How much you like someone is a poor predictor of their ethical behavior

It’s been observed that subcultures have this problem where conflicts within the subculture tend to devolve into popularity contests, even if they’re officially someone else. Everyone involved may claim they’re taking a principle stand, but somehow the more popular person ends up crushing the less popular person the vast majority of the time. This is well-known, but I don’t think people pay enough attention to why this happens.

Having observed such conflicts play out a few times, a common thread seems to be: “I know S. S is a good person. S would never do the thing they’ve been accused of.” But this reasoning so often produces the wrong result. Well-liked people very often behave in ways that don’t match the image they’ve cultivated. How much you like someone is a poor predictor of how ethically they’ll behave.

I predict that many people will read this post and simply take for granted that it’s obvious. And next time they see a conflict within their subculture, they’ll remember it… and then think, “except in this case, I really do know they’re extremely ethical, and couldn’t possibly have done this thing…”

  • Luke Breuer

    Having observed such conflicts play out a few times, a common thread seems to be: “I know S. S is a good person. S would never do the thing they’ve been accused of.” But this reasoning so often produces the wrong result. Well-liked people very often behave in ways that don’t match the image they’ve cultivated. How much you like someone is a poor predictor of how ethically they’ll behave.

    You know that the Bible is full of broken, sinful humans who still manage to please God (translation: on average make the world a better place), right? Recently, Jonathan Pearce brought up Jephthah (“The Problem with Divine Command Theory #1″), so I replied:

    But do you think the Bible somehow approved of Jephthah’s sacrifice, if it were a sacrifice? (Christianity.SE Did Jephthah sacrifice his daughter?, Hermeneutics.SE Did Jephthah actually sacrifice his daughter?) If you are merely referencing Jephthah’s inclusion in Heb 11:32, then you’re going to have to justify how the author of that “heroes of the faith” chapter is condoning:

         (a) King David’s rape and murder
         (b) Jacob’s deviousness
         (c) Isaac’s favoritism toward Esau
         (d) Moses’ disbelief of God
         (e) Samson’s foibles
         (f) Samuel’s terrible parenting

    What’s going on here is a childish requirement that something be 100% good or 100% evil, and not be an ‘alloy’, as Christians of times past have referred to, which Solzhenitsyn captures brilliantly:

    It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains . . . an unuprooted small corner of evil.

    For some scary evidence of this, see the updated version of Daryl Wingerd’s A Critical Review of John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart:

    When I wrote the original review of Wild at Heart in 2003, I was of the opinion that the regenerate heart was at least partially corrupt, similar in many ways to the unregenerate heart. I based this opinion on my former understanding of passages like Jeremiah 17:9 and Mark 7:21-23 (with the parallel passage in Matthew 15:18-20), and on various statements from godly teachers like Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards who described the regenerate heart using words like “depraved,” “defiled,” and “corrupt.” Having studied this matter in more depth for the past few years, I now must admit that I was wrong. I fully agree with John Eldredge when he says to the Christian, “Your heart is good . . . In the core of your being you are a good man”
    I greatly value the teachings of men like Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards, although I now am more aware of the fact that we should not automatically agree with everything they said. They were men, and therefore they were capable of error.

    Let that second paragraph sink in for a second. This dude was viewing Spurgeon and Edwards as infallible. Holy shit! Hebrews 5:11-6:3 was written in frustration about such people! Sigh. People are mixes of good and evil, yo. Let’s stop with our binary, fundamentalist, stupid-ass way of looking at things. John Calvin might have figured out some things, but he also said:

    Whoever shall maintain that wrong is done to heretics and blasphemers in punishing them makes himself an accomplice in their crime and guilty as they are. There is no question here of man’s authority; it is God who speaks, and clear it is what law he will have kept in the church, even to the end of the world. Wherefore does he demand of us a so extreme severity, if not to show us that due honor is not paid him, so long as we set not his service above every human consideration, so that we spare not kin, nor blood of any, and forget all humanity when the matter is to combat for His glory.

    Grow up, people. The world is not black-and-white. That’s childish thinking. In the chapter on love, Paul says:

    When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Cor 13:11)

    Maybe we can begin to see why: you can’t love someone only if they’re 100% sinless, 100% good. At least, such would be a shitty kind of love, as Jesus described.

  • MNb

    “and then think, “except in this case …””
    I have disappointed myself too often to assume that people belonging to my subculture are not capable of going off the rails.

  • JWP

    “they’re extremely ethically” –> “they’re extremely ethical”

    • Chris Hallquist

      Thanks. Fixed.

    • UWIR

      Also, “principle stand” -> “principled stand”

  • Ders

    As someone who does some mildly unethical things to try and be well liked, I would be willing to admit that one should be more skeptical of well liked people than less liked people. I hope that didn’t come across poorly.

    • Luke Breuer

      Would you be able to offer any examples? It’s a personal question, and perhaps it’s impossible to do now since you didn’t post anonymously. :-/ That being said, details + generalizations teach much better than generalizations, alone.

      • Ders

        Fair enough. For some reason I crave popularity. I am in sales so it helps. I will often agree with things that I actually don’t agree with just to make the relationship work. I think the best example is that I am an atheist who has been to church with three different girls in the last year. Afterwards I always say it was inspirational.

        • Luke Breuer

          Thanks for having the guts to share—lots of people wouldn’t. If I may pry further (and you may discontinue this at any time!), what do you think of the fact that you are spreading falsehoods around, that you are causing people to believe more false things? One possible answer is that you can do better things with the increased popularity than the damage caused by the acceptance of falsehoods on the parts of others. There’s plenty of philosophical debate about noble lies, for example. I have no idea what stance to take on it; there’s so much complexity.

          • Ders

            I try not to look a lot into it. I have a rational mind, but I’m also fairly Machiavellian if that makes sense. I don’t deal with completely close-minded people. Maybe the relationship will help me get the questioning of bad ideas started faster than it would otherwise. Sometimes you get in with stealthier moves. I could be wrong, but I don’t feel like I’m causing actual harm. Not turning someone is a neutral move. Turning someone off is a negative move.

          • Luke Breuer

            So, I generally believe that more people believing more truth and fewer falsehoods is an unmitigated good thing. However, there is such a thing as telling people truths or disabusing them of falsehoods in an unloving manner—one that creates more long-term brokenness than healing. 1 Corinthians 13 opens brilliantly.

          • Ders

            There is always the theory of doing more from the inside than the outside. Game theory gets involved. There is basically a zero percent chance of me being moved. While I may do things that are against my beliefs (again, doing the popular thing should make you less believable…which was my initial point), I will eventually make my points and make people question things once I feel comfortably “in”. This has worked quite a bit.

            I started by saying that being popular or “liked” should make someone be more skeptical of you, and I still agree with it. I may do some questionable things in the name of popularity, but I tend to eventually come around. Not that I need to defend myself in this manner, but I think that sometimes it might actually work out better with a certain kind of person.

          • Luke Breuer

            There is a mysterious passage in Ecclesiastes that could pattern-match onto what you’re doing:

            In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them. (Eccl 7:15-18 ESV)

            Many commentators see “overly righteous” as self-righteous, but I don’t think that’s the best translation (it’s the easy one). Instead, I think the point here is to let certain evils happen so that we can fight other evils more effectively. It’s a kind of strategizing, of picking your battles. One can consider Oskar Schindler, and how his evils were turned to fantastic good. Anyhow, I thought you might appreciate the above.

          • Ders

            That is enlightening, despite the source. I’m not entirely defending what I do. I’m sure there is some good and some bad in it. My overall point is that one should be more skeptical of things that are better received. Skepticism doesn’t mean that you’re fighting a wrong…rather that you are fighting against your own bias, your own intuition; often you are right, but it’s more important to learn what you are wrong about.

          • Luke Breuer

            Despite the source, eh? :-p Is it that the Bible is less reliable than other literature? :-p

            The idea that we should be “skeptical of things that are better received” is incredibly biblical:

            “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (Mt 6:1)

            It is, of course, better to seek truth:

            Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jer 9:23-24)

            Now you can depersonalize God into “truth” if you’d like—e.g. the laws of nature—the above would largely hold. The above, of course, gets into moral truth as well as particle-and-field truth. Dunno if you’d take issue with that. :-p

          • Ders

            The bible is such an enormous amalgam of varied commentary that you could support almost every thought with a quote or two. Rather than piece together support in retrospect, I would prefer to get my thoughts from more consistent pieces of literature. For how terrible “Atlas Shrugged” is, at least it’s one consistent thought pattern. It’s easy to reject, but at least it’s consistent. I’m unimpressed that a large collection of aphorisms, stories, and instructions would be instructive. It’s impossible to know which ones to follow unless you’re following you’re own intuition. At that point…just follow you’re own intuition.

          • Luke Breuer

            The Bible may indeed be a Rorschach test, but would that be a bad thing?

            For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

            There is a common thread among atheists that getting people to become more radical or less radical through some means is a good thing! (causing a ‘symmetry breaking’ of a sort) If the Bible lets people cherry-pick it in many ways, perhaps this lets them amplify their horrible views, so that those views are more clear. Paul’s Romans 7 could be construed this way: the law (specifically, the last of the Decalogue: no coveting) revealed what was previously hidden from sight. (e.g. signal strength was too low)

            I would argue that consistent fundamentalism is actually self-correcting; sadly, fundamentalists have complete blind spots, such as their whitewashing of bad words in the Bible; this particular whitewashing is actually incredibly bad, because it teaches people to care about the surface instead of the heart:

            And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.

            You suspect that there is no discernible unity to the Bible; why? James Barr in his The Scope and Authority of the Bible that there is no single theology in the Bible, but is this actually a problem? There is no single, permanent scientific theory: we keep finding better and better ones. What if the same is true of theology? It’s not that everything would change from one theology to the next; indeed, each new theology would subsume the previous one, correcting its errors and more intricately describing God, man, reality, and the relationship between them.

          • Ders

            Science edits it’s books. Theology just looks for more justification/rationalization. That is an enormous difference that you are overlooking. It’s not as though we are removing passages from the bible. Whenever religious people decide something in the bible is wrong, it becomes parable. The problem is that it stays in there for those who are so inclined to believe it. You will not find a modern science book that vouches for something that has been proven wrong. You can’t take that out of consideration.

            Maybe you’ll take my personal behavior as validating, but I can assure you it is a result of my surrounding environment which is something I would gladly alter.

          • Luke Breuer

            Science edits it’s books.

            This is almost too true. We often forget how science actually works. For example, we forget that the philosophy of atomism likely primed scientists for the development of atomic theory. Or we forget that alchemy is in the line to chemistry. We whitewash history, and thus damage our ability to continue doing science in ways that work. Lee Smolin talks about at least the philosophical aspect in his The Trouble with Physics.

            Theology just looks for more justification/rationalization.

            Your ‘just’ is not true of all theology.

            Whenever religious people decide something in the bible is wrong, it becomes parable.

            This simply is not true of all religious people; whether it even holds for most is a claim that requires evidential support. As a solid counterexample, see Peter Enns’ Inerrancy: I think someone forgot to tell the Bible. Peter Enns is not a low-profile scholar.

          • Ders

            Alchemy is not included in modern science books. Science is willing to adjust. Nobody holds the Journal of Chemistry as a sacred text. The Bible may have been re-translated a few times or argued about, but it has not been edited in centuries. When you’re ready to take the slavery parts out of the Bible, let me know. I’ll be glad to help. You can’t honestly say that centuries-old scientific mishaps that have long since been taken out of textbooks compares to leaving in every single morally problematic story in the bible. Apples to oranges there in a big way.

          • Luke Breuer

            Why am I not allowed to declare slavery as obsolete? Why must I erase its existence—a very Nineteen Eighty-Four-kind of behavior? What I see you doing is erasing history, which seems very bad?

          • Ders

            At this point, I need to clarify your argument in case I am misunderstanding it. According to you, are either of the following true?:

            a) the bible is the inerrant word of god
            b) the bible is the best book we have to get our morals from

          • Luke Breuer

            a) I’m inclined to side with Peter Enns’ Inerrancy: I think someone forgot to tell the Bible. This is not the same as metaphorizing or parable-izing. It is very, very important to note this. One of the profound strengths of Enns’ approach is that he does not whitewash human nature.

            b) I see the Bible as establishing the human condition and a moral trajectory that can be continued. In OT and NT, it has a mix of “perfection commands” and “step-along-the-way commands”. Both are needed, and this really needs to be emphasized. “Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.” is incredibly demoralizing, unless there is a walkable path to get there. There is a huge tension between setting high goals and helping people get there; it is very common for humans to either (i) set lower, attainable goals; or (ii) give up on high, unattainable goals.

          • Ders

            Alright well I think we’re done here. One of us is pinning down a viewpoint; the other is setting up a never-ending series of backward-peddling answers. I could ask you to describe your version of a deity and compare it to the book he supposedly wrote, but I honestly don’t think it will go anywhere with your vanishing arguments. This isn’t ad-hominem. If you can’t state clear facts about reality or the reality of a book, I can’t possibly argue with you. At one point you equated science and theology and I thought there was promise of reaching some sort of conclusion, but you’re clearly not willing to make any claims about reality (or morality for that matter). If slavery is wrong now, it was wrong then. If God thought we needed a “step-by-step” approach then, where is he today in the process of editing his book. If he did it once, he can do it again. None of these things makes sense to anyone that isn’t completely dedicated to act of making sure a 2000-year-old book makes sense in today’s world. Give it up.

          • Luke Breuer

            a never-ending series of backward-peddling answers

            This is distinctly unfair, but perhaps it will stay that way. Should you choose to extend the grace, I would like you to explain how you see me backpedalling; I cannot see it. I have attempted to be straightforward this whole time. :-(

            If you can’t state clear facts about reality or the reality of a book

            Where do you see me being vague, intentionally or not? I have attempted to both cite my sources and indicate what points they back up. I have acknowledged that the Bible cannot be unified by one theology. I have explained why this is realistic: we should expect successive approximations in theology just like we get successive approximations in science. Why would the two be different from each other?

            If slavery is wrong now, it was wrong then.

            You must defend something like the following counterfactual:

                 (1) Had God prohibited slavery, history would look better.

            I think this takes too rosy a view of human nature. See, for example, the Milgram experiment, Stanford prison experiment and The Third Wave. Or consider the scientists excited about the potential of human awesomeness through science, before WWI broke out. It is not so much that human nature is inherently evil, as lacking enough good intentions to avoid following a few fantastically manipulative leaders to terrible consequences.

            The claim that (1) is true requires a burden of proof. 2500-3500 years ago were absolutely barbaric times. To think that all that would be required is to simply tell everyone to play nice is, in my view, a fundamental denial of human nature. Humans can only improve so much at a time. I have not yet been convinced that it is wrong to provide laws that are a step along the way, laws which seem evil now. I usually just get bare assertions: “God could have done it differently!” How does one argue against such bare assertions? God is omnipotent, right? Surely he could do anything! If my interlocutor starts saying this, I am defeated. Is it a true victory? That’s for you to decide.

            At one point you equated science and theology and I thought there was promise of reaching some sort of conclusion, but you’re clearly not willing to make any claims about reality (or morality for that matter).

            If you’d like some specifics, I can go into tremendous detail on any or all of the following triads, tying them very much to particle-and-field reality:

            Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23
            Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27
            Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5

          • Ders

            Ok let me get you to state an actual opinion. I clicked through some of your citations and what I got was that the bible was “god-breathed” yet not inerrant. It was spoken to a very specific group of people at a very specific time. I can only assume you are in agreement with scientific theory that humans as a species have been around for about 100,000 years at the very least. Can you explain to me why god only “breathed” his views into what ended up as literary canon during a very small period of our human history and why he hasn’t shown up since? Quite a strange deity. Shit, if I were in charge I would have come back like every other year or so just to check up on things. You will bend over backwards to justify whatever it is you want; you will quote orwell, blog posts, discarded scientific theories, and (lo and behold!) the bible to make yourself sound educated. Nobody else is reading our exchange and you are certainly not flooding me with new information. Maybe if you decided to declare something as truth we could go from there?

          • Luke Breuer

            Can you explain to me why god only “breathed” his views into what ended up as literary canon during a very small period of our human history and why he hasn’t shown up since?

            Not succinctly. This is a hard question, and one of the best you could have asked. It does presume that God isn’t acting, but that’s an understandable assumption. It is easy to deny that anything that has happened is God’s acting. Jesus said he only did what he saw his father do, but what was that? Yes people sometimes healed, sometimes got food, sometimes got taught wise things, sometimes had compassion. Jesus did these things, but so have many others. Where is God truly acting?

            Recently, I came across someone who said that the only stable utopias he knew about were (i) homogeneous; (ii) isolated from the rest of the world. I believe the first triad opposes both of these: Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23. Note that Francis Schaeffer elaborates on these in his The Mark of a Christian. Christians are called to love people not like them, which opposes (i). Christians are also called to minister to the poor and oppressed everywhere, which—among other things—opposes (ii). And really, the thing God most wants (I claim, and can back up) is unity amidst diversity; unity in Christ and diversity in the body. Peace on earth and goodwill toward men!

            Miracles are boring in comparison to the above. If we could unify all humans on the earth, and yet not insist on uniformity, that would be incredible. Let’s only insist that people agree on what must be agreed upon, in order to maintain peace. Anything more comes from an evil, controlling heart. That would be the most sure sign that the God of the OT and NT is acting in the world. Anything else could easily be space aliens (see Clarke’s third law). And don’t we want peace on earth more than magic tricks?

            Sadly, there is very little of this “unity amidst diversity”. The world is mostly made up of people who love those who are like themselves. This, I think, is the single best evidence against Christianity. Where is the most important possible kind of power, the power that truly makes the world a better place? I don’t have a good answer, although I’m looking for one and avidly seeking to figure out how to create such places, places that violate (i) and (ii) and yet are stable and long-lived.

            P.S. I’m in the middle of Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles. Pretty intense stuff.

            Maybe if you decided to declare something as truth we could go from there?

            Your question, which I took to be about divine hiddenness, was not a good place to start if you want “something as truth”. I recognize that you want to see how Christianity truly contacts particle-and-field reality. I will pick the third triad, Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5. (For the second triad, see my notes.)

            In my time, I have found a great amount of denial about these passages. First, many are in utter denial of the human tendency to project their problems on others. This, of course, is seeing a speck in someone else’s eye which may well be entirely due to the log in your own. More importantly, if you cannot solve the problem in yourself, what the fuck makes you think you can solve it in others? And if you’re going to be a Pharisee and merely point and say, “fix that”, you’re being a dick who just wants the world to conform to your image, instead of God’s image. Finally, if you really want to help the person, instead of feel superior, you will help him/her remove that speck and bear his/her burden for a little while, until he/she can bear it himself/herself.

            I have no idea whether this will seem basic to you, whether you will deny it, or something else. But I have seen tremendous amounts of pain and suffering caused by people (1) refusing to admit they have the problem they are criticizing the other person for having; (2) refusing to life a single finger to help the other person fix the problem; (3) being an utter dick about pointing out the problem. If we want to help people become better people, why aren’t we extremely competent at all of this? It’s not that hard. I’m pretty sure most competent psychologists know about it. And yet our culture is in an extreme amount of denial of it, from all indications. Individualism, individualism, individualism! Just get a self-help book! Yeah!

            Let’s see what you do with the above. I claim that this triad contacts reality intricately. Hopefully you agree. But you could easily retort that it is no surprise that the Bible got a few bits of psychology correct. I might be able to work with that, but I’ll let you comment, first.

          • Y. A. Warren

            I believe that Paul, unlike Jesus, engaged in a popularity contest that still got him killed. Since this helped promote his message, I guess it was a good “career” move for him as an evangelist.

          • Luke Breuer

            Would you be willing to elaborate on this “popularity contest”? I’m not seeing it, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to see it.

          • Y. A. Warren

            Paul’s epistles were full of flowery, sweet language that seemed meant to sway the most people in the least amount of time, as Paul and his disciples believed the end of the earth was imminent. It seems to me that the true converts were those who had been in the trenches with the physical Jesus and his disciples.

          • Luke Breuer

            You mean like this?

            You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!(Gal 5:7-12 ESV)

            Here, Paul is saying that the circumciser group ought to just keep that knife moving. Is this what you consider “flowery”?

          • Y. A. Warren

            I mean like this:

            1 Corinthians 13:4-7

            New International Version (NIV)

            4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

          • Luke Breuer

            Do you realize how extraordinarily hard it is to love that way? This isn’t flowery, this is the hardest thing you can ask a human to do. See:

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt 5:43-48)

            The only reason 1 Cor 13 (you explicitly excluded the non-flowery bits) seems flowery is that few people actually try and do it, and therefore it looks nice but few people know what it even means.

          • Y. A. Warren

            I do realize “how extraordinarily hard it is to love that way”

            It seems that we have gotten away from your question, “Would you be willing to elaborate on this “popularity contest”?” We seem to be “talking” at each other, rather than with each other. I don’t see Paul’s words as the same as your quote from Matthew. I will leave it at that.

          • Luke Breuer

            Why would the Corinthians see this as a popularity contest? Paul is telling them that they suck at this loving thing. He was telling them to grow up (see also 1 Cor 3:1)!

            When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Cor 13:11)

            Your thesis of “popularity contest” just doesn’t seem to make sense to me. Much of 1 Corinthians is chiding the Corinthians for being factious, immoral, arrogant, men-pleasing, appearance-adoring, and some other things I couldn’t recall in ten seconds of reflection. Your thesis seems in direct antithesis to:

            And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Cor 2:1-5)

            Do you think Paul is lying, here? It’s hard for me to see Paul as being flowery when he was doing so much rebuking and so much instructing. What do you make of these aspects to his letters? Are they irrelevant to your thesis, or overwhelmed by your thesis?

          • Y. A. Warren

            What I think is that Paul was an arrogant narcissist, regularly acting as if he was the right hand man of Jesus, continually telling people to follow his (Paul’s) example and they would be saved. He seems to have set himself up as the savior of Gentiles. Count how many times he uses “I” in directing people.

            In Paul’s worldview, “Christianity” light simply needs a bump on the head and visions of Jesus, not the long road that the Jews walked to get ready to bring up the boy Jesus. Preachers and priests take the place of shepherds who live among the flocks leading by the way that they walk. Speaking in tongues means nothing when nobody understands what is being said, but Paul promoted this as proof of indwelling of The Sacred Spirit.

            Paul seemed to be in competition with Jewish Jesus rather than in communion with him. The RCC is the perverse product of the “Christian” church’s unholy alliance with Romans, beginning with the consummate politician, Paul, and furthered by the partnership in the “faith” with Constantine.

            Francis seems to be simply another of their slick politicians.

          • Luke Breuer

            You seem to have attempted to read Paul as if he were advocating exactly what the Catholic Church was and became. It’s almost a kind of Rorschach test. I think this is a useful thing to do.

            Have you attempted to falsify your view of Paul? Have you looked for things he said which are antithetical to your perception of the RCC? For example, does Paul seem to advocate outright violence anywhere? 2 Cor 10:3-6 seems to mitigate against this. Does Paul like asceticism? Col 2:16-23 seems like a very strong “no”. While I could probably match what is attributed to Paul in the Bible to the RCC, I can only see doing this by twisting some of the things Paul has said very severely. Do you disagree?

          • Y. A. Warren

            My point isn’t Paul vs. the RCC; my point is Paul vs. Jesus.

            The RCC seems to have patterned itself more on Paul than on Jesus. While it is true that many of Paul’s pronouncements seem like he is speaking as an emissary of Jesus, his continued use of himself as example should have been a red flag.

          • Luke Breuer

            My point, though, is that the RCC cherry-picked Paul, and that this is the only way they could pattern themselves on him. Paul is merely confident of what he says; if you want to see confidence in having a bead on truth as arrogance, go ahead, but what you’re really doing by that is saying that nobody has more than some amount of grasp of the truth. This sets of glass ceiling, a philosophical dome, on human understanding of reality.

            Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Cor 11:1)

            This can be taken two ways:

                 (1) to the extent that Paul is imitating Christ, imitate him
                 (2) imitate Paul instead of Christ

            You seem to be opting for (2)? (1) would be tantamount to Paul being a role model; is it wrong to have role models, if you acknowledge that they aren’t perfect (something many do not do)?

          • Y. A. Warren

            Paul, like the RCC during the reign of Constantine, was in a hurry to convert as many as possible. This fast track created many false conversions for which the faith formed by Jesus continues to pay the price.

            Humanity didn’t need imitations of Jesus, as Jesus was perfectly good at being himself. Those who actually knew him seem to me to be the best at emulating him.

          • Luke Breuer

            Those who actually knew him seem to me to be the best at emulating him.

            And what are those people to do, who did not know Jesus in the flesh, before he ascended? Can they not emulate another person, keeping in mind that said person is not perfect?

          • Y. A. Warren

            At Pentecost, he left the fullness of the Holy Spirit, that was manifest most fully in his physical self on earth, for all of us to tap into, and his example of human life on earth for us to emulate. He also left at least twelve of his friends to continue his example. Paul wasn’t one of them.

          • Luke Breuer

            So, Paul had the Holy Spirit, and so do I, and therefore I should have no need to look to Paul? Is that the sort of argument you’re making? It actually sounds like an interesting one to me, worth thinking about. It connects to a recent conversation I had.

          • Y. A. Warren

            I, unlike Paul contends, am never sure that I am hearing the Holy Spirit. What I am led to do and say seems to be the determining factor as to whether the spirit was Holy or not. If you wish, get back to me with your thoughts after you’ve had the chance to process your recent conversation.

        • Machintelligence

          Perhaps it was, just in a negative way.

          • Ders

            I may come across as negative while I’m trying to be obvious. Can you clarify? I will try to clarify my position if need be.

          • Machintelligence

            Afterwards I always say it was inspirational.

            You might have been inspired to loath it.
            Some statements can easily be read two ways. Example:
            Everyone brings joy into this room (some by entering, the rest by leaving).

  • K-9

    Wow. Plate of shrimp. I have seen this very thing unfolding in the past few days in my own subculture. At first I thought a civil war was inevitable, but I’m proud to note that the vast majority seem to be standing firm in the defense of ethical behavior despite it resulting in the loss of a valuable resource.

  • Y. A. Warren

    “Ethical” and “likable” are two entirely different things. ‘Ethical” involves value judgement and the courage to stand for one’s convictions. This often leads to losing people who become uncomfortable. “Likable” usually means that one puts the least pressure on others to think or take sides against a ‘god,” supreme leader or guru. This is what leads to crowd mentality, like in Hitler’s Germany.

    When we realize that it is best to have one true friend than one thousand “fans” or acquaintances, we will be better able to build true communities based on shared values.

  • Oob

    So what is the solution? Do we assume everyone we know is secretly Heisenberg or Dexter Morgan? Is it EVER rational to assume someone you are close to isn’t doing some immoral thing, and to derive that conclusion based on what you know about them?

    Is trust the Big Lie our society is built on?

  • Yvain

    This sort of seems to conflate popularity and perceived niceness. I am very willing to believe that popularity doesn’t provide any useful information about whether someone did a bad thing or not. I’m not prepared to completely suspend my judgments about whether.someone is a good person or not. Doing so seems like throwing out my priors for no reason when priors usually provide useful information.

    I know some people who are so sketchy that the mere rumor that they’ve done something wrong would be enough to convince me – my thought process would be “Oh, someone finally caught them doing that thing that everyone already suspected they do.”

    I also know some people whom it would take extraordinary evidence to make me believe bad things about. If someone told me that Julia from The Whole Sky had – let’s not even say committed a crime, let’s say “behaved less than maximally nicely in any situation”, I would want ten signed affadavits and video evidence before I even considered it.

    I understand you’re going from this framework where any time someone is accused of something in the news, their parents/friends/supporters say “Oh, he could never do that, he’s so nice.” But that’s just an existence proof, saying that niceness isn’t a 100% accurate filter for non-criminality – and it’s one filtered by the media’s man-bites-dog bias as well. My guess is that for most criminal acts, there are a bunch of people saying “Yup, we knew he was a jerk all along”, that for most people who turn out to be innocent there are a bunch of people saying “Yeah, we knew he wouldn’t do it, he’s too nice”, and that you can actually pick up substantial information from the percent of people who say these two things.

    I think you recently called this the Litany of Hermione: “The thing that people forget sometimes, is that even though appearances can be misleading, they’re usually not.”

    • Chris Hallquist

      I’m not talking about “the news” at all. When someone makes the news for really bad behavior, it’s often because there’s a trial involved somehow, or at least a good chance of one, where the truth will come out. Even without a trial, there’s often follow-up journalistic investigation that will sort things out. These mechanisms aren’t perfect, but at least there’s some mechanism for sorting out what really happened.

      I’m specifically talking about fights where there’s nothing resembling a formal resolution mechanism, hence the ease with which they turn into popularity contests. I’m talking about things I’ve seen happen in the kink community. I’m talking about MsScribe.

      Given observed tendencies about how those things tend to go horribly wrong, I wouldn’t urge people to throw out their priors, but I would urge people to weaken their priors and attend more to the evidence regarding the specific case.

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