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Category Archives: Morality

Dr. Moreau & Why Christianity is Different

I’ve been asked, “What makes Christianity different than any other religion?”

Answer: it addresses a fundamental problem of human nature in a way superior to all other religions.

The problem in question is ontological — can we overcome our natural inclinations through sheer willpower alone?  Can we train away our very selves?  Or, put another way, can nurture overcome our nature? Read the rest of this entry

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Another Take: Pregnancy is Like a Traffic Accident

In this post, I argued that pregnancy is like a traffic accident:

If I needed a ride home from work, and one of my employees was kind enough to offer a ride, does that means I consent only to the ride home?  Well, actually, it means I give tacit approval to whatever happens on the ride home — whether I like it or not.  In other words, I can’t roll a d20 against my intelligence and disbelieve something I don’t like away.

For example, if the employee ran a red light and another car crashed into my side of the car, paralyzing me from the waist down.  A grim outcome to be sure, and I can seek monetary damages against the employee for medical expenses and rehab.  But I can’t wish the paralysis away.

In a way, abortion is the magic disbelieve roll.  “I’m not ready,” or “I don’t want to be a parent yet,” or any of the other excuses (and they are excuses) one manufactures.  The fact of the matter of is sex is tacit consent to pregnancy, since pregnancy is a possible result of sex.  We are taught in grade school that that is the case, so there isn’t an excuse for not knowing.

Agree or disagree with my analogy, I’m not the only one who uses it.  Here, Clinton Wilcox argues along similar lines, but I think he phrases it a little bit better:

When someone drives a car, they are taking on certain risks, such as the possibility of getting into an accident. Now, if you do get into an accident, you should not necessarily be forced to live with pain, injuries, etc., that may result from it. You also may not be at fault for it as the other driver may be. Or in some cases no one may be at fault for it.

So while you don’t necessarily have to live with the consequences, the person at fault does have to make it right by paying for the other person’s medical bills, paying to repair their car, etc. (or having their insurance do it, if they’re insured). They can’t just walk away and say, “Sorry, I consented to drive my car but I did not consent to get into an accident. You’re on your own.” Read the rest of this entry

Sam Harris’s Challenge

Prolific atheist Sam Harris put an intriguing tweet up yesterday:

I’d love to take Sam’s money.  What do I have to do?

Anyone who believes that my case for a scientific understanding of morality is mistaken is invited to prove it in 1,000 words or less. (You must refute the central argument of the book—not peripheral issues.) The best response will be published on this website, and its author will receive $1000. (source)

All right.  I’m game.  I wanted to read that book, anyway.  I also wanted to get some more material for this blog.  So starting in about a week, I will blog my way through Dr. Harris’s book.

Then, I will consolidate the best of my replies into one executive summary of about 1,000 words.  That I will send to Dr. Harris on the due date next year.

It’s on!

Is Having Sex Also Consent to Having a Baby?

choice2013I wanted to revisit a conversation I once witnessed between @juliewashere, a Twitter user and founder the Golden Coat Hanger, a blog on feminist and abortion issues, and @KatyPundit (who is male and named David; so much for my uncanny ability to guess gender using forum aliases).  It was almost two years ago and before I knew about WordPress’s supercool feature to reprint tweets in graphical format, so I have only text copies of the tweets involved.

I wanted to revisit the conversation because this is a line of argument that has always bugged me in regard to pro-choice folks.  They don’t think that sex necessarily must equal a baby.  While that is true, the fact is that a baby is a potential result of sex, and murder is not an appropriate method to deal with said consequence.

Julie asked when she gave consent to pregnancy, and David told Julie, “You gave consent when you spread em open.” Julie responded:

that’s consent to sex, and ONLY sex.

David replied, “LOL, Sex makes babies. At least that’s how MY kids got here… U came by Stork?” And Julie responds with a disconnect between sex and pregnancy:

no, pregnancy makes babies, and it takes several months.

What does Julie think causes pregnancy?  I’m not sure.  But I want to take a moment to ponder her position that consent to sex is consent to the physical act, and thus not tacit consent to pregnancy.  Since there was no consent to pregnancy, this entitles the pregnant woman to terminate the unwanted pregnancy.

Let’s apply this to another situation.

If I needed a ride home from work, and one of my employees was kind enough to offer a ride, does that means I consent only to the ride home?  Well, actually, it means I give tacit approval to whatever happens on the ride home — whether I like it or not.  In other words, I can’t roll a d20 against my intelligence and disbelieve something I don’t like away.

For example, if the employee ran a red light and another car crashed into my side of the car, paralyzing me from the waist down.  A grim outcome to be sure, and I can seek monetary damages against the employee for medical expenses and rehab.  But I can’t wish the paralysis away.

In a way, abortion is the magic disbelieve roll.  “I’m not ready,” or “I don’t want to be a parent yet,” or any of the other excuses (and they are excuses) one manufactures.  The fact of the matter of is sex is tacit consent to pregnancy, since pregnancy is a possible result of sex.  We are taught in grade school that that is the case, so there isn’t an excuse for not knowing.

Sex ==> Pregnancy ==> Baby

Divorcing pregnancy and parenthood from sex is a myth of our modern age, and abortion reinforces that myth.  That is a very serious issue, and it comes to the forefront each year on this dark anniversary.

An Exercise in Picking & Choosing What to Read AND Believe

This post and this post have engendered some spirited discussion between a poster named Clare Flourish, a Christian who defends the homosexual lifestyle as a God-given gift, and me, who follows what the Bible says on the matter.

Clare’s follow up post is a veritable case study on how to read into things what you want to be there, instead of what is actually there.  She does that to both my words and the words of the Bible.  I suppose if she’s lax with Scripture reading, I should expect no better given that Scripture contains the words of God himself while I am just a man with no special revelation.

[Cory] wants to save me from that Hell to which all unrepentant gay people will inevitably go after death. I want to save him from hell now, from the idea that humanity is naturally wicked. [1]

Really?  That’s interesting.  If you read my comment, I said this:

Finally, gay people are no more damned than any of us, for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But we are also urged to live in a manner worthy of the calling to which we are called, which gay people who are living in homosexual relationships are NOT.

Does that mean you’re going to hell? Well, I wouldn’t say that. Probably not. It means that you have a sin in your life and that must be dealt with. It doesn’t mean God loves you less; he did, after all, call you to be a Christian.

You will have to deal with this in your own time and in your own way. I see you’ve given this issue a lot of thought, and I applaud that. However, I think you’ve come to the wrong conclusions and I’m not afraid to say that you have. Just as you are not afraid to say that I’ve come to the wrong conclusions. (emphasis added) [2]

So I’m not trying to save Clare from any hell, future or otherwise.  What I’m trying to do is be her Christian brother and point her away from sin that is impeding her relationship with the Lord.  I don’t think she’s going to hell and I can’t save her from a place she’s not going.  I think she has a sin that needs to be eliminated.

As to the idea that humanity is naturally wicked, well that’s pretty much the unanimous teaching of Scripture and of history.  I’ve already covered that elsewhere, so I’m not going to dive into it now. Read the rest of this entry

But, You Really DO Hate Gay People!

As I figured I would be, I’ve been called out on this post.  A blogger named Jessica Sideways insists that I really do hate gay people and seek to deny them rights.

The whole post in which she does this is, frankly, a waste of the bits and bytes used to store it on her server.  Those could have been used for something far more worthwhile, like a nice virus or maybe another iteration of a Socially Awkward Penguin meme.

Before I respond, an open note to Jessica:  I have a feeling I know how this back-and-forth is going to go.  Therefore, this post only will be in a Minimal Sarcasm Zone.  Only truly inane points you make will be subject to scathing, ironic humor.  If you choose to respond and show the same remedial grasp of philosophical issues I’ve already seen, you will be subject to sarcasm that will make you think of J.P. Holding as a nice guy.

You’ve been warned, now class is in session. Read the rest of this entry

Must Catholics/Christians Hate Gay People?

I put a link to this article on my Facebook page.  I wondered why people who hold beliefs antithetical to Christian doctrine would want to be Christians.  One of my friends responded:

so you have to hate gays to be catholic or christian? if you in don’t agree with everything the church tells you then you can’t be christian or catholic? not trying to debate the issue just making sure I’m clear that’s what you mean by NOT for you a little intrigued by your post for some clarification of your point of view that you mean if you think like this you can’t involved in church? courious

I hear this again and again: Christians hate gay people, and we’re not allowed to disagree within ourselves because if we disagree then what we have isn’t from God.

No and no.  Let’s lay this out:

  1. Homosexuality is a sin.
  2. Marriage is between a man and a woman.

These are both eternal truths defined by God clearly in Scripture. These truths are to be upheld by the Church, and therefore the membership of the Church.

To be Catholic, you cannot be in favor of same-sex marriage. That is not the institution of marriage that is spelled out in Scripture by the Lord himself. The long and the short of it is that we humans don’t get to define marriage or church sacraments — God, who is eternally and perfectly good, is the one who defines those things.

Our nature is fallen from grace, and therefore we don’t really understand what “good” is or what it looks like. God is who we need to look to for that, not ourselves. If we look at homosexuality as something innate to us and think that is somehow “good,” then we are missing the mark by a lot. Remember — we are not good by nature; we are sinners by nature. What we do or what we are cannot be the standard for “right.”

When we use ourselves as the standard for “right” or “good” or “fair,” we will never get to the essence of those terms because no one consistently treats others “right” or “fair.” No one is consistently “good.” Better to ask instead, “What standard are we using for good?”

Every time we judge something moral or immoral, right or wrong, good or bad, we use some kind of standard. The standard cannot be society, for society changes far too often. Opinions and social mores are up for grabs, and differ every generation. Worse, this prevents us from judging any society as “wrong” or “immoral.” Implications?  The Nazis were on solid ground when they did the Holocaust!

For reasons I’ve already discussed (fallen nature), the standard can’t be what is in our own nature.

Therefore, the standard is God.  God is outside of ourselves, and therefore not subject to a fallen nature.  God also is not a part of society, and therefore not caught in the sweeping changes of morality we see as a society.

Read God’s Word — homosexuality is condemned throughout. Read Catholic doctrine — again, homosexuality is condemned throughout. Early Church Fathers were divided on many, many issues — but this was not one of them.  (See some selected writings here.)

Homosexuality is a sin, but not everyone in our pluralistic society shares the view that sin is a problem.  Does that mean we seek to deny them equal marriage rights using our religion?  We deny them nothing.  They have the right to marry a member of the opposite sex, just as I do. Men can only marry women; men joining to men or women joining to women is not marriage. Homosexual “marriage,” therefore, is the homosexual community asking to change the entire sacrament of marriage, thereby perverting its original intent.

Fine, homosexuality is a sin.  Homosexual marriage isn’t marriage, so it’s not a denial of a right.  Does that mean I hate gay people?  On the contrary, I have gay friends (one of whom owns a lesbian bar and is the founding member of Toledo Pride), I’m a huge Elton John fan, and I’ve been to a lesbian wedding (such as it is; gay marriage is still illegal in Ohio).  Where’s the disconnect?  Well, most people are tired of this expression, but I’ll say it anyway: Love the sinner, hate the sin.

“But I was born gay! If homosexuality is a sin, and if you hate the sin, then you hate me!” Absolutely right! I’m not even going to deny that.  But I’ve already covered this: Sin is innate to all of us, and we’re all sinners.  However, each of us are susceptible to different sins. The challenge as a Christian is to learn to hate that part of ourselves, to crucify it with Christ, and live in a manner worthy of our calling. Is it hard? Yes! I’ve heard it said that Christianity isn’t tried and found wanting; rather, found difficult and left untried.

Could someone in favor of homosexual marriage become involved in church? Could gay people become involved in church? Absolutely to both!! Hopefully through church they will learn that homosexuality is a sin and that it is something that they need to put to bed (no pun intended), not a part of themselves they should explore. No different from any other sin. We wouldn’t exclude adulterers or murderers from our congregations, but Catholic priests would certainly deny sacraments to ones that remained unrepentant.

Christ came to heal the sick, which is why he is sometimes called the Great Physician. The unrepentant sinners among us are the ones who need Christ’s love the most, and therefore they need church involvement that much more.  We should never deny church attendance or involvement to a sinner, because then no one would qualify for membership.

I’m not saying I’m perfect. There’s a lot for me to work on. A lot. I don’t practice what I preach here, so trust me this applies equally to me as it does to any gay person.

The point is that we all have our challenges with living as Christ did, and this life is about that journey to becoming more Christ-like. God promises to get us there, and he works differently on each of us. Homosexuals have their challenges, as I have mine. Church is about giving each other that accountability. It’s about helping each of us on the journey. That’s the point of fellowship.

But, before we can offer the needed accountability, we have to be clear on what constitutes a sin, which is (in my view) the real reason the young man in the article was denied confirmation. If you give approval to those who practice a sin, then you aren’t modeling Christ for unbelievers. Worse, you’re inviting the same judgment on yourself.

I hoped that would clear things up for my friend.  She’s a dear friend and I’d hate to lose her over what I would actually consider a non-issue.  Fortunately, she enjoyed that treatment and said she learned some things.  So kudos for remaining open-minded to other perspectives!

Surprise: Atheists Don’t Lack Morals!

Did I say atheists have no morals? I don’t THINK I said that…

Atheists really like to fight against us ignorant theists who say they have no morals.  We’re the backwards hicks who take instruction from a book written by ignorant goat-herders who believed the earth was flat and that the sky was a dome that contained the sun, moon, and stars (all of which circled the earth!).  What do we know about morality?

Atheists are so enlightened that they’ve thrown off the shackles of God-belief and are doing the right things because they’re the right things, not because some ancient patriarch shakes his finger at you from 1,000 years ago and says, “Do it or I’ll spank you!”

So of course they don’t lack morals!  In fact, they’re more moral than religious people — the vague statistics quoted above don’t lie!

Sensing the sarcasm yet?

I hope so.  Because I don’t know how to lay it on thicker than what I just did.

Atheists are not immoral.  They are amoral.

Difference?

Immoral means acting contrary to established morality.  It is a question of ethics, not ontology or epistemology.

Amoral means lacking morals.  It is a question either of ontology or epistemology, not ethics.

Morality represents the essence of good behavior.  Ethics represent the execution of good behavior — in other words, the pudding that the proof is in.

In Plato’s dialogues, Socrates asks the good priest Euthyphro what piety is.  Euthyphro comes up with several examples, which Socrates says were good but that only covers pious acts.  Socrates wants to know what piety is.

By giving him extensive examples, Euthyphro wasn’t actually answering Socrates’ question.

The above graphic does the same thing — it only shows that atheists behave more ethically than religious people.  But why do they do that?

They can’t tell you — there is no ground for morality given atheistic naturalism.  That’s where the difficulty starts.  Ethics can change; sometimes dramatically.

It was once legal to bet on (or against) your own team in professional sports.  Professional sports also allowed the use of steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs without batting an eyelash.  Now, both practices are deemed cheating in most professional sports.

What we need is something to ground our ethics in; something immutable that we can return to to see what goodness looks like.  That way, when we find something new, we can create a code of ethics for it patterned after that which gave us the example of good ethics in the first place.

If morality is an immovable anchor and ethics are a boat on the rough, unforgiving seas of our culture, the boat is free to move about within the radius of the anchor.  It might go adrift, it might even do something unacceptable, but it will remain in the range of the anchor.  Conversely, without the anchor, the ship is free to be tossed around the sea of possibilities, moving unflinchingly into uncharted, dangerous waters with nothing to bring it back to safety.

The nature of God is that immutable ground of ethical behavior for the theist.  The atheist has none.  We are the boat that will return to safe waters, they are the one that will be tossed out to sea without a guide.

I have no problem with considering atheists ethical; the above examples show they are.  However, they have no ultimate ground for the morality that informs their ethics and that means they will go seriously adrift.

Why do People Become Atheists?

I’ve posited that atheists do not want ultimate accountability to God, and that is part of their motivation for denying God’s existence.  Atheists try hard to resist that, but a few have been forthright about it.  Philosopher Thomas Nagel, for example, wrote:

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

Now, the Atheist Camel comes clean as well.  When contemplating what the reaction would be to bulletproof evidence that there is a god, he said:

I’ll proffer that it depends on the god’s persona. If it is a hands (or trunk, or tentacles) off god, who created us and lets us live out our lives as independent beings unfettered by its irrational  threats and demands; perhaps a fun loving kind of being that finds our behavior amusing or disgusting, but nevertheless nonjudgmental–  perhaps asking only for an occasional acknowledgement and thank you now and then I’d have no problem with it. Acknowledge and move on. (source, emphasis added)

So he’s fine as long as there is minimal intrusion in his life.  Now, what if this deity was the God of the Bible and did demand certain things?

Where scientists never before bothered to contemplate the supernatural, many of them, and our freethinking brethren, would now kowtow to this God’s demands.  But many more would turn their attention toward one objective…find a way to destroy it.  An underground movement, an army of partisans, dedicated to freedom of thought, rationality, fairness and conscience battling not only for the freedom to live life free from omnipotent oppression and irrationality, but for the freedom and right to die and fade into oblivion without pain and fear.

If there were a proven God of the Bible in all its horrendous glory man would be compelled to stop killing each other. The thinking among us would turn our undivided attention to find a way to kill this God monster … once and for all. (source, emphasis added)

So the truth comes out.  As long as the Atheist Camel gets to live as he chooses, with no interference from a deity, he’s fine.  But the moment there is an expectation of behavior and a requisite final judgement, he thinks that humans should join together and kill that God.

What can I say?  This confirms my original theory about atheists wanting to avoid final judgment classic-D&D-style — rolling a 20-sider and saying “I disbelieve.”  I just wish more atheists were this honest.

Another Ignorant Meme

Memes are created by the dozens everyday.  I have no idea what makes one meme go viral while others sit and rot.  But I’m convinced the anti-religious ones that go viral must do one of two things:

  1. Commit serious exegetical errors that Average Joe Christian cannot counter because the church sucks at apologetics.
  2. Commit a serious category error that Average Joe American won’t notice because he’s too busy watching horrid shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians and not busy enough learning how to think critically.

This meme goes in the second group.  I would like to point out that it is exactly the same category error discussed with the Scumbag God meme: a failure to distinguish between “kill” and “murder.”

“Kill” is a broad term that refers to the taking of lives.  Murder, on the other hand, is the unlawful taking of a life.  All murder is killing, but not all killing is murder.  For example, the following “kills” are lawful:

  1. Hunting
  2. Trapping
  3. Euthanizing sick/injured animals
  4. Butchering animals for food/by-products
  5. Killing enemy combatants
  6. Capital punishment
  7. Self-defense
  8. Defense of another who is immediate, life-threatening danger
  9. Killing a person who presents an immediate threat to the community but not directly to you (police officers only)

No comment on the fairness of those kills, but they are considered lawful in that if you clean a fish, kill an enemy soldier, shoot a horse with a broken leg, or kill to protect your child you won’t face prison time.

Murder represents a case where you killed unlawfully.  For example, if you caught your wife in bed with another guy, then beat that guy’s head in with a sharpened stick, you’re going to jail.  I’m sure that the jury would sympathize with you, mostly because there’s at least one hotheaded, possessive S.O.B. of a juror who would have done the same thing.

But that doesn’t change the legality of your action.  You still killed without a justifiable reason.  And that makes it murder.  (In the above example, if you had no “cool-down” period, it would likely be charged as manslaughter, but my point still stands that the killing is unlawful.)

Capital punishment is the right of the state, agree or disagree with it, it is still a justifiable killing.  As is killing an enemy soldier in combat; soldiers know what they’re getting in to and they know they are risking their lives when they enter the armed forces.  Same as any police officer or government Special Agent.

So, you can be pro-life, pro-war, and pro-death penalty while not earning the brand of hypocrite.  Some might say that this is special pleading, but it isn’t because I’ve shown the one exception to special pleading — the principle of relevant difference.  Lawful killing of enemy combatants and convicted murderers/traitors is vastly different than murdering a baby in the womb.

Okay, I jumped the gun a bit.  I haven’t actually proven that abortion is murder.  And that’s not my aim.  My aim is to show that not all killing is unlawful, and therefore this meme commits a serious category error.

And now, having squashed another ignorant meme, I shall enjoy a piece of Victory Gum…