Considering the Retrograde Mississippi Freedom of Comment of the Day #2: “Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, This Shouldn’t Be Surprising At All…”

Jesus-Burdens-our-Religious-Freedom

The second Comment of the Day, also on the same post, comes from frequent COTD author Extradimensional Cephalopod. His topic is religious freedom. Here it is…

Human logic is so warped by truisms. Why are we discussing the competition between religious freedom and the principle of respecting others? Once we strip away the artificial distinction between religious beliefs and any other beliefs, everything becomes more obvious.

It makes no sense at all to say that people are free to believe whatever they want but that they should not impose those beliefs on others in public. Society is built on a foundation of mutual beliefs, beliefs about the best obligations we can all impose on ourselves on behalf of each other. Fundamental disagreements or paradigm mismatches about ethics and rights cannot be ignored, because they disrupt the fabric of society itself. (No, gay marriage in itself doesn’t disrupt the fabric of society; the fact that only a small percentage of the population can discuss it respectfully and intelligently indicates the fabric has been looking for an excuse to unravel.)

“Religious freedom” is an excuse to avoid difficult conversations and careful thought, and just sweep the differences under the rug. The only reason that’s possible is because (most) people decided they would prefer to ignore each other rather than kill each other, but that doesn’t make the underlying misunderstandings go away. They show up in politics because the law of the land is the only place where people have no alternative but to deal with each other’s beliefs about right and wrong (or leave the country). If we face our disagreements head on, but with the goal of learning, there is no reason “tolerance” needs to last forever.

I would never tell a person who believes that gay marriage is an offense against a magical energy being that they should keep that belief to themselves, any more than I would ask it of someone who believes that evolution is a more accurate and useful concept than creationism. People who keep beliefs to themselves rarely get the opportunity to learn they’re wrong. Of course, people who never shut up about their beliefs and listen to alternatives never learn either. Ideas should be sent out into the world to stand on their own. Most of them will be torn to shreds, and that’s good. The ideas that don’t survive weren’t useful, at least not by themselves.

There is no way to defend religion as a concept, let alone its exercise, because religion is an arbitrary collection of descriptive and normative beliefs with a lot of people who consider them somehow existentially important. Religion in general cannot be defended ethically or legally, because its beliefs could say literally anything. Any such defense would merely be an excuse to completely ignore skepticism and critical thinking in the name of… somehow being morally superior in a way that critical thinking and skepticism… somehow prevents. However, most (but not all) religions allow critical thinking in ways that don’t threaten their tenets, because the ones that don’t are even more horribly crippled due to their intellectual bankruptcy. Few complain because few know how to think critically, or value the practice.

On the whole, religion seems to be strictly worse than secular humanism, especially ethically. The only reasons it survives are that so many people are unwilling or unable to seriously consider that it might be wrong, and the persistence of the condescending idea that people and the country somehow can’t function without it. Those were the same means by which slavery survived so long. Like slavery, religions run the gamut from cruel and barbaric to gilded cages, but unfortunately, prisoners of the mind take more than laws to emancipate.

Mind you, I don’t believe in persecuting people for what they believe. There is no reason to use intellectually bankrupt methods to fight intellectual bankruptcy, and many reasons not to. It is, however, unethical to allow willful ignorance to exempt people from the law and from ethical principles. Religion is never an excuse for anything. Because religious people tend to be in the majority, they can get away with being the naked emperor demanding that everyone admire his clothes. While the law cannot and should not make thoughts illegal, that doesn’t mean those thoughts have any truth to them. It certainly doesn’t mean that laws have to ignore evidence and consistency; we couldn’t have safety laws if we didn’t have evidence of what is safe. You aren’t obligated to believe anything in particular, but you are obligated to question your beliefs.

Any religious people (particularly monotheists) who are offended by my words, I encourage you to attempt to convince me that energy beings exist that fit the impossible descriptions you ascribe to them, and that any ethical truth can depend on the existence of an energy being. For you to give up on convincing me of what you consider to be the truth would be a serious insult to my sincere desire and ability to identify truth, or perhaps a self-indictment of your understanding of your own “deeply held beliefs”. So, then, will you shun learning about ideas you’ve pre-judged to be wrong, living with the fact that you didn’t have enough faith to put your beliefs to the test or enough goodwill to share them with a sincere seeker of truth, or will you risk transforming into a better person the current you would not recognize?

_______________________

Graphic: Patheos (Kevin Seirs cartoon, Charlotte Observor)

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33 thoughts on “Considering the Retrograde Mississippi Freedom of Comment of the Day #2: “Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, This Shouldn’t Be Surprising At All…”

  1. Extradimensional Cephalopod, I agree entirely with charlesgreen that your April 9, 2016 at 5:54 pm post was damn well said. It says so much more, more coherently and less provocatively, than the post at hand. Finding something with which to disagree, I’ll get back to the “Comment of the Day”. I’m willing to oblige your challenge, but it seems you set me up to defend a straw man. How and why would I convince you that an “energy being” with impossible attributes exists? How and why would I convince you that ethical truths depend on the existence of the energy being? Neither of these is required for religious belief, nor are they definitive of religious belief. I will attempt neither of these, but will merely attempt to persuade you that religion is not entirely and per se unreasonable. In other words, I’m simply trying to cast some doubt.

    I don’t consider God to be an “energy being” (whatever that is). I think most people believe God to be a person, or three persons, or a group of persons, or simply a very good idea. God may or may not be material. The fact remains that God either exists or does not exist. Currently, we cannot prove either proposition to be true. Whichever we choose to believe requires some degree of faith.

    While many people have preached such things, there is no necessity for God to be omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent. Omnipresence is likely impossible (assuming space and movement actually exist). Omnipotence and omniscience are simply hyperbole. There is no requirement that God be either of these. However, if God exists, it is conceivable (even preferable) that he (or she or ze) is more powerful and more knowledgeable than are we. For God to hold his position of honor, it is only required that he be significantly more powerful, knowledgeable, and present than are we – all of which I deem to be entirely possible. If you had some other impossible descriptions in mind, please share with me what those are.

    While I’ve never heard that ethical truths depend on the existence of God, I agree that many of us act as if this is so, and many of us have said things that imply such a conclusion. I am only concerned with ethics inasmuch as it affects human behavior. If I’ve interpreted your many posts on this site correctly, we agree in this respect. Any attempt to extend ethics beyond humanity is purely conjectural (or, as our friend Alizia would say, metaphysical). Human ethics (the only ones that really matter to us) could only depend upon the existence of God if God created us and all of those elements of our lives that make ethical behavior appealing. Once all of these things were in play, God’s continued existence would not be necessary. The exception would be if God’s continued existence were necessary to maintain life or our perceptions of what is right and good. And, this may be the exception making ethical truths dependent on the existence of God.

    In any case, if one wants to influence human behavior, and attempts to do so by saying ethics is dependent on the existence of God, the attempt is rather futile. Many people do not believe in the existence of God, and many more believe in an existence very different from the existence supposed by any person proclaiming his ethical truths depend on that existence. (This is similar to my stance on rights being “natural” or “God-given”.) If we’re to convince others of the correctness of our position, we must find better or otherwise more effective reasons.

    Is religion unreasonable? I do not believe religion is inherently unreasonable. While our history is marked by a multitude of atrocities perpetrated in the name of religion, our history is also marked by even more examples of benevolence, courage, love, heroism, generosity, perseverance, patience, justice, forgiveness, and fortitude by those proclaiming to adhere to one religion or another. For the most part, religion has encouraged us to behave ethically even if particular individuals have not done so reasonably (i.e., with personal reason and conviction). Although it would be preferable if all of us always had (and used) the requisite knowledge, intelligence, and time required for making the most perfectly reasonable (most ethical) decisions, there are times when it may be reasonable to follow the religious dictates of another person. Religion has brought joy, peace, friendship, wealth, consistency, and authentic happiness to many of us. Forsaking these for nothing better would be unreasonable.

    As an aside, those of us that profess to love the God that said, “Come now, and let us reason together…” (Isaiah 1:18) should not be avoiding reason. It is what God designed us to do, and what he actually wants us to do.

    In closing, I suspect you may be confusing religion with dogmatism. While I agree with the bulk or your posts, there are many ways to defend religion as a concept, and many more ways to defend its exercise. I do agree that religion is a collection of descriptive and normative beliefs with a lot of people who consider them somehow existentially important, but I challenge you to describe how they are arbitrary. Religious beliefs, worldwide, are surprisingly similar in many ways. I don’t believe this is arbitrary at all, but much more likely a testament to those things all humans have learned (through millennia) is most conducive to their wellbeing. Critical thinking and skepticism advance rather than refute religion. (With no offense intended toward our Catholic friends, you sound like many people I’ve met that call themselves “reformed Catholics”.)

    • Otto, there were many points of yours that I had attempted to articulates, and could not pull off in a timely manner. Our positions are not identical, but quite similar, and yours are well expressed!

    • Agreed; I think that post was better quality and less belligerent than this one. I don’t mean to set you up for a straw man; whatever you want to say, I will engage you. What I was criticizing was the definition of religion that I felt was most common (as I defined it in the comment), and the definition of “God” that I felt was most common (i.e. magical energy being). As you say, many people have different definitions of what “God” is. I could respect believers in “God” much more if they would pick one of those definitions and stick to it. Most religious comments I hear or read indicate that people believe mutually exclusive things. “God is an incomprehensible being, but we know that he never intended gay marriage.” “God’s plan is good for us in the long run even though it involves short-term suffering, but I know he loves me enough to protect me from this natural disaster.” “A being must have created the universe, therefore the Bible was written by that entity (but the Quran wasn’t).” Okay, that last one is actually a non sequitur, not a contradiction. You get the idea, though: these statements run on doublethink.

      If I had to narrow down the part of religion that needlessly puts all the good it does at risk, it’s the fact that even when it’s not dogmatic, religion relies on doublethink, arguably by definition but overwhelmingly in practice. The idea that you can somehow “feel” what is true and never have to reason it out leads even non-dogmatic people to turn to doublethink whenever their “core belief” is threatened. I once went to a talk by a Christian apologist who first asserted that the consistency of the Bible was evidence supporting its veracity, and then admitted when someone brought it up that the proto-Roman Catholic committee in charge of compiling it simply tossed anything that they didn’t think fit the theme.

      It’s a bad habit, but usually harmless, if you want to believe something unprovable like what sort of entity created the universe. Deism is more or less the only version of monotheism that makes any sense. It’s not fine, however, when you attempt to use your belief in the unprovable to somehow derive a moral code. People assert that a deity is incomprehensible in order to explain why it doesn’t display its power and benevolence, and yet they also act as though can be trusted to put not only the best interests of humanity first, but prioritize the quality of life of an individual human (e.g. athletes thanking God for their victory).

      It reminds me of the time I criticized someone here for saying Anonymous was trustworthy because of their reputation: If the whole point of Anonymous is that anyone can join just by claiming to be part of Anonymous, then it’s impossible for Anonymous to have a trustworthy reputation. To be trustworthy, you have to have some sort of predictable, defined limits on your behavior. Likewise, you can hide your god in the gaps all you want to protect it from people asking uncomfortable questions about disease and natural disasters (“It’s okay because your friend went to heaven*.”) If you do hide it, though, it doesn’t get to come out, and it especially doesn’t get to be a scapegoat for people’s cruelty or take credit for their success.

      *Unless the natural disasters convinced them the deity didn’t exist. Yes, if heaven is so important, the deity probably should do a better job of selling people on the requirements for getting there. It doesn’t, though, because it’s incomprehensible!

      I’m not sure I understand your “ethics as it pertains to humans” statement. You may have noticed that I don’t consider “humanity” to be an important aspect of my existence. I am concerned with universal ethics, across any and all possible situations and conscious entities. How else will we treat space aliens ethically if we meet them? I do agree, however, that conscious entities are the source of ethics. The universe doesn’t care what we do. If your definition of “God” is the principle of goodness or something similar, I could say that it already does exist, couldn’t possibly not exist, and is indeed necessary for our existence and ability to distinguish right and wrong. No matter what definition you use, though, it’s clear the existence of “God” is not sufficient for such an ethical sense, and something that couldn’t possibly not exist is typically referred to as “trivial” by logicians, for good reason. Actually figuring out what right and wrong are is the hard part, and as far as I can tell we’re on our own for that.

      “I don’t believe this is arbitrary at all, but much more likely a testament to those things all humans have learned (through millennia) is most conducive to their wellbeing. Critical thinking and skepticism advance rather than refute religion.” I agree with the first sentence, but disagree with the second. The memes that we call religions have assimilated good ideas into themselves through trial and error, or because good people managed to alter the meme according to their sense of right and wrong. The meme survived by containing ideas that helped it propagate, but although ethical ideas do help communities prosper, there are some unethical ones that do as well, because ethics is hard not just for individuals but for societies. In other words, religion is only a force for good if good people have managed to turn it into one.

      Having people do the right thing for the wrong reason is not ideal because it is not robust or reliable, just like visiting a folk medicine practitioner whose remedies and traditional knowledge contain some effectiveness mixed in with superstition. Religion is neither necessary nor sufficient to be ethical; it is at most a contributing factor toward people being ethical, but it can contribute towards unethical behavior as well. The belief you carry may be good, or bad, or useless, but religion would have you believe no matter what it because it is what your people have believed, and generations of people believing exactly what they’re told can’t be wrong, right? Or, for non-dogmatists, what feels true to you must be right, right? If it doesn’t feel true to everyone, that just means each person has their own truth.

      In opposing religion, I would have people live by values like the ones you mentioned, not just because they were told, but because they understand where their merit comes from. I think that is necessary to have a functioning global society.

    • Otto begins and ends with a fallacious argument: “The fact remains that God either exists or does not exist. Currently, we cannot prove either proposition to be true. Whichever we choose to believe requires some degree of faith.”

      Neither “fact” nor “proof” can function in a discussion in which one side is based on the faith that there is some fact or proof to be determined. If something does not exist, it cannot be held to proof or fact. There are an infinity of concepts which do not exist in the mind. Since they do not exist in the first place, they don’t require any degree of faith, nor can they function in any argument. Only the belief (a single thought or concept that does consciously exist in the mind of the believer) can be called into question and that, as EC puts it, is up to the believer.

      • It seems to me that Otto’s piece locates itself, quite squarely, within the ‘excluded middle’. Ni chicha ni limonada as the goes …

        In order to understand ‘what has happened to us’ and why modern understandings are so compelling, so absolute if you will, requires a concerted effort to gain the background.

        This man’s work has been very useful to me: ‘Seventeenth Century Background’ by Basil Wiley. (PDF version available). (I couldn’t get the link to post).

        It began with attempts to understand Shakespeare’s cosmology. Late Medievalism. It is so amusing to note how we are still in this zone. Or really how 5-6 different ‘zones’ of time and idea function together.

        Chaos.

      • I agree, which is why I said we need better reasons. We cannot depend upon the existence or non-existence of God for our ethical reasoning. The existence or non-existence of God is not (as far as we know) a provable fact, and therefore does not provide a foundation for argument. (In other words, I don’t think I made the fallacious argument you attribute to me.)

        • Your words, Otto, were: “Currently, we cannot prove either proposition to be true. Whichever we choose to believe requires some degree of faith.”

          I will expand on my point: there are not two propositions or two “sides” to ANY argument based on faith. A proposition has to have a belief of some kind (yea, nay or maybe) in the first place. Put simply, a faith-based argument can take place only between two people (or one person struggling to resolve conflicting ideas) of different faiths or faith-based beliefs. EC April 10 9:55pm

          The NON-belief that you think — as most people of faith do seem to think — is the other side of an argument, or in other words, what makes it an argument in the first place, I do not accept as what you call a “proposition” which one can “choose to believe.” I didn’t choose NOT to believe in something. The thought is not there so I can’t argue a non-existent thought against your extant one. Nor do I care to.

          What I can (and do sometimes) argue here is against anything resulting solely from faith-based unarguable beliefs that impacts or will impact negatively on other people, including themselves. I should add to that that these are almost always cases where I (as well as those of the more ethical faiths or believers) can see that the religious-based proposal or action has no other rational basis. .My argument then is not with their belief against my non-belief; it is against the adverse consequences of their belief either arising from one person, or cemented into their creed.

          E. Cephalopod (April 10 9:55pm) says it better than I (on a different subject) when he talks about those who “use … belief in the unprovable to somehow derive a moral code,”

          Finally (I trust), my non-belief does not come into the argument at any point; it is neutral, non-active, and just plain non-existent. What I should have done is heeded the advice I first heard about half-way through my life and never try to question or argue on faith.

  2. I’m afraid that the cephalopod omits one detail – kind of the 800-pound gorilla in the room: The “free exercise of religion” is a civil right explicitly protected in the First Amendment. In fact, it is the FIRST right listed in the Bill of Rights.

    Now, we are at a real crossroads. The government has declared marriage to have a certain definition; the Mormon and Catholic churches have long stated their beliefs on marriage being between a man and a woman. Evangelical Christians also have done so.

    I could flip things around and argue that “civil rights” is another turn of phrase often used to avoid tough conversations about the implications of same-sex marriage under the rug. For instance, many of these cases involving people denying certain services to same-sex weddings involve devout evangelicals. Is there not a disparate impact (often decried in other cirsumstances) on the civil right of “free exercise of religion”? Or are people willing to argue that LGBT rights are so important that we must discard “freedom of religion” and instead go to “freedom of worship” (the two are VERY different things).

    • “Disparate impact” would imply that some kind of harm is befalling anti-gay religious people to a greater degree than other people as a result of public accomodation laws. But since no harm is caused to anyone by bakers having to make wedding cakes for anyone who walks in, regardless of whether they comport with their religious beliefs, it would be pretty hard to argue disparate impact. There isn’t any impact, on anyone; bake the damn cake.

          • Many people believe that football is unethical because of resulting brain injuries, and as such would find it unethical to provide direct support for football.

            Assume, without argument, that it is unethical to discriminate against football fans and players, and that believing that football is a per se unethical sport does not justify such discrimination.

            the owner of a bakery shares Jack Marshall’s view of football. Does this justify refusing to sell a cake that was already baked and waiting in the fridge to be purchased by the next customer, to a person merely because the person wants to use the cake to celebrate a football game?

            The consider the case where the baker is requested to custom bake a cake in coordination with a football game.

            Do you find a distinction between the two?

  3. Word count: 907
    Level of freakiness: possibly higher than I imagine
    Potential damage to cerebral structures after one reading: Less than two shots of cheap whisky damage to brain cells
    Likelihood of being seen by Otto as ‘tending to darkness’: 50-50
    Snottiness level: fairly low
    __________________________________

    Good Heavens. What I notice when I read an essay as EC’s is how knotty and convoluted our misconceptions become, even when we – quite reasonably in my view – react to the similarly knotty and highly tendentious dogmatic/religious platforms of the hyper-religious.

    For those with a mind geared in that direction, a philosophy of religion is necessary in order to gain some intellectual and conceptual clarity about what one means, and what one refers to, when one refers to any theological concept. It would take a solid year to learn well how a complex mechanical engine works: similarly, to understand how to approach religious ideas, or the imperatives of religion, in such a way that one can speak of them and to them generally (thus a ‘general philosophy of religion’) is an endeavor not of one year but of many years. If we are to attempt to understand ‘ourself’ and ‘ourselves’ in relation to this complex topic (and in this sense we are – our very selves are – outcomes and products of religious modes), we cannot hope to attain that unless we really delve into the topic.

    I think that if you take the really terribly incomplete term ‘religion’ and examine and interrogate it, attempting to understand what is meant by it, and thus what a religious sensibility is, you will find that it represents the ‘divinatory mood’. A person exists, in a locale he does not and in most senses cannot ever fully understand (how existence exists generally boggles the mind!), and is forced to ask him or herself, at the most imploring level really, who and what am I? where am I? what is this? and what am I to do? It is the essence of the existential question. Religion in this sense is ‘divination’. You know, divining. We ‘divine’ through so many ways and methods: dreams, signs, synchronicities, poetical grasp of things (a very complex way of seeing and understanding), and it must not be put to the side that most religious people understand that their very soul, somehow, receives an ‘answer’. I’d bet that 70% of the people on this blog are spiritualists in this specific sense, while they are anti-dogmatists and rejecters of specific religious platforms (though there are believing and practicing Christians, Jews and others who function, conceptually, within the symbolic systems of religious structure).

    ‘Religion’ as I have just defined it is here to stay. It is a necessary part of man’s perceiving self.

    To understand how our present viewstructure (that is the so-called modern structure) has come into focus, and as well what it takes a stand against (Medieval intellectualism), is not a topic that will be broached nor can it be broached on this blog. It is a specialized conversation.

    What we all have to understand, though, is that we are all involved in a pitched battle, and the battle, at one point or another, will reduce itself to strict power-dynamics. I posted this link to another thread yesterday. It outlines a dynamic in relation to the US Supreme Court that reflects the partisan struggles on-going. (https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/l/lazarus-chambers.html) For most of those here, I guess, this is ‘old hat’. They have to have known for a long time what stands behind the battle-lines. For me, it is all relatively new. And thus still amazing and strange.

    Now: the outrageous statement, and the one sure to act similarly to kicking a bee’s nest. Women marrying women and men marrying men is metaphysically unsound. In order to understand, appreciate and in a sense to desire such a thing requires a mind that has been divorced from a grasp of metaphysical thought. The union of two of the same sex – while certainly possible and civil – stands disharmoniously as-against principles which – if you will permit me – ‘rule the universe’. A marriage is one of the primary religious acts of society. It represents fruitfulness, fecundity, a human rite which is at the same time organic necessity.

    Men marrying men and women marrying women, while socially acceptable among many in our present, stands outside of relationship to certain definable metaphysical principles. Meaning, they could be articulated (though it will be disputed; indeed it will turn into a war). I defend the ‘higher metaphysics’, and I can also articulate them (somewhat). Yet I know that no one is bound to agree with me.

    When one examines ‘agreement and disagreement’ in the context of the social battles (which are really metaphysical representations of battles) one discovers that there ARE principles standing behind EACH position. And when one investigates those, one finds that standing behind each is a mere sense, an intuition if you will, that ‘this feels right’. Truth is often what one feels to be true. Truth is not necessarily reducible to a proof. The things that are ‘really true’ (in accord either with philosophy and religion or mysticism) are not susceptible of proof.

    They are ‘understandings’ and ‘agreements’ which arise in and live in a different part of man’s self. And what you understand and agree to at that level you do not turn against irreverently. And if you do you feel that you begin to move toward chaos. (A fancy way of saying you stand out of relationship to your inner, moral sense).

    While I imagine that I have been articulate and my theme is clear, I can also imagine many reading this and simply not being able to get what I am attempting to speak about.

    • I think by your definition of “religion” I am religious. I would consider myself spiritual, in terms of understanding who I am and what I want. Other people seem not to have much competence at being religious, because they keep coming up with nonsensical answers to those questions.

      If power-dynamics based on the personal feelings of large groups is what defines truth, I’m going to have to step in with my deconstruction skills, because that’s a good way to lower the quality of life for everyone.

      It requires a poor grasp of metaphysics to think patterns observed in nature represent a moral imperative. Perhaps people who marry those of the same sex want something from marriage other than what you’ve defined it to be, and who says they shouldn’t have it? Where do your higher metaphysics come from? More importantly, how does violating these “principles” hurt anyone? There was a pattern in nature that humans couldn’t fly. Was that a metaphysical principle? We violated that one, and it improved the quality of life for arguably almost everyone. What makes violating “person should not marry person of same sex” a bad thing and violating “person’s heart should not go in other person’s body” not bad? Jehovah’s Witnesses, you can sit that last question out.

      Your mystical metaphysics leaves a lot to be desired in terms of making sense of the world and avoiding unwarranted assumptions. What do you think of my take on reality? https://ginnungagapfoundation.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/beginning-from-basics/

      • EC wrote: “Perhaps people who marry those of the same sex want something from marriage other than what you’ve defined it to be, and who says they shouldn’t have it? Where do your higher metaphysics come from? More importantly, how does violating these “principles” hurt anyone? There was a pattern in nature that humans couldn’t fly. Was that a metaphysical principle? We violated that one, and it improved the quality of life for arguably almost everyone. What makes violating “person should not marry person of same sex” a bad thing and violating “person’s heart should not go in other person’s body” not bad? Jehovah’s Witnesses, you can sit that last question out.”
        ______________________________________

        I am going to make my best effort to explain not so much ‘my’ position, but a possible base for a position that reflects my ‘metaphysical’ concepts.

        Hello there. A few times I have described myself as neoplatonist. Like you (or I should say perhaps like you) I tend to reject the external form of a religion and attempt to find the core or it, or the metaphysic if you will. The reason I use the word metaphysic so often is because I think that the notion it carries is not sufficiently understood, and it is a mighty useful notion. Especially as we tend to 1) exist in chaos 2) react to chaotic distortions as they pass in front of our vision. This is a basic platonic notion: the corrupted world of Becoming and the confusion and swelter of forms which, because chaotic, confuse the understanding, can only be ordered by a reference point: a notion of Being. In the simplest of terms, and the least politicized, when we speak of ‘God’ we refer to origin of being.

        Being sets all things in motion, and it is Logos that is understood to be the ‘organizing idea’. Whatever we mean when we say ‘Universe’ or ‘Existence’ is ruled by Logos: the latent Idea which determines all development. The post-Christians will speak of ‘intelligent design’ and obviously they mean ‘logos’ in this peculiarly Greek sense.

        It would be rather impossible to separate a metaphysical logos from any aspect of the created world. It is logically untenable. So, we human beings, we conscious biological entities, that is to say at an ontological level, are expressions of Logos and metaphysical logic. I would say that in respect to a good deal that you write that ‘logos’ and logic (rational thought and rational method) is very high – highest – on your list. So I too desire it. Thus with a ‘platonic manoeuvre’ God is linked with intelligence and reason and to the very possibility of acting consciously, intelligently and reasonably in our world.

        If Logos is then the organizing Idea which permeates creation, the way that God is conceived really does undergo a shift. It means not only that God is essentially intelligence (intellectus) but that the highest manifestation of ‘godliness’ is reasonability, ratiocination and all of thought’s products.

        I think an odd shift also occurs when one considers emotion and sentiment in relation to logos as Idea and Intelligence. Emotion can be understood to give energy or power to Idea. It is in this sense the rhetoric or the rhetorical force of Intelligent Idea. Rhetoric serves Intellect.

        Despite any experiments, deviations, momentary patterns or forms of relationship that are possible, and at least as my conceptual mind is ordered, the masculine-feminine polarity, and I mean this at a cosmic level, is the dynamic through which the worlds (creation, biology, life) are expressed. I do not ultimately know what ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ meant to the ancient metaphysicians, but I think I do understand that this polarity and dynamic is fundamental to the created world, and certainly within OUR world, which is ruled (top use the Greek idea) by eros and a driving erotic force that operates in yin and yang, in male and female, in man and woman.

        In this sense I speak of ‘metaphysic’, and also of what is ‘metaphysically indefensible’. The union of the male and female in any species is the primary dualistic bridge that enables life to flow forth. It is the same in the human world, if seen at a fundamental level.

        In my view this does not mean that a female-female or male-male relationship is not possible – we know that it indeed is – but I would suggest that it is not and cannot and should not be seen as ‘equal’ to the really quite enduring traditional event that is the male-female union and marriage.

        It is not at all hard for me to see that at a metaphysical level, at the level of ‘logos’ if you will, that the notion of same sex marriage is deeply offensive. However, one has to (I think) grasp the metaphysical ideas that stand behind it.

        I do not think that, and let’s take the Greek example, that same sex friendships or the sort of agape notion of friendship is at all dispreciated. And everyone knows that love and all of that is just as possible between members of the same sex, and more especially when love is conceived as real creativity and in the platonic sense as love of beauty, etc. That sort of love is vital.

        But marriage has far more ancient origin. It is – at least it appears so – to represent the First Rite, the first sacred ritual, and is a consecration of the union of female and male in a productive, genetive relationship. It is connected in higher metaphysical art to the sorts of ritualism and cycles which understructre the cosmos.

        A couple of sodomite queers from San Francisco (if we were to take this down to the brass tacks and excuse the vulgarity which is not very common in my writing) cannot and should not be seen in the same light. Yet it is entirely possible that two men could develop a very sophisticated relationship that expresses love of the highest order (and this sort of love is represented all throughout Western forms), but a MARRIAGE it should not be.

        The same is so for lesbian relationship.

        Now, this also should place a tremendous amount of pressure on male and female relationships. Male and female relationships, even if they are more ‘relevant’ in the cosmic sense, are completely susceptible to degeneration. The primary question is: what does ‘man’ mean and what does ‘woman’ mean? What does it mean to, if you will allow this way of speaking, for woman to be woman and man to be man within this strange, unreal, impossibly bizarre unfolding creation?

        If we are going to take ‘spirituality’ to its furthest point, and if we are going to assassinate the false demiurgic imposter (almost any god-image tends to take on a distorted form), and if we are to recover connection to logos by means of apprehension of metaphysics, and if all this is going to be applied to family and social life: the work is defined. It involves revisualization from top to bottom and arresting decadent processes.

        The following is a fairly radical declaration:

        The homosexualization of culture is very VERY distinct from the question of a homosexual couple who have a love-relationship. You mentioned ‘harm’. To understand what is meant by ‘homosexualization of culture’ as a social project, one has to look into it, to study it. It is not a free-standing event but rather connects to many different areas, concerns, issues, and problems. And in my view (having looked into it) I think that what is ‘harmful’ in the homosexualization of culture can be defined and described.

        I generally tend to see things in this light. The only ‘action’ that could be taken, at least on my end, is articulation of a position (philosophical underpinning).

        • Now I have a much clearer picture of where you’re coming from. That said, I do have a few questions. If you were born as a member of an all-female species that reproduced by parthenogenesis (and swapped genes through retroviruses and bacterial conjugation), on a world where no species had two sexes, where would you have stumbled upon this apparently universal truth of maleness and femaleness? Or do you think such a species is ontologically impossible?

          What are your definitions of maleness and femaleness? My metaphysical worldview works just fine based on nothing more than order (limitations, certainties) and chaos (possibilities, unknowns).

          “I would suggest that it is not and cannot and should not be seen as ‘equal’ to the really quite enduring traditional event that is the male-female union and marriage.”

          I don’t know what not seeing it as ‘equal’ entails. Is there a difference in how homosexual and heterosexual couples should be treated? Does that difference also apply to heterosexual couples that can’t have kids, thus being likewise incapable of fully realizing the naturally procreative gestalt of a true male/female union, as you would think of it?

          “Yet it is entirely possible that two men could develop a very sophisticated relationship that expresses love of the highest order (and this sort of love is represented all throughout Western forms), but a MARRIAGE it should not be.”

          Again, I don’t know how this distinction plays out in practice. Do they not get to have whatever ceremony you think a marriage should have? As long as they get the same rights and respect as people, I’m not sure it really matters.

          “What does it mean to, if you will allow this way of speaking, for woman to be woman and man to be man within this strange, unreal, impossibly bizarre unfolding creation?”

          From an evolutionary psychology standpoint, to be a woman means to display health for bearing children and to maintain a household (with children). To be a man means to display health for dealing with threats, to bring home food, and in general to deal with things outside the household. It just so happened that most humans’ minds tend a bit towards that, reinforced by millennia of culture, but that doesn’t make it right, or the way things “should be”. From my metaphysical standpoint, gender isn’t a fundamental concept in the slightest, since it’s defined based on trends (not absolutes) which are quite complex themselves.

          Finally, I don’t have any idea what you mean by “homosexualization,” but I study what leads humanity to fail. I guarantee you that if there’s anything accurate about the idea, I can describe it better, using more fundamental concepts, and without invoking the unrelated concept of homosexuality. (It would make as much sense to refer to a society turning into wizards.)

          • EC: “Now I have a much clearer picture of where you’re coming from. That said, I do have a few questions. If you were born as a member of an all-female species that reproduced by parthenogenesis (and swapped genes through retroviruses and bacterial conjugation), on a world where no species had two sexes, where would you have stumbled upon this apparently universal truth of maleness and femaleness? Or do you think such a species is ontologically impossible?”
            ____________________

            That is of course a good question. Really, what you are saying is that it might be possible to ‘locate’ maleness and femaleness on our planet in such a way that supports my ‘metaphysical’ speculation (which is dressed up, of course, to represent a Universal), but that ‘somewhere in the creation’ there is a world that does it all very differently. And: How would that fit in with your defined ‘metaphysic’?

            Obviously, if that world were discovered it would cause reevaluation of universal possibilities. Yet it would not change things so much for our world as it is.

            __________________

            EC: “What are your definitions of maleness and femaleness?”

            _________________

            Quite simple. A woman (female) will carry a child. The critical distinction is there. The men I know do not have wombs and cannot gestate children. Is it different in your neck of the woods?

            My focus for determining maleness and femaleness would be historical, traditional, and typical. Although I cannot say 100% I might reject all of the ‘theory’ that undermines these typical, historical definitions.

            However, I am not opposed to the speculation that it might be possible, through some fantastic engineering feat, to subvert tradition and history and, somehow, to reinvent a non-gender or multi-gender human.

            I tend to see modern ‘gender theory’ as an aberration: thinking that goes round the bend.

            ___________________

            EC: “I don’t know what not seeing it as ‘equal’ entails. Is there a difference in how homosexual and heterosexual couples should be treated? Does that difference also apply to heterosexual couples that can’t have kids, thus being likewise incapable of fully realizing the naturally procreative gestalt of a true male/female union, as you would think of it?”
            ____________________

            Not to give it the same status (‘legal marriage’) as that of a male-female union. You will notice that my definition is more or less strictly theoretical. I attempt to define a larger ‘order’ that determines a lower order. Macrocosm-microcosm.

            My own view is that people can now do as they please. They can live together, love each other, and all of that. I only pointed out, starting from a platform of idealism, why I feel that homosexual marriage is ‘metaphysically incorrect’.

            All that I can do is articulate an overview of a situation. I am not a political activist.

            I think in ‘the best of all possible worlds’ as far as I am concerned, the ideas I express and articulate would, if they are ‘true’ or contain truth’, convince on that basis. I am totally aware that many people would resist, tooth and nail, these basic definitions. But this points to an interesting problem: How do we define truth? Shall truth be defined as that which some faction, or a majority, decides to be true? If there is dissension does that indicate the proposal is not true?

            Therein lies the essence. I suggest: we cannot actually (successfully) define truth because truth is totally contested. Therefore, we live in a world of metaphysical battle. A giant idea-war.
            _________________________

            EC: “From an evolutionary psychology standpoint, to be a woman means to display health for bearing children and to maintain a household (with children). To be a man means to display health for dealing with threats, to bring home food, and in general to deal with things outside the household. It just so happened that most humans’ minds tend a bit towards that, reinforced by millennia of culture, but that doesn’t make it right, or the way things “should be”. From my metaphysical standpoint, gender isn’t a fundamental concept in the slightest, since it’s defined based on trends (not absolutes) which are quite complex themselves.”
            _________________________

            From an ideologically established position – that is essentially what I am suggesting and outlining – I would stick with the historical definitions, including the evolutionary and biological ‘facts’ if you will. I guess I would say that the backward glance determines what is seen in the future.

            I think that your definition is not sufficiently complete. To define ‘man’ you’d have to say much much more. Men have constructed the world as we know it and understood it. I am talking here of the idea-world and the concept-world. A great deal of my ‘metaphysic’ recalls this fact. It defines women as participants and not directors. I reject the (essentially) Marxist female class-war against man, and I work out my definitions within what you’d likely understood as reactionary ideology. This DOES NOT mean that women cannot fully enjoy participation and do all manner of different things. It DOES mean respecting and understanding a group of determinants that have functioned in this, our world. Ideological rebellion must be examined quite thoroughly.

            In the evolutionary biological world you have described a certain level of metaphysical determinant: what has determined the biological world of nature. You say that gender isn’t a fundamental concept in the slightest. I resolutely disagree.

            ____________________________

            EC: “Finally, I don’t have any idea what you mean by “homosexualization,” but I study what leads humanity to fail. I guarantee you that if there’s anything accurate about the idea, I can describe it better, using more fundamental concepts, and without invoking the unrelated concept of homosexuality. (It would make as much sense to refer to a society turning into wizards.)”
            __________________________

            To understand ‘homosexualization’ you’d have to look into it. And to do so, and to form judgment against it (as it would appear that I am) would involve taking a specific stand as a result of an ideological posture which is also, or would amount to in our present, a radical turning against another, and powerful, ideological current. ‘Traditionalism’ as I would define it, must at various points turn against common currents. This involves decision and decisiveness and also, if I may say, pain and discomfort.

            If you wish to understand homosexuality as a ‘positive value’ and the battle to change how homosexuality is perceived in our post-war modernity, I suggest reading the document that defines how the mission was carried out:

            “After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90s”.
            (Marshall Kirk and Hunter Thompson, a PR man and a sociologist, originally published it as an article or a series in a national gay publication, I forgot the name. It was expanded into a full book)(Hard to get).

            This is the original article: (http://library.gayhomeland.org/0018/EN/EN_Overhauling_Straight.htm)

            It is a propaganda manual, Alinsky-style, that describes how the counter-homosexual viewpoint will be put to shame and a new valuation established. It is written by two gay men who desired this outcome.

            Now, you could be of course (and many are) basically in pro of that outcome. Their vision of what the world should be, and what ‘seems right’, coincides. At the most essential, as I say, these issues and questions have to do with idea-wars which are in my view metaphysical wars.

  4. I have a problem with “evolving understanding”. The unwillingness to say that if something is wrong now, then it was always wrong.

    Was slavery wrong before 1864? Was it wrong in, say, 1764 too? Was it the situation that changed, or just our willingness to acknowledge a wrong that had always been?

    If it had always been wrong, then one can give excuses in mitigation, the society in general, those were different times etc, but there were always voices saying “this is wrong”, sometimes at great cost. (See the Society of the White Rose for example). The mitigation may be great, but it never completely expunges the original wrong, merely attenuates it.

    Really good people feel terrible guilt about that. So it’s very human to deny it, and to redouble efforts to discredit any evidence that it was ever wrong in the first place. Those with the most developed consciences feel the most pain, and therefore the greatest temptation to irrationally deny, the greater the evidence, then even greater the denial.

    My attitude towards the European “settlement” AKA genocidal invasion of Australia is coloured by this. As more evidence of massacres is found, the less I want to believe it. And the less I like to think of myself as a beneficiary, the receiver of stolen goods after a fatal mugging on a grand scale. My understanding isn’t “evolving”, my readiness to acknowledge something I’ve always understood in the back of my mind may be.

    The various RFRAs may be just defence mechanisms.

    • But that really is the definition of hindsight bias, and declares that all wisdom must be absorbed immediately or else someone has done wrong. In baseball, managers used to always place fast, singles hitters at the top of the line-up. Thanks to statistical analysis, we know now that this was wrong and cost many runs. It was stupid. What matters is on-base %, and speed and batting average are secondary. A player with a .240 average who is of average speed and walks enough that his OBA is .350. is a much better choice than a player with a .320 average show seldom walks at all no matter how many bases he steals. This, however, only became generally understood in the mid-1980’s (See: Moneyball).Can we blame those managers of old for accepting the conventional wisdom of the culture they were in? No. And we can’t blame slave owners who genuinely believed that they were engaging in a profession based on tradition and the natural order of things. That’s why George Washington, who turned against slavery once he understood it, is so much more admirable than Thomas Jefferson, who in his writings showed that he did realize it was an abomination, and continued in the practice anyway.

    • I suspect most cases of “evolved understanding” are situations in which the circumstances have changed. With respect to the “big” questions (like slavery and general mistreatment of others because of race, sexuality, etc.), however, I suspect that “willingness to acknowledge a wrong that had always been” is more reflective of the events. Over time, we do learn. Jack’s baseball example is applicable. Sometimes we don’t know a particular behavior is harmful. When we eventually learn that the behavior was harmful, we are faced with the painful process of acceptance you describe, especially if we were somehow beneficiaries of the harmful behavior.

  5. This comment-of-the-day seems like pretty standard atheist straw-manning, but I understand why it’s appealing.

    “Magical energy-being” is about as credible an imposed definition of God as “invisible sky-daddy” which is to say, not credible at all and only intended to make the idea of God sound silly and undermine actual intelligent debate. Let’s be better than that.

    The idea of God persists because 1) the universe in which we find ourselves lends itself to the idea, and 2) because humans seem neurologically “hardwired” to believe in God, even when conditioned not to at childhood. There are other reasons, but those two are sufficient to require an explanation. Scientists and sociologists are working very hard at a framework for understanding #2 in an evolutionary context, but #1 is a fundamentally bigger, philosophical problem.

    Using pure reason, one can infer things about the nature and even character of God based on the size and scope of the universe, the amount of detail and quality of design in nature, the existence of invisible scientific principles and Laws that govern logic and the cosmos, etc. Our increased understanding of the universe has strengthened the God hypothesis rather than weakening it. Religionists presumed the Big Bang Theory (originally given its name as a pejorative and resisted far too long for its teleological implications) over the Solid State Theory and presumed genetics over spontaneous generation, because their worldview was on more solid ground than that of their secularist peers. The Scientific Revolution happened in a highly religious atmosphere, driven by highly religious people for very religious reasons, and with fantastic results. Once the groundwork of modern science was thoroughly laid, it became possible to separate religious questions from the hard sciences, the “why” from the “how.”

    I couldn’t agree more with EC that all ideas should be made public and tested, but this is not happening in the popular culture or in government. It is happening in parts of academia, in conversations between intelligent reasonable believers and intelligent, reasonable secularists. And in those conversations, it’s surprising to me how weak the secular arguments are and how much they themselves rest on truisms, tropes, and fallacies passed down to less intelligent, less reasonable atheists to disseminate on public forums.

    EC finds secular humanism superior to religion ethically. To begin with, “religion” isn’t even an entity to set in opposition to “secularism” as both are more mediums than specific ideas. What actual religion are we focusing on? They wildly differ from one another. What type of secularism? The “atheism+” progressives the objectivist atheist crowds are fighting to the death over the soul of atheism at the moment over some pretty fundamental differences, so it would be good to know which kind of secularism you find superior to which religion. And then, how about presenting some data?

    • 2) because humans seem neurologically “hardwired” to believe in God, even when conditioned not to at childhood

      Quite probable, though not yet proven.

      1) the universe in which we find ourselves lends itself to the idea

      Prove it. Show me that it is the universe suggesting God, rather than our own minds suggesting it and blaming the universe for the thought.

    • I’ll use whatever definition of “God” you choose. I was speaking generally when I referred to people believing in magical energy beings, and some of my disdain did seep through. I apologize for sounding like I was making assumptions about what all monotheists believe.

      Good point about religion vs. secular humanism. I should clarify what I meant: Secular humanism is a philosophy of ethics which is based on no assumption of deities whatsoever, and which promotes continuous advancement of understanding rather than being a stagnant ideology. Religion is certainly not always stagnant, but it tends to derive ethics from the existence of a deity, and this existence tends to be unprovable because believers keep implicitly changing the definition of the deity, as I pointed out in my response to Otto. Sometimes the definition of the deity specifically includes the idea that its existence is unprovable.

      Not only that, but religion often requires people to do things that are unethical, or claims that an inconsequential behavior is actually very important. Secular humanism looks at ethics as a system meant to elevate the quality of life for people, and not to glorify a deity that may or may not exist, or care. As far as I can tell, secular humanism makes much more sense and is better for people, and has no downside compared to religion, at least as far as the ideology itself is concerned. “Figure out what’s right, and don’t rely on being told.” That’s the way of the ethical Ubermensch, and I would argue that being an Ubermensch is an inherent and necessary (but insufficient) part of being reliably ethical, since that way no authority can tell you to be unethical or believe unethical things.

      I’m not sure what you’d expect data on secular humanism versus religion to prove. I just figure that if we can get people to both do good and believe things that are accurate, we shouldn’t settle for less.

      There are indeed many atheists that rely on truisms, and many more that completely fail to engage the arguments put forth by religious people. Their incompetence make it seem like there is no merit to atheism, that that’s all there is to it. I’m here to undo their damage, and I hope I’m succeeding. I am grateful for your efforts to do the same for religion; it’s much more useful for both of us to face the best arguments each side has to offer. It will be up to us to bring this conversation into society at large. That’s what I’m gearing up for.

    • By the way, Tim Urban has written more clearly than I about this particular subject in his brilliant blog Wait But Why. I would recommend checking out this article of his (and many unrelated ones, for that matter):

      http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/10/how-religion-got-in-the-way.html

      That goes for Otto, Alizia, and basically everyone else, theist or not. It’s a really good article, and there’s more where that came from, on everything from consciousness to Elon Musk to cryonics.

      • Underlying Urban’s writing, I would recommend Isaac Asimov’s 1989 talk to the Humanist Institute of the New York Society for Ethical Culture which broadens the subject about as far as it can go. It can be said (I will say it) that his solutions to “How People Can Save the Earth for Humans” were and are rational and doable: That they have not all come to pass for the benefit of the Earth as a whole is due in largest part to the persistence of irrational, magical, faith-based thought, the kind of thinking that is incompatible with, and an impediment to, learning, logic and reason.

  6. The guarantee of religious freedom allows people who hold abhorrent beliefs, even militant Islamism.

    Likewise, state and local laws that prohibit religious discrimination protect the militant Islamist just as surely as they protect the rest of us. If people refuse to sell airline tickets, or chickpeas, or filet minon tacoes to someone because that someone is a militant Islamist, these laws prohibit that.

    The same principle should apply to a baker if a customer wishes to buy a cake that was already baked and waiting in the refrigerated shelf to be purchased. It does not matter if the customer wants to bring it to a militant Islamist wedding where the vow reads, “Until death to all Jews and infidels do us part.” It does not matter if the baker is Jewish,. or atheist, or an infidel, or a 9/11 survivor,. or gay, or lost a family member to the War on Sand Nazi Terror. These laws would prohibit the refusal to sell the wedding cake that is waiting in the fridge.

    But here are the key words- “already baked and waiting in the refrigerated shelf to be purchased”

    When the customer walks in and ask for a cake to be baked for a militant Islamist wedding, with the words “Death to All Jews and Infidels” written on the cake, that changes the dynamic. No longer can this be considered a case of selling goods offered to the next person who walks into the store/. The cake, in this case, is being custom made in coordination with an event that promotes certain beliefs, beliefs some people find abhorrent. And baking the cake in this instance is direct support of such an event.

    That is the controversy behind the Mississippi law. That is why the law is limited to the contexts of goods and services in direct support of a wedding.

  7. I rarely discus my own beliefs on this site, because they are rarely relevant to the topic at hand. However have a few relevant observations.

    As an intellectually honest Catholic, I agree with about half of ExC’s position.

    ExC’s position is that religion is arbitrary, and thus indefensible ethically. From a religious perspective, however, it is not arbitrary. Religion would be a natural reflex, stemming from a factual relationship between a rational being and a divine being.

    Why would ethics be dependent on a divine being? This stems from the definition of God. I can intellectually defend only the Catholic definition of God, but from this perspective, all religions, even dogmatically false religions, stem from a natural inclination towards to seek the true God.

    What then is the definition of God? Some highlights:

    …One God
    the Father almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all things visible and invisible.

    Only Begotten Son of God,..
    through him all things were made.

    I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,…
    who has spoken through the prophets.

    If God created everything, visible and invisible, then essentially all nouns, adjectives, and verbs that are possible, are possible only because of the design of God. God created the universe, all of is observable characteristics, and its sense of order, from which we logically deduce ethical standards. As a rational being, logical thinking leads us towards God’s will. Ethical behavior is behavior that is in accord with how the universe is structured. Our sense of fairness and justice is tuned towards this natural order.

    Stipulated, this dependence of ethics on God collapses if no God factually exists.

    The question of God’s existence on religious freedom is a difficult question. To the Catholic, there is evidence of the divine throughout recorded history. To the Atheist, this evidence is unconvincing. The Catholic approaches is a given there is a divine presence, and it is ludicrous to assume there is not. The Atheist sees no evidence to disprove the null hypothesis that there is no God. The Catholic sees all religion as rooted in the primordial human faith, that preserved by the ancient Jews, and then by the Church established by God himself. The atheist sees religion at best a means to promote mostly positive behavior.

    The legal view takes no care as to the factual truth of either position. Its goal is to promote positive behavior, and discourage negative behavior. The law balances the sense of fairness and justice of the society it serves as a whole. The law is a function of its citizens, and if the citizens universally hold one world view, it is difficult for the law to hold another. When more than one world view comes in, there must be a balance, however small the minority.

    Without compassion for the minority, the whole thing falls apart. The atheist and religious hold deeply incompatible world views. Without the religious allowing the atheist his God-given freedom to seek the truth freely, injustice occurs. Without the Atheist conceding that the religious are also seeking truth, albeit in the wrong direction, injustice occurs. Both sides must see the other, within their own framework, as having autonomy. This autonomy extends to illogical behavior. To the religious, morality and logic coincide (and when it doesn’t, it is called heresy). The atheist too, can persecute the illogical.

    Thus, when the religious baker refuses the cake, there is a lack of compassion in the absolute sense. When the homosexual couple destroys the baker’s livelihood, there is a lack of compassion in the absolute sense. A middle ground of respect and deference is what is needed. We are all in this together.

    The homosexual couple should allow the merely ignorant baker should to see his business trickle away if he refuses customers. The baker should not actively undermine the couple’s joy. “Us versus ‘them’ ” creates invites burning heretics at the stake, and expelling white male students for ‘microaggressions’. Both sides should see these actions as illogical. Lack of compassion leads to illogical choices.

    To one side, morality and ethics are intimately intertwined with divinity. On the other, completely independent. Both sides, by their own standards, are capable of fallacious and illogical thinking. Stripping away human weakness in logical reasoning, either God exists and is responsible for morality and ethical reasoning, or He does not exist, and he is not. The only way to reconcile these irreconcilable views is compassion.

    • I wish everyone had your attitude. Everything you say about respect, compassion, et cetera, is what we need in the public consciousness. For some reason people learn about respect and are quick to conclude that others don’t deserve it, because they’re insufficiently similar. That, however, is when it is the most important, because to show respect to someone is to defer to their paradigm and behave on their terms within reason, in order to make them more comfortable and the interaction smoother. It’s trivial to show respect to someone who is already similar to you.

      Regarding the point you make about the theist perspective, I do have a concern:

      …”its sense of order, from which we logically deduce ethical standards. As a rational being, logical thinking leads us towards God’s will. Ethical behavior is behavior that is in accord with how the universe is structured. Our sense of fairness and justice is tuned towards this natural order.”

      Given how much suffering the natural order causes, and how much suffering we’ve prevented by subverting it, how exactly can you derive the “ought” (ethics) from the “is” (the structure of the universe)? If the natural order were really the source of the right way to live, would we not still be hunter-gatherers?

      For that matter, since feelings are natural, why isn’t acting on impulse and base emotion automatically ethical? (Keep in mind that the instinct to seek a higher power is by no means universal.)

      • Stipulated: I am here to educate and be educated, not to evangelize or prove anyone wrong, although will point out illogical reasoning. I will also continue to focus on why ethics depends on a God, if that God exists.

        It’s trivial to show respect to someone who is already similar to you.

        Exactly.

        The faithful and the atheist encounter the same world and conditions. To say the world should be different because there is a God does not logically follow. We know only the universe were are given, and can only speculate a universe given different parameters.

        Regarding “nature”, not everything is a rational agent. Just because it is natural, does it mean that it is logical. We observe evidence that human evolved from lower forms. This is easily reconcilable with divine creation, because God created a universe where man can evolve from random mutations. If God did not intend to create man, he would have created a different universe.

        If man truly evolved through a process of survival of the fittest random mutation, we can expect a lot random garbage to be encoded in our nature. Thus merely having a “natural urge” does not mean their is any rational basis for that urge.

        Where then do we seek ethics? Using the same tools as the atheist! Take for example Kant: every rational being should strive to live in a manner would be sustainable if lived universally. When using such tools as a member of the faithful, one is searching for the intended order of the universe. When the atheist uses such tools, he is attempt to create order from the random chaos that is the universe. Religion encodes certain rules as morality to speed up the process of learning, but failing to understand the underlying order that the rules are modeled against leads to unjust, illogical, and/or uncompassionate consequences.

        Let us use a an example, rather than a formal proof. Take the prohibition against sex before or outside of marriage. Is this a logical position? What are some of the potential consequences of sex before marriage being unrestricted? Is Prostitution allowed? Sexual slavery? Abortion? Does breaking the rule against sex before marriage strictly necessitate any overtly negative consequence? Perhaps not. Does strictly adhering to this rule prevent such consequences? Not totally. Prostitution becomes impossible. Sexual slavery becomes improbable (a slave could theoretically consent to marriage, but it would be a high bar to prove). The financial and personal pressures that lead to abortion become less likely. The rule is a pillar against unjust situations. Stoning the adulteress becomes an absurd reaction when the purpose of the rule becomes understood.

        Nature is a chaotic and confusing place, so discerning its order takes patience and reasoning. Religion encodes and teaches how to live according to the order of nature. Humans are flawed, and certainly religions with illogical teachings abound. We live in the universe we live in and these flaws are simply part and parcel to our existence.

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