Friday, March 22, 2019

Political idolatry

In general, I find political parties to be conglomerations of moral, nonmoral, and immoral concerns, producing some pretty accidental alliances. No Christian should be fully and completely comfortable with any political party. One can, I think support the party one think best embodies Christian principles at any particular time, but there are always going to be some things about your own party that make you cringe. If you think your own party is always completely right the opposing party completely wrong and evil, you are committing idolatry.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Mary Anne Warren's case for abortion rights

uMary Anne Warren, in “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion,” argues that the fetus does not have a right to life.
uOnly a person has a right to life.
uFor a human to have a right to life, it needs five criteria.

u1. Consciousness
u2. Reasoning
u3. Self-motivated activity
u4. Capacity to communicate
u5. Self-awareness
Fetuses don’t pass these criteria, and are therefore only potential persons.
They do not  have a right to live, at least not one sufficient to overturn a woman’s right to control her own body. 
Don’t infants fail these criteria as well?
Wouldn’t that justify infanticide? 
uWarren says no. She says that even though the  parents may not want the baby, others in the community do, valuing newborn infants that way we value valuable art works.
uPeople in the country also want newborn infants preserved.
uBut what if we stopped thinking that? Would that mean infanticide would be OK? 
Two philosophers, Michael Tooley and Peter Singer, think that both abortion and infanticide can be justified. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Universal Causation and Determinism

Having a cause can mean a number of different things. It can be something that  contributes to the occurrence of something. Or else it could mean that something that guarantees the outcome. The thesis of determinism is the claim that for every event that happens, there are a set of past events that, given those past events, the future event is guaranteed to occur. The thesis of universal causation entails determinism on the second definition of causation.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Judith Thomson's Defense of abortion

uThomson assumes for the sake of argument that fetuses really do have the right to life.
uDoes that mean that the fetus is entitled to use the mother’s body as a life-support system until it is born?
uThomson suggests that this need not be true. Suppose the Society of Music Lovers kidnapped you and hooked you up to a famous violinist to provide kidney function for nine months. You can get up and leave at any time, but, if you do, the violinist will die.
uAre you obligated to stay in bed all that time and let the violinist use your kidneys, or do you  have the right to get up. If the right to life is an absolute trump card over every other right, then you do. If not, then there may be circumstances in which personal liberty, or considerations of the quality of life, can outweigh the fetus’s right to life in much the way that these considerations can outweigh the violinist’s right to life.

How many abortions does this justify? 
Possibly, not a whole lot of them. The idea that quality of life considerations can outweigh the right to life does not mean that, in typical abortion cases, it does so. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Why aren't open marriages more popular?

I wonder why open marriages aren't more popular than they in fact are.  For example, politician after politician has been caught in extramarital affairs, and I have never heard a single one of them defend their conduct by saying that there is really nothing wrong with what they did, since they had an open marriage to begin with. Perhaps people abstractly think or say that there would be nothing wrong with an open marriage, but when it comes to their own lives, they wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Disability rights and assisted suicide

 Evidence seems to suggest that people who ask for assisted suicide do so, in many instances, not to relieve pain, but because they are having trouble facing disability. By allowing assisted suicide in these cases, are we sending the message that life with disability is not worth living. Disability groups see this as an example of ableism, a prejudice against those with disabilities, and because of this disability rights groups are almost unanimous in opposing assisted suicide.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Want to support the right to life? Impeach Trump!

I can understand the pro-life argument as a reason maybe for voting for Trump over Hillary. What I don't get is Christians not challenging the proclivity of the Republican party to cover from Trump no matter what comes out against him, to refrain from serious investigation of his fitness to be President. Whatever my conscience might tell me about voting Democratic in light of its excessive defenses of abortion, there is no way in the world I could vote Republican so long as Republicans refuse to address wrongdoing by the President. The Cohen hearings are an excellent example. Republican questioners, with maybe one exception, kept just attacking Cohen, who is not on trial (at least by the House), not on any ballot, and whatever you think of him, was offering hard evidence of criminal activity by a sitting President. If the worst happens and Trump is impeached guess what? Hillary Clinton won't become President. The one who will become President will be the most President most dedicated to the pro-life cause in history: Mike Pence. Want to support the right to life? Impeach Trump!

Wives should submit, or should they?

It would make life easier for me as a husband if they had to. But I think its pretty problematic.


Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Homosexuality and inerrancy

It is quite true that the essence of human nature remains what it has always been, and the Bible has an explanation for that in terms of our being created by God but having somehow fallen out of fellowship with God. Whatever you think of the literal stories that are told about how that happened, it seems to explain a heck of a lot of human history better than virtually any other account I can think of. In fact, secular schemes often founder because they expect human nature to be better than it really is.

That said, some things do change in significant ways. One of them has to do with marriage customs. In Bible times, marriage for love was not normative, and, what is more important cultures in all countries, pagan or Hebrew, felt a strong need to reproduce. That was how you were cared for in you old age, this was how you maintained the tribe's defense. So people didn't make their gay relationships their marriage. It was, if anything, something you did for fun and games over and above your marriage, and you basically typically used slaves and young boys for those fun and games. The picture of homosexuality in the ancient world was an ugly one, if you read the account of it given in Sarah Ruden's Paul among the People. It wasn't gay people wanting to marry the one they loved, it was whether it was OK, if you were a male who has a wife, to get something else one the side from someone who was treated as a plaything, whether male or female.

Ruden perceives Paul's condemnation of homosexuality as falling under the rubric of justice. She writes:

"Paul's Roman audience knew what justice was, if only through missing it. They would have been surprised that justice applied to homosexuality, of all things. But many of them---slaves, freedmen, the poor, the young--would have understood in the next instance. Christ, the only Son of God, gave his body to save mankind. What greater contrast could there be to the tradition of using a weaker body for selfish pleasure or a power trip. Among Christians, there could be no quibbling about what to do: no one could have imagined homosexuality's being different that in it was; it would have to go. And tolerance for it did disappear from the church."

Ruden doesn't adjudicate the issue herself. But, she leaves the Christian gay defender an avenue to come back and say: Look, we can understand Paul as not being a blind homophobe for saying what he did about homosexual conduct. But the world has changed. We aren't like that. We don't want to exploit helpless victims. We are just same-sex attracted Christian people who want to replicate the institution Christian marriage with a same-sex partner. We in society today don't feel so obligated to reproduce, (and many married couples don't), and we can still practice parenthood through adoption. (Do married couples have an obligation to at least try to reproduce?) 

But it isn't quite that easy for the Christian gay defender. The counter-argument is that it's a difficult argument to make that homosexual acts are condemned in Scripture because of the practice is somehow done in an unjust manner. In many passages in Scripture the acts are cataloged as wrong in virtue of, well, their being homosexual acts. And while we might explain Paul's opposition to homosexuality in terms of his observation of how vile the practice was in his time, Christians hold that Paul had an Inspirer, the Holy Spirit, who as the Third Person of the Trinity, was surely aware not only of what homosexuality was like in the first century, but what it is like now in the 21st. If God had intended to only to condemn the injustice of ancient homosexual practice, He would have said so. 

So I think to accept the more liberal understanding of homosexuality along the lines suggested by the argument I sketched above, you have to reject the kind of strong doctrine of inerrancy, for example, provided in the Chicago Statement. Catholics, of course, are playing a different, but similar ball game, in that for Catholics the "inerrancy" is in the Magisterium, and Scripture for them is not considered quite so transparent.

Which goes back to whether we need an explanation for the condemnation of homosexuality. If we feel one is needed, then we might be able to provide one that leaves room for the possibility that gay Christians can, as good Christians, practice homosexuality. Conservative believers, however, can warn that given the sinful nature of man, we have to be careful of accepting interpretations of the Bible that allow us to do what we want to do. If we are not careful, we are going to end up interpreting everything out of Scripture that we don't want to obey.

Like C. S. Lewis, I have never had to deal with same-sex attraction. I respect both viewpoints on this issue. I think the more inclined you are toward an inerrantist model of Scripture, the harder it will be to find homosexual conduct acceptable.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Will gay marriage be the end of homosexuality?

 If homosexuality is genetic, then it is being passed down by gay people going against their orientation. If gay marriage is accepted, gays will marry one another, not reproduce, and eliminate the gay population.

Monday, March 04, 2019

If God opposes homosexuality, do we owe gay people an explanation as to why?

Here is a question which I have struggled with a lot of late. Suppose we conclude, based on Scripture, that God considers homosexual conduct to be wrong. And suppose a person struggling with homosexual desires asks the question of why God condemns such conduct. That seems like a reasonable question to me, but do we owe them an answer? What would it be?

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Judge not

I'm not a pedophile, but who am I to judge those who are? Nothing, right?

We can, it seems to me, hold views that certain types of sexual conduct are wrong, just as we have the right to hold views that other kinds of behavior are wrong, without being guilty of "judging" in some negative sense.

Of course, it's the Bible that says we shouldn't judge. If the Bible isn't true, what's wrong with judging?

Chesterton on determinism and criminal punishment

The determinist does not believe in appealing to the will, but he does believe in changing the environment. He must not say to the sinner, "Go and sin no more," because the sinner cannot help it. But he can put him in boiling oil; for boiling oil is an environment.-- G. K. Chesterton
Though, I suppose, saying "Go and sin no more" also changes the environment.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The paradox of utilitarianism

Can an argument be made  that focusing on consequences produces worse consequences overall than other reasons? For example, the consequences of lying for all concerned might give worse results than our egotistic thinking patterns are bound to recognize. Hence, a general rule "don't lie" might produce more happiness overall than saying "lie if and only if it will maximize happiness."

Social Utility, Sympathy, and Reasons for Being Moral

Why would someone be moral if they didn't believe in God? For example, it is possible, if there is not God, to literally get away with murder. If there is a God, then it is literally never true that no one is looking. If there is no God, then it can sometimes be quite literally true that no one is looking. If you are never caught by humans you will die and reach the same condition as your innocent victim, after having reaped all the benefits of wrongdoing. Why wouldn’t an atheist commit a murder if he were to benefit from doing so and was reasonably confident that he or she would never be caught.
The philosopher David Hume suggested two reasons for being moral that don’t have anything to do with religion: social utility and sympathy. But are these enough to keep us moral, or, more importantly, to insure that it is always rational to be moral? It might depend on how good we are at sympathizing, and whether we stand to benefit, not benefit, from behaving morally. Given some set of desires and states of character, and on the assumption that to act rationally is to maximize the satisfactions of one's desires, the immoral person can be perfectly rational, and it can even be irrational to be moral. Does this mean that you can be moral without God if you have good circumstances for doing so, but if you aren’t so lucky, then you won’t be so moral?

Monday, February 25, 2019

What is repentance?

Repentance means walking back the states of mind the led you to sin. It means setting yourself the task, in Christianity with the aid of the Holy Spirit, of ceasing to be the kind of person that committed that immoral act in the first place. That is no fun. Sinful acts are attempts to satisfy sinful desires, and repentance involves undercutting the grip of those desires on you. It's supposed to be painful. The idea that "Oh, I can sin, and then just repent later" is a self-defeating one. It's something that will make your life tougher in the long run.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Martin Luther King

 How do you think religion affected Martin Luther King? Was it an accident that he was a reverend, as well as a civil rights leader? 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The real debate is over legal immigration

 The bipartisan bill that Trump turned down had, I think 1.7 million for border security including fencing. But it was considered no good because it was a fence instead of a wall. But there is more to Trump's position on immigration than just the wall. He wants to keep LEGAL immigration limited for, in particular, lower class workers, and in fact make it harder for such people to enter our country. Hence the comment about not wanting people to come in from "shithole" countries. (Whether this reduces to a desire not to let more black and brown people into our country can, I am sure, be questioned). But if we worked harder to let as many noncriminals as we can enter our country legally in an orderly manner, wouldn't it cut a significant portion of the market out of the illegal immigration racket? Everyone wants border security to keep bad people out of the country, even if they don't think a wall will provide best bang for the buck. (Emperor of China: We're going to build a big beautiful wall, and the Mongols are going to pay for it). But wouldn't we need less border security if we didn't put so many restrictions on legal immigration? Whatever happened to "Give me your tired, your poor?"

Gotta Serve Somebody

One commentator of Facebook implied  that in accepting the doctrine of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity in Jesus Christ, Christians are more vulnerable to giving undue adulation to a political leader, such as Donald Trump. And my answer is, nothing could be further than the truth. Christians know what it takes for a human being to be worthy of the devotion that we give to Jesus, and no one human living or dead comes anywhere near that standard. But godless nations have historically given a kind of adulation to their human leaders that no Christian would ever dream of giving even to a divine right monarch. No American leader, even one as benighted and corrupt as Donald Trump (and as you know I have absolutely no use for him) has the record of butchery and cruelty that Mao Zedong (dubiously) achieved, yet the Communist government in China encouraged this kind of attitude toward their leader.

 The east is red, the sun is rising.
From China comes Mao Zedong.
He strives for the people's happiness,
Hurrah, he is the people's great saviour! 
(Repeat last two lines)

Chairman Mao loves the people,
He is our guide
to building a new China
Hurrah, lead us forward!
(Repeat last two lines)

The Communist Party is like the sun,
Wherever it shines, it is bright
Wherever the Communist Party is
Hurrah, the people are liberated!
(Repeat last two lines)
(Repeat first verse)

There is a temptation, when God is rejected, to replace devotion to God with devotion to some human leader. As Bob Dylan said, you gotta serve somebody. 

Thursday, February 07, 2019

An argument for why death is not a bad thing

Here.  It is based on this statement of Epicurus.  The Epicurean argument was an argument against fearing death. This is the quote: “Death is nothing to us. When we exist, death is not; and when death exists, we are not. All sensation and consciousness ends with death and therefore in death there is neither pleasure nor pain. The fear of death arises from the belief that in death, there is awareness.

 From this it is easy to derive a Epicurean defense of abortion. 

1. Where the fetus is, death is not. 
2. Where death is, the fetus is not. 
So, why oppose abortion? 

One of my office-mates was a protege of Rosenbaum. When he explicated his position, another office-mate of mine asked, "So, on your view, why shouldn't I just kill you now?" His answer was "Only if you could do it painlessly." 

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Shoving democracy down people's throats

Democracy is supposed to reflect the will of the people. What if the people get together and vote on it, and decide that they want a dictatorship. Does some greater power have the right to come in and say "No, the people have a right to a democracy, so we're going to shove one down everyone's throat, whether they want it or not?

Isn't this a description of American foreign policy in many cases? 

Sunday, February 03, 2019

My right to my opinion

I have always been puzzled by the phrase "I have a right to my opinion." What does it mean? 

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Are human rights fictions?

I wonder if people are clear on the idea of what human rights are. The idea of human rights is that I am entitled to something in virtue of being human independent of what the people with the biggest guns decide. What this means isn't as easy as it seems to get clear on. It seems to imply the existence of a moral fact.

If it's a human construct, then it seems to be a purely fictional concept. Unless there is some reality that makes it true that I have certain rights, then it is false that I "really" have them even though people with the biggest guns are denying it to me?

What was the UN declaring when it made the human rights declaration. Was it saying we wish countries would treat their citizens this way?

When is religious involvement in our political life inappropriate?

The movements supporting the rights of women, and the civil rights movements, were started within religious groups. It is not an accident that the Civil Rights movement was led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. The Declaration says that we were endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights (so, no creator, no rights?) Are these instances of the inappropriate intrusion into our democratic life? If not, what constitutes an appropriate, as opposed to an inappropriate insinuation of religion into our political life? If religion motivates some to oppose abortion or gay marriage, people think that's inappropriate. But when Jefferson makes a religious appeal to defend inalienable rights, or when King organizes the Montgomery bus boycott, or when religious groups organize for women's suffrage at Seneca Falls, this is OK? I'll bet the segregationists wished the King would stay in his pulpit and preach Jesus instead of getting involved in a political issue like civil rights. Is religious involvement in politics bad just in case I agree with it?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Anti-Christian Political Correctness

This kind of stuff is going to lose the Democrats a lot of supporters. Even the  LGBTQXYZ community does not benefit from intolerance toward people who disapprove of gay behavior. I don't need everyone's approval to be a Christian, and gay people shouldn't need everyone's approval to be gay, we surely don't need the government protecting gay people from disapproval.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Silence of the Relativists

While we often discuss moral questions where there seem to be plenty of shades of gray, there are lots of moral concerns where most of us would think that there are no shades of gray whatsoever. Let us take the behavior of someone who invites you over for dinner, shoves you into the oven, and cooks you as dinner.  No one I know of thinks that this kind of behavior is OK. If someone thinks it is OK, then do we say "Oh, that's your opinion, you are entitled to that?" If morals are really subjective, isn't that what you have to say?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Is opposition to adultery a moral fact?

When it comes to adultery, we have some people who think that God, (who presumably knows what is right or wrong) has told us not to do it in the Seventh Commandment. If there is a God, a take it that it more than just His opinion that adultery is wrong. But if there is not God, or God never said that, then we can still ask whether or not adulterous affairs are good things. One aspect of this has to do with whether marriage necessarily implies a promise to be faithful, which of course would be broken by the adulterous affair. Religious traditions that include the idea behind the Ten Commandments think that there are what philosophers call moral facts: that is, something true about what is right and wrong regardless of what anybody thinks about it. Religious nonbelievers disagree with one another as to whether there are moral facts: J. L. Mackie was a philosopher who thought that moral facts do not exist, Erik Wielenberg is an atheist philosopher who thinks that moral facts do exist. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

If immigration is outlawed, only outlaws will immigrate

Shouldn't we be making legal immigration less prohibitive, so that fewer people want to cross illegally. Trump wants to make it more prohibitive if you come from "shithole" countries like Mexico, Honduras, or El Salvador, and then of course needs bigger walls and more border security to keep people from coming in. My main disagreements with people like Trump over immigration center much more on legal immigration than on illegal immigration. If you let more people in legally, you take business away from the cartels and the smugglers. They are no longer needed.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Is there any evidence that there were any gay people in Sodom?

Is there a single shred of evidence in the text that consensual gay activity was ever committed in Sodom? Raping an outside visitor could easily be explained in terms of an interest in domination, as opposed to homosexual attraction. Let me ask again: is there any real evidence that there were any gay people in Sodom, and that the homosexual interest in the visitors had anything to do with same-sex attraction?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Should there be compassionate reasons for allowing people to enter our country?

People sometimes say that they support legal immigration, but not illegal immigration. What do we mean when we say we support legal immigration? Trump, for example, thinks that some people should be allowed to come into the country, those who have a lot of skills, but he thinks that we have an obligation to allow others into the country who may need to come, but won't necessarily benefit OUR economy. So, if you want to come into our country, you can't just get in line. For many people, there is no line to get in. Should people be allowed into our country for compassionate reasons, or does allowing such people into the country render us suckers?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Greed, Trump, and Compassionate Conservatism

Trump in the 2016 campaign said he was very greedy, and implied that his greed is a good thing. 

Biblical Christianity, on its face, is in conflict with the basic goals of capitalism. The goal of capitalism is to win the game of Monopoly and have all the money, the Bible says that it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a gay man to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Oh, wait a minute, I have one word wrong in that quote. The word "gay" to be replaced by rich. And, of course I love that Bible passage in which Jesus cast the abortionists out of the Temple. Oops, got that one wrong, too. It was the moneychangers. The love of money is the root of all evil. That comes from what, the Communist Manifesto? No, the Bible.
Now Christians can respond by saying that before turning God into a commie, you should think about the fact that wealth in itself isn't necessarily bad, so long as it is acquired ethically, and a person is generous with it once they get it. John Wesley said "Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can." What no Christian can say is what Gordon Gekko said in Wall Street, that greed is good. Greed is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
One can, it seems to me, reconcile conservatism with Christianity by saying that while greed isn't good, and the wealthy should be generous in alleviating the poverty of others, attempts to get the government to force this generosity puts too much power in the hands of government. This puts the onus on private generosity, not the government, to alleviate the ill effects of social inequality. We can argue about whether this works, but at least the heart of it is in the right place. This "compassionate" version of conservatism is the only one compatible with Christianity. Given this, Christians who accept conservatism ought to have a real problem with a President who advocates and practices the Gordon Gekko philosophy that greed is good. Oh, he also says he loves to brag, and of course that one is on the top of the list of the Seven Deadly Sins.
While conservatism is consistent with Christianity, Trumpism is not.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Has there been an increase in illegal immigration? Is this the crisis our government is shutting down over? 

The report from the NY Times is here.  Oh yeah, it comes from the NYT, so it just HAS to be leftist propaganda. So these statistics and facts were made up? 

From Fact or Opinion to Fact, Preference or Judgment

In teaching philosophy, I have from time to time been asked whether the enterprise am teaching is a matter of fact or opinion. Or, when students write for me, they ask if I want their opinions. If I say "no," the papers end up looking like book reports. If I say "yes" they end up being a mass of subjective feeling, and if I challenge that, they think that I am simply grading them down because they I feel differently from the way they do, and how dare I do that? I think this derives from the fact that these students learned a fact-opinion distinction back in grade school that makes philosophical inquiry hard to place. For example, either there is a God or there isn't, but is there a clear methodology that gets one correct answer? Maybe, but few students come to class believing that. So they conclude that since this isn't an issue of fact, it must be opinion, and however I feel about it has to be OK. After all, I am, you know, entitled to my opinion. 
My critical thinking text, by Richard Paul and Linda Elder, proves  a revision of the old fact-opinion distinction you probably learned in grade school, but that distinction fails to cover a number of domains of inquiry where there is no one provably correct answer, but facts are relevant, and there are truths to be discovered. That is a matter of judgment. Take the question "Is there a God?" I take it that it has a true answer, whether we can know that answer or not. There either is a God, or there isn't. Reasons can be given on both sides of that question, and while some think it can be given one correct answer, most philosophers of religion think that reasonable persons can go either way. Nevertheless one can have a reasonable belief on the matter even if hard proof is unavailable either way. And even if you think there is one right answer, it is important to argue that one can inquire about this, and other controversial questions without having to assume that one and only one correct answer can be given to the satisfaction of all reasonable persons. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Does relativism lead to tolerance?

Not necessarily.  And should we be tolerant of, say, female genital mutilation? China's one-child policy? The Hindu caste system? The unwillingness of some cultures to educate girls? Executing people for committing adultery? Racial discrimination, if it occurs in another culture? What we are often asked to tolerate are themselves intolerant practices.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Newman's Seven Tests for Doctrinal Development

Here.  Is this a middle path between "anything goes" liberalism and Scalia-style originalism, if we make the mistake of applying it to constitutional law.