufficiently adverse for negative moral behavior.

Sandalstraps said...

Aaron,

Whew! This discussion is more time consuming that I thought it would be when I joined it! I suppose much of that is my fault, because I have been laying out some basic philosophic considerations so that we can avoid as many misunderstandings as possible. To that end, your questions are remarkably helpful, and I'll take a little bit of time to answer them before I call it quits for the day.

You admitted that you are a Christian. While it seems that you reject theism as we know it, and therefore may be more of a functional atheist or functional agnostic, I dont think its too farr off for me to assume at the moment that your moral system is in accordance with the rules laid out by God in the Bible. Is this correct?

In other words, is your moral framework based on premises in the Bible, or is it based on premises you came to on your own?

According to the Bible, consent is not the deciding moral factor in sexual or violent interactions. I wholly reject that as a moral system.


You are welcome to visit my blog and see my writings concerning the Bible for yourself. For the moment, I'll summarize some of the relevant ones as a way of answering your question:

The Bible, first and foremost, is not a systematic work which speaks with a single voice. As such one cannot develop a comprehensive morality based on it if one is in anu way systematic or linear in one's thinking. One can, from certain passages in the Bible, develop useful moral precepts, but one cannot derive any system from a non-systematic and non-linear work such as the Bible.

It is comprised of many different forms of writings, but all of them come from an ancient mythos which cannot be yanked out of its context and imposed on our modern world without some serious translation.

Similarly, it is, because the Bible does not speak with a single voice or a single set of concerns (having been compiled by many authors and editors over a very, very long period of time, in a variety of historical, geographic and social/cultural contexts), it is extremely dangerous for someone to make such a blanket statement as

According to the Bible, consent is not the deciding moral factor in sexual or violent interactions.

This is as true of the fundamentalists who might say that the Bible uniformly condemns or affirms any particular behavior. Rather than speaking of the Bible as a cohesive whole (it isn't), it is much more fruitful to speak of passages of the Bible, sections of it. And, when speaking of such sections, it is similarly fruitful to discuss them in their textual, historical, cultural and linguistic contexts.

To the specific concerns in your comments and questions:

1. I reject a particular form of belief in God which has been labeled theism. This does not make me a functional atheist or agnostic, any more than being a polytheist (another rejection of traditional theism) would make me a functional atheist or agnostic. I am still a very devout Christian, with my faith impacting every area of my life, ordering it and providing it with meaning. However, I value the criticisms which skeptics bring to religious belief, and, while I hold to my relationship with God, found in the context of my faith and my religion, I do not cling to particular beliefs about God. Rather, I critically engage them, believing that all human descriptions of the divine are ultimately flawed, and serve best as metaphors rather than dogmas.

2. As you can probably surmise from the above comments concerning the nature of the Bible, I derive some moral precepts from passages from the Bible, but I do not build any moral system on a Biblical framework. Parts of the Bible have moral concerns which I don't share (prohibitions against certain kinds of homosexual behavior, prohibitions against idolatry, etc.) and I have certain moral concerns not found in the Biblical text, and not easily derived from any part of it (for instance, I am a vegetarian for moral reasons).

Finally, in your comment you establish a sort of false dichtomy, though I think that comes more from a careless use of language than from careless thinking (and, to a certain extent, each of us are careless in our use of language - if we weren't so careless we may never actually say anything!), when you ask

[I]s your moral framework based on premises in the Bible, or is it based on premises you came to on your own?

The answer to your question, as it is stated, must be "no," because I cannot affirm the truth value of either half of your dichotomy. None of us thinks in isolation. In fact, none of us does anything in isolation. As such, I cannot come up with anything on my own. Similarly, I have not arrived at any sort of moral framework on my own. I have had a great deal of help from a great many sources. And, my task is far from finished. I do not have a wholly formed moral framework, but rather just fits and starts. Such is the nature of moral reflection.

To the substance of your question, as I said I have had help from many sources, and parts of the Bible have helped me a great deal. However I would not say that the moral framework that I have hinted at here rests on any part of the Bible, or on any sort of religious belief. That is not to say that my own moral practice is divorced from my religious practice, but it is to say that my public expressions on moral issues (especially those made to groups and individuals that don't share my religious commitments) do not rest on religious considerations for the obvious reason that any fruitful dialog on a moral issue must aim for consensus, for common ground. As we do not share common religious ground, it would be fruitless for me to advocate to you moral considerations which have solely religious grounding.

Aaron Kinney said...

Sandalstraps,

You are welcome to visit my blog and see my writings concerning the Bible for yourself.

Ill definitely check it out!

For the moment, I'll summarize some of the relevant ones as a way of answering your question:

The Bible, first and foremost, is not a systematic work which speaks with a single voice. As such one cannot develop a comprehensive morality based on it if one is in anu way systematic or linear in one's thinking. One can, from certain passages in the Bible, develop useful moral precepts, but one cannot derive any system from a non-systematic and non-linear work such as the Bible.

It is comprised of many different forms of writings, but all of them come from an ancient mythos which cannot be yanked out of its context and imposed on our modern world without some serious translation.

Similarly, it is, because the Bible does not speak with a single voice or a single set of concerns (having been compiled by many authors and editors over a very, very long period of time, in a variety of historical, geographic and social/cultural contexts), it is extremely dangerous for someone to make such a blanket statement as

According to the Bible, consent is not the deciding moral factor in sexual or violent interactions.

This is as true of the fundamentalists who might say that the Bible uniformly condemns or affirms any particular behavior. Rather than speaking of the Bible as a cohesive whole (it isn't), it is much more fruitful to speak of passages of the Bible, sections of it. And, when speaking of such sections, it is similarly fruitful to discuss them in their textual, historical, cultural and linguistic contexts.


Thats an interesting take on the Bible that I havent seen coming from a Christian before. Do you believe the Bible was inspired and that it was the literal word of God being communicated through the various writers? It seems not. You are implying that the Bible is sourced from men, and not God himself.

To the specific concerns in your comments and questions:

1. I reject a particular form of belief in God which has been labeled theism. This does not make me a functional atheist or agnostic, any more than being a polytheist (another rejection of traditional theism) would make me a functional atheist or agnostic. I am still a very devout Christian, with my faith impacting every area of my life, ordering it and providing it with meaning. However, I value the criticisms which skeptics bring to religious belief, and, while I hold to my relationship with God, found in the context of my faith and my religion, I do not cling to particular beliefs about God. Rather, I critically engage them, believing that all human descriptions of the divine are ultimately flawed, and serve best as metaphors rather than dogmas.

2. As you can probably surmise from the above comments concerning the nature of the Bible, I derive some moral precepts from passages from the Bible, but I do not build any moral system on a Biblical framework. Parts of the Bible have moral concerns which I don't share (prohibitions against certain kinds of homosexual behavior, prohibitions against idolatry, etc.) and I have certain moral concerns not found in the Biblical text, and not easily derived from any part of it (for instance, I am a vegetarian for moral reasons).


Taking this into account, I wonder if you accept the concept of original sin? Do you believe that you can be found guilty for the actions committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden?

Finally, in your comment you establish a sort of false dichtomy, though I think that comes more from a careless use of language than from careless thinking (and, to a certain extent, each of us are careless in our use of language - if we weren't so careless we may never actually say anything!), when you ask

[I]s your moral framework based on premises in the Bible, or is it based on premises you came to on your own?

The answer to your question, as it is stated, must be "no," because I cannot affirm the truth value of either half of your dichotomy. None of us thinks in isolation. In fact, none of us does anything in isolation. As such, I cannot come up with anything on my own. Similarly, I have not arrived at any sort of moral framework on my own. I have had a great deal of help from a great many sources. And, my task is far from finished. I do not have a wholly formed moral framework, but rather just fits and starts. Such is the nature of moral reflection.

To the substance of your question, as I said I have had help from many sources, and parts of the Bible have helped me a great deal. However I would not say that the moral framework that I have hinted at here rests on any part of the Bible, or on any sort of religious belief. That is not to say that my own moral practice is divorced from my religious practice, but it is to say that my public expressions on moral issues (especially those made to groups and individuals that don't share my religious commitments) do not rest on religious considerations for the obvious reason that any fruitful dialog on a moral issue must aim for consensus, for common ground. As we do not share common religious ground, it would be fruitless for me to advocate to you moral considerations which have solely religious grounding.


Well Sandalstraps, it seems that you are not afraid to think outside the box and look at things from multiple angles, both supportive and critical. I am curious as to why a person who thinks like you do has "faith" that you mentioned earlier. I define faith as belief in something without logical proof or material evidence; belief in something by virtue of its unsupportability.

Do you often have faith in unsupportable beliefs? Like God? Or do you maybe define faith differently than I do?

Why and when did you acquire faith in a Christian God? Why do you accept the God/Jesus claims in the Bible when you seem to be critical of the Bible to a degree that even most liberal Christians dont share?

Im confused as to why you are a faithful Christian in the first place...

BlackSun said...

sandalstraps,

Thanks for participating in this discussion. I really did mean my apology earlier.

I second Aaron's motion. I don't think you really fit the bill of a Christian. I mean no disrespect. You seem to be eminently reasonable, and you seem to have cast off most of the chains of fundamentalism.

So why not get rid of the label as well?

Sandalstraps said...

Aaron,

I think that equating faith with belief, if by belief we mean intellectual agreement with propositions about something (generally, when speaking of religious belief, we mean propositions about God) is, while common, mistaken. Faith is perhaps better understood as a kind of trust, or, as theologian Paul Tillich puts it, a state of "ultimate concern," to be defined by something. This encompasses one's entire being, and not just one's intellect. It is a condition of total dependency.

Faith in God, then, is to trust the God who lies beyond all human beliefs about God, to be ultimately concerned with God and the existential claims which God makes on you, to trust God, and surrender one's self to God, and to totally depend on God. It is not, however, to believe irrational things about God, or to accept logical contradictions. This is one of the ways in which I can be extremely critical of religious beliefs, many of which are irrational, while also being defined by my religious practice, which is not entirely to be equated with belief.

In other words, to your question

Do you have faith in unsupportable beliefs?

I must honestly answer that I don't have faith in beliefs at all, because beliefs are not the proper object of faith. I do, however, have faith in God.

Of course, all of this presupposes the existence of God, and debates about God's existence are interminable. This can be especially frustrating for atheists who, after summarily dispatching one concept of God are then presented with an entirely different concept of God. One of my university professors, an atheist, likened his project to a game of whack-a-mole. You defeat one theistic system, and three others rise up to take its place.

For me, there is no point in having a discussion concerning the existence of God. People's minds are rarely if ever changed, and a great deal of time and energy is wasted on the fruitless affair. I believe in some sort of a God - though I readily admit that I can't accurately describe God - on the basis of religious experience, which is nebulous and difficult to pin down.

That experience, however, so orders my life that it is an undeniable part of me. This is what it means to be grounded in the God whom Paul Tillich (again - he's an important theologian for me) calls the "Ground of Being."

As for the Bible, it is one of many things which I call "human products of the divine-human encounter." That is, the Biblical text is the product of a series of religious experiences had by many different people over the course of a very long time. To study the history of the text is just facinating. I highly recommend Jaroslav Pelikan's Whose Bible is It? for anyone interested in some of the stickier issues concerning the history both of the formation of the Biblical text and the interpretation of said Biblical text.

At my blog you can find many pieces which deal with issues arising from the study of the Biblical text, though it is important to note that I am not a Biblical scholar. I have some theological training, and hope to pursue an academic career, but I do not yet have a post-graduate degree in any subject, and when I do pursue doctoral work it will probably be in theological ethics.

The short answer to your question, then, is that I recognize human authorship of the Bible, and find it ridiculous to think that God would simply highjack the bodies or wills of the authors to make the text come out a particular way. But that does not mean that the text is not worth serious study and consideration.

As for how I came to have faith, I'm not sure I can share that story here. For one, it is far too long. For another, it is deeply personal, resting on experiences which are far from intersubjectively varifiable. As such it will not mean much to people who have not had similar experiences, and will no doubt disappoint your audience.

I can, however, point you to certain posts at my blog which should address some of your questions concerning my faith, so that we can get back to the subject at hand: that is, constructing some sort of moral framework within which to approach sexual behaviors in general, and issues related to the making, distribution, and consumption of materials labeled as "pornography."

Finally, I should clear up a couple of old points which have been sitting as the conversation shifts to my theological beliefs:

1. I am not trying, yet, to make any claims concerning the moral value of pornography, because I don't yet know whether or not we share enough common ground in terms of how we approach moral issues to be able to productively discuss that. What I mean by that is this: if our discussion is one of entirely competing moral intuitions, with no shared ground, then it will be an entirely parallel conversation in which none of my points ever touch you and none of your points ever touch me. And I am certainly not trying to speak uniformly about pornography because, while I am not a consumer of pornographic materials (as they are generally understood - like the stuff you'd get from, say, the Hustler Store) I understand enough to know that they are not all identical.

I can say that we at least share one serious word in common: "coersion." If we are to find enough common ground to be able to seriously discuss the moral issues involved in production, distribution and consumption of pornographic materials, we should focus on that word, and what exactly we mean by it.

2. To your comment:

...I wrote this post in the context of showing how Abrahamic theism leads one to equate pornography with immorality and equate violence with Godly morality

I'm not sure that Abrahamic theism (your term - while I have been using it in my discussion here in deference to the language usage already in place, as I am a guest here, I am not entirely comfortable with it for reasons not worth getting into at the moment) necessarily or even generally leads one to equate both "pornography with immorality" and "violence with Godly morality." That was certainly this particular cleric's angle, but I suspect that he is not the best representative of monotheism.

I readily admit that violence is an ongoing problem for religion. In fact, I am currently working on a short study of the relationship between violence and religion. But the problem, as best as I can tell, is not that violence necessarily follows religion in general or the sort of monotheism that you are attacking here in particular. The problem, instead, is that violence seems at least to necessarily follow humans. It comes out of our innate nature - a problem, incidentally, which could be very useful for an atheist who wishes to attack notions of design - and incidentally latches onto religion.

Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have all had histories of violence. But they have also all had histories of working against violence. To choose a jihadist Muslim cleric as a representative sample of religious belief is to dishonestly rig the debate, as I imagine that you would find very few theists in the West willing to go along with the cleric's assumptions.

I suspect that most Western theists would support (though, perhaps only hypocritically so, given the available statistics concerning, say, Christian clergy and the use of pornography) the first half (that is, that the making, distribution, and consumption of most products deemed pornographic is morally impermissible) while denying the second half (that is, that violence in the name of God or religion is generally morally permissible).

Or, at the very least, there is nothing in your article which would convince a critical and relatively unbiased reader that there is a necessary link between theism, opposition to pornography, and a willingness to engage in violence in the name of one's God. As such, this most interesting piece really only:

a.) shows what a nut-job the cleric in question is, or at least appears to us to be, and

b.) serves as a point of entry into a discussion about all sorts of interesting topics.

Of course, if that's all this post really does, it is still a most interesting post, doing far more than most posts I encounter, his my continued presense.

I will not, however (and perhaps this is a great relief to your regular readers) be able to continue to put this much time and energy into this discussion. I am by no means backing out. But I am signaling my hope that some preliminary concerns - especially concerns about my theological positions and attitude towards scripture - can be addressed by reading material at my blog, rather than by my answering questions here in such an extended way.

To that end, here are some links:

Thales Falls Down the Well Again and Again, on approaching the Bible as myth (but not lie)

Exodus as a Macro-Story, a self-explanatory title

Moses and the Burning Bush: Existential Questions from the Divine-Human Encounter, which deals, as the title indicates, with the nature of the Biblical text, an interpretation/exegesis of a particular Biblical story, and the existenital implications of religious experience

For someone interested in how I think, those are some good places to start. Also, feel welcome to browse my blog yourself, as there are many more than three pieces there, some of which may more immediately address your concerns that those three.

Tyler Simons said...

Y'all got El Strapissimo going, didn't you!

1. Smart Christians

Aaron wrote:

Thats an interesting take on the Bible that I havent seen coming from a Christian before.

There's a lot of us. Many of us have blogs! You should read them! There are hundreds, hundreds of brilliant Christian theologians, from Friederich Schleiermacher, active in the early 1800s (if not before) to the present, who find hundreds of ways to acknowledge facts about Scripture like the one Sandalstraps presents while maintaining strong, particularly Christian faith. If you like reading books, both the Sandlman and myself would be more than willing to give you a few places to start.

There're tons of people who are really, really, upset about the mix of fanatical faith and extremist politics so visible today. There are tons of Christians who feel this way. There is a frightening intellectual laziness among much of the American Christian population. For Christians like myself, though, it is important to note Sandalstraps' remark that Aaron's initial argument is the inverse of the fanatical Christian one. For Christians like us, the problem isn't just with fanatical Christianity. The problem is a dialectical one, fanatical, unthought-out
faith, ignorant about and hostile to secular thinking and people and fanatical, unthought-out atheism, ignorant about and hostile to religious thinking and people feed off each other and escalate the situation, exasperate the problem. That was a complicated sentence, but I really think it's an important point. I sincerely hope you give this some serious thought.

2. Sexual Morality

Aaron wrote:

My moral system is a fact-based individualist morality. In a nutshell, the only immoral actions are coercive ones.

(Sandalstraps has, no doubt, already answered this -- sometimes I don't read all of his longer posts. I have a MTV-corrupted attention span.)

I think that Aaron's position is entirely reasonable for a criminal justice code. In that sense, politically, I'm a libertarian. Only coercive actions (I'm specifically thinking about sex here) are clearly wrong enough to warrant imprisonment. I think that extrapolating this to rule over ethics in general is of limited use. Frankly, I doubt that you really believe what you wrote.

Take sexual harassment, a boss at an otherwise really good job who constantly makes lewd comments to a female subordinate. I don't think a guy should go to jail because he makes such comments. That would be an impossibly messy law to inforce. I do think that it's morally wrong to make such comments, though, particularly if in a situation where, as an employer, the harasser has power over the woman's career prospects. Literally, however, this can't be considered coercion. The woman can always, with a little time and effort, look for another job; most interviewers would understand a short stay at a current job if the asshole boss is explained tactfully, I'd imagine.

You could argue, I guess, that the nasty boss is, in a sense, coercive. He can leverage professional advancement (a move to a healthier work environment would almost always be at least a small step back) to coerce the woman into staying at the job and listening to a constant barrage of comments that make her extremely uncomfortable. This is, however, a tortured understanding of coercion, isn't it?

This brings us, as I see it, to the central problem of Aaron's moral code. I don't think I'm too far out on a limb in claiming that lechery makes women uncomfortable. There is nothing inherently coercive about lechery, although I'll grant that it might contain the threat of coercion, which might, in some semantic sense, be coerive.

Here it is in a nutshell, Aaron. This is why, at the end of the day, I don't even think you believe what you're saying. If coercion is the extent of immorality, than I don't see why it's wrong for me to stop you and your wife or girlfriend on the street and say to your honey, (assuming you have one -- if not, think of your mom or sister) "Hey, baby, ditch this ugly motherfucker and come with me. I can tell by the way you're looking around that he isn't doing you right. You look like you need some hot Christian lovin'. I know that he doesn't fuck you right, you're blushing. Don't lie to me." I'm not arguing that I should go to jail, but I would be acting immoraly. If I weren't acting immoraly, you have no reason to kick my ass. You wouldn't have any reason to be the slightest bit angry, as you hadn't been wronged. Am I coercing you into listening to my crude attempts to steal your girl? Coerced irritation? That seems pretty weak. How can you be irritated, though, if I'm not doing anything inherently wrong in the first place?

Being an asshole isn't coercive, but it's immoral. It shouldn't be illegal, though. Some Christians do understand this distinction! Do you?

Here is my favorite example of Christian sexual ethics. The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Global Anglican Communion has more substantial commentary on that subject than any of us.

3. Theology

As far as his theological and philosophical reasoning goes, I'm pretty much in agreement with him, and I strongly suggest you read his comments carefully; I don't have the patience or generousity to be so careful with my blog comments. Few do. You're lucky to engage in conversation with him.

I do want to point out a point where I'm starting to move away from his position. Strappy wrote:

I do not, however, believe that Jesus was in any way divine in and of himself.

A reasonable belief following from this claim is that Jesus wasn't resurrected from the dead by a God capable of intervening in history.

For a while, I'd been pretty convinced by these two theses, mostly because it seems reasonable to conclude that if Jesus really is both fully divine and fully human (bracketing, for now, the logical possibility of this claim) and if God really did intervene in history and raise Jesus from the grave, St, Paul is justified in claiming that Christians who, in some sense, have the correct belief are given eternal life, literally, while everyone else is destined for unending firey suffering.

Because, at the end of the day, my faith is in a God of Boundless Love, you can see why I would have a problem with the whole incarnation/justification by (a narrow concept of) faith thing. As I saw it, the idea of a supremely loving God clashes with an exclusivist Christology. (You understand what I mean by exclusivist Christology, no?) These are competing Christian claims; the idea that God is Love, as best I understand it, is ideally exemplified in the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus. "God is Love" itself, as a sentence, comes from 1 John, in the Christian New Testament.

I've been thinking a lot about this recently, specifically because I'm trying to show as much respect to traditional Christian theology as I show to atheist whom, I think, are equally wrong, but generally prefer to talk to. Nicholas Woterstorff, in Divine Discourse, a fantastic book, points out that every Christian interprets scripture in light of their own personal intuition of God's nature. In this, I'm not all that different from a biblical literalist. Take the Psalmist, who, at one point, writes that God made the earth unmoveable or something. A biblical literalist, who believes scripture is the inerrant word of God, has no problem with this at first. The Psalmist is speaking metaphorically. No contemporary American Christian believes that we live in a geocentric universe. The problem lies, however, in the fact that the Psalmist probably did believe he lived in a universe centered around the earth. The contemporary biblicist is forced to conclude that the Psalmist was speaking symbolically (or, at least, primarily symbolically) in a time when it was perfectly intellectually acceptible to say as much literally. This is highly unlikely! It is, however, the necessary interpretation for a biblicist unable to admit that there is any error in Scripture.

Wolterstorff's solution (for Christians, of course) is to interpret scripture so that, to the best of our knowledge, the interpretation leads to the proclamation that God is Love and Truth. Each of us must define love and truth to the best of our ability and is profoundly unloving and uninterested in truth if we do so without considering the opinions on love and truth of those outside of the Church.

Wolterstorff writes:

I conclude that there is no way to avoid emptying our convictions as to what is true and loving in the process of interpreting for divine discourse - no way to circumvent doing that which evokes... the anxiety... that the convictions with which we approach the process of interpretation may lead us to miss discerning what God said and to conclude that God said what God did not say. The anxiety is appropriate, eminantly appropriate, and will always be appropriate. Only with awe and apprehension, sometimes even fear and trembling, and only after prayer and fasting, is it appropriate to interpret a text so as to discern what God is saying thereby. The risks can not be evaded...

There may well be good reason for departing at certain points from the results of applying [the] principle [that scripture is an adequate portrayal of God's speech to us]; but that, then, is what we must be attentive for, good reason for departing.


I think that there are good reasons to believe that a true and loving God (whose character, in this sense, is revealed or described in scripture) hasn't already condemned those to whom She hasn't decided to extend Her grace in the form of literalistic faith in the risen Christ.

I'm not so sure that, assuming Wolterstorff's position is an appropriately normative one for reflective Christians, there are good theological reasons for believing that Jesus wasn't the physical embodiment of the divine logos or that he wasn't raised from the dead. It's hard to prove a negative, basically, especially about events from 2000 years ago -- the historic record we are left with from the period is rather incomplete.

I'm agnostic as to whether the orthodox interpretations of the incarnation and the ressurection are harmful enough in and of themselves (if we correct for Christian exclusivism and argue that when Jesus said "No one gets to the father except through me" he was talking about living a Christlike life instead of talking about specific necessary beliefs) to reject.

These beliefs are, of course, impossible to accept if you assume that God is limited by the laws of physics and what not. I mostly agree with Strappy's claim that God is limited in the senses that Paul Tillich and the process theoogians claim. I think that epistemic humility is a virtue, though, and that we should hold claims about the character and existence of God, as St. Paul and Wolterstorff urge, "With fear and trembling," constantly aware of our great limitations as human beings.

Theists, Panentheists (a name for a loose collection of people who believe in God but want to distance themselves from some of the more ridiculous problems of classical theism) and atheists, among the great diversity of humans, should, because of the great diversity of human thought, take care to avoid solipsism and engage honestly with the limitations of their perspective.

(I can write long blog comments, too!)

Aaron Kinney said...

Sandalstraps,

Thank you for the thoughtful reply. Just like you said you couldnt really give it to me, I dont feel like I got a good explanation of how and why you believe in the Christian God. Thats fair enough of course, as I cant argue really with personal internal reasons for belief.

However, from my angle, it looks like you believe in something that you admittedly cant explain, for reasons that you cant share because they are too internal and personal.

What Im saying is that the things you have told me about your belief in God do nothing to support the possibility of his existence.

Last night I had a conversation with a generic theist girl (not Christian) but she eventually admitted that she believes in something she cant define for reasons she is unable to identify or comprehend. I asked her then why she believes in something that she cant explain define or reason for, and she could only reply "I dont know"

She now seems to be slipping toward agnosticism after I asked her those questions.

You, on the other hand, are steadfastly holding on to something that you dont seem to have good reasons to hold on to (aside of course from your personal revelation-feelings).

I really like the things you had to say about violence, porn, and COERCION. You and I arent so far apart from eachother in terms of morality it seems (especially when considering my moral system vs. the average Christians position!). So thats cool :)

By coercion I mean the violation of consent. The application of force to override an individual's self-determination. Coercion is the only thing that makes any action immoral according to my moral system. And in practice, I believe this works out perfectly and satisfingly to all involved parties.

Regarding my post, I was only really going off against that clearly radical cleric. Abrahamic theism (not general theism), however, does indeed equate sexuality as immoral (unless performed by two married people of opposite sex), and violence as perfectly fine if God wants it to happen. Indeed, Islam and Christianity both demand killing for all kinds of silly broken rules from eating foods to working on sundays to all kinds of other things.

I will read the links you provided later this weekend. But right now its time for me to leave the office and go party in Hollywood!!! :)

Im enjoying the dialogue Sandalstraps, glad you are hanging out to chat. And Im interested to hear your thoughts on coercion. Let me ask you 1) do you believe that the initiation of coercion is necessarily immoral, and 2) do you believe that any immoral acts could occur that DONT involve coercion?

Aaron Kinney said...

Tyler,

There's a lot of us. Many of us have blogs! You should read them! There are hundreds, hundreds of brilliant Christian theologians, from Friederich Schleiermacher, active in the early 1800s (if not before) to the present, who find hundreds of ways to acknowledge facts about Scripture like the one Sandalstraps presents while maintaining strong, particularly Christian faith. If you like reading books, both the Sandlman and myself would be more than willing to give you a few places to start.

Thanks buddy. I do happen to read Christian blogs, but I always like to be introduced to more. Note the "Hit List" portion of my sidebar, which are all Christian blogs that Ive lurked on, although the stiked out ones are now defunct.

There're tons of people who are really, really, upset about the mix of fanatical faith and extremist politics so visible today. There are tons of Christians who feel this way. There is a frightening intellectual laziness among much of the American Christian population. For Christians like myself, though, it is important to note Sandalstraps' remark that Aaron's initial argument is the inverse of the fanatical Christian one. For Christians like us, the problem isn't just with fanatical Christianity. The problem is a dialectical one, fanatical, unthought-out
faith, ignorant about and hostile to secular thinking and people and fanatical, unthought-out atheism, ignorant about and hostile to religious thinking and people feed off each other and escalate the situation, exasperate the problem. That was a complicated sentence, but I really think it's an important point. I sincerely hope you give this some serious thought.


That is an intense paragraph. But ill re-read it and think about it for sure :)

I think that Aaron's position is entirely reasonable for a criminal justice code. In that sense, politically, I'm a libertarian. Only coercive actions (I'm specifically thinking about sex here) are clearly wrong enough to warrant imprisonment. I think that extrapolating this to rule over ethics in general is of limited use. Frankly, I doubt that you really believe what you wrote.

Cool! I used to be a libertarian, but am now an anarchist. But you think I doubt that I really believe what I wrote? Au Contraire!!! I am ready to have my statement put to the test, so bring it on! ;)

Take sexual harassment, a boss at an otherwise really good job who constantly makes lewd comments to a female subordinate. I don't think a guy should go to jail because he makes such comments. That would be an impossibly messy law to inforce. I do think that it's morally wrong to make such comments, though, particularly if in a situation where, as an employer, the harasser has power over the woman's career prospects. Literally, however, this can't be considered coercion. The woman can always, with a little time and effort, look for another job; most interviewers would understand a short stay at a current job if the asshole boss is explained tactfully, I'd imagine.

Sexual harrasment IS coercion. Harassment is deliberately giving knowingly unwanted statements or advances or other actions to another person who, of course, you know is not welcoming of those advances. If I ask you to stop touching my ass, and you continue to do so, then you are in fact coercing me.

I dont believe a guy who makes a lewd sex joke should go to jail, but he should expect to lose his employee. Employees are valuable and training them is expensive. If a sex joke clause is not in the employment contract, then this employer is being coercive and even violating an agreement that he signed!

I believe that your sex harassment example is actually wholly workable within my statments regarding my moral framework.

This brings us, as I see it, to the central problem of Aaron's moral code. I don't think I'm too far out on a limb in claiming that lechery makes women uncomfortable. There is nothing inherently coercive about lechery, although I'll grant that it might contain the threat of coercion, which might, in some semantic sense, be coerive.

You forget that the women are conscious acting agents too. They can request the aggressor to stop, or let it be known in some way that they do not desire that type of advancement.

Here it is in a nutshell, Aaron. This is why, at the end of the day, I don't even think you believe what you're saying. If coercion is the extent of immorality, than I don't see why it's wrong for me to stop you and your wife or girlfriend on the street and say to your honey, (assuming you have one -- if not, think of your mom or sister) "Hey, baby, ditch this ugly motherfucker and come with me. I can tell by the way you're looking around that he isn't doing you right. You look like you need some hot Christian lovin'. I know that he doesn't fuck you right, you're blushing. Don't lie to me."

Actually, there would be nothing IMMORAL about that, although it would be stupid and rude. Lets pretend that I am married and you do this to me and my wife on the sidewalk some random day. You were being stupid and rude, not immoral. I am perfectly free, of course, to tell you to go fuck yourself and then maybe insult your manhood in front of everybody, and my wife of course is free to choose if she wants to stay with me or give you a try.

So in this example, I see no problems with my moral framework applied to it. And your proposition in itself is not immoral, just unwise. Likewise, I can give you a rude reply that is not immoral.

Only when FORCE comes into play is it immoral. For example, if you already knew me and my wife, and we both previously told you to get lost and that we dont want you talking to us, but then you continue to do it, then that is coercive and you would probably be subject to a good ass whooping or restraint from security forces or a lawsuit or something.

The other stuff you provided is interesting. I printed it out and will read the rest when I get home. Right now I got to get outta here and start my weekend :)

Welcome to the discussion Tyler!

Amy said...

Aaron,
There is something implicit within Sandalstraps' and Tylers' arguments that, unfortunately, doesn't seem to have been made clear. Perhaps bringing it to light will aid discussion.

You state "Abrahamic theism (not general theism), however, does indeed equate sexuality as immoral (unless performed by two married people of opposite sex), and violence as perfectly fine if God wants it to happen." In this manner, you are allowing the fundamentalist interpretation that you find so repugnant to define what is Christianity. In your argument, it becomes the norm, and even something necessary to practicing any of the Abrahamic faiths. By making this blanket statement, you ignore the reality of Reform Judaism (which has no such prohibition against premarital sex) and the Metropolitian Community Church (a Christian denomination that was formed in order to affirm and minister to the LGBT population) and the experience of Queer Theologians, among others. All of these groups define themselves as within the Abrahamic traditions; and yet, the model you have created discounts their existence.
In this manner, you are participating in another logical fallacy - the straw man argument. You are allowing the position of "Abrahamic Theism" to be defined by its weakest, most outrageous, thinkers and interpreters. Indeed, there are some Christianities that do present themselves in the manner which you have described; there are also many Christianities that do not.
Any true discussion of these issues needs to recognize that there are as many belief variants within the Abrahamic traditions as there are believers.
In addition, I would call attention to the comment of Paul Quillman (who seems to have been overlooked, as he chimed in before the discussion got particularly heavy). Here is another voice representing the alternate Christianities that are cut out when Christianity is presented as something monolithic and uniform.

Sandalstraps said...

I'll leave the discussion of my religious beliefs, and especially the dissatisfaction of atheists with my justifications for them, with a link to this post, the product of an earlier an encounter with atheists asking the same sorts of questions as have been asked of me here.

That is, in part, because I am much more interested in the ethical theories presented here so far. I have a few questions and comments concerning them.

Aaron,

You make more use of "coersion" than I would. I don't mean that as insult, but instead as a reflection on the ways in which we use language. Tyler and I both place much more narrow parameters on what that word can mean, and as such have other ethical principles to do the work which you have "coersion" do. As such, as you suspected, we are not all that far apart, at least on a surface level reading.

You place "consent" and "coersion" in opposition to each other, in part in the recognition that coersion represents a kind of violence in its violation of the will. I wonder, however, what criteria must be met for there to be sufficient "consent" for an act to be a morally appropriate one.

To what extent must consent be well informed? Does one, in other words, have a moral obligation to inform someone of all possible consequences of a particular activity in order to obtain their consent? Or all probable consequences, all reasonably forseeable consequences? Does one have a moral obligation, further, to ensure that the person whose consent one is trying to obtain fully understands the information they receive concerning the possible or probable consequences of the activity for which one is trying to obtain consent?

In other words, are these sorts of considerations made when one is, in evaluating a given situation, distinguishing between consent and coersion?

That's all I'll ask for a moment, as any other possible questions and comments depend on working out that issue.

Also, I promise that I will shortly start to advance my own moral concerns, especially as they deal with distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy behavior in general, and sexual behavior in particular.

say no to christ said...

Hey Aaron

I really like you blog and way of thinking. Hats off to you!:)
We need more clear thinking atheists like you speaking out.

This topic has heated up and got real interesting, unfortunately I am packing for a trip to So.CAl. to visit my aunt and do not have time to read over everything. I will be back Tuesday night and will try to catch up so I can add my educated oppinion on this matter.

Keep up the good work and "make love NOT war". ;0)

Tyler Simons said...

Aaron, isn't it immoral to be rude? How do you describe manners except as how one should behave? An opinion about how one should behave implies a moral judgment, it seems to me.

I think it's immoral to be unwise, too. Don't you agree? Don't we, as humans, have some kind of obligation to think critically about our perspective in order to conform it to reality? You seem to think that it's somehow wrong for Strapple to "steadfastly [hold] on to something that [he doesn't] seem to have good reasons to hold on to." What are your good reasons for feeling this way?

Your moral code seems one-sided to me. Freedom from coercion seems to sum it up. Freedom-from. This is a wholly negative moral code. You may or may not have good reason for keeping it this way, but I'm tempted to look for a positive side to a moral code, to look for virtues like honesty, compassion, courage, love and justice. How does your moral code account for impressively good behavior? Don't you think that reason is somehow a virtue? It seems like you do, sometimes.

Doesn't a Dorothy Day or Ghandi or Martin Luther King somehow have a higher moral status than someone who just chugs along, trying one's best not to coerce anybody?

You probably could, as an anarchist, say that people like that were fighting the coercion present in the political structure. There seems to be a difference, though, between trying to extract oneself from participation in a coercive society and actively working to eliminate coercions present in society as a whole. How do you account for this?

I like good reasons as much as the next guy, but I'm not sure they can do as much as you seem to want. While I'm committed to a mutual reflective conversation with as many human participants as possible so that we might share our reasons for believing what we believe about the world and the way it should be, I'm not so sure that you'll ever get everybody to agree on first principles from which to argue. I'm pretty confidant that you'll never get everyone to sacrifice their own personal convictions about the truth for a collective mutual approach to the truth. I don't necessarily believe that you'd ever get everyone to reflect critically on their moral and metaphysical outlooks and put these reflections into practice consistantly. In short, I'm not a utopian.

We're selfish bastards, humans. A lot of times I think that the competetiveness and violence that humans show goes above and beyond any naturalistic "survival of the fittest" explanation. We're too good at succeeding and grinding our competetors into the dirt in the process. You see bitter power struggles in moral philosophy departments, for which good reasons for moral codes are the very lifeblood. Anarchists steal their friends girlfriends. This is the essence of my understanding of Original Sin. It might be explainable by means of nature, it might be, as Reinhold Niebuhr believed, spiritual. I'm not sure. I don't think our sinful state exists because Eve got Adam to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That's pretty ridiculous. There's a whole lot to be taken from the first few chapters of Genesis. A literal explanation for the origin of Sin is probably the stupidest possible thing to take from it. Thinking about how the Rabbis defined the knowledge of good and evil as the root of all sin, that's pretty interesting, but neither here nor there.

What are your good reasons for thinking that good reasons are so important for morality?

tim said...

Thumbs up to Sandalstraps for some very well thought out comments. In the process proving he understands logic more than any of the other comment writers.

A lot of discussion has focussed on Mr. Kinney's and Sandalstraps's position on morality and faith. Hardly any discussion has been on the original comment made by Abu Bakar Ba'asyir:

So if you ask me which one is more dangerous, nude women or the Bali bombs, then my answer would be the women showing off their skin

Mr. Kinney merely states in his original post: "Of course, this guy is wrong on all counts", before stating his own position on morality.

But was this Indonesian wrong to say that naked women are worse than the Bali bombing? What point is he trying to make? Why does he think this way when it seems so obvious that he is morally wrong? Why are there so many others who would consider him morally correct?

In my opinion he has every right to say whatever the hell he wants. Note he merely says: "...If you ask me...". He is (i think) also allowed to think whatever the hell he wants to.

The point he's trying to make was correctly identified (naked women = morally damaging), but his reasons don't seem to be fully understod. Though I doubt a westerner (esp. male) could possibly comprehend his position on nudity. There is more to his moral position on nudity than just his religion. It makes more sense than some of you suggest.

Does he say that bombs don't destroy morality? NO. He just says that nudity is worse than bombs. In other words he says that bombs aren't quite as bad as naked women. As it is with nudity there is also more to bombing then some of you suggest. Bombing is rarely only about killing people. As far as I can understand it's usually more about making a statement, or someone trying to get attention. In the process a few people die. Bombers tend to believe that the end justifies the means. Whatever the reason I'm not convinced bombing actually destroys morality as such (even though it could be argued that it is morally wrong), it destroys people, families, the sense of security, but does it really destroy morality?

Just bringing a new dimension to the discusion,

Tim

BlackSun said...

@Tim

There is more to his moral position on nudity than just his religion. It makes more sense than some of you suggest.

No. You are just plain wrong. Especially if you believe in a creator god. What could be wrong with seeing a woman the way 'god' made her?

Comparing this to mass killing?This is an outrageous and intellectually bankrupt statement, and debating it is frankly a waste of electrons.

@Tyler Simons

Anarchists steal their friends girlfriends.

No one can 'steal' anyone's girlfriend. If your girlfriend leaves you for another guy, he was obviously paying better attention to her than you were. The concept of "alienation of affection" is universally recognized in the law (at least in most western cultures) to be antiquated and without merit. It relies on the "ownership" of another human being, and is thus akin to slavery.

Again--if your girlfriend leaves you, it's between you and her, not between you and the third party. You may be pissed, but that's just a symbol of your own sense of inadequacy and humiliation. It's not the guys fault. He's doing what you'd probably do under other circumstances.

Competition is healthy and moral. When we do a better job in business and put a competitor out of business, society becomes more efficient and everybody wins. If your girlfriend leaves you for someone who's treating her better, she gets a better deal, you learn your lesson, and your next girlfriend gets a better deal. Everybody wins.

It's time for people to grow up and put aside these quaint ideas of 'honesty,' 'loyalty,' 'compassion,' and 'justice.'

These may be great words. But usually when they are used, they are trying to divert attention from the speaker's own lack of integrity. People compete, and success involves nuance and detailed understanding of strategy. You must know: Where you stand, where your opponent stands, who is in your circle, who you can help in return for a mutually beneficial relationship, etc.

You should read some books on strategy and game theory. It's a lot more than these simplistic discussions of right/wrong, or even "coercion" would indicate. Coercion is best accomplished when the target is not even aware it is happening.

Much of traditional 'morality' is a smokescreen for these types of activities. If you think the solution is more 'morality,' then you are living in the realm of surface appearances. You have already lost the game to others who are more sophisticated than you are.

Human relations are best understood as a maze of subtlety, competition, deception, and cooperation for advantage. These ever shifting interests and loyalties can almost never be fully unravelled. They can only be sussed out by keen observation, and wisely acted upon when they become known.

Tim said...

Blacksun,

I like your comment about me being just plain wrong.

Except... your next sentence "Especially if you believe in a creator god" sort of softens the blow. You see I don't believe in a creator god. So does that make me less plainly wrong? ;D

Did you also notice the place where I said that I doubt a westerner (esp. male) could possibly comprehend his position on nudity? You seem to be proving my point, giving me more credability. I sincerely apologise if you are in fact a non-westerner and/or female for making such a rash assumption about you.

It helps to think out side of the box, to be critical not only of others but of oneself as well, of other cultures as well as ones own.


Everyone,

My own moral position really has little to do with bali bombings or naked women. But so as to clarify to you bloggers: Personally I don't think nudity is morally destroying in most cases. Could it be? Yes. It's hardly ever worse than bombing or masskilling. Could i justify bombing to anyone else? No. Could I justify it to myself. In some cases yes. Would I ever bomb anyone else or agree with another who does? No. I'm allowed to think whatever the hell I want, am I not?

Can I think of every single possible reasoning behind both events, and thus can I definitely with a hundred percent certainty say that bombing is always more destructive than nudity? Nope, I can't, can you?. For one there is still the case of Mr. Ba'aysir saying the opposite. But why? Understand his reasons and you might see more into the case.

I'll try and come up with some clever (or not so clever) reasoning as to why Mr. Ba'aysir thinks like he thinks (with some more reasoning than just saying he is plaing wrong or an idiot or a theist or anything else bloggers tend to like using) possibly later today. If you want to help by giving your own ideas please do. (Own ideas on Mr. Ba'aysir's position)

Tim

Sandalstraps said...

Blacksun,

I don't think that you understand the subtlty of Tyler position. He is not advocating a sort of mindless return to rote moral values, as you seem to be suggesting (it is very difficult to put Tyler into some easily identifiable camp, so you can stop responding to him as though he's just like every other "rube" who carries the label "Christian" - seriously, I thought we were past this), nor is he denying the complexities of inter-personal relationships. Rather he is saying that, in the midst of such complexities, it still makes sense to speak of moral duties, and especially of positive moral duties.

To bring what I think that he's saying into your self-interested terminology, he's saying that people guided merely by self-interest have misjudged their own interests. That is, those who have an entirely competitive view of human interactions and seek to fully participate in such competition with as few checks on negative behaviors and no imperatives for positive behaviors will ultimately produce a worse result for themselves than those who behave more cooperatively.

He acknowledges your point about our competitive nature, even before you make it, when he says

We're selfish bastards, humans. A lot of times I think that the competetiveness and violence that humans show goes above and beyond any naturalistic "survival of the fittest" explanation. We're too good at succeeding and grinding our competetors into the dirt in the process. You see bitter power struggles in moral philosophy departments, for which good reasons for moral codes are the very lifeblood.

He simply rejects that as being the best way to operate, and thinks that as such it is open to criticism from people who see human nature as more than just immediate (and often misinformed) competitive self-interest.

Or, to put it another way, the Hobbesian view of human nature is neither the only one nor the best one, as it totally fails to account for some other fundamental human behaviors, such as cooperation and altruism. To say this is not to say that humans are principally, much less exclusively defined by such positive terms, a point which Tyler also implicitly acknowledges when he points to exceptional moral examples (Gandhi, Mother Theresa, etc.) as the exception rather than the rule.

But such figures do exist, and they exist absent the sort of agendas that you and one of your (perhaps implicit) apparent mentors Hobbes posit for all human beings. And, in terms of correctly identifying self interest, they seems to be healthier, happier, and more fulfilled people than the likes of us, who toil in this purely competitive world.

BlackSun said...

sandalstraps,

Hobbes most famous quote about the "war of all against all" is often used to deride self-interested morality.

But that's not what I'm advocating. In terms of genetic competition, the rules are what they are, and not decided by you, me, or Hobbes.

What I am advocating as the basis for self-interested morality is simply rational agency for each individual. This means each person is primarily responsible for their own prosperity. Therefore it is up to them to determine what is the correct approach to a given situation. It may be direct cooperation, it may be friendly competition, it may be all-out war. There is no right or wrong answer, and what was right today, may change tomorrow. For example, a previous enemy or rival may be brought to heel to become an ally in a different situation.

Black and white mentalities about morality might prevent this type of unlikely shift from competition to cooperation.

I am not advocating relativism--because in my scenario, we remain true to one thing: the innate genetic imperative for prosperity and dominance. And there are many ways to achieve that goal. I would argue that if everyone were acting as a rational agent, there would be far less strife and agony in the world.

The real relativist position is the one advocated by Tim, where the culturally contrived point of view of a lunatic bomber is given equal weight to that of objective naturalistic morality.

Sandalstraps said...

Blacksun,

I apologize that at this moment I don't have the time to do justice to your thoughtful comments. As such, this comment may appear to be a dismissal out of hand. Rest assured that it is not. However, time, and the limitations inherant to this format must somewhat short-circuit what would have been - if we had met in, say, a college philosophy course - a very long and interesting conversation.

Hobbes most famous quote about the "war of all against all" is often used to deride self-interested morality.

I'm not wielding that quote as a rhetorical weapon against you. I am instead using the whole of Leviathan - one of the most interesting and important Western philosophic works, and possibly the best work written by a British philosopher - to say that your view of human nature and human interactions is beholden to Hobbes, and a particular aspect of Hobbes which I find both flawed and problematic.

I wrote a couple of intersting papers comparing and contrasting the politics of Hobbes and Aristotle, and how they derive their politics from their view of human nature. I can't revisit the entire argument of those papers here, but I'll see if I haven't posted them at some point on the Internet, so that I can provide a link to them in the event that you are interested.

Of course, just because I write something doesn't mean that it is true. I mention that here not because you are bound to come to my conclusions, either

a.) that, as a product of culture and history, your view is beholden to Hobbes in some subtle but important ways, or

b.) that the areas in which your view is beholden to Hobbes are problematic areas for Hobbes, in which he fundamentally misjudged human nature and interpersonal relationships.

In terms of genetic competition, the rules are what they are, and not decided by you, me, or Hobbes.

I agree. But, of course, that doesn't mean that either you, I, Hobbes, or anyone else has correctly identified such rules, or even the nature of the game. In fact, as I'm sure you know, there have been some interesting developments in game theory concerning cooperation.

Black and white mentalities about morality might prevent this type of unlikely shift from competition to cooperation.

So far I haven't seen anyone advocating such a moral theory. I have been advocating for a situational/consequentialist moral theory, in which the context of one's actions and the consequences of said actions determines their moral value, with many more available options than just "right" or "wrong." Tyler has been advocating for more of an Aristotelean "virtue" ethic, wherein the moral value of a particular action depends on its participation in a particular virtue. Again, in this theory, there are many more available options than "right" or "wrong," or as you put it, "black and white."

That said, something is not true merely because you declare it. If you hold that moral theories have a particular adverse consequence - especially if such a belief is not commonly held - you ought to offer some sort of argument for why that must be or probably is the case. It looks like we are doing philosophy here, and in philsophy, in general, blanket declarations do not fly, unless they pertain to commonly known facts, which your statement, independent of its as yet undetermined truth-value, is not.

The real relativist position is the one advocated by Tim, where the culturally contrived point of view of a lunatic bomber is given equal weight to that of objective naturalistic morality.

I'm not so sure that a degree of relativism is such a bad thing, but even assuming that it is, there is something you should understand right now, before we go any farther with this:

Your views are also a product of your culture, and are unique to your cultural situation. That, by itself, does not make them either right or wrong. But it is an incontrovertable fact. Alas, if that is not plain to you, I don't have the time at the moment to build an argument sufficient to convince you otherwise. But, consider it safe to say that no one thinks or acts in any way outside of a cultural/social context. We modern Westerners, with our certainty in self-evident absolutes, are no different. Our own ideas are just as beholden to our cultural and historical context as everyone else's.

BlackSun said...

sandalstraps,

Our own ideas are just as beholden to our cultural and historical context as everyone else's.

Not if they are determined empirically. That's why the scientific method is a unique tool. No matter what your perspective, you can remove the subjectivity and cultural bias from your experiment. This is done through confirmation by multiple researchers through publication and peer review. This removes any hint of relativism, and is the only way of getting to the truth of the matter.

While by no means yet complete, the scientific analysis of consciousness and brain function provides a lot better representation of human nature than that which can be derived from cultural sources.

Are you arguing that the bomber's opinion of human nature/evolutionary psychology should be considered on a par with the latest research from the best Western institutions?

Aaron Kinney said...

Amy,

Thank you for your thoughtful and amicable input.

You state "Abrahamic theism (not general theism), however, does indeed equate sexuality as immoral (unless performed by two married people of opposite sex), and violence as perfectly fine if God wants it to happen." In this manner, you are allowing the fundamentalist interpretation that you find so repugnant to define what is Christianity.

In this sense, I think its more "literal," but we can use the word "fundamental" if you wish.

In your argument, it becomes the norm, and even something necessary to practicing any of the Abrahamic faiths.

Well it IS in fact the norm because its what is clearly stated in the OT and the NT and the Quran. But have I argued that it is necessary for all practitioners of the Abrahamic faiths? No. Although to be fair, I will admit that I probably implied it or seemed to assume it in my writing...

By making this blanket statement, you ignore the reality of Reform Judaism (which has no such prohibition against premarital sex) and the Metropolitian Community Church (a Christian denomination that was formed in order to affirm and minister to the LGBT population) and the experience of Queer Theologians, among others. All of these groups define themselves as within the Abrahamic traditions; and yet, the model you have created discounts their existence.

Point taken. Well, I dont try to discount their existence, and Im sorry if it comes off that way. I will happily admit right here and now that you can be gay or have premarital sex and still be a practitioner of the Abrahamic faiths. But I will still maintain that the Abrahamic Holy Books (OT, NT, and Quran) all state in no uncertain terms what they expect by way of sexual activity from their adherents. Accordingly, if a Christian or Muslim is participating in homosexual premarital orgies, they can still be a Christian or Muslim, but they ARE doing something that is forbidden by the holy books of their religions.

In this manner, you are participating in another logical fallacy - the straw man argument. You are allowing the position of "Abrahamic Theism" to be defined by its weakest, most outrageous, thinkers and interpreters.

No, Amy. Don't get too carried away with your spinzone here. It is the Jews for Jesus, the homosexual preachers, and the Muslims that have premarital sex, who are the "weakest, most outrageous, thinkers and interpreters."

Indeed, there are some Christianities that do present themselves in the manner which you have described; there are also many Christianities that do not.

I totally agree.

Any true discussion of these issues needs to recognize that there are as many belief variants within the Abrahamic traditions as there are believers.

True, but how many translations of the Bible say that a man can fuck another man in the ass? How many translations of the Bible say that slavery is wrong, or that a womens consent is paramount in sexual matters?

My point is that while there may be many variants of believers, there is not nearly as much variance found within these holy books that these superstitions are based on. And a believer in a particular faith doesnt always have to follow, or even correctly interpret, all the rules of said faith in order to be counted among the faithful.

In addition, I would call attention to the comment of Paul Quillman (who seems to have been overlooked, as he chimed in before the discussion got particularly heavy). Here is another voice representing the alternate Christianities that are cut out when Christianity is presented as something monolithic and uniform.

Ahh, thank you for pointing that out. Yea, once Sandalstraps and Blacksun got in here things got moving along quickly. Well, all I can say is that for each instance that Paul Quillman came up with regarding Jesus respecting women, I can easily come up with two or more examples of women being disrespected (http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/women/long.html): being traded like cattle or property, being raped, being given off to save some angels, having sex with their father, being cursed simply for being a woman, being "unclean" for a week or more when she merely MENSTRUATES! How horrid.

Amy, Im assuming you are a woman (no big leap of faith there). Do you have any children? Lets imagine that you do for a minute. Now, dont take this the wrong way, but do you consider yourself unclean for a week or two after you give birth? Leviticus 12:1-5 says that a woman is unclean for 7 days after she births a boy, and 14 days after she births a girl. How lovely! Girls are twice as dirty as boys, worth half as much, and are essentially property according to the Bible.

So what do you think of Lev 12:1-5? or maybe Lev 18:19 where it says that menstruating women must not be looked at? Do you protect your friends from looking at you during your cycle? This is some very evil shit in this book, Amy.

Do you or do you not follow the directives given in Leviticus concerning the "dirtiness" associated with the body functons of females? Why or why not?

Now, who is "weakest, most outrageous, thinkers and interpreters" here, the fundie who says "Women are worth half as men! It says so in the Bible!" or the liberal who says "thats open to interpretation"?

Amy you gotta stop defending the chains that hold you down, and start unshackling yourself. No woman is worth less (or more) than a man by mere fact of her sex organs.

Aaron Kinney said...

Sandalstraps,

You make more use of "coersion" than I would. I don't mean that as insult, but instead as a reflection on the ways in which we use language. Tyler and I both place much more narrow parameters on what that word can mean, and as such have other ethical principles to do the work which you have "coersion" do. As such, as you suspected, we are not all that far apart, at least on a surface level reading.

Yes I do use that word a lot. No insult taken BTW. However, I could say in return that christians use the word "sin" more often than I would haha!

Seriously though, because I subscribe to a fact-based individualist morality, and that Im a materialistic atheist and a market anarchist, you can imagine that, to me, the paramount deciding moral factor in any action or interaction between two or more subjects is the will; the self-ownership; the self-determination; the "consent" to the interaction. So that word becomes kind of a favorite word for me.

You place "consent" and "coersion" in opposition to each other, in part in the recognition that coersion represents a kind of violence in its violation of the will. I wonder, however, what criteria must be met for there to be sufficient "consent" for an act to be a morally appropriate one.

As much as is deemed appropriate by the involved parties.

To what extent must consent be well informed? Does one, in other words, have a moral obligation to inform someone of all possible consequences of a particular activity in order to obtain their consent? Or all probable consequences, all reasonably forseeable consequences? Does one have a moral obligation, further, to ensure that the person whose consent one is trying to obtain fully understands the information they receive concerning the possible or probable consequences of the activity for which one is trying to obtain consent?

Well, sure. But when two adults are dealing with each-other, the other adult usually figures most of those things out on their own. Intellect does come in to play here to where, for example, if I warn you, Sandalstraps, not to put your hand in the boiling pot of water than Im using to make pasta, I can assume that as an adult you already understand the consequences of scalding hot water on your own skin. I dont think I would be morally guilty for failing to inform you of that consequence. However, if we are to engage in a business deal, and I create for myself some kind of trap door so that I can unfairly take advantage of you in business, then obviously I would be morally guilty.

Informed consent has to do with, obviously, information. Now, it is true that all known info must be shared by both parties. Does it have to happen regardless, or does it only have to happen "upon request"? Im not totally sure, but it is obvious that deliberately witholding information is just the same as lying, which is immoral and coercive.

But I dont see how your questions present any problems for my moral framework. It just seems that you desire some kind of clarification. Well Sandalstraps, you have a credit card do you not? Did you read the contract that you entered into when you got the credit card? I didnt read mine (LOL). See, the credit card company gives a disclosure, they give you APR rate info, they let you know all the clauses and exceptions and shit in their printed materials. Then you likely breeze through it, and sign up for the card, and then when you have a dispute, you want to sue them, but you cant because you signed a contract not to, so who is responsible then? The credit card company? No...

You see, these kinds of things that you questioned, and that I described, already take place today in every facet of society. Consent is your name on the dotted line. Disclosure is informed consent. 99.9% of all interactions between individuals and companies already happen according to the moral framework that I presented anyway. You probably barely even notice it because it works so well, and wheels that dont squeak dont get paid much attention to.

In other words, are these sorts of considerations made when one is, in evaluating a given situation, distinguishing between consent and coersion?

Yup!

That's all I'll ask for a moment, as any other possible questions and comments depend on working out that issue.

I hope I answered your questions adequately! :)

Also, I promise that I will shortly start to advance my own moral concerns, especially as they deal with distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy behavior in general, and sexual behavior in particular.

Sounds good, Im looking forward to it.

Aaron Kinney said...

Tyler Simons,

Aaron, isn't it immoral to be rude?

No. Lets use an example. Lets say you and I pass each-other on the sidewalk. You ask me "hey pal, how do I get to 1st street?" And I take one glance at you, stick my nose in the air, and walk away without saying a word to you. Was I rude? Yes. Was I immoral? No. You offered an interaction opportunity with me, and I declined it with distaste. That is not immoral. What it is, is not very considerate. Thats all.

How do you describe manners except as how one should behave?

Like dont chew with your mouth open or burp at the dinner table or pick your nose in front of other people? Those are manners. Those are not crimes. Those are not immoral actions, but actions that involve appearance and attractability and socialibility and politeness.

An opinion about how one should behave implies a moral judgment, it seems to me.

Not always. Sometimes they are moral judgements, sometimes they are judgements involving merely the adherence to social norms or customs, which in and of themselves are not moral or immoral. And even sometimes, actions are judged on their intellectual merit. Is it stupid to make an ugly face at a pretty girl who likes you? Sure! Is it immoral? No.

I think it's immoral to be unwise, too. Don't you agree?

Most definitely I do NOT agree, my friend.

Don't we, as humans, have some kind of obligation to think critically about our perspective in order to conform it to reality?

No, but we have an incentive to think critically, which is different. Surely, it is BETTER to think critically about reality, but it is not IMMORAL to fail to do so.

You seem to think that it's somehow wrong for Strapple to "steadfastly [hold] on to something that [he doesn't] seem to have good reasons to hold on to." What are your good reasons for feeling this way?

I do indeed think it is "wrong" to do that, but for reasons OTHER than moral/immoral. I think its wrong to do so because its STUPID. I am critical of stupidity for reasons of utility and merit. But I am critical of immorality for reasons of principle. Tyler, it is wrong and EVIL to, say, invade a country and bomb its citizens and take its resources, even IF it is beneficial for us to do so. Now, on the other hand, it is NOT immoral for a person so waste his life savings by donating it to the Red Cross, even if it IS stupid for him to do so.

The crux of whether or not an action is moral or not involves one thing and one thing only: whether it was coerced or not. If the action was coerced or coercive, then it is immoral. If no coercion was at play, then it is moral. Period.

Your moral code seems one-sided to me. Freedom from coercion seems to sum it up. Freedom-from. This is a wholly negative moral code.

More or less, yes. :)

You may or may not have good reason for keeping it this way, but I'm tempted to look for a positive side to a moral code, to look for virtues like honesty, compassion, courage, love and justice. How does your moral code account for impressively good behavior?


Define good behavior. I define good behaviour as consensual behavior. How do you define it?

Don't you think that reason is somehow a virtue? It seems like you do, sometimes.

Sure it is. But reason includes within it the concept of "self-ownership." Indeed, self-ownership is axiomatic to all of us. And self-ownership is the foundation to my moral framework.

Now, the failure to use reason adequately in and of itself is not "immoral", but it may be "Stupid". Only when the failure to reason ends with the application of coercion does "immorality" come in to play. I mean, if I do a math error and mis-balance my checkbook, was that an evil act? No. But if I fail to reason during a bar argument with you, and then I punch you in the face, was that evil? Yes.

Doesn't a Dorothy Day or Ghandi or Martin Luther King somehow have a higher moral status than someone who just chugs along, trying one's best not to coerce anybody?

LOL, what else did Day or Ghandi or King do other than chug along all day trying to stop coercion?

You probably could, as an anarchist, say that people like that were fighting the coercion present in the political structure. There seems to be a difference, though, between trying to extract oneself from participation in a coercive society and actively working to eliminate coercions present in society as a whole. How do you account for this?

I dont know where you got the idea that I am against heroes. I love heroes. I have lots of them! Heroes are individualists to the core. Thats WHY we worship them in the first place.

Now, lets say person A is a non-coercive regular old eddy punchclock. He just chugs along and doesnt hurt anybody. But then person B is non-coercive just like person A, but person B also spends most of his time trying to stop others from doing coercive acts, like a crime fighter or whatever. Well, is one person "better" than the other? Maybe. But can either of these people be chastized, or condemned in any way? No. They are both respectable and honorable. Maybe person B is just higher performing and just MORE admirable. Person A is respectable and admirable, but person B is a HERO.

To use another analogy, I think that the Mustang GT is a GREAT car, but the Dodge Viper is even BETTER. But to be sure, both cars are good.

Individualism is all about individual acheivement for the selfish satisfaction of one's values. Individualism embraces stratification as a natural result of differences in performance ability. I wholly embrace the valuing of people for factors other than, and in addition to, their moral correctness.

I like good reasons as much as the next guy, but I'm not sure they can do as much as you seem to want. While I'm committed to a mutual reflective conversation with as many human participants as possible so that we might share our reasons for believing what we believe about the world and the way it should be, I'm not so sure that you'll ever get everybody to agree on first principles from which to argue. I'm pretty confidant that you'll never get everyone to sacrifice their own personal convictions about the truth for a collective mutual approach to the truth. I don't necessarily believe that you'd ever get everyone to reflect critically on their moral and metaphysical outlooks and put these reflections into practice consistantly. In short, I'm not a utopian.

Im not a utopian either, Tyler. Its funny how you said that you dont think Ill ever get everybody to agree on first principles. You are right; I probably wont. Especially not in this lifetime or generation. However, there were times when people said "youll never convince everyone that the world is round!" or "youll never get people to support democratic voting!" Yet now they are the majority views in todays world.

Whether or not people pay lip service to, or even consciously acknowledge, the principle of self-ownership, is not as relevant as whether or not they practice it. And already in the world today the vast majority of interactions between people involves a mutual and strict adherence to self-ownership. In fact you and I are adhering to it right now in this discussion. Look at all the interactions you do in a day, and see how many of them are anarchistic and based on mutual recognizance of, and adherence to, self-ownership. You may be surprised how common these individualist and anarchistic ideas are already present in your life.

We're selfish bastards, humans.

Fuck yea, isnt it great? And our greatest heroes are the MOST selfish! (yes that includes Ghandi and ML King)

A lot of times I think that the competetiveness and violence that humans show goes above and beyond any naturalistic "survival of the fittest" explanation.

Um, news flash Tyler: Violence is NOT competitive. Violence is anti-competitive. It is an attempt to COERCIVELY REMOVE the competition from the playing field.

Competition is cooperation. Now theres a mind-blowing statement! :D

We're too good at succeeding and grinding our competetors into the dirt in the process.

Destroying a soda company by producing a superior competitive product is competition, and it is moral, and it is cooperative. Soda company A cooperated with soda company B specifically by competing with it. They agreed to a game of "who can produce the best?" and one of them lost.

Now, if soda company A decided to get some mercenaries and destroy the headquarters of soda company B, then that would be immoral, anti-competitive, anti-cooperative, etc...

You see bitter power struggles in moral philosophy departments, for which good reasons for moral codes are the very lifeblood. Anarchists steal their friends girlfriends. This is the essence of my understanding of Original Sin. It might be explainable by means of nature, it might be, as Reinhold Niebuhr believed, spiritual. I'm not sure. I don't think our sinful state exists because Eve got Adam to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That's pretty ridiculous. There's a whole lot to be taken from the first few chapters of Genesis. A literal explanation for the origin of Sin is probably the stupidest possible thing to take from it. Thinking about how the Rabbis defined the knowledge of good and evil as the root of all sin, that's pretty interesting, but neither here nor there.

Wow. I seem to meet more and more Christians nowadays who totally reject Genesis. Forgive me Tyler, but why the heck are you a Christian if you reject the creation story and, more importantly, the fall of Adam and Eve??? Trippy.

What are your good reasons for thinking that good reasons are so important for morality?

The only thing that is important to morality as far as I can see is principles based on reality. We are all autonomous agents, and we need to pattern our "right/wrong" behavior definitions accordingly. It is right to act within the individual autonomous agents framework that reality provides, and it is wrong to attempt to violate it (violate self-ownership). Thats all there is to it. Its actually rather simple.

Consentual premarital orgies? Moral.
Raping your wife? Immoral.
Making a trillion dollars through shrewd investment decisions? Moral.
Stealing a dollar? Immoral.
Driving a competitor out of business through superior products and prices? Moral.
Framing your competitor in an insider trading scam? Immoral.
Becoming a herion junkie? Moral (although very stupid).
Spiking someone's orange juice with a little vodka? Immoral.

Is this starting to make sense now?

Sandalstraps said...

Alas, again, no time at present to make good on all of my promises. I'll have to be brief, triaging my major concerns before I come back later to deal with what's left. Sorry about that. Such is the nature of blog discussions.

Aaron,

RE: Your conversation with Amy.

There are many points I'd like to make about the content of the Bible, and especially about the relationship between the Bible and the religions which use it (in one of three major forms) as their sacred scripture. However, I can't do a comprehensive treatment of that subject here. Instead I can simply say this as a basic consideration:

As Amy has already anticipated, you are borrowing the assumptions of a particular kind of Christianity - historically not the most common form, and rationally certainly not the best articulation - and making it the normative one. This is particularly true in view of your comments concerning the role of the Bible in the life of believers, hinting that each passage of the Bible should be binding on all who claim it as scripture, in any historical or cultural setting.

This view, which is not uncommon among Christians, ignores that the cannonical Bible is a product of the religion which claims it as its sacred text, and not the other way around. As such, as concerns the relationship between Christianity and the Bible, Christianity formed the Biblical canon, deciding which works made it in, and what their role in the canon should be.

This - especially as the epistemic and moral assumptions of the universal church shifts - makes the relationship between Christianity and the Bible a much more complicated one than either you or the fundamentalists suggest.

So, for someone like Amy, it is quite possible that progressive revelation makes stories about Jesus' compassion toward women more binding on believers than certain Tanakh (the Hebrew term for what Christians call the Old Testament) passages which you might cite. Not that those passages should be striken from scripture, as they remind us of our Judaic heritage. But that heritage is not a uniformly good one. Vis a vie the role of women in society, in fact, like many other cultures, it is a particularly bad one. But a Christian is not bound, simply by being a "person of the book," to hold that our checkered past, permanently preserved in sacred scripture, must be continually repeated.

There is a wealth of literature, theology, and particularly scriptural exegesis offered by feminist theologians dealing with this subject. As Amy is a feminist training to become a Presbyterian (USA) minister, I'm sure she can provide you with an excellent reading list on the subject. As for me, I highly recommend Johanna W.H. an Wijk-Bos' Reformed and Feminist: A Challenge to the Church. It is a short, easy read by the Dora Pierce Professor of Bible and Professor of Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Both Amy and I have studied under her, and I know that I have been profoundly impacted by her teaching and her writing.

I mention this to say that someone who knows the Hebrew scriptures better than almost anyone alive, and considers them to be important for the Christian life, is also a feminist and an activist for the equal treatment of gays, lesbians and transgendered persons. And she would see no contradiction there. It all has to do with the way in which you approach the role of scripture. Neither Amy nor Johanna advocate getting rid of it, but neither do they fail to make critical moral distinctions between passages which build up women and passages which tear down women.

Proof-texting without any stated mode of interpretation or appreciation for context is as unseemly coming from an atheist or a skeptic as it is coming from a fundamentalist.

Blacksun,

Not if they are determined empirically.

You only value empiricism because of your cultural context. That is my primary point concerning your being beholden to your cultural context, and especially to Hobbes. When you defend yourself against such a charge be reiterating the primacy of empiricism you only make my case for me.

Are you arguing that the bomber's opinion of human nature/evolutionary psychology should be considered on a par with the latest research from the best Western institutions?

I am saying no such thing. But I am saying that even those great Western instituitions would do well to exhibit some epistemic humility.

I have to go now, so again I'll have to apologize, and post-pone living up to my obligations here.

BlackSun said...

sandalstraps,

When you defend yourself against such a charge by reiterating the primacy of empiricism you only make my case for me.

What case? Are you really making the claim that the process of science and the gathering of empirical evidence is open to dispute?

On the other hand, you seem to value institutions of higher learning which rely on those methods.

I seem to have caught you in a contradiction. Either you think empirical methods work, or you don't.

If you don't then I have nothing further to add.

Tyler Simons said...

Blacksun

Again--if your girlfriend leaves you, it's between you and her, not between you and the third party.

Dude, things happen sometimes, but don't go telling your friends that you have no moral compunction against hooking up with their girlfriends. Honestly!

It's time for people to grow up and put aside these quaint ideas of 'honesty,' 'loyalty,' 'compassion,' and 'justice.'

I think we'll have to agree to disagree here.

If you think the solution is more 'morality,' then you are living in the realm of surface appearances.

Well, I think that one solution might be a different kind of morality. I certainly am not convinced that less 'morality' is the answer.

Human relations are best understood as a maze of subtlety, competition, deception, and cooperation for advantage. These ever shifting interests and loyalties can almost never be fully unravelled. They can only be sussed out by keen observation, and wisely acted upon when they become known.

Amen. That's neither here nor there, though.

Black and white mentalities about morality might prevent this type of unlikely shift from competition to cooperation.

Dude. My mentality about morality is anything but black and white. I'd have thought that you'd have been able to figure that out by now. I guess I am arguing that one might be able to compare shades of grey. Surely some are lighter that others! Rarely will you, for what it's worth, find me mistaking my own personal moralism for a dogmatic, universally valid one, either.

What I am advocating as the basis for self-interested morality is simply rational agency for each individual. This means each person is primarily responsible for their own prosperity.

I said this before, but I'm not nearly as confident in reason as you are. (Incidentially, however, I'm far more confident in my own reasoning than I am in yours. That is, perhaps, to be expected, seeing as how I'm me and you're not. I'm a little more confident in the reasoning of El Strapissimo than my own, though. Go figure.) I just don't think people act in their own rational self interest most of the time. (Why are we spending all this time writing blog comments?! Is internet domination a rational goal?) I don't think that people are likely to reason their way to acting in concert with their reason.

I am not advocating relativism--because in my scenario, we remain true to one thing: the innate genetic imperative for prosperity and dominance.

What are your reasons for assuming that we, as humans, posess an innate genetic imperative for prosperity and dominance? This seems to me like a rather blunt understanding of genetic history and science. Please back this claim up with some sources!

I'm no genetic expert, but from what little I understand, the thrust of genetics and evolution in general is the survival of the species, not any particular individual within the species. Richard Dawkins' famous book (which I haven't read, have you?) is The Selfish Gene, not the asshole gene. What I mean by this is that according to evolutionary theory, it is the gene itself that is "selfish." This doesn't necessarily mean that we have a gene that makes us necessarily self-interested above all other options or that we are naturally competetive above all else because of our natural wiring.

As I understand it, genetic diversity is the ultimate aim, not the interest of any particular member of a species. This diversity depends on a healthy population of individual members of a species. Again, the health of the community as a whole is critical to the survival of the genetic code of the species. It should be easy to see how altruistic behavior might be selected for on a genetic basis. I'm not saying that competition isn't important -- it is important for the strongest (in a specific sense) members to pass on their genetic code -- but I am suggesting that "prosperity and dominance" aren't our only "innate genetic imperatives."

Aaron:

I will still maintain that the Abrahamic Holy Books (OT, NT, and Quran) all state in no uncertain terms what they expect by way of sexual activity from their adherents.

That's all fine and good, but you aren't in a position to maintain that literalism is the proper relationship to these texts for a believer in any of these religious traditions. That's the whole point, man!

Amy you gotta stop defending the chains that hold you down, and start unshackling yourself. No woman is worth less (or more) than a man by mere fact of her sex organs.

Shit, dude. That's over the line. That's exactly what Amy needs, the power of some guy's logic to free her into her innate feminity. I know this is your blog and everything. Say whatever the fuck you want. If you want to portray yourself as some heroic liberator of women, go ahead. Just don't expect to fool anyone.

I could say in return that christians use the word "sin" more often than I would haha!

At least I'm trying to figure out exactly what you mean by coercion haha!

I subscribe to a fact-based individualist morality, and that Im a materialistic atheist and a market anarchist,

It seems to me that if you really cared about facts and the truth, you'd be more careful about locking yourself into a position so rigidly. There are a lot of positions out there. There are a lot of arguments! How do you know you've heard all of the good ones! You keep misrepresenting our arguments, too. What kind of passion for reason and truth is that?

Did you read the contract that you entered into when you got the credit card? I didnt read mine (LOL).

Did you really laugh out loud while you wrote that? Just curious. Most people tend to use that as a sort of indication of vague good-humoredness. That bothers my inner language-nazi, but it's not that big of a deal. I'm fighting a losing battle, it seems. I was hanging out with a girl who said "OMG" in actual conversation.

Lets say you and I pass each-other on the sidewalk. You ask me "hey pal, how do I get to 1st street?" And I take one glance at you, stick my nose in the air, and walk away without saying a word to you. Was I rude? Yes. Was I immoral? No. You offered an interaction opportunity with me, and I declined it with distaste. That is not immoral. What it is, is not very considerate.

If you did it because (hypothetically) I was black and you're a racist, than I'd say it is immoral. Let's say you are a black person and you went into a diner in Mississippi. I own the diner and don't like black people. It's illegal for me to deny you service on account of the color of your skin, (explain that law to me, Aaron!) but I just tell my waiters to walk past you with their noses in the air. Is that immoral? It's virtually the same situation.

Wow. I seem to meet more and more Christians nowadays who totally reject Genesis. Forgive me Tyler, but why the heck are you a Christian if you reject the creation story and, more importantly, the fall of Adam and Eve??? Trippy.

I said this already, but who are you to tell me what the proper way to interpret scripture is? There are thousands of years of fierce debates over the best way to understand the first two chapters of Genesis. There's a whole lot going on in that text than you realize. It is a pretty ridiculous assumption to make that the author of the text wanted solely to give a historical account of the creation. If you actually read Genesis, you'd see that there are two different creation accounts in the first two chapters. If historical accuracy was as an important a goal for these texts as you seem to think, one might imagine that people would have realized this by now, huh? Maybe you're missing something, Aaron.

Your little list is pretty shaky, man:

Making a trillion dollars through shrewd investment decisions? Moral.

Not if you are knowingly aiding and abetting the coerced labor of teenagers in China, right?

Becoming a herion junkie? Moral (although very stupid).

Even if the vast majority of junkies resort to theft to feed their habit?

Tyler Simons said...

What case? Are you really making the claim that the process of science and the gathering of empirical evidence is open to dispute?

I'd say, for what it's worth, that empiricism can never prove that empiricism gets to, or can get to the whole of the truth. It might be able to, but you can't prove it empirically; you don't have good reasons to believe it's the case; it's a faith-like decision in that sense.

Sandalstraps said...

Tyler,

When you say

... empiricism can never prove that empiricism gets to, or can get to the whole of the truth. It might be able to, but you can't prove it empirically; you don't have good reasons to believe it's the case; it's a faith-like decision in that sense.

you answer Blacksun's objection to me better than I would have.

Blacksun,

Truth, simply put, is rarely a binary principle. Anyone with any understanding of science ought to know that. Empiricism takes (apparently) shared phenomenological experiences and attempts to incorperate them into a narrative which orders those experiences. It succeeds insofar as it can help order the experiences which we call empirical ones. But it is as limited as any other attempt to order our experiences into a coherant narrative - limited, because our own perceptions are limited, so the narratives we weave from them are similarly limited.

Of course, pure empiricism, as David Hume pointed out, is a fair amount more limited than that. On the basis of empiricism alone we can say very, very little. Hume argued that we cannot say with any certainty that anything caused anything else, a statement necessary for any scientific theory. This is because, while we can experience events in sequence, we can never empirically experience a cause. We simply experience one event, then the next event. They become linked as we reflect on our experiences, and such reflection lies outside pure empiricism.

I'm not saying this to say that modern science is more flawed than other attempts to order our experience. In fact, I am like you beholden to the epistemic assumptions of our culture. But I acknowledge that, something which is necessary for intellectual honesty.

Empiricism is a very good axiomatic system. That is, if you start with certain assumptions, axioms which cannot within the system be challenged (these axioms concern fundamental things like what we mean by "truth" or "knowledge," and how those are to be obtained) you can build from those assumptions a consistent system which helps order our experiences. But empiricism is not the only such system, nor is it the only such system which is internally consistent.

The conflict between us stems in part from a difference not in our ability to reason (though there may be some difference there, as your willingness to see a contradiction in my thinking where none exists simply because you do not understand or care to understand the subtlty of my position indicates that you readily see my reasoning as defective, and I am tempted to return the favor) but from a difference in starting points. And our starting points are fundamental, axiomatic. They undergird the whole system, and cannot be questioned from within the system.

This is the most charitable way that I can think of to tell you that we are at an impasse. As I've said before - though it seems beyond hoping - some epistemic humility would do you some good. You are not nearly alone in needing that, as many great minds (sometimes including my own) want for the very same thing.

Aaron,

I'm sorry that once again you are victimized by my ability to far too easily get distracted by Blacksun. Believe me, I am aware that I owe you are more thorough consideration of morality in general and the specific question of sexuality and pornography. Please accpt this IOU. After my son, who is home from preschool today, takes his nap, I hope to revisit our conversation, as we ought to wrap it up before too long.

Aaron Kinney said...

Sandalstraps,

RE: Your conversation with Amy.

There are many points I'd like to make about the content of the Bible, and especially about the relationship between the Bible and the religions which use it (in one of three major forms) as their sacred scripture. However, I can't do a comprehensive treatment of that subject here. Instead I can simply say this as a basic consideration:

As Amy has already anticipated, you are borrowing the assumptions of a particular kind of Christianity - historically not the most common form, and rationally certainly not the best articulation - and making it the normative one. This is particularly true in view of your comments concerning the role of the Bible in the life of believers, hinting that each passage of the Bible should be binding on all who claim it as scripture, in any historical or cultural setting.


Thats the problem with that worthless book, Sandalstraps (no offense). Every time you try to address the books claims from an atheistic perspective; every time you try to do an internal critique; every time you try, as an atheist (and former Christian), to say "the bible says 'x'", your opponent or another Christian will say "thats just one interpretation!" and they shift the goalposts or change what the damn book is supposed to be saying! I am soooooooooo sick of this convenient little feature of that nursery rhyme book. Just yesterday I argued with another Christian where we were both busting out Bible passages to support our own arguments. You can make that goddamn book say almost anything you want! And every time you try to attack the book, you can just respond by "reinterpreting" it!

I think that that fact alone destroys much of the books credibility. Something so inspired and important shouldnt be so impossible to understand or ascertain its message.

This view, which is not uncommon among Christians, ignores that the cannonical Bible is a product of the religion which claims it as its sacred text, and not the other way around. As such, as concerns the relationship between Christianity and the Bible, Christianity formed the Biblical canon, deciding which works made it in, and what their role in the canon should be.

And the smoke-and-mirrors show contniues. The Bible appears even more worthless after ingesting that statement.

This - especially as the epistemic and moral assumptions of the universal church shifts - makes the relationship between Christianity and the Bible a much more complicated one than either you or the fundamentalists suggest.

And much less useful and applicable in real life, as well as much less reliable and credible.

So, for someone like Amy, it is quite possible that progressive revelation makes stories about Jesus' compassion toward women more binding on believers than certain Tanakh (the Hebrew term for what Christians call the Old Testament) passages which you might cite. Not that those passages should be striken from scripture, as they remind us of our Judaic heritage. But that heritage is not a uniformly good one. Vis a vie the role of women in society, in fact, like many other cultures, it is a particularly bad one. But a Christian is not bound, simply by being a "person of the book," to hold that our checkered past, permanently preserved in sacred scripture, must be continually repeated.

What else are Christians free to ignore? The ten commandments? The book of Romans? What other decrees is Amy able to pick and choose from? How about the part where she believes in Jesus Christ?

There is a wealth of literature, theology, and particularly scriptural exegesis offered by feminist theologians dealing with this subject. As Amy is a feminist training to become a Presbyterian (USA) minister, I'm sure she can provide you with an excellent reading list on the subject. As for me, I highly recommend Johanna W.H. an Wijk-Bos' Reformed and Feminist: A Challenge to the Church. It is a short, easy read by the Dora Pierce Professor of Bible and Professor of Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Both Amy and I have studied under her, and I know that I have been profoundly impacted by her teaching and her writing.

Im sure that Johanna's book "A Challenge to the Church" is a great read, but I just recently finished off C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, and it was a chore and a half LOL. I just bought the Catholic Catechism and Im starting to tear into that, which is at least more entertaining that Lewis was. I will put this book on my list of books to read though. :)

However, youve got to try to see it from my perspective, you know? Watching a handful of Christians blow the Bible around like smoke rings. I cant touch the damn thing because the smoke just dissapears or moves somewhere else every time. Its more slippery than a slip-n-slide! The mental contortionism that you perform to justify or rationalize these unambiguously incorrect, superstitious, immoral, and ignorant messages from that book just make my head spin.

I mention this to say that someone who knows the Hebrew scriptures better than almost anyone alive, and considers them to be important for the Christian life, is also a feminist and an activist for the equal treatment of gays, lesbians and transgendered persons. And she would see no contradiction there. It all has to do with the way in which you approach the role of scripture. Neither Amy nor Johanna advocate getting rid of it, but neither do they fail to make critical moral distinctions between passages which build up women and passages which tear down women.

LMFAO! The WAY IN WHICH I APPROACH SCRIPTURE?????? I think the way in which you and Amy approach scripture needs some re-evaluation. Maybe you should try approaching it from a perspective that doesnt automatically assume that its true while figuring out how to twist it to force-fit into your reality.

The way in which I approach scripture compared to you and Amy is far more healthy and honest, intellectually. Care to remind me again why you believe in the Bible and call yourself a Christian when all you do is re-interpret the damn thing to fit the unavoidable facts of reality?

How long will you mold the Bible like play-dough to make it fit into the square and round holes of the world, etc, until the book itself bears no resemblance to what it looked like when you first laid your hands on it? Metaphorically, the Bible has no discernible shape or texture when its in your hands. Its jello.

Proof-texting without any stated mode of interpretation or appreciation for context is as unseemly coming from an atheist or a skeptic as it is coming from a fundamentalist.

You got it wrong. That sentence should read, "using any stated mode of interpretation or appreciation for context to facilitate one's proof-texting is as intellectually dishonest coming from a liberal Christian as it is coming from a materialistic scientist"

Sandalstraps, you are a very nice person, obviously. Forgive me for acting a bit frustrated now. But when we both start writing books at each-other here, and the entire dialogue involves me trying to identify and attack your position(s) while you only spend your time moving your position across the field like smoke or a ghost, and never making a concrete stand, is rather frustrating.

Lets get down to it, my man: You still havent given me one good reason WHY you believe in Christianity or the afterlife. You havent given me a single justification or reason for your belief. When pressed, you only stated that you are unable to do so because of personal experience.

Now Im sure that you are a smart and rational guy most of the time. But your actions and dialogue with me in here so far comes off to me like you are simply crazy and deluded when it specifically comes to your faith. Can you possibly imagine the exasperation that YOU would feel if you were in my shoes and you were conversing with a man who believed in Santa Claus and he acted exacly as you are in regards to Santas existence? He cant explain why or how he believes in Santa? He will shift Santa lore/doctrine every time you try to attack it?

Sandalstraps, if you want to defend your faith in here, or explain to me why I am wrong and why the afterlife and Jesus are real, youre going to have to take a goddamn stand and defend one goddamn Christian position or another. Pick an interpretation, lay it out, and stick with it.

I mean this in a respectful way, but: You havent been evangelizing. You havent even been performing proper apologetics. You havent been spreading the faith whatsoever as far as I can see. All youve done is given, in my opinion, a very good smoke-and-mirror illusion show. Maybe Im jaded or biased, but to me it looks like an impartial observer would be scoffing at Christianity after reading this ongoing comment dialogue.

Aaron Kinney said...

Tyler,

Aaron:

I will still maintain that the Abrahamic Holy Books (OT, NT, and Quran) all state in no uncertain terms what they expect by way of sexual activity from their adherents.

That's all fine and good, but you aren't in a position to maintain that literalism is the proper relationship to these texts for a believer in any of these religious traditions. That's the whole point, man!


Point taken. But to counter that, is ANYONE in a position to maintain ANY kind of interpretaton about the Bible? Who, a preacher? Why, because he says so? I can get ordained right this second if I want to. I would contend that I am in no better or worse position to interpret that crazy book to say whatever the fuck I want it to say any more than anyone else is, even the Pope and Jerry Falwell.

Shit, dude. That's over the line. That's exactly what Amy needs, the power of some guy's logic to free her into her innate feminity. I know this is your blog and everything. Say whatever the fuck you want. If you want to portray yourself as some heroic liberator of women, go ahead. Just don't expect to fool anyone.

No Im not trying to portray myself as any liberator of women. Im just calling a spade a spade. If you told a political prisoner to stop justifying his imprisonment a la 1984 or something, I wouldnt attack you personally like you just did with me. Lets focus on whether or not the Bible denigrates women, and lets not have an argument over whether or not I view myself as some liberator of women. I do not, nor did I claim to. Im not expecting to fool anyone as you contend. Rather, I am trying to stop people from being fooled by a fairy-tale book.

At least I'm trying to figure out exactly what you mean by coercion haha!

Coercion is basically person A forcing his will/desires onto person B irrespective of person B's will/desires. In one word: Force. Do you understand now?

It seems to me that if you really cared about facts and the truth, you'd be more careful about locking yourself into a position so rigidly.

Fuck that. If you and Sandalstraps and Amy cared so much about facts and truth, youd be more likely to claim a position as true! All you three have done in here is given me such a re-interpreted mishmash of liberal Christianity that I dont think Id even know WHAT to believe even if I WANTED to be saved by Jesus right this second!

If you wanna know about facts and truth, why dont you try to discover and adopt some?

There are a lot of positions out there.

But not many true ones.

There are a lot of arguments! How do you know you've heard all of the good ones!

Got some that you think I havent heard of?

You keep misrepresenting our arguments, too. What kind of passion for reason and truth is that?

No, I keep trying to IDENTIFY your arguments, as well as compare them with arguments that I used to present back when I was a Christian. But so far Ive made no progress. All I know is that you three believe in Jesus Christ/God and the afterlife. However, you have yet to identify anything more than that. You are smoke and mirrors!

If you dont start taking some firm stands on some of these things, then why do you get mad when I try to help you do it? How am I supposed to know what any of you are saying? How am I supposed to evaluate for myself the truth of your claims, when the ONLY CLAIM YOU EVER MAKE is "thats open to interpretation"?????? What are you, a nihilist?

Can you tell me WHY you believe in Jesus Christ? Can you tell me why you believe in the afterlife? Can you give me an argument of your own that says "atheism is wrong and Xtianity is right because...." Can you tell me if you believe in the 10 commandments? Do you believe in original sin (so far youve kindof half-assed indicated that you dont, but I cant really tell!!) ???

I assume youve read my latest post directed at Sandalstraps. Im having a real tough time with both of you because you are both all smoke and mirrors. Help me engage you in discussion Tyler, please!! :)

Did you really laugh out loud while you wrote that? Just curious. Most people tend to use that as a sort of indication of vague good-humoredness. That bothers my inner language-nazi, but it's not that big of a deal. I'm fighting a losing battle, it seems. I was hanging out with a girl who said "OMG" in actual conversation.

Usually, but not always, when I type LOL I actually do laugh out loud. And in this case, yes I did LOL! ;-)

If you did it because (hypothetically) I was black and you're a racist, than I'd say it is immoral.

So its immoral for me to snub you if I dont like your race but its not immoral for me to snub you if I am, say, in too grumpy of a mood to talk to you?

Let's say you are a black person and you went into a diner in Mississippi. I own the diner and don't like black people. It's illegal for me to deny you service on account of the color of your skin, (explain that law to me, Aaron!) but I just tell my waiters to walk past you with their noses in the air. Is that immoral? It's virtually the same situation.

Not really. In actuality, it is IMMORAL to make a law that says "you must serve person X regardless of their feature Y." Being a racist is repugnant, distasteful, stupid, and anti-social. And using force (coercion) on any person for ANY reason is immoral. Whether I want your money or hate your skin color, mugging you is immoral.

But what about consentual interaction/trade? Is it immoral for me to refuse to sell you a meal because you are wearing no shirt? How about if you arent the right kind of football team fan and its football night at the local pub, would it be immoral for me to refuse service to you? Would it be immoral for me to refuse to hire a man at a hooters restaurant? Now it may be stupid and rude, but would it be "immoral" for me to refuse to engage in voluntary trade with you for any given reason that I choose, including skin color?

The stupidity comes in when I say "I refuse to trade or interact with you because of arbitrary feature X," but the immorality comes in when a man with a gun says "you are being forced to perform or endure action X."

There is a difference, and I think you are having trouble distinguishing between immorality and stupidity.

Is it immoral for a Christian newspaper to refuse to sell advertizing space to an atheist?

I said this already, but who are you to tell me what the proper way to interpret scripture is?

According to the Bible, youre not supposed to listen to ANYONES interpretation of it, even your own!!! And I shouldnt listen to yours either. So where does that get us? Thats because the Bible is a wonderfully crafted book of lies and brainwashing. Its allegedly the MOST IMPORTANT BOOK IN THE WORLD yet it has the LEAST CLEAR MESSAGE ever written! Cant you see the forest for the trees Tyler???

There are thousands of years of fierce debates over the best way to understand the first two chapters of Genesis.

Boy doesnt THAT little fact help out the books credibility??? :P

There's a whole lot going on in that text than you realize. It is a pretty ridiculous assumption to make that the author of the text wanted solely to give a historical account of the creation. If you actually read Genesis, you'd see that there are two different creation accounts in the first two chapters.

Oh believe me Tyler, I am acutely aware of the inconsistencies between the two stories in the first two chapters of Genesis. I am also acutely aware of the multiple versions of the ten commandments that God creates, as well as the inconsistent recitations of those commandments later on by Jesus, as well as the conflicting resurrection stories, etc. etc. ad NAUSEUM.

The problem here Tyler, is that YOU are aware of these issues in the Bible just as I am, but YOU Are not aware that the book is a big fat lie - a make believe story. You are clearly not a stupid person Tyler. You got a good head on your shoulders. Can you not see that you believe in just one of countless silly ancient superstitions?

If historical accuracy was as an important a goal for these texts as you seem to think, one might imagine that people would have realized this by now, huh? Maybe you're missing something, Aaron.

The most important book in the world should contain a bit of historical accuracy. And if historical accuracy is NOT an important goal for the Bible, as you claim, then why the hell should you believe in the historical account of Jesus Christ, or of Noah, or of Adam and Eve, or of the mere EXISTENCE of God itself?

What else is the Bible BESIDES a historical account of Gods creation of, and involvement in, mans existence? A message to man on how he should act? Well neither of these options work, since you already admit that its a shitty historical record, and since you admit that no two Christians can barely agree on any message it gives, and since it provides multiple and conflicting directives for conduct, and since it makes NO JUSTIFICATION for the truth of its most important claim (God exists), what the hell is the book good for? It has failed utterly in doing anything other than confuse humans and cause problems.

Your little list is pretty shaky, man:

No, its rock solid. Your interpretation of it is shaky ;) allow me to elaborate:

Making a trillion dollars through shrewd investment decisions? Moral.

Not if you are knowingly aiding and abetting the coerced labor of teenagers in China, right?


Note that my statement included nothing of aiding coerced labor in China. You are changing premises to fit your desired conclusion. In other words, this is a straw man.

So let me assume both your coerced labor premise and my shrewd business permise and examine each. Making shrewd business decisions to get rich? Moral. Using coerced labor to get rich? Immoral.

Becoming a herion junkie? Moral (although very stupid).

Even if the vast majority of junkies resort to theft to feed their habit?


Again, you inserted extra premises to make the statement fit your desired conclusion. This is another strawman.

Now, nevermind the fact that the government and drug-war are what make drugs so expensive that people need to steal for their habits. Lets focus on drug usage and theft to support it. Being a junkie is not immoral. Stealing is. For example, I could be a huge heroin junkie but I could be rich, and therefore dont need to steal. That would be moral. Or, I could be a totally sober person, but a kleptomaniac. That would be immoral.

And since you didnt actually oppose my claims that being rich or being a junkie, in and of themselves, is not immoral, then I assume that you have no real beef with my claim that the sole deciding factor in regards to the morality of an interaction or action is whether or not coercion was at play?

I mean, after all, you had to insert a coercive premise into each of my moral examples just to try to make them look immoral. So I can only assume that you agree with me? You implied as much, even with your strawmen.

It doesnt look to me like you get your history, reality claims, or morality from the Bible at all. So what the hell DO you get from your Bible? Why do you believe it? What evidence convinced you to have "faith" in the Bible anyway? Why do you believe in the resurrection story if you dont seem to believe in much else the book claims? Why are you so seemingly unable to identify, much less justify, your particular brand of Christianity?

Aaron Kinney said...

Sandalstraps:

Aaron,

I'm sorry that once again you are victimized by my ability to far too easily get distracted by Blacksun. Believe me, I am aware that I owe you are more thorough consideration of morality in general and the specific question of sexuality and pornography. Please accpt this IOU. After my son, who is home from preschool today, takes his nap, I hope to revisit our conversation, as we ought to wrap it up before too long


No problem. Im sure we'll get around to it. And I still have no real idea what your views on sexual morality even ARE, and since you dont take the Bible too seriously... er, I mean... LITERALLY, this will certainly be a crazy ride!

BlackSun said...

Tyler,

Dude, things happen sometimes, but don't go telling your friends that you have no moral compunction against hooking up with their girlfriends. Honestly!

Actually, that's exactly what I'm saying. No person owns anyone else. Everyone is always looking and comparing their situation to what they could have with someone else. We are all free agents. Whatever loyalty you may think you have from your friends on this issue is only valid until it's not. And I speak from having been on all three sides of this equation. (The one who leaves, the one who's left, and the interloper.)

Amen. That's neither here nor there, though.

Actually, it is. Because if you say amen to my earlier statement on strategy, then you can't go back to a rigid and unchanging morality based on written rules.

I'm no genetic expert, but from what little I understand, the thrust of genetics and evolution in general is the survival of the species, not any particular individual within the species.

Correct. You are no genetic expert. See Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene", Pinker "The Blank Slate," etc. There is no group selection. That has been officially debunked.

I am suggesting that "prosperity and dominance" aren't our only "innate genetic imperatives."

If they weren't, we would quickly cease to be at the top of the food chain. It's only the luxury of civilization that's allowed us to concern ourselves with anything other than brute survival.

sandalstraps,

because our own perceptions are limited, so the narratives we weave from them are similarly limited.

That's why we have independent confirmation by multiple observers. This tired critique of science does not hold water.

Hume argued that we cannot say with any certainty that anything caused anything else, a statement necessary for any scientific theory

Bollocks. We live in an entirely causal universe. Raising the question of whether causality exists is intellectual masturbation. Name one example to me of an uncaused event...you can't. (Other than the big bang, which is beyond our ability to penetrate.) You might just as well posit that the universe is unreal and we are living in a simulation.

I do see that there is an impasse. It involves the unwillingness of some commenters here to be subject to the laws of nature. I do have epistemic humility. My own understanding of the universe is subordinate to its laws, which I can only attempt to discover, not modify. Neither I nor you nor Hume or any sacred scripture can ever change that. They are the ultimate, and if I may borrow from theism, they are god. (With a small 'g')

Aaron Kinney said...

Look what Blacksun just said!!!

do see that there is an impasse. It involves the unwillingness of some commenters here to be subject to the laws of nature. I do have epistemic humility. My own understanding of the universe is subordinate to its laws, which I can only attempt to discover, not modify. Neither I nor you nor Hume or any sacred scripture can ever change that. They are the ultimate, and if I may borrow from theism, they are god. (With a small 'g')

Hell yeah! HELL YEAH! :D

Sandalstraps said...

I'm afraid to say that this discussion is no longer constructive, and as such is not worth the time and energy that I have invested in it.

A degree of charity is needed if someone is to ever understand the views of another, and this conversation (though, not necessarily the persons involved in it) no longer has any charity. Each comment made is a priori assumed to be the product of worthless thinking, and each person reading each comment is as such reading the comment against the author instead of reading it with the author, trying to understand what the author may really be saying.

This has become abudantly clear when David Hume, one of the greatest empirical philosophers (along with Hobbes one of the "fathers" of modern empirical thinking) is reduced by someone whose world-view and criticism of Christianity is indebted to him - yes, if there were no David Hume or Thomas Hobbes, there would be no Blacksun, any course in the history of philosophy should convince you of that! - to "intellectual masterbation"!

Simply put, gentlemen, this is no way to discuss anything, much less such complex subjects.

You began our converstaion with certain assumptions - decidedly uncharitable assumptions - about Christians. Similarly I began this conversation with uncharitable assumptions about anarchism. However, my assumptions, in the course of our conversation, have been shelved so that I can attempt to construct the most charitable possible interpretation of your various positions. That you have been unwilling or unable to return the favor speaks to the fruitlessness of further dialog.

I regret that this must end with rancor, but there is simply no use making any more comments if the intended readers of said comments will make no attempt to understand them.

Feel free to retreat to your comfortable world-view, even as you revile others for doing the same thing. But do not feel free to dictate to anyone the way in which they ought to be religious.

Consider this to be a summary termination of this conversation. I will not participate in it again, and I would not consider it worth Tyler or Amy's time to participate either.

I find it incredulous that two people who have never seriously studied religion have the intellectual and morall arrogance to attempt to define the parameters of religious observance for three people who have devoted their lives to critical inquiry in the subject, and wo have studied theology and religion on a post-graduate level. This is akin to the fundamentalist attempting to tell the biologist what makes for good science.

BlackSun said...

sandalstraps,

I don't think it's rancorous to ask that your philosophy be subject to natural law. I never dismissed Hume, only dismissed the idea that we don't live in a causal universe. If you can show me one example of an uncaused event, I take back everything. But I'm quite certain you can't.

To deny causality is like denying the sky is blue. I think you are retreating because you don't like the implications of my arguments.

It's often difficult for those who espouse relativistic ideas to learn that there are absolutes. Again, I think it takes a certain amount of humility to submit to natural law. You ask me for epistemic humility, but you have none before nature.

You can't retreat behind your "post-graduate" education. If you are wrong, then I don't care how much education you have. Me, I'm an engineer by training. Scientists like to be wrong, because it means we learned something.

Please show me I'm wrong, and why, and I'll agree with you.

Aaron Kinney said...

Sandalstraps,

I'm afraid to say that this discussion is no longer constructive, and as such is not worth the time and energy that I have invested in it.

How convenient you step out once I call you to task and to provide some substance to your particular version of "non-theistic christianity"!

A degree of charity is needed if someone is to ever understand the views of another, and this conversation (though, not necessarily the persons involved in it) no longer has any charity.

I stopped giving out charity to you when it was clear that you would provide none to me. Charity is not in the form of social pleasantries Sandalstraps, but in substance or currency of the matter at hand, in this case, religion and philosophy. You would give me nothing regarding your beliefs other than a mere label. The contents of your worldview were kept away from me the entire time.

I, on the other hand, gave you lots of charity. I laid out plainly my position and what my specific beliefs were.

Simply put, gentlemen, this is no way to discuss anything, much less such complex subjects.

That fact had already become clear to me when you told me that an unexplainable personal revelation of yours was the basis for your alleged Chrisitan beliefs, despite the fact that everything we talked about in regards to Christianity (except the existence of God/Jesus) you basically said you didnt believe in.

You began our converstaion with certain assumptions - decidedly uncharitable assumptions - about Christians. Similarly I began this conversation with uncharitable assumptions about anarchism. However, my assumptions, in the course of our conversation, have been shelved so that I can attempt to construct the most charitable possible interpretation of your various positions. That you have been unwilling or unable to return the favor speaks to the fruitlessness of further dialog.

Well maybe if you offered some of your Christian beliefs and justifications to actually be examined, then our side wouldnt have had to keep offering positions in your stead. My assumptions and claims presented in regards to your beliefs were only an attempt to figure out what portions of Xtianity you subscribed to... apparently you dont subscribe to much of it.

Youre like a nihilist who wants to conveniently wave the Christian flag.

Feel free to retreat to your comfortable world-view, even as you revile others for doing the same thing. But do not feel free to dictate to anyone the way in which they ought to be religious.

At least us atheists were willing to PRESENT our worldview beyond the mere label of it.

Consider this to be a summary termination of this conversation. I will not participate in it again, and I would not consider it worth Tyler or Amy's time to participate either.

Fine. Good luck with your faith. If most Christians act like you do, I imagine that it will be very hard to spread the faith any more.

I find it incredulous that two people who have never seriously studied religion have the intellectual and morall arrogance to attempt to define the parameters of religious observance for three people who have devoted their lives to critical inquiry in the subject, and wo have studied theology and religion on a post-graduate level. This is akin to the fundamentalist attempting to tell the biologist what makes for good science.

Youre saying this to Blacksun, who spent many years as a preacher, and to myself, who spent many years in the Lutheran Church and youth group and Bible study.

I think that the reason you think we dont "seriously study" religion is because throughout our exchange in here, you refused to present a CHRISTIAN POSITION for us to study! You refused to satisfy my requests for the specifics of your beliefs, and merely rejected my literal Christian offers instead.

How the fuck can anyone, christian or otherwise, study anything YOU believe or WHY you believe it? You cant even present it. I like talking with fundies and calvinists much better actually, since they can put some meat on the goddamn debate table. They, like me, have substance to examine, unlike you, who can only offer vapor.

Youre the one retreating, not me or Blacksun. When called to task, you decline to participate. I imagine that you would act in the same isolationist way when chalenged with evangelizing or helping "save" some non-Christian souls, huh?

I told you repeatedly that I think youre a nice person Sandalstraps. I gave you many emotional appeals as one human to another to help me understand your beliefs. I think I was more considerate to you as a person than you were to me. You only wanted to spin this thing around in circles, while I wanted the discussion to get SOMEWHERE.

You are part of the reason that Christianity is dying in the West. Good riddance to your ridiculous belief system. You would be a better man if you rid yourself of it, because you would be more likely to stand for something with some fucking substance to it. This is another instance in where your "non-theistic Christian" worldview failed miserably to stand up for itself.

Tyler Simons said...

Wait, Aaron, for the record, you said that it's morally acceptible to refuse service to someone on the basis of their race?

Tyler Simons said...

>>Making a trillion dollars through shrewd investment decisions? Moral.

>Not if you are knowingly aiding and abetting the coerced labor of teenagers in China, right?

Note that my statement included nothing of aiding coerced labor in China. You are changing premises to fit your desired conclusion. In other words, this is a straw man.


Your statement included nothing preventing using forced labor in China. That was my point.

I'm not creating a straw man, I'm saying that it would be wrong to make millions of dollars investing in a company that uses coerced labor. I was qualifying your statement. If you'd said that there's nothing inherently wrong with making billions of dollars in the market, I would have agreed with you. You seemed to be saying that there's nothing possibly wrong with making billions of dollars. That's just not true. A straw man would have been something like saying "Tons of people make money off the backs of the exploited. Making money exploits people. It's morally wrong to make money."

So let me assume both your coerced labor premise and my shrewd business permise and examine each. Making shrewd business decisions to get rich? Moral. Using coerced labor to get rich? Immoral.

Sure.

If you and Sandalstraps and Amy cared so much about facts and truth, youd be more likely to claim a position as true!

If you'd read what I've written, you'd see that I believe that there are virtues that are real and good. You'd see that I believe in a God of love and that her existence is true. You'd see that I believe that sin is true and it limits the possibility of really understanding the world.

I keep trying to IDENTIFY your arguments, as well as compare them with arguments that I used to present back when I was a Christian.

Are you an ex-fundie? That would explain so much. If so, you probably won't catch me dead using the same kind of arguments you did. Those are bad arguments! If you want a good argument for the existence of God, read Schubert Ogden's "The Reality of God" or Charles Hartshorne's "The Divine Relativity." That's about as good as you'll get. My teacher, David Tracy has a great book called the Analogical Imagination.

According to the Bible, youre not supposed to listen to ANYONES interpretation of it, even your own!!!

WTF? That makes no sense whatsoever.

Its allegedly the MOST IMPORTANT BOOK IN THE WORLD yet it has the LEAST CLEAR MESSAGE ever written!

That has something to do with the claim, of course, that God is incomprehensible in Her essense or some such thing. If it was easy to figure out what the message of the Bible is, we wouldn't need the Bible!

And since you didnt actually oppose my claims that being rich or being a junkie, in and of themselves, is not immoral, then I assume that you have no real beef with my claim that the sole deciding factor in regards to the morality of an interaction or action is whether or not coercion was at play?

Uh, no. For example:

Being a racist: Immoral.

Misrepresenting the arguments of another: Immoral

Sacrificing particular needs for the good of the whole: moral.

So what the hell DO you get from your Bible? Why do you believe it? What evidence convinced you to have "faith" in the Bible anyway? Why do you believe in the resurrection story if you dont seem to believe in much else the book claims?

Well, here's a start. I believe that the universe is sustained by a loving God. If you can find me another religion or philosophy where that is a central teaching, let me know. Secondly, I believe that it's crucial to constantly reevaluate your understanding of the world and to hold your conclusions humbly, humans are more than fallible. I haven't noticed a trace of self-doubt or humility in the anti-Christians who've posted here. That smacks of wannabe megalomania to me, contemplating the cross helps me remember that I'm not God. You could use some of that. Thirdly, I believe in Original Sin. If you don't understand what I meant by that when I wrote it before, read it again; it wasn't that convoluted. If I'm mistaken about my clarity, ask me a specific question about it. There's a chance I'll come back and read your answer. I have a lot more patience for assholes who jump to unjustified conclusions with less than careful language than sandalstraps, being one myself.

Aaron Kinney said...

Tyler,

Wait, Aaron, for the record, you said that it's morally acceptible to refuse service to someone on the basis of their race?

What I said is that refusing to engage in trade with anyone for any reason is not in itself immoral. That includes refusing to trade your product or service for someones money on the basis of their race.

Tyler, here is my counter question: Do you believe that it is moral to be FORCED to interact or trade with another person, even if you dont want to?

Tyler, would you deny that businesses should have the right to refuse service to anyone?

Your statement included nothing preventing using forced labor in China. That was my point.

Well Tyler there were a lot of things that I didnt "prevent" in my example. Just because I said "no X no Y no Z" in my example doesnt mean that you can start including additional factors. You strawmanned me plain and simple.

Why dont I just strawman you in your "refusal of service" example to include the person of another race to also be a felon and holding a gun? Puh-leaze!

I'm not creating a straw man,

Yes you are, and Ill prove it in the next sentence:

I'm saying that it would be wrong to make millions of dollars investing in a company that uses coerced labor.

I totally agree. You see Tyler, this is MY point: Coercion is wrong. You CHANGED my example just now, by inserting coercion. If I am to agree with you in the insertion of coercion into the example, then I will also say that it is wrong.

Coerced labor is slavery. Slavery is wrong. Coercion in ALL ITS FORMS is wrong.

Tyler, any time you ever insert a coercive factor into any example we are playing with, then I will of course state that it is immoral. I am the most anti-coercion person you will ever meet.

That is why I support a persons right to refuse service based on whatever reason they choose. For it is immoral to force that person to trade or interact with another against his will.

Will you next argue that it is wrong to refuse to serve a person in your restaurant if he comes in the place naked, or drunk, or smelling like garbage?

I was qualifying your statement.

No, you changed my example to INSERT a coercive clause that I deliberately left out.

If you'd said that there's nothing inherently wrong with making billions of dollars in the market, I would have agreed with you.

Good. So you might be a moral person after all :)

You'd see that I believe that sin is true and it limits the possibility of really understanding the world.

Do you believe in Original Sin? If not, then how is sin acquired? And more importantly, how do you define the word "sin"?

According to the Bible, youre not supposed to listen to ANYONES interpretation of it, even your own!!!

WTF? That makes no sense whatsoever.


Yes it does: Lean not into thine own understanding, but trust in the LORD. Its in the Bible.

Uh, no. For example:

Being a racist: Immoral.


I disagree. Being a racist is stupid and unjustified. Why dont you explain to me why favoring one skin color over another is in itself immoral? Can you do so without inserting coercive clauses? Ive already explained that I believe that COERCION is wrong.

I do not believe that being a "racist" is immoral any more than being a "heterosexual" is immoral. It is merely a preference.

Misrepresenting the arguments of another: Immoral

Sure, since it is a lie and lies are coercive. You, for example, were immoral when you strawmanned me and inserted factors into my examples that I didnt originally include, and then you tried to pass it off as my own argument when it fact it was not. That was a lie, and that was immoral.

Sacrificing particular needs for the good of the whole: moral.

EEEEEEEW!!!!! That is DISGUSTING! Why dont you explain to me why you think this is so? I couldnt possibly disagree more.

Tyler, if every individual sacrificed their needs for the good of the "whole" then nobody's needs would be met! You cant secure the "whole" of a group by destroying the primacy of the rights of the individuals, for the individuals are the foundation of the whole.

The ONLY way to meet the needs of the "whole" is to secure first and foremost the rights and needs of its core components: the individuals.

That is why capitalist (individualist) countries are so much better off than socialist (collectivist) countries. That is why individualism brings happiness and prosperity, while collectivism brings only misery and misfortune.

Well, here's a start. I believe that the universe is sustained by a loving God.

And what is your loving God sustained by?

Secondly, I believe that it's crucial to constantly reevaluate your understanding of the world and to hold your conclusions humbly, humans are more than fallible.

Does that include your belief in God?

I haven't noticed a trace of self-doubt or humility in the anti-Christians who've posted here.

I dont give humility to ancient superstitions nor to the people who champion them. If you want to see me be humble or exercise some self-doubt, then watch me interact with and observe the natural world and the science we use to understand it. :)

That smacks of wannabe megalomania to me, contemplating the cross helps me remember that I'm not God. You could use some of that.

I tried the cross for about 17 years. I was a Christian most of my life. It didnt help me, in fact, I was miserable and a self-hater. Since I ditched the cross, Jesus, etc... Ive found such more profound meaning and happiness in my life. Since I took responsibility for myself I have become a much more successful, aware, awe-inspired and loving person. My social circles grew, I got closer to my friends and found more meaningful relationships. Since becoming an atheist, I have found happiness unknown to me from any time in my Christian past. I love life! :)

Thirdly, I believe in Original Sin.

Ahhhh, so you DO believe in original sin. Wow. Okay Tyler, here is a question for you: Do you believe that it is moral or immoral to assign blame and guilt to a person for an action that they did not commit?

If you don't understand what I meant by that when I wrote it before, read it again; it wasn't that convoluted. If I'm mistaken about my clarity, ask me a specific question about it. There's a chance I'll come back and read your answer. I have a lot more patience for assholes who jump to unjustified conclusions with less than careful language than sandalstraps, being one myself.

Hey Tyler, Im glad you decided to stick around for now. I am enjoying the conversation with you, more so than Sandalstraps since you are willing to at least pick a position and present it. With you, the conversation seems to be moving along a bit better.

Looking forward to your reply!

say no to christ said...

Hi all

I have skimmed through the post as I really don't have the patience to fully read all posts. Adult ADD??

Anyway, the bible means what it says about women. If you understand the history and the pagans, than you know that what the bible says about women is how it was meant. And it is no suprise that the bible, karan, and the tarah blame women for causing men to lust and want sex. Afterall it was Eve who introduced sex to Adam and caused the fall of man-kind. There is a reason it is said that we are all born of sin except Jesus, who was born of a virgin and no sinful act was committed.

MAn, is it frustrating that christians are so damn ignorant that they dont even understand what the original sin was.

OK, if nudity causes men to do horrible things, how come indigenous women run around naked all day and the men do not rape them?

Nudity and porn do NOT cause rape and all the other societal ills that christians claim. It is sexual repression on top of men getting the idea that women are property and only good for one thing and they get that idea from their stupid holy scripts.

say no to christ said...

Aaron said:"I tried the cross for about 17 years. I was a Christian most of my life. It didnt help me, in fact, I was miserable and a self-hater. Since I ditched the cross, Jesus, etc... Ive found such more profound meaning and happiness in my life. Since I took responsibility for myself I have become a much more successful, aware, awe-inspired and loving person. My social circles grew, I got closer to my friends and found more meaningful relationships. Since becoming an atheist, I have found happiness unknown to me from any time in my Christian past. I love life! :)"

That is exactly how I feel about my deconversion. I am free of all the guilt and shame that was forced on me for being a female. I am free of all the sexual guilt and shame that I felt for not being able to live up to gawds standards of impossibile virgin marry standards. I am free from the hate I felt towards others that werent like me. I am free of enslavement to my husband who never wanted a slave in the first freaking place(he has always been an atheist). Our relationship has grown since I unloaded all the baggage my christian uprbringing loaded me down with and the sex is unfucking believible now. :D
My relationship with my children is of understanding and unconditional love and not of over baring control and full of conditions. For the longest time I felt like the worst mother in the world and almost hated my kids. Now I love them unconditionally with every part of my being. I no longer question my mothering and it has given my kids a sense of security that I had never seen in them before. They completely trust me now.

Ok I dont have time to proof read I have to get to the gym and I'm late, sorry.

Aaron Kinney said...

Say no to christ,

Now THAT is a fuckin success story! Wow. And you know it feels so good too to hear it from a woman because these testimonies from men are a dime a dozen comparatively.

Honestly, Christianity enslaves both genders, but women much more so (no surprise there; see my latest blog post). So the liberation that a woman can feel from ditching Gawd is potentially much greater than that felt by a liberated man.

You fucking rock, SNTC. We gotta spread the liberation for all humankind, men and women alike, so that they can be friendlier and more fulfilled and, of course, have better sex!

By the way, this may be subjective, but the sex Ive had with atheists is always WAYYY better than the sex I had with Christians. BY FAR! :D

sohbet said...

thank you very much. th ework is very good

Jakob said...

I like women they are main in my life :)

Anonymous said...

you have completely misquoted and misunderstood this man's means.

Of course, you would have to be a Genius I suppose, to understand that the people who are getting killed by the bombs are those immoral assholes he's, duh, out to get. So of COURSE he thinks nude women are worse than bombs. Why would you waste your already pathetic time arguing that?

"This guy's wrong on all accounts, of course". Um, No, he's not, of course. What accounts? What's the plural concept here? Are you that dumb? He can't be WRONG, he stated an opinion, and furthermore there was only one account! aahhh

Destroying Morality is worse than destroying immoral people. What is so confusing about that to you, whether you agree with him or not? I think the concept here is quite clear, and you're just too fucking stupid to understand it, and thus felt the need to be a close minded bigot with nothing better to do than type about nude women because you can't see any in real life. :(