Saturday, March 10, 2007

Real Atheists

Many who post and comment here and profess disbelief in God are clear about their agnosticism. I found this interview question by Razib and answer from Justin Barrett which sheds a bit more light on the distinction.

2) In your book "Why Would Anyone Believe in God?" you answer the question why people believe in God. More specifically, why the majority of humans believe in God or Gods. As an atheist, I have to ask, why don't I believe in God? Or, more seriously, do you believe that there are cognitive reasons why some people are just biased to be atheists? I actually emailed Robert N. McCauley about his conjecture that autistics might be 'natural' atheists because of their lack of social intelligence, but he responded that he hadn't stumbled upon any hard empirical confirmation of this hunch...yet. Do you know something we don't?

As self-proclaimed atheist Jesse Bering has observed it can be very hard to identify true atheists. He even suspects that they comprise a very tiny number of people. By true atheists, I mean people that consistently hold no belief (cognitive commitment that motivates behavior) in superhuman agency. Lots of people say they don't believe in superhuman agency (including gods and ghosts) but will still modify their behaviors around cemeteries on spooky nights ("just in case"). I also run into plenty of people who say they don't believe in God but they really have chosen to act as if they don't believe in God because they are angry with God or don't like God. With these qualifications in place, certainly there are a number of factors that might predispose individuals to become atheists. As I agree with McCauley that theory of mind or social intelligence plays a critical role in theism, those who are weaker in these areas (relative to other higher-order reasoning) might be less disposed toward theism. I find it suggestive that women-who tend to have stronger social intelligence-tend to be more religious than men; and men are disproportionately represented among self-proclaimed atheists. Autism has been referred to as a severe form of "male-brainedness," I believe by Simon Baron-Cohen. I suspect social and environmental factors are even more important in supporting atheism, and I speculate on these in my book.

64 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've seen this quote before, by many theists, and I've never understood it:

"I also run into plenty of people who say they don't believe in God but they really have chosen to act as if they don't believe in God because they are angry with God or don't like God."

Randy, or any other theist, would you please explain this line of thinking to me?

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

If you grow up with a father who leaves you, beats you, abuses you, or is emotionally distant, it is sometimes very difficult to contemplate the idea of a "father" God. This may result in one who has been exposed to Christian ideas, finds them to fit their reality, but end up so bitter that they can't bring themselves to follow God.

This can also happen if the errant parent of either sex has claimed to be a devout Christian and there is this disconnect in the eyes of the child.

Then there are those who are just plain rebellious.

Another group (I was in this group) felt somehow hurt by the church or members thereof.

One more example would be those who fell under the influence of professors or other charismatic indviduals who castigated the Church to the point where the person in question was in a state of confusion. If you hate the church, how can you believe in the very one who created it?

At least half the atheists I debate are very, very angry and bitter over their early childhood experience with either the church or their parents.

PS. Almost left out a big one. The one that effected CS Lewis. His mom died when he was nine. He blamed God. Became one of the most famous atheists of his day. Then became the most famous Christian apologist of the 20th Century.

Christian said...

As a Christian, I wish that I knew more of the reasons that people choose to be atheists. I'm sure much could be added to the list. But it seems that atheism is a statement of having no dependence on anyone or anything. Since they see Christians and other religious people as dependent upon religion as a crutch, I believe that atheists see themselves as strong, independent beings without any need to be emotionally attached. I wish I knew more atheists so that I could understand better, because these are my observations and thoughts based on what I'm learning about atheism.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to cover both of your statements in more depth when I have the time, but I'd like to quickly make a few points for "Christian":

1. The word "atheist" describes what I am NOT; it doesn't describe what I AM.

2. Atheists tend to have as much in common with each other as non-stamp-collecting people do with each other. It is slightly different, though: imagine you live in a world where most people are really into stamp-collecting (or whatever hobby you personally aren't into and you find slightly strange), to the point where it's the central part of their lives. That's basically atheism in a nutshell.

3. The atheists you'll see online or talk shows are outspoken people. Most atheists tend not to even talk about the subject, since it's not a big deal to them and they don't want to cause strife with theists. My Dad's side of my immediate family are mostly atheists, but you'd never know, because they simply don't talk about it, much like how they don't talk about stamp-collecting.

4. All an atheist is is someone who doesn't believe in a god. An atheist could have dependence on something or someone, or be weak, dependent people with great needs to be emotionally attached. An atheist could believe in psychics, UFOs, and even ghosts. All that it takes to be an atheist is to not answer "yes" to the question, "Do you believe in one or more gods?"

Kit

Christian said...

Kit,

Thank you for taking the time to respond and for not seeing my comments as attacks. I think it's interesting that you see your atheism as an irrelevant or unimportant part of your life, whereas a Christian or religious person sees their faith as the central part of their lives, as you described that atheism describes what you are not rather than WHO you are. Do you agree with the list written earlier about WHY people choose atheism? Although members of your family choose not to talk about their atheism, do you know why they believe as they do? And may I ask why you have made the same choice?

Christian

Anonymous said...

Christian,

Would you please point me to the list about why people "choose" atheism? I haven't seen it.

(To be clear, I would never say that I "chose" atheism; it's simply the result of not having a belief in god. Just like you really don't "chose" to take a chute or a ladder in Chutes and Ladders.)

Kit


Kit

Anonymous said...

Randy,

Do you really believe that at least half of the atheists to talk to online are "very, very angry and bitter over their early childhood experience with either the church or their parents"?

Was this an exagerration? Were these people adults? Is it possible that you misread their tone in the text (which happens often)? Is it possible that this is a very selective sample? I can't speak for you, of course, but my experiences are vastly different. I certainly wouldn't call them all happy-cheery people, but to say that a large percentage are "very, very angry" just doesn't match for me.

Regarding your descriptions of people who say they don't believe in God, I guess those would be possible situations, but I would still call all of those people theists. It's the concept of someone who actually doesn't believe in a god but hates God that confuses me, instead of the pretentious idea of "you say you don't believe in God but I know better than you and you hate God".

Also, I've certainly known people who very much disliked the church, but definitely considered themselves christians, in that they believed that Jesus was their savior and so on.

By the way, I don't know about anyone else, but while I had my share of charismatic professors in college, I had plenty of completely boring and forgettable professors. We simply tend to remember the charismatic professors and forget the others.

Lastly, regarding CS Lewis: Outside of fundamentalist christianity and "politically active" atheists, he's really only known for the Narnia books. Every atheist I know who has read his Mere Christianity at least, if not his other apologetics books, very much doubts that he was ever really an atheist. Granted, the only atheists who have done so are also in the "outspoken atheists" group. Here's the reason why: the questions he asks are not the questions we actually tend to ask, and the answers are conclusions looking for explanations, instead of the other way around.

For example, when I was training to be an evangelist (baptist, to be specific), I was taught a list of questions to expect from atheists, and a corresponding list of answers. When I finally got involved in witnessing to atheists, I was initially shocked because I wasn't being asked the questions they were supposed to be asking. That's similar to the reaction I had to reading Mere Christianity.

In other words, in the online atheist "community", CS Lewis is only famous for being a writer of Narnia and apologetics.

Kit

Anonymous said...

Christian,

You said:

"I think it's interesting that you see your atheism as an irrelevant or unimportant part of your life, whereas a Christian or religious person sees their faith as the central part of their lives".

Exactly, Christian. Understanding this will go a long way when you talk to an atheist, just as an atheist should understand the "central part of their lives" part. That's why I used the stamp-collecting analogy.

Regarding that analogy, my dad's family is just like a group of people who don't collect stamps (ironically, my dad is really into it)... they don't talk about not collecting stamps, and they really don't ever think, "you know, self, I don't collect stamps", just like you would for a hobby that you aren't interested in. So, the question, "why do they believe that way?" doesn't really make sense to them. It's like asking me why I don't collect stamps; I was never exposed to stamps as a kid, and I ended up having other interests, and I just don't understand why people collect stamps, but it's not something I really think about.

By the way, I actually was exposed to stamp collecting as a kid. So my path was different from my dad's family. Basically, the more I read the Bible, the less I believed it, and the more I started to critically evaluate my experiences with God. It's a bit more complicated than that, of course, but that's the gist.

Now, the reason I have such an interest in this whole thing is because stamp collectors don't tend to think that people who don't collect stamps will be ETERNALLY punished simply for not collecting stamps.

Kit

Anonymous said...

Randy,

Something I just thought about:

I've spent a lot of years lurking in christian / muslim / atheist chatrooms and forums, and one thing I learned is that there are certain particular people in these places that put themselves front and center, and they're largely rude jerks.

Is it possible that you're focused on this type of person with your "very, very angry and bitter" comment? Because I see this type in all of those various chat rooms. I consider it a personality trait unconnected to their point of view.

Kit

bernardo said...

This is an interesting thread.

I agree with Kit that being an atheist is about what one ISN'T rather than about what one IS, which would make you expect that most atheists would not talk about atheism all the time. This is true of a lot of atheists. However, as an atheist, I have an awareness of things like how church and state are not well separated, or like how many people misunderstand what Science is about, or like how most people simply have almost no respect for an atheistic world view. This means that, in some senses, American society is unfair towards atheists, so I feel like I should try to fix this, and I try to fix this by talking to believers about my atheism and trying to see if I can help more people realize that atheists are good, reasonable people. The fact that many atheists out there are rude, angry, and/or intolerant makes me feel even more urgency to get out there and combat those stereotypes. (And yes, I realize that Muslims have it even worse than atheists do in this regard).

As for what makes some people be atheists and some people be theists, I think that's an extremely interesting question. It was while pondering this question that I realized that neither atheists or theists are "right" in any strong sense; they just look at the world in a way that makes sense to them. To an atheist, a Christian's world view may seem needlessly complicated, patched up with weak rationalization, and unable to explain certain things - but the fact is the Christian sees the atheist world view in the same way. It's a symmetric situation because they have different requirements for a world view. A Christian expects some things from a satisfactory explanation (say, one about how the world came to be as it is) that are different from the things that an atheist expects from a satisfactory explanation. There are basic axioms about things that feel like they should be true about the universe, and atheists like different axioms than Christians. Most importantly, as far as I can tell, theists think that it makes sense to assume that the universe was deliberately created as part of a plan, while atheists do not. I really do think that what anchors most people to theism is the thought that the world as a whole would have no meaning if it were not deliberately created as part of a plan, and so the atheist world view simply cannot be correct, because the world must have meaning.

What makes some of us think that the world must have been deliberately created as part of a plan? Do we choose this preference? Is it genetics, upbringing, or what? I don't know. To me it's like sexual orientation: By the time it manifests itself, it's no longer really a choice, wherever the heck it is that the "preference" came from.

The other thing that bothers me, and that I feel I ought to get out there and talk about, is the idea that theism is incompatible with a naturalistic universe. But that's a whole other issue.

My point is, as an atheist, you are much more likely to notice some misconceptions floating out there, and to think that those misconceptions impede progress or peace or understanding or justice or some other desireable thing. So atheism should lead people to try and combat those common misconceptions, which can be done by talking about atheism. In this sense, being an atheist is not like "not collecting stamps" as much as it's like "not taking addictive drugs", in the sense that it allows people to have perspective on the impact of faith, to question whether this impact is desirable, and to talk to people so as to minimiza the bad impacts and keep the good impacts if possible. Many people do not take addictive drugs, but dedicate much of their lives to trying to minimize the undesirable impact of addictive drugs in the world, and to those people, "not taking addictive drugs" is a central part of who they are. (And yes, I realise that faith has many benefits, and probably does more good than harm to the modern world, unlike addictive drugs).

Christian said...

Kit,

You have made some things more clear to me and my understanding of your beliefs. I'm curious as to how you came to even be exposed to the Bible, given that your family is mostly made up of atheists? And since they don't talk about it, how did you know that's how they saw things?

Having grown up in a Christian family for most of my life, I had to come to the point (during my college years) when I had to decide whether or not I would be a Christian because it is what my family brought me up to believe or whether I would choose it for myself. THere are still many things that are unanswered for me, but I believe that God exists and have seen evidence of His intricate involvement in my life.

I can understand why people don't believe in God or decide not to believe in God after doing so for a time - there is so much that is unexplained...is that what made you disbelieve? ( you wrote earlier: "Basically, the more I read the Bible, the less I believed it, and the more I started to critically evaluate my experiences with God.")

And yes, my view of atheists in general has been that they are angry and bitter. This is not how you or Bernardo have presented yourselves. Why are so many atheists so angry? Are they angry at Christians or just angry in general? I guess that's what part of this thread has been about already.

And about the questions/answers that you were "prepped" to give as an evangelist...what questions were atheists asking that you didn't have answers for?

Christian

Christian said...

Bernardo,

Can you explain more about how society is unfair toward atheists? As a Christian, I fear that we are also misunderstood and wrongly judged in so many ways.

"I really do think that what anchors most people to theism is the thought that the world as a whole would have no meaning if it were not deliberately created as part of a plan, and so the atheist world view simply cannot be correct, because the world must have meaning." - As part of your view, what gives the world meaning without a God? And how is the world less meaningful with a God?

I don't know if those questions make sense...I'm just trying to understand what your view is.

And how do you know when atheism "manifests"? What are the sorts of things that help to manifest one's beliefs and how do you come to realize it in yourself? How does being an atheist work for/against you in society?

Christian

Randy Kirk said...

WOW! Where to begin? I think we have the potential for at least three new threads here.

I don't really like either Kit's or Bernardo's analogy, even though I find some truth in both. The question of the reason or source of our existance, and the anticipation of what happens when we die are the three most important questions of history. No one can avoid contemplating these to some degree. If you live in most cultures, you will have no choice but to be presented with huge amounts of propaganda from religions and secularism (a religion?). Therefore the choice is far greater than stamp collecting. I would suggest that many folks, believers and not, don't talk about it, because they were taught that it is a taboo issue in polite company. And they know or think they know that there is great potential for conflict, and most folks are conflict avoiders.

Randy Kirk said...

Kit

I would not say that most of these atheists are generally angry, but they are angry in the way that they discuss Christians. They use angry, bitter words, demeaning and derrogatory concepts, horrible stereoptypes, etc. Maybe this can be summed up in one of the blog titles "95% of you are morans."

These folks may lead generally calms and peaceful existences for all I know. One friend of over 25 years believes there is no possibility of God. He takes this intellectually dishonest position, even though he is one of the most gifted intellectuals I've ever known. And he is calm and sweet and charming. But he has great bitterness with regard to his parents and the church.

I know one example does not a law make, but I see it over and over.

Think about the time when you were being tipped out. Did it have anything to do with disappointment that trusted folks had led you astray, or with God as you learned what seemed to be character flaws that you missed when you were younger?

Randy Kirk said...

CS Lewis:

I would suggest that this is another example of folks not looking beyond the propeganda. Lewis wrote Science Fiction and kids books, scholarly papers, etc. He was a noted speaker called upon to speak about atheism. He came to a point in his life when stuff wasn't adding up. He read the Bible from cover to cover and says he realized that it "HAD" to be true.

Randy Kirk said...

Bernardo:

My take is that most people become Christians because their parents were. Then, as Christian points out, somewhere around 17 you have to own it, yourself or reject it.

Those who make the decision outside of the influence of their parents generally come to the end of themselves. They have to decide if they are better at controlling their own lives or if the creator might know more about it than they do.

bernardo said...
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bernardo said...
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Anonymous said...

Christian,

==========
You have made some things more clear to me and my understanding of your beliefs.
==========

I don't feel like I've actually talked about my beliefs. I've talked about some opinions I have, and some beliefs that I don't have. I tend to not have beliefs, but instead I have points of view and opinions.

==========
I'm curious as to how you came to even be exposed to the Bible, given that your family is mostly made up of atheists?
==========

My dad's side of the family are mostly atheists, but my mom's side are mostly christians. My mom raised me in a UCC (United Church of Christ, a progressive christian denomination) church, so that's where I was exposed to the Bible, specifically the "Good News" translation, which is warm fuzzy-ish compared to the KJV or NIV. In fact, I spent most of my time in church simply reading the Bible, since I've always been an avid reader. Of course, at that age, I didn't really think about whether it was true or not; my mom said God existed, and she sure seemed to be right about darn near everything else.

==========
And since they don't talk about it, how did you know that's how they saw things?
==========

Because *I* talk about it, and I've asked them questions about it. They tend to prefer that I don't do either. The fact that I'm really into this subject (the concept of theism and magical thinking in general) is something that at best they (my dad's family) view as strange, and at worst they view as offensive.

A better way to describe my dad's side of the family is to call them "apatheists", short for "apathetic atheists". Not that they're apathetic in general, but about theism specifically.

==========
I can understand why people don't believe in God or decide not to believe in God after doing so for a time
==========

To be clear, there was never a time when I decided to not believe. Atheists tend to either grow up never haven been a theist (such as my dad's side of the family), or they simply lose their theism (which is what happened to me). Because I lost my theism, I became, by definition, an atheist (or, a "nontheist", if you prefer). It's the same way like how you probably never made a conscious choice to no longer believe in the Easter Bunny; it's something that simply happened over time as you grew up.

That's how I, personally, view my loss of faith.

===========
there is so much that is unexplained...is that what made you disbelieve?
===========

No.

There are a lot of reasons why I lost my theism, and to explain them all would make for an incredibly long post as I blah-blah-blah about myself and my history. The short answer is that, as I learned more about the world around me, and studied more of the Bible, the less true christianity (and then theism) was for me. Again, this is a very short version of a very long answer. From my point of view, I simply outgrew the mindset that keeping my beliefs and opinions was so important that I needed them to be right; I no longer believe in something simply because I want to, and if I'm wrong... so be it, because once I'm corrected, I'll then be right.

==========
And yes, my view of atheists in general has been that they are angry and bitter [...] Why are so many atheists so angry? Are they angry at Christians or just angry in general?
==========

Well, all I can say is that my experiences with atheists, both online and in real life, both as a fundamentalist and as an atheist, match up with your opinion of Bernardo and myself, and not of "angry and bitter" people. Again, I won't deny that there are angry atheists, but I've met angry muslims and angry christians in the same amounts. That's why I think it's a personality issue completely unconnected to where they stand regarding theism.

Is it possible you misunderstood them, especially if this was in writing? Is it possible that you unintentionally said something offensive to non-christians or nontheists? Is it possible that they were writing or speaking intentionally for that effect?

Also, and I'd like Randy's answer to this too, if possible: do you know any atheists in real life? Are you friends with any atheists in real life?

For myself, I would say that about a third of my friends are atheists, and the rest are christians with a few jewish people also. Some buddhists also, actually.

==========
And about the questions/answers that you were "prepped" to give as an evangelist...what questions were atheists asking that you didn't have answers for?
==========

This would also have a long answer, but the main issue wasn't necessarily that I didn't have answers, but that I was taught what I now call "the theist's atheist". For example, you'll find this atheist often in Jack Chick tracks (www.chick.com). This is the atheist who hates god, is very angry and bitter (thus my skepticism with what you and Randy wrote), and, most importantly, argues from the theist mindset. That is, the theist's atheist asks the kind of questions that a theist who is roleplaying an atheist would ask. Such as "where do I go when I die?"

That was the whole problem for me. Once I actually started witnessing to atheists, they simply didn't act the way I was taught they were supposed to act, they didn't ask the questions I was taught they were supposed to ask, and they weren't ignorant to my great answers the way they were supposed to be (because they had heard them many times before).

For a great example of this, read CS Lewis' Mere Christianity or any of Lee Strobel's The Case For... apologetics books. As an atheist, when I read them, I couldn't stop thinking, "these aren't the questions I used to ask when I was having doubts, much less the questions I would ask now" and "these aren't the kind of answers that would convince me, or anyone who isn't already a christian of some sort."

I apologize for the length of this post, but I hope that answers your questions.

Kit

bernardo said...

Like I have said, I agree that most Christians became Christians because they were brought up in an environment that valued Christian faith. What I'm trying to explore is the cause why Christians and other theists are so averse to atheism, are so convinced it is not true. I believe that upbringing causes people to become religious, but a need for meaning in the universe causes people to stay religious (and to convince themselves that atheists are wrong).

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

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.

"As part of your view, what gives the world meaning without a God?"

Nothing, really. I mean, we do, for ourselves, but that's not the same thing, that's not "real" meaning by theist standards. To an atheist, the world has whatever meaning they want to give it. But that's an atheist thing to say. If you're a theist, then God is the one who created th world for a reason, and the "meaning" of it all is God's plan. If the world was created deliberately by a God with a plan, then the "meaning" of life, the universe, and everything, is to figure out what we must do in order to advance that plan, and then do it. But if there is no plan - if the universe and the life in it pretty much just happened by accident, then WE are the only beings (as far as we know) with foresight and intelligence and the ability to make plans, so the "meaning" of our lives is whatever we attribute to it.

"And how is the world less meaningful with a God?"

It's not. The notion of a creator with a plan is one that, if true, gives the world a single, unified, universal, powerful, all-encompassing meaning, one that includes everyone's lives and all the events from the Big Bang to me typing this. But if there is no God, then the world is just an accident, something without purpose, something that just "is", towards no particular destination other than wherever the wind might happen to take it.

So a world with no God has no real meaning. Which is fine by most atheists; Most atheists don't see why the universe as a whole must have "meaning". "What is the purpose of the universe" is itself a meaningless question, in our opinion. But theists do think that the universe must have meaning, so any world view that says "Nah, the universe does not have meaning or purpose other than what we want" sounds incomplete to them (to you).

Does that sound about right, or am I missing something? I have had talks with Christians that ended in "But your world view has no meaning!" and "Right! Why must the world have meaning?!", so it seems like a pretty powerful idea.

bernardo said...

"these aren't the kind of answers that would convince me, or anyone who isn't already a christian of some sort."

My point exactly. The answers that convince Christians are not successful at convincing atheists. Why do so many Christians fail to see this? (Then again, some folks like Richard Dawkins fail to see that the arguments that convince atheists do not necessarily convince Christians...)

I should also agree with Kit that one should not judge how angry/rude a group of people is based solely on the tone of their discourse on internet forums

PS: About the two comments I wrote at 1:09 and 1:12, immediately before Kit ("anonymous") wrote his latest comment: Randy, please delete them, since the first one contains an error in formatting (corrected in my previous comment, the one immediately preceding this one) and the second one is just a note about that error.

bernardo said...

The link in my previous comment was meant to link here and here and here.

All right, it's time for bed.

Anonymous said...

Randy,

Would you please point me to some evidence that CS Lewis was known for being "a noted speaker called upon to speak about atheism", when he was an atheist, before Mere Christianity came out? I've seen this claim quite a few times before, but my research has never turned up any evidence for it.

Kit

Anonymous said...

Randy,

"The question of the reason or source of our existance, and the anticipation of what happens when we die are the three most important questions of history."

Only to theists and "spiritual" people. Outside of those beliefs, and outside of the sciences that study these things (births and deaths), these questions are actually not really considered important at all. I understand that they're important to you, Randy, but you'll find that they aren't particularly important to nontheists.

"No one can avoid contemplating these to some degree." Well, "to some degree", sure, I guess, but I'm willing to bet that that "degree" is much smaller than you think it probably is.

Lastly, I would be interested in seeing a definition of the word "secularism" that would make it a religion, because stuff like that blows my mind.

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

Kit,

We were discussing this belief issue the other day in another thread. What is the difference. Why the hesitation to describe your opinion or pov as a belief.

Randy Kirk said...

Sorry about the lack of ???? in the last comment. I don't believe in them.

Kit,

For 20 years just about my best friend was atheist. I have mentioned him elsewhere. Another good friend is Michael Shermer, who I've known and corresponded with for over 20 years. A huge number of my closest friends have been non religious jews. One of those was my best friend for a number of years, and I attempted to convert him in his last years of life. We never really talked seriously about God prior to that, even though we hung out all the time.

In addition to that, I have been involved in this debate subject for about 10 years on the net, and have had some level of relationship with a few hundred atheists during that time.

I would concede that those who are interested in debating the issue might be more inclined to become hot about it. But my thinking about the anger and bitterness is not necessarily just in the obvious expression of it, but a part of the specific way they deal with the subject of God.

Randy Kirk said...

Bernardo,

I really don't think Christians that I know are adverse to atheism except as it plays out in other points of view. So, an atheist is much more likely to be ok with sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, pornography, S & M, government solutions for personal issues (no spanking), government intervention in the market place (universal health care), etc.

In addition, we have a hard time thinking about anyone ending up in hell. That creates varying degrees of passion for evangelism in folks. This can be seen as a bad thing to atheists, but it should be coming from a very good heart. (Of course, sometimes it comes from a desire to put notches on the belt.)

Finally, things like situation ethics, AynRandian thinking, do whatever you want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone, and anarchy are virtually unheard of in Christian circles, and can create some antithapy towards those who believe in these ways.

bernardo said...

That's understandable.

I could say that things like Crusades, holy wars, witch burning, and flying airliners into skyscrapers, are virtually unheard of in atheist circles. But I know that those things are not representative of modern Christianity any more than ideals of anarchy are representative of modern Humanism. (I really have to learn more about this Ayn Rand person).

And really, what is wrong with doing what you want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone including yourself? I'm ok with people who engage in sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, pornography, and S&M - I don't see how any of their activities harm me, and if their activities harm them (which I'm not sure they do), then, well, that's their choice to make. Yes, atheists tend to be utilitarians and theists tend to be moralists. I think this just means that we take a different, more empirical approach to figuring out what is best for everyone (rather than just trusting ancient texts), not that we are any less committed to figuring out what is best for everyone.

Besides, most atheists realize that you can probably find something in the Bible to support whatever view you have of right vs wrong, and some rationalization to explain why the parts in the Bible that disagree with your views are not really important. The Bible says you shouldn't eat shrimp, wear clothes of more than one fabric, plant different crops in the same field, touch the skin of a dead pig (like, say, on a football?), have contact with a woman who is having her period, work on Sunday, trim the hair that grows from one's temples, etc, but I don't see conservatives fussing about those rules. There are rationalizations for why these rules are unimportant, but I'm not sure it is reasonable of Christians to expect non-Christians to find those rationalizations compelling.

I have mixed feelings about government intervention in the marketplace, but I do think that the government should intervene enough so that basic human rights - at least food and shelter, ideally health and education - are assured to everyone. I don't see 1) why this is bad or 2) why atheists would be more likely to believe this than theists. As far as I can tell, Conservatives think that it's up to each individual to donate what they want to whatever cause they think is worthy (and if some poor people end up homeless or starving or sick, then oh well, this means not enough people were generous enough, but they don't have to be), while Liberals expect that the government should organize all wealth redistribution (even if against the preference of some citizens) so as to ensure at least some minimum conditions for everyone. I'm not sure which side is "right". I tend to favor the Liberal take on this since it just seems more social and more civilized, but I can see why many people consider it unfair. (And this means that it's easier for a theist to dislike me?)

I don't know anyone who would support government solutions for personal issues. Then again, doesn't the teaching of Creationism and of abstinence-only birth control fall under this category? Yeah, I know it's not the same thing. But the differences are not so black and white.

Randy Kirk said...

Let folks do what they want as long as it doesn't hurt someone.

Who decides what does and doesn't hurt someone? How do we have the wisdom to know in advance? Etc.

Sex outside of marriage. It is possible to imagine sex outside of marriage without major consequences, but it looks a lot like marriage. As soon as it starts to look like something other than marriage then you end up with lots of harm to the individual and to his partners and to his family at so many levels that it would take me a book to list them. (Oh yeah! I wrote that book in 1993.)

I will turn the tables on you with regard to teaching creationism and abstinence-only in the classroom. How much worse do you think it is for Christians who have NO voice in the science classroom, and who have Planned Parenthood (the largest abortion mill in the country) invited into classrooms to teach birth control. And yes, this is the kind of thing that can cause distrust and anger towards atheists who not only promote this, but insist on keeping our POV out of the very classrooms we pay for.

Having professors on the payroll of public universities who teach our children that Communism is better than capitalism and specifically knock Christians from the podium. These things could add fuel.

Using OT laws with regard to local customs that were specifically dealt with in the NT doesn't help the argument.

bernardo said...

"Who decides what does and doesn't hurt someone?"

Two choices come to mind. Choice one, an ancient book that condones slavery and brutal physical punishment, whose followers have only recently realized that killing their opponents is not OK. Choice two, studies that try to empirically interview lots of people who make certain choices or go through certain experiences, so that we can then determine what the consequences are of those choices or experiences. Both options have plenty of room for error, but option Two sounds much more sensible.

Since you have written a whole book on the supposed harm of sex outside of marriage, I won't ask you for that list all over again. Do you have an extra copy of that I could borrow? Anyways, I'm not saying that anyone can live a very sexual lifestyle and be ok - there are limits to how much sexual activity is healthy, to what kinds of relationships sexual activity should happen within. I just don't think those limits are as narrow as "only between a married couple".

"How much worse do you think it is for Christians who have NO voice in the science classroom..."

But science is naturalistic. If you want schools to teach a course about the ID debate, then this is something you should petition your local school board about. Just don't call it science, and be clear about how Creationism is the unimaginative idea that no naturalistic model could ever possibly account for the formation of certain biological systems. I would not mind having my tax dollars going into a balanced course on Creationism. Or into teaching kids a comparative course about world religions and religious history and philosophy. Heck, the more kids learn about this stuff, the harder it will be for their parents to brainwash them.

"Planned Parenthood (the largest abortion mill in the country) invited into classrooms to teach birth control..."

Maybe preventing teen pregnancy is a better - and more possible, realistic, and reasonable - goal than preventing teen sex. Planned Parenthood tells kids that, if you choose to have sex, here's how to do it so as to not catch a disease or get pregnant. This still leaves plenty of room for kids to be taught "But you still should not choose to have sex!", if this is what you believe kids should be taught.

In both cases, I say the more information, and the more viewpoints that are presented in an honest and balanced way, the better.

And if you don't think that kids are old enough to choose these things... Well, they do choose these things, whether or not you think they should, so you might as well equip them to make informed choices.

"Having professors on the payroll of public universities who... specifically knock Christians from the podium..."

What it comes down to is: I don't want my tax money going towards the promotion of religion! It can go towards teaching people about religion, which is different. Just as you probably think that it's OK for students to learn about Communism and why it seemed like a good idea at the time. But that's different from someone why enthusiastically still promotes it. Yes, it's a fuzzy grey area, not a sharp line, but you get the idea.

"OT laws with regard to local customs that were specifically dealt with in the NT"

You mean "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets ... For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."? Yes, I know that the NT has a different message, more about love and compassion and less about strict rules, more about being good than about doing good. But if I want, I can still quote Matthew 5 and say "No, no, the NT says that all the old rules still stand! Jesus said so himself, right here!".

I say this with some hesitation, because you probably know how to extract your points from the Bible much better than I know how to extract mine. But all I want to show is, you can choose some parts of the Bible to justify bad things. To say that the NT "deals" with those bad things is a matter of personal interpretation, not of absolute fact.

Anonymous said...

Randy,

There's a lot you just said that I'd like to answer.

Regarding why I prefer the terms "opinion" and "point of view" over "belief": it's because it's my opinion that the word "belief" carries a connotation of emotional involvement, while "opinion" does not.

Here's the thing, except for a few extreme cases, which I think you and I would feel the same about, I'm not emotionally attached to any of my opinions; if presented with a logical, persuasive argument, I have no problems changing my opinions.

From my experiences, that's the difference between an opinion and a belief.

Kit

Anonymous said...

Oh, and one more thing: I don't expect anyone to necessarily share my opinions.

All I ever want is for people to understand my opinions; they can disagree with them all they want.

Kit

Anonymous said...

"How much worse do you think it is for Christians who have NO voice in the science classroom..."

If you want a voice in the science classroom, do the science, and subject it to peer review.

It's that simple.

And it's something that the ID people refuse to do, surprisingly enough. ;-)

Kit

Anonymous said...

"Having professors on the payroll of public universities who teach our children that Communism is better than capitalism and specifically knock Christians from the podium."

I've never experienced this (and I went to a public university), and I've never heard of any friends that have seen this happen.

As if anyone cares, I think that communism is garbage.

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

Bernardo,

"Choice one, an ancient book that condones slavery and brutal physical punishment, whose followers have only recently realized that killing their opponents is not OK."

Now you have put yourself in the position of continuing to argue the point about killing opponents, but have not read the article about this that I pointed you to.

In addition, a little study will show you that the slavery Israel had was nothing like the slavery here in America. Most were individuals who became slaves intentionally. Others were taken during wars, but were often more like vassals or indentured servants. And what is unique in the OT is that God told them that they had to treat these individuals with dignity.

So, instead of relying on an ancient text that has stood the test of time for a huge percent of the population, you are going to interview people and try through such surveys to come up with smart ways to do things. Have you ever conducted such surveys or read about how they are done? Self reporting is notoriously problematic, and those doing the survey can easily mess with the results through the questions, the population, and the analysis.

We have now had 40 years to evaluate the great experiment of making divorce easy. I'm hard pressed to find many kids who are thrilled that their folks divorced, but I have counseled many who are a total mess, largely due to the sense of abandonment or feelings of responsibility associated with their parent's divorce or divorces.

Then there are the kids who have never known their dad, or who have been passed around from Dad to Mom to Grandparents, and the back to Mom. But it was very clear to all of us in the '60's that marriage wa arcane, living together was the new way, and unfettered sex and drugs were the future. Lets take a survey.

Or we can go to the reasoned science that had no political basis that showed so clearly that men and women were virtually alike. Short lived, but very destructive.

Randy Kirk said...

Bernardo,


"I say this with some hesitation"

As well you should. Not because I'm such a Bible scholar, but because the entire premise of the NT is that the law is now written on the hearts of believers. There were huge debates among the disciples about how they were supposed to deal with OT laws regarding food, circumcision, dealing with "hated" sects, etc.

Jesus was put on a cross at least in part because he "worked on the Sabbath."

Randy Kirk said...

Kit,

I mean this with all of my heart. There is no way that your opinions are not subject to your emotional attachment. For you to accept God would be a huge step with monumental consequences regarding all your past statements and thinking.

If you are as free from emotion as you think you are, you would have to be some unfeeling robot. What are we without passion? Where does passion come from, but emotion?

How can I convince you that your child is not the most beautiful child ever born with reason?

Randy Kirk said...

Kit,

My daughter had so much of it at CSUSD grad school in social work, that she was ready to start a Christian anti-defamation league.

If it exists, and whole books have been written about it, what should we do about it.

Anonymous said...

"There is no way that your opinions are not subject to your emotional attachment."

When I'm talking to friends? Sure. When I'm talking about it with people who don't share these opinions, or where I don't know if they share my opinions, I remove any emotional attachment I would have, because it's not practical.

So, it's situational. It's like the way I am at work when fires need putting out and clients need convincing; I go into "pro" mode and focus on the task at hand. Outside of that, I'm a goofball jester goober kind-of-guy.

Does that make sense?

"For you to accept God would be a huge step with monumental consequences regarding all your past statements and thinking."

Randy, with all due respect, I think you misunderstand a lot of what I write. It's not an issue of "accepting" God, it's an issue of having a reason to believe in one. That's the first step.

But let me make one thing as clear as I can: if I believed in a god, I would accept that god, because I would have no other rational choice.

"If you are as free from emotion as you think you are, you would have to be some unfeeling robot. What are we without passion? Where does passion come from, but emotion?"

I hope I explained this well enough. I am definitely not an unfeeling robot, or without passion, or without emotion. I've just learned how it's best not to become emotionally attached to my points of view, because it only makes the viewpoints harder to change, especially if they're being challenged.

"How can I convince you that your child is not the most beautiful child ever born with reason?"

Considering that is pretty much the most subjective judgment one can make in this world, I don't see how you can, nor would I ever expect you to. In other words, I find that example to be extreme.

I would also ask if you count "persuasiveness", "charisma", and "rhetoric" within or outside "reason".

"My daughter had so much of it at CSUSD grad school in social work, that she was ready to start a Christian anti-defamation league [...] if it exists, and whole books have been written about it, what should we do about it."

What should we do about it? The same way we deal with any other situation like this: we investigate it. If crimes occured, or people's rights were unduly prevented, then the appropriate consequences should occur.

Can you give any details about any of the situations where this happened to your daughter, so that I can research it for myself?

I'm very skeptical, due to my experiences with these kind of claims, but I'm willing to view any evidence for it and be persuaded that this is an important issue.

Kit

Anonymous said...

I said:

"When I'm talking to friends? Sure."

To clarify the context here, I mean: "Do have have emotional attachment to my opinions when I'm talking with my friends? Sure."

Kit

Anonymous said...

Ack, that should be:

"Do I have emotional attachment to my opinions when I'm talking with my friends? Sure."

Kit

Anonymous said...

I should also be clear that I think that it's not good to be emotionally attached to my opinions because it makes it harder for me to critically evaluate them.

Kit

bernardo said...

"We have now had 40 years to evaluate the great experiment of making divorce easy. I'm hard pressed to find many kids who are thrilled that their folks divorced, but I have counseled many who are a total mess, largely due to the sense of abandonment or feelings of responsibility associated with their parent's divorce or divorces. Then there are the kids who have never known their dad, or who have been passed around from Dad to Mom to Grandparents, and the back to Mom. But it was very clear to all of us in the '60's that marriage was arcane, living together was the new way, and unfettered sex and drugs were the future."

See, that is what I call a reasonable way to find out whether things are bad or not: By observing the effects of those things on people. I'm not saying we should experiment on people. People experiment on themselves (i.e. think of something crazy, and there is probably someone out there who wants to do it). I hope you understand why I am skeptical of people saying "X is bad" until studies show that most people who go through X suffer undesirable consequences. Until there is evidence of X actually being bad, "X is bad" is just a guess based on anecdotal evidence or on ancient mythology.

And, while I'm here, I will tell you what I think about sex outside of marriage. (And if your response is "Just read my book"... I'd be happy to if you have one for me to borrow).

Say a kid is riding his bike and has a bad accident. Maybe the kid got hit by a car, or something (a slip, a bump, a mechanical defect of the bike) caused a nasty fall. Say the kid loses the use of his legs, or something really tragic like that. Is it reasonable to say "Kids should not be riding bikes! Riding bikes is DANGEROUS! Look at what happened to him!"? No, it's not. It IS reasonable to make kids aware of the possible dangers of riding bikes (i.e. your life could be ruined if you do it carelessly, or sometimes even if you do it as carefully as you can), and of the things they can do to minimize those risks (wear a helmet, pads on your knees and elbows, look out for traffic, pay attention to what you're doing). Because, while riding bikes CAN cause serious trouble, most people do it and are ok, especially the people who do it with helmets and so on. Some people do have serious accidents, but the likelihood is small enough that the rest of us keep enjoying our bikes, as a fun and practical and healthy way to get around.

Why is sex any different? Sure, it can ruin people's lives. But if you honestly tell people about these risks, and about what they can do to minimize the risks, then I think that's the best thing to do. And, face it, most people do have sex before they get married, and only a very small percentage of them regret it, or are damaged by it.

And just because some people can't handle it properly, doesn't mean it should be taken away from everyone. I thought you agreed with this line of reasoning...

Randy Kirk said...

Bernardo said:

"And just because some people can't handle it properly, doesn't mean it should be taken away from everyone. I thought you agreed with this line of reasoning..."

Quite frankly, I don't call for new laws or old laws reinstated with regard to criminalizing sexual conduct outside of marriage. I will admit that I'm not positive that they shouldn't be imposed, but I'm not sure they are the right way to go about dealing with the issue.

I would much prefer the moral authority come from leaders who would make it clear that we, as a society, will admire those who keep sex within marriage, work extremely hard to keep marriages together, take parenting seriously, etc. And, on the other side of the coin, will not admire those who sleep around before or during marriage, those who end marriages with little thought for the consequences, or bring children into the world and then abandon them (totally or emotionally.)

The harm of sleeping around goes far deeper than sexually transmitted diseases. Pregnancy, abortion, children out of wedlock, lowered sense of self-worth in the women, sneaking around and lying to parents, spouses, children in order to do the fornication or adultry, future problems in one's sex life with regard to emotional issues of past relationships, to name a few.

What great harm comes from restricing sex to marriage?

Randy Kirk said...

Kit,

I don't think your approach is any different than mine with regard to emotional attachment to ideas. My problem was with your aversion to calling something a belief. I see it a lot on atheist blogs.

You may have noted elsewhere that I have done the full circle. Born and raised in the church, headed to potentially being a pastor. Left the church for 14 years, and would have definitely called myself a Darwinist, maybe a naturalist, and for a short while an agnostic (can't know so why should I bother to try and figure it out.) Then I came back with 110% passion. Each step was done logically with a total review of the evidence. It was emotionally difficult to leave (my parents and many friends were hurt by it.) It was emotionally difficult to return (eating crow is never fun.) But I put the emotion aside in order to follow the facts.

Having said that mouthful, I believe that Jesus was the son of God, and that my relationship with Him assures me a spot in heaven. I believe that my wife loves me. I believe that Global Warming is happening, but is not man-caused, is not going to create a crisis, and is political to the core.

I am emotionally invested in all of these, and have a great deal of passion with regard to these beliefs. However, new facts could change my mind.

bernardo said...

"Pregnancy, abortion, children out of wedlock..."

... can be avoided if we teach people about birth control, and canNOT be avoided if we don't. As far as I can tell.

"... lowered sense of self-worth in the women, sneaking around and lying to parents, spouses, children in order to do the fornication or adultry, future problems in one's sex life with regard to emotional issues of past relationships... "

... are the result of living in a puritanical society where most people are ashamed of sex, or unsure how they feel about it, due to being discouraged from talking about it, thinking about it, or doing it. And the result of bad role models and probably bad parenting.

It's like violence and video games: The people who get emotional problems from their sex life probably would have emotional problems with or without their sex life - the sex life brings out and enhances the problems that have other root causes. Maybe not in every case, but in most cases. The bottom line is, most people have sex before getting married, and most people are fine.

But new evidence could change my mind. Which is why I want to borrow your book.

Randy Kirk said...

I don't think there are any civilizations in history or existing now that would think the US is Puritanical. Most countries, even the European ones that I have visited or have friends from would only be slighty more open about their sex lives than here. We have one of the highest levels of children outside of marriage, stds, etc.

Thus, I would propose that it is natural for humans to be somewhat private about their sexual stuff. Would we want to have a society where a 14 year-old goes home and proudly tells here daddy that she has had sex with yet another 26 year old biker? Do we want a society that would have dads running home to tell their kids about his recent score with the woman next door?

Randy Kirk said...

The negative consequences of out of wedlock sex could surely be avoided if children, or even adults, who are the most likely to do sex outside of marriage weren't also the least likely to be disciplined enough or care enough to avoid the negative consequences. I could write a book, but for now, I'll allow your imagination to consider that.

Anonymous said...

Randy,

Your last two comments bare no resemblance to what I understand about reality.

Saying, "I don't really see what the problem with out-of-marriage sex is" is significantly different than, "I think 14 yr olds should have sex with 26 yr old bikers (huh???) and brag about it".

The problem I have with a lot of your statements is that you present your view, and then you suggest that the other possible view is the extreme opposite point of view. As Bernardo and I have said in the past, there is a large amount of space in between.

This reminds me far too much of when I talk to the muslims online. They suggest that if a woman is not completely covered and looking like a amorphous blob (which is the point), then she's dressed like a hoochie momma. I hope you'd agree that those aren't the only two possible ways for a woman to dress, correct?

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

My own view regarding the predatory behavior of some 18-30 year-old males with regard to underage, and therefore easily manipulated females is pretty easy to prove. The differential power results in all kinds of bad results that only happen to the women, while the guys go on to the next conquest.

But the point I was responding to was with regard to any puritanical thinking that is left in the US (assuming incorrectly that Puritans were uptight about sex.)

Anonymous said...

I'll say simply that I have no problems with whatever one or more consenting adults do in their privacy.

The key words are "consenting" and "adults". Take either of those out, like the example you provided, and I'm certainly against that. It's especially easy for me to be against that because it's against the law (rightfully so), but of course I also think it's wrong.

I can't believe that you actually ever talk with people who support "the predatory behavior of some 18-30 year-old males with regard to underage, and therefore easily manipulated females" as being anything but wrong.

Kit

Anonymous said...

I guess I could also answer flippantly with:

"Randy, you watch too much Mtv."

:-)

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

I know people who think that internet porn is a great thing, that there is nothing at all wrong with adults having sex with children, that abortion is a fine method of birth control or sex selection at any point in the pregnancy.

No. Not from MTV. I also know people who used to think that way before they came to Jesus.

bernardo said...

"I know people who think that internet porn is a great thing, that there is nothing at all wrong with adults having sex with children, that abortion is a fine method of birth control or sex selection at any point in the pregnancy."

And those are not the people you are interacting with here. So, please, do not support your criticism of our point of view by describing some crazy people who do not share my point of view anyways.

Kit said it best: "I have no problems with whatever one or more consenting adults do in their privacy". What's wrong with that?

Randy Kirk said...

But then you do agree that children are off limits and we need laws about that? How do we determine what amounts to consent? Can one consent to be murdered as part of a sex act? How about torture? Have unprotected sex with an AIDs carrier on purpose? I know these are arguments in extremis, but where do we draw the lines?

bernardo said...

In other words, should it be OK for people to consent to being harmed, or even killed? That's a tricky question. I tend to be in the side of "yes, it should", but these issues have so many intricacies and so much variability from one case to the next, it's hard to generalize.

But I don't see what that has to do with your claim that all sex outside of marriage is bad. Why is it bad to have consentual (pick your definition) non-harmful (no children, torture, killing, or STDs) sex outside of marriage? (And no, I haven't read your book yet. Still need to finish the one I'm reading now. I'll probably do it this weekend).

Randy Kirk said...

Bernardo,

When do you answer your tricky question? I noticed no one else weighed in on it either. Maybe it needs its own post.

Anonymous said...

"When do you answer your tricky question?"

My guess is that the answer is: "when he needs to."

Kit

bernardo said...

"In other words, should it be OK for people to consent to being harmed, or even killed? That's a tricky question."

My first guess would be "Why not?".

Well, because the end of someone's life often causes great pain to that person's friends and family. However, to say that "thus, it is wrong to kill yourself" would mean saying that you do not own your life. Now, of course there are restrictions on what you can do with many things you own. But I think you own your life fundamentally enough that it should be permissible for you to destroy it. If you're a considerate person, you'd warn your friends and family before you do it, and explain to them why you feel that this is what you want to do, let them hang out with you and say good-bye and get used to the idea to the extent that they can.

As for allowing yourself to be harmed... Sure, why not? If it's non-permanent, then it's not fundamentally different from how you harm yourself by eating a cheeseburger. If it's permanent, then you just have to weigh very carefully whether the pleasure felt during that self-harm outweighs the inconvenience of the long-term harm. Again, you own your own body, so that's your decision to make.

However, even non-lethal harm has a cost to everyone else, such as your family taking care of you, and your compatriots paying some of your health bills. Do your insurance, or government healthcare aid, cover medical expenses for deliberately-committed self-harm? I guess that, in an ideal world, you'd have to pay for the care needed after deliberate self-harm.

What does any of this have to do with sex? If someone likes to be tortured as part of a sexual act, what's wrong with that? It might diminish their enjoyment of non-painful sex (which might be a problem if the person they want to spend the rest of their life with is not into that kind of stuff), and it might trivialize sex into something done "for fun" rather than as an act that helps to bond two people who are in a committed romantic relationship (although, arguably, you can have both)... but if the person is ok with those consequences, then let them have their crazy sex. Who am I to say they shouldn't? Who am I to dictate what role sex must have in someone else's life? I may have something like that kind of authority with my spouse (or, more specifically: The person I marry will agree with me about what kind of role sex should have in my life and in her life), but not with anyone else.

Randy Kirk said...

I suppose you believe that no one is ever manipulated by others who are in power positions, too?

"Yes, son, go ahead and kill me so you can inherit now, before the new tax law changes the amount you will get after taxes."

Anonymous said...

"I suppose you believe that no one is ever manipulated by others who are in power positions, too?"

Where did he say that he believed that?

Oh, that's right, he didn't.

Of course people get manipulated by other people, power positions or no. What can we do about that more than we already do, with regards to people making choices for themselves?

"Yes, son, go ahead and kill me so you can inherit now, before the new tax law changes the amount you will get after taxes."

I don't understand what that is about. Who says that?

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

We can establish by law or by culture that it isn't ok to hurt yourself. Then we can go one step further and say it isn't ok for others to hurt you, even with your consent. To the extent that you allow others to hurt you, you may be badly damaging them. You may also be setting yourself and the other person on a path of substantially greater interest in hurting yourself and others. I think this is pretty obvious.

Then Kit,

The idea of the mock conversation was that should society begin to be approving of things like consent to hurt or kill, there can be a whole host of circumstances when it becomes quite to a persons benefit to induce them to consent.

Anonymous said...

"The idea of the mock conversation was that should society begin to be approving of things like consent to hurt or kill, there can be a whole host of circumstances when it becomes quite to a persons benefit to induce them to consent."

The problem is that, no matter how goofy my point of view on something is, I can create an unrealistic mock conversation to support my view.

Which is why I find doing so to be worthless.

Here's an example: "Son, go and kill the heathens who don't believe in our god. God told me to tell you to do this, through divine revelation."

Therefore, theism should be made illegal. That is, unless you believe that no one is ever manipulated by others who are in power positions.

Fortunately, I picked a thoroughly unrealistic comment. ;-)

----

For me, there's a vast difference between "hurting yourself" and "euthenasia". I tend to not support the former but I don't have too many problems with the latter.

Kit

bernardo said...

You could extend that point to say that people should not have the right to make decisions, because who knows whether they are truly expressing what they want or just being manipulated by someone else into saying what they say. Votes can be bought, so democracy is a bad idea.

I do see that decisions that could end in the loss of life are more serious, and should be harder to make (and be more scrutinized when they are made), than pretty much any other decisions. But, like other potentially risky decisions, I think there should be some method for someone to decide they want to end their life, a method that ensures that the decision really is the desire of the person making it.

Funny how the folks who are against euthanasia tend to not be against the death penalty...