How to pervert the legitimate fight against homophobia

My regular readers know that I speak out for the right of Gay people to marry their loved ones. I do think that a lifelong committed relationship between two persons of the same sex does NOT stand in conflict with Christ’s central teaching.

Gay couple

That said, I accept the fact that many Conservatives sincerely disagree even if I think they’re misguided.

Consequently, I cannot go along with the aggressive propaganda of liberal activists who all too often present ALL Conservatives rejecting Gay marriage as heartless bigots supporting the discriminations and even capital punishment of homosexuals.

A recent post of progressive Christian John Shore nicely illustrates this worrisome state of affairs.

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Challenging the evil empire of anti-gay Christians, and the resurfacing of old fundie fears

dearjohn [This is the latest in a series in which each Wednesday I answer a question or two asked to me by members of Serendipitydodah for Moms, a private Facebook group for Christian mothers of LGBT kids. (The first such post was Combatting the Downward Pull of Christian Negativity; the second Pastor tells mom her lesbian teen can’t be a Christian.) If you are interested in joining Serendipitydodah for Moms, email lizdyer55@gmail.com. If you’d like me to answer any questions/concerns you might have, email me at john@johnshore.com]

Dear John,

How do you think affirming Christians should deal with Christians who still think same-sex relationships are sinful? Should we treat their belief with tolerance and respect or respectfully confront them? I’m specifically thinking about those who feel compelled to speak out, promote, teach and proclaim that all same-sex relationships are sinful and that the only marriage blessed by God is between a man and a woman. Signed, Stay silent or speak up?

It’s been my experience that Christians who feel, as you well put it, “compelled to speak out, promote, teach and proclaim that all same-sex relationships are sinful” come in two varieties: Crazy, and Gets Paid to Promulgate Anti-Gay Christianity. It’s also been my experience that reasoning with either is a waste of time. As a rule the lay Christian who is “compelled to speak out” against homosexuality is too angry (and, frankly, too fearful of the power of his or her own sexuality) to listen to reason; the pastor, radio host, “ministry” leader or author whose bank account is tied to his perpetuation of the toxic nonsense that being gay is a sin–the professional gay-basher, in other words–has already sold his conscience for cash—and in the bargain of course also traded away his moral compass.

Treat a person from either group with tolerance and respect; vigorously refute them; insist you’ll sleep on their front lawn until they change their minds …  in the end, I have found, nothing will have changed beyond that you will have lost time that you could have spent doing something a lot more productive (such as … well, writing public letters like this to people like me, joining your local PFLAG chapter, organizing a markedly Christian presence at pro-LGBT events, helping your church to become LGBT-affirming, making sure your local schools are implementing and executing anti-bullying programs, voting for pro-LGBT initiatives, being active online—buy, frankly, my book UNFAIR and give it to anyone on the fence—etc., etc.).  But you see what I mean: you don’t take down an evil empire by arguing with one of its foot soldiers.

Dear John,

Coming from a conservative Christian background can be very difficult when you find out one or more of your kids is LGBT! As a mom who completely accepts and affirms my gay son I still have times when I worry that I might be wrong—that somehow my love for my son has misled me. What advise do you have for a parent like me? Signed, Dealing with doubts

The next time you find yourself doubting the truth that God finds homosexuality no more inherently sinful than heterosexuality, stop to examine what’s happening in your life at that moment. I guarantee you that something in the outside world will have triggered that doubt in you. When threatened we all tend to revert. Stress, tension, being worried, being fearful, being challenged … such feelings often trigger the old toxic tapes to start playing in our heads–the tapes that were recorded for us, not by us. The tapes that tell us to be afraid, that the worst is true, that God is judging us, that absolute damnation is one errant step away . . . that being gay really is a sin. The next time you find yourself reverting to the fears and paradigms instilled in you as a child, trust that’s simply an instinctive reaction to something real in your life that is genuinely concerning you.

Finding whatever it is that has triggered in you the playing of your old toxic tapes won’t be particularly difficult; once you understand that those old thoughts really are a stress response to something real and present happening in your life, you’ll pretty quickly be able to identify what that something is. And once you’ve identified what caused you to doubt the veracity of what you know to be true, those doubts will vanish, because you’ll see that in and of themselves they were not real, but only a secondary reaction to something that is real. Then you can address that real thing that’s really happening, instead of having to swat away the old demons that came flying back at you from a time when you were taught terrible things about God and Christianity that simply aren’t true.

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My response and interaction with other bloggers follow.

My comments are black whereas those of other persons are colored.

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Dear John,

first of all, let me say I really liked what you wrote about self-doubt’s dependency on one’s emotional state. We should only change our mind when new evidence comes in and not just because of one’s feelings.

As far as the alleged sinfulness of homosexuality is concerned, I’m entirely on your side . I’m also disgusted by the fact that so many Conservative Evangelicals focus so much on this issue while neglecting problems of social justice .

Gay partnerships are loving, faithful and committed, but can it lead to marriage?

Still, I find you wrote some pretty worrisome and almost outrageous sentences.

First of all, it isn’t true that Christians considering homosexuality as morally wrong are “anti-gay”. If someone views taking drug as a sin, it just doesn’t follow that he is “anti-junkies”. As I was an atheist in my teenage years, I viewed homosexuality as a deviant behavior out of ignorance but I was not anti-homosexual.

Likewise, it’s just false to state that Christians speaking out against homosexuality are EITHER “Crazy” OR “Gets Paid to Promulgate Anti-Gay Christianity”. Plenty might be sincerely convinced it is wrong even if they love homosexuals as people. Indeed, I know quite a few such Christians in Continental Europe.

So I think that the use of such an aggressive rhetoric is putting off many of your Conservative readers you could have touched through a more loving and moderate tone.

And I know Conservatives who have become homophobic due to people disapproving of homosexuality getting fired.

So I think that your strategy is really counter-productive and should be modified.

Progressively and fraternally yours.

Is it? Or is the topics John covers finally giving people a chance to think about this, to discuss what is happening and to shed light at how bad homophobia actually is? Trust me, its worse than many realize. In the US, there are several states, including the one I live in, where it is quite legal to deny housing or employment to people, just because of sexual orientation. There are hundreds of churches in my county. Two are LGBT affirming. Many counties have none. We had our state legislature remove funding from two state colleges because of a couple of gay friendly books.

Yet my adopted home town hosts an annual Pride rally. The state capital also has one. Its getting better here, but in a place where bi-racial couples are still looked down on, and a black man reaching into his car to get out his registration for a basic traffic stop, gets shot by a white state trooper, we have a long way to go.

it isn’t true that Christians considering homosexuality as morally wrong are “anti-gay”

If someone believes being gay is morally wrong, then it follows that they believe being gay is a choice. Who could be considered morally wrong for being born with green eyes or left-handed? Taking drugs is a choice; being gay is not. Taking drugs is illegal; being gay is not (unless you happen to live in one of the many states where you can be discriminated against for being gay).

Plenty might be sincerely convinced it is wrong even if they love homosexuals as people

Please. Not the old “hate the sin, love the sinner” tune again. That record’s broken.

putting off many of your Conservative readers

I’d have to ask John: how many of your readers are conservative?

I know Conservatives who have become homophobic due to people disapproving of homosexuality getting fired.

Why aren’t they gay-affirming due to gay people being fired for being gay?

your strategy is really counter-productive and should be modified

Oh yes, let’s play nice. Let’s play nice with the people who believe gays should be put to death, who are going to hell, who are child molesters, who are the worst kinds of perverts. Yeah, that’ll work.

Children take part in anti-gay protests in Uganda in 2011

Hello Barbara, thanks for your answer!

Conservative Christians don’t believe that having sexual desires towards persons of the same sex is wrong in and of itself but that it is wicked to act on this desire by e.g. kissing such an individual.
In other words they say: “Yeah he’s attracted towards men as I’m attracted towards females and that’s not wrong. BUT he must never act accordingly.”
Do I believe this principle is sound?
Absolutely not. I think that a life-long marriage is one of the most beautiful things one can experience during this life time.
What’s more I also believe that God does not forbid us things arbitrarily.
Consequently, I wholeheartedly affirm the right of Gay people to marry their loved ones.

YET it is also completely false to say that Conservative Christians (in general) believe that Gays are wicked human beings for being born that way.

What is more, how many percent of Conservative Christians think that homosexuals are child molesters and the worst kinds of perverts who should be put to death?

In French-speaking and German-speaking Europe they represent perhaps 0.001% of all Conservative believers.
How many proportion do they form in America? Sincerely?

There are many Conservative Christians who passionately oppose the discrimination of Gay people. But if they read such kinds of texts they feel they’re being UNFAIRly treated. They inevitably consider all of this as ignoble propaganda.

And this naturally diminishes their willingness to step in when Gay folks are being maltreated.

Friendly greetings.

BarbaraR

If you believe this, you must not read this blog often and see what I see. The vitriolic and hate-filled comments I and the other mods delete completely belie this notion.

There are many Conservative Christians who passionately oppose the discrimination of Gay people.

This poll just came out.

http://www.pewforum.org/2014/0…

From this poll:
White evangelical Protestants express the strongest support for allowing businesses to refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings (71%).

How many proportion do they form in America? Sincerely?

There are to the best of my knowledge no statistics on this. However, they pop up with appalling regularity. Here are a few examples of pastors calling for the death of gay people. As pastors go, so goes the flock.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

http://www.christianpost.com/n…

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/p…

While it would be all sparkly unicorns and fluffy bunnies to think conservative evangelicals oppose discrimination against gays, I am not seeing evidence for it.

Lotharson

Hi! I agree there are horrible fag-bashing bigots in the States:

But everything in America seems to be far more extreme than in Europe.

Still, there are lots of Conservatives disapproving of homosexuality who do oppose the misdeeds you evoked.

You and I probably agree it is wrong to bully Muslims having a peaceful interpretation of Islam due to the existence of many terrorists.

So why should it be any different when Conservative Christians are concerned?

Cheers.

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I think that John Shore has probably good motives. But I fear he might currently be driven by hatred to some extent.

Other progressive Christians share my concern.

Popular blogger Tim Chastain (Jesus Without Baggages) recently told me what follows:

“I think I know what you mean, but I see Jesus’ instruction to love others as a more valid way of relating to the Father and to other people than following religious rules. In my opinion, properly grasping the principle of loving others does NOT lead to self justification of sinful behavior but to humility and true repentance.

The love of self I often speak of is not selfish love but an absence of self-hate that many of us feel when we think the Father is an angry, vindictive God. When we realize how the Father loves us, we are free to love ourselves in a healthy way and are released to love others in the same way.”

My goal is not to bash Shore and to present him as an evil human being. No, I aim at showing that progressive Christians can also fall prey to hate and that “Christianity with humanity” (the name of Shore’s ministry) also involves loving our enemies as ourselves.

Consequently we ought to be fair, just and act lovingly towards Conservative believers opposing Gay marriage, even if it strongly irritates us.

But on the other hand I also expect Conservative Christians to refrain from overgeneralizations concerning “Progressives”.

Could we learn to interact lovingly with those we disagree?

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125 thoughts on “How to pervert the legitimate fight against homophobia

  1. It’s been my experience that Christians who feel, as you well put it, “compelled to speak out, promote, teach and proclaim that all same-sex relationships are sinful” come in two varieties: Crazy, and Gets Paid to Promulgate Anti-Gay Christianity. It’s also been my experience that reasoning with either is a waste of time. As a rule the lay Christian who is “compelled to speak out” against homosexuality is too angry (and, frankly, too fearful of the power of his or her own sexuality) to listen to reason; the pastor, radio host, “ministry” leader or author whose bank account is tied to his perpetuation of the toxic nonsense that being gay is a sin–the professional gay-basher, in other words–has already sold his conscience for cash—and in the bargain of course also traded away his moral compass.

    Did John Shore take a page out of Peter Boghossian’s book? From Randal Rauser’s Is Peter Boghossian guilty of hate speech?:

    “There is perhaps no greater contribution one could make to contain and perhaps even cure faith than removing the exemption that prohibits classifying religious delusions as mental illness. The removal of religious exemptions from the DSM would enable academicians and clinicians to bring considerable resources to bear on the problem of treating faith, as well as on the ethical issues surrounding faith-based interventions. In the long term, once these treatments and this body of research is refined, results could then be used to inform public health policies designed to contain and ultimately eradicate faith.” Peter Boghossian A Manual for Creating Atheists (Kindle Locations 3551-3555).

    • I can only hope and pray that you will change your mind. You are dead wrong in teaching (in your so-called “progressive Christianity”) that homosexuality is now OK in 21st century standards. Too many people who were homosexuals and were converted and married heterosexually or became celibate prove you’re wrong! The Scriptures (which God doesn’t change) make it clear that homosexuality is a gross sin and perversion. I don’t hate homosexuals, but they need to repent and be saved. The Holy Spirit will give them the power and strength to overcome this perversion!

      • Of course I would not accuse you of hating homosexuals, this was the whole topic of my post.

        But you have to ask yourself: why would God forbid it?
        Purely arbitrarily?
        Or is there a reason?

        Cheers.

      • I can only hope and pray that you will change your mind. You are dead wrong in teaching (in your so-called “progressive Christianity”) that homosexuality is now OK in 21st century standards.

        It is interesting that you had absolutely no evidence of my stance on homosexuality, and yet you slapped a position on me and started arguing against it. Precisely what I objected to—this is obvious if you read just what I said, instead of adding to it that which allows you to view me in a negative light—was John Shore’s means, which are well-mirrored by Peter Boghossian’s means. I am not Machiavellian; I believe that both are abusing language in order to abuse power, as is well-articulated by Josef Pieper’s short book, Abuse of Language ~~ Abuse of Power.

        The Holy Spirit will give them the power and strength to overcome this perversion!

        The Holy Spirit revels in truth and not going beyond truth, no matter the reason. Start believing falsehoods and you can start saying goodbye to that Holy Spirit, that Spirit of Truth.

      • @Luke

        It is interesting that you had absolutely no evidence of my stance on homosexuality, and yet you slapped a position on me and started arguing against it.

        I could be wrong but I´m pretty sure that only one comment of Ron Murphy was directed at you – the one that starts with “To Labreuer:” – while the one here was a response to the OP.

        I hate wordpress.

        • Good grief. Well, my point remains on the Machiavellian bit: to accept some strategy merely because its ends are what you want is evil in my book. If we (for any ‘we’) cannot self-criticize, we’re done for.

  2. When will Christians start believing that God cares about both ends and means, and that it is possible to be right about one and wrong on the other? Here, I’m not even getting into whether one is only partially right. Whoever first came up with this was a genius:

    If you fight evil with evil, evil wins.

    Even scientists need both laws and initial conditions to meaningfully model reality; it should be no shock that both concepts exist with morality as well, and that both concepts are very important. This scripture applies to those who can only 100% accept a person’s view or 100% reject it:

    About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11–14)

    I really love it when Christians view evil with eyes intent on destruction, as if John 3:17–21 didn’t exist, or if the word “reconciliation” in 2 Cor 5:11–21 means something different than the plain reading.

  3. Hi Lothar,

    I am always concerned when a blogger is imperfect in their approach, tone, or attitude; and I find that this concern applies to a high percentage of bloggers I read or follow. In fact I have calculated it and it is 100%–and that includes me.

    As you know, my blog is all about religious baggage issues and following Jesus in a better way. However, while I address these baggage issues head-on, I rarely (perhaps never) name names or call out individuals who promote dangerous religious baggage.

    My job is to expose the issues; it is not my job to oppose individuals or judge them. It is true that I think John is sometimes harsh, but I would not tell him that. He doesn’t answer to me; I have no standing to judge him; and though I sometimes disagree with his tone and approach, I will not denounce him.

    John is my brother in Jesus; he follows Jesus just as I do. His approach is often different from what I would do, but John has done more for the acceptance of gays in the church than you and I have together. He has impacted more conservative believers in a positive way than you and I have together.

    I cannot judge John because the Father has not commissioned me with a message for him. In fact, I cannot speak to anyone in judgment; it is not my concern–with one exception. There is one blogger I watch, analyze, and correct on a regular basis–and that is myself. I am imperfect, just as is every Christian blogger in the blogosphere.

    All I can do is address the issues–not individuals. And, coincidently, I have just begun a series on the dangers of religious beliefs that cause tremendous harm and how we should relate to those who hold to those harmful beliefs and those who teach and promote them. My first post is published, with others soon to follow, at http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/6-religious-beliefs-that-cause-tremendous-harm/ for anyone who might be interested.

    • My job is to expose the issues; it is not my job to oppose individuals or judge them.

      Do you recognize a difference between condemnatory judgment and evaluative judgment? While you aren’t necessarily doing this, I see way too many Christians appeal to Mt 7:1 without taking vv2–4 into account. My exegesis of vv1–5.

      He doesn’t answer to me; I have no standing to judge him; and though I sometimes disagree with his tone and approach, I will not denounce him.

      What is your biblical basis for what gives you ‘standing’? Furthermore, your use of ‘denounce’ is very strong; it reminds me of Ja 4:11–12. Is there no room for responding to a public pronouncement with another public pronouncement? Were your argument to be used by Muslims, it would justify them in not vocally objecting to some of the terrible things done in the name of Islam, would it not?

      John is my brother in Jesus; he follows Jesus just as I do. His approach is often different from what I would do, but John has done more for the acceptance of gays in the church than you and I have together. He has impacted more conservative believers in a positive way than you and I have together.

      Do the ends justify the means? If not, is it possible that he used and is using means of which Jesus would not approve? If it is possible, is it worth exploring whether he is in fact doing that?

      ———

      In my view, one must question the reason for any critique. I still recall a sermon on church discipline which emphasized that Mt 18:10–14 is the parable of the lost sheep, and intentionally sets the stage for the following section on church discipline. I could also point to 1 Cor 10:23–24 and note how the primary focus is on “building up”. That is, any tearing must be subservient to building up, as demonstrated by God himself in e.g. Hos 6:1–3. Only as a last resort does God smash to pieces, and even then, he expects a remnant to survive and return to him.

      You might like a recent blog post of Peter Enns, Richard Rohr’s interesting (though I don’t agree) take on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That, combined with some other stuff I’m thinking about, spurred a question: precisely how does God deal with evil? If we view evil as lawlessness (1 Jn 3:4), as irrationality, then there seem to be two general options:

           (1) destroy it
           (2) heal it

      I think we as fallen human beings are incredibly drawn to (1). I have just been reading Harry Frankfurt’s Taking Ourselves Seriously and I see an incredible danger, in his rejecting bits of himself which do not align with his will: that could lead to self-hatred, and the attempt to destroy the bits of oneself one does not like. Jesus, to the surprise of many, chose (2) over (1), which is so gloriously described in Jn 3:17–21. However, he also criticized the Pharisees, extraordinarily harshly. So it seems that there is definitely room for a kind of judgment. Indeed, it seems those who really need that kind of judgment are those who claim to be on God’s side! Recall your Ja 3:1.

      I claim there is a kind of judgment which is part of (2). I claim that we are our brothers’ keepers, where ‘brother’ is defined by Jesus in Mk 3:31–35. I claim that Gal 6:1 is true and important. I claim that Eph 5:21 is necessary for a healthy body of Christ. This seems to open up the possibility of a kind of judgment, a possibility you seem to have closed. Thoughts?

      • Do the ends justify the means? If not, is it possible that he used and is using means of which Jesus would not approve? If it is possible, is it worth exploring whether he is in fact doing that?

        This is a good question, Luke. Would Jesus approve of John’s means? Would Jesus approve of Lotharson’s means? Or mine? Or yours? I only know one person who can answer those questions–and that is Jesus.

        Presumably, we all agree for the most part on the message we deliver together, but our methods are different. However, we all have flaws; and if we spend our time publicly picking at the flaws of those who basically agree with us we diminish the impact on the issues we all try to address.

        I agree that many believers today behave almost exactly like the Pharisees whom Jesus criticized. Most of my writing is about confronting that harmful Pharisaical behavior today, but I don’t have to call out people by name. By the way, do you know the name of ANY Pharisee that Jesus criticized? You know the behavior, but what about the names?

        • Would Jesus approve of John’s means? Would Jesus approve of Lotharson’s means? Or mine? Or yours? I only know one person who can answer those questions–and that is Jesus.

          What about the following?

          Eph 5:8b–11 “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”

          Eph 5:17 “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

          Jn 15:15 “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

          Col 1:9–10 “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

          Doesn’t it seem like the more we are conformed to Jesus, the more we can guess at how Jesus would answer those questions? Finally, there is this:

          Heb 5:11–14: “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

          I don’t understand how you make sense of this stuff, given what you’ve said.

          However, we all have flaws; and if we spend our time publicly picking at the flaws of those who basically agree with us we diminish the impact on the issues we all try to address.

          Your “who basically agree with us” seems to disregard Jesus’ warning to “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Indeed, I just had a very disturbing interaction with a conservative Christian who used to post on Marc’s blog; our positions were quite similar. He ended the conversation by calling me “full of shit”. Had I not pursued the conversation, that he would do this kind of thing would never have been revealed. And so, it seems like your strategy, while very close to a good strategy, avoids conflict in a way that threatens to stunt the advance of the kingdom of heaven.

          By the way, do you know the name of ANY Pharisee that Jesus criticized? You know the behavior, but what about the names?

          This is a very good point. You might like this recent comment of mine, especially the bit about 1 Cor 13:5. That being said, what do you make of the names Paul calls out in his letters? See that pesky Alexander the Coppersmith, for example.

          Now, consider what would happen if Driscoll were to repent and expose the spiritual causes of his behavior. (This is supposing enough of the criticisms of him are sufficiently correct.) Well, he would become an even more powerful Christian than he was at his height, and he would be known for having repented and done fantastic things for the church. Isn’t this precisely what we have with Saul → Paul? Remember your 1 Cor 13:5, even if it needs a better translation (as I indicate in said comment).

          • That can be simultaneously true, and convenient. Whether it is convenient, I simply do not know. What I do know is that many Christians make claims that seem extremely well modeled by “How could I possibly know the will of Jesus?”, when scriptures are very clear that to say this would be to admit to being foolish. Whether Tim is doing this, I do not know. He does not provide enough information to know with anything close to an estimated guess.

          • Indeed, you don’t know enough and should refrain from making such claims unless you’ve strong evidence it’s so.

            It is not a moral reproach.

            I myself do inappropriate things all the time.

          • Indeed, you don’t know enough and should refrain from making such claims unless you’ve strong evidence it’s so.

            What “claims” do you think I made? Do you truly think I “judged” Tim, in the sense of e.g. Ja 4:11–12?

      • Luke, you said:

        I just had a very disturbing interaction with a conservative Christian who used to post on Marc’s blog; our positions were quite similar. He ended the conversation by calling me “full of shit”. Had I not pursued the conversation, that he would do this kind of thing would never have been revealed.

        Does this mean you won? Did you pick at him until he made a comment that demonstrated your victory? Do you think he left the conversation thinking you had won? Is WINNING the goal of discussion between people of different perspectives?

        This seems to be argument for the sake of argument; no new insights have been achieved, neither debater has learned from the other, and no one has changed their mind about anything.

        In my younger days, I fancied myself to be an apologist. I would argue about anything, and I nearly always won–at least in my mind. But who did I help? So now I am very interested in dialog or sharing differing ideas, but I am not interested in winning any arguments.

        I could pick apart the details of your arguments and require long answers from you with my challenges, just as you can to me. I could cover you up with proof-tests. But it serves no purpose in my mind. It is a game, and it is never-ending.

        Consider what would happen if Driscoll were to repent and expose the spiritual causes of his behavior. (This is supposing enough of the criticisms of him are sufficiently correct.) Well, he would become an even more powerful Christian than he was at his height, and he would be known for having repented and done fantastic things for the church. Isn’t this precisely what we have with Saul → Paul?

        A person like Driscoll does need to be challenged, and even disciplined, but who am I to judge him? Am I on his elder board? Am I his parishioner? Am I his victim? Am I his peer? Then I have nothing to say about him; that is someone else’s job.

        Did Paul convert because little Christians kept nagging and complaining about him or accusing him. I don’t think so. If I recall correctly, Jesus himself took care of it.

        Luke, it is none of my business if you and others want to call people out that you don’t even know, but I am not inclined to do so. It is no longer who I am.

        • Tim, I first want to say that I appreciate a ton of what you do. In particular, I think that what I am doing here, is extremely dangerous. I think that the spirit behind Ja 3:1 applies. Because so many people cause so much damage with “pointing the finger” (Is 58:9), I can see why it would be desirable to not do anything which could possibly look like it. And for those who do not spend a lot of time trying to discern between what truly is “pointing of the finger” and what is not, it is better that they shut up.

          That being said, then I find things like this 2008 Caution About Mark Driscoll From Australia, which contains:

              Concerning the selection of elders, Driscoll reserves veto rights over any nominee, who would have his personal and church life scrutinised; specifically, his tithing records would be examined and he would be asked about his prowess and regularity in the bedroom. He has a principal rule for elders: an elder is not to represent congregational concerns or critique the pastor. Driscoll, using ambiguous jest, warned: “If you come after me, they won’t find your body.”

          Now, I ask you: suppose someone like Warren Throckmorton had really taken this up and run with it, in 2008. Suppose he first asked Mark Driscoll what he meant by this and what the scriptural basis was for it. Suppose this failed, and further that all of Mars Hill Church refused to provide an explanation. Would it have been beneficial to Mars Hill Church to blow the issue wide open in the public, then, before all the spiritual abuse between 2008 and 2014 had happened? I say yes.

          I say: I am my [Christian] brother’s keeper, with ‘brother’ defined by Jesus in Mark 3:31–35, noting that we are commanded to know Jesus’ will increasingly well, per Eph 5:17 (among other verses). If I don’t say this, then I don’t know how I can possibly say that I am truly unified with all Christians throughout spacetime. 😐

          ———

          Does this mean you won?

          No. What it means is that what was hidden is now exposed. I suggest taking a gander at Eph 5:6–14.

          Is WINNING the goal of discussion between people of different perspectives?

          No, spreading of agape is the goal, per Jn 3:17–21, 1 Cor 10:23–24, and 1 Cor 13:1–3, to just name a few passages. The one closer to the viewpoint you describe here is my interlocutor. I would also throw in Hos 6:1–3, just to show that when God causes damage, he does it with redemptive purposes.

          This seems to be argument for the sake of argument; no new insights have been achieved, neither debater has learned from the other, and no one has changed their mind about anything.

          100% false; I learned a tremendous amount about someone I had thought was a solid follower of Jesus. The incredible disrespect and manipulation I experienced showed me that this was not true, and thus that I must be much more cautious when trusting anything he says. Futhermore, I learned how this person treats those who have views very close to his own, but not quite. At least, that’s how I see it—he appears to think that my lack of 100% certainty that all homosexual sex is a sin makes me an antichrist. (Sadly, I’m not sure that’s an exaggeration!)

          A person like Driscoll does need to be challenged, and even disciplined, but who am I to judge him?

          You are his brother in Christ, right?

          Luke, it is none of my business if you and others want to call people out that you don’t even know, but I am not inclined to do so. It is no longer who I am.

          Again, by this reasoning, Muslims who do not personally know suicide bombers claiming to be Muslim have no right in calling them out. And really? What I’m calling out is behavior, not names. Notice that I have not named the person who said I was “full of shit”. Did you notice that?

      • Indeed, I just had a very disturbing interaction with a conservative Christian…

        That was definitely and unambiguously 100% your fault. You talked to him as if you were his equal – you should learn how to be more deferential towards your betters.

        • Heh. I did learn quite a few things:

          (1) Don’t assume the other person believes Mt 5:39 refers to taking insults without returning them.

          (2) Don’t expect the other person to abide by any recognizable interpretation of Rom 12:10.

          (3) Probably don’t make any claims whatsoever about the other person’s conduct.

          (4) Hide any and all frustration, so that no accusations can be made about emotions affecting judgment.

          (5) Be much more suspicious about leading questions, questions which appear to impute a view to me which I do not hold.

          (6) Expect the other person to justify his/her behavior/standards by your own.

          (7) Don’t expect the other person to believe the Holy Spirit has any appreciable power which is generally restricted to those professing to follow Jesus.

          Upon reflection, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus obeyed all of these! It really saddens me that I would have to adopt this system with other people who call themselves “followers of Jesus Christ”, and I wouldn’t have to adopt it completely. Indeed, I could start out more charitably, being willing to quickly flip to the above scheme if necessary.

          I will say one thing: growing up incredibly socially awkward and having to logically derive proper socialization instead of magically intuit it like most people has given me some skills. I can discern the rules of discussion and snap to them pretty quickly. I’m not yet at “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”—but I hope to get there. Circumstances like this, especially after analysis, can be quite informative!

          You know what’s sad, Andy? You and I have had our issues, but I don’t have to do the extreme of the above, with you. I have a friend who says that Jesus demanded “your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees”, with many Christians exhibiting righteousness worse than non-Christians. Whelp, consider this an instance.

      • Luke, I would like to clarify two issues in our discussion, in case they are not clear. I do not wish to criticize either your method of debate or the calling out and naming of individuals. My point is simply that these are not activities which I wish to pursue myself.

        My responses were meant to explain my position; they were not meant to question yours or others. The alternative to such an explanation would be to not answer at all, which would be rude.

        I respect you, and I wish you well! ~Tim

    • Hello Tim! Thanks for your compassionate answer.

      I think we do have to name individuals acting in a loveless way BUT with the goal to lead them to repentance and not to feel superior to them in a self-righteous manner.

      I don’t think, however, that every Christian ought to do that.
      Thus I completely respect your choice to steer clear from such personal conflicts.

      Lovely greetings in Christ.

    • Thanks Lothar for explaining to you commenters that I do not care for long arguments for the sake of argument. Some people enjoy that exercise and, though I used to enjoy it as well, I no longer do.

  4. I affirm loving and committed gay relationships completely. I also would want to be discerning here – sexual attraction and sexual relationships of whatever orientation have a tendency to be distorted by rivalrous desire. Therefore I would see a gay orientation like a heterosexual one as a neutrally good thing which only becomes a positively good thing if it is used compassionately (but I so think that gay sexual relationships can be a positively good thing).

    A conservative Christian who thinks that gay sex is sinful but that we are all wounded and drawn to sinfulness in multifarious ways – and therefore gay people should be treated with compassion – is a person I would disagree with but respect. A pink swastika conservative I would not respect. 🙂

  5. I think it becomes very difficult to be tolerant and compassionate towards non-hating “conservative Christians” because they are often in networks and share platforms or otherwise support their more hate-filled fellow travellers.

    For example Tim Keller is the nice face of the Gospel Coalition. He tends to go softly in his condemnation – love the sinner kind of thing. Yet his site has promoted blogs by other authors billing disgust as a holy emotion towards homosexuality and who openly support both the Russian laws against gay rights and American discrimination.

    In Australia (where I’m from) the networks between the friendlier faces like The Australian Centre for Public Christianity and the political scareys like Access Ministries, or the ACL or the Sydney Anglicans (all conservative to one degree or another) or those even scarier like Light the Fire or Defend the Family are not as obvious. But they still exist.

    Cynically its hard not to believe its a good cop, bad cop routine from conservative christian leaders.. It becomes really hard to talk to the nicer conservative christians when you know who they are also talking to regularly.

    I distinguish here ordinary Christians from their leaders. We have all been or known ordinary Christians who have changed their minds honestly from conservative or to conservative positions. Its the leaders who often play a bit dumb to create conversation I find hard to trust.

    • I think it becomes very difficult to be tolerant and compassionate towards non-hating “conservative Christians” because they are often in networks and share platforms or otherwise support their more hate-filled fellow travellers.

      Where does the Bible enjoin “tolerance”? That is a secular word. I suggest Gal 6:1, 1 Cor 13:1–3, 2 Cor 5:16–17, and 1 Cor 10:23–24, for example.

      Cynically its hard not to believe its a good cop, bad cop routine from conservative christian leaders.. It becomes really hard to talk to the nicer conservative christians when you know who they are also talking to regularly.

      This is a fascinating observation. Only if the two sides were to call each other out and balance each other out, would this probably be avoided. And yet, justifications are being thrown up which explicitly militate against such balancing out, which will inevitably involve some conflict in the process. I have to believe there was some conflict when Paul confronted Peter to his face!

  6. Progessive theology is of the devil.
    You try to form God’s words to justify your deviant life style. It is sin and clearly stated throughout the Bible which catagorizes homosexuality as sin.
    Turn to Christ, repent and turn away from your wicked ways.

    • I believe, like Jesus did, that God made the Law for man and not man for the Law.

      Consequently, I think that homosexuality is only against God’s will if it’s HARMFUL.

      Do you have evidence it’s the case?

      Cheers.

      • But not everything that is wrong is necessarily harmful, demonstrably.

        Consider this hypothetical: I think black people are scum, sub-humans, and animals.

        I have been taught by my family, though, that polite society finds this view unacceptable, and despite my personal feelings I have no choice but to go through life acting otherwise. I treat blacks courteously my entire life, show no obvious disrespect, and act if not friendly towards them then perfectly politely. I die with nobody suspecting that I was actually a hateful bigot. But rest assured: I was. In my heart, I truly believed that I was interacting with dirty animals, and the only reason I didn’t come out and say it is because I knew there would be negative consequences for me.

        Is this okay?

        • @malcolmthecynic, I have been pestering Marc about his insane focus on niceness, myself. I simply cannot find his emphasis on niceness in the Bible. The closest you get is gentleness, but that is qualified by Rom 11:22, God’s behavior in the OT, Jesus’ behavior in the NT, and Paul’s behavior in the NT. Niceness is not the highest goal!

          Instead, I claim that agape is the highest goal, and sometimes it has to be fulfilled via e.g. Hos 6:1–3. Sometimes harshness and tearing down is required, as long as the actual goal is building up—1 Cor 10:23–24. This, of course, requires judging of intention instead of just appearance, and that is harder: one cannot actually judge intention in an instant, but must take into account a history. Furthermore, one must leave open the possibility of change in behavior, which means judgments of intention must be tentative, on pain of doing the condemnatory type of judgment.

          Ultimately, I think many people can be ‘sorted’ via asking, not of their self-reports, but of their hearts:

               (1) When you see evil, do you want to destroy it?
               (2) Or do you want to redeem it?

          One can make “through a glass darkly” inferences about whether a person more closely matches (1) or (2). Importantly, if one is doing (2), then the opportunity must be provided for a person to transition from (1) → (2)!

          Or so goes my current thinking—critique desired!

          • Indeed, niceness and kindness don’t matter at all.

            It’s perfectly permissible for a Christian to willingly inflict emotional pain onto a respectful opponent through one’s choice of words.

            This has absolutely nothing to do with the Golden Rule.

            Thanks for having enlightened my mind and heart.

          • Indeed, niceness and kindness don’t matter at all.

            It’s perfectly permissible for a Christian to willingly inflict emotional pain onto a respectful opponent through one’s choice of words.

            This has absolutely nothing to do with the Golden Rule.

            Thanks for having enlightened my mind and heart.

            C’mon, Marc. So much ethics and morality depends on precedence, not on people totally not caring about stuff like this. Please acknowledge this?

      • I’m also a virtue ethicist and think this would harm your moral character

        A virtue ethicist and a consequentialist? Very unusual…. Although I think Luke is on your side here.

      • Well, I believe that thinking homosexual relations are not sinful harms one’s moral character.

        That is interesting (really, I´m not being sarcastic). So, you´d say that a person who does not categorically morally condemn same-sex relationships and sexual activities, but rather considers them to be just like heterosexual relationships and sexual activities between sterile partners, harms his or her moral character by having this belief or conviction? If so – which virtue(s) precisely does this belief negatively affect in your opinion? Or do you doubt that one can hold such a belief sincerely in the first place?

      • If you are interested in justifying sin then I have onky this to say; Jesys died for your sins. He died so that you may also die to your sin; it matters not the sin, but that it is. I we do not acknowledge the sin that separates us from His love and repent and seek his forgiveness by turning away from it then God wilk send you to hell. This is a matter of heaven or hell; do not play games with God. Many so-called Christians will burn in the lake of fire. God will not be mocked. Read the writtings of Paul and weep. Salvation is a process of death to self.

        • Read the writtings of Paul and weep.

          @RH, at whom do you think Romans 2:24 is targeted? You appear to have a lot of respect for and knowledge of Paul, so I am guessing you can give a pretty good, articulate answer.

      • @Malcolm

        Yes, I do.[1] I think that this leads to a warped understanding of the relationship between men and women off the top of my head.[2]

        1. Yes you do… what? Yes you do think that one *cannot* sincerely hold the belief that homosexual relationships and sexual activities are morally equivalent to heterosexual relationships and sexual activities where one or both of the partners happen to be sterile? (that was the only part of my comment that could be answered with yes or no, afaict)
        2a. So which virtue(s) would that affect?
        2b. When you say “warped understanding of the relationship between men and women”, you are implying that there is a proper understanding of said relationship, and that if one disagrees with you about the morality of homosexuality, one also cannot have this proper understanding of the relationship between men and women. So what would this proper understanding of the relationship between men and women be in your opinion and why do you believe that one cannot have this proper understanding if one disagrees with you about the moral status of homosexuality?

        • Andy, what is your precise view of the idea that isought? You know I find it fascinating; I just started reading Hilary Putnam’s The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy; he argues that the breakdown of the wall logical positivists attempted to erect between the synthetic and the a priori also means a breakdown of the wall erected between fact and value. Furthermore, he argues that either premises required for Hume’s argument on causation are also required for his argument that isought; so one must either reject causation, or reject his argument that isought.

          The way this connects to the current issue is: Does nature offer any guidance to what we ought to do, and what we ought not to do? If sometimes isought, then we would have to start asking when it does. We can certainly let is only “weakly actualize” ought; this can perhaps be intuited from the problem of future contingents, or even the awesome science Back From the Future, which argues that the information to perfectly predict the future doesn’t exist yet. Weird stuff!

          Anyhow, natural law theorists would seem to gain more traction, the more the fact/value dichotomy collapses. Does this make sense? One obvious result of this is that organs ought to be used according to uncorrupted nature. Note that I’m not making this argument myself—I have made my stance quite clear. I actually know very little about natural law theory.

      • Andy, what is your precise view of the idea that is ⇏ ought?

        If you deny that oughts can be grounded in what is, then you are denying that oughts can be grounded, period. If you are a moral cognitivist, then you do believe that there is something real that grounds the truth of moral propositions (although you could well be agnostic about what this something is), and different moral views disagree on what this something is (in practice, pretty much everyone seems to be a moral cognitivist, the non-cognitivist positions seem to be limited to some obscure niches in the philosophical ivory tower).

        • “the non-cognitivist positions seem to be limited to some obscure niches in the philosophical ivory tower”

          Statistics please! There are plenty of people who think that asserting moral truths is akin to asserting feelings and preferences in such a way to manipulate others:
          http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-cognitivism/

          If the moral value “A man should never rape a woman” is real and materialism is true, what are the particles localized in space and time it is identical too?

          Can you show them to me?

          • The author is a materialist who argue that one cannot make sense of moral properties provided the truth of materialism.

            He went on arguing that our convictions that morality refers to something objectively real out there is an illusion spawned by evolution.

        • If you deny that oughts can be grounded in what is, then you are denying that oughts can be grounded, period.

          I see wiggle-room: if the ‘subjective’ realm is 100% divorced from the ‘objective’ realm, then oughts could be grounded in social facts. In other words, some would claim that one can have mind-dependent facts which are nature-independent. Would you disagree with such a claim? You like real examples, so:

          tildeb: What you presume is an either/or conflation… there is either a god doing this assigning or there is no purpose (so those who understand the former and arrive at the latter might as well go kill themselves).

          Might there be a middle ground?

          Yeah.

          It’s called making meaning and we – you and I – do it constantly without any external causal agency directing us in how we assign importance to the meaning we make. That’s why the same input experienced by thee and me can be held to radically different levels of importance as to its meaning. We do the assigning.

          Putting aside @tildeb’s flagrant misrepresentation of my position (I have no objection to some meaning being provided by God, and some by us), it seems reasonable to surmise from (1) his idea that ‘meaning’ is 100% divorced from “any external causal agency”; that (2) there is some exclusively, nature-independent, mind-dependent, meaning-creation going on. This would be a different kind of ‘is’, than nature. And so, it would leave two distinctly different ways to think of is ⇒/⇏ ought.

          Two questions:

          (A) Do you think this is a reasonable representation of @tildeb’s argument?
          (B) Do you think @tildeb’s argument is valid?

          I mentioned his argument because I guessed you’d ask for an example, like you often have, after I wrote my first paragraph. And so, I preempt the predicted request. 😐

      • Statistics please! There are plenty of people who think that asserting moral truths is akin to asserting feelings and preferences in such a way to manipulate others:

        Maybe. I´ve never met anyone though. Among the people you know, how big would the fraction of people be who believe that be?

        If the moral value “A man should never rape a woman” is real and materialism is true, what are the particles localized in space and time it is identical too?

        Can you show them to me?

        No, just like I cannot show you the “particles localized in space and time” that correspond to the platonic form (of whatever else you had in mind) of the letter “A” or the words “man”, “should”, “never”, “rape” and “woman”. And this question is a little silly (sorry, but it really is) because a materialist is necessarily also a nominalist which means that your question / challenge makes no sense – it is like asking “assuming that materialism is true, how would you answer this question that presupposes that materialism is false?”

        • Okay, so “A man should never rape a woman” is just a semantic construction used to describe the emotions of most (albeit by no means all) Homo Sapiens, right?

          I fail to see what objective morality can be according to nominalism.

          It seems to me that both mathematical and moral truths are non-existent, even if they might be useful conventions.

        • No, just like I cannot show you the “particles localized in space and time” that correspond to the platonic form (of whatever else you had in mind) of the letter “A” or the words “man”, “should”, “never”, “rape” and “woman”. And this question is a little silly (sorry, but it really is) because a materialist is necessarily also a nominalist which means that your question / challenge makes no sense – it is like asking “assuming that materialism is true, how would you answer this question that presupposes that materialism is false?”

          I’m confused. With what ‘is’, do you ground “A man should never rape a woman”? How did you arrive at that ‘is’? How do you justify it?

      • Okay, so “A man should never rape a woman” is just a semantic construction used to describe the emotions of most (albeit by no means all) Homo Sapiens, right?

        False. The way this is phrased, this claim is not about emotions. And regarding nominalism: the difference here between you and a typical materialist here would be that you believe that there exist universals that corresponds to words like “man” while the materialist qua being a nominalist does not believe in the existence of such universals but rather only in the existence of particulars (like you and me for example), which we due to some standard of resemblence (opinions vary strongly on what this standard is and when (if ever) it happens to be an objective one) group together in a mental category that in the english language is called “men”.
        That´s it. And that´s why your challenge is a silly one because you are asking a materialist to show you something that cannot possibly exist if materialism is actually true.

        I fail to see what objective morality can be according to nominalism.

        Then you have never bothered to look, not even for a second. Most obvious example – consider someone who happens to be a materialist and a utilitarian, now grant him for the sake of the argument that materialism is true and the premises of utilitarianism are true, voilà – the claim that it is morally wrong for you to rape your hot next door neighbor becomes an “objective” (in both philosophically relevant senses of the word “objective”) moral fact.

        • Most obvious example – consider someone who happens to be a materialist and a utilitarian, now grant him for the sake of the argument that materialism is true and the premises of utilitarianism are true, voilà – the claim that it is morally wrong for you to rape your hot next door neighbor becomes an “objective” (in both philosophically relevant senses of the word “objective”) moral fact.

          So agreement between two people makes it a fact? Sounds suspiciously like:

          Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. (Mt 18:19)

          My question is serious.

        • Ich glab, dass ich doch dodruff reagiere muss.
          Ich kinn schun monchmol DUMM sin, awer ‘s war hächscht wohrschinlich nit de Fall hier.
          De Vorwurf do kummt mir schun e bissel arrogant vor.

          My problem is an ontological one. Ask a nominalist whether or not mathematical truths really exist like stones exist.
          He will certainly answer: “No, they’re just useful constructions for modeling the world around us.”

          So if moral truths are really like mathematical truths, it logically follows they’re unreal constructions as well regardless of whether one is an utilitarian or a hedonist.

          It might interest you that Joshua Greene (towards whose PhD dissertation I linked) is an utilitarian who DENIES the ontological reality of moral truths.
          And there are also moral non-cognitivists who advocate utilitarianism on purely pragmatic grounds.

          So let us consider a specific case: “Marc should not hit his annoying neighbor.”
          Does this moral claim really exist? According to materialism no.
          It is just a way to express the fact that this action would cause physical and chemical reactions in my neighbor’s brain we call “pain” and “unpleasant”.
          If materialism is true, we could entirely dispense of moral talks and replace moral sentences by statements about physics, chemistry and biology, whereby the two latter ones would only be used because we haven’t yet worked out their full reduction to the former.

          So, im Klartext we’re discussing about an extraordinarily complex topic where people defend lots of different ideas stemming from a huge numbers of philosophical and weltanschaulichen backgrounds.

          I think that an accusation of “silliness” should always be very well grounded.

          But oftentimes such an impression simply stems from the fact that one’s opponent understands terms, words and phrases in a very different manner and hasn’t read the same groundworks as oneself.

          So before calling someone “dumb” you should first ensure he really meant his sentences in the same way you understood them.
          I’ve always acted towards you in this way and this is the reason why I never called you stupid.

          Dennoch winsche ich dir scheni Grisse us eme Lond, wu ‘s sehr oft rännt 🙂

        • “Then you have never bothered to look, not even for a second. Most obvious example – consider someone who happens to be a materialist and a utilitarian, now grant him for the sake of the argument that materialism is true and the premises of utilitarianism are true, voilà – the claim that it is morally wrong for you to rape your hot next door neighbor becomes an “objective” (in both philosophically relevant senses of the word “objective”) moral fact.”

          It seems to me you’re begging the question as well here. The premise of utilitarianism is “The global amount of suffering ought to be minimized, the global amount of pleasure ought to be maximized .

          Platonists, theists, non-cognitivists and error theorists (such as Joshua Greene, Richard Joyce or Mackie) also don’t see how the premise of utilitarianism (i.e “ought to” ) can be true given materialism.
          http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism-moral/

          These authors wrote PhD dissertations, peer-reviewed articles and books on that subject.
          Do you really think that they “have never bothered to look, not even for a second”?
          http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/evolution-morality from Richard Joyce.
          Ach Andy, de bisch monchmol so siss. I’m very well tempted to shout out loudly “Extraordinarily claims demand extraordinary evidence” 😉

          So, back to work now!

      • So agreement between two people makes it a fact?

        No, and I have no idea how you are reading this out of what I wrote. Agreement about what?

        • Most obvious example – consider someone who happens to be a materialist and a utilitarian, now grant him for the sake of the argument that materialism is true and the premises of utilitarianism are true, voilà – the claim that it is morally wrong for you to rape your hot next door neighbor becomes an “objective” (in both philosophically relevant senses of the word “objective”) moral fact.

          (1) consider someone who happens to be a materialist and a utilitarian
          (2) now grant him for the sake of the argument that materialism is true and the premises of utilitarianism are true
          (3) voilà – the claim that it is morally wrong for you to rape your hot next door neighbor becomes an “objective” […] moral fact.

          How does this not absolutely require agreement between two people—how is that not a necessary condition for (3) to obtain?

      • How does this not absolutely require agreement between two people—how is that not a necessary condition for (3) to obtain?

        ???
        Let me paraphrase this:
        Marc: “I don´t see how a moral claim about e.g. rape could be objectively true given materialism?”
        Andy: “Then you never bothered to look because if materialism is true and the premises of this popular (among materialists) meta-ethical position are true, then this claim about rape is objectively true”
        Luke: “So, Andy, you are saying that materialism becomes true by people agreeing on it being true?”

        You´ve got to be kidding.

        • Andy: “Then you never bothered to look because if materialism is true and the premises of this popular (among materialists) meta-ethical position are true, then this claim about rape is objectively true”

          “if […] the premises of this popular […] position are true”—and what makes them true? What’s the truthmaker? I touch on this matter in my second of two blog posts, Si enim fallor, sum.

          (Apologies; the above radically clarifies what you said, and totally changes my objection.)

      • What’s the truthmaker? I touch on this matter in my second of two blog posts, Si enim fallor, sum.

        (Apologies; the above radically clarifies what you said, and totally changes my objection.)

        Ok, let me paraphrase again:
        Marc: “I cannot see how y can be true if x were true”
        Andy: “Why not? If you assume x and z being true, then y logically follow”
        Luke: “So, Andy, you say that x and z become true if people agree on it?”
        Andy: “WTF?”
        Luke: “Sorry, but I have a new objection, can you prove that x and z are true?”

        If you are not arguing for the sake of arguing here, then I really do not know what you are doing.

        • Unless you can show a possible way to ground the truth of ‘y’, then you haven’t provided a sound argument, but merely a valid one. Marc was seeking soundness. See:

          Marc: I fail to see what objective morality can be according to nominalism.

          What you actually responded to was:

          Marc‘: I fail to see what morality can be according to nominalism.

          You’ve yet to properly deal with the ‘objective’ bit, and I suspect Marc was incredibly interested in precisely that bit. He is, of course, welcome to correct me.

      • Unless you can show a possible way to ground the truth of ‘y’, then you haven’t provided a sound argument, but merely a valid one. Marc was seeking soundness. See:

        Marc: I fail to see what objective morality can be according to nominalism.

        What you actually responded to was:

        Marc‘: I fail to see what morality can be according to nominalism.

        You’ve yet to properly deal with the ‘objective’ bit, and I suspect Marc was incredibly interested in precisely that bit. He is, of course, welcome to correct me.

        I´ve dealt with the “objective bit”, IF materialism is true and the premises of utilitarianism are true, then there are moral propositions that have mind-independent truth values (i.e. satisfying both philosophically relevant definitions of what “objective” could mean here). Marc said that he cannot imagine how such a thing could exist given materialism, and I told him the most obvious (as in “most widely known”) way of how that COULD be the case. Marc did not ask for any sound argument, he expressed his doubts that a specific thing COULD BE true if materialism is also true – and I answered and gave a specific example how that indeed COULD BE true.
        Honestly, how do you not get this?

        • Honestly, how do you not get this?

          Because I see you as utterly begging the question, of whether utilitarianism (or any other meta-ethical system) is actually true. I’ll do my own dialog:

          Marc: How would morality be objectively true, given materialism?
          Andy: Well, given materialism and objective morality, there would be moral facts.
          Luke: Ummm, you’ve begged the question. How would you know that a given morality is actually ‘objective’? We need to do that before we can talk about ‘moral facts’.

          In other words, all I see you saying—correct me if I’m wrong—is the following:

               (1) If objective morality were true, you’d have objective moral facts.

          This is only the slightest bit reduced from:

          Marc: I fail to see what objective morality can be according to nominalism.

          AS: Most obvious example – consider someone who happens to be a materialist and a utilitarian, now grant him for the sake of the argument that materialism is true and the premises of utilitarianism are true, voilà – the claim that it is morally wrong for you to rape your hot next door neighbor becomes an “objective” (in both philosophically relevant senses of the word “objective”) moral fact.

          That is, Marc wouldn’t grant you that “the premises of utilitarianism are true”—he’d want you to establish this. And if you cannot, if you cannot ground it, then you haven’t shown how anyone would have any epistemic access, to objective moral truth. Nobody magically gets “the premises of utilitarianism” as true. That is the very claim under question: how, with only materialism, can one show that such premises are true?

          You appeared to have gotten distracted by only showing how one could ground “A man should never rape a woman”. But that’s not all Marc asked. In the very next paragraph, he generalized: to “objective morality”. Lo and behold, “the premises of utilitarianism” ∈ “objective morality”. Except you didn’t show that, you asked Marc to assume it.

      • Because I see you as utterly begging the question, of whether utilitarianism (or any other meta-ethical system) is actually true. I’ll do my own dialog:

        Marc: How would morality be objectively true, given materialism?

        Oh FFS, Marc did not ask how an objective morality WOULD be like given materialism, he expressed his doubts that something like an objective morality COULD even be conceivable given materialism. Again, how do you not get this?

        In other words, all I see you saying—correct me if I’m wrong—is the following:

        (1) If objective morality were true, you’d have objective moral facts.

        Correction: what I´m saying boils down to “you say that you fail to see how there COULD be an objective morality given x, here is one widely known example of how that COULD be”.
        That I have to correct this is an indictment against your reading comprehension.

        That is, Marc wouldn’t grant you that “the premises of utilitarianism are true”—he’d want you to establish this.

        He might. That is a completely different ballpark though, which really, honestly, should have been obvious to anyone with 4th grade reading comprehension skills unless maybe said someone desperately wants to object something ad nauseam for the sake of objecting something ad nauseam.

        • Oh FFS, Marc did not ask how an objective morality WOULD be like given materialism, he expressed his doubts that something like an objective morality COULD even be conceivable given materialism. Again, how do you not get this?

          I would agree with what you said, and I would interpret “COULD” in this way: “Can it be grounded?” But let’s Marc pipe up when he’s next awake and available, and see which he meant? Perhaps you will be right, and it will turn out that I misinterpreted his question. Perhaps I am right, and you misinterpreted his question. Shall we see?

          Are you in agreement, that you have no way to ground objective morality? It could exist in some realm, but we would be separated from that realm by an absolutely impenetrable, opaque barrier which permits no communication. There could be a truthmaker for morality, a grounding, but we would be 100% cut off, permanently, unable to access the truthmaker/grounding. Or perhaps you don’t have an answer you wish to state—if so, I understand. The Thinker loves to try to get me to say yes/no when I simply am not sure of either, at least yet. I’m always trying to figure out more.

          I realize my second paragraph may not be what Marc meant, so it is now my question, divorced from Marc’s question. It would seem that the only grounding you’re left with is either (i) inferring something from nature; or (ii) getting it from society. Other than the vaguest of guesses, I don’t see how you would do (i); it seems that (ii) is pretty clearly a terrible idea, given the history of the 20th century. Too much room for catastrophic error!

          That is a completely different ballpark though, which really, honestly, should have been obvious to anyone with 4th grade reading comprehension skills unless maybe said someone desperately wants to object something ad nauseam for the sake of objecting something ad nauseam.

          Nope, it just turns out that I’m remarkably interested in how physicalists ground morality, and I’ll bet you that Marc is as well. It seemed like you were up for giving it a shot; perhaps this is not the case. And, given how much I desired to see such an account, perhaps I did misinterpret, or at least not try hard enough to see things through your eyes. For that, I apologize.

          • Are you in agreement, that you have no way to ground objective morality?

            Ok, now you are being deliberately obtuse and this conversation is over.

            I

          • Curious, how you can discern my heart. At some point, I’d like to learn how you do that. Any time I do that to you, you seem to get upset and say I’m wrong. And yet, when you do it to me, you’re right? Curious.

            >

      • Curious, how you can discern my heart. At some point, I’d like to learn how you do that. Any time I do that to you, you seem to get upset and say I’m wrong. And yet, when you do it to me, you’re right? Curious.

        Yes, very curious. So what you mean by what you wrote here is that Pepsi Cola is most definitely the best Cola there is, right? Please provide a sound argument for this bold claim.

        • labreuer: Or perhaps you don’t have an answer you wish to state—if so, I understand. The Thinker loves to try to get me to say yes/no when I simply am not sure of either, at least yet. I’m always trying to figure out more.

      • Or perhaps you don’t have an answer you wish to state—if so, I understand. The Thinker loves to try to get me to say yes/no when I simply am not sure of either, at least yet. I’m always trying to figure out more.

        Ah, got it now, so you have a sound argument for why Pepsi Cola is the best Cola there is but you are not so sure about it and therefore do not wish to state it yet.

      • Precisely. Actually, I drink mostly root beer, and try in general to stay away from all soda.

        OK, I still don´t understand why you need to club baby seals to do that though.

      • @Marc:

        My problem is an ontological one. Ask a nominalist whether or not mathematical truths really exist like stones exist.
        He will certainly answer: “No, they’re just useful constructions for modeling the world around us.”

        So, you say that for a materialist, those three sentences:
        a) “The shape of the planet earth does not correspond to a flat disc”.
        b) “The shape of the earth does correspond to a flat disc”
        c) “The shape of the earth corresponds to a dodecahedron”
        are all equally arbitrary (or rather “equally non-existent”) for a materialist, he might chose a) because he feels like it, but neither one of them is objectively true or false because for the materialist, there is no fantasy realm where magic forms fly around that correspond to universals like “flatness” and “dodecahedron”?
        This is not the case, given materialism, abstractions are only meaningful in a linguistic sense – they only exist in the thoughts and language of beings like us, but there are mind-independent facts that can make a sentence like “the shape of the earth does not correspond to a flat disc” objectively true. It is, at least in principle, no different for moral claims.

        So let us consider a specific case: “Marc should not hit his annoying neighbor.”
        Does this moral claim really exist? According to materialism no.
        It is just a way to express the fact that this action would cause physical and chemical reactions in my neighbor’s brain we call “pain” and “unpleasant”.
        If materialism is true, we could entirely dispense of moral talks and replace moral sentences by statements about physics, chemistry and biology, whereby the two latter ones would only be used because we haven’t yet worked out their full reduction to the former.

        I cannot prove to you that suffering is bad, this is a premise I´d use that I do not question further – it seems undeniably true to me and while I have seen plenty of people who make moral judgments without this premise, I have never seen anyone affirming the negation of it (are you doing that? If so, could you please explicitly say that you consider suffering to be morally neutral). I don´t really know how you ground moral truth though, I can only guess that according to your position, “Marc should not hit his annoying neighbor” is just an expression that allegedly corresponds in some way to some magic forms in an unknown fantasy realm (if this is a misrepresentation, sorry, but you have never explicitly said which version of idealism specifically you subscribe to) – why should I or anyone else care about that?

        So before calling someone “dumb” you should first ensure he really meant his sentences in the same way you understood them.

        1. The word I used was “silly” and I didn´t say that you are “silly” I said “this is silly”, and “silly” as a label for an idea means that you consider this idea to be absurd or ridiculous (i.e. not stupid / dumb). I didn´t mean to insult your intelligence here but my apologies anyway if this is how you understood it.
        2. I think you should do the same with materialist philosophy, it seems to me that all you bothered checking is whether mathematical truths (for example) are “real like a stone is real” given materialism and upon confirming that this is not the case, you immediately proceeded to the conclusion “alright, given materialism, there is no mathematical or moral truth of any kind, case closed”.

        • This is not the case, given materialism, abstractions are only meaningful in a linguistic sense – they only exist in the thoughts and language of beings like us, but there are mind-independent facts that can make a sentence like “the shape of the earth does not correspond to a flat disc” objectively true. It is, at least in principle, no different for moral claims.

          There seems to be a deep error in this logic, due to the difference in malleability between:

               (1) the shape of the earth
               (2) the shape of society

          If indeed our thinking, and then acting on those thoughts, could change the shape of the earth, you’d have a point. But that doesn’t seem to happen. However, if people’s conceptions of what is moral changes, then the shape of society changes, such that their beliefs become true.

          I cannot prove to you that suffering is bad, this is a premise I´d use that I do not question further – it seems undeniably true to me and while I have seen plenty of people who make moral judgments without this premise, I have never seen anyone affirming the negation of it (are you doing that? If so, could you please explicitly say that you consider suffering to be morally neutral).

          This seems underspecified: other than masochists, everyone thinks suffering is the indication of something wrong. It’s even that case with sore muscles after exercising: you forced your body to perform at much higher levels than usual, and it is complaining in response. Who would not agree that yes, suffering is an indication of something wrong?

          The difference seems to come with regard to precedences (suffering is required to significantly push forward, overcome accumulated error, etc.—is this worth it?) and with regard to whether anything can be learned from that suffering. Ostensibly, there is—else why would ‘suffering’ have evolved? Now, there are surely all sorts of contorted situations where it fails miserably, but so do other parts of our brain, as well. It strikes me if that if more people were to analyze precisely why they’re suffering, they might find things they can do, to alleviate not only their own suffering, but also others. Indeed, I might be much better able to help alleviate someone else’s suffering than my own, given the gains in objectivity from not being the one actively suffering.

      • @Marc

        It seems to me you’re begging the question as well here. The premise of utilitarianism is “The global amount of suffering ought to be minimized, the global amount of pleasure ought to be maximized .

        Platonists, theists, non-cognitivists and error theorists (such as Joshua Greene, Richard Joyce or Mackie) also don’t see how the premise of utilitarianism (i.e “ought to” ) can be true given materialism.

        http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism-moral/

        These authors wrote PhD dissertations, peer-reviewed articles and books on that subject.
        Do you really think that they “have never bothered to look, not even for a second”?

        While I don´t know what Joshua Greene´s positions exactly is, I know Mackie´s position very well. So, if you say that Mackie is correct, then there indeed is no consistent moral cognitivist philosophy given materialism, but this claim is still true if you omit the “given materialism” because if Mackie is right, then all moral cognitivist positions, including yours (whatever it may be exactly) are false. So what exactly is your point here? It sounds like “Mackie is right, so you ought to agree with Mackie and become an error theorist while I am not going to do that because…..”.
        Seriously, what IS your point here? It sounded as if you were doubting that there can be moral cognitivist positions given materialism, and that´s why I said that you were not looking because those DO exist and are not obscure at all but rather very widely known – you are free to believe that they are all based on false premises but you cannot pretend that they do not exist in the first place! And pointing to sources like Mackie doesn´t help you at all unless you have a reason why *I* should agree with Mackie while you are not going to agree with Mackie, although Mackie´s moral philosophy, if correct, disproves your moral philosophy just as well as it disproves mine – so. again, what IS your point?
        Regarding begging the question, you are aware of the Münchhausen trilemma, aren´t you? If you go back to the most basic premises of your moral philosophy, you won´t be able to prove those premises – this is logically impossible. One of strengths of consequentialist moral philosophies is that there are vanishingly few people who actually deny them and that they are intuitively plausible to people coming from vastly different cultural backgrounds, which means that it is also plausible that they are non-arbitrary but rather do capture objective facts about the human condition (don´t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who believe that those premises are not the foundation of moral truth, but try to find people who genuinely believe that suffering is morally neutral or even a good thing) – so, might I ask what the premises of your moral philosophy are? Could you please spell them out? Do you think that they are universally, or even just widely, agreed upon? And if you understand the Münchhausen trilemma – why do you think that I am begging the question here while you do not although neither one of us can prove the premises of our moral philosophies?

        • While I don´t know what Joshua Greene´s positions exactly is, I know Mackie´s position very well. So, if you say that Mackie is correct, then there indeed is no consistent moral cognitivist philosophy given materialism, but this claim is still true if you omit the “given materialism” because if Mackie is right, then all moral cognitivist positions, including yours (whatever it may be exactly) are false. So what exactly is your point here? It sounds like “Mackie is right, so you ought to agree with Mackie and become an error theorist while I am not going to do that because…..”.

          Does Mackie base his non-cognitivism on something other than the denial of inherent intentionality which is matched up with our pain/pleasure centers—or at least, could be matched up? I found this bit at SEP’s Moral Cognitivism vs. Non-Cognitivism:

          For example, moral judgments seem to be empirically under-determined (Ayer 1952, 106; Mackie 1977, 39).

          That’s very curious, because Back From the Future indicates that empirical observations are likewise under-determined; see also Hardy’s paradox. This under-determination seems eerily similar to what would be required for a non-DFW variant of FW. That is, ¬(DFW ∨ DW) ⇒ “empirically under-determined”—or is this mistaken?

          Anyhow, I don’t mean to ask you to completely teach me what Mackie thinks, but if you “know Mackie´s position very well”, perhaps you can say briefly why his position does not depend on the assertion of physicalism (causal closure)? After all, if lack of causal closure is a perennial fact for us (e.g. if the universe actually isn’t a closed system), then having moral judgments be “empirically under-determined” would be completely unsurprising.

          Regarding begging the question, you are aware of the Münchhausen trilemma, aren´t you?

          I’m beginning to think that the “infinite regress” option is the correct one; this would mean that the “ontology-finding mission” is actually more of a “forever draw structures out of the unarticulated background“. That is, contra Jonathan Pearce’s Top down or bottom up?, we would actually be building our knowledge in all directions. (A major other direction is materials science.) Then, the signs of life—which correspond to the best form of ‘truth’—are those laid out at Demarcation problem § Thagard:

          According to Thagard’s method, a theory is not scientific if it satisfies two conditions:

               1. The theory has been less progressive than alternative theories over a long period of time, and faces many unsolved problems; and…

               2. The community of practitioners makes little attempt to develop the theory towards solutions of the problems, shows no concern for attempts to evaluate the theory in relation to others, and is selective in considering confirmations and disconfirmations.[16]

          BTW, my use of structures was perhaps influenced by Structural Realism, and is a subtle pointing in the direction of Leibniz’s Monadology, which I read as saying that we can perhaps never access the true, basic ontology, but we can head in that direction. But perhaps I am misunderstanding his Monadology; I need to study it some more. And as my best man says: “Whatever it is, it’s probably wrong somewhere.” That’s a true idol-hating Jew, for you! Jews are fucking awesome.

      • There seems to be a deep error in this logic, due to the difference in malleability between:

        (1) the shape of the earth
        (2) the shape of society

        If indeed our thinking, and then acting on those thoughts, could change the shape of the earth, you’d have a point. But that doesn’t seem to happen. However, if people’s conceptions of what is moral changes, then the shape of society changes, such that their beliefs become true.

        That is not the point. The point was regarding nominalism, and that the absence of mind-independent universals does not mean that semantic constructs like “the shape of the earth is not a flat disc” cannot have an objective truth value. The only difference here is the standard of resemblence for considering two different particulars to both be “flat”, for non-nominalist, this standard would be some alleged universal corresponding to “flatness”, for the nominalist, it would be a mental state that captures the similarity between different particular objects (like frisbees, crackers or coins). The shape of society is also not what actually matters here, what matters is if there are moral truths or not – if the premises of some moral philosophies are actually true, meaning that logical reasoning based on these promises can yield objectively true moral propositions. Marc argued that this cannot be the case if nominalism is true, and what I pointed out is that this indeed can be the case and that if it WERE the case, it wouldn´t be ontologically different from a scientific claim, e.g. one about the shape of the earth, under nominalism.

        This seems underspecified: other than masochists, everyone thinks suffering is the indication of something wrong.

        False, a masochist who derives sexual pleasure from, say, being whipped, does NOT suffer when he is whipped – he´d actually suffer if he had a strong urge to experience this kind of pain and is denied this experience.

        It’s even that case with sore muscles after exercising: you forced your body to perform at much higher levels than usual, and it is complaining in response. Who would not agree that yes, suffering is an indication of something wrong?

        That is kind of the point – the most basic premises of consequentialist moral philosophies are close to being undeniably true (again, you´ll find plenty of people who believe that there are different premises which ground moral truth, but you´ll have a hard time finding people who sincerely believe these premises to be false), that is in fact pragmatically the biggest strength of consequentialist moral philosophies (and the reason for why the number of people who manage to *never* engage in consequentialist reasoning is vanishingly small – I remember a comment thread on Ed Feser´s blog where dozens of people, all of which were thomists apparently, discussed the morality of the A-bombs that were dropped on Japan, most of those commenters appealed to consequences for their arguments although they cannot appeal to consequences for moral judgment without being inconsistent).

        The difference seems to come with regard to precedences (suffering is required to significantly push forward, overcome accumulated error, etc.—is this worth it?) and with regard to whether anything can be learned from that suffering. Ostensibly, there is—else why would ‘suffering’ have evolved? Now, there are surely all sorts of contorted situations where it fails miserably, but so do other parts of our brain, as well. It strikes me if that if more people were to analyze precisely why they’re suffering, they might find things they can do, to alleviate not only their own suffering, but also others. Indeed, I might be much better able to help alleviate someone else’s suffering than my own, given the gains in objectivity from not being the one actively suffering.

        Is that an objection to anything I´ve said, if so, I don´t see this contradicting any point I was trying to make.

        • That is not the point. The point was regarding nominalism, and that the absence of mind-independent universals does not mean that semantic constructs like “the shape of the earth is not a flat disc” cannot have an objective truth value. The only difference here is the standard of resemblence for considering two different particulars to both be “flat”, for non-nominalist, this standard would be some alleged universal corresponding to “flatness”, for the nominalist, it would be a mental state that captures the similarity between different particular objects (like frisbees, crackers or coins).

          Thanks for articulating more of how you think under nominalism—understanding how that works has been a project of mine and it can be really hard to actually get what you said here, out of a book like D.M Armstrong’s Universals: An Opinionated Introduction. It’s like real-world examples that come from dialogue are often so much better than books written from a fixed point of view to a fixed audience. So… yeah, thanks, and my apologies for not understanding your point before. Now that I have a better understanding of how to think like a nominalist (I’m sure yours is not the only way, but I don’t care; I myself build up ideas via generalizing over particulars), perhaps I will miss your points less frequently.

          BTW, have you thoughts on Philosophy of mathematics § Indispensability argument for realism? There’s also an idea brought up by The Godelian Argument (I have no idea how much of it I agree with): mathematics seems to exert a kind of force on our thoughts, which we can only follow, not control (once the premises are fixed). So it seems that the line is blurred between mind-created and mind-discovered. Have you thoughts on this?

          False, a masochist who derives sexual pleasure from, say, being whipped, does NOT suffer when he is whipped – he´d actually suffer if he had a strong urge to experience this kind of pain and is denied this experience.

          Point taken; this firms up the definition of ‘suffering’. Perhaps we can define ‘suffering’ as something like: the result of prolonged, unfixed ‘wrongness’, where the ability to alter what is considered ‘wrong’ varies from person to person and kind of “thing which has a tendency to induce pain”? That’s kind of sloppy, but perhaps you can see where I’m going?

          That is kind of the point – the most basic premises of consequentialist moral philosophies are close to being undeniably true

          Perhaps, but you also recognize that these basic premises can be used in other ethical systems as well, right? What really makes an ethical system consequentialist is that the ends are supremely important, much more than any means. If ends and means were even roughly balanced, then by Wikipedia’s, IEP’s, and SEP’s definitions, it isn’t consequentialism.

          Is that an objection to anything I´ve said, if so, I don´t see this contradicting any point I was trying to make.

          No, I didn’t mean to contradict, so much to say that as you stated it, you left open a tremendous amount of freedom as to what ethical system results. I want to propose that there is something like fine-tuning with morality: tweak things in just the slightest way, and the end results can be drastically different. This would simply mean that when talking at broad levels, one can say very little. The devil is in the details, as it were. As you said: most people have much agreement at the broad level.

      • BTW, have you thoughts on Philosophy of mathematics § Indispensability argument for realism? There’s also an idea brought up by The Godelian Argument (I have no idea how much of it I agree with): mathematics seems to exert a kind of force on our thoughts, which we can only follow, not control (once the premises are fixed). So it seems that the line is blurred between mind-created and mind-discovered. Have you thoughts on this?

        Some thoughts, yeah. This is a pragmatic argument and I fail to see the necessity of considering the respective abstract objects to be real in a mind-independent sense, pragmatically this is not required – the mathematics wouldn´t change pragmatically either way. What I find more interesting is to what degree those mathematical and logical systems, and the axioms that they are based on, are arbitrary. I think a good case can be made for there being no such thing as one single “true” way to ground, say, geometry – because while most alternatives that have been mathematically fleshed out so far do describe geometries that do not correspond in ANY way to anything that actually exists in nature, there certainly are some non-euclidean geometries that are pragmatically useful (in the sense that they describe natural things well and better than euclidean geometry can). When it comes to logic, I do think that there is only one “proper” way to ground it (this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is_logic_empirical%3F – is some interesting reading in this respect).

        Point taken; this firms up the definition of ‘suffering’. Perhaps we can define ‘suffering’ as something like: the result of prolonged, unfixed ‘wrongness’, where the ability to alter what is considered ‘wrong’ varies from person to person and kind of “thing which has a tendency to induce pain”? That’s kind of sloppy, but perhaps you can see where I’m going?

        I think so. If you go back to enlightenment political and moral philosophy, the “pursuit of happiness” is one way to frame this.

        Perhaps, but you also recognize that these basic premises can be used in other ethical systems as well, right?

        Yup.

        No, I didn’t mean to contradict, so much to say that as you stated it, you left open a tremendous amount of freedom as to what ethical system results.

        Yup. Because we have only been talking about fundamental premises so far.

        I want to propose that there is something like fine-tuning with morality: tweak things in just the slightest way, and the end results can be drastically different. This would simply mean that when talking at broad levels, one can say very little. The devil is in the details, as it were. As you said: most people have much agreement at the broad level.

        I completely agree. What I do not understand is how you reconcile this with your stance on secular public discourse and criticism directed at it from sources like Steven D Smith – IMO, secular discourse about moral issues of political relevance is the best option we have found so far precisely because there is such a broad agreement on the basics, while the same cannot be said if you´d suggest a religious foundation for public moral discourse. Example: we can (and do) reasonably discuss moral issues despite our extreme metaphysical disagreement if the foundation is a secular one, as it is the case in western democracies. If we lived in medieval europe, I would be shut out from such a conversation and if we lived in contemporary Saudi Arabia, both of us would be shut out from such a conversation. But, given a secular foundation, both of us can participate – that´s why I do not understand on what grounds you can say that there are better alternatives than the secular one.

        • I think a good case can be made for there being no such thing as one single “true” way to ground, say, geometry

          So, I’m coming to a similar answer, but perhaps not the same one. What I see us as doing, is not so much grounding things as reaching for a grounding. The way I describe this is as “drawing structure out of the unarticulated background“. I reference Demarcation problem § Thagard because it seems we consider an enterprise “truth-seeking” if it’s continually making progress in this way, and less likely to be “truth-seeking” the longer it fails Thagard’s conditions. Now, there’s some noise here, because once you draw out some more structure, that can keep you occupied for a while, and there are activities other than doing more drawing out. Indeed, it’s more like growing a foundation so you can build a higher structure on top of that foundation. Does this make sense?

          What I do not understand is how you reconcile this with your stance on secular public discourse and criticism directed at it from sources like Steven D Smith – IMO, secular discourse about moral issues of political relevance is the best option we have found so far precisely because there is such a broad agreement on the basics, while the same cannot be said if you´d suggest a religious foundation for public moral discourse.

          One thing Smith does in The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse is show how the “harm foundation” (also discussed in Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind) seems simple until you dig into the details. It is in the details where there can be a ton of disagreement. Indeed, one of the things Smith does is show how the more you investigate this “harm foundation” and try to apply it like a lawyer would need to, it starts looking very weird—not at all like the simplistic version. I can illustrate this, if you would like.

          So, Smith is probably perfectly happy to state that everyone agrees at the highest-level. What he claims is that this agreement may not be sufficient. John Rawls’ overlapping consensus, required for his Political Liberalism to be a valid model for a polity, may shrink until the theory cracks. It would shrink because different ontologies would simply not agree enough—they would have some common phenomenology, but not enough. Does this make sense?

          Now, a way to counter the above is to admit something between:

               (A) mere agreement on phenomenology
               (B) total agreement on ontology

          This, I think, is precisely what the OT adjures. See, a lot of Christianity pretends that the Bible is unified—no, it’s not. Theologian James Barr points this out in The Scope and Authority of the Bible and Orthodox Jew Yoram points this out in The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. Here’s where it gets crazy:

               (A) = tritheism
               (B) = sabellianism

          That is:

               (A) leads to diversity with little to no unity
               (B) leads to unity with little to no diversity

          And, coincidence of coincidences, I am in the middle of a discussion about arguing (stupid Disqus; load from here, then scroll up). My interlocutor, Southland, seems to think the arguing I was doing was wrong. Christians shouldn’t argue! (By implication: they shouldn’t question stupid-ass teaching they get from their leaders. After all, they’re just followers! How are they to know the will of God? oops) Ummm, what? Compare to Jacob Neusner’s A Rabbi Talks With Jesus:

              So I state very simply: I can see myself meeting this man and, with courtesy, arguing with him. It is my form of respect, the only compliment I crave from others, the only serious tribute I pay to the people I take seriously—and therefore respect and even love. (3)

              But argument serves as more than a personal and perhaps idiosyncratic way of paying tribute; it certainly does not win much popularity, and one of my closest friends in politics calls me “the most contentious person I’ve ever known,” which I took as a compliment and he meant as a complement, for me in particular. A good solid argument also is represented by the Torah as the right way to address God, that is, as an act of enormous devotion. The founder of eternal Israel, Abraham, argued with God to save Sodom. Moses time and again argued with God. Many of the prophets took up the argument as well, Jeremiah for example. So ours—the Torah’s—is a God that expects to be argued with; and for the most profound affirmation of God’s rule and will that the Torah contains—the book of Job—forms also a sustained and systematic argument with God. (7)

          If anything:

               Jews have a tendency toward (A)
               Christians have a tendency toward (B)

          Does this make any sense? There is a tradition, by the way, that Christians need Jews, that God still has a special function for Jews to fulfill. I think this may be one of them.

      • Anyhow, I don’t mean to ask you to completely teach me what Mackie thinks, but if you “know Mackie´s position very well”, perhaps you can say briefly why his position does not depend on the assertion of physicalism (causal closure)? After all, if lack of causal closure is a perennial fact for us (e.g. if the universe actually isn’t a closed system), then having moral judgments be “empirically under-determined” would be completely unsurprising.

        Mackie essentially has one positive argument and one negative one for error theory, the former is based on the lack of a moral consensus in different cultures and the latter is essentially him trying a reductio ad absurdum on the denial of error theory (based on the alleged metaphysical absurdity or moral properties and the impossibility to epistemically access them even if they would exist (meaning that their non-existence would be indistinguishable from their existence)).
        I find both ways very unconvincing, the positive way because he doesn´t charitably (at least IMO) discuss alternative explanations for the observations he describes and he exaggerates those observations grossly. I think there is a kernel of truth in what he talks about, in the sense that *some* widespread moral judgments are indeed arbitrary and have no objective truth values – one good example would be the judgment that it is morally bad to have sex with a woman who is on her period, I think that many cultures arrived at this judgment due to shared psychological and emotional traits (disgust to be precise), but that the judgment itself is indeed morally arbitrary / neutral. I completely disagree with Mackie when he tries to generalize this. Regarding the negative way, I think this is also poorly argued but this would take an essay-length answer.

        I’m beginning to think that the “infinite regress” option is the correct one

        I do too, although I unlike you strongly doubt that this refers to an actually infinite regress – but whether or not this is the case is pragmatically irrelevant since it is logically unknowable.

        • lack of a moral consensus in different cultures

          If you like this topic, I suggest taking a glance at Paul E. Griffiths’ What Emotions Really Are: The Problem of Psychological Categories, and perhaps The Emotions: A Philosophical Introduction. Studying how emotions work differently in different cultures may be a way to step one level toward an ontology. I haven’t yet read enough of either of those to tell you more than this: some emotions are indeed common across cultures, while others seem more culture-shaped. Figuring out which is which may well shed some light. Oh, and C.S. Lewis looked at the question of “moral consensus”—are you aware of his collections of “morals” from different cultures? There’s one at the end of The Abolition of Man, and probably Mere Christianity.

          *some* widespread moral judgments are indeed arbitrary and have no objective truth values

          What if this is more like the lack of any sort of ontology whatsoever in quantum physics? Maybe we just haven’t done enough research to break past some level of “reaching for the ontology”. Right now, there are many plausible interpretations, and we need more data to adjudicate. Well, when it comes to quantum physics, perhaps we need to test new domains (like GR picks out domains that F = ma doesn’t distinguish); when it comes to morality, maybe we need better data, more ethical experiments, etc.

          I do too, although I unlike you strongly doubt that this refers to an actually infinite regress – but whether or not this is the case is pragmatically irrelevant since it is logically unknowable.

          Yep; do you have thoughts on whether one thinks differently based on whether one thinks one way, vs. the other?

      • @Luke:

        A quick addendum to:
        “But, given a secular foundation, both of us can participate – that´s why I do not understand on what grounds you can say that there are better alternatives than the secular one.”
        – When I said this, I was referring to your claim that “most people have much agreement at the broad level”, with which I completely agree. And what I mean here, is that a secular foundation can be sufficiently broad to allow (virtually) everyone to participate in public discourse on issues of morality and politics, while an explicitly religious foundation would be too specific. I´m not saying that all secular foundations are sufficiently broad enough (Marxism–Leninism for example most definitely would not be broad enough), but, say, the constitutions of western democracies (and some other countries like the Republic of South Africa) are and they at least seem to me to be immeasurably better to me than all explicitly religious alternatives that have been tried out so far.

        • When I said this, I was referring to your claim that “most people have much agreement at the broad level”, with which I completely agree. And what I mean here, is that a secular foundation can be sufficiently broad to allow (virtually) everyone to participate in public discourse on issues of morality and politics, while an explicitly religious foundation would be too specific.

          I’m trying to argue that we need an in-between:

               (A) phenomenological agreement
               (B) “comprehensive doctrine” disagreement

          A lot of secular discourse seems to be too close to (A). It doesn’t attempt to “reach toward the ontology”. Can you see how being too close to (A) would be problematic? And when I say (B), I actually mean something like Leibniz’s Monadology, in the sense that we only ever “see through a glass darkly” as to the actual ontology. And so, given this fuzziness, we must be really careful about being too certain that we’ve figured it out.

          Phrased religiously, if research on morality is learning God’s will, and God’s will is on the same order of ‘complexity’ as his ways, and if his ways are unfathomable, then we must always be tentative, never certain. Indeed, I would argue that certainty = idolatry. Certainty = “the picture of the thing is the thing“. And yet, isn’t that what Ex 20:3–6 warns against?

          A bit more religion: I propose that “hard heart” = “I’ve figured out the ontology”. Now see Jer 31:31–34 and Ezek 36:22–32. It is also instructive to see instances in Ezekiel of heart and hearts.

      • One thing Smith does in The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse is show how the “harm foundation” (also discussed in Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind) seems simple until you dig into the details. It is in the details where there can be a ton of disagreement. Indeed, one of the things Smith does is show how the more you investigate this “harm foundation” and try to apply it like a lawyer would need to, it starts looking very weird—not at all like the simplistic version. I can illustrate this, if you would like.

        Yup, a specific example would be nice (also, if Smith provides it, what he suggests as an alternative and why he believes that this alternative would work better).

        So, Smith is probably perfectly happy to state that everyone agrees at the highest-level. What he claims is that this agreement may not be sufficient. John Rawls’ overlapping consensus, required for his Political Liberalism to be a valid model for a polity, may shrink until the theory cracks. It would shrink because different ontologies would simply not agree enough—they would have some common phenomenology, but not enough. Does this make sense?

        Dunno, I cannot think of a real world example that would illustrate what you / Smith mean here, so it would be good if you could provide one.

      • Oh, and C.S. Lewis looked at the question of “moral consensus”—are you aware of his collections of “morals” from different cultures? There’s one at the end of The Abolition of Man, and probably Mere Christianity.

        I have been made aware that Lewis did something like that (haven´t read it though) and I do find the general notion plausible. As I said, I disagree with Mackie here and I think that he grossly overstated his case – I don´t know how many people would agree with Mackie but there are certainly not only theist scholars who disagree with him, there are atheist scholars as well who collected data and conducted research that undermines Mackie´s positive argument for error theory, the one I´m most familiar with would be Steven Pinker (Pinker´s views re morality are very neatly wrapped up in this article – http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 – very highly recommended).

        What if this is more like the lack of any sort of ontology whatsoever in quantum physics? Maybe we just haven’t done enough research to break past some level of “reaching for the ontology”. Right now, there are many plausible interpretations, and we need more data to adjudicate. Well, when it comes to quantum physics, perhaps we need to test new domains (like GR picks out domains that F = ma doesn’t distinguish); when it comes to morality, maybe we need better data, more ethical experiments, etc.

        But the question is a more basic one, it´s not about whether quantum logic is the last word regarding the foundation of logic or not, it is rather about whether this approach (grounding the laws of logic empirically (in a way that could be revised as physics progresses)) is a valid one in the first place – pragmatically this doesn´t matter much because we´ll just use whatever works but the philosophical implications are huge, particularly for nominalism vs realism.

        Yep; do you have thoughts on whether one thinks differently based on whether one thinks one way, vs. the other?

        Since both ways are pragmatically indistinguishable (and not just approximatively indistinguishable but rather absolutely and necessarily), I fail to see how this *could* make any difference.

        • This was fun!

          (Pinker´s views re morality are very neatly wrapped up in this article – http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 – very highly recommended).

          That’s a well-written article, but parts of it seem to me incredibly ignorant. Just FYI, I see Pinker as part-genius, part-deluded-idiot. For this comment, I’m going to focus on what I see as erroneous; elsewhere, I’ve been very impressed with his (i) promotion of the importance of Milgram experiment § Results; (ii) criticism of the adoption of tabula rasa in the beginning of the 1900s. Some quickies:

          1. The ‘safe’ incestuous sex could be wrong if sex has damaging psychological consequences which we would prefer not exist (this hearkens back to where we agree that A, B, and C are bad to do sexually, but I would add D, E, and F, with which you would vehemently disagree).

          2. Tearing up the flag could be wrong if it had psychological consequences that break down a belief and respect for national unity. The consequences need not be conscious; they can be subconscious.

          3. Eating the accidentally killed family pet could be wrong if this sets up psychological states which reduce a respect for “sufficiently complex life”.

          4. The trolley problems ignore important aspects: (i) why did society evolve to allow this dilemma to happen; (ii) what are we going to do to make this dilemma happen less frequently; (iii) can we ask the single person to self-sacrifice and let him/her say “no”?

          5. An implicit, unacknowledged, absolute morality undergirds Pinker’s views, in precisely the same way that Hume thought he was discovering absolute morality, instead of just failing to take into account parochial social facts. For more, see Hilary Putnam’s The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy.

          6. An utter failure to discuss “who is a person”; distinctions made here have undergirded slavery, the Holocaust, etc. etc.

          7. Failure to see how memes could 100% overpower genes, and what the consequences of that would be. And so, there can be a battle between the mental and the physical, which tends to be denied by scientists in my experience. After all, physicalism is true, amirite? Queue my request: Philosophy on nonlocality outside of physics?

          Here’s a [partial] sketch of a study which needs to be done:

               A. there are a set of abilities A_i with strengths S_i
               B. different people have different S_i, on (0, 1)
               C. maximal thriving occurs with communally balanced S_i

          I can’t state the rest formally, so I’ll sketch it for now. It is possible to gain power by moving toward balanced S_i, and the structure of that power tends to form a hierarchy of people. Empirical evidence shows that the greater the power disparity, the more power disrupts rationality (Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice). Distrust prevents people from properly balancing out each other’s S_i. People prefer to blame others instead of themselves for failures, requiring the development of an “us vs. them” in order to scapegoat. Refusal to take responsibility also stymies the democratization of power, which would prevent the shift from rationality → rationalization, which happens when there are power disparities (which I just said is borne out by the evidence).

          Furthermore, what needs to be worked through is not just the “field equations” (awesome illustration), but also the starting and ending boundary conditions—and they can be somewhat fuzzy. If you don’t do that, you’re simply fucked. And even more than that, milestones toward the ending conditions probably need to be established—again, there can and probably needs to be fuzziness (after all, we only “see through a glass dimly”).

          Finally, we must talk about those situations in which it is either “me or him/her”, “me or them”, “us or him/her”, and “us or them”. That is, when, at a given instant, one side must benefit more than the other (which includes one side benefiting while the other suffers). It’s even illustrated in the picture of Pinker’s article, with two business women headed to a single taxi cab. If we don’t talk about these situations—where choice is involved—then we’re just pretending to talk about morality.

          You know my “small ∆v model of free will”? Well, take the infinitesimal, dv, think of “field equations” as differential equations, and then go from there. Oh, and one can always take higher-order derivatives. Maybe the way free will percolates into reality is from infinitesimal tweaks on an infinitely high-order derivative. This would be an ontological foundation which could never be observed directly, although we could perhaps discover higher and higher derivatives, ad infinitum. One could even use a common word for “becoming conscious of higher and higher derivatives”: [self-]transcendence. One might just need an outside cause for that.

          P.S. Pinker needs to read and absorb Donald E. Polkinghorne’s Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences (Google Books preface), and probably Mark Turner’s The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language. He knows you need a model of human nature, and not just tabula rasa. But has he got a clue as to the right one—or more precisely (given the “reaching for ontology”, “through a glass dimly” doctrine), a good enough model?

          Now some quotes from the article:

          Secular philosophy is in the business of scrutinizing all beliefs, including those entrenched by authority and tradition.

          Really? I wanna see the self-criticism, and from what standpoint it happens. Show me that nothing whatsoever is assumed, or if there actually is something assumed, then don’t fucking use the word “all”. (Want a candidate for an error here?: Why accept the law of non-contradiction but not some kind of holism, like the folks of the East do? I predict cosmology will drive us to holism, if it hasn’t already. Noether’s theorem, in conjunction with another premise, might actually imply holism, but I need to check on this.)

          In reality, none of these fears are warranted, and it’s important to see why not. The first misunderstanding involves the logic of evolutionary explanations.

          This is one of the most fucking ignorant things I have ever read. This guy thinks that people are logical and pay attention to evidence! Yeah, ok. Let’s just start with two instances: (i) Social Darwinism; (ii) what intellectuals managed to believe about Communism in the USSR. Try this: those demagogues? Yeah, they usually aren’t scientists. They usually get power. Power corrupts rationality. Conclusion? “these fears are warranted”. How Pinker can’t see that society is driven by fear these days, I have no idea. Does he not see that fears can be easily retargeted by good manipulators? He needs a dose of The Third Wave.

          Now this just sets up a competition for potential beneficiaries to inflate their reputations without making the sacrifices to back them up. But it also pressures the favor-giver to develop ever-more-sensitive radar to distinguish the genuinely generous partners from the hypocrites. This arms race will eventually reach a logical conclusion. The most effective way to seem generous and fair, under harsh scrutiny, is to be generous and fair. In the long run, then, reputation can be secured only by commitment. At least some agents evolve to be genuinely high-minded and self-sacrificing — they are moral not because of what it brings them but because that’s the kind of people they are.

          “a logical conclusion”: does it get reached now, or only as t → ∞, with plenty of massive fluctuations between ‘appearance’ and ‘truth’ in between? Details, details.

          And if, on the other hand, God was forced by moral reasons to issue some dictates and not others — if a command to torture a child was never an option — then why not appeal to those reasons directly?

          Because you need an ontic, accessible truthmaker. Otherwise there’s no way to [even probabilistically] guarantee that you aren’t “pretending to know what you do not know”, to channel Boghossian. Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition is quite well-named.

          The other external support for morality is a feature of rationality itself: that it cannot depend on the egocentric vantage point of the reasoner. If I appeal to you to do anything that affects me — to get off my foot, or tell me the time or not run me over with your car — then I can’t do it in a way that privileges my interests over yours (say, retaining my right to run you over with my car) if I want you to take me seriously.

          LOL he thinks deception doesn’t work really fucking well. He should read Jacques Ellul’s The Political Illusion and Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. And, if he’s up for it, Alasdair MacIntyre’s Whose Justice? Which Rationality?. Oh, and since he lies genealogy of morals: Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition. As it turns out, your creation myth matters.

          The moral sense, we are learning, is as vulnerable to illusions as the other senses. It is apt to confuse morality per se with purity, status and conformity.

          Yeah, we’re only just learning this; the authors of the Bible had no fucking clue about this. Now, I see that he admits in the next paragraph that wise men have long known some things, but there’s still this idea that Now Science Knows™, Salvation is Near™! Sadly, I have to give this one to Pinker, due to how retarded most of us have gotten about the Bible. Orthodox Jew Yoram Hazony does some fantastic debunking of this stupidity in The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. For example:

          The Bible is often said to advocate an ethics of obedience. But I suggest that this view involves a serious misreading of Hebrew Scripture. Nearly all the principal figures throughout the biblical corpus are esteemed for their dissent and disobedience—a trait the biblical authors associate with the free life of the shepherd, as opposed to the life of pious submission represented by the figure of the farmer. (23–4)

          For those who whine about the “infinite interpretations hypothesis”, my response is simple: the Bible is, among other things, a Rorschach test. (Heb 4:12–13)

          Leon Kass: “[…] Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder.”

          There are, of course, good reasons to regulate human cloning, but the shudder test is not one of them.

          Oh I see, so because a function of the brain has been used badly, there’s no way to use it properly! Oh, ok. So what are we to do? Go with Steven Pinker’s personal flavor of rationalism, and reject all others as heresies?

          like nuclear power

          Kudos for this. Coal power kills slowly, but ultimately more than non-Russian nuclear power ever has. Chernobyl was (i) a terrible reactor design; (ii) caused by engineers being told to perform an operation they knew would lead to meltdown—but hey, do this or you definitely die. Individualistic game theory for the win! It’s easy to find (i); (ii) may be harder. The amount of propaganda which has been spread against nuclear power is mind-boggling. Did the fact that Fukushima was Dumb-o-shima and that, uh oh, political incorrectness: a shame-based society is going to hide problems as long as they can, make it to the public consciousness? I don’t think so. Another win for Jacques Ellul’s idea of a “political fact” (which is not necessarily true, nor false).

          Far from debunking morality, then, the science of the moral sense can advance it, by allowing us to see through the illusions that evolution and culture have saddled us with and to focus on goals we can share and defend. As Anton Chekhov wrote, “Man will become better when you show him what he is like.”

          I eagerly look forward to Pinker showing us a moral ontology which we can epistemically access with sufficient reliability. Wait for it, wait for it…

          No? Hume, is that you? Still can’t formulate causality, except via pretending?

      • I’m trying to argue that we need an in-between:

        (A) phenomenological agreement
        (B) “comprehensive doctrine” disagreement

        A lot of secular discourse seems to be too close to (A). It doesn’t attempt to “reach toward the ontology”. Can you see how being too close to (A) would be problematic? And when I say (B), I actually mean something like Leibniz’s Monadology, in the sense that we only ever “see through a glass darkly” as to the actual ontology. And so, given this fuzziness, we must be really careful about being too certain that we’ve figured it out.

        Phrased religiously, if research on morality is learning God’s will, and God’s will is on the same order of ‘complexity’ as his ways, and if his ways are unfathomable, then we must always be tentative, never certain. Indeed, I would argue that certainty = idolatry. Certainty = “the picture of the thing is the thing“. And yet, isn’t that what Ex 20:3–6 warns against?

        I am generally enthusiastic about “in-betweens” (looking for golden means between two extremes is afaict, one of the best heuristics for moral decisions) but this is right now too abstract for me – I don´t see what that would mean in practice. The case for secularism is largely a pragmatic and empirical one (just like the case for democracy IMO) – what parts of the US constitution would you amend and how? What laws need to be abolished or established? Or in other words – what *exactly* needs to be improved about the status quo and on what grounds do you believe that this would lead to an improvement.

      • 1. The ‘safe’ incestuous sex could be wrong if sex has damaging psychological consequences which we would prefer not exist (this hearkens back to where we agree that A, B, and C are bad to do sexually, but I would add D, E, and F, with which you would vehemently disagree).

        I don´t see what exactly you are objecting to here.

        2. Tearing up the flag could be wrong if it had psychological consequences that break down a belief and respect for national unity. The consequences need not be conscious; they can be subconscious.

        This objection boils down to “yes, people generally struggle to justify their moral judgment that tearing up the flag is immoral, but if there were negative consequences of that, then there would be negative consequences of that, which would make it wrong”. You are simply pointing out that there could be such consequences, and there surely could be, but people generally are not aware of those (and you don´t seem to have any evidence for specific harm that this action would cause either) and the point is that they are making the moral judgment anyways, despite having no justification ready – and that is what Pinker is trying to understand.

        3. Eating the accidentally killed family pet could be wrong if this sets up psychological states which reduce a respect for “sufficiently complex life”.

        See above, you missed the point completely – your reaction is “Hah! *I* can find a reason for why this would be bad” – but Pinker pointed out that people *generally* are unable to find such reasons but make the judgment anyway, and *this* is what he is trying to understand.

        4. The trolley problems ignore important aspects: (i) why did society evolve to allow this dilemma to happen; (ii) what are we going to do to make this dilemma happen less frequently; (iii) can we ask the single person to self-sacrifice and let him/her say “no”?

        I could add roughly two dozen further aspects that Pinker didn´t discuss, but you realize that this was a NYT article?

        5. An implicit, unacknowledged, absolute morality undergirds Pinker’s views

        Wrong, what Pinker talks about – observations about how people do make moral judgments – is just that, observations, empirical facts that do not presuppose any particular moral philosophy, if some noncognitivist philosophy would be true for example, this wouldn´t change anything whatsoever about what Pinker wrote. Maybe something about the last parts where he discusses (very briefly) the weaknesses of several moral philosophies (note though that he nowhere explicitly endorse any particular meta-ethical view).

        6. An utter failure to discuss “who is a person”; distinctions made here have undergirded slavery, the Holocaust, etc. etc.

        Beside the point, because Pinker discusses how people make moral judgments, he doesn´t discuss which of those judgments (if any) are wrong.

        7. Failure to see how memes could 100% overpower genes, and what the consequences of that would be.

        Beside the point, Pinker discusses what people do, not what people could potentially do in some alternative reality or hypothetical future.

        You know my “small ∆v model of free will”? Well, take the infinitesimal, dv,…

        I can´t. Because it is an incoherent idea. It´s like you saying “imagine that you could literally pull yourself up at your bootstraps to levitate”, me replying “that is impossible because no external force is being applied to your body when you pull at your own bootstraps” and you replying “ok, maybe I cannot pull my bootstraps to fly to the moon, but maybe I can pull at my bootstraps to fly just a little, just a tiny ∆h over the ground” – something impossible doesn´t become possible by making it very small.
        Note that I am not being dismissive here, I really do find your idea to be impossible to conceive because it is not a logically consistent one.

        Really? I wanna see the self-criticism, and from what standpoint it happens. Show me that nothing whatsoever is assumed, or if there actually is something assumed, then don’t fucking use the word “all”.

        Observe people seriously (well, not really IMO) questioning cogito ergo sum: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogito_ergo_sum#Criticisms .
        Yes, every-fucking-thing is questioned.

        This is one of the most fucking ignorant things I have ever read. This guy thinks that people are logical and pay attention to evidence! Yeah, ok. Let’s just start with two instances: (i) Social Darwinism; (ii) what intellectuals managed to believe about Communism in the USSR. Try this: those demagogues? Yeah, they usually aren’t scientists. They usually get power. Power corrupts rationality. Conclusion? “these fears are warranted”. How Pinker can’t see that society is driven by fear these days, I have no idea. Does he not see that fears can be easily retargeted by good manipulators? He needs a dose of The Third Wave.

        And you need some Valium. What Pinker actually said boils down to “people fear x because they think that x entails y, but here´s why x doesn´t entail y” and your reply boils down to “This fucking asshat genuinely believes that all humans are hyper-logical Vulcans that are physiologically incapable of doing y”.

        And if, on the other hand, God was forced by moral reasons to issue some dictates and not others — if a command to torture a child was never an option — then why not appeal to those reasons directly?

        Because you need an ontic, accessible truthmaker. Otherwise there’s no way to [even probabilistically] guarantee that you aren’t “pretending to know what you do not know”, to channel Boghossian. Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition is quite well-named.

        Yeah, you know, there are some smart objections to the Eutyphro dilemma. And there are some not so smart ones. This one here belongs to the latter category. You quote Pinker stating the FIRST horn of the dilemma (that Gods commandments are “good” because of “moral reasons” that are external to him and NOT “good” because it was God who gave the commandment) and then you reply “Because you need an ontic, accessible truthmaker” – but this presupposes the SECOND horn of the dilemma (i.e. that which is right is right because it is commanded by God). Your reply is not even wrong but I´m sure it felt good to insinutate that Pinker is as stupid as Boghossian is.

        The other external support for morality is a feature of rationality itself: that it cannot depend on the egocentric vantage point of the reasoner. If I appeal to you to do anything that affects me — to get off my foot, or tell me the time or not run me over with your car — then I can’t do it in a way that privileges my interests over yours (say, retaining my right to run you over with my car) if I want you to take me seriously.

        LOL he thinks deception doesn’t work really fucking well. He should read Jacques Ellul’s The Political Illusion and Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. And, if he’s up for it, Alasdair MacIntyre’s Whose Justice? Which Rationality?.

        Yeah, well, I actually strongly doubt that Pinker believes that and it doesn´t actually follow from what he wrote because he explicitly talked about a request that is a) rational and b) one that a second party can take seriously.
        And he further points out that this somehow also explains for why things like the golden rule transcend cultures and were discovered independently in different cultures and ages. But while we are busy with charitably reading people, did you know that some guy by the name of Jesus actually said “do to others what you would have them do to you”? LOL! This moron thinks that deception doesn´t work really fucking well, he should read him some Pauling if he´s up for it:
        “I have something that I call my Golden Rule. It goes something like this: ‘Do unto others twenty-five percent better than you expect them to do unto you.’ … The twenty-five percent is for error.” (note that I am not implying that Pinker is like Jesus, I just wanted to give you an impression of what it would look like if someone were to read the NT as charitably as you read Pinker and with your current attitude)

        Yeah, we’re only just learning this; the authors of the Bible had no fucking clue about this. Now, I see that he admits in the next paragraph that wise men have long known some things, but there’s still this idea that Now Science Knows™, Salvation is Near™! Sadly, I have to give this one to Pinker, due to how retarded most of us have gotten about the Bible.

        Well, the important thing is that you can feel superior about it.

        Oh I see, so because a function of the brain has been used badly, there’s no way to use it properly! Oh, ok. So what are we to do? Go with Steven Pinker’s personal flavor of rationalism, and reject all others as heresies?

        Again, an outstandingly charitable reading of:
        “There are, of course, good reasons to regulate human cloning, but the shudder test is not one of them. People have shuddered at all kinds of morally irrelevant violations of purity in their culture: touching an untouchable, drinking from the same water fountain as a Negro, allowing Jewish blood to mix with Aryan blood, tolerating sodomy between consenting men. And if our ancestors’ repugnance had carried the day, we never would have had autopsies, vaccinations, blood transfusions, artificial insemination, organ transplants and in vitro fertilization, all of which were denounced as immoral when they were new.”
        – your outrage is of course completely justified and your interpretation of the text is totally not bugfucking nuts.

        I eagerly look forward to Pinker showing us a moral ontology which we can epistemically access with sufficient reliability. Wait for it, wait for it…

        Yeah, if Pinker would have intended (or even pretended) to deliver something like that, this reaction might have made some sense. What he actually did was a) outline some observations about how humans reason morally, b) an attempt to catalog and explain some of the emerging patterns observed in a), and c) argue that this kind of research does not lead to an abandonment of morality but can rather improve moral reasoning because it can help people to better understand themselves, which would arguably be useful no matter what moral philosophy you personally subscribe to. But sure, saying that he didn´t provide a moral theory of everything is of course a totally rational way to criticize the text. I eagerly look forward to Jesus showing us a moral ontology which we can epistemically access with sufficient reliability. Wait for it, wait for it…..

        No? Hume, is that you? Still can’t formulate causality, except via pretending?

        That is the most random string of words that I´ve seen in a while….

  7. A virtue ethicist hmmmmm – well a virtue ethicist might say that the virtues of friendship, honour, tolerance from experience of brokenness, and loving kindness found in the best gay relationships obviously are conducive to ‘human flourishing – and it is these virtues we should look at rather than obsessing about say anal sex) which the homophobic neo Calvinist Mark Driscoll has advocated for heterosexual couples wihtout too much of a backlash – although he deserves a backlash for many reasons IMHO – his oppressive idea is that men must have anal sex with their wives when their wives are having a period to prevent the men from becoming sexually frustrated!!!! – it’s not optional for a woman – it’s compulsory). They also might say that the lack of virtue 0 a b lance of characteristics that promote human flourishing – displayed by Christians who scapegoat and hate and indirectly promote the killing and torture of gay people are not conducive to human flourishing and not actually protective of the family as an institution that we all should treasure.

    • A virtue ethicist hmmmmm – well a virtue ethicist might say that the virtues of friendship, honour, tolerance from experience of brokenness, and loving kindness found in the best gay relationships obviously are conducive to ‘human flourishing

      Do you think that it’s possible to mistake some form of ‘love’ for agape when it is not? C.S. Lewis argues this in both Till We Have Faces and The Great Divorce. One could argue that the reason we ought to love God first, and only then love our neighbors, is that agape is not agape unless it is grounded in truth. What would you say to this?

      Note that I am ambivalent on whether all homosexual sex is sinful. My conscience simply does not come down hard, either way. Instead, I have sympathies with stuff like:

      • CT’s When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity (pdf)
      • NYT’s The Death of Adulthood in American Culture
      • CT’s Why Can’t Men Be Friends
      • Chap Clark’s Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers
      • Christian Smith’s moralistic therapeutic deism

      Even if all homosexual sex were sinful, I don’t think it’s anywhere near to being the most important sin plaguing the world, contra John MacArthur’s “what is the worst earthly expression of man’s fallenness and that is homosexuality”, where one gets the idea that homosexuals are worse than the Pharisees as Jesus describes them in Mt 23:15 (“twice as much a child of hell”). If we look at passages like Ezek 16:49–50, we see that prior to the “abomination” committed in Sodom, comes “pride, excess of food, prosperous ease”, and refusal to “aid the poor and needy”. Indeed, Jewish Encyclopedia’s ‘Sodom’ indicates that it was against the law to help the poor! My surmisal is that the inhabitants of Sodom had nothing better to do than sexual immorality, noting of course that the ‘abomination’ they did was: homosexuality + inhospitality + rape. That whole set is called ‘abomination’. I see a possibility for non-sinful homosexuality.

      Finally, there is what a friend calls “the Romans 1–2 smackdown”: after 1:24–32, Paul turns on the hypocrites who claim to be holy and not exhibiting those things, when they actually are. And thus:

      You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Rom 2:23–24)

      So, you know those people who say that homosexuality is destroying America? I believe Romans 2:24 is aimed directly at them (among other people). If anything, homosexuality is a symptom, not a cause. What’s the cause? It’s right there in the first chapter: (i) suppressing the truth; (ii) refusing to give thanks to God. Now, of course many folks will claim, “We aren’t doing these things!” Here’s one way to evaluate such people:

      But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Tim 3:1–5)

      You know Mars Hill Church? Let’s see: (1) lovers of money; (2) proud; (3) arrogant; (4) abusive; (5) disobedient. Maybe more, but I am quite confident of those, given what Warren Throckmorton has posted. What does one then conclude? That Mars Hill Church had “the appearance of godliness”, while in spiritual reality, they were “denying its power”. The Holy Spirit? Nowhere to be seen or felt—driven out by (i) suppressing the truth; and/or (ii) refusing to give thanks to God. Now, rinse & repeat with other churches which make homosexual the “worst sin”.

      In summary: treat the cause, not the symptom. The cause is not homosexuality. This is 100% scriptural.

      • If anything, homosexuality is a symptom, not a cause. What’s the cause? It’s right there in the first chapter: (i) suppressing the truth; (ii) refusing to give thanks to God.

        Srsly? You actually believe that gay people are “(i) suppressing the truth; (ii) refusing to give thanks to God” and that is why they are gay?

        • Srsly? You actually believe that gay people are “(i) suppressing the truth; (ii) refusing to give thanks to God” and that is why they are gay?

          How did you not see that I waffle on whether homosexuality is a sin? Interpret what I said in that light, please! For example, one could easily interpret that bit in Romans as people who are heterosexual, being twisted into thinking they’re homosexual, without the implication being that every single person who thinks he/she is homosexual, is actually a confused heterosexual. Let’s get our logic perfectly clear, and wash off the shit that smears this whole discussion.

      • How did you not see that I waffle on whether homosexuality is a sin? Interpret what I said in that light, please! For example, one could easily interpret that bit in Romans as people who are heterosexual, being twisted into thinking they’re homosexual, without the implication being that every single person who thinks he/she is homosexual, is actually a confused heterosexual.

        And that´s the point where you lost me completely, this is word salad afaict.

        • And that´s the point where you lost me completely, this is word salad afaict.

          (1) Do you think it is possible for a heterosexual to get so twisted/​confused/​perverted/​whatever that he/she engages in homosexual sex?

          (2) Do you think some heterosexuals could get so confused that they self-identify as homosexuals?

          N.B. Neither of these questions is predicated upon the assumption that all homosexuals are confused heterosexuals. One could add additional meaning to (1) and (2) by assuming that monogamy is very important, but this is not required for them to be answerable questions in their own rights.

      • (1) Do you think it is possible for a heterosexual to get so twisted/​confused/​perverted/​whatever that he/she engages in homosexual sex?

        It is not at all unusual for heteros to experiment with gay sex. You´ve been to college, so you probably know that, don´t you? What that has to do with “…get so twisted/​confused/​perverted/​whatever…” however, given the context, is a mystery to me.

        (2) Do you think some heterosexuals could get so confused that they self-identify as homosexuals?

        Nope, afaict, that kind of “confusion” is pretty much limited to people who are actually bisexual. But again, I have no idea how that is supposed to be relevant.

        • It is not at all unusual for heteros to experiment with gay sex. You´ve been to college, so you probably know that, don´t you?

          Ehhh, I only ever got the slightest of whiffs of that. I went to a very, very nerdy school. That changes such dynamics. I didn’t hang out only with the “pretty Christians”, but I also didn’t go and e.g. see how easy it would be to get drugs.

          Nope, afaict, that kind of “confusion” is pretty much limited to people who are actually bisexual.

          This is a very interesting claim. How do you justify it? Many people get confused in many ways, including very confused; why in this particular instance do you think that never happens?

          But again, I have no idea how that is supposed to be relevant.

          It is relevant, because I am open to the possibility that one can be confused in the (1)/(2)-manners. Suppose this is possible. Then, we could read Rom 1:18–27 as targeting not all people who engage in homosexual sex, but merely those heterosexuals who get so confused that they think it’s a good idea to “try it out”.

          Are you open to thinking through all this under the premise that monogamy is extremely important—which would preclude experimentation? My understanding is that many conservatives see the LGBT movement as an attack on monogamy. Add to this the premise that shifting from a non-monogamous lifestyle before marriage → strictly monogamous lifestyle after marriage is very difficult, and you get an argument that experimentation threatens the stability of two-parent families.

          Note that I’m merely trying to understand arguments, here. If there’s too much “word salad”, or if this becomes too frustrating for you, I would prefer to merely drop the matter. There are other things upon which I would much prefer to spend my “frustration energy”.

          ———

          The above being said, I do have a kind of horse in the game. It is based on evidence. First, from Chap Clark’s Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers:

              During this study, I witnessed several episodes of anger related to sexual activity gone awry, from a cold shoulder after a one-night stand to a near-violent breakup after months (and in a few cases years) of intimate dating and sexual experimentation. I heard story after story of betrayal, misunderstanding, regret, and self-hatred. I watched countless midadolescent boys and girls develop apparent indifference and even callousness in response to the pain they experienced as a result of highly intimate yet uncommitted sexual relationships. In many cases, I found that behind the defensive joking and flippancy students were burdened by a heavy cloak of genuine sadness. In many students, I witnessed the heartache, emptiness, and loneliness that followed the loss of an implied promise of love and sexual activity. Even social science research is beginning to recognize that non marital sexual activity and intimacy can have measurable negative consequences.[11] What follows is a snapshot of my observations as well as a sampling of the current research on adolescent sexual behavior and attitudes. (129–130)

          Chap Clark doesn’t focus just on sex (it is one chapter of thirteen). Her summary findings were that teenagers are extraordinarily lonely; sex is one means they use as a salve for loneliness, but its success rates are questionable and it has appreciable cost.

          Another data source is Christian Smith’s Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood:

          Smith identifies five major problems facing very many young people today: confused moral reasoning, routine intoxication, materialistic life goals, regrettable sexual experiences, and disengagement from civic and political life. (dust jacket)

          If these are even close to being true, then it would appear that there are truly bad ways to deal with sex, and it is important to do less of them. This isn’t to say that anything approaching “biblical morality” is the answer, it is merely to say that there are at least many wrong answers, and that we are doing a really shitty job in avoiding them, despite having enough knowledge to do a lot more to avoid them than we are. This concerns me. To not pay due attention to this matter (whether you, personally do, I do not know) is, in my book gross, if not evil, negligence. The attitude, “it’s just sex” appears to be false, based on the evidence, at least for a statistically significant number of people.

          And so, the evidence indicates that maybe ‘experimentation’ can leave terrible, lasting scars, at least for some persons. And so, I propose doing the best we can to protect people from such scars, without doing stupid things (like killing them so they won’t get scarred).

      • It is relevant, because I am open to the possibility that one can be confused in the (1)/(2)-manners. Suppose this is possible. Then, we could read Rom 1:18–27 as targeting not all people who engage in homosexual sex, but merely those heterosexuals who get so confused that they think it’s a good idea to “try it out”.

        Are you open to thinking through all this under the premise that monogamy is extremely important—which would preclude experimentation? My understanding is that many conservatives see the LGBT movement as an attack on monogamy. Add to this the premise that shifting from a non-monogamous lifestyle before marriage → strictly monogamous lifestyle after marriage is very difficult, and you get an argument that experimentation threatens the stability of two-parent families.

        Note that I’m merely trying to understand arguments, here. If there’s too much “word salad”, or if this becomes too frustrating for you, I would prefer to merely drop the matter. There are other things upon which I would much prefer to spend my “frustration energy”.

        ———

        The above being said, I do have a kind of horse in the game. It is based on evidence. First, from Chap Clark’s Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers:

        During this study, I witnessed several episodes of anger related to sexual activity gone awry, from a cold shoulder after a one-night stand to a near-violent breakup after months (and in a few cases years) of intimate dating and sexual experimentation. I heard story after story of betrayal, misunderstanding, regret, and self-hatred. I watched countless midadolescent boys and girls develop apparent indifference and even callousness in response to the pain they experienced as a result of highly intimate yet uncommitted sexual relationships. In many cases, I found that behind the defensive joking and flippancy students were burdened by a heavy cloak of genuine sadness. In many students, I witnessed the heartache, emptiness, and loneliness that followed the loss of an implied promise of love and sexual activity. Even social science research is beginning to recognize that non marital sexual activity and intimacy can have measurable negative consequences.[11] What follows is a snapshot of my observations as well as a sampling of the current research on adolescent sexual behavior and attitudes. (129–130)

        Chap Clark doesn’t focus just on sex (it is one chapter of thirteen). Her summary findings were that teenagers are extraordinarily lonely; sex is one means they use as a salve for loneliness, but its success rates are questionable and it has appreciable cost.

        Another data source is Christian Smith’s Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood:

        Smith identifies five major problems facing very many young people today: confused moral reasoning, routine intoxication, materialistic life goals, regrettable sexual experiences, and disengagement from civic and political life. (dust jacket)

        If these are even close to being true, then it would appear that there are truly bad ways to deal with sex, and it is important to do less of them. This isn’t to say that anything approaching “biblical morality” is the answer, it is merely to say that there are at least many wrong answers, and that we are doing a really shitty job in avoiding them, despite having enough knowledge to do a lot more to avoid them than we are. This concerns me. To not pay due attention to this matter (whether you, personally do, I do not know) is, in my book gross, if not evil, negligence. The attitude, “it’s just sex” appears to be false, based on the evidence, at least for a statistically significant number of people.

        And so, the evidence indicates that maybe ‘experimentation’ can leave terrible, lasting scars, at least for some persons. And so, I propose doing the best we can to protect people from such scars, without doing stupid things (like killing them so they won’t get scarred).

        Dude, you are all over the place. And you also only seem to consider binary extremes – either you stay a virgin until your wedding night or you engage in anything goes sexual anarchy, I know that there are people who live(d) according to either mantra, but seriously, how many have you met? Also “it would appear that there are truly bad ways to deal with sex” – you don´t say… Do you seriously think that there are plenty of people who genuinely believe that, say, barebacking the cheapest hookers you can find on a weekly basis is a healthy and good life choice? And “Her summary findings were that teenagers are extraordinarily lonely; sex is one means they use as a salve for loneliness” – srsly, on what planet are these people living? (when you were a teenager – how many girls desperately wanted to fuck you just because they felt lonely at the moment? If the number is zero, which I somehow strongly expect it is, you might want to consider the explanation that this is fundagelical propaganda that has little to do with the lives of actual teenagers or young adults in the real world)
        Somehow this Stephen Fry quote comes to mind here:
        “It’s the strangest thing about this church – it is obsessed with sex, absolutely obsessed. Now, they will say we, with our permissive society and rude jokes, are obsessed. No. We have a healthy attitude. We like it, it’s fun, it’s jolly; because it’s a primary impulse it can be dangerous and dark and difficult. It’s a bit like food in that respect, only even more exciting. The only people who are obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese, and that in erotic terms is the Catholic Church in a nutshell.” (I know that you were quoting evangelical and not catholic authors, but the same principle applies – there is a vast ocean of grey between the black and white extremes here)

        • Dude, you are all over the place.

          You didn’t explain how this was the case. If your goal is to show me how I do such things—things which are obviously bad and there’s a good chance I evaluate them as bad—then making a bare assertion is highly unlikely to help, as I am an extremely self-critical person.

          And you also only seem to consider binary extremes

          Do I? Or am I instead, identifying the extremes, without always saying we should sit at one? A guiding passage here for me is Eccl 7:15–18. Sometimes I really do think a point on an extreme is best—but not always. And I don’t think you can show anything close to this ‘always’—can you?

          – either you stay a virgin until your wedding night or you engage in anything goes sexual anarchy, I know that there are people who live(d) according to either mantra, but seriously, how many have you met?

          I am generally not privy to this information, with the people with whom I generally associate. But there is always the question: are even a few steps in the direction toward “sexual anarchy” healthy, in the long-run? It is an incredibly hard question to ask rigorously, because a person either lives his/her life one way, or the other, and people are incredibly good at self-justifying, so that they will tell themselves that their choices were the best ones. This makes it pretty hard to measure these things.

          Also “it would appear that there are truly bad ways to deal with sex” – you don´t say… Do you seriously think that there are plenty of people who genuinely believe that, say, barebacking the cheapest hookers you can find on a weekly basis is a healthy and good life choice?

          No; I do not appreciate my views caricatured like this. We don’t have to continue talking about this issue, if you cannot help yourself.

          And “Her summary findings were that teenagers are extraordinarily lonely; sex is one means they use as a salve for loneliness” – srsly, on what planet are these people living?

          Given the times you’ve ask for an example of someone who does X—because you don’t think there is such a person—and I find such an X—I simply don’t trust your sampling as being representative.

          fundagelical propaganda

          It may be; I explicitly said “If these are even close to being true,”. Are you open to the possibility it is not propaganda? Are you open to the possibility that conducting an unbiased study might be incredibly hard, given that people often are very attached to their ideas on sexuality—whether prude or promiscuous? This would obscure all research on topics like this.

          Somehow this Stephen Fry quote comes to mind here:
          “It’s the strangest thing about this church – it is obsessed with sex, absolutely obsessed.

          I agree. I think there is a tremendous obsession with symptoms and not causes. However, this doesn’t guarantee that the phenomenological results are necessarily false; it just means the ontology might be wrong. Unless bad ontology always grossly perverts phenomenology? If you want to claim that, I have some questions for you.

          No. We have a healthy attitude.

          And you know this—how? You can’t try it both ways, not on this topic.

      • Do I? Or am I instead, identifying the extremes, without always saying we should sit at one? A guiding passage here for me is Eccl 7:15–18. Sometimes I really do think a point on an extreme is best—but not always. And I don’t think you can show anything close to this ‘always’—can you?

        Nowhere in anything you write about this issue do I see anything even remotely resembling the experience of an *average* person, you have the teenagers getting high all the time and fucking people they barely know just because they feel lonely right now, and the virgin-until-wedding night. This is like discussing drugs and only considering the alternatives of never ever touching any drug, cigarette, alcohol etc.pp. or being high 24/7.
        This is way too far detached from the real world.

        No; I do not appreciate my views caricatured like this. We don’t have to continue talking about this issue

        I didn´t caricature your views. You said “it would appear that there are truly bad ways to deal with sex” as if it were something noteworthy or non-obvious and I used an example to show that it is actually completely trivial and obvious.

        Given the times you’ve ask for an example of someone who does X—because you don’t think there is such a person—and I find such an X—I simply don’t trust your sampling as being representative.

        The times is “one” and you didn´t actually find such a person because you misunderstood what Mike D said, but the number you complain about this non-issue is getting very high.
        Also, this is a red herring – I asked “what planet are these people living on?” because this is an extreme that is presented as if it were normal and common, but it isn´t, and it doesn´t magically become common if you now start looking and actually find one or two girls who indeed do like to fuck random strangers just because they feel lonely right now.

        And you know this—how? You can’t try it both ways, not on this topic.

        Of course you can, you can live the life of a celibate for twenty years or however long you´d like to try it and then try the other extreme. I´m not saying that this would be a good idea, just like trying morbid obesity first and then trying anorexia to see if either extreme works for you is probably not a good idea.

        • Nowhere in anything you write about this issue do I see anything even remotely resembling the experience of an *average* person,

          I don’t trust your view of what constitutes “an *average* person”, given (a) your caricaturing; (b) previous experience with kinds of people you had never met, people I was able to quickly find and present to you. That’s fine; we all have parochial experiences when we don’t try really hard to escape our particular milieus.

          you have the teenagers getting high all the time and fucking people they barely know just because they feel lonely right now, and the virgin-until-wedding night.

          Ummm, are you getting that from the Hurt quotation? If so, read it more carefully. I’m understanding less and less this black and white thing you claim I’m doing. How about some very specific quotations?

          I didn´t caricature your views. You said “it would appear that there are truly bad ways to deal with sex” as if it were something noteworthy or non-obvious and I used an example to show that it is actually completely trivial and obvious.

          No, here’s what went on:

               (1) I claimed there are some bad ways to deal with sex.
               (2) I suspect that monogamy might be important.
               (3) You think some sorts of experimentation are ok.
               (4) You allegedly agree with me on (1).

          We vastly disagree—clearly, based on this conversation—on what might constitute “bad ways”. We both agree that A, B, and C are bad ways. But I probably think D, E, and F are also bad ways. You appear 100% unwilling to even conscience the idea that D, E, and F could possibly be bad ways. But you avoid making this clear, by caricaturing my view and equivocating between (1) and (4), despite the gross mismatch between (2) and (3).

          The times is “one” and you didn´t actually find such a person because you misunderstood what Mike D said, but the number you complain about this non-issue is getting very high.

          And if it is closer to 3–5? You’d have to make your Disqus history public for me to find them; otherwise you’d ‘win’ this point due to the extraordinary effort it would take.

          Of course you can, you can live the life of a celibate for twenty years or however long you´d like to try it and then try the other extreme.

          You don’t understand; the judgment I am making is, at end-of-life: Which way to live would have been better, been more fulfilling? Sorry if I’m not clear, but it should be obvious that our ideas of what constitute goodness/human thriving are rather unarticulated right now. This leaves many possible interpretations open.

  8. Here’s some stuff I already have Marc – I hope it’s useful 🙂

    C.S. :Lewis on Homosexuality – a compassionate conservative view

    Asked by Sheldon Vanauken for help in dealing with homosexual friends, Lewis summed up: “All I have really said is that, like all other tribulations, it must be offered to God and His guidance how to use it.”

    . In 1955, Lewis said he saw “much hypocrisy” on the topic. He sensed, in heterosexuals, “a certain nausea” around it, and rightly noted: “I think that of very little relevance to moral judgment.” (Antigay crusader Robert Gagnon uses “repulsive” and “disgusting” in dealing with the “abomination” (to’evah), at Leviticus 18:22. He’s on point in that the term, to’evah, points to what’s culturally disgusting, e.g., ingesting non-kosher food (Deut 14:13) or, for pagans, to eat with Jews (Gen 43:32). The category is cultural, not moral; a term of taboo, not sin. But today “abomination” is taken to signal the worst sin.)

    Lewis asked rhetorically: “Is it then on Christian grounds? But how many of those who fulminate on the matter are in fact Christians?” He asked this long before the Religious Right’s antigay harangues. But it’s still an appropriately rhetorical question. “And,” Lewis mused, “what Christian, in a society as worldly and cruel [as ours] would pick out the carnal sins for special reprobation? Cruelty is surely more evil than lust and the World at least as dangerous as the Flesh.” He concluded: “The real reason for all the pother is, in my opinion, neither Christian nor ethical. We attack this vice not because it is the worst but because it is, by adult standards, the most disreputable and unmentionable, and happens also to be a crime in English law.”

    Ron Belgau, a celibate gay Christian, says: “When I read Lewis’s words on homosexuality when I was 17, it is no exaggeration to say that his humility and realism preserved the credibility of traditional Christianity for me.” A gay Christian brother replies to Belgau: “My reaction to Lewis was much like yours when I read him at 19. It was a relief to finally find a Christian who did not despise me and find me disgusting just because I was attracted to other guys.”

    Arthur Greeves and Lewis were closest friends from childhood. Throughout life, Lewis exchanged more letters with him than with any other correspondent. Greeves told Lewis about his homosexuality in 1918 and the 19-year-old Lewis replied: “Congratulations old man, I am delighted that you have had the moral courage to form your own opinions independently, in defiance of the old taboos. I am not sure that I agree with you: but, as you hint in your letter, this penchant is a sort of mystery only to be fully understood by those who are made that way—and my views on it can be at best but emotion.” Back then, Lewis called himself an atheist, but he did not “christianize” his response on this in any of their correspondence down to his death in 1963. And, in 1933, Lewis dedicated The Pilgrim’s Regress, his first Christian book, to Greeves.

    In 1960, Lewis wrote to Delmar Banner (the painter and homosexual) to say that he supported decriminalization of homosexuality and added (in his habit of abbreviation) that he stood with “the persecuted homo against snoopers and busybodies.” Banner was married to sculptor Josefina de Vasconcellos, a devout Christian. She learned early on that it was to be a sexless marriage. It lasted 53 years. She died at 100, 22 years after his death.

    No doubt Lewis would not have been disturbed over the recent demise of the “ex-gay” movement. In God in the Dock, a posthumous collection of his essays, he wrote: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

    Homosexuality and scripture – the case for loving tolerance.

    In the OT Concubinage is OK

    Having lots of wives is OK

    The idea of ‘being one flesh’ which in New Testament Greek terms means becoming one soma (living body) and not one sarx (the dead flesh metaphor for all things not turned to God) first occurs in Genesis. And then what do we find? – the Patriarchs accorded the status of Saints and wise godly Kings have far more than one wife and many have concubines too. Concubines are sort of surrogate mothers with some legal rights but without the status of a wife – far easier to get rid of – St Augustine had a concubine – the mother of his child; and when he became a Christian he cast her off brutally). One flesh is actually a metaphor for true intimacy – it’s telling us that sex should not be divorced from love and care and commitment in God’s creation. To interpret it more narrowly makes most godly men in the OT sinners and very probably many in the NT too (it was only; a Bishop in those days who was limited to one wife). This has become obsolete on other grounds which are proper developments of the basic laws of love that Jesus taught IMHO.

    In the Torah if a woman is raped and doesn’t cry out load enough (if she’s virgin) she’s not only damaged goods she is to be stoned to death with the rapist

    I’m not sure that David and Jonathan did bond homoerotically but David’s utterances suggest thewarrior eroticism found in other culture nearby….. so it’s a possibility. I think homoeroticism between them would have been perfectly acceptable in their culture as long as they stopped short of anal sex (see below)

    Old David is comforted by having Abishag the Shulamite maid in bed with him – his counsellors want to see if he is still virile enough for arousal. This we know – and lots of other stuff too in the OT fit this pattern.

    It’s all very much from the man’s point of view is OT law – and it’s about virility and women being child bearers/breeders on the whole – although there are significant minority voices in the OT of women and speaking for the dignity of women as there are significant minority texts that are no racially exclusive and xenophobic but universal in their idea of the scope of God’s love.

    Sodom and Gomorrah – is a big clobber text – although it’s not about lesbianism- but it’s about gang rape to dishonour guests/strangers – and real love of strangers has always been a perilous thing to advocate to the masses – but in the best and truest parts of the OT it is advocated. There is nothing to say the crowd was of gay men – the crowd is everybody involved in a common act including women and children come to watch or participate in some way (by holding down those being humiliated?). Heterosexual men in honour shame cultures get aroused by making men they are humiliating play the passive/feminine role in sex (it is one of the saddest examples of how sex can be completely twisted by power – and it is expressed in a naked form of aggression and motivated either by desire nor procreation). It happens a lot in Americas today in more brutal prisons promoted in their brutality by the Christian right. It happens a lot in war. Lot offers the crowd his daughters to rape instead of the strangers he is looking after – another troubling detail. And one of the later prophets says that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was that they did not do justice for the poor and abused strangers.

    Leviticus on male gay acts being an abomination? It’s acts between men that’ is being called ‘tobeah’ and that’s not the word for an abomination in the eyes of God but for a cultural taboo – like the taboo against eating crabs and shrimps and pork. There are equivalent laws in other near east cultures about stoning gay men. But in these cases – in the code of Hammurabi for example – man on man rape is allowed by a superior upon an inferior – whether this is an aristocrat doing it to a serf or a solder doing it to a prisoner. But in Leviticus both partners are to be stoned. But again the same code stipulates that a woman who does not cry out loud when raped is to be stoned with her rapist. I don’t find loads about women’s sexuality in the OT.

    In the NT Jesus has nothing to say about it. He breaks purity taboos regarding tobeah’ all over the shop – like when he heals the woman who is afflicted with haemorrhage etc, etc. etc The story of his healing of the Centurion’s Slave is not certain evidence of Jesus ‘sympathy towards gay people – but it is very probable that the Centurion and his servant/slave were in a gay relationship – especially because the Centurion loves him so much. This was common (and at the very least Jesus doesn’t ask questions here – not even for the sake of reassuring his Jewish audience – even if we grant him telepathic powers). There is some perverse argument that says to believe this is to suggest the centurion was a paedophile –because the word for his slave also means ‘child’. But a ‘child’ in Roman law was the legal word given to slaves. They had no status in law – just like children. A master could kill his slave if he wanted to without any questions being asked. Likewise a father could kill his children. But this centurion loves the slave who has the duty of washing him all over every day, looking after his armour, and of begin a bodyguard in battle to him.

    With Paul – words for sexual immortality crop up in his vice lists of a rather indistinct meaning. Those to do with homosexuality – aresenkoites for examples seem to always have the force of an aggressive act of rape. He also disapproves of soft boys – meaning male prostitutes.

    The first chapter of Romans is the major clobber text – but I think it all depends on where the paragraph breaks are put in by editors regarding the rhetorical force of this passage – is Paul actually saying – we all know about these wicked pagans and the vile things they get up to and yes are they vile – but wait a minute, don’t get too smug ,you lot are no better. That certainly is part of his message.

    He does seem to be talking about a pagan orgy presided over by a castrated priest where normal social roles were reversed. The passage is heavily based on the Septuagint Book of Wisdom – wvi would have e been recalled to mind in the orgies audience -where pagans are aware of the glory of the stars, sun and moon but fall to worshipping the creation rather than the beautiful Creator.– but instead worship idols and engage in child sacrifice, and orgiastic rites Heterosexual men in intoxication became homosexual, women strapped false penises themselves and buggered the men. These rites were the prelude to animal or sometime even wrathful human sacrifice – the records of them are extensive. And after this frenzy the people went home and got on with their ordinary lives – only half remembering what they had participated in. The first chapter of Romans echoes words for word the Book of Wisdom in the Septuagint that describes exactly this practice resulting from idolatrous sacred rites

    The first Church father to see the women described in the passage as begin lesbian was St John Chrysostom in the fifth century – prior to that these women were seen as deflowerers of men. John Chrysotom was also the first Christian Father to write a vitriolic anti Semitic homily – a very carnal piece of writing against the ‘sensuous Jews’

    Put it this way, the evidence from new Testament that loving gay relationships can even be thought of in Jewish circles at those times is thin. But then again the abolition of slavery could to be thought of – nor the emancipation of women and children, nor secular democracy as opposed to tyranny or theocracy. I don’t think the outworkings of the Gospel are confined to the pages of the Bible. These set up the dynamic – but the Gospels is always bearing new fruit as we look to respond with loving kindness and justice to our own times..

    • Lewis wrote this:

      We attack this vice not because it is the worst but because it is, by adult standards, the most disreputable and unmentionable, and happens also to be a crime in English law.”

      Lewis may have been right at the time – I was not there – but gay marriage was not a thing when Lewis was around. It probably never even entered his mind, since Lewis wrote of the complementarity of the sexes very often. If you want to see some of Lewis’s most straightforward statements on controversial marriage issues read his sci-fi novel “That Hideous Strength”. Lewis obviously saw the differences between men and women as being critical to a marriage. He flat-out says that he doesn’t believe in equality of the sexes, and he says that understanding this is paramount if you want to have a successful marriage. It’s a very interesting scene, in fact, and not the least reason is because of how incredibly scandalous it is to say that nowadays. Indeed, if you read the book you get the impression that that was a controversial statement at the time as well, let alone now.

      Anyway, hah, love to see that I’ve started a mini flame war. Back to my original point, I merely note that from a “virtue ethics” perspective you still need to justify why exactly something is considered ethical or not; otherwise talk of sins that harm absolutely nobody at all, like my fictional bigot, is meaningless. Natural law does just such a thing (what, you knew I was going there, right?), and once again when it comes to this issue I can sketch out the basics and defend what I can (I don’t want to run away either), but probably the best thing I can do for everybody who wants to “get” where I and Catholics in general are coming from is to encourage all of you to read Dr. Feser. I FINALLY got Feser’s “Aquinas” (an audiobook of all things), and will be reading it shortly, but his blog is a brilliant gold mine.

      • Natural law does just such a thing (what, you knew I was going there, right?), and once again when it comes to this issue I can sketch out the basics and defend what I can (I don’t want to run away either), but probably the best thing I can do for everybody who wants to “get” where I and Catholics in general are coming from is to encourage all of you to read Dr. Feser.

        I have read some of what he wrote about natural law (all on his blog though, I haven´t read any of his books), but the reasons for why some kinds of recreational sex are ok while others are not – like why natural family planning is ok but withdrawal is not or why sex between heterosexual partners who are sterile can be ok but never between homosexual partners – still seems like a mere double standard to me. I just searched for “menopause” on his blog and this is an example of what he writes:
        “Hence there is nothing inherently wrong with sex during pregnancy, or during infertile periods, or with a sterile spouse, or after menopause. And there is nothing inherently wrong with using broad mental reservations — which do not actually convey falsehoods but merely express truth in an oblique way — even though one knows that one’s listener will in fact probably draw the wrong conclusion.

        Nor does anything said here entail that man-made devices are per se contrary to nature in the relevant sense. The reason contraception is objectionable from a natural law point of view is not because it involves the use of drugs in the case of the birth control pill, or artifacts in the case of condoms. The use of drugs to treat impotence, or of eyeglasses to improve vision, are not “unnatural” in the relevant sense, despite the means being artificial, because they do not involve using a faculty contrary to its natural end. Indeed, these means restore or enhance the faculties’ power to realize their natural ends. By contrast, the “withdrawal method,” though it does not involve the use of any artificial devices or drugs, is unnatural in the relevant sense, because it does involve using a faculty contrary to its end.”
        => I fail to see the argument here, why for example is sex during infertile periods ok but withdrawal is not? Lets say a couple uses natural family planning, meaning that they sometimes avoid having sex although they would like to have it, and instead wait for a time when she cannot conceive and have sex then – how can you be consistent and say that this is acceptable but withdrawal is not? Why is withdrawal supposed to be “using a faculty contrary to its end” while deliberately avoiding sex during fertile phases and instead waiting for infertile phases so you can deliberately(!) have sex for fun instead of having sex for reproduction would *not* be “using a faculty contrary to its end”?
        Also, can a faculty only have one “end” for natural law theorists or more than one? If it is just one, what is the justification for that? If more than one – why do natural law theorists consider no other end than reproduction here?

        • You are right, actually, about a few things. There are absolutely more ends than *just* reproduction for sex, but reproduction is simply the primary end. Pleasure is a valid thing to consider when having sex, but it is a secondary pleasure as compared to reproduction.

          And the difference between withdrawal and NFP is that when you withdraw you ejaculate outside of the vagina.This is the equivalent of masturbation, meaning that you are not *really* having sex – you stopped and ended up ultimately pleasuring yourself.

          And you’re right, and Dr. Feser pointed this out in one of his comments sections I believe, that NFP is moral in less circumstances than most people believe. You need a very good reason to avoid having kids. Making life more difficult for you if you have a kid is not an excuse. Now, making it virtually *impossible* for your family to lve a reasonably satisfying life – that’s a good excuse. The mother being in danger if she gets pregnant – that’s a good excuse. You get the picture.

      • Alright, this would lead me to the following questions:

        1. You say that the reason for why withdrawal is not ok while NFP is, is that the former involves ejaculating outside a vagine while the latter does not, which reduces the former act to an instance of “pleasuring yourself”. However, you also say that the primary end of sex organs is *reproduction*, you didn´t say that it was ejaculation inside a vagina – the former requires the latter but the two are (oviously) not equivalent.
        So which one is it? Is the primary end reproduction or is it ejaculation inside a vagina? If it is the former, then I don´t see how NFP could ever be moral from a natural law perspectively because the couple chooses to have sex in a way that actively prevents the primary end of sex, just like it would be the case for withdrawal.

        2. So there are multiple ends and reproduction is the primary one. Now, you say that “satisfaction” would be one secondary end (I presume “bonding” would be another), and it also seems to be the case that it is fine for heterosexual couples which are sterile to have sex anyway, despite the primary end of sex not being an option. Now, think carefully – why exactly can this not apply to a gay couple in a committed monogamous relationship?
        I cannot think of an objection that would work here. The objection that the gay couple cannot marry might work from an explicitly sectarian (e.g. Catholic) point of view, but I fail to see how it could work based on nothing but natural law alone (if you disagree – what would be the natural law argument for why you need a catholic wedding ceremony before you can have sex with your wife?). That leaves the objection that gay sex usually involves body parts other than penises and vaginas, which were not “designed” for sexual pleasure. However, this objection fails on two accounts IMO: a) the body parts that are sensual are most definitely not limited to the penis and the vagina, which means that assigning the secondary end of deriving sexual satisfaction to those two organs but not every other sensual body part is special pleading. And b) even if no body parts other than penis and vagina actually do have the secondary ends of deriving sexual satisfaction, that would only matter if their primary end would be frustrated by using them to derive sexual satisfaction (at least that is my understanding of natural law here), but that is not the case for virtually all gay sex practices, so that is irrelevant as well.

      • But NFP doesn’t frustrate the primary end of sex, because you are not doing something artificial to prevent conception, merely taking advantage of a biological reality normal for all people.

        Ejaculation inside of vagina is tied up in the main (not only) final end of sex; to ejaculate outside of a vagina (I appreciate how frankly both of us are speaking about this, by the way, which is rare) is different from using NFP because you are specifically frustrating the natural end of sex as opposed to merely taking advantage of the biological reality inherent in the human reproductive system – a good analogy might be going on a diet vs. forcing yourself to vomit food. It’s not perfect but it gets at the right idea.

        The difference with gay couples seems rather obvious to me, but I suppose it can be a bit confusing. Gay sex cannot even in theory be moral; there is no way for two gay people to have sex and have it result in a child, in any circumstance. You’re not taking advantage of a biological reality, but doing something entirely different not even designed for reproduction. That’s a frustration of the primary end.

      • But NFP doesn’t frustrate the primary end of sex, because you are not doing something artificial to prevent conception, merely taking advantage of a biological reality normal for all people.

        Ejaculation inside of vagina is tied up in the main (not only) final end of sex; to ejaculate outside of a vagina (I appreciate how frankly both of us are speaking about this, by the way, which is rare) is different from using NFP because you are specifically frustrating the natural end of sex as opposed to merely taking advantage of the biological reality inherent in the human reproductive system – a good analogy might be going on a diet vs. forcing yourself to vomit food. It’s not perfect but it gets at the right idea.

        That… does make sense, you´ve convinced me that NFP is morally acceptable from a natural law perspective.

        The difference with gay couples seems rather obvious to me, but I suppose it can be a bit confusing. Gay sex cannot even in theory be moral; there is no way for two gay people to have sex and have it result in a child, in any circumstance.[1] You’re not taking advantage of a biological reality, but doing something entirely different not even designed for reproduction. That’s a frustration of the primary end.[2]

        You are making two points here. For the first one, you can generalize this to “it is never moral for a sterile couple to have sex because this sex cannot possibly result in reproduction”. But you are not making this generalization and rather apply this principle to gay couples but not to heterosexual couples. And I am asking how you justify that. Your justification seems to be that it is possible for some(!) hetero couples to reproduce while it is never possible for gay couples. But it is also never(!) possible to reproduce for, say, elderly couples, they however are still allowed to have sex if they are hetero. So how is it not a double standard to exclude gays from this principle?
        Regarding your second point. As far as I can tell, if you use something in a way that frustrates its primary end, that would make the action immoral from a natural law perspective. However, if you use it in a way that it was not designed for, but also doesn´t frustrate its primary end, that would be morally neutral. Example: my legs were not made to operate the brake and gas pedal of my car, but using them in this way doesn´t frustrate their primary end unless I stop walking completely and the muscles in my legs atrophy – so using my legs to drive a car occasionally doesn´t frustrate their primary end and is therefore neither morally good nor morally bad, it is rather morally neutral. Would you agree? If not, why? So, to take an example specific for gay sex, consider a lesbian couple engaging in cunnilingus – can you think of any primary end of any body part being *frustrated* here? I can´t (but it does involve the secondary ends of some body parts – deriving sexual satisfaction, bonding etc.). So, given that no primary ends are being frustrated. how exactly is that bad from a natural law perspective?

      • @Malcolm
        Something in a different but related matter, while we are talking about the subject:
        As you probably know, I don´t believe in nature being teleological. So what I do here is trying to understand where you are coming from with your natural law perspective. On an abstract level, I can make sense of a sentence like “the primary end of sex is reproduction” and “using a condom frustrates the primary end of sex”, however, if you zoom into the “details”, I have hard time imagining what those “ends” exactly mean for you and especially on what basis they are being identified. To give you a specific example, consider the prostate. The male prostate is a sensual organ in most mammals, humans included (that´s why inserting an electric probe into the rectum adjacent to the prostate is a common technique in animal husbandry to collect semen samples). The way in which the prostate is sensual is completely irrelevant for most “normal” sex positions that can lead to pregnancy because it is not being stimulated – so why is the prostate sensual at all? What was this feature then “designed for”? (note that this cannot be considered to be a disorder of any kind, this is a feature of a healty prostate) I´m reasonably certain that this wouldn´t lead you to assign the secondary purpose of deriving sexual pleasure to the prostate, but based on what argument would you do that? Or, phrased generally, what does the “algorithm” look like for identifying the primary and secondary purposes of things from a natural law perspective?

      • Andy,

        I’ll consider it a small victory that I’ve demonstrated at least one thing convincingly! So you’ll hopefully forgive me if I just answer this last question of yours:

        Or, phrased generally, what does the “algorithm” look like for identifying the primary and secondary purposes of things from a natural law perspective?

        The short answer: I don’t know.

        The long answer: Natural law makes sense to me because, at least for the most part, the conclusions it reaches seem to correspond well to reality. It also makes sense to me because when I research the people who argue in favor of natural law just generally seem to be the most logical and sensible when it comes to these types of arguments and debates. Other moral systems I’ve seen just don’t hold up to debate as well.

        To put it another way: I don’t entirely understand natural law, but what I do understand of it makes a ton of sense to me, and very smart people I admire a lot have made what seem to me to be convincing cases for it.

        So I’m trying, here, not to dodge your questions, since I think that would be cheap and not a little cowardly when I make the claims I do. But in good faith I can’t pretend I have a perfect answer for every single one. When it comes to homosexual sex, I was telling the truth when I said it seemed obvious to me, but I was also telling the truth when I said it could seem confusing. It makes sense to me on an intuitive level, and the fact that the foremost natural law theologians would agree with that intuition is something that I would more or less expect.

        So, ultimately my answer to that question is basically that I know it’s tied up in the final end of sex and the basic nature of men and women, but how exactly the logic works out I haven’t quite fit together yet. I recently got Feser’s “Aquinas” myself and haven’t started it yet; hopefully when I’m done I’ll be able to do a better job in discussions like this.

        As it is, I’m quite happy that I managed to explain the NFP question so well, since it confused me as well for a good long time. Small victories!

      • Moral intuitions are fascinating, I think that we (by which I mean not just you and me, but rather people in general) actually agree much more often about moral questions then we disagree – it is just that we hardly notice the agreements while the disagreements are very noticeable. There also is this phenomenon that we often make moral judgments which seem intuitively obvious, although we have no intellectual justification ready for them at the moment. For the subject of homosexuality, our (and now I mean just you and me) moral intuitions are apparently not overlapping – I´m not gay but it does seem intuitively obvious to me that there is nothing wrong about a gay couple having sex. I´d love to understand how such disagreements between moral intuitions come to be, cultural conditioning most likely plays a role here, but Germany (where I was born) is actually less progressive with regards to gay rights than the USA is, so this is not very plausible as an explanation for this particular case.
        But anyways, thanks for your answers and I very much appreciate your humility – that´s unfortunately a rare attitude.

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