Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A big difference between Christianity and Islam

 There are some big differences between Islam and Christianity. A big one has to do with what happens when someone is caught in adultery. Muhammad approved of the stoning of an adulteress (after she bore and weaned her child), but Jesus required that the one to cast the first stone had to be without sin and ref used to cast it himself .

Sunday, June 09, 2019

What do we mean by "society?"

"Society" is a hypostasized abstract noun. I often wonder sometimes if it refers to anything.Is there such a thing as "society" or are there just socieities?

Are we genetically inclined to be generous?

It would be nice to believe that the human genome is constructed so as to find joy through contributions to the good of all. This is a claim that might require some scientific evidence. There is a popular belief in our society that our genetic structure pushes us to be selfish. In the new prefaces to Richard Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene, Dawkins is at some pains to dispel the idea that the "selfishness" of our genes provides a justification for selfish behavior in humans.  But it looks like an attempt on his part to put a meme back in the bottle after if got out.  

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

No collusion? Witch hunt? Hardly

Let's go over some clear and undeniable facts. The Russians, not a 400-pound guy in a Manhattan apartment, engage in a great deal of illegal interference against our country's election system. This, in my view is an attack on our country. Countries that do that should be penalized, and we should make it clear we won't tolerate it. Even the beneficiary candidate has a moral duty to issue a "thanks, but no thanks" message to such a country. But instead, the beneficiary candidate starts acting as if he welcomes the interference,, even going so far as to suggest a further crime they might commit, of delivering the missing e-mails of Hillary Clinton. You also have Trump's staff getting the Republican platform changed from its prior anti-Putin stance to a more pro-Russian stance, you get all kinds of contacts during the campaign between Russian agents, contacts about which Trump official lied repeatedly. You had a campaign chairman who had previously worked for a pro-Putin dictator in Ukraine. You had a national security adviser who was an agent of the Turkish government and had inappropriate connections with the Russians. You had an attorney general who lied about contacts with the Russians and had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. You have a President who acts as if everything is normal and tries to keep Russia from suffering any harm from the crimes they have committed, and even at a conference in Helsinki took the side of the Russians against the word of all of his intelligence agencies that Russia didn't do it. And you're telling me that what was wrong was that they investigated the possibility that there might have been not collusion (there was plenty of that), but an actual criminal conspiracy between people in the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Oh, and I didn't even mention the Trump Tower meeting with Don, Jared, Manafort, and Veselnitskaya. Mueller didn't find enough evidence to issue conspiracy charges, although if they had been really a dirty cop in the pay of the Democrats he would have found a way to invent some. Oh, and you find Trump trying to shut down the investigation on multiple occasions, and if he had had a more cooperative staff it would have worked. But to say that do investigate all of this was a big no-no, and only someone who didn't like Trump's immigration policy would initiate such an investigation to keep Trump policies from being enacted? That's ridiculous. Anyone in their right mind would want to know what was going on, at least anyone who doesn't own a MAGA hat. We can all be thankful there wasn't some quid pro quo between the Trump staff and the Russians, and, if anything, we should be grateful to Mueller for assuring us of at least that. But that still leaves a lot of conduct on the part of the President and his aides that is, quite frankly, profoundly corrupt. To say "no collusion" as if this is a clear bill of health for the President is a shameful distortion of the truth and the product of clever marketing and propaganda. People like Justin Amash and 800 former federal prosecutors came to a very different conclusion when the actually read the Mueller report.

Monotheistic science, religion and the ecological crisis

With the rise of monotheistic religions, we began to think of the world as operating in accordance with laws as opposed to the whims of various deities. In this is makes sense of what science discovers about the world. But  science enables technology, and technology permits humans to exercise control over the natural world in a way they never could before. But that power of technology brings with it the temptation, never so much as experienced by ancient peoples, to exploit the earth's resources in ways that harm the ecosystem, make life more difficult for many living creatures, and make the world potentially unlivable for future generations.  You could, I suppose, say that monotheistic religion helped cause the ecological crisis for the same reason you might say that science caused the ecological crisis. But if you can condemn religion for this reason, you also have to condemn science for the same reason. 

China and the attempt to blame Christians for the ecological crisis

 Lynn White (and others) lay much of the blame for the current ecological crisis at the feet of the Abrahamic traditions, especially Christianity.

I think the refutation of Lynn White's thesis can be found by looking at the climate crisis in China, a country for years under atheistic communism and certainly no history of Christian domination. They have the worst climate problem in the world. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Virgin Birth and the Immaculate Conception

Lots of people get these confused. The Virgin Birth of Christ, which is 
taught in Matthew and Luke, says that Christ was conceived in
Mary’s womb without sexual intercourse, through a divine miracle. It is 
accepted by Catholics and conservative Protestants.

The immaculate conception of Mary is the doctrine that Mary herself was
conceived in her mother’s womb free of the stain of original sin. It’s a 
Catholic doctrine that Protestants deny on the ground that the Bible teaches
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Monday, May 20, 2019

The poached egg argument

“A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse… But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Donald Trump of atheism

Dawkins is kind of the Donald Trump of atheism. But he has his following, just as Trump does. 

Does the Bible support slavery? Well, it depends on what parts you cut out.

Apparently slaveowners were afraid to let their slaves read the whole thing, because they might rebel if they read it.


Friday, May 10, 2019

Is there anything you accept on faith?

think it is Dawkins' view that you should never take anything on pure faith. But on the one hand, if you take statement X, and say that statement needs proof, then someone might say ask for proof of that statement, and then ask for proof for that statement, and then ask for proof for that statement. etc. So there  has to be something you believe that doesn't have to  be proved by something else.  Is what you believe without proof something you believe on faith? If so, what are those things you don't need proof for? 

Is gay monogamy a myth?

I think the tendency on the part of people of a more conservative bent to nonetheless find gay marriage acceptable depends largely on their ability to see gay marriage as a mirror image of straight marriage, only with a same-sex as opposed to an opposite sex couple. Some, however, doubt that this kind of mirror image can exist in the gay community. 

“Male homosexuals are very seldom monogamous,” Dr. Elizabeth Iskander asserts, “they overwhelmingly reject the type of relationship most heterosexuals think of when they think of marriage: a long-term relationship where sexual activity is strictly limited to one’s marriage partner.”


Friday, May 03, 2019

A gay rights slogan

It is a slogan to say that allowing gay marriage allows gay people to be who they are. 

Is a person's true identity to be found in their sexual feelings? Not their beliefs, their ideas, their friendships, their occupation, etc? What about people who never find the right person to have a relationship with? Are they unable to be who they are?

Wherever you stand on issues like this, beware of slogans. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Punting to the government for our morals

Why do we always punt to the government to decide whether something is right or not? That is, if we think something is wrong, we want the government to pass a law against it, and if the government doesn't pass a law against it, we assume it's OK? There was a woman in Colorado who was asked why she smoked marijuana during  her pregnancy, and she replied by saying that since the government said that smoking pot was legal, she figured it was OK for her to smoke pot while pregnant. The government need not be our moral compass, or abortion, on homosexuality, on marijuana, or on whether it's OK to tell a woman you love her in order to get her to go to bed with you, even though you don't. Nor should it decide whether it is OK to show up at funerals of AIDS victims with "God hates fags" signs. Of course it's not OK, but we don't want the government stopping it either.  

Adam, Steve, Donald, and Melania

It seems to me that you could take the anti-gay position from a theological point of view (homosexuality is wrong in God's eyes), and still support same-sex marriage in the civil realm. This is what most people do with respect to Donald Trump's marriage. If we are enforcing Christian standards in the area of marriage through government, then you would have to say that someone who is dumping his wife for a younger woman for the second time, and is a well-known serial adulterer, should not be given another marriage license.  Instead, we ask him "are your prior divorces final," and if they are, he gets a license. If you are going to say that Adam and Steve can't get married because of what the Bible says, then you also have to say that Donald and Melania can't get married because of Mt 5:32 and other passages.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Abortion and demographics

People who accept traditional understandings of these monotheistic religions have a greater tendency to oppose abortion that those who are, say, religious skeptics. But the arguments on both sides of the issue rarely mention God or the Bible directly. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

What does "abortion is murder" mean?

What exactly is packed into the idea of murder is interesting. For example, if you do not believe that the things whose life you are taking is a person, is it still murder? Is manslaughter murder?

 What if you deceive yourself into believing that some being who clearly are persons are not persons---Jews, for example? In cases like that my intuition support the use of the word “murder” because the perpetrators clearly and unmistakably ought to believe in the personhood of their victims, even if they do not. Is abortion murder in that sense? Is the full and complete personhood of the fetus so clearly true that to deny is to, to use Paul's phrase, "suppress the truth in unrighteousness?"

What if you take the life of a person for reasons that you morally justify taking the life of a person, but sub specie aeternitatis, they do not justify the homicide? Are you then a murderer? 

 The word homicide does not carry the negative connotations of the word murder. Should the word murder be used for all homicides that lack moral justification? 

It looks as if the term "murder" in the context of abortion, even if appropriate, needs some parsing. 

What should the punishment be for abortion if it is to be punished?

Pro-lifers believe that abortion is not currently a crime, due to Roe v. Wade, but it should be one. Though, interestingly enough, they often think that abortion providers, not the women who get the abortions, should be punished, and the punishments they recommend are not nearly as severe as the punishments for first degree murder. Does this make sense? If pro-lifers are right about the fetus, what kinds of punishments should there be for the parties involved in an abortion? 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Is there a dissonance between the legal and the moral arguments concerning abortion?

Roe is based on this argument:
1. The right to bodily autonomy, and privacy with respect to medical decisions (absence any superior countervailing right) is known to be established by the Constitution. For example, as decided in the Griswold case from 1962, state governments do not have the right to prohibit artificial birth control.
2. The fetus's right to life prior to viability is not a right we can be sure of. Reasonable opinion differs as to whether the fetus has such a right.
3. A right of which we are certain takes precedence over a right over which there is uncertainty.
4. Therefore, because of the uncertainty with respect to the fetus's right to life, the right of the mother to bodily autonomy and medical privacy takes priority, and a woman has a right to an abortion prior to viability.
What do you think is the bad premise in this argument, (if you think there is one)? What is surprising to me is that the anti-Roe legal arguments seem to concentrate their firepower on premise 1, but people interested in the moral issue of abortion object to premise 2. There seems to be some dissonance between the legal arguments on Roe v. Wade and the moral arguments concerning abortion. Does anyone besides me find this troublesome?

Abortion and the beating heart

I've never understood the significance of the heartbeat in the abortion controversy. The brain, not the heart, is the organ of thought, and the heart is a blood pump. Either life begins at conception, or the development of the cerebral cortex is what is relevant. Is this another example of pro-life political pragmatism?

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Moral relativism and the Holocaust

If you are a relativist, whether the Holocaust was OK is just a matter of human perspective. If the Nazis had won WWII, and history is written by the winners, then if Hitler had won WWII the history books would praise the Holocaust as one of Hitler's great accomplishment. It was how Hitler and those who followed him felt about it right, and if morals are relative to how people feel about it, then the history books would be right. When you say that there is no objective truth in the area of morality, this is what you have to swallow. Or, again, look at hatred for homosexuals (who were also slaughtered in the Holocaust). Lots of people hate homosexuals, and many for reasons that have nothing to do with religion. If morals are relative, that is how people feel, and there is nothing really wrong with that. If you are going to be a moral relativist, you've got to be a consistent one, but most people aren't consistent in their relativism, by any stretch of the imagination.

Christianity and anti-Semitism

There are, unfortunately forms of anti-Semitism that Christians have engaged in. Hitler's version of anti-Semitism, however, is really incompatible with Christianity, because it said that what is wrong with Jews is not their religious choices (failure to accept their own Messiah), but rather what is wrong with them is their race. That is the race that produced Jesus, Paul, and all 12 apostles. In other words, one of that racial group is God Incarnate, according to Christianity. Why any Christian would support Hitler is beyond me (though, I am sorry to say, many did).

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Is this homophobia?

The position of the Catholic Church on this is interesting. They don't think, per se, that there is anything sinful about having a gay orientation. They just say that those who have such an orientation are called to a celibate life. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Hard and soft determinism

Neither soft nor hard determinists believe that we are the original sources or causes of our actions. My act may be caused by my choice, but what caused my choice? That needs a cause, too. In determinism, causes are events which are temporally prior to the action. And those causes need causes, and therefore a chain goes back in time prior to when any of us were born. Given conditions millions of years ago, you could not have done otherwise that write this e-mail you just wrote me. Assuming that everything is material, for example, given the state of the material world 4 million B. C., and given the laws of nature, everything has to happen just the way it does. 

What soft determinism actually says is not that we are originating causes of our actions. What it says is that even though we aren't the originating causes of our actions, we can still be responsible for them just in case the immediate causes of our actions are our own will. There is a difference, for example, between consenting to sex and being raped, in that the consensual partner wanted the sex to occur, while the rape victim did not. Freedom, says the soft determinist, is the ability to do what we want to do. The fact that we were caused to want to do it doesn't affect our responsibility for our actions. 

The hard determinist, and the libertarian, look instead at the fact that we are not the ultimate source of our actions, that a number of things in place before we were ever born guaranteed that we would do what we did. Given this fact, the idea that we can deserve something bad for doing something bad, if determinism is true, doesn't seem right. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Did Mueller come up with nothing?

Did Mueller come up with nothing? Certainly not. Just not the slam-dunk "unindicted co-conspirator" affirmation that might have provided a bipartisan basis for impeachment, which is what you need to get impeachment and removal. Leading Russian figures were indicted for a criminal attack on the American election system. Several American figures, including the former campaign chair, deputy campaign chair, and national security advisor, have all been convicted of felonies, based on questionable relationships with Russia and lying about it. Evidence of criminal activities were found which Mueller did not think to be part of the narrow scope of his inquiry, which he farmed out to other jurisdictions, such as the Southern District of New York. What they did not find was sufficient evidence that Trump or people in the campaign assisted in the basic Russian crime of interfering in our elections.
There was a crime against our country, and it was Mueller's job to prosecute those who were involved in committing it. Please, please, please, don't tell me that you're OK with a foreign government hacking into campaign computer systems and leaking secret stuff, so long as they do it to the Democrats and not the Republicans. The Russians try to do this in elections around the world. It was no witch hunt--Mueller did his job and was honest enough not to try to make illegitimate cases that could not be carried through to convictions. Where he did prosecute, no one has been acquitted. And yet, through all of this, he had to endure constant a constant media attack calling his investigation a witch hunt. Now Trump supporters are calling for Trump opponents to apologize and back off. Maybe. But Trump supporters need to apologize for their constant Mueller-bashing and witch hunt charges. Lots of people in the Trump orbit were guilty of inappropriate relationships with Russia, which is why they're going to jail. There was a major crime against our electoral system, a cyber 9/11. I was actually kind of hoping Mueller would indict a sitting President--Vladimir Putin of Russia. But he didn't. But don't call it a nothingburger. You don't have to be on the Left to have problems with a foreign government hacking our election system and a President who benefits from that hacking and then acts as if the Russians did nothing wrong, and even carries on conversations with their leader while insuring that we have no record of it. Trump consistently welcomed the fruits of this crime against our country, asked Russia to provide Hillary's hacked e-mails, and as President consistently has disregarded his own intelligence community's assessment that there is no reasonable doubt that this interference was the work of the Russians. . I would call that collusion after the fact (rather like being an accessory after the fact to murder), but that is not the sort of collusion that fell within Mueller's mandate to prosecute, and is not, I guess, illegal. It may be within reason to impeach the President on just these grounds, it is certainly something for Americans to take into consideration in 2020 when, as is expected, Donald Trump’s name will appear at the top of the Republican ticket.

We have not been given a definitive answer to the question of whether our President is so under the influence of a foreign government that he is likely to do things that are not in our national interest in virtue of his business interests or the undue influence that foreign governments might have over him. That is the proper subject, not of a criminal investigation, but of Congressional oversight.

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.