The financial problems of just living together

There are strong moral reasons why couples shouldn’t just live together without being married.  There are also strong psychological reasons why this is not a good idea.  (See also this.)  The Washington Post‘s financial advice columnist, Michelle Singletary, points out that there are also strong financial reasons not to, that sharing housing expenses, bank accounts, and buying property together can be disastrous if the couple isn’t married. [Read more...]

Biblical heroism

In the course of writing a searching new book entitled The Road to Character, New York Times columnist David Brooks decided that you can’t really think about moral ideas very well without the vocabulary that religions bring, even if you don’t believe them.  So he read all kinds of books, including Christian theology, including the works of St. Augustine.  Brooks is Jewish, but he sounds like he is getting close to Christianity.  Samples from an interview with Brooks after the jump. [Read more...]

Does capitalism undermine traditional values?

The left is always saying that big business really runs this country.  There may be some truth to this claim.  The irony is that big business is supporting the left, at least on social and moral issues.  When corporations from Apple to Walmart turned against Indiana’s religious freedom act to support the gay agenda, notice how Republican politicians fell in line.

Charles Lane says that the Indiana controversy may be the Gettysburg of the Culture Wars, the turning point, after which social conservatives will start retreating until they lose their political clout completely.  He says that modern conservatism has depended on an alliance between pro-business free market advocates and social conservatives.  But this alliance is unstable.  He quotes a scholar who refers to “the cultural contradictions of capitalism,” saying that free market economics ultimately destroys traditional values.

There was arguably a time when capitalism and moral traditionalism went together, when capitalism depended on the values of self-control, restraint, and deferred gratification, as may still apply to small business today.  But today’s consumer capitalism depends on instant gratification, the satisfaction of all desires, and constant change.  Our financial system won’t even pay interest on a savings account, but rather depends on having everything now and going in debt.  This creates a cultural climate, so the argument goes, that will undermine traditional moral values.  But is this correct?  Would any other economic system be any better? [Read more...]

Liberal and Illiberal Atheists

The London Guardian has published a fascinating in-depth article about atheism, its history and its different varieties.  The author, John Gray, is himself an atheist, but he subjects what he calls today’s “evangelical atheists” to a withering critique.  He especially criticizes the notion assumed  by so many “new atheists” that if we just get rid of religion, the rise of science will bring “liberal” values–freedom, equality, human dignity, universal benevolence, etc.   Gray shows that there is no way to get from science alone to moral values of any kind, and certainly not liberal values.

In fact, atheists, historically, have often held “illiberal” values.  For example, mainstream atheists before World War II tended to be social darwinists, with a strong strain of eugenics and racist biology.  Then there is Soviet atheism, which rejected individual freedom, and the atheism of Friedrich Nietzsche, who critiqued liberal values as deriving from Christianity, hating them both.  I would add that prominent strain today beloved by many conservatives, the atheism of Ayn Rand, with her “virtue of selfishness.”  Gray does say that of course he and his fellow atheists can be moral, but the question is, what morality are they to follow?  And science, he says, won’t give an answer.  Read an excerpt and follow the link after the jump. [Read more...]

Where children learn moral relativism

Philosopher  Justin P. McBrayer investigated why so many college freshmen do not believe in moral facts, that certain ethical principles–such as murder is wrong, or it’s wrong to cheat on tests–are objectively valid.  Prof. McBrayer says that this view is actually quite rare among professional philosophers.

He traced this thinking among young people to public school curriculum that teaches over and over again a philosophically confused version of the “fact/value distinction” that incorrectly classifies all moral claims as subjective and thus changeable “values.”  (This mixed-up teaching–which I have also seen in Lutheran parochial schools!–is enshrined in the so-called “Common Core.”)  Sample Prof. McBrayer’s op-ed piece–in the New York Times, no less–after the jump and then read it all. [Read more...]

“Wizard of Oz” and the Indians

The Oneida tribe has been leading the charge against the Washington Redskins’ name.  But now that tribe is itself caught in a controversy over its plans to open a casino in Chittenango, N.Y.  That was the home of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.   Plans for the casino, to be named “Yellow Brick Road,” would honor the local author.  But it turns out, Baum, as a newspaper writer in 1890, advocated the extermination of all Indians, including, presumably, the Oneida. [Read more...]


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