Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Descrimination Against Atheists by Bernardo

Christian asked:

"Can you explain more about how society is unfair toward atheists?"

Bernardo responded:

It's pretty subtle, and I admit I am overly sensitive to it. But here's one example: If you're an atheist, good luck getting elected.

Another example is how, by putting "In God We Trust" everywhere and "So help me God" at the end of oaths and having prayers during meetings and speeches, the US government implies that if you don't believe in God, you are not as much of an American, that monotheism is somehow officially "right". Politicians play up their religiosity as much as they can, not caring about alienating atheists. Atheists feel alienated from the government in general, since the government supports theism. Saying that America is a Christian nation, and ending a speech with statements that only Christians would like, is about as politically correct as saying that America is a white nation, or ending a speech with statements that only white people would like.

I mean, America was founded by white people, and most Americans are white, and it was the morals and hard work of white people that shaped America to be what it is today, so what's wrong with plastering the money and the walls of government buildings with statements about the superiority and importance of white people and white people's morals? If others don't like this, they can just leave!

The previous paragraph was not meant literally, but if you replace "white" with "Christian", you get exactly what a lot of people say. However, just because you're a majority, and just because people of your group have always been in power in the US, doesn't mean that you get to be politically incorrect (i.e. disrespectful) towards minorities.

And then there are incidents like this one, which I know are not representative of the bigger picture, but when I hear about them I am filled with suspicious anger at theists (the kind of suspicious anger that I hear most black people experience a lot of the time). When I hear about stuff like this, I have to resist the impulse to go online and shout angry things at theists. I think that most Christians are not bigots like this, but it's not like statistics on Christian bigotry are easy to come by.

33 comments:

bernardo said...

While we're at it, I'll add one more related point. From here:

"Reform is all the harder, however, in an atmosphere where even Tony Blair, a devout Christian, is reluctant to publicly profess his faith. In the run-up to the Iraq war, when a journalist asked about rumors that he prayed with Bush, the British prime minister allowed his chief spin doctor to cut off the question with a blunt, 'I'm sorry, we don't do God'."

This is, of course, VERY different from how American politicians can't stop making as big a deal as they can about how religious they are. My initial reaction was "Speaks loads for how enlightened the Europeans are on this issue". But, more likely, it just shows how a population with a significant atheist component has forced its politicians to become more politically correct towards atheists. I'm sure Blair thinks that his belief regarding God (whatever it is) is perfectly reasonable, and I am sure many Brits would agree with it (whatever it is), but I am also sure many Brits would be alienated from him if they learned of his opinion (whatever it is). In the US, however, the only way a significant number of people could be alienated from a politician is if he/she criticized faith in God, so they all talk about being devout Christians without worrying about alienating me. Even Barack Obama, who has such a great perspective on the ideal relationship between religion and law-making, has been emphasizing how he is a devout Christian - although, not as opposed to being a secularist, but as opposed to being a Muslim.

By the way, I recognize that my little complaints of political incorrectness are nothing compared to what the Muslims have to complain about these days, as you can see three and a half minutes into this video. Or, here's another good example: "To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago... These malicious, irresponsible charges are precisely the kind of politics the American people have grown tired of...". So someone says he might have gone to a Muslim school and these are "malicious charges"? Sheesh.

If Christians are so afraid of Muslims or so disapproving of the violence some extremist Muslims employ, then they should be told how Pagans in Europe and the Near East were treated throughout the first several centuries A.D...

bernardo said...

In case the link to Mike's post about Barack Obama doesn't work (for some reason, it sometimes works for me but sometimes not), here's the text that it talks about, and here is the really important part:

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It's the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example.

We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.

Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God's test of devotion.

But it's fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason.


- - - - - - - - - - - -

He has my vote.

Anonymous said...

Bernardo,

I tend to agree with the paragraph you wrote that you said wasn't meant to be literal.

There is a difference between political views and views on God. However, for the most part the American nation has based alot of its ruling decisions on the values taught by christian doctrine. I believe to a large extent that is what differentiates this nation from others.
Why do people keep coming here and want it to change this society to their beliefs? People can go create their own country according to their own beliefs. I'm never going to Iran and try to live with them. I don't agree with them.

Everybody claims to be a minority and want special treatment or recognition. Enough is enough. Where is personal responsibility for ones own life?
Kathy

Anonymous said...

"However, for the most part the American nation has based alot of its ruling decisions on the values taught by christian doctrine."

I'd be interested to see what you think are examples of ruling decisions based on the values taught *specifically* by christian doctrine.

Kit

bernardo said...

Right on, Kit. I could claim that "the American nation has based a lot of its ruling decisions on the values taught by Humanist doctrine", and I would be at least as correct.

Heck, I could even claim that the things America got right, it got right because of Humanism (like democracy, or a living Constitution, or the careful balance between a free market and a powerfully regulatory government, or the careful balance between local and federal politics), and the things America got wrong, it got wrong because of religion (like how America has dealt with homosexuality, abotion, sex education, middle-east conflicts, separation of church and state, etc). This would be unfair of me to say, and WAY oversimplified... but not nearly as much so as "for the most part the American nation has based a lot of its ruling decisions on the values taught by christian doctrine. I believe to a large extent that is what differentiates this nation from others".

Yes, America as a nation is exceptionally religious, but so are many middle-eastern countries like Iran and Iraq. If anything, the state of things in the middle east should show you that the separation between church and state is a very desireable thing, and that the traces of theocracy in our government must be exorcised before they grow any bigger.

I don't really have a problem with American PEOPLE being religious. I mean, I sometimes wish they weren't, but that's up to them, they can believe whatever they want. The tricky thing to understand is that, just because most American people are religious, this does not justify the government making decisions (passing laws and judging court cases, but also setting school curricula and composing speeches, etc) based on principles supported only by religion. The government should make its decisions in such a way that someone like me - who thinks religion is basically made up - at least understands the logic behind the decision. If you claim that it's "bad" to kill zygotes, to teach kids about birth control and STD prevention, to not teach Creationism in science class, and to allow gay people to marry, then you need to tell me what probable consequences would follow these actions and why those consequences are undesirable or unfair. If you cannot explain those things withou invoking the supernatural or your belief in ancient mythology, then I'm afraid you're simply not being reasonable.

It seems like one of the roles of a (not 100% completely democratic) government is to know what most of its citizens "feel" is right and wrong, and to actually determine which of those things are probably fair and unfair. If most of a population believes that slavery and segregation are OK, an enlightened government should still be able to go "No, no, those things are actually bad". Same for theocracy. Even if most Americans would not mind a slightly-theocratic government, an enlightened government should still realize that freedom of religion includes freedom FROM religion. A country where something is illegal "because the Bible says it's bad" is NOT a country where I am free from religion. Do you really want America to become such a country? think about it.

It would be too much of a digression for me to go into why I think the US is great. I recently became a US citizen and this is something I am very proud of. I think the US Constitution is a masterpiece, that the system of governance in the US is just amazing in its ability to change and evolve and pragmatically address problems with itself, and that the American people's committment to accountability and justice makes it beautifully hard for anyone to get away with doing anything wrong. The American people feel a real sense of ownership over their government, and watch very closely how much power the government has, socially and economically, how it straddles the grey area between a Darwinian free market (like those of developing countries) and arguably excessive government intervention (like in Europe). The US is an enlightened society in many ways. It's not perfect - it's a little too theocratic, and its foreign policy is a little too selfish - but it's better than the alternatives.

None of these things have to do with religion. They may be motivated by religion in the minds of most American people (including politicians). But, in the end, they are not about what is good in a moralist sense ("the Bible says that this behavior is bad"), but about what is good in a utilitarian/Humanist sense ("this behavior probably leads to these consequences, which are undesirable and unfair for the following reasons").

THAT is what is great about America. Religion may motivate those things, but it sometimes impedes those things too.

Anonymous said...

"If you claim that it's "bad" to kill zygotes, to teach kids about birth control and STD prevention, to not teach Creationism in science class, and to allow gay people to marry, then you need to tell me what probable consequences would follow these actions and why those consequences are undesirable or unfair. If you cannot explain those things withou invoking the supernatural or your belief in ancient mythology, then I'm afraid you're simply not being reasonable."

I completely 100% agree.

Also, the problem that I think christians should see with a theocracy is that it's more likely than not that it won't be YOUR particular flavor that's in control.

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

Do you know a single person, personally, or can you point to a single national leader, who is suggesting a theocracy. That is pure hyperbole, and detracts from getting to the real point of the debate.

The most fanatical atheists and the most fundamental nut jobs are really arguing at the margins of government/religion and how they connect.

Of course, we have strayed pretty far from the original post.

John Kennedy was the first Catholic President, and most thought he had no chance because of his Catholicism. There have been no Jewish, Mormon, or Buddhist Presidents either. There is currently a huge debate going on as to whether Romney has a chance to even win the nomination, much less the presidency because of his faith. The left has raised this issue even more than the right with regard to Supreme Court Justices.

But the fundamental question is WHY? From what I read, it has to do with the fact that whatever your faith set is, you are likely to see the world through that lens, make decisions based on aspects of those beliefs, and attempt to make a difference in the laws and their enforcement based at least in part on your "religion."

Now here is where I really hope you all (the non-theists) will hear me clearly. You also have a lens through which you view the world, you make decisions based on your beliefs, and you want the laws to be made and enforced in ways that favor your "religion." You have so stated over and over above.

The reason you are unlikely to be elected to these offices has nothing to do with the actual failure to believe in God, but everything to do with the consequential world view that goes with it. Pro abortion, more libertine regarding sex, drugs, and more inclined to create laws telling people how to raise their kids. (Bernardo, there's your example of government involving itself in personal stuff.)

I love part of what Kathy said about everyone being a minority. Even the majorities (women) are now the minorities. The only group you can make fun of is the majority. Political correctness is destroying free speech on our campuses, with liberals destroying the newspapers of conservatives and disrupting their meetings.

Yikes, I need to stop. I'm on a rant.

Anonymous said...

Bernardo,
with due respect... why do you choose to come to a country if you know it tends to be christian and you aren't. Isn't there a country where more people share your beliefs and maybe more to your liking than in America.?
People come here and then complain and try to change things. I have never understood that. Why don't they just stay where they are and make what changes they want to make in their own country?
Boeing has alot of work in China? Rockwell Collins is hiring alot in India? There is Embraer in Brazil? So many other choices for your work.

There is a God Bernardo, whether you choose to admit it now or not. You just can't define him with your limited knowledge so you tend to dismiss it. He is greater than you.
There is a world science can't and will never be able to measure. That you can't understand and you know that deep down.
There is too much beauty and pleasure on this earth to dismiss it as simply an evolutionary process. You were created on purpose not by accident.

We value you, you are an important created being by God. That belief is why i think America began with the idea of liberty for all.

Anonymous said...

"Do you know a single person, personally, or can you point to a single national leader, who is suggesting a theocracy."

Sure. Phillip Johnson, the guy who "started" the ID movement with the Wedge document, is one. Read the Wedge document. Read his opinions.

"and attempt to make a difference in the laws and their enforcement based at least in part on your "religion."

Randy, no matter how many times you say it, something that isn't a religion can't just be called a religion. "Not collecting stamps" isn't a hobby, right? Being bald isn't a hair color, right?

"Now here is where I really hope you all (the non-theists) will hear me clearly. You also have a lens through which you view the world, you make decisions based on your beliefs, and you want the laws to be made and enforced in ways that favor your "religion."

Randy, this is because you think we're all alike. It certainly seems to me that you think we're all hedonistic liberals. Imagine how I, a non-hedonistic non-liberal, views your post. Randy, go to alt.atheism, or any atheist chatroom, and just lurk, and wait for when there aren't any fundamentalist theists around.

What you'll find is that they'll argue amongst themselves, because the only thing they have in common is that they aren't theists. Your experiences are probably different, but I think it's because you don't lurk long enough.

"You have so stated over and over above."

Randy, I have never stated any such thing. I don't know who you were talking about when you made this statement.

"The reason you are unlikely to be elected to these offices has nothing to do with the actual failure to believe in God, but everything to do with the consequential world view that goes with it."

"Consequential world view"? As opposed to what? Are you saying that atheists don't have a world view with consequences? If so, I'm stunned by how wrong that is.

"Pro abortion,"

Abortion is currently legal. Again, if you think atheists are united as anti-choicers, then I question your sample set of atheists you've talked to through the years.

"more libertine regarding sex,"

If you mean that I try to keep out of other people's personal sex lives, sure.

Also, if you're suggesting that christians are non-sexual outside of marriage, it seems to me that you're paying more attention to what is taught as opposed to what they actually do.

"drugs,"

You'd have to clarify this one.

"and more inclined to create laws telling people how to raise their kids."

I call BS here. I would like to see evidence of this. The people I see wanting to do this are the dominionists, like good ol' Phillip Johnson.

"Political correctness is destroying free speech on our campuses, with liberals destroying the newspapers of conservatives and disrupting their meetings."

And what does this have to do with atheists running for president??

In my opinion, the reason why these polls turn out the way they do is that these people think of the theist's atheist, which I've described before. Where all atheists are hedonistic, fornicatin', liberal pinko commies trying to remove God from people's lives and use the satanic power of Evolutionism to conquer the world.

Slight amount of hyperbole there, but I've seen even worse descriptions of "the atheist agenda". That's how the whole "EAC" joke began.

I find the whole thing fascinating, but unnerving.

Kit

Anonymous said...

Ack, replace "anti-choicers" with "pro-choicers" above, please.

Kit

Anonymous said...

I guess I could have made my point shorter by saying:

"Randy, you seem to be describing your problems with liberals, which doesn't mean much to atheists who are non-liberals."

To be clear, I'm not a conservative. I'm also not a fencesitter either, because I don't see it as being a one-dimensional line from far left to far right.

Kit

bernardo said...

Anonymous,

(I'm guessing you're Kathy ;] ),

"Why do you choose to come to a country if you know it tends to be christian and you aren't?"

Because it has more things right about it than most other countries do. Besides, AMERICA is only a little Christian, and this is worth changing. AMERICANS are almost entirely Christian, which is fine. Do you understand the difference?

Any place one moves to will be imperfect, and any good citizen should try to improve what is imperfect about their society.

"There is a God Bernardo, whether you choose to admit it now or not."

It is possible that the is not a God, whether you choose to admit this possibility or not.

"You just can't define him with your limited knowledge so you tend to dismiss it."

You can't define the world naturalisticly with your limited knowledge so you tend do entirely dismiss the approach.

"There is a world science can't and will never be able to measure."

Maybe. You don't know that for sure.

"There is too much beauty and pleasure on this earth to dismiss it as simply an evolutionary process."

There is too much beauty and pleasure on this earth to dismiss it as the creation of a whimsical being.

"You were created on purpose not by accident."

You can't know that.

"That belief is why i think America began with the idea of liberty for all."

You might be right on that one. Many (but not all) of the good ideas that formed the American system came from Christianity. But Humanists also agree with the importance of individual rights, and many other of those ideas.

I'm not trying to say that Christian morals don't belong in government. I'm saying that the Christian morals that are not supported by observation, common sense, or some form of Humanism, don't belong in government.

bernardo said...

"Do you know a single person, personally, or can you point to a single national leader, who is suggesting a theocracy? That is pure hyperbole, and detracts from getting to the real point of the debate."

No, no one is suggesting that America is or ought to be an absolute theocracy. But some aspects about it are slightly theocratic. A country that is ruled by a ruler who has final say in any policy, but who polls people to find out what they want, is a dictatorship that is slightly democratic. I say the US is a democracy that is slightly theocratic.

"You also have a lens through which you view the world, you make decisions based on your beliefs, and you want the laws to be made and enforced in ways that favor your "religion."."

You are right if you define our "religion" as wanting to determine what is best through observation and studies rather than through some old holy book. Somehow this sounds very sensible to me, a faith that we can learn more about ourselves by investigating than by reading ancient mythology.

"...more inclined to create laws telling people how to raise their kids"

Is this really an atheist trait? I really don't think it is.

"Political correctness is destroying free speech on our campuses"

Some kinds of political correctness can be bad, excessive, over the top, when it gets in the way of dialog. But some are just basic respect. Maybe you fundies can't see the difference... ;]

Anonymous said...

Regarding people suggesting a theocracy, I'm embarrassed that I completely forgot about Howard Ahmanson, of all people. He's one of the best current examples, especially considering his wealth.

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

Kit,

I don't believe that all atheists are the same, any more than all fundamentalists are the same. I know folks in my church that disagree with me on almost every political question. Likewise my friend of 30 years who is a died-in-the wool atheist is a fierce conservative, but of the Ayn Rand Objectivist School.

But whatever form your or their atheism takes, it colors your view.

It may be more accurate to call Objectivism and Humanism the religions.

The consequential world view is the very things we've just been talking about, and rightly or wrongly most folks probably think that atheists are mostly humanists who believe in moral realitivism. This would not be someone I would want running our government. Too iffy for me and most folks.

More libertine means more inclined to think that we should not have laws or even moral leadership encouraging sex be reserved for marriage, or that substance abuse is to be deplored.

Regarding evidence of humanistic efforts to get inside my personal life -
You want to see evidence that the UN and the state of California are attempting to restrict the use of spanking? How about a recent supreme court case that found that children (14) have a right to privacy on their home phone? How about children of any age needing parental consent to get a driver's license, but not an abortion.

I read up on Ahmanson. Very interesting. I don't think he has a large following on that part of his philosophy.

bernardo said...

"... atheists are mostly humanists who believe in moral relativism..."

That's a little bit of a contradiction.

Just because I'm not a moralist doesn't mean I'm a relativist. There's room in between.

Randy Kirk said...

It is hard to imagine that at the root of any godless creed is not self interest and a survival instinct which is, in turn, driven by pragmatism. This would seem to be even more true of the scientist who is so rational that his world view is structured around proofs.

bernardo said...

"It is hard to imagine that at the root of any godless creed is not self interest and a survival instinct which is, in turn, driven by pragmatism."

Humanism is about valuing justice and compassion, about what's best for everyone. Humanists, like religious people, realize that we all want to be selfish but that a civilized world depends on us doing what's best for everyone, not just what is best for each individual at the expense of others.

Besides, a creed driven by pragmatism is not a creed driven by relativism. Not necessarily. There's a difference. I'm pragmatic, and this means I'm open-minded when someone says "I know this seems counter-intuitive, but acting in the following way is actually in everyone's best interest, let me show you how". Pragmatism means being able to evaluate such a claim with an open mind. You may end up agreeing with the claim, or concluding that the consequences of certain actions are NOT beneficial or worthwhile, as far as you can tell. Relativism means that any consequences can be worthwhile, that nothing is good or bad.

Just because I don't trust the rigid moral absolutes of religion, doesn't mean I believe there is no right or wrong. Just because I believe that it is by studying human behavior and human nature that we can learn what is right and wrong, doesn't mean that there is no right and wrong. Suffering is bad. Injustice is bad. But when you claim that you have THE way to minimize those things, I'm not going to just trust you because you tell me I can. I'm going to be pragmatic and try and learn whether you're right.

"... the scientist who is so rational that his world view is structured around proofs..."

That's a straw man. Whose world view revolves around proofs? When has science ever PROVEN anything? All that science provides is models, appended by "At least this corresponds well with the observations we have made so far and with the factors that have occurred to us so far". The only ones claiming to know the truth are the religious people. The scientists are more honest about what they don't know, about how we're all trying to figure it out and all that we have so far are guesses that work better than the guesses that were rejected. That's a form of pragmatism, too. Not "anything goes" (relativism) but "anything MIGHT go, let's evaluate it against some criteria and find out, and if it doesn't go, then it doesn't go, unless we later figure out that we were missing something".

bernardo said...

Here's an analogy I came up with this morning while I was brushing my teeth.

How should people brush their teeth; using an electric toothbrush or a regular hand-actuated brush?

Relativism: People can brush their teeth however they want. Heck, I brush my teeth using my finger. I like it, and I don't really mind cavities.

Science, Humanism, Pragmatism: Let's look at a sample of people who brush using different techniques and different equipment, and see if we can correlate those differences with differences in how many of them get cavities, and how bad. Hmmm, the people who use electric toothbrushes seem to end up with fewer cavities - less than half as many cavities, on average, as people who brush manually. So, assuming there is not a confounding factor (such as some reason why people who use electric brushes might be people who tend to have a lifestyle (or diet) that does not lead to as many cavities) or an unknown additional relevant factor (such as cavities being caused by something that cannot be significantly prevented or slowed down by brushing teeth - which is unlikely since our large sample size showed a strong correlation between brushing and cavities, which is statistically unlikely to be caused by chance), we can say that brushing with an electric brush seems to do a better job of preventing cavities, as far as we can tell. If you find cavities undesirable and unpleasant, then we recommend you brush with an electric brush.

Religion: Electric brushes are bad. I just know it. Can't you feel it? besides, manual brushes do just as good a job when used properly. A statistical correlation does not "prove" anything. And if you do get more cavities in the end, then cavities can't be so bad after all, since this will be as God intended: God wants us to use manual brushes, and it might not be possible for us to understand why using electric brushes is detrimental to our spiritual health.

Now, Randy, what is wrong with this analogy? Nothing, as far as I can tell.

Randy Kirk said...

Knowing what is best for everyone? Bernardo, this is exactly the problem. It is nanny driven. We will figure out what is best for everyone and then we will tell you. Of course, then you have the right to agree or disagree. What's the point.

How will we really ever determine whether it is better for everyone that each person to be truly greedy and try like crazy to amass great wealth, even if a few folks get walked over on the way. Maybe 100,000 people will end up with better jobs because one guy is a total jerk. Or maybe some people need to be jerks for the benefit of all, but others need to altruistic in order to provide balance. But who is which? How will we teach that? Make rules about it? Hire and fire based on it? Put some folks in jail for being jerks when they were supposed to altruistic? Then we also need to admonish some folks for being altruistic who were needed as jerks!

Or we can follow Bibilical teachings which have now been in place for 2000 years, and even though some folks snipe at this or that item, for about 95% of it I suspect even humanists quote it.

bernardo said...

"Knowing what is best for everyone? Bernardo, this is exactly the problem. It is nanny driven."

Are you talking about religious morality, or about pragmatism/humanism?

"We will figure out what is best for everyone and then we will tell you."

Are you talking about pragmatism/humanism, or about religious morality?

"Of course, then you have the right to agree or disagree. What's the point."

That sounded relativist. And besides, it's a fallacy. Of course, people have the right to believe stupid things, but it does not make those stupid things right. And acting on stupid beliefs can land you in jail. One has the right to think that killing people is ok, but if someone thinks he has the right to actually kill people, he's in for some trouble.

"How will we really ever determine whether it is better for everyone that..."

You make it sound impossibly complicated. I'm not saying it's simple, but you can formulate some helpful predictive models ("When people act like A, they get X") if you just observe for long enough, and evaluate the evidence against pre-existing predictive models (such as Christian morals). Heck, I bet your models are better than mine just because you're quite a bit older and have lived through much more diverse circumstances than I have. I'm not questioning your predictive models of what happens when people are the way they are. I'm just saying that the religious approach to creating those models is too inflexible, and not as pragmatic as it could be. The fact that the church has evolved to as to remain a sticky meme shows that it's somewhat pragmatic, but the fact that most religious people have a problem with sex-before-marriage, homosexuality, and other harmless things, means it's not pragmatic enough.

And yes, the Bible has a lot of really good quotable parts in it. It explains and illustrates powerful ideas in simple, elegant ways. I don't think anyone will tell you that the Bible is all junk. It's not. Some of it is some of the best writing ever. But I do think some parts ARE junk, and we have brains to help us figure out which parts are which.

Randy Kirk said...

Bernardo, there is huge difference between a religion which gives you instructions on life, and a society that can kill you or put you in jail if their idea of what is right doesn't work for you. And when science and experimentation are the source of the ideas about what will become moral law, you could have it changing every week. You also have folks like Kinnsey who do horrible science which ends up messing up society for decades. And that is without any actual laws being passed.

The Bible provides rules that don't change from week-to-week based on a new study. You end up with a foundation stone. From that foundation you can say: "Gee, we think maybe the Bible is wrong about that, even though it has been working well for a few thousand years. Lets experiment and see if there would be a reason to suspect it is now incorrect. Then, after many studies and years of debate, it might be time to say the Bible was wrong. But so far, that hasn't happened.

You continue to believe and restate in various threads that various kinds of sex outside of marriage are without negative consequences to other than the participants. You need to read my book.

STD's are caught and spread to others, including babies being born.

Pregnancy results in children being either aborted or born. There are consequences to the two consenting adults, but there are also consequences to all of society, and to the child, its brothers and sisters, etc.

Adultry results in some of the most horrible consequences known to man. For most folks, the fact that there spouse has participate in an adultrous act is the worst thing that happens to them in their life. If there is then a divorce, these two will be the two worst things. That doesn't count the consequences to children, grandparents, friends, etc.

Should I go on. The list is almost endless.

bernardo said...

The inflexibility you see in the Bible, and use to defend the Bible, is exactly what I think is bad about it.

Slavery was the norm for thousands of years, and is condoned in the Bible. But we realized that it's just not what's best for everyone, and we stopped doing it. Is it arrogant to realize that slavery is bad, and to try and get other people to stop it?

Modern society and statistics create a global "consciousness" that allows us to evaluate the consequences of different moral beliefs, the side effects, etc. Why should we never try to refine the morals described by the Bible? To make techie analogies: Newtonian physics worked very well for hundreds of years and continues to work very well, but this does not mean we should not explore relativity and quantum physics. 747s have been selling well and working well for 40 years, but this does not mean we shouldn't try making them with new materials and different engines and aerodynamic differences to see if it can work even better. Sure, maybe the composite skin won't be as durable as the aluminum, and maybe those new super-quiet super-efficient turbofans won't be as reliable as the old engines, but it's worth trying. The potential gains of trying something new and seeing how it works can often be greater than the potential losses of sticking with something old that could be improved.

Just because something works, does not mean it's optimal.

bernardo said...

As for the sex thing - I AM reading your book, and I am waiting to see you get to the part that explains why ALL sex-outside-of-marriage leads to STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and 14-year-old girls doing drugs and sleeping with bikers.

Let me put it this way: Imagine a bell curve. The X axis is, shall we call it, promiscuity and other such behavior. The left-side tail are straight-edge people who do not have sex outside of marriage, do not drink, etc. The right-side tail are people who do drugs, have unprotected sex without knowing their partners for very long, etc. Most people are somewhere in the middle. What you're saying is, just because the people in the right-side tail are suffering due to having sex outside of marriage, then EVERYONE should behave like the people on the left-side tail.

What you're forgetting is that the people in the middle, who drink occasionally, who don't do drugs, who will only have sex with someone after dating them for a long time and forming a real bond, who will not have unprotected sex outside of marriage... are ok. These behaviors do not harm them. And they are MOST PEOPLE.

Take me. I'm one of those people. I will only have sex with a girl if it is clear that we have a deep, loving relationship, the kind that could lead to marriage. (I have only had one such relationship so far, but I can see that most people might have a few before they find their soulmate). I am careful enough that the risk of unwanted pregnancy is negligible and the risk of STDs is very very low. I don't do drugs, I find adultery disgusting and deceitful and shameful, and I don't see how my having protected sex with a non-married significant other would make me dislike drugs or adultery any less. I am perfectly capable of having sex only with someone I care very much about, and suffering none of those terrible consequences you keep bringing up. And most people will say the same thing I'm saying here. I fail to see why what I am doing is wrong. Please explain it to me.

As I keep saying in this blog, "there's room in between". There is such a thing as sex outside of marriage that is safe, respectful, loving, and is not any more likely to lead to those terrible things as sex within marriage is. You have not managed to tell me what is wrong about this kind of sex - you have only tried to connect it with behaviors and consequences that it's just NOT connected with, not in the lives of the vast majority of people.

Randy Kirk said...

I don't condemn you are anyone for having sex outside of marriage. It just isn't God's best. Your experience so completely parallels a committed married relationship that all it lacks is the paperwork. In fact, good Christian folks have acknowledged common law marriage.

The married-but-for type relationship, however, has its own problems: Legal issues after splitting up, status of kids who might be born into the relationship, etc. Studies have shown that the incidence of violence within such relationships is several orders of magnitude higher than in marriages.

And I think you would be amazed to learn how many people are effected by the things I listed. Just STD's alone, we're talking almost a majority of the population. I think over 20% of girls experience some kind of sexual assault in their life.

bernardo said...

"Your experience so completely parallels a committed married relationship that all it lacks is the paperwork."

Exactly. Why is it wrong to have sex within a committed relationship as part of the process of determining whether this committed relationship should become a marriage? It might take a couple years before some incompatibility shows itself in the relationship, and if that happens, the relationship will be easier to end than a marriage would be. So I think it makes sense for a committed relationship to last a while before it becomes a marriage, and I don't see a reason to exclude sex from that "while".

A committed relationship is thus a kind of "evaluative" relationship, kinda like when you install software that you can use for 20 days before paying. It's the same as the full experience, except you have to make it easy to end in case things aren't as wonderful as you expected.

"The married-but-for type relationship, however, has its own problems: Legal issues after splitting up, status of kids who might be born into the relationship, etc."

What legal issues? You mean like who owns what? Who would ever claim that it's smart to have joint property with your girlfriend? And having kids in a relationship of this "evaluative" sort is clearly a stupid idea, I don't know what reasonable well-informed person would claim otherwise. Like I said, anything that would make the relationship very hard to break (such as owning property together, or having kids) should be avoided. Luckily, modern technology makes it possible to have sex with negligible possibility of conception.

In fact, one of the reasons why I think a long committed relationship is important before a marriage is so that you can get a sense of what the other person would be like as a parent - something that (at that level) should only be deduced, NOT investigated experimentally!

You see, Randy, western society does have a pretty-well-agreed-upon set of standards for what a boyfriend and girlfriend should do, and those standards do tend to work out pretty well. Having protected sex is within those standards, as is living together for a while once marriage becomes a serious possibility. Joint property, kids, drugs, getting married right away, unprotected sex... not included within the standards.

Are these standards perfect? No. But they do keep the vast majority of people away from the kinds of problems you describe, while still allowing sex. Indeed, STDs are a risk - pretty much the major risk - and this is something kids need to learn about. But if you only have sex with people you trust (i.e. they would tell you if they had an STD, and they are responsible enough to get examined for STDs if there is a chance they might possibly have contracted one), then that's not a huge problem.

I have been reading your book, and taking notes on all the things I disagree with and why. So far most pages have at least one point I disagree with, usually two or three, sometimes more, so it's taking a while. But I plan on writing a thorough response to the book. I think the gist of it will be as follows:

The sexual revolution gave us a power to know ourselves better and more honestly, and to enjoy ourselves more, but a power that can easily ruin lives when used irresponsibly. The solution is not to take away this power, but to learn how to use it responsibly, to learn of its dangers and of how to avoid them. Like many activities, sex is dangerous, so, like many activities, you do it within certain safety guidelines, rather than not doing it at all.

Funny how the people who claim that sex-before-marriage is too dangerous to be had at all by anyone, are many of the same folks who insist that people should be allowed to own and operate guns. Or automobiles, for that matter. Is sex risky? Yes. Is it risky to guide a one-ton metal box at 70 miles per hour down a narrow lane of concrete with other metal boxes moving at high speeds at close proximity to yours, and only a few meters away from houses and buildings and pedestrians? Yes. Does this mean no one should do it? No. It means it's important to educate everyone on the risks, and on the importance of safety guidelines that reduce the risks to non-worrisome levels. Randy, telling us over and over about horrific traffic accidents will not convince me that I shouldn't drive, much less that no one should drive, or that the invention of the automobile is a regrettable one.

Anonymous said...

Bernardo,

I like your car analogy, and I think it makes your point.

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

I like the car analogy, too. As long as you wear your seatbelt and have drivers' training, its ok to go 100mph on the freeway and pass folks on the right. Sure there's danger there, but life is dangerous.

Do you know that there is a seven-fold difference in the amount of abuse that takes place in living together arrangements that there is in marriage?

You also seem to think that people who live together have a better ability to use birth control. I have a child that was a surprise and I have advanced degrees and a lifetime of studying human sexual response. PLEASE come in from LALA land.

Anonymous said...

"As long as you wear your seatbelt and have drivers' training, its ok to go 100mph on the freeway and pass folks on the right. Sure there's danger there, but life is dangerous."

A straw-man argument, which is a logical fallacy.

No one is suggesting that what you said is ok.

"Do you know that there is a seven-fold difference in the amount of abuse that takes place in living together arrangements that there is in marriage?"

Is the lack of a marriage contract the only factor in determining the results of this study? Were people in relationships who are not living together calculated in this study?

Would you please cite this study, so that I can fisk it?

"You also seem to think that people who live together have a better ability to use birth control."

Another straw-man. Where did I or Bernardo say anything of the sort?

I certainly don't think that people are more or less able to use birth control based on their marital status.

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

My variation of the car analogy wasn't a straw man argument. I didn't say you'd agree with that. I merely posited that the logical extension of the analogy would take us to that point.

Cite for domestic violence in cohabiting couples “Criminal Victimization in the United States, 1992,” US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, (March 1994), p. 31, NCJ- 145125.

"of all violent crimes against women by their intimate partners between 1979 and 1987, about 65 percent were committed by either a boyfriend or ex-husband, while only 9 percent were committed by husbands."

The only reason I raised the issue of birth control within cohabiting relationships was that Bernardo was suggesting that living together should not include children. I can agree that he is right, but that plan is fraught with peril.

For more studies on problems associated with cohabitation such as length of relationship, effect on future relationships including marriage, abuse against children of a spouse who brings children into the relationship, etc. go
http://www.family.org/socialissues/A000000452.cfm#footnote1

bernardo said...

Randy,

that sounds like good, solid evidence. I plan on examining it.

But until I do, my response to your points is:

- Having sex while using a condom, with a woman who is on the pill, after getting to know her well enough to be as sure as I can be that she does not have STDs, is NOT the equivalent to driving at 100mph. I will grant you that sex before marriage is dangerous in a way that sex inside marriage is not, due to the risk of pregnancy, STDs, and emotional issues. My analogy is that sex before marriage is like driving AT ALL, not just driving fast, while sex within marriage is like walking or taking public transport. Sex before marriage is risky, but like driving, the risks are negligible if you do it within certain safety constraints. Those safety restraints are like driving at the speed limit, or just a little bit above it: If you've been educated properly, you will not want to go beyond that, because you know the risks become non-negligible.

As for the abuse,

- People who abuse their partners would probably do so inside or outside of marriage. I suppose I can see them being stopped by the thought of "She's my wife, not just my girlfriend", but that sounds improbable. The fact that more abuse happens outside of marriage is probably because most of those jerks have trouble finding a woman who will marry them and stay married to them.

- 65 percent of abuse happens in non-marriage relationships? Well, aren't MORE than 65% of relationships non-marriage? This means you're statistically safer being non-married.

I don't see why "Sex before marriage is OK" is related to "Abuse is OK". Abuse is simply not OK. I will not abuse anyone I care about, and I'm sure that most people I know would say the same. Anyone I know who abuses a woman or a child will lose my respect and that of everyone I know. It's a monstrous thing to do. I don't see why the kinds of relationships I should or should not pursue is something to be determined (or influenced) by what kinds of relationships these monsters tend to be in when they do the terrible things they do. Are you saying there is a higher likelihood of me BECOMING one of these monsters if I have sex with someone I care about, and/or live with someone I care about, before I marry her? In that case, this is an argument FOR doing those things, so that she finds out that I am a monster before she marries me!

Anonymous said...

"but that plan is fraught with peril."

Please explain, because that's certainly not been my experience.

""of all violent crimes against women by their intimate partners between 1979 and 1987, about 65 percent were committed by either a boyfriend or ex-husband, while only 9 percent were committed by husbands.""

So who committed the other 26% of violent crimes?

Also, I'll ask again:

Is the lack of a marriage contract the only factor in determining the results of this study? Were people in relationships who are not living together calculated in this study?

If it is the only factor, don't you find that strange?

Do you have a url to the study on the web?

(Lastly... 1979 to 1987?? Aren't there any more recent studies?)

My guess is that there was a lot more to this study than you are showing right now.

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

Bernardo 65% by boyfriends or ex's. 9% by husbands. That is the stat.

If everyone were like you suggest that you are and could halfway consitantly live it out, we wouldn't need the Bible or the cops. It is because people like me can't live by your perfect approach that we need direction from parents, laws, leaders, and God.

The statistics go on to say that living together is a statisical predictor for having many such short arrangements compared to folks who marry having fewer and longer relationships. Other stats show that living together increases the likelihood of divorce by 50% for those who eventually marry.

Kit,

the fraught with peril idea was that a huge percentage of the kids born today are born out of wedlock and raised by single moms whose live in boyfriend has moved on. Sounds very Dawkinian to me. The men have not invested very much, so they have a greater reward in sewing their seed far and wide and letting the little woman raise the kids.

I gave the URL at the end of the comment. The information shown there is completely footnoted. That research took me ten minutes on google. Cohabitation and spousal abuse.