Only the echoes of my mind

If Jesus is about anything, it’s that love trumps rules.”

“Time will tell whether these evangelical colleges are on the right side of history. But I can’t help thinking that 50 years from now they will look back and wonder what the fuss was about.”

“Even though we imposed our religious views on others when we pushed through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting sale and manufacture of alcohol nearly 100 years ago, we did not insist our religious liberty was infringed when Prohibition was repealed.”

Playing strip poker with the big-wigs in Christianity Today is a game I no longer wish to play.” (via MPT)

“And so, with burning tension, my 13 year-old self sat down on the brick flowerbed in front of his house, turned his eyes to heaven and earnestly prayed, ‘Jesus, don’t let me die before I’ve had sex!‘”

“Your belief that an outside agent reigning you in is necessary for preventing you from becoming a shameless, immoral, out-of-control pig only means that somewhere along the line someone taught you that you are a shameless, immoral, out-of-control pig. But you’re not.”

“And while I knew there were hardliners who would disagree with her, including the woman who showed me fetuses and told me horror stories in church, those people weren’t there for me when I was scared and lonely and embarrassed.”

I am an American. Virginia is my home.”

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  • Anonymous

    Maybe I’m missing something, being not-Christian and all, but what’s immoral about not wanting to stay with someone you don’t love anymore? What’s the point, exactly, of being with someone you used to love but now really, really dislike until death do you part?

  • MaryKaye

    I don’t think that the wrong action is the divorce itself.  By the time you can no longer stand each other divorce is very often the best option.

    But I have seen several couples that got to that point because one partner began to shirk his or her share of the partnership’s troubleshooting, or because one partner refused to deal with his or her own personal issues.  I saw a marriage fail because one partner would complain about problems, but could never be arsed to attend counselling sessions or make changes.  This I do see as wrong; I see marriage as implying a commitment to work on your stuff, and on the partnership’s stuff, even when it is unpleasant and difficult.

    This person isn’t an ex-spouse because he got divorced.  He’s an ex-spouse because he shirked the things you need to do to be happily married.  (Unfortunately he never did realize that, as far as I could tell.  He is stuck on the idea that someone else stole his woman.)

    I believe I’ve been married 20 years in large part because both of us have an iron commitment to troubleshooting:  no matter how bad things get, we both keep working on solutions, and we eventually find them.  If I stopped doing that–if I said tomorrow, “I can’t be bothered to deal with this stuff, so don’t talk to me about it”–I’m doing something that’s really unfaithful to my commitments, and I’d have no trouble judging that as morally wrong.  If my husband then divorced me, it’d just be an acknowledgement that the marriage was busted anyway.  And I would be the one who had busted it, no matter who served the papers.

    But we are communication and troubleshooting *fanatics*.  Other marriages no doubt operate on different rules.

  • Tricksterson

    Depends on what you mean by changing because the traditinal group has been changing over the years in one important way:  It’s been steadily shrinking.

  • Tonio

     The problem with virtue ethics is that there’s no frame of reference to determine what is virtuous. Right and wrong are about the effects of one’s actions on others, with the goal of causing as little suffering to others as possible. Bravery might feel right and cowardice may feel wrong, in and of themselves, but those are emotional reactions and have little to do with the likely outcomes from either. What may feel moral isn’t necessarily what is moral.

    With the two hypothetical AIDS patients, there’s no objective answer as to which course of action is the moral one. One can present valid arguments for each choice either causing suffering to loved ones or alleviating it, but these are ultimately subjective judgments. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s one thing to label a person a coward if he or she bows to maltreatment from others instead of standing up to them, since the outcome of the latter would be overcoming the cowardice and convincing others to leave him or her alone. But the AIDS patients have no control over the suffering they would experience from the disease.

    Suppose the patients have no loved ones, so the effect of the decision on others isn’t a factor. Then the decision becomes how much suffering the patient can tolerate. I’m very reluctant to treat one decision as brave and the other as cowardly because every person’s tolerance for personal suffering is different. I see the decision as outside the realm of right and wrong for that reason.,

  • I agree. Those who claim that suffering pain is a virtue ignore the fact that nobody likes being in pain.

  • Anonymous

     No problem. I haven’t been commenting enough here that you would be aware that my original post was unlikely to reflect my real opinions.

  • Tonio

    Sure, the principle of no harm does present conundrums. I see this as a good thing, because one has to think through them and form a judgment as to what action to take. Obeying rules for their own sake amounts to running on autopilot, pretending that life is all about absolutes and easy answers, when in fact the only absolute is that life is finite. “No harm” is really a misnomer – a better term is “least harm.” One problem with virtue is that it doesn’t allow for, say, lying to save lives or spare others suffering. I would say that honesty is a virtue precisely because overall it avoids harm, while cautioning that it should be sacrificed in instances when it causes more harm than the alternative.

  • Matri

    Well obviously it’s not for them to suffer, that particular virtue is reserved for The Others.


    If my neighbors are making their marriage work with two girls and no guy
    (or vice versa) that says something about whether my marriage really
    has to have someone playing the girl role and someone playing the guy
    role.  Right next door there’s a living proof that one doesn’t have to
    do it that way, so Mr. or Mrs. Straight may be moved to ask…do *I*
    have to do it that way?

    I think this is fundamentally why many people oppose same-sex marriage. It is living proof that gender roles are a load of crap, and a LOT of their culture is tied into gender roles.

  • > I see this as a good thing, because one has to think through them and form a judgment as to what action to take.

    Charity requires me to assume, here, that you either have far more capacity for attention than I do, or are far more dedicated in your commitment to think things through than I am.

    For my own part, though, there are a great many decisions I make on a daily basis which I don’t in fact think through from first principles… I just adopt some simple, easily accessed, previously cached solution. When someone asks me for money on the street, when I pick a side of the street to drive on, when a telemarketer offers me a fantastic opportunity… I don’t, in fact, go through the exercise of gathering data on the specific example in order to make a determination of my least-harm option with high confidence. Instead, I adopt a decision I’ve previously made about the general class… that is, I apply a rule.

    Sure, in novel circumstances, or when I have spare capacity, I might go back and reconsider those rules. And I agree, when I want to re-evaluate my rules, the evaluation condition I apply to them is precisely estimating how much harm they will cause overall (compared to alternative rules I could adopt instead).

    But in routine circumstances, or when capacity is short, I simply apply them.

  • Back in the 1950s and 1960s I heard some male-male couples tried contorting their relationships into the prevailing hetero-centric, heteronormative gender-role thing with one man being the, well, “man” and another being the “woman”.

    Given the notable lack of success with that it’s not surprising that the prevailing nature of same-sex couples is subversive against the idea that two people need to slot themselves into well-defined roles to make it work.

  • Alicia

     And the only reason they have this reaction is because they’re authoritarian bullies.

    Because if you think about it, the fact that there are people who don’t rely on the same gender roles that you do shouldn’t automatically convince you to throw away a system that you personally enjoy. There are people who don’t follow my religion, that doesn’t mean it’s a load of crap. There are people who don’t follow my political views, that doesn’t mean that they’re a load of crap. There are few major cultural tropes that are actually followed by everyone but somehow they don’t all provoke the same level of backlash as same-sex marriage.

     The difference between someone who is an authoritarian bully and someone who isn’t is that the person who isn’t one can look at another lifestyle (such as a same-sex marriage with nontraditional gender roles) and think, “Hey, it’s not my thing but it works for them just as well as my thing works for me.” whereas the other type will become obsessed with outrage and fear.

    It’s about insecurity and cowardice. Anti-gay nonsense is just the current socially acceptable outlet for that but I bet that a few years down the road they’ll find some other marginalized group to blame for their own insecurity.

  • Tonio

    No disagreement that most regular moral decisions involve rote processes. I wasn’t arguing the opposite. You seem to use “rule” to mean a self-imposed guideline. I was using the word in the authoritarian sense, where the rule is imposed from without or treated as such My point about forming judgments was about novel or difficult situations. But even with the regular ones, every personal guideline or imposed rule should be eligible for questioning.

  • Well, even if by “rule” we mean exclusively a constraint imposed on me by others (which, I agree, is not how I ordinarily interpret the term), it remains true making moral decisions by following rules isn’t necessarily opposed to making moral decisions by maximizing value. If the rule, if followed, results in more of the thing I value, then I do best to follow that rule, whether it is self-imposed or other-imposed. More generally: it doesn’t matter who came up with the rule, it matters whether the rule is a good one. 

    But, yes, I agree that if I want to make the best possible decisions, I need to be willing to re-evaluate my rules when the situation allows for it.

  •  Thank you for articulating that better than I could.