A Disturbing Experience

In the several years I have been writing for Ebon Musings, I have received a great quantity of reader feedback. I read it all and, with a very few exceptions, respond to it all, and I am pleased to report that the large majority of it has been thoughtful, sincere and polite, regardless of whether the author agrees with my position. There has been some feedback of the other kind, warning me of the dreadful tortures that await me in the hereafter for my grievous sin of not worshipping the writer’s god, but much less than one might expect. In any case, I do not take these people seriously. Their doctrines are so cruel and so ridiculous, and their ignorance of relevant evidence so total, that their assertions amuse rather than offend me.

However, I did have one experience with a reader that left me profoundly shaken. This incident happened in late 2005. I received a very complimentary note from a person who praised my site profusely, indicating that it had been a great help to him in a debate he was having with one of his students about intelligent design. He also praised my article on biblical atrocities, and invited me to view an essay he had written on his own website about the negative influence of the Bible on our culture. (I will not give the URL of this site, for reasons that will become clear momentarily.)

I visited to his site and viewed his essay, which seemed thoughtful and well-written. Out of curiosity, I then loaded the main page of the site, and received an unpleasant shock. To my horror and disgust, I found that it was a pro-pedophilia website. I did not see any actual pornographic content – at least not on the one page I viewed; obviously, I did not look around any further – rather, the site seemed to be a collection of essays lamenting the fact that our society criminalizes sex between adults and children, and arguing in favor of abolishing the age of consent.

I considered not responding to the original e-mail at all, not wanting to draw any further attention of this sort. But after some reflection, I decided it would be better to write back to this person. This I did, informing him in no uncertain terms that I wanted nothing to do with him and requesting that he remove the link to my site. (To this day, I do not actually know if he did remove it; I have not visited his site again, and do not intend to.)

I did receive one further e-mail in reply, the tone of which was disappointed rather than accusatory or upset. Here is an excerpt from that e-mail:

I am sorry that you feel that way. I was hoping that you might see that society’s proscription of childhood sexuality is as superstitious as the rest of Judeo-Xian bunk. Oh well. The influence of the Bible truly runs deep.

This is more than a little ironic, considering the Bible has not a word to say about childhood sexual abuse or an age of consent, and indeed that is one of the things for which I criticize it. In my essay “The Big Ten“, for example, I point out that no passage in the Bible ever speaks of the wrongness of sexually abusing children or sets a minimum age of consent for engaging in sexual activity. Our society’s prohibition of sex acts between adults and children, which I believe to be entirely correct, rational and moral, exists in spite of the Bible, not because of it. This prohibition is not “superstitious” because, rather than being based on unobserved entities or effects, it is founded on something very observable and very real: the lifelong harm and emotional trauma inflicted on people who are victims of sexual predators.

I cannot help but speculate: what were this person’s motives in writing to me? He invited me to view his website; he must have expected that I would discover its nature. I must conclude that this was his intent, but why? Was he trying to provoke a reaction from me, or alternatively, was he hoping I would find this content and endorse it? Was this a subtle way of testing me, to see if I would be a friend or ally to him?

His reply (“I was hoping…”) suggests that something like this was the case, and if so, it is one test I was happy to fail. I am no friend of pedophiles, never have been, and never will be. Prepubescent children never have the emotional or intellectual maturity to consent to sex of any kind. Any attempt by an older adult to coerce or lure them into such a situation is categorically wrong, and any claims by the predator that he is “helping” them in any way by so doing are self-serving rationalizations to excuse an evil act of the worst sort. People who are sexually attracted to children but have not acted on those feelings should be given whatever treatment and oversight they need to prevent them from ever doing so, and people who have acted on these feelings should be given treatment in addition to a lengthy, possibly permanent, prison term.

With the immediate matter dealt with, I had another problem: should I report the existence of this site to a law enforcement agency? However repulsive I find the position, it is not illegal merely to speak in favor of pedophilia, and I had no evidence of any actual illegal activity or content. However, it did not escape me that this person claimed in his original e-mail to be a teacher, and sex predators often seek out jobs that put them in contact with potential victims. On the other hand, if he was debating his students about intelligent design, surely they would have to be old enough for a pedophile to be uninterested in them?

My very ignorance, it seemed to me, was a potential argument in favor of reporting the site to some appropriate group. Since I did not know the relevant facts, and had no power to find them out, would it not be better to bring this to the attention of an agency that did have such power? If this person was committing no crime, then surely this would not do any harm. Is it not better to err on the side of caution?

Then again, I have always considered myself a friend of free speech, and that right does not cease merely because it is used to advocate ideas of which the majority disapproves, no matter how distasteful those ideas are. I strongly believe that the cure for bad speech is not censorship, but better speech. If I reported this site, would I be contributing to a chilling effect where unpopular ideas are suppressed by intimidation? Would I be making a hypocrite of myself?

I do not exaggerate when I say this was one of the most difficult moral dilemmas I have ever faced. Would reporting this website be the right thing to do, helping to protect children, or would it be falling prey to irrational hysteria in the absence of any real evidence that harm was occurring? I cannot judge myself and so, readers, I ask you to judge me in my stead. What should I have done? What would you have done?

I am sincerely interested in feedback on this issue, so allow me to dangle my readers a carrot: I will tell you, individually, what I actually did – but only if you first leave a comment or send an e-mail with your thoughts on the matter. I am not looking for any particular answer, but the possibility has not escaped my mind that this individual or others like him may find this post and attempt to sway my opinion, and accordingly I will be more skeptical of anonymous feedback from people with whom I have never previously corresponded.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://stupac2.blogspot.com Stuart Coleman

    I have actually faced this same dilemma, and chose not to report the person. I had no reason to believe that this person had or would ever hurt anyone, and I risked ruining their life. It’s a very tough decision to make, and frankly, I think that I’ve avoided it rather than made it (which is why I say I chose not to take action). [You'll note that I neglect to say what this person did/what I suspect them of doing, and it is completely intentional]

    However, I’d like to point out that age-of-consent laws and strict sexual predator laws can cause serious harm to people who engage in consensual sex acts. There was one highly publicized case recently of a boy (I believe from Georgia) who received oral sex from a girl a few years younger than he was. He will likely go to prison for some time, and forever be labeled a sex offender, ruining any chance of a normal life. Cases like that happen all the time, and it’s a tragedy that there is so much collateral damage with these sexual predator laws.

    That’s not to say that age of consent should be abolished, I just think we’re going about it poorly right now.

  • http://onlycrook.wordpress.com Jude

    I would have reported the website, but then I tend to be a little authoritarian at times. You weren’t certain that the website violated the law, but you weren’t judging the person–just trying to prevent harm to innocents. Someone who had the authority could investigate (or not). Better to err on the side of caution.

  • Montu

    Adam, that’s a wicked hard choice to make, because it seems to ultimitly come down to the question of “do you potentially ruin someone else’s life when you don’t have all the facts, even if the ones you do have point in a haniously dangerous direction.” No one wants to be responsible for that, esspecially if you turn out to be wrong. If I hadn’t come across a similar situation not three days ago, I would’ve said “hell yeah, you should have reported him!” but it’s different when you’re confronted with an actual situation where you have to choose between reporting and not vs. a hypothetical situation you’ve created in your head.

    For me, I happened to be talking to a mandated reporter about an abuse I had witnessed of my ex-boyfriend’s young siblings at the hands of their dad. I had seen this happen five years ago in another state, and when I mentioned the incedent I had forgotten that the person I was talking to was a mandated reporter, I was just talking about how aweful my ex’s dad was. She then asked me if I thought that the kids were still in danger, then explained her reason for asking, and this made me fearful that the mom, who was also being abused, would be arrested as well because there was drugs in the house. I honestly didn’t think the kids should be seperated from their mom, esspecially sense, from what I saw, she was as much a victim as the kids were. I didn’t nessicarly care what happened to the dad because he was a complete scumbag and child abuser, but by implicating him, I would be implicating thier mom as well. In the end I told her the information, but made her understand that she must say that the wife was being abused every bit as much as the kids, but I still don’t know if I made the right choice. On the one hand, if anything happens, and the kids are taken away or the dad is arrested, then it’s a good thing because they wont have to grow up with the same abuse that my ex did. On the other hand, if it means that their mother is taken from them and they get thrown in a foster home, I simply don’t know if that would be a better life for them.

    Adam, in the end, you’re a very intellegent person, and I highly doubt any desission you made would have been reactionary in any way. It sounds like you saw enough and read enough from this person to deside if they truely were a threat or not. That being said, I can completely understand why you would second guess yourself. Whatever desission you made, it was probably the right one.

  • Alex Weaver

    Adam,

    For my own part, and despite having 30 months and ~26 pounds of reason to be hysterical about the prospect of child-adult sex sleeping 30 feet away, I would not have reported the site, and sincerely hope you didn’t.

    Informing him that you had no wish to be associated with him or his cause was of course more than reasonable; I would feel the same way. However, unless you had actual evidence of wrongdoing, reporting the site to the authorities would have been absolutely the wrong decision. You state that “if this person was committing no crime, then surely this would not do any harm. Is it not better to err on the side of caution?” I find this incredible; have you really failed to notice that this is an issue with which our society is absolutely incapable of dealing rationally? Consider the response to Rand et Al, 1998, a research study whose findings suggested that the view of “child sexual abuse” (used by societal and legal convention as a blanket term for any sex between a person under the age of consent and a person significantly over–a telling fact in itself, given the variables potentially involved) as some monolithic phenomenon which caused uniform and severe psychological harm to any minors involved in it simply did not match the facts. The media attacked the study, unfounded accusations of ulterior motives on the part of the researchers flew (does this sound familiar…?), and both houses of Congress passed (the House unanimously, the Senate 99-0, as I recall) a resolution condemning the study–the first condemnation of its kind. Consider also the hysteria in the 80s involving “recovered” memory therapy and alleged child abuse, and a case in the UK in which a mob allegedly attacked a *pediatrician*, having confused the term with “pedophile.” Given this degree of prejudice and irrationality (and the present culture regarding rule of law in the general executive branch of government), it is extremely likely that this person, if reported to the authorities, would be extensively and intrusively examined and, even if no actual crimes were discovered, might well be brought into court on frivolous or contrived charges, devised to be more compelling than the real motive of “criminal ickiness.” Even if found innocent, the stigma these events would attach to him would haunt him for life–and if convicted, regardless of whether he ever harmed an actual child, he would assuredly be placed on the sex offender registry (for life, as I understand it), with the pervasive and humiliating restrictions and stigma that entails. Worse, he might be placed in prison, and as a “pedo” would be singled out for abuse–and possibly killed–by other inmates. Reporting this person to the authorities is entirely too likely to destroy his life–unless you had strong, tangible reason to believe he had in fact harmed an actual child, doing so on a “well, maybe…” would be completely unjustified. I agree that it’s better to err on the side of caution with the intent of preventing harm–but given the situation, “erring on the side of caution to prevent harm” would mean NOT reporting the person without evidence of wrongdoing.

    I have some issues with your argument, however, but I’m tired enough, and my fingertips are “cracked” and sore enough to make typing difficult enough, that I won’t address them tonight. Suffice it to say for the moment that approaching the issue in a less emotional fashion would be advisable. I agree with the conclusion (sex between adults and prepubescent children should not be socially accepted or legalized) but am a bit disappointed by the rhetorical steps in arriving at it.

  • Alex Weaver

    PS: Stuart Coleman:

    If you think that’s bad, reportedly the age of consent laws in Canada (or at least a province of it) are (or were recently) so constructed that a 13 year old girl could be prosecuted for child molestation (or something similar) for being raped by a 12 year old boy. There is absolutely no excuse for this sort of situation… :/

  • http://milkywayinhabitant.blogspot.com milkywayinhabitant

    Wow. I can certainly see how this was such a moral dilemma for you. I guess it all comes down to the law itself. I mean, there is an age of consent for a reason and anyone calling for an end to it immediately flags him/herself as a possible, potential violator. Freedom of speech can be the grayest of gray areas. I honestly don’t know how I would’ve responded to this. I would have to spend at least a few days dwelling on it.

  • Alex Weaver

    milkywayinhabitant:

    For the record, it IS possible for someone to oppose something, even something with strong societal support, as a matter of principle (albeit arguably quite screwed up in this case) rather than ulterior motives. I’ve certainly had enough of this sort of uncharitable assumption in other contexts as to be wary of it (also, I hate when people say “xyz is for a reason” without saying what the reason is, much as I hate long lists of posts by people sycophantically agreeing with a perceived authority’s pronouncements. I’m glad this thread didn’t degenerate into that).

  • http://milkywayinhabitant.blogspot.com milkywayinhabitant

    Alex Weaver,

    You’re right, it IS possible for someone to oppose something without it meaning he/she is guilty of said opposition. I thought about this after I read your response to me. I suppose I could purchase a domain and publish a website that calls for an end to rape being illegal. I could invest lots of time and money in this site. What would be the point of this, especially if I hadn’t ever took part in the acts? If I hadn’t ever raped anyone, it would seem as though I’m trying to make it legal so that I can. I’m trying to make a point here but I feel like I’m not explaining it well enough. Why would someone dedicate so much time to a cause that ultimately does severe harm to people?

    I didn’t state why I think pedophilia is wrong because Adam clearly states why it is. And yes, I agree with him. Why are you labeling me a flatterer? Should I just post in disagreement for the sake of it? Sorry but I have my own opinion just like you do and in this case the author happens to share that opinion.

    But like I said, this is definitely something to think about. I see where you’re coming from too. If this guy is completely innocent and an investigation ensued, it would have the potential to ruin his life. It all depends on what kind of action the authorities would take. Perhaps that is too much to risk. The more I sit here and think and type, the more I’m starting to agree with you. No, I’m not trying to flatter you. Wow, and then again his website could just be a pointless act of free speech to gauge public response. Hmmm…my head hurts. Okay I agree. I definitely wouldn’t contact authorities unless I knew for certain he was guilty.

    Wow. I think this is the first time I’ve ever come full circle with an opinion over the course of the posting of a comment.

  • RevJim

    I agree with whoever said she was confident you made the right decision, whether you reported the website or not, based on all the things I’ve read here that you’ve written. You’re “pretty good” (smile) at reasoning things out, and you have reason to be confident in your conclusions. And if you didn’t report the site and feel bad about that decision, don’t worry. The “authorities” are most certainly already aware of the site, since they search for sites like that all the time and ‘watch’ them (or at least have their ‘big brothers’ watch them….) Heck, with the way our president interprets the law, they probably tap their phones and read their mail, too! :-o)

  • Judy

    I would have reported it/him. Pedophilia to me is such a vile, damaging thing that I have no qualms feeling that people who engage in it/advocate it should be rounded up and done away with, whether they’ve actually committed such an act or not. May sound harsh, but that’s my opinion. And to tell you the truth, I feel the same way about pornography, consenting adults or not. It is such a disgusting perversion of what should be a private act between two adults that I just can’t stand it. But that’s another issue.

  • brian

    We are all aware of the extreme negative effects of pedophilia, but I think we need to be cautious of feeding the witch hunt mentality where suspicion reigns supreme, regardless of evidence or reason.

    Unless your correspondent’s website included descriptions or pictures of his sexual encounters with children, why would you have any more reason to turn him in than if he had a website advocating the legalization of marijuana? Would you say that the more severe the crime, the less evidence is required?

    Your reluctance to establish whether he might have been a pedophile in deed, as well as thought, seems strange (“obviously, I did not look around any further”) considering the mental anguish this has caused you.

  • http://pointlessness.freehostia.com/ Rhapsody

    I wouldn’t have reported the site. It’s highly likely nothing would’ve happened, and I don’t see it being right unless I have proper evidence that something illegal is going on.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Given what you’ve told us, I probably would not have reported him.

    On the other hand, I would have poked around a bit first to see if there were any pictures or stories (that is, evidence that something illegal might be going on), and if so, then I would have reported.

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    No, I wouldn’t have reported the site. A ‘pro-pedophilia’ group, publicly advocating their views, seems very unlikely to host actual illegal content on a public website, since (agreeing with RevJim and others) the authorities will most likely be aware of it anyway. Sure, you could go to lengths to try and ‘uncover’ actual illegal acts, but that’s not your job, not to mention it would have put you in a legally suspect position.

    In fact, I have actually once read the sort of essay espousing the views you describe, and while I disagree strongly and severely with the viewpoint, surely discussing such issues are important in society for establishing our shared morality. That is, it’s better for people to think about why we consider paedophilia wrong rather than simply accept that it is so without thought.

    (Incidentally, I think the already high numbers of comments to this post demonstrates how providing incentives really does work :P)

  • http://infophilia.blogspot.com Infophile

    (If anything I’m saying here has been said before in the comments, I apologize. I decided to comment before reading any others in order to better keep with the spirit of Adam’s request.)

    Part of freedom of speech is that it means we have to allow people the freedom to say things we don’t want to hear. We can still put lines on any speech that poses an imminent danger (as with yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire), and it’s also not unreasonable to limit slanderous/libelous speach. It’s also not much of a stretch to limit speach that threatens to break the law, or speach that tells others to break the law.

    But what we absolutely must not do is limit any speach that simply says the law should be changed. After all, this is the primary reason we have freedom of speech in the first place, so people can speak out against unjust laws or lawgivers. We might like to ban speech that promotes activities that we’re sure are wrong, but that just opens the door to, for instance, Christians banning speech that promotes atheism, which they’re sure is wrong. The only way we can be safe from oppression is if we allow all speech of this type, regardless of whether we agree with it.

    So, that brings us to this case. His site promoting pedophilia unfortunately must be allowed. Of course, you still maintain your right to demand to have absolutely nothing to do with it. As far as you knew, he wasn’t doing anything that was (or should be) illegal. The problem here is that all too often, people who speak out to support pedophilia (such as members of NAMBLA) also engage in it themselves, quite illegally.

    So then, why does an organization like NAMBLA still exist? Because the explicit purpose of it is nothing illegal, and the organization makes it clear (officially, at least) that they’ll do nothing to assist people in breaking the law. Despite this, there have been numerous cases of people in it breaking the law in just this way. Because of this correlation, it makes it a good idea for the authorities to at the very least keep tabs on NAMBLA. If someone who’s been accused of pedophilia has also attended NAMBLA meetings, this is an important piece of evidence. There are probably some people involved in it who have never broken any laws, but just agree with the philosophy of it, but there are too many people who do break laws to ignore the correlation.

    This brings me to my conclusion: If you find out about a new pedophilia-promoting organization or website, it’s important for the authorities to know about it. If no actual illegal activities have been taking place, no harm should come to the person(s) running it, though s/he might be hassled a bit. The alternative to this is that not reporting it might result in the continued sexual molestation of a child or additional children, which is significantly worse. Give this choice, I’d report the site to someone who can appropriately investigate.

  • Alex Weaver

    milkywayinhabitant:

    I wasn’t intending to label you a flatterer; in retrospect I’m not entirely sure why I brought that up (well, yes I am: the two peeves I stated have been typically connected in other incidents, in my experience, but that wasn’t relevant here, so… x.x). I apologize for the confusion, and assure you I wasn’t intending to belittle your post.

    As for not stating the reason yourself, I didn’t make my point very well; what I meant was that it’s usually advisable to make these things explicit as a general rule (as I’ve learned from experience x.x). Honestly, though, the whole thing wasn’t really germane to the issue, so I apologize. x.x

    Infophile:

    That mostly makes sense, but consider that people are likely to be accused (by the public, even if not the law) of engaging in child molestation for no other reason than their having attended NAMBLA meetings. This is another example of what I’m getting at.

  • http://infophilia.blogspot.com Infophile

    Okay, a little follow-up now that I’ve read the comments:

    My conclusion there was based mostly on the assumption of an idealized justice system and competent authorities. In the real world, it’s quite a different story. But still, I’d hope the authorities would act correctly, and I suspect in this case if you report it to the correct group they might.

    Also, there is indeed a good chance they already know about the site. And if they didn’t, they’d find out about it pretty soon anyways (I suspect). So, if they knew about it, your reporting it would serve no purpose. If they didn’t know about it, it would at worst make them learn about it sooner, which is still a good thing. In this simplified case, it still seems to me that reporting it is the better option.

  • Alex Weaver

    Judy,

    I would have reported it/him. Pedophilia to me is such a vile, damaging thing that I have no qualms feeling that people who engage in it/advocate it should be rounded up and done away with, whether they’ve actually committed such an act or not. May sound harsh, but that’s my opinion.

    It is harsh, and ignorant, in so many ways it’s difficult to process. You seem to be blithely equating people who engage in sex with children and people who argue that it should be legal; what is your evidence for a complete overlap between these groups? Arguing that sex with children should be legal legitimately raises eyebrows, but these are two entirely different things. Beyond that, while I certainly agree that people who engage in actual sex with actual children should be jailed (unlike you, I fear, I also agree that they should be treated), I must say that your argument that people should be rounded up (and what? Imprisoned? Shot? Stuck on a block with a hood on their heads and wires on their wrists?) because you (and most of society) disagree with their beliefs and find those beliefs disgusting should sit well with the current administration.

    Better be careful, though. As it happens, I disagree with the belief that people should be punished for thinking the wrong things and find that belief disgusting. You’re lucky that I and others like me have more respect for freedom of speech (as a principle, not just as a “damn it…well, the law DOES say they can… *sigh*”) than you do.

    And to tell you the truth, I feel the same way about pornography, consenting adults or not. It is such a disgusting perversion of what should be a private act between two adults that I just can’t stand it. But that’s another issue.

    Then don’t watch/read it. Also, why does sex need to be a private act between two adults? If the adults want to have more than two people involved, or want to publicize it in a legal fashion–IE, through pornography–what business is it of yours? Have you even considered that people might actually ENJOY having sex for an audience? And how do you explain the sizable number of healthy couples who enjoy watching pornography together, or as a masturbation aid when they’re apart or one or the other partner just isn’t into sex?

    If I were in a particularly aggressive mood I might compare this sort of extreme statement on pornography to those made by Ted Haggard about homosexuality, but I won’t (oops… O-;) ). I will suggest that you actually inform yourself about issues like this before you go shooting your mouth off.

  • Oz

    Adam:

    Since I did not know the relevant facts, and had no power to find them out, would it not be better to bring this to the attention of an agency that did have such power? If this person was committing no crime, then surely this would not do any harm. Is it not better to err on the side of caution?

    I take it this means you’ve changed your opinion on the Bush warrantless wiretapping program. After all, if you aren’t committing a crime, surely it can’t do any harm.

    As has been said, even a completely erroneous accusation of this nature can tar for life. A friend of mine went to a Catholic college in the Boston area during the height of the molestation scandals, and a priest was accused (correctly). However, the news ran a photo of my friend’s professor, who had the same name but no other ties to the actual molester. The media’s feeble attempt at correcting the matter was not enough to stop the professor from feeling that an extended leave of absence was in order.

    As you say, pedophelia is a mental disease (I liken it to homosexuality, not for being a disease but for being a matter of attraction). These people need help, but most of all they need to take measures to ensure they never act on their impulses. Unless his website gave you the impression that he had acted, or was considering specific actions in the near future, I would not take him to any authority.

    Alex:

    I understand what you mean about advocacy of legality; I support complete decriminalization of all drug use and sales, but I would never personally use any drug other than alcohol, and even that only in moderation.

  • http://infophilia.blogspot.com Infophile

    That mostly makes sense, but consider that people are likely to be accused (by the public, even if not the law) of engaging in child molestation for no other reason than their having attended NAMBLA meetings. This is another example of what I’m getting at.

    Yes, that is a problem. It’s a lot easier to come up with decisions about what to do if you assume an ideal government and a rational public. If we could somehow teach the public that there’s a difference between someone who opposes a law and someone who breaks a law, things would be a bit better.

    Then again, it’s worth noting that even if pedophilia weren’t illegal, there would still be people who think it’s horrible, and these people would discriminate against those who practice it. Also likely is that those who now attend meetings to get the law changed would be engaging in it if the law were changed, so even if the law were changed, they’d still face discrimination. In the end, they’re just bringing it upon themselves.

    I take it this means you’ve changed your opinion on the Bush warrantless wiretapping program. After all, if you aren’t committing a crime, surely it can’t do any harm.

    I’ll go back to what I mentioned before: If we had an ideal government, it would do no harm. But our government (particularly the executive branch of the federal government) is far from ideal. With that, I don’t trust them not to use the information. For instance, what’s to stop them from spying on Democratic campaign strategies?

    I understand what you mean about advocacy of legality; I support complete decriminalization of all drug use and sales, but I would never personally use any drug other than alcohol, and even that only in moderation.

    I’d make exceptions for any drug that has second-hand effects, myself. For drugs that only affect the user, there’s no problem; they’re taking responsibility for it and accepting the consequences (I would make a minimum age limit, though, to protect those who aren’t mature enough to weigh the consequences). Drugs that can affect others, though, such as cigarette smoking, go beyond an issue of personal responsibility. A smoker doesn’t have the right to harm the health of everyone around them whenever they light up. If such behavior must be legal, it should be limited to only in the presence of other consenting adults or alone. If someone else doesn’t want to take a health hit for you smoking, they shouldn’t have to.

  • Bechamel

    One more person’s opinion: Personally, I would have looked around the rest of the site to see just what was there, and report it only if I saw anything that made me believe there was imminent danger to someone.

    I agree with the other commenters that there’s a realistic danger of a person’s life being ruined regardless of whether they’ve broken any laws, and that the free exchange of ideas is vital to a nominally democratic nation. Therefore, given the position of ignorance that you chose to maintain, I couldn’t justify reporting the site.

    I’m actually surprised that you chose to maintain that position of ignorance, and am somewhat curious as to why. Worried that you’d find photos? I rather doubt that someone bright enough to be debating intelligent design would be so stupid as to have any blatantly illegal photos on their website – he’d be just begging to get locked up. And I can’t imagine that someone who writes so eloquently would be afraid of finding certain combinations of words, so really, this whole situation just rather confuses me. Nonetheless, I really hope you didn’t report it – taking significant and possibly detrimental actions from a position of ignorance should be left to the religionists.

  • Ron

    Report him.
    Adam observed something that is openly published on the Web. The “authorities” might not be aware of it. He did not intercept some sort of private correspondence, he viewed what anyone in the right place can see. Crimes happen every day in plain sight, while witnesses assume someone else has reported it, law enforcement surely knows about it, or they just don’t want to get involved.

    This is analogous to looking onto the street from an apartment window, and observing what may be a rape in progress. Why not report it? One might say that a scene so blatantly in plain sight surely must have been reported by now. Or, what if it really isn’t a crime? It could just be a couple of people engaged in some other behavior. Meanwhile, everyone else viewing from other windows is thinking the same thing, and the crime continues unreported.

    The severity of the crime does warrant being more cautious and erring on the side of the victim. If the potential damage from someone’s actions is negligible, who cares? Let it go. But if someone’s life is at stake, please report it. There is a huge difference between witnessing someone backing into a parked car with theirs vs. witnessing someone bashing in another’s head with a hammer.

    I think that some have the idea that if one is uncertain, it’s better to not get involved. We as civilians do not need to be certain; we only need to be rational and objective and responsible. Once turned over to someone in authority, it is their responsibility to be certain of the facts.

    The author of the pedophilia website is at the very least an idiot and (if not lying about his occupation) is quite likely a danger to the children that are under his authority. Report him to law enforcement.

    Following an investigation, he will be informed of either:
    a) his poor choice in themes for his website, or
    b) his sudden lack of freedom…

    …thus saving a child from being victimized at the hands of some freak posing as a teacher.

  • http://off-the-map.org/ebayatheist/index.php Siamang

    I’d report him to child protective services.

    The problem with kiddie porn and the hamfisted actions of the police is that the very act of visiting his website could get you at least under suspicion. Were that not the case, I’d try and find out if he was running anything illegal, then turn him over to the feds.

    But since that runs the danger of getting prosecuted yourself, I’d just turn him in to child protective services and see if they can find anything on him.

    Posting on the internet is a public act. It ain’t spying.

  • http://undiscoveredfuture.blogspot.com Rebecca

    If this would have happened to me, I probably wouldn’t have written back. I would have been so shocked and scared that they would keep contacting me or somehow get me involved in that mess, that I would have just pretended I never received an e-mail. It wouldn’t have occured to me to turn in the site – I wouldn’t know how to go about doing that, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

  • Stephen

    I drafted a response yesterday, but almost everything in it has now been said by others (and in several cases said better). I agree with the people who would have first looked around the site further, and only reported it if there was evidence of abuse actually being carried out. The right to free expression of opinion is very important, regardless of what you think of the opinions.

    No-one seems to have yet mentioned the formation of a paedophile political party in the Netherlands. I understand this got a lot of adverse publicity in the foreign (mainly American?) press, with views being expressed along the lines of how this demonstrated the terminal corruption of Dutch society. In fact I think the Dutch authorities got it right by permitting the party to register. If people wish to campaign for a change in the law then they should have the right to do so. The matter was discussed in the Dutch press, some writers made the case against paedophilia very well (and some more emotional writers made it very badly) and the issue was laid to rest.

    The chance of this party getting even one candidate elected was of course nil. As it happened they failed to receive enough supporting signatures to even compete in the elections – I believe they only needed thirty, but they couldn’t manage even that. So much for the terminal corruption of society.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I believe I’ve now e-mailed everyone who’s left feedback so far, as promised. Please let me know if I missed you.

  • Judy

    To Alex Weaver:

    Let me see how you how feel about a pedophile’s rights after you’ve been harmed by one, or should you (forbid) be the parent of a child who was harmed by one.

    And since I brought it up, you’re right, I don’t like pornography, so I don’t read it/watch it. To me, and this is just me, there is nothing exciting or romantic about anonymous (possibly diseased) people mindlessly banging each other for a cheap thrill. I have no desire to watch other people engaging in such and have no desire to have other people watch me. Some people like it; I don’t. But if the world were mine to control, there would be no such thing as pornography. :-)

  • http://inserttitleblog.com Steve

    Hate to be redundant, but I agree with many of the previous posters – I would have returned to the website and looked for information of any illegal activity or harmful practices.

    Another option may involve overstepping the bounds of the man’s right to privacy, but would be to try to find out who this guy was through his IP address. You have his name, I’m sure, and his e-mail, which would allow you to figure out where he teaches and to what age of student. This additional information may help you in determining whether he is a threat or not.

  • mc2

    No I think that reporting them for something that you do not know that they did is not the right option. Well reporting them to the police anyway – i might have reported them to say cybernanny or something similar. But you found no evidence of a crime being committed and free speech is free speech

    Rob

  • Alex Weaver

    Let me see how you how feel about a pedophile’s rights after you’ve been harmed by one, or should you (forbid) be the parent of a child who was harmed by one.

    You ARE aware that reasoning identical to this is presently being used as an excuse to torture “suspected terrorists” by the present administration? Do you approve of this? Would you support jailing any American who expressed any sympathy with the hijackers’ beliefs, or Islamic extremism in general? I support imprisoning actual terrorists for life; people who think the same way but haven’t committed acts of terrorism and give no reason other than their beliefs for concluding that they are likely to should not be persecuted merely for holding an unpopular and appalling opinion. I have the same perspective on “pedophiles.”

    Incidentally, I find your presumption obnoxious and insulting, for the same reason I find it obnoxious and insulting when Christians claim that I’m an atheist just because I don’t want to have to answer to a higher authority for my behavior. It IS possible for a person to hold a belief with which you disagree for honest, intellectually convincing (to them, at any rate) reasons, and I would have an easier time taking you seriously if your statements reflected this. I have very little patience for people who see the issue at hand in terms of black and more black.

    And since I brought it up, you’re right, I don’t like pornography, so I don’t read it/watch it. To me, and this is just me, there is nothing exciting or romantic about anonymous (possibly diseased) people mindlessly banging each other for a cheap thrill. I have no desire to watch other people engaging in such and have no desire to have other people watch me. Some people like it; I don’t. But if the world were mine to control, there would be no such thing as pornography. :-)

    And what about couples (even married ones) getting a thrill from showing off for others together? It would be a lot easier to take your position seriously if you were to acknowledge that the issue is just a little more nuanced than you like to pretend. At any rate, if the world were mine to control I would permit others to engage in activities I didn’t personally like (even perversions like celibacy and prudism), unless the activities were demonstrably harming someone or likely to (this criterion necessarily limits some activities, like sex and recreational drug use, to consenting adults). I’m rather glad the world isn’t yours to control, if that’s the extent of respect you have for personal freedom.

  • James

    Personally, if all he was doing was advocating it, I wouldn’t have reported him, however abhorrent I found his views, however, since he also is a teacher, I definitely would have reported him personally. While persecuting someone for something they haven’t done /yet/ is an awful thing to do, he is placed in a position of great trust where the potential for great harm is extremely prevalent.

    While people say that the government may already know about it, if it were me, and if they didn’t and something happened, I would personally feel responsible. I feel it is important to protect free speech, but I also feel that reporting the individual (not the site) to the board of education or another body would be necessary, not so he gets his site taken down, but so the children in his care are protected. To use someone else’s example, most countries restrict free speech in the case of yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre for much the same reason.

  • andrea

    I’d report him and the site. There are some things that are just wrong in my opinion, and “free speech” be damned. This fellow and the website operator knows that they are taking a chance with publicizing their views. And, taking a stab at amateur psychology, he may have shown you this in an attempt to get caught.

  • schemanista

    I would report him because he claims to be an educator. When someone works in a position of public trust, it’s not enough to avoid impropriety: one must also avoid the appearance of impropriety. Advocating paedophelia while working with children in an educational environment is an obvious conflict of interest.

  • Alex Weaver

    I find that perspective deeply disturbing, Andrea. If anyone’s free speech rights are not guaranteed, then no one’s are guaranteed. Unless you can demonstrate that this person’s advocacy of his position is in itself harmful, then all you’re advocating is that your personal opinions about what is and is not ok for a person to say or believe be enforced by law. I assume I don’t need to explain to you why this would set a dangerous precedent…

    Anticipated objection, paraphrased to “But atheists/liberals/etc. are nothing like pedophiles! How can you even make such a comparison?!”: Answered: to much of the Religious Right, they are. To some of the Religious Right, they’re even worse, under the screwed up moral system of fundamentalist Christianity.

  • chronomitch

    I think we need to consider the actual consequences of reporting this person or his website before delving into some kind of argument over free speech. The way I see it, there are two things that can be reported – the person’s website and the person himself (due to his position as a teacher).

    If Ebonmuse were to report the website (saying that it may contain images of pedophilia (he does not absolutely know), it would be thoroughly investigated by the police. The worst that can happen if the site is legal (no illegal images, etc) is that the site’s host could no longer wish to host the site. This problem can be easily overcome by switching hosts or even getting your own web server. Ebonmuse’s actions would in no way be threatening this person’s freedom of speech because there would be no basis for prosecution if the site is legal.

    The case of reporting the person as a potential child abuser is a different story altogether. This could spark an investigation into the person’s personal life and profession as a teacher. Even if the person is innocent, he could lose his job, and it would be very difficult for him to procure a new job. Still, he would retain his freedom of speech.

    The question comes down to whether it is worth risking destroying this person’s livelihood and reputation despite having no real evidence of child abuse. Personally, I find it hard to believe that a person would create a website in favor of legalizing pedophilia without having committed some act of pedophilia himself. Of course, having an opinion about something does not mean he acts accordingly. Still, this person sounds fairly passionate about the subject, meaning that he would not feel that committing a pedophilic act is wrong. Regardless of whether or not he has committed a pedophilic act, he needs help. As such, I feel he needs to be reported because he poses as a danger to children around him in his position as a teacher.

    I have a feeling that someone might respond with a comment like “what about atheists/homosexuals/liberals? They might pose a threat and need to be identified and helped/jailed.” The difference is that being an atheist/liberal/etc does not imply that such a person could pose a threat to anyone. Atheists and homosexuals don’t hurt anyone by being atheist or homosexual. Pedophiles routinely hurt children due to their nature.

  • Alex Weaver

    I think this debate would be a lot more productive if we could stick to using the psychiatric term “pedophile” and the legal term “child molester” properly, since what I’m seeing is a conflation not only of the terms themselves but of the meanings behind them.

    Beyond that, it’s unlikely that this person is teaching small children if he’s actually debating intelligent design with his students, and it seems like a lot of the reasoning here is based on the assumption that he is.

  • schemanista

    Alex,

    The distinction you’re trying to draw doesn’t invalidate my argument. The impression I’m getting based on Adam’s blog post, is that this individual is not a college or university professor, but maybe a high or middle school teacher. Whatever age range he’s in contact with, I’ll bet that range is still below the age of majority, if not also the age of consent. As a professional working in an area of public trust and accountability, it’s a conflict of interest for him to be involved in pro-pedophelic activities and also work as an educator.

    Like it or not, when a person chooses to enter a public profession, he or she must submit to heightened scrutiny and while there are a lot of gray areas, an educator who promotes pedophelia isn’t one of them. I would report a Chartered Accountant who was active in a tax protest movement, or a judge or justice who openly bragged about driving while intoxicated to their appropriate ethical governing bodies and I think the principle is the same here.

    You seem to suggest the idea that this individual may stand only for the principle of pedophelia, as a philosophical or ethical thought experiment, and would never cross the line to actual child molestation, but I and society at large disagree that this is a distinction worth preserving.

  • http://xenia.media.mit.edu/~rowan/memepark/ Matt Norwood

    I would not have reported him, for the reasons articulated early on in this thread. The ethical thing would have been to initiate a dialogue with him via email to assess his threat level. I would have laid out my concerns, explained to him why I consider adult-child sex to be socially destructive, and given him some statistics on pedophilia and recidivism to explain why I was concerned that he might act on his convictions. I would then leave it to him to either convince me that he was not a threat or to admit that he might act on his beliefs. I would then take action, or not, accordingly.

    Of course, this describes what my idealized courageous-ethical self would do. The real Me might just delete all records of contact with him and try to forget about it. But I like to think that I would do the right thing.

  • Brendan

    I for one, agree almost 100% with your reaction. I think (from what little evidence I have of the scenario) you mat have overreacted a little, but not much. I likely would have reacted similarly, assuming I had the maturity and presence of mind to respond. I think you were right for informing the person that you wanted nothing to do with his views, and I agree that pedophilia is wrong. On the other hand, I htink the current social view on it is grossly oversimplified, and the laws are far to easy to abuse or misintepret on the authoritarian side. I personally think that an age of consent is to simplistic, but that there’s no better way to do it without overcomplicating matters. I think that large age gaps in partners is suspicious, and reeks of power abuse, but that such a scenario is entirely possible.
    To everyone who is demanding that the man be reported, when I read your posts, I get this image of a bunch of people with picket signs, marching up and down, chanting mindlessly. I recognize that child molestation is an abominable thing, however, this person’s argument that sex between adults and children shouldn’t be illegal could stem from other sources. It is possible that he is attracted to children, yes, but it’s also possible he, for instance, was convinced by ancient greek essays debating the relative merits of pederasty over man-woman sex. Perhaps he thinks that our society is far to close-minded on the issue, and needs to take a closer look at its beliefs, and reconsider this bias against adult-child sex. I don’t know, and, I’ll wager, neither do you.
    Much has been said of the person’s position, Ron’s phrase “some freak posing as a teacher” sticking most clearly in my mind. I doubt that this person became a teacher solely because of his views on sex with children. “The severity of the crime,” in this case is not what you seem to imagine it to be. We aren’t standing at an apartment window, watching a rape in the street below. We’re sitting in a cafe, listening to the guy at the table over saying, “Yeah, I could see why someone would become a rapist. I guess there are aguments in favor.” This is no the same scenario at all. We need to make something clear: there is no evidence of this man having sex with a child. There is no evidence (unless I’m misreading something) of this man telling people to have sex with children. All we know is that he thinks it’s not nearly so bad as everyone seems to think it is. That’s it, and thoughts are not a crime, even if voiced loudly. Not even if they are wrong or vile, thoughts are never a crime.

  • Alex Weaver

    Shorter Brendan: “I understand that child molestation is wrong. Do you [plural] understand anything else?”

    (Am I right? ^.^)

  • Jeff T.

    Ebon,
    It is so refreshing to see you prove yet again that one does not need a god in order to be a moral and decent person.

  • HiEv

    Wow. That’s a tough one. I really had to give it a lot of thought before I could make a decision, and it sounds like you did too. (Let me apologise in advance for the length of my response.)

    After much consideration, I’d have to say that I wouldn’t have reported him, since there really was nothing to report beyond a vague suspicion of guilt. I believe in “innocent until proven guilty” and “it is better that ten guilty people should go free than one innocent man should be imprisoned.” If there was some solid evidence of a crime, I wouldn’t hesitate to report it. However, an icky feeling and worry over one kind of potential harm is not enough to warrant another kind of potential harm that could come if he was innocent. Everyone is a potential criminal, so we can only justify reporting those for whom there is good reason to believe that they have committed a crime. Based on your writing it looks as if you didn’t have good reason.

    Since we’re on the topic, my dislike of pedophilia is not really about the age difference, but the fact that it is basically rape, a physical violation of another’s will. I agree that because it is done to children that makes it worse, but abusing power to have sex with people against their will is always wrong. There is some grey area in there in being able to determine what age people can make mature decisions for themselves about when to have sex, and the problem that one age doesn’t fit all, but that doesn’t give people the right to break the law. Still, I can see reason for perfectly innocent public discussion, and that does not, and should not, imply guilt.

    For example, I believe that marijuana should be legal, and I both can and have made statements about why it should be legalized. However, one should not assume then that I do drugs because of that. The fact is, I don’t do any illegal drugs and I never have. I don’t smoke, I rarely have caffeine, and I don’t even touch alcohol. The fact is, just because I can see reason why marijuana should be legal, does not mean that I have any interest in using it myself. It just means that I just don’t like the hypocrisy of allowing cigarettes and alcohol, while marijuana is illegal.

    Anyways, your decision is your own, but I appreciate you discussing the situation openly. It is interesting food for thought and a good topic of discussion.

    P.S. I’m currently in a debate elsewhere about whether you can have morals without God or whether there can be objective morals, so this kind of open discussion among mostly atheists helps.

  • Alex Weaver

    Since we’re on the topic, my dislike of pedophilia is not really about the age difference, but the fact that it is basically rape, a physical violation of another’s will. I agree that because it is done to children that makes it worse, but abusing power to have sex with people against their will is always wrong. There is some grey area in there in being able to determine what age people can make mature decisions for themselves about when to have sex, and the problem that one age doesn’t fit all, but that doesn’t give people the right to break the law. Still, I can see reason for perfectly innocent public discussion, and that does not, and should not, imply guilt.

    I think relying on the immorality of “forcing people to have sex against their will” as grounds for a blanket condemnation of child-adult sex is a mistake, since there do indeed seem to be a number of children or former children who would not describe their experiences that way. This sort of approach lends itself far too much to being commandeered by those who attempt to jump from a possibly real (in terms of outcomes for the children involved, see Rind et al 1998) distinction between supposedly “consensual” encounters and encounters that would be considered abusive even if the participants were adults (since that’s cumbersome to repeat, I shall henceforth refer to such encounters as “act rape” as distinct from “statutory rape”; no implicit judgements should be inferred) to claim that the former should be *legalized*. The legitimate grounds, in my view, for forbidding all child-adult sex in addition to forbidding act rape are 1) the general inability of young children to give meaningful and informed consent to something as emotionally and psychosocially complex (and potentially dangerous) as sex; 2) the fact that, given the emotional and psychological characteristics of small children and their relationships to adults, even if it were true that interactions between children and adults that do not constitute act rape were acceptable and benign in theory, it would be impossible in practice to sort these out from relationships that even most child sexuality advocates would recognize as abusive given all the facts of the case (so even granting their theoretical assumptions the argument still fails–a damning point if there ever was one); and 3) the potential for substantial to severe physical damage even to a supposedly “willing” child, in the event of actual penetration. If it’s true that claims about supposedly consensual relaitonships being benign and even positive made by some child sexuality advocates are merely “self-serving rationalizations” for predatory behavior that would be another strong point against it, but, not being privy to the contents of others’ minds, I will grant for the sake of argument that at least some of these advocates may sincerely believe what they’re saying–in other words, they may be delusional rather than deceitful (although, of course, that doesn’t help their case in the slightest).

  • Nospoon

    Though I hate to say it, I wouldn’t report him for the simple reason that there is no evidence of a crime and any police investigation would be completely illegal. And then the person would bear the label for the rest of their life, because they wouldn’t even have the chance to be found innocent.

  • HiEv

    Alex, for the most part I agree that the issue is more complex than simple unwillingness. However, I think there are problems of vagueness that come into the picture for some of your other reasons, especially when put into the context of underage individuals having sex with other underage individuals, which causes no mental harm to either party in some (if not most) cases. Yes, mental maturity is another important factor, but some (though certainly not most) underage people have enough, and some who are of age do not (especially in the case of the mentally handicapped.) Thus the boundaries are fuzzy, and age based restrictions are not necessarily always just. Still, any more just solution requires rather complex judgement calls, thus is problematic to implement.

    I’m not really interested in debating the particulars, just thinking about the subject kind of creeps me out, but I can see how there can be different views on the subject, and how some people would be interested in debating one side or the other. However, I don’t see any reason to believe that everyone who argues for loosening some legal restrictions on the act is necessarily a criminal, therefore they should not be treated as such.

    I may not agree with their speech, but I will defend their right to speak it without it causing them to automatically be treated like criminals.

  • Discerning Esoteric

    I think it’s a shame you decided to assume what that person and their website was must consist of something obscene, rather than taking the time to make an unbiased judgment by actually looking at the site and what that person had to say. Obviously if they have a pro-pedophilia website they have something to say about a subject most people wouldn’t ever touch…even with the anonymity of being online.

    I don’t want to sound demeaning to you but it looks like you made the assumption that a pedophile is child molester and vice versa. Pedophilia is a feeling of attraction to prepubescent children, that in and of itself is not an action in any way, shape, or form. A child molester is someone who has violated the physical and/or emotional well being of a child according to the laws of wherever that person is. Now I am sure that some pedophiles do become child molesters, but to the way you talk you sound as though every pedophile is or will become a child molester.

    Now maybe you didn’t have to look at that person’s website, as it seems to have you feel uncomfortable with it, but you could at least understand what the definitions are of the terms you are using and not confuse two different things. Although it is so often confused between those two terms and they are used as synonyms to each other when they are not.

    My own words are just simple and may not be well constructed but I’d like to leave you with a quote that I think has much greater wisdom to it than anything I could write. “There is no ‘should’ or ‘should not’ when it comes to having feeling. They’re part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.” –Mister Fred Rogers. Seems to me that if someone has pedophilia feelings, but refuses to abuse a child as a child molester might and decides to discover and reach out to the world through the internet I would investigate what they have to say about their unusual view of the world. Of course if anyone advocated the harming of a child (or any human being for that matter) I would not find their opinion valid. Though I couldn’t know their opinion unless I looked for it.

  • Alex Weaver

    Regarding what Esoteric said, I don’t have any data on how many pedophiles (in the clinical sense) act on their feelings (though I would be surprised if that data were valid; for obvious reasons one would expect a *strong* selection bias in those identified as clinical pedophiles toward those who had done so and been caught), but I do recall reading that only about 10% of child molesters actually fit the clinical definition of “pedophile.” Worth thinking about.

  • http://www.ainsleehooper.com Ainslee Hooper

    This kind of dilemma raises the moral question, are you as guilty as the person in question if you do not report them? Obviously you had no proof he had done anything wrong, but the promoting pedophelia alone is wrong in itself is it not? This is not a shot at you, only raising the moral question in itself. It’s like at school, a child picks on another child and another child watches on. They do not stop it but they do not take part. Are they guilty for not doing something?

  • Donna

    What in the world??? Reporting a website for investigation is no different from a CrimeWatch member calling the cops about a suspicious car, in fact if you find something so suspicious it is your duty, both as an adult, a sane human, and a “Christian” to protect children by erring on the side of caution. This isn’t Communist Russia, your complaint won’t lead to the webmaster being dragged off to Siberia unless there is illegal activity. I am sure the FBI and other legal authorities would be thrilled to have a thousand false leads that lead to even one monster being convicted.

  • Alex Weaver

    What in the world??? Reporting a website for investigation is no different from a CrimeWatch member calling the cops about a suspicious car, in fact if you find something so suspicious it is your duty, both as an adult, a sane human, and a “Christian” to protect children by erring on the side of caution. This isn’t Communist Russia, your complaint won’t lead to the webmaster being dragged off to Siberia unless there is illegal activity. I am sure the FBI and other legal authorities would be thrilled to have a thousand false leads that lead to even one monster being convicted.

    1) “Christian?” Uh. Read the site heading.
    2) Did you even read a single one of the replies before you spouted off?

  • Stan

    To me, I see it more as being relevant to free speech. I find that society shouts down alternate viewpoints to an extreme- yours included, of course. The contest in society’s mainstream is which side can shout everyone else down the loudest- which has always ticked me off, becuase we seem to get further and further from that once American ideal of free debate that at the very least WAS the cornerstone of our democracy- but what am I saying? That went to Hell many times before now.
    The thing is, if championing a cause people disagree with can be made illegal, then this further destroys our right to free speech. Yes, this could be seen as harmful; yet so could allowing more guns into the hands of Americans, or instituting a draft. It is curious to note that I don’t agree with any of the above causes; but I firmly believe in free expression.
    I won’t use the slippery slope argument because I know it’s supposedly a logical fallacy, but it is tempting, for it seems very much to apply.
    In short, before I repeat myself more needlessly and beleagour the point, you should not have turned it in to the police. The individual(s) in question committed no crime.
    And keep in mind, almost every “evil act” has been accepted at some point in some society. In this one’s case, marrying an adolescent was not uncommon in the middle ages, even for a middle aged man. Even in what I believe was the 1800s, a lumberjack, as cited in my sociology book, married an adolescent. I am not justifying it; I disagree with pedophilia, but it is worth bringing up the fact that the same phenomena throughout history are assigned very contradictory roles in societal right/wrong and good/evil. Which is mostly to say that because of this, freedom of speech, expression and debate are even more important.
    That said, something not relevant to the story- I am Wiccan, and I have been humored to note that many times atheists on similar sites have stood up for us. I say humorous because our viewpoints are very, very different, but we share a common antagonist, and so have often banded together. I actually consider atheists much more rational than most religious people, becuase most religious people believe for the sake of believing, taking things on “faith” because it’s “faith,” which I find moronic (South Parks’ analogy of belief in a giant spaghetti monster because we can’t prove it doesn’t exist is pretty on the mark), whereas atheists tend, at least, to have rationales to their beliefs that make sense. I used to be an atheist, and pretended to be for the duration of my high school years. I only turned religious because of events in my life that suggested there was something more than the physical world, mostly premonitions, an out of body experience, mediumistic experiences and other things that, I will admit, many skeptics rack up to insanity. But as I like to say, sanity is for panzies, so who gives a damn? All religion is insanity, most if not all insanity is religion. Hell yeah. (I say this because the symptoms of mental illness as defined by modern psychiatry and religious/spiritual experiences and awakenings tend to have very close parallels.)
    Which I’m sure is a radical viewpoint, I know it is, but I don’t care.
    But once again I ramble. Just wished to say, in cap, that I respect the reasoning of atheists (after all, science does explain everything one is frequently exposed to), and that y’all don’t tend to hold false pretenses (there hve been so many Christians that have tried to convert me with charm, and then after giving up, told me much later that they consider my gods to be Satanic like the rest of them), or hold prejuidces as much. If my religious beliefs were chosen based off of values rather than determined by what I see, I would be tempted to “convert,” lol.

  • Jim Baerg

    “And keep in mind, almost every “evil act” has been accepted at some point in some society. In this one’s case, marrying an adolescent was not uncommon in the middle ages, even for a middle aged man. Even in what I believe was the 1800s, a lumberjack, as cited in my sociology book, married an adolescent. I am not justifying it; I disagree with pedophilia,”

    Shouldn’t the term pedophilia be used only for sexual attraction to prepubescent children? A middle aged man having sex with eg: a 15 year old girl is ethically dubious, but not in the same league as sex with a 7 year old.

  • Alex Weaver

    Unless by adolescent you mean “13 year old” modern western society is, as I understand it, actually fairly unusual in strongly discouraging relationships between teenagers and legal adults.

  • Alex Weaver

    (The above was in reference to Stan’s surprise at an adult marrying an adolescent in the 1800s.)

    As an expansion, 14-15 seems to be fairly common as a legal age of consent, and the worldwide average is 16, so the idea of sex and/or marriages between legal adults and adolescents in modern times shouldn’t be surprising. Whether this is desirable is perhaps debatable.

    In reference to Jim Baerg’s comment, “pedophilia” should indeed only be used for sexual attraction to prepubescent children, and the term “pedophile” should properly be used only of a person who is primarily attracted to children. Some research apparently suggests that a minority of child molesters are actually attracted to children as a general condition; rather, most are what are termed “situational offenders” (although it’s probably safe to assume that the person responsible for the website in question is a pedophile in the technical sense) Unfortunately, imprecise use has become incredibly common, and the consensus seems to be that the distinction is not worth making. The broader implications of allowing extreme loathing to trump concern for accuracy are generally not addressed. :/

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    But as I like to say, sanity is for panzies…

    Okay, you’re making me laugh, there!