Monday, December 11, 2006

First as Tragedy, then as Farce

Long before the onset of Ted Who, another one bites the dust:

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - The founding pastor of a second Colorado church has resigned over gay sex allegations, just weeks after the evangelical community was shaken by the scandal surrounding megachurch leader Ted Haggard.


Just for a moment, try feeling what it must have been like walking an inch in these shoes, never mind a mile:

On the videotape, which The Post was allowed to view, [Paul Barnes] told church members: "I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy. ... I can't tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away."


The whole concept of morality is meaningless without free will. What will the monotheistic religions do when -- not if -- people finally accept there is no more moral component to sexual orientation than there is to eye color?

Heads hanging in shame would be a good start, followed very quickly by begging forgiveness from the victims.

Doubt it.

76 Comments:

Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I can gin up some sympathy for a poor, abused kid who was raised to hate homosexuality and, mutatis mutandis, himself; and was unable to shake Christian teaching as easily as I was.

We cannot all be born insouciant, speaking of being born one way or another.

But there's nothing -- absolutely nothing -- you can say in extenuation of the Catholic bishops.

December 11, 2006 10:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

What victims? There is nothing in the story you linked to suggest they were minors.

December 12, 2006 4:09 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

Paul Barnes, for a start.

December 12, 2006 5:15 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Interesting. I never knew you think the church's position on gay sex negates free will. OK, but only if you agree they also have apologize to all those pastors who got in trouble having a little heterosexual slap-and-tickle with the church secretary or choir soprano. Deal or no deal?

December 12, 2006 5:26 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Peter:

The point isn't that gays shouldn't refrain from inappropriate relationships, it's that if being gay is just as much out of one's control as what color one is, is, then teaching that being gay is in and of itself sinful, (regardless of whether one acts upon it), is as shameful as teaching that being black is in and of itself a sin.

One might then say, "What of those who do choose to be gay ?", for we know that some people are bisexual, and could be exclusively heterosexual if they must, and some others seek same-gender relationships for other than sexual reasons.

To that I would reply "Why are octaroons considered to be black, instead of white ?"
In other words, logically parsing humans into categories breaks down at the margins.

December 12, 2006 8:54 AM  
Blogger David said...

Once again, Skipper goes to bat for the pederasts.

December 12, 2006 10:20 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

There's a yawning chasm between my point and your comment.

December 12, 2006 12:01 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Oro:

Yes, Skipper's rage on this issue is evident, but more than a little incoherent. He obviously sees some neo-Freudian bottling up here that drives, yes drives, these guys to follow their genetic destiny, with thwarting them (or rather they thwarting themselves)the equivalent of promoting fascism or torture or whatever. But does he have to re-write history? For the umpteenth time, churches and traditional society did not punish feelings or orientations, they addressed actions. Does Skipper think the traditional view was that marriage was sacred because it allowed one to release one's genetic heterosexual impulses? (twitch, twitch). The traditional sin was sodomy, not homosexuality per se. I would have thought the materialists around here might have had some thoughts as to why. In fact, in Britain, it wasn't until the late 19th century, right in the middle of the age of science, that other male homosexual acts were criminalized. To the best of my knowledge, lesbianism never was at all. Anybody want to guess why that was?

I doubt the nuture/nature argument will ever be resolved conclusively, but let us accept for the sake or argument there is a genetic component to gayness. So bloody what? There is a genetic component to all kinds of things. Skipper is just preaching The Playboy Philosophy dressed up as an equal rights issue and seems to now see gay libertinism as positively ennobling. I'll be watching for him in this year's parade.

December 12, 2006 12:21 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

OK, but only if you agree they also have apologize to all those pastors who got in trouble having a little heterosexual slap-and-tickle with the church secretary or choir soprano. Deal or no deal?

No deal. You, too, are failing to ask the right questions.

December 12, 2006 12:28 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Count on religon to take an unpleasant situation and make it both more unpleasant and ridiculous.

Why couldn't he just have preached on the Sermon on the Mount? Was there are big demand for smashing the queers?

Perhaps there was.

December 12, 2006 1:01 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

These gay scandals are a sign that the churches are approaching homosexuality in entirely the wrong way. Someone who has an overwhelming urge for homosexual sex isn't cut out for heteroxexual marriage. Why do they continually insist that they do so? Is it right to lie to a woman about your sexual orientation? Don't you think that a woman has the right to know this about the man she is marrying? How many women would consent to marry a man who has homosexual feelings?

My opinion is that if you are a homosexual, you have no business marrying a woman. Be honest with yourself and with others, and don't live a lie. This preacher's biggest sins are his lies and betrayal toward his wife, not the act of sodomy.

December 12, 2006 2:42 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Count on religon to take an unpleasant situation and make it both more unpleasant and ridiculous.

Why Harry, you old prude. Religion getting too racy for you?

Duck:

Well said. It doesn't amswer all the questions, but it's nice to see someone acknowledge there are other humans involved, not just insatiable, horny genes which must never be denied.

December 12, 2006 3:44 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Being gay and being promiscuous are two separate issues, no ?

December 12, 2006 6:10 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Except in the example of a homosexual man marrying a woman, why is it of any interest to anyone? What is the justification for preaching about somebody else's sex life?

December 12, 2006 7:13 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

How about doing me a favor and, based upon the story, answer the following:

What was the transgression?

Why is it a transgression?

Who committed it?

Who are the victims?

Why are they victims?

Let's take it as stipulated that, while the details remain unknown, homosexuality is as innate, and unchangeable, as eye color (the evidence is just as sound as that for cigarettes causing lung cancer, even though we don't yet know the details.)Should Mr. Barnes have been begging God to take it away?

Yes, Skipper's rage on this issue is evident, but more than a little incoherent. He obviously sees some neo-Freudian [clip] fascism or torture or whatever.

You have been attending the BrosJudd School of Shameless Obfuscation for far too long.

December 12, 2006 7:47 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Let's take it as stipulated that, while the details remain unknown, homosexuality is as innate, and unchangeable, as eye color (the evidence is just as sound as that for cigarettes causing lung cancer, even though we don't yet know the details.)Should Mr. Barnes have been begging God to take it away?

What an extraordinary question. It ranks right up there with Can we agree that the Q'uran contains divine direction that would otherwise be considered evil? from the other thread. Both imply the possibility of God existing but with His judgments or whatever being subject to human override on the ole' righteousness scale. Do you imagine believers as some kind of minority shareholders that get to call the Chairman to account at the annual meeting? Skipper, if you don't believe, just say so, but attacking religion because you think God may exist, but blew it, is passing strange, no?

As to your questions, they are pure J.S. Mill/Hart and can only be answered by saying your opening assumption isn't accepted, no matter how many times you repeat it categorically or draw false analogies to lung cancer, and neither is your implication that only things that manifest immediate, objective, measurable harm to an individual victim (blood and bruises) should be condemned, not just in law, but in social conventions and community relations as well. If that is your view, there is a lot more separating you from most religious people than differences on homosexuality. First things first, Skipper.

And speaking of obfuscation, you continue to refuse to address why, if you are just trying to promote equality, you continue to attribute some tragic nobility to guys like Barnes that I assume you wouldn't see in the hetero world. I think it was Swaggart who got caught with prostitutes about ten years ago. As I recall, the general reaction was that he was an egregious hypocrite who humiliated his family and deserved everything he got. Did you see him as a victim like you do Barnes?

Oro:

Being gay and being promiscuous are two separate issues, no ?

Sure they are, as are having this or that sexual orientation and having sex. But the issue we are dancing around here is whether the word promiscuous can have any meaning at all if the zeitgeist holds that: a) sexual orientation and preference are 100% genetically determined; and b)for reasons of either health or freedom, no one can object to that orientation being acted on, at least by adults. It's fine and dandy to object to prudishness and say this or that faith goes too far or is inhumanly strict, but what happens at the other end of the spectrum? It becomes like when the Duckians fervently deny the existence of morality outside their own personal opinions, but then make full use of the positive import of the word to support their arguments when it suits them. I guess if an alcoholic is anyone who drinks more than his doctor, a promiscuous guy is anyone who gets more than me, right?

December 13, 2006 6:02 AM  
Blogger David said...

Skipper:

You say What will the monotheistic religions do when -- not if -- people finally accept there is no more moral component to sexual orientation than there is to eye color?

Being attracted to prepubescent children is a sexual orientation. Therefore, you are once again defending pederasts.

December 13, 2006 7:08 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Skipper's point seems perfectly clear.

Sexual orientation has no moral component because there is no free will involved.

Acting on an orientation does, whether it is a straight man raping a woman or a pederast abusing children.

December 13, 2006 7:24 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Then why does he see Barnes as a victim? Skipper is assuming the "begging" was about his orientation, and maybe it was up to a point in the sense of an addiction, but the torture for Barnes was clearly his inabilty to refrain from acting on it. Why is that any different than an oversexed hetero pastor who can't stop dallying? Shall we blame the Church because they expect him not to because he is genetically hard-wired to see other women as pretty?

December 13, 2006 8:28 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Won't speak for Skipper, but I see him as a victim because he was raised up to hate homosexuals.

Like the people around me in my youth were raised up to hate black people.

Only it seldom occurred that a child grew up in the South and gradually discovered he was black.

Even a believer can kinda, sorta see how a system of moral teaching that causes people to become deranged may have a few flaws, no?

December 13, 2006 10:09 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Peter:

Well, that's the thing. I don't think that the zeitgeist does hold that either "a" or "b" are true.

In fact, that's the point that Skipper was trying to make - that society should be and is moving towards "a", and that a zeitgeist of "a" will be a better world. (Although, of course, "a" is as wrong as "all gays choose to be gay", but it's the lesser evil, if society is going to hold incorrect truths to be fact).

It becomes like when the Duckians fervently deny the existence of morality outside their own personal opinions...

I can't say with certainty that nobody here does that, but during the several mammoth discussions that we've had about the topic, "the Duckians" have generally agreed that morality is comprised of commonly-held opinions, and that those opinions may or may not match our own personal opinions.

December 13, 2006 12:20 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

"the Duckians" have generally agreed that morality is comprised of commonly-held opinions, and that those opinions may or may not match our own personal opinions.

Not quite, Oro. Morality consists of those opinions you guys wish were commonly held.

A question for Duck and Skipper: I've got this literally overwhelming urge to beat the living snot out of Harry, should we ever have the misfortune to meet. Since I'm male, this urge is at least partly biologically determined. Am I right to consider myself a victim here?

December 13, 2006 12:54 PM  
Blogger David said...

Brit: But again, I can see how someone who is religious comes to that conclusion, but an atheist can't possibly come to that conclusion unless, of course, he is using a secret language for some nefarious purpose of his own.

December 13, 2006 3:35 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

'Cause of course only religious people can be moral...

December 13, 2006 4:46 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, I certainly don't think my moral values match up very evenly with what I take to be the common or garden variety of same.

See my remark about growing up white in the South.

December 13, 2006 4:46 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

David:

You'll have to explain that. Are you saying atheist = determinist?


Joe:

We weren't talking about any particular moral rules but moral rules in general.

So that was a pretty ignorant statement, but you topped it with your second statement. Good work.

December 14, 2006 1:39 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Oro:

Nice try, but we've been down that road before.

From Merriam-Webster:

mor·al) 1 a: of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ETHICAL *moral judgments* b : expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior *a moral poem* c : conforming to a standard of right behavior d : sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment *a moral obligation* e : capable of right and wrong action *a moral agent*.

Note two things about the definition(s). The first is that they refer to behaviour and actions, not to orientations, feelings, yearnings, etc. Tolerance, compassion, understanding, empathy, etc. may all be virtues, but they are not moral or immoral. They may cause us to see moral trangressions as understandable or worthy of forgiveness or less deserving of sanction, but by what philosophical legerdemain do they become "Get out of Jail Free" cards that change the quality of the behaviour itself? You guys would make great left wing sociologists.

The second is that they relate to right and wrong--can't make it simpler than that--not to what is efficient, humane, profitable, popular, functional, what "works", etc. The issue here is not whether religious people are more moral than the non-religious (a mug's game if there ever was one), but whether it is possible to have any sense of the moral without some religious impulse.

Modern secularists, especially secular leftists, love the word moral, but they almost always use it in reaction to some perceived injustice, usually a collective one, not to posit right and wrong behaviour on any objective basis. Thus Harry is still outraged about the immorality of Jim Crow in the south, but judging from his comments on Muslims and Asians, he doesn't relate this to any general basis for treating fellow humans. Does he think it would be ok for me to be prejudiced against blacks if they had been treated much better historically? Skipper has so got his knickers in a knot over historical prejudice against gays that he thinks Barnes' deceit, adultery and breach of trust add up to a Faustian tragedy. Thanks, Skipper, because I've been feeling pretty raw this week about all the irrational moral strictures that have been laid on me all my life by religion, parents, society, etc. I'm tired of the guilt, so I'm stepping out tonight.

I'm guessing this is why you Duckians insist on dredging up and often exaggerating the dark side of religious history and refuse to acknowledge anything positive about it other than some vague sense of self-reliance and self-control. You need all the bad stuff constantly in the forefront as a plinth to support what you see as your sense of morality, but all you are doing is reacting to specific injustices grounded in time and place. In the end you have very little to say to anyone who asks the question : "How shall I live" besides "Whatever". In this regard, what is striking is not that you don't believe, but that you have such contempt for those who do. Never mind God, you guys don't even seem to respect incohate reverance.

Almost all non-marxist secular efforts to ground morality derive in one form or another from J.S. Mill's efforts to define it in relation to objective harm. In the first place, Mill was talking about law, not social cohesion or community values. In the second, modern psychology and other forms of determinism have pretty much destroyed any collective ability to reach a consensus on what that harm is and how to measure it. When Dr. Phil or a modern family court tells a married victim of adultery to "give yourself permission to let go", you can be forgiven for wondering whether we should all learn Esperanto. In the third, Mill renounced it all before he died, acknowledging he had not contributed a thing to advancing human happiness.

So, the question remains, what does the word moral mean to the aggressively non-religious (beyond reminding us incessantly that the Inquisition wasn't it) without re-writing the dictionary? If you want to argue with the marxists that morality is an artifical, noxious religious construct designed to oppress, fine but then don't grab the word to add a little poetic lustre to your own arguments.

December 14, 2006 2:53 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

We weren't talking about any particular moral rules

So you guys are just gasbagging as usual, then? What a relief. For minute I thought we were going to have to try to apply this stuff.

December 14, 2006 5:50 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

I don't wish to know about your haemorrhoid problems, thank you Joe.

December 14, 2006 6:34 AM  
Blogger David said...

Brit: Because in other circumstances you guys think that whatever the culture thinks is moral is moral, by definition. So statements like Skipper's "What will the monotheistic religions do when -- not if -- people finally accept there is no more moral component to sexual orientation...?" and your "Sexual orientation has no moral component because there is no free will involved," while perfectly sensible coming from the religious who believe in objective morality, must be nonsense coming from materialists -- or you have some secret definition of "moral" that allows for objective judging."

O: No, that's OJ's schtick. I accept entirely that atheists can be moral.

December 14, 2006 6:35 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

It's not secret - I explained it in the Story of the Moral thread.

There is the usual problem here of several separate questions becoming confused.

'Moral' is an ambiguous term.

There are 'moral opinions' and 'moral rules'.

Moral opinions are subjective - eg. I think x is wrong.

Moral rules are whatever the society decides is morally acceptable or unacceptable. Moral rules are therefore not individually subjective, even though they are made up of lots of subjective moral opinions.

It is perfectly possible to have a moral opinion that conflicts with the prevailing moral rule of your society. Eg. you might think that witch-burning is morally acceptable. A moral opinion is essentially "I think the moral rule ought to be x".

Although people often refer to an objective morality at a level beyond the moral rule - ie. beyond human affairs - this is illusory, since morality only has any meaning in its application to human relations and actions.

This is why moral rules change over time, and are frequently very grey, vague and debatable.

Not only does recognising this truth about moral rules enable you to ascribe objectivity to morality, it is the only way to salvage any objectivity. Referring to an objectivity beyond moral rules - eg. revealed relgious truth - breaks down the moment somebody disagrees with you about what that revealed religious truth actually is.

December 14, 2006 7:20 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Brit:

Sigh.

A)A moral opinion is essentially "I think the moral rule ought to be x".

No, a moral conviction is that certain actions or behaviours are wrong ipso facto.

B)you might think that witch-burning is morally acceptable

No, you might think burning is an acceptable punishment for practicing withcraft. You might equally think putting them in stocks, fining them $10 or just removing them from the Christmas card list are more appropriate sanctions, while still holding practicing withcraft is morally wrong.

C)Referring to an objectivity beyond moral rules - eg. revealed relgious truth - breaks down the moment somebody disagrees with you about what that revealed religious truth actually is.

No, there is actually very little distinction among the faiths as to what morality is, although there can be wide divergences about sanctions. Also, moral strictures should not be confused with religious obligations or practices that stem from reverence obligations. Orthodox Jews couldn't care less what I eat or whether I drive on Saturday, but they do have views on what does or does not make me a righteous person. Do you imagine David's and my similarity of views on moral issues stems from an agreement on revealed religious truth?

D)This is why moral rules change over time, and are frequently very grey, vague and debatable.

Grey is good, but I think here you are again referring to sanctions or the ways in which we consider them binding, about which there are indeed any number of views. Tell me, which of the Commandments do you think are no longer operative among people who believe in the Commandments? Do you know a lot of people who think seven of them are still in effect, but God repealed the other three?

The Story of the Moral was well argued. The only problem was the title, which should have been The Story of Opinion.

December 14, 2006 10:32 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I don't object to Muslims because they are Muslims but because they behave badly. I agree with you about behavior being paramount, Peter. I certainly don't give a damn what people think in the privacy of their own brains.

There were, in the South, people who believed that blacks behaved badly because they couldn't behave well. I have always conceded that Muslims could behave well if they wanted to.

Big moral difference there, I think.

December 14, 2006 10:38 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

There are 'moral opinions' and 'moral rules'.

In other words, you're aware at some level that your theories are basically piss talk, and you've got sense enough to ignore them when it counts, but you still get your back up when someone else makes fun of them. Normal enough.

December 14, 2006 10:43 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Peter:

Sigh indeed.

A) Same thing - at the level of the opinionater.

B) You're confused here. The morality of "witchcraft" is one issue. The use of burning as a morally acceptable punshment for supposed practitioners of said "witchcraft" is another. I was talking about the latter.

C) On the big moral rules - theft, most forms of killing etc - there's very little difference between anybody. The little things highlight the problems of claiming divinely directed morality. Like eating pigs, or cows.

That's where Skipper's "what works" explanation for moral rules comes in (or doesn't depending on your point of view. I happen to like it, but it is a separate issue).

D) But "The Story of Opinion" wouldn't have been such a nice piece of wordplay...


...talking of which: Joe, you really haven't got the hang of this gasbagging lark, have you?

December 14, 2006 12:04 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Brit:

A) T'is not.

B) The Commandments didn't come with sentencing guidelines.

C) My good man, you know very well this is mainly about sex, with a bit about cursing 'n blasphemy 'n stuff. Cute of you to argue about pork though, one of the hot button issues of our times.

D) So your whole theory of morality is based on the fact you can't find a word to rhyme with opinion?

December 14, 2006 12:38 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

haven't really got the hang of this gasbagging lark

I'm starting to: it's all either obvious, or trivial, or not mentioned. ( I knew there was something in there between murder and hamburger, but could not for the life of me think what it might be. Thanks, Peter!)

December 14, 2006 1:25 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Just those 10 of around 29 or 40 or whatever -- counts differ. The other commandents in Leviticus did come with sentencing guidelines.

There were also the practical demonstrations of how to treat violators: Lot's wife, for example.

I don't share a lot of moral values with religious folks myself. Perhaps mine are not as good. But if you are going to claim religion/god/tradition as the basis of morality, it's a package deal. You have to either swallow it whole, or, if you are not going to swallow it whole, explain to us outsiders why some parts are digestible and others are not.

If they all emanated from the same source.

December 14, 2006 1:28 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Well, Harry, you obviously know your scripture better than I, so I guess I'll have to defer. Hey everyone, we stone Harry tomorrow. Let's meet at City Hall at 6:00 am. Bring your bathing suits.

December 14, 2006 2:09 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Stone him? I thought we agreed we were going to turn him into a pillar of salt.

December 14, 2006 2:37 PM  
Blogger David said...

Brit: You and I and Skipper and Peter all agree that there is some objective standard against which societal morality can be judged, otherwise you couldn't have a moral opinion. The only difference I can see is that, for some reason, you and Skipper deny it.

December 14, 2006 3:26 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'Taint funny, McGee.

As some interpret scripture, that's exactly it.

December 14, 2006 7:00 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

What was the transgression?

There are several obvious transgressions. In chronological order, they are: lying, adultery, and expressing his adultery.

Additionally, there is entrapment. Because of Christianity's attitude towards homosexuality, there was extreme pressure upon Mr. Barnes to lie about how (in Mr. Barnes' context) God made him.

Given the evidence, though, the fact of his being a homosexual isn't a transgression, it just is. (Given the armory women have at their disposal, plus the array of disincentives, the notion someone would, nonetheless choose to be gay begs gob-smacked disbelief.)

Who are the victims?

His wife and children, obviously.

Arguably, his congregation.

And Mr. Barnes himself, as a consequence of God's gift and the ensuing entrapment.

Why [are they transgressions]?

For lying and adultery, the question is self answering.

Entrapment is less so. So far as I know, there is no specific Biblical injunction against entrapment. However, we certainly recognize its moral implications, to the extent that we acquit people of crimes they would not have committed except for the entrapment.

The fact that Mr. Barnes is gay cannot be a transgression. However, according to the Bible his acting upon it is, irrespective of any circumstances. The why of the matter is more elusive. Unlike lying or adultery, which merit mention in the 10 Commandments, the damaging consequences of homosexuality are from self-evident.

What would be the damage to society if every heterosexual consented only to monogamous sexual relations? Obviously, none.

What would be the damage to society if every homosexual consented only to monogamous sexual relations? Perhaps I am insufficiently creative, but I cannot think of any.

If that is indeed so -- and I am all eyes for counter argument -- then we are left with a prohibition that is based solely upon divine revelation, and not on any material consequence whatsoever.

Unless it is not based upon any revelation at all. An alternative explanation is that the injunction is based upon nothing other than ignorance and misogyny.

Ignorance, because, until recently, being homosexual was viewed as a matter of choice rather than fate; understandable, because mentioning that little tidbit of info to humans before they could figure it out for themselves was apparently part of God's plan.

But misogyny -- aren't we talking about men here? IMHO, one of the ugliest aspects of male human nature is the nearly universal aversion to femininity. Some of the worst taunts to a male are variants upon "sissy". The f-bomb is incomprehensible without its roots in misogyny. It is also worth noting that, particularly in the Old Testament, women are scarcely ever mentioned, and when they are, they are nearly always prostitutes.

Given the knowledge and cultural background of those who wrote (whether guided by revelation or otherwise) the Old Testament, it is well within comprehension that male homosexuality was the target of particular opprobrium not because of any harm to the participants, or any threat to society, but rather because pervasive misogyny treated a man taking the role of a woman as beyond the pale.

If that is so, and the reasons to suspect it is far outweigh any alternative, then supporting context-free demonization is to serve the attitudes of those long dead, attitudes which in most other respects you would find utterly repellant.

Therefore, in this tragic story, we have:

-- a man miserable since childhood
-- coerced into lying
-- a woman deceived
-- children devastated
-- and a congregation deprived of a person otherwise apparently very effective at helping keep their "bodies and souls together."

To what end?

As Harry has noted, if it is simply being in thrall to what are alleged to be God's dictates, than picking and choosing are simply not on the cards.

Otherwise, even before deciding what morality is, we need to consider why such a concept even exists: to enable social and intelligent animals to function together. Almost all the strictures we consider moral rules are to this end.

Yet here there is a prohibition having the consequence of greatly increasing human suffering -- that is to say, they had the effect of creating harm -- yet without any visible, never mind corresponding, decrease in harm elsewhere.

What's worse, it turns the whole point of morality on its head. We need morality to protect the weak from the strong, and the few from the many. Instead, for no reason other than OAOB (on account of because) a small minority is demonized for conduct just as indispensable to them as its analog is to you, the source of which is utterly beyond their control.

To put it succinctly, as a matter of morality, the Christian and Islamic attitude towards homosexuals is ignorance standing upon bigotry, understandable only as human nature in action. It is completely incomprehensible as a matter of the role morality is supposed to play in human affairs.

Peter is right about my reaction (but completely at sea as to my reasons): I am incensed because there is absolutely no justification, other than ignorant, misogynistic, scribblings to treat people this way.

I predict that within twenty years, no one (save the same sort of troglodytes that continue to view blacks as sub-human) will demonize monogamous homosexuality in any way, because we will collectively have come to understand that doing so is simply ridiculous. Oh, and there will be no apology to the Mr. Barnes (and wives and children) of the world.

Peter:

Let's take it as stipulated that, while the details remain unknown [snip] Should Mr. Barnes have been begging God to take it away?

What an extraordinary question. It ranks right up there with Can we agree that the Q'uran contains divine direction that would otherwise be considered evil?


I have rarely seen a more glaring category mistake than the one you here made. Presuming Mr. Barnes' homosexuality is innate, then within his theological context, what else could it be except a "gift" from God? How dare he ask for deliverance from what God provided him?

Those are perfectly reasonable questions to ask, given his belief system.

The reason this is a category mistake of the first rank is that my question about elements of the Q'uran consisted of two elements: First, are the cited verses accurate English translations of passages in the Q'uran? That is a solely material question with a yes or no answer. Second, if the answer is "yes", do you consider them evil unless they are, in fact, divinely inspired?

The question regarding Mr. Barnes had to do with internal consistency. The question regarding the Q'uran was material and consequential.

neither is your implication that only things that manifest immediate, objective, measurable harm to an individual victim (blood and bruises) should be condemned, not just in law, but in social conventions and community relations as well.

As I noted above, if a "moral" stricture causes immediate, objective, measurable harm, then it better darn well have a good reason. The Biblical prohibition has here graphically caused a great deal of suffering. Where is the countervailing relief?

Skipper is assuming the "begging" was about his orientation, and maybe it was up to a point in the sense of an addiction, but the torture for Barnes was clearly his inabilty to refrain from acting on it.

I'll tell you what: you forego acting upon your orientation say, forever, and get back to us about "addiction" and "inability".

You can reiterate Webster all you want, but doing so will completely fail to ask you the proper question: Are your moral judgments moral?

You talk about sentencing guidelines. Does it not strike you as odd that lying and adultery, which do impose significant costs upon society, do not come with the death penalty, but consensual homosexuality, which does not, does>


David:

Being attracted to prepubescent children is a sexual orientation. Therefore, you are once again defending pederasts.

I rarely see you descend to ad hominems. Why here? I am defending homosexuality against blanket condemnation, regardless of context. If I am thereby guilty of defending pederasts, then your defense of heterosexuality is just as guilty of defending Internet predators and rapists.

The distinction between context and context free condemnation seems pretty darn clear to me.

I assert, and you have yet to contradict, that there is no moral difference between a heterosexual and homosexual act within identical contexts.


joe:

In other words, you're aware at some level that your theories are basically piss talk, and you've got sense enough to ignore them when it counts, but you still get your back up when someone else makes fun of them. Normal enough.

Wrong enough. At some point, there enough moral opinions change so as to become moral rules. At one time, there were strict moral rules, backed up by opinions, against miscegenation.

Not anymore.

In twenty years, do you still want to defend the judgment that a small minority, through no agency of their own, should be deprived of that which you deem nearly essential?

December 14, 2006 7:31 PM  
Blogger David said...

Skipper: Not ad hominem, ad absurdem. I was pointing out that your argument in defense of a homosexual orientation also could be used without modification to defend pedophilia. In response, you've adjusted your argument to include "context." But context is entirely a social construct; we consider sex with 12 years olds to be a heinous crime. Not so long ago, 12 year olds married.

I'm not sure when I've ever defended heterosexuals. 97% of all the jerks I've ever known have been heterosexuals. In fact, religions tend to be pretty good about this, treating sex outside of marriage consistently regardless of whether it is homo or heterosexual.

December 14, 2006 8:01 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Of course it's funny. Nothing on this earth could possibly be as funny as a sixty year old cracker, nursing a fifty year old grudge, against the Bible.

December 14, 2006 10:09 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

David:

I think I’ve identified the problem. The term "objective" is also ambiguous.

It can mean:

(a) there is one particular set of moral rules that somehow exists in the universe, external and independent of humans, perhaps created by God.

I think this is what you implicitly assume an ‘objective standard’ of morality to mean.

But when I use it, I mean:
(b) the moral rule, or set of moral rules, that I, Brit, think ought to be applied to all humans in all societies.

I assert that it is an observable fact that different societies have different moral rules. So the question I've been trying to answer is: how do I explain that fact?

I insist that my answer to that question does not disallow me from holding a moral opinion that is ‘objective’ in the (b) sense.

So the observation of different moral rules, and the rejection of ‘objective morality’ in the (a) sense, does not require me to hold the opinion that all moral rules are as good as each other.

If you're saying it does require that, you need to explain why.

December 15, 2006 1:45 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Brit:

I assert that it is an observable fact that different societies have different moral rules.

Would you at least agree that your whole argument rests on that observation? In other words, that fact itself has to be accepted to accept the rest of your position?

December 15, 2006 2:27 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Skipper:

Presuming Mr. Barnes' homosexuality is innate, then within his theological context, what else could it be except a "gift" from God? How dare he ask for deliverance from what God provided him?

When religious people talk about divine "character" gifts, they usually mean one of two things. They may mean a rare aptitude like great intelligence or artistic ability and then go on to ask what obligations are on them as to how to use it. Or, they may mean darker things like a substance addiction, character flaw or, yes, gayness or hetero sexual fixations, in which case they come to see it as a gift because, in overcoming it with great pain and difficulty, they learn to become either more loving (outward-looking) or spiritually aware or whatever. But, Skipper, nobody ever says: "Look, my alcoholism is a gift from God, so let's crack open another cold one."

I'll tell you what: you forego acting upon your orientation say, forever, and get back to us about "addiction" and "inability".

through no agency of their own, should be deprived of that which you deem nearly essential?

a small minority is demonized for conduct just as indispensable to them as its analog is to you, the source of which is utterly beyond their control.

Now we get to the nub of the matter. Skipper, your argument is not against two thousand years of religious discrimination against gays. Your rage is against a society that says anything pretty much goes for heteros--hey, it's fun, it's healthy and you go nuts holding it in--but not for gays. No religion ever preached that. Two-three generations ago there were lots of ummarried men and women and they were made to feel just as guilty about sexual activity as your gay friends were until recently. Nobody bought this libertine nonsense, which, by the way, is the true source of misogyny because it eventually leads men to view women as sexual recepticles and to scorn the ones that won't play that game as weird or dysfunctional. But you do and that is why you hate religion so. All religions imply some degree of submission and self-denial and they all build sexual conventions and rules around those notions, quite similar ones. Is that not what you despise? Like a lot modern folk, you talk a lot about political or economic freedom, but the freedom that is most precious to you is to get it on with whomever, whenever, wherever. Woe betide anyone who threatens that, right?

Who are the victims?

His wife and children, obviously


You mean his kids were victims by being born because he had to hide that true orientation? That's really nice. Where are these kids in your happy ending, or rather happy beginning, scenario?

It is also worth noting that, particularly in the Old Testament, women are scarcely ever mentioned, and when they are, they are nearly always prostitutes.

Wow. This is news. This is definitely news.

December 15, 2006 3:09 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Peter:

Well, I have a few different theories about morality. The ones that seek to explain that observation obviously assume that the observation is correct.

December 15, 2006 4:11 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Oh, I see. My turn then. I assert that it is an observable fact that different Brits have different theories of morality.

December 15, 2006 4:50 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

I was pointing out that your argument in defense of a homosexual orientation also could be used without modification to defend pedophilia. In response, you've adjusted your argument to include "context." But context is entirely a social construct; we consider sex with 12 years olds to be a heinous crime. Not so long ago, 12 year olds married.

Having re-read what you said, you must be able to identify the non-sequitor.

The context -- marriage -- and the age at which one is allowed to marry are two entirely different, unrelated, things. You could change the legal age of marriage to 42, and the context within which sex is considered moral remains unchanged.

Further, according to Christianity, marriage is not a social construct, but rather divinely ordained.

I didn't change my argument in any respect. I have long maintained that sex has no inherent moral component; rather, its morality is contingent upon the context within which it takes place. The difference for homosexuals is that there is no context for them that doesn't warrant the death penalty. Why?

Peter:

Skipper, your argument is not against two thousand years of religious discrimination against gays. Your rage is against a society that says anything pretty much goes for heteros--hey, it's fun, it's healthy and you go nuts holding it in--but not for gays.

No. It. Isn't.

My argument is that the "moral" strictures against homosexuality in any context are themselves immoral: they cause no small amount of suffering without any compensating benefit. They demonize a small minority, and the source of that demonization is almost certainly rooted in the parts of human nature against which morality is supposed to protect us.

I completely agree that the most healthy context for heterosexuality is within a monogamous, committed relationship. Religionists are on firm material ground when they decry promiscuity, and are on equally firm ground when they note that women act against their own interests by consenting to sex outside marriage, or at least a firm commitment to that end.

Yet there is no similar context for gays. This is most definitely not asking for some equal opportunity libertinism; rather, I am asserting that the denial of a similar context to gays provides absolutely no benefit, but does come at considerable cost.


You mean his kids were victims by being born because he had to hide that true orientation?

Well, at one level that is what it means. Even there, though, you are off base. Mrs. Barnes would have been instead Mrs. [fill in the blank], and would have had children with a husband not entrapped into living a lie.

However, at another level, the consequences of Mr. Barnes' actions derive entirely from context. Had his paramour been a woman, the consequences would have been essentially the same.

Wow. This [way women are mentioned is] news. This is definitely news.

David Plotz has been Blogging the Bible.

He made that observation somewhere along the way; based upon his quotations, it is accurate.

December 15, 2006 9:07 AM  
Blogger David said...

The Cheshire Cat says:

But when I use ["objective"], I mean ... the moral rule, or set of moral rules, that I, Brit, think ought to be applied to all humans in all societies.

So, by "objective" you mean "subjective?"

Skipper: I'm going to have to think about my response to most of that a little. I'm trying to figure out if this is one of those circumstances in which you unbelievers insist that G-d must be fractally good (that is, so that every action and statement is good no matter how finely you slice them from their context) where as I make no such demand.

On the question of women in the Bible (at least, the Torah), though, I disagree. Starting with Eve and the Matriarchs, there are any number of important women who are not prostitutes.

December 15, 2006 10:29 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

David:

First, you're thinking of Humpty Dumpty, and second, I mean that I am not committed to the view that all moral rules are as good as any other, and therefore that I am disqualified from criticising the morality of any other society, which would be what the moral relativist would say.

December 15, 2006 10:35 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'But, Skipper, nobody ever says: "Look, my alcoholism is a gift from God, so let's crack open another cold one." '

They come pretty close. When I get home, if my wife has fixed her computer problem, I will quote from preacher Ray Hicks of Watauga County, N.C., on that subject. Don't have the book by me here at work.

December 15, 2006 11:17 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

Here is Plotz's take on women in The Bible.

December 15, 2006 11:30 AM  
Blogger David said...

Skipper: Thanks for the pointer. Plotz's point is different from yours. He saying that an unmarried woman in the Bible is likely to be a prostitute.

December 15, 2006 12:26 PM  
Blogger David said...

Brit: Obviously, when I say "Cheshire Cat" I mean "Humpty Dumpty."

December 15, 2006 12:27 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

Then I'll have to take a hit for bad memory.

December 15, 2006 1:19 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'He saying that an unmarried woman in the Bible is likely to be a prostitute.'

Oh, well, that's all right then. Wouldn't ever expect any untoward social outcomes from a moral outlook like that. Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

December 15, 2006 3:05 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Rev. Hicks on alcohol:

'We can't get perfect. We can't live perfect with the flesh. Now, what shows if you've got something, is when you do something wrong, it chastises you back.

'Now, I've been with people, and I can tell you what they've got, if it's drinking, it's drinking. That don't hurt 'em, fer as the Spirit, to take a drink. That just brings the good out of you, if it's in there.'

From 'Snowbird Gravy and Dishpan Pie: Mountain People Recall,' by Patsy Moore Ginns.

Hicks is just my father's age. The drunkenness-is-my-blessing outlook was very common where I grew up.

December 15, 2006 11:09 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

David:

Obviously, when I say "Cheshire Cat" I mean "Humpty Dumpty" - says Tweedledee.

December 16, 2006 2:03 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Harry:

Hmm, how do I put this kindly? I think you have to be verrrry American to believe the practice of them good 'ole boys getting together to thank the Lord for the hooch derives from Judeo-Christianity.

December 16, 2006 3:04 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Wow! I ignore the blog for two days, and all heck breaks loose. Lotta catching up to do.

Joe, bomb-throwing is lots of fun, but why don't you do us a favor and put some of your own views in print so we can have some fun too? Also, we prize verbal virtuosity here at the Daily Duck, and encourage our patrons to move beyond sophmoric excretory allusions, so perhaps this link will aid you in your rhetorical growth.

December 16, 2006 8:05 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

The second is that they relate to right and wrong--can't make it simpler than that--not to what is efficient, humane, profitable, popular, functional, what "works", etc. The issue here is not whether religious people are more moral than the non-religious (a mug's game if there ever was one), but whether it is possible to have any sense of the moral without some religious impulse.

Yes, you religious are so proud about putting no qualifiers on your view of morality, you just believe in what is right, period. You let none of your instincts, feelings or personal judgments impinge on the determination of the moral, you are perfect replicating machines, reproducing the divine information feed onto your neurons with perfect fidelity, every byte of divine information checked for parity.

But it is all nonsense. You construct your view of right and wrong just as everyone else does. You use your own moral instincts and experiences to derive morality. It is subjective, and there is no other way to derive it. Which is good. Taking into consideration what is efficient, humane, profitable, popular, functional, what "works", etc. is a good thing, and results in a morality that is humane, if not perfect.

The objective morality that you guys posit can be described as the "good soldier" morality. Following orders without question. It is not a morality for humans, it is an operating system for an automaton. You don't follow what you posit because you are not automatons, you are humans. I don't understand why you aspire to be automatons, though.

December 16, 2006 8:33 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Peter, we were poor people. That was the only kind of Judeo-Christianity we could afford.

December 16, 2006 9:22 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Duck:

Not at all like automatons. More like auto-ma-don'ts.

December 16, 2006 1:13 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Like "ma don't change the holiday vegetables"?

December 17, 2006 7:32 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Poor Duck, besieged by redneck trolls with undignified notions of fun, and theocraservative robots who're no fun at all. Humblest apologies for saying the word piss to an Englishman, clearly that was out of bounds. Although he is an Englishman who screams and faints dead away at the mere mention of blood, much less the sight of it. Suspect he's really a Belgian, or perhaps even a Canadian.

December 17, 2006 11:23 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

One of things I hold against religion, as practiced in my neck of the woods, is dignity at the expense of humanity.

Better think of a better insult, joe.

December 17, 2006 3:23 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Oh, Harry. You didn't really think it would be that easy to pass, did you?

December 17, 2006 5:25 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Joe:

I don't think anyone objects to undignified redneck bomb-throwing fun per se. Indeed, there's nothing I love more than a high quality slanging match. It's just that you're not very good at it.

Three essentials for bombing:

1) they should be witty, preferably cutting, and if they aren't witty or cutting, they should at a bare minimum be funny.

2) They should be thrown only occasionally, thus retaining the element of surprise.

And most importantly:

3) Occasionally sticking your own head above the parapet is what earns you the right to throw bombs. You never do, so you haven't.

December 18, 2006 1:34 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Brit, the last thing you need is more petty cleverness as sauce for petty aggression. Take your sin served plain, and if it doesn't taste good then stop eating.

December 18, 2006 9:26 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

I'm trying to help you out, Joe. I'm trying to open the Daily Duck door for you.

Anyone could do what you do right now, so at the moment there is no reason to take any notice of anything attributed to "Joe Shropshire". Just give us a reason.

How can I put it? You seem like a lost soul. Hey Joe, where you going with that bomb in your hand?

December 18, 2006 10:25 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

It would take a bit more than hating Harry to make one a lost soul, Brit. But I do hate for hatred's own sweet sake, not for the glory of God (as you believe these lumpenprole evangelicals do), nor for progress (as Duck is trying to convince himself that he does.) Hatred is enjoyable. That is why it is a sin, as are sex, and violence; whether you believe in anything supernatural, or not. If you mean to hate, then just hate. You guys indulged yourselves in a lovely little two minutes, against a perfectly safe target. It's to Duck's credit that the original post is half-hearted. It's to no one's credit that this was followed up by all the earnest theoretical noodling.

December 19, 2006 11:55 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

But if you don't like theoretical noodling, you've come to the wrong noodle bar. There are a billion blogs, after all.

I note that you seem to be dipping a tentative foot in the debating waters at last though, which is to your credit.

Eventually we may be able to chuck bombs back at you, and then your own bombs at us will be worth something.

December 19, 2006 2:28 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Joe:

Several minor corrections:

-- It was my post
-- It was not half-hearted
-- It was intended as a moral exercise: correctly identify who the victims are, why they are victims, and of what they are victims
-- When discussing real world victims, it isn't theoretical noodling

And some hints:

-- Hatred is essential to the entire story
-- Re-read the story as if some alternate, and very plausible, conjectures might be true

December 22, 2006 6:55 PM  

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