Gay Hate and Censorship

Jim West, doyen of the biblioblogs, made this post last week. Challenging marriage-equality advocates to defend the defacing of a Chick-Fil-A. In the comments I did so, and we batted back and forth a couple of times. Then, for some reason, Jim decided not to publish my comments, or respond to asking him why.

I guess he felt the post would be better looking as if he’d seen off any objection with his principled stance.

Head to the post if you want my rather (too) lengthy first comment, but I’ll pick up with Jim’s response:

Jim wrote:

it’s a shame that you’re willing to justify hate-speech.

I wrote:

It’s a shame you aren’t willing to join with your Christian brothers and sisters who are campaigning for equal marriage!

You’d do well to re-read the Letter from Birmingham Jail and see how close the correspondence. There are always those who try to silence civil rights campaigners by claiming that they are the real bigots, their statements are the true loci of hate, their demands are the real oppression. Those with systematic privilege will always squeal at the unfairness of ceding any of it. It is a predictable, regrettably base human reaction.

I can’t think of any feature of the reaction of whites to the civil rights movement that isn’t writ large among anti-gay activists now.

Jim wrote:

i do well to adhere to the clear teaching of scripture rather than align myself with a viewpoint that is tendentious and has no scriptural foundation.

And refused to publish my response, which I don’t have a copy of exactly, but consisted mostly of a quote that I do:

As I said, plus ca change:

“Frankly and unreservedly, but I trust not unkindly, I have set forth “the truth wherein I stand.” It is the same truth which was held from the beginning, founded on the absolute Will of the Almighty and all-wise Creator, taught by Moses and the prophets, sanctioned by the inspired Apostles, and maintained by the Holy Catholic Church throughout the world, even to our own day. It is none the less true, because, in many portions of the land, it has become distasteful.

And, therefore, being myself the “bond-servant of Christ,” our divine Redeemer, I can not be diverted from my obligations to contend, under his banner, for the authority of His Word, for the judgment of His Church…. Relying on His strength, which is “made perfect in weakness,” I hope to persevere in the fearless and honest performance of my duty, whether popular or unpopular, whether “in honor or in dishonor,” looking for no human praise, and dreading no human censure, but depending, with all humility, yet with all confidence, on Him who is “the way, the truth, and the life,” whose Word is the only standard of right, and whose power alone can secure the final victory. ”

— John Hopkins, “A Scriptural, Ecclesiastical and Historical view [in support] of Slavery.”

I’d recommend anyone interested in the equal-marriage fight read this book. The rhetorical structure and mode of biblical interpretation are frighteningly recognizable.

I’m happy to discuss these parallels further with any opponents of gay marriage rights, and I promise I’ll not censor your comments!



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37 responses to “Gay Hate and Censorship

  1. Jim

    it wasn’t censorship. we simply reached the inevitable impasse and i wasn’t interested in repeating, or hearing, the same arguments in a different key.

  2. Ian

    Thanks for that, thanks for responding. Might I suggest you could have said so? “Ian responded in a similar way to the above, I’ve decided to stop this comment thread because I don’t think more of the same is getting us anywhere”.

    Thanks for responding here. I appreciate it.

    I would be interesting in knowing, for folks who hold opinions as you do on the matter, how the failure of biblical interpretation among opponents of previous civil rights struggles doesn’t make you more skeptical of your own certainty that this time round your interpretation really is correct. After similar discussions around slavery, miscegenation, women, and remarriage? I genuinely don’t see why there isn’t a note of caution at least, a qualification, given that those faithful folks on the other side of the issue also find support for their position in the same pages.

  3. I decided to chime in on the discussion, in an attempt to better understand where Jim is coming from.

  4. Ian

    Thanks James, for completeness, I’ll add a link to Jim’s response to you here too:

  5. Pingback: I Don’t Understand Jim West

  6. Ian, would you be willing to reverse the question and answer it yourself? That is, why are you not more concerned that the invocation of a civil rights parallel for homosexual marriage rights might open the door to polygamy, pedophilia, incest, bestiality, etc? Of course, these may seem extremely remote possibilities to you, but then homosexual “marriage” seemed a remote possibility a generation or two ago.

  7. Ian

    If you, genuinely, are so twisted as to think homosexual marriage is somehow equivalent to bestiality, then I’m sorry Mike, we have no mutual understanding of humanity to act as the basis for conversation. Your faith has poisoned beyond my ability to access the dark recesses of your twisted moral sense.

    If it is a cheap rhetorical trick, then how about we have a real discussion?

  8. Historically (since you brought up historical context), homosexuality has been considered deviant sexual behavior. Somehow it got off that list. Rather than focus on one particular item on that list, how confident are you that nothing else will come off that list in the next generation or two given the door you have opened by suggesting that a particular sexual deviancy is a civil right?

  9. Ian

    Historically, abetting an escaped slave was a criminal offence. I assume you agree with its current status as a moral requirement on any humane individual. How confident are you that the change in the status of that deviant behavior won’t, in the future, open the door to the legalization of mass murder?

    Until you can comprehend just how bizarre your moral equations are, there’s simply no way I can answer sensibly.

  10. I believe that God intends sex for marriage between a man and a woman – and not for outside it. Do you consider that morality bizarre?

  11. Ian

    No, but I consider the idea that, if we ignore religious prohibition on homosexual marriages, we’re somehow ceding our moral stance on bestiality or pedophilia to be highly bizarre. I find it difficult that anyone of even modest intelligence can think that. Hence my comment about rhetorical tricks. I have to suspect it is just something you say.

    Do you really there is no moral grounds for distinguishing the historical prohibition on two women marrying from someone raping a child?

    If it is something you genuinely don’t understand on reflection, then I stand by my initial reaction that I’m really not confident we have enough humanity in common to have a conversation.

  12. Ian, I readily admit that I cannot conceive of any of those behaviors I listed ever becoming sanctioned by society as a legitimate marriage. What I’m trying to get you to understand is that there was time when I would have said exactly the same thing about homosexuality.

  13. Ian

    So if you cannot conceive of any moral reason to connect homosexual marriage with pedophilia, say, except that they were both considered vile 75 years ago, why do you ask if I’m concerned that opening the door to one should lead to the other? Why is that more likely than emancipation of slaves opening the door to the legalization of burglary? After all helping escaped slaves was also considered theft once.

    Why should campaigning for civil rights for a group previously considered criminals open the door for the legalization of anything else? And why should I even be ‘concerned’ in that regard? Are you seriously suggesting I should opposite homosexual rights because in 20 years there might be a movement to legalize polygamy or plural marriage.

    I seriously can’t comprehend your moral sense on this. Except if I suppose you are being morally petulant, because you simply can’t understand how being gay isn’t wrong. But again, the slavery correspondence is a good one. Why aren’t you concerned that the historic destruction of property rights when it came to human property might soon lead to me being able to waltz in and take your car without your permission?

  14. Ian

    If, however, you’re asking on what basis one can make moral judgements if not on the basis of traditional morality, then I suggest you say so and not try to poison the well by implying that allowing gays is the first step on the road to legalizing the rape of children.

  15. Ian,

    1. A analogy proves nothing; it only illustrates something. You began this interaction by challenging opponents of “gay marriage” to justify their position in the light of the civil rights movement. I simply demonstrated to you that your attempt to argue by analogy does not work. Just as you did not accept the analogy I offered you, I did not accept the analogy you were offering in the first place.

    I could ask a person who supports abortion how he could countenance exterminating pre-born infants the way Hitler sought to exterminate Jews. This analogy makes sense to me because I believe that abortion is killing the innocent. He would not accept my analogy because he does not think abortion is wrong. My analogy would only offend him, just your analogy about homosexuality offended me and mine, in turn, offended you.

    2. As I’ve said, I believe sex is for marriage, and that between a man and a woman. Any departure from that, therefore, is displeasing to God. What homosexuality has in common with polygamy, pedophilia, bestiality, garden-variety adultery, pre-marital sex, etc. is that they are all violations of that standard, If you want to convince me that “gay marriage” is a good thing, you’ve got to show me that I have the wrong moral standard. It’s pretty clear how homosexuality is a deviation from my standard. You’ve got to come up with a way to just as easily demonstrate that “gay marriage” is not a deviation from your standard but that all that other stuff is. In other words, you’ve yet to tell me what your standard is. You’re pretty offended that I think you’re an “anything goes” kind of guy, but you haven’t said anything to make clear where you draw your lines – so how am I to know?

    3. The source for my moral standard of sexual purity is not tradition as you suppose but rather conscience and the teaching of Jesus. When you tell me your moral standard, please likewise tell me its source.

  16. Ian

    Well that makes a lot more sense, and there is the basis of a conversation to be had. But that, in fact, is not what you opened with. You opened with suggesting legalizing gay marriage might ‘open the door’ for pedophilia. I take it you aren’t now trying to defend that, since you’ve now moved on to the question about the basis of morality. Can you not see that is a very different thing?

    I’m glad that you’ve now admitted that it is gay sex which you fundamentally hate, rather than messing about with these silly arguments from legal precedence. I wish more people with a gay sex phobia would do that and so we can all see that that is their fundamental problem (an issue incidentally, long since settled in law) rather than pretending they are okay with that, but have some independent principled stand on same-sex marriage.

    So, if you’re happy to, let’s turn from the pretence that this is a legal question or a marriage question and get to the root of your issue, fair enough?

    So what, fundamentally is your problem with gay sex? Is it purely the putative commands of the bible here? Or do you have some non-sectarian reasons to think it immoral?

  17. As I’ve said, both my conscience and the teachings of Jesus tell me that sex outside of marriage is wrong. I do not believe that it is the place of society or government to police sexual activity, and therefore seek no laws for the prohibition of homosexuality. However, when the issue is framed as “gay marriage” it means that society is being called upon to sanction an immoral activity. It is the sanctioning to which I object. Even the euphemism “gay marriage” is a subtle societal sanctioning of repeated, willful immorality. Society’s approval must be given to those actions that are good for society, and its disapproval must be given to those that are not – if that society is to flourish.

    If you reject Jesus as an authority, then, assuming you live in a democracy as I do, then it’s just one citizen against another. Majority prevails. I would simply say in defense of my position (that sex is for marriage) that sex always carries with it the possibility of procreation. This cannot be said of homosexuality. Anything that involves the possibility of children must be guarded with great care. I think it is self-evident that homosexuality is unnatural. I don’t think we need to get more specific than that.

    I am convinced, and from the Bible at that, that everyone is going to heaven. Therefore, it is easy for me to understand how God can hate the sin and love the sinner. Sex outside of marriage causes enormous harm. Currently, in the U.S. over 40% of children are born without an attending mother and father. I don’t like the focus on homosexuality because all forms are sexual immorality are destructive. The emphasis on homosexuality is a function of the significant political activity by homosexuals, not those who oppose them. The pressure is to add benefits for being a homosexual, not take any away.

    I live in a democracy and therefore have to be subject to the wishes of the majority. As I understand it, there has yet to be a referendum on this issue with any portion of the U.S. electorate that has supported “gay marriage.” All expansion of rights in this regard has been by courts or executive agencies. Nevertheless, the time may come when majorities vote to grant the same tax code benefits to homosexual couples as to married couples. If we come to that, I would rather achieve parity by giving up the tax benefits of my marriage rights rather than to grant to them relationships I do not consider marriage. This would at least prevent some of the social sanctioning. I don’t want to be serving alcohol to my alcohol relative and I don’t want to be part of offering social approval to an activity I believe harmful to its participants, and harmful for children to think it’s not.

    A society must be careful about what it teaches its children. My heart breaks every time I think about the social mores promulgated in all forms of entertainment these days. Even by family sitcoms children are taught that the only stigma that deserves to be applied where homosexuality is concerned is upon those who do not celebrate it as they do marriage between a man and a woman. God have mercy on us.

  18. Ian

    “and therefore seek no laws for the prohibition of homosexuality”

    Whyever not, if you believe the action itself is fundamentally immoral. You’ve consistently lumped homosexuality with bestiality and pedophilia. Do you think they should also be legalized and only marriages between adults and children or between humans and animals should be the purview of the state?

    If not then I think you’re being disingenuous, or else you are unintentionally using a different moral compass with regard to homosexuality than to these other categories.

    You’ve a lot of other claims in there, worth unpacking individually, but I fear parallel responses will get unwieldy. So here’s a list of stuff I’d like to return to challenge you on:

    – Possibility of procreation as sina qua non of marriage (an argument I simply don’t understand).
    – Civil partnerships, and government involvement in marriage (we probably agree – I think government should not be in the marriage business at all)
    – Tax code benefits (always about the money, in the end, as it was with slavery).
    – Homosexuals demanding extra benefits (they can already marry like anyone else – someone of the opposite sex: again miscegenation opponents said the same thing).

    On your last point, I agree. I think the moral compass of the media is terrible. It teaches rampant consumerism, violence (particularly with firearms) as the first line of disagreement, it flattens viewpoints, objectifies women, sexualizes children, glorifies ignorance and undermines fidelity. It systematically misrepresents minorities and vilifies difference. There are exceptions to all, but this is the general tone. We don’t have TV in our house. I have no desire to live on a diet of shallowness and materialism.

    My son is growing up knowing our friends who are gay, knowing parents of his own friends who are gay. It breaks my heart when he sees bigotry in any form (“why do those people hate Uncle James and Uncle S so much?”). It breaks my heart to have to tell him that it is because of what gets taught in some churches, because he loves going to church, because his church teaches the worth and dignity of all people, and because I so wish the church would be a force for social justice and not the perpetuators of hate.

  19. I’m using no varying moral compass with regard to homosexuality. As I’ve said, I believe sexual purity is the goal and that consists of sex only within marriage between a man and a woman. Your continued digression on specific forms of deviance from this standard, comparing and contrasting them, is not helpful.

    At least I’ve given you my standard and my source. You have given me neither your standard nor your source. Until you do, I have to assume you are treating homosexuality as a special case.

    Your suggestion that I must be for police enforcement if I think something is immoral is absurd. There are all sorts of things that are immoral both within and outside the realm of sexuality. Do police issue warrants for coveteousness? No – only for theft. Do police arrest people for lust? No – only for rape. I may think two men who want to engage in sex with each other are making a big mistake, but if they are doing it in the privacy of their own homes it is no business of mine. However, when they demand that I be part of sanctioning that activity, in essence saying it is a good thing for them and society, then I object.

    It’s not clear exactly what positions you’re taking on the four bullet points. Be more specific if you want and I’ll react.

    I’m encouraged that you recognize the societal rot that is making life harder for our children and grandchildren than it was for us. However, I am dismayed that you embrace the stereotype that anyone who isn’t happy about Uncle X and Uncle Y being “married” hates them and is a bigot. At the worst, I, and others like me, may be well-intentioned but misguided. To label us as hateful bigots is bigotry, and is thus hypocritical to boot.

    From whence came the notion that loving someone requires that we approve and give our blessing to everything that the person decides to do?

  20. Ian

    Sorry, I’m not being clear. I’d like to figure out whether we have any common ground in our moral compass at all. It seemed to me from your opening gambit that we didn’t. Now I think we’re getting somewhere. Ideally I’d like to get to a point where we both agree on some set of core moral principles so we can have a sensible discussion about morality. I’ll be a bit more explicit then, but I am still asking questions because I’m genuinely trying to figure you out. Your moral sense seems so deeply immoral to me that I am both concerned and curious how you can get to your positions.

    “Your suggestion that I must be for police enforcement if I think something is immoral is absurd.” Really? I don’t think it is absurd. I believe that the state (through the police) has a right and duty to intervene and enforce certain forms of morality. It is immoral to murder, the police should enforce morality on that matter, it is immoral to own slaves, the police should enforce morality there. I believe that some forms of immorality are worse than others, worse for the individuals, for the victims and for society. So certain types of immoral action should not be policed. I don’t think, for example, that most forms of lying should be illegal (though some are and should be), though many such lies are immoral. I think, by and large, immoral behaviour can be judged by its effect on others. Those kinds of behaviour that have a more severe effect should be policed more strongly.

    This is the basis of all humanistic morality. We judge actions by their their reasonably foreseeable consequences. It is the basis of our legal system, though our legal system has some noticeable imbalances.

    I am curious how, if you think morality is dictated by the judgement of God, as revealed through scripture, and if, in the only legal codes in scripture, homosexuality is clearly treated as a capital offence: on what basis you think that homosexuality is a private matter out of the state’s purview? Whereas other sins, rape say, should be policed.

    I suspect you are making judgements based on the same moral basis as I am. If not, then it would be good to understand on what basis you determine which of scriptures prohibitions should be policed by the state and which should not.

    “I am dismayed that you embrace … hates them and is a bigot.” I have known women who were abused by their husbands, where the husband claims they were hitting them because they loved them. I judge them, and you by your words and actions. When you say that my married same sex friends should not have the same rights as my wife and I, then I’m afraid you can protest that your view arises from your love for them as much as you like. A rose by any name smells as sweet (or as rotten, in this case).

  21. To simplify the discussion, you can leave Scripture out of it for the moment.

    My moral views are simple and clear. I’ll attempt to restate them for you.

    Sex outside of marriage is wrong. I’m not interested in dwelling on the various ways this standard can be violated.

    As for what government does and doesn’t enforce, it sounds like I favor a more limited government than you do. That said, I like to see government deal with thievery but don’t want them running around trying to find out if people have greed in their hearts. When it comes to sex outside of marriage, I think the government should only attempt to police such activities when they are attempted with a minor or against an adult’s will, or risks public safety.

    You may disagree with my views, but there is nothing inscrutable or inconsistent about them.

    To say that I want to deny your homosexual friends the same rights you and your wife have is like saying I want to deny your blue-eyed friends the right to have been brown-eyed, or that I want to deny your tall friends the right to be short. I was not the one who denied your homosexual friends the right to do what you and your wife do – God was. And I’m not interested in fostering the charade that what they are doing is what you and your wife are doing.

    You can call this view smelly and immoral if you want, but it is hypocritical bigotry for you to do so – and that’s got its own foul smell.

    You have yet to state a moral code of your own, including a source of authority to which it is subject. I can only conclude that your moral authority is the “enlightened public opinion.” But perhaps you are now ready to divulge the standard by which you condemn me.

  22. Ian

    Why should the police intervene when it is against someone’s will? Why is that significant? What is it about someone’s will being violated that demands immediate intervention?

    ” I was not the one who denied your homosexual friends the right to do what you and your wife do – God was. ” Fair enough – then God also is immoral and deserves condemnation. Of course, there are plenty of Christians who say that God created them gay and gave them each other and blesses their union too. But I guess they’re wrong. Because you know the real God. No, the really real one. No, the one that is realer than theirs, right? But, as per the other thread, I don’t suppose you’ve got any good evidence for that, have you?

    Why is it hypocritical of me to point out that your definition of ‘love’ with respect to gay folks is akin to the love of an abusive husband. Or the love of the quoted pro-slavery author when he devotes a chapter to why slavery is better for the negro. I don’t get why that makes me hypocritical. Seems I’m pretty consistent across those cases. I think you’re playing the victim card here. Which is fine, whatever floats your boat.

    I said my morality was humanistic. I think human beings have inherent dignity, autonomy and worth, and actions can be judged as moral or immoral based on their reasonably forseeable consequences for the dignity, autonomy and worth of others. My moral basis isn’t unusual, it is a product of the enlightenment, and is one of the two primary contemporary moral theories. It is imperfect, rational, empirical, and, unlike yours, doesn’t rely on different groups of folks arguing about whether theirs is the true interpretation of the whim of an invisible being.

  23. I take it as self-evident that society has a responsibility to keep one member from doing violence to another. If you don’t, please explain why.

    If you want to condemn God, so be it. However, even according to your view, my position on the issue has just as much right be heard as yours. That is, if there’s no supreme being even you must not be God.

    An abusive husband is committing violence against his wife. I am committing no violence against your friends, nor am I even preventing them from doing anything they want to do – even things I think are unhealthy for them and for society. All I am saying is that I cannot in good conscience call something a marriage that is not a marriage, and is even a violation of marriage. Neither am I doing anything like a proponent of slavery. I am not seeking to have homosexuals enslaved or their rights restricted. I am not interested interfering with their lives in any way. Neither however do I want them to parade their perversion in front of my grandchildren as if it’s a perfectly normal thing to do.

    Your hypocrisy is in accusing people who disagree with you of bigotry (that is, prejudice or intolerance). My view is that in a democracy everyone gets to have their say, we vote, and majority rules. I may not like the outcome, but I’m willing to live with it. You, however, accuse me and others of hate and don’t want our view to be heard or voted upon because you deem our position unworthy of respect. Thus you are intolerant and yet you are accusing us of intolerance. That’s hypocritical.

    Your moral standard sounds vague. What does it tell you about marriage and sex?

  24. Ian

    “Thus you are intolerant and yet you are accusing us of intolerance. That’s hypocritical.”

    I don’t think I criticized you for being intolerant [edit: yes, as I thought, the first mention of tolerance was in your comment above]. Tolerance is good, of course, but hardly the be-all-and-end-all. My criticism is that your position is immoral. You can be as intolerant as you like, and I’ll be as intolerant of your immorality as I like. I don’t see how that makes either of us hypocritical.

    If, as far as you’re concerned, gay marriage is rightly a democratic issue, then that’s fine. Take my response to you as my contribution to our side’s effort for hearts and minds. I am confident time is on our side. You may disagree, if so that’s fine, I am very happy to see how it goes in the next 20 years. I’ll do my best to make sure the moral arc of the universe does bend towards justice.

    “Neither however do I want them to parade their perversion in front of my grandchildren as if it’s a perfectly normal thing to do.” Fair enough. You are entitled to withdraw your family as much as you like. But I don’t see why the rest of us have to pander to you while you do so. We’ll just go on being friends with people of all sexualities, living normal lives, raising families, falling in love, getting married, grieving. I’m very comfortable with you setting up your own parallel ghetto to insulate your family from having to see that.

    “Your moral standard sounds vague. What does it tell you about marriage and sex?” That relationships are immoral if they can be reasonably foreseen to impinge on the worth, dignity or autonomy of others. If you can be more specific about the question, I’m very happy to be more specific. I’m not trying a rhetorical trick here, just want to figure out what you’re actually asking.

  25. When you’ve got some time, you should go back and re-read your most recent comment. With some honest reflection you will realize that you have no objective moral standard but that you are merely drifting of where society is taking you.

    I agree with you that, based on the current trajectory, your side will win – if that can be called “winning.” The only thing that could change this would be an arousal of conscience by a sufficient number of people, I certainly pray and work toward that end.

    Your definition of morality as applied to marriage and sex is simply a reflection of your lack of moral moorings. For by your definition, I would say that I foresee that sex outside of marriage impinges on the worth, dignity, and autonomy of others. You would say, “I don’t see it that way,” and we’re right back where your view takes us: no moral standard.

  26. Ian

    Well humanistic morality is objective, in that you can define these terms in such a way that you can determine empirically whether something is moral or not, and that judgement would not depend on the individual performing the test. I’d advise you to read some moral theory written in the last 200 years, this has been considered at very great length. As one of the two main moral theories, what I’m proposing is well understood. It isn’t something I’m inventing here, it has been the mainstay of legal ethics, medical ethics and philosophical ethics for over a hundred years, and has precursor back as far as you can go. Including Jesus’s golden rule, in fact.

    I get that for some people ‘objective’ means ‘related to my version of God’, but I think you’re projecting again, and a bit of general knowledge on the subject of ethics and moral philosophy might help.

    “For by your definition, I would say that I foresee that sex outside of marriage impinges on the worth, dignity, and autonomy of others. You would say, “I don’t see it that way,” and we’re right back where your view takes us: no moral standard”

    No, I would say, define your terms in such a way that we can then figure out if my married gay friends are impinging upon them. It becomes an empirical question.

    On the other hand the ‘God is the moral authority’ depends entirely on your imagining of God. There are plenty of Christians who think God created folks to be gay and blesses their marriages. There are Christian denominations who want to marry gay folks, and do, in jurisdictions that allow it. Unless you can root your moral claims in something empirical, then I contend your morality is much more subjective, arbitrary and baseless than mine!

  27. It’s preposterous for you to say that you base all your moral decisions on empirical findings. You have a sense of right and wrong, just like you have a sense of balance. When someone cuts in front of you in traffic you don’t delay your response until you can check a statistical study for just how offended you ought to be. You’re just kidding yourself with all your objective talk.

  28. Ian

    Of course not. We have moral intuitions, which are mostly sound, but fallible and subject to prejudice.

    But we should have rational moral principles that underpin them. Sometimes our intuitions are wrong, sometimes the situation is novel and our intuitions are weak, sometimes the situation is high stakes, and warrants deliberate thought.

    A rational moral theory is important to be able to determine whether your intuition is right. Otherwise your version of ‘right’ is just whatever you feel like it is, unchecked.

    This process has levels. When reconsidering an intuition, my initial thought process might be to just estimate the harm. If that gives an obvious conclusion, then I might stop. But if I have cause to doubt this estimate (for the same reasons – someone challenges my estimate, I have no confidence in it, because of unfamiliarity, or the situation has far reaching consequences), then I am obliged to do some research, and find out what reality has to say.

    That is the practical structure of any empirical endeavour. We operate on physical intuition most of the time, but our intuition is fallible: it is important that we don’t confuse that intuition for physics itself.

  29. Ian

    Your example of driving, incidentally, is a great one for the problem with intuition. I (and I assume most people) have an overzealous intuition for the moral failings of others when I am inconvenienced. So I am likely to feel wronged by the driver cutting in front of me even when I wouldn’t consider the same action against another to be a moral wrong.

    It is a good goal, I think, to always do the rational step when you feel wronged, because the ego-bias is so strong and so often misleading. Having said that, it is a goal I rarely attain in the moment.

  30. You and I agree that our moral intuitions are fallible, and that they must tethered to something more trustworthy. Thus I tether my conscience to God and calibrate my scales of justice to His. This is my moral theory. To whom does your moral theory tether you?

  31. Ian


    Of course, your moral theory doesn’t tether you to God either, because there is no God. You are merely tethered to the group-think of your faith community. Which is why the moral commandments of God change at precisely the same rate as the moral sense of his followers (c.f. the slavery question, or women, or polygamy, etc). Of course, those moral changes are then forgotten or reinterpreted, so that you can maintain the fiction that God is unchanging.

    By not having a rational and objective moral basis at all, you’re purely at the whim of what gets fed back to you by your co-religionists in their interpretation of the bible. Which, in turn, is why you interpret garden variety prejudice as the will of God and fall into the ugly immorality displayed in this thread.

    If you belonged to a different sect of Christianity, with a different feedback, you’d have a different conviction of the moral requirements of God.

  32. You are partly correct.

    Organized religion does indeed often exhibit the same sort of unanchored morality that we see in secular culture. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the two. For example, there are obviously a certain number of clergy today who hold the same view of moral issues that you do, except that their fig leaf is religious rhetoric while yours is empirical studies.

    However, you are both spitting into the wind. God’s judgments against sin are sure and true.

    I have not been part of a faith community for twenty years. My conscience is tuned by God and the Scriptures.

  33. Ian

    “I have not been part of a faith community for twenty years.” which is of course as untrue as it is naive. You might not meet with other Christians regularly, but your entire conception of what Christianity is a contingent function of a particular faith community and its history. Your views on faith are well within the bounds of western evangelical protestantism, down to your use of religious jargon, and as such would have been entirely alien to the vast majority of Christians who have ever lived. You are a child of your religious community.

    “God’s judgments against sin are sure and true.” Of course, that’s the story. But there’s the nasty fact that, through 2000 years of Christian history, what actually constitutes sin has changed a lot. So which God? The answer to *that* question never changes. It is, of course, the God of the person making the claim. For everyone believes their God is the real one, they’ve got him right. But curiously few give any serious thought to that. Funny eh? But no, let’s face it, you’re the right one, obviously.

  34. Given your now-expanded definition of “communing,” yes, I fully acknowledge my debt to the faith community of ancient Israel, particular the first-century edition which testified to Jesus Christ.

    Morality always has to be practiced in a context. So, while true morality is unchanging, what is does from one situation to the next does often change. “There’s a time to …, and a time to …”

    This by no means exonerates organized Christianity, which maintains the spirit of Pharisaism in every generation.

    Jesus Christ is the centerpoint of human history and of all truth. I cannot say enough good things about Him.

    You think that you’ve seen the light, but you just went from religious darkness to secular darkness.

    You and I both seek to be moral and to promote morality. The important difference between us is that I know the source of my values and you do not know the source of yours.

  35. Ian

    “I fully acknowledge my debt to the faith community of ancient Israel, particular the first-century edition which testified to Jesus Christ.”


    “I know the source of my values and you do not know the source of yours.”

    Your lack of knowledge of Christian history is quite astonishing! I find it staggering that you can claim that you morality is primarily connected to second temple-era Judaic life, rather than secular C20 western values. But I guess it is part of this general pattern of calling black-white, calling hate-love, or immorality-morality. As I said initially, I don’t think we share enough of a common understanding of reality to make this conversation fruitful.

  36. Jesus of Nazareth did not act as you do.

  37. Ian

    Seems like an obvious statement of fact to me. I’m not sure if you think that is an insult, I’d rather take it as a compliment that I don’t act like a first century rural Jew with an apocalypse fetish.

    Seems we’re both getting bored with talking past each other, so let’s stop here.

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