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manufacture of alcohol nearly 100 years ago, we did not insist our religious liberty was infringed when Prohibition was repealed.”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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Left Behind Classic Fridays, No. 83: 'Today's Gospel reading'
Clobber-texting isn't a principled hermeneutic: A horrifying case study
Chapter and verse
Scenes from the class war (5.25)
  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    can’t hear a word they’re saying…

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    “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!‘”

    *nods*
    Prayed that…

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

     I never did. Which looking back was probably one of the biggest clues that I’m asexual though I didn’t know it at the time.

  • FangsFirst

    *nods*
    Prayed that…

    Couldn’t really pray for it, myself, but same end effect.

  • Anonymous

    Yup. I think most even moderately-hormonal fundie teenagers do, at some point. (Especially when you throw in the sexless-Heaven thing, and it seems like the adults are going “Well, it’s totally awesome, you can only do it when you’re married, and when you die you go to heaven and even though it’s totally awesome never again, you won’t even want to.” Which makes no sense, but it’s convincing when you’re thirteen.)

  • friendly reader

    You know, as I read the interview with the woman in the polyfidelitous (awesome new word!) relationship, it did occur to me that if there’s one thing the Bible really should let us be okay with, it is polygamous relationships. I don’t think I or >90% of people on the planet could pull it off, but good luck for them in their unconventional relationship.

  • Anonymous

     I think that the issue with poly, casual sex, etc. and trying to work it into a Christian schema is that people have an *enormous* capacity for self-deception, especially when it comes to indulging our own desires.  Take, for example, the whole business that Shore et al. have of, “Be faithful to your spouse, unless you both agree as consenting adults to an open relationship.”  That sounds great as a theoretical concept, but I’d suggest that a whole lot of times “both agree as consenting adults to an open relationship” translates in point of fact to, “husband badgers his wife into trying an open relationship.”  (Rather like the business of, “No really, my lengthy project to talk my wife/girlfriend into a menage a trois is because I’m interested in helping her experiment with bisexuality.”)  I can’t remember where I read it, but someone once suggested one of the problems with treating sex as a simple transaction that hurts no one as long as both parties consent falls apart in sexual ethics for the same reason that the idea of the free market with rational actors falls apart in economics.

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

    The solution to that is to educate people about consent and self-deception, not to set arbitrary rules about what people can and can’t do in bed and with whom.

  • Anonymous

     Well, the assumption you’re making is that rules on monogamy are arbitrary as opposed to a build-up of collective experience.  (http://xkcd.com/592/) By basically saying that there are no rules and that we can figure it out as we go along, 1) we discard the experience that goes into making ethical rules and 2) we run into the problem that the more you allow a “nuanced” approach, the more you basically allow an approach of, “Well, [ethical principle] doesn’t really apply in my case, and after all it was made up by dead white men to oppress people and I’m totally not hurting anyone and I’ll need a little fib or two to spare the feelings of other people aren’t as enlightened as me etc. etc.” 

    To glibly assume that people can simply be honest with themselves and ethical with a little training ignores the body of human experience.

  • Anonymous

    Oh please.

    The same argument – appeal to tradition as acknowledging the body of human experience – could be applied to gay marriage. Good grief – it IS applied to it … and that’s wrong at every level.

    Why? … because the argument that the current ‘tradition’ of man to woman marriage slowly evolved is a fallacy. In the 5th century, when Constantine took Christianity into the Roman Empire (or the eastern part he held) … he also made gay sex illegal. The punishment at the time was a small fine. Within only a few centuries it was the death penality or torture or exile or shunning or any combination of these throughout most of Europe.

    Now where, in that environment – that largely decended from one decision, by one man – where could gay marriage have happened? When people are too busy trying to hide themselves and stay alive, they don’t have a lot of personal time for proposals and such.

    Not all tradition is bad … but if we fail to acknowledge the path through which it arose … and the moments that defined that path, then we fail to apply our critical faculties.

    Nor am I saying it was ONLY that decision by Contantine … but it was that along with others made at critical pivot points.

    Tradition is a projection of history … and history is a tale of who had privilege when … of who made the important decisions, both those made by individuals and those made by institutions, and of who had the power to enforce such.

    It was not a series of referendums, where the general populace got to decide where morality and ethics would go next.

    Hmmm?

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    That sounds great as a theoretical concept, but I’d suggest that a whole lot of times “both agree as consenting adults to an open relationship” translates in point of fact to, “husband badgers his wife into trying an open relationship.”  (Rather like the business of, “No really, my lengthy project to talk my wife/girlfriend into a menage a trois is because I’m interested in helping her experiment with bisexuality.”)

    Yes, that happens, but I’m rather amused at your notion that monogamous sex is any likelier to be happy, drama-free, and 100% consensual. I’m not saying “eh, less-than-fully-consensual sex is going to happen, so whatever.” I would never say such a thing, because anything less than enthusiastic consent is unacceptable to me.

    But I would suggest that moving away from monogamy as an inviolable social norm makes this problem better, not worse, because it encourages communication with your partner(s) and introspection about what you want for yourself. If what you want is monogamy, do that. I won’t judge. But the fact that most people are strongly discouraged from actually thinking about whether or not that is what they want causes a lot of problems.

    In conservative circles your model may be accurate – just look at Gingrich’s “open marriage,” after all. But it’s not accurate as a whole because it assumes that it’s only men who want polyamory, and that’s some misogynistic gender essentialism there. I know plenty of women who are polyamorous of their own choosing, not because a particular partner wanted them to be. 

  • Anonymous

    Yes, that happens, but I’m rather amused at your notion that monogamous
    sex is any likelier to be happy, drama-free, and 100% consensual.

    If I believed that I’d have to be blind, deaf, and dead. 

    I’m having a very hard time figuring out how adding two, three, four or five people into the mix can do anything but add exponentially to the normal difficulties involved in a sexual relationship.

  • P J Evans

    how adding two, three, four or five people into the mix can do anything
    but add exponentially to the normal difficulties involved in a sexual
    relationship

    That’s why consent is involved. And it really requires all the people in the existing relationship to choose the next partner. (Let me point you at Courtship Rite for a view of a world where a religiously-ideal marriage is six people.)

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    Here in the real world, polyamory doesn’t involve constant orgies like it does in your masturbatory fantasies. It works differently for different people, so I can only speak for myself here, but I have a girlfriend, and then I occasionally date other men and women on the side (as does she, except for the women part ’cause she’s straight). I’m pretty sure there are monogamous people who get laid a lot more than I do. At any rate, I wouldn’t want to try to negotiate a sexual encounter with five other people any more than you would. (Although if someone else did the negotiating, I’d happily participate…)

    The point that went over your head was communication, something our culture is notoriously bad at inculcating inside romantic relationships, and putting thought into your needs and desires. Polyamory may seem more complicated, and it many ways it is, but it forces you to think about your boundaries and state them clearly, which is a healthy thing for any relationship, monogamous or polyamorous.

  • Lori

    I’m having a very hard time figuring out how adding two, three, four or five people into the mix can do anything but add exponentially to the normal difficulties involved in a sexual relationship.

    I strongly suspect that this has more to do with the fact that you’re not poly than it does with any deep truths about polyamorous relationships.

    I get exhausted just listening to people talk about how their long-standing poly relationships work. I’m an intorvert so that’s not surprising. There are also other reasons why poly is Not For Me. Lori & poly would be a recipe for misery for everyone involved. That doesn’t mean it’s Not For Anyone.  

  • Anonymous

    Thankyou … exactly this. I spent most of my life monogomously. Back then I had no idea how any kind of poly rel would work and never envisioned myself in one.

    I did, however, have the sense to accept that it seemed for work for some and that I did NOT have to understand. I think a lot of people (most – to some extent) like certainties and become anxious in the absence of such. I’ve always been good with uncertainty, so it never bothered me so much.

    Now I find myself in a relationship I could never had comprehended (and never did) from the outside looking in … but here, within it, I find it’s not actually so different.

    I honestly could never imagine how anyone could love three people, deeply, at the same time … and here I am … imagination not required.

    Perspective is a strange view :)

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    I think a lot of people (most – to some extent) like certainties and become anxious in the absence of such. I’ve always been good with uncertainty, so it never bothered me so much.

    Funny enough, I feel more certainty in a poly relationship than I do in a monogamous one. Once I learned to overcome jealousy and lose any negative associations with the notion of my girlfriend boning other dudes, relationships got a lot easier and a lot less stressful.

    It’s not like poly relationships don’t require trust; of course they do. But I trust my current girlfriend more than I trusted most of the women I dated monogamously.

  • Anonymous

     This. Polyamory is very much not for me; for the past few years, I’ve had virtually no attraction to anyone other than my boyfriend, and things that I do find attractive in a romantic light tend to be things that remind me of him. But no way in hell would I argue that it is, or should be, that way for anyone else. In fact, I think our society might be a lot happier if people were more open to thinking of themselves (or others) as polyamorous, rather than falling to self-loathing and anger and deceit whenever they might have feelings for more than one person.

    (I have a lot of baggage about this, though, in some ways, because I’ve known three or four anarchist-types who insisted, or just very strongly implied, that monogamy was unnatural. And that ticks me off somethin’ fierce. I am naturally monogamous as much as I am naturally pansexual, and trying to dismiss someone’s sexuality is just as nasty when it’s one half as t’other.)

    So basically– if someone says they’re polyamorous, they’re polyamorous and that should be respected (not treated as a novelty); if someone says they’re monogamous… they’re monogamous and that should be respected. Respecting sexual identity! It’s a good thing! And this probably shouldn’t be a reply to you, Lori, as most it’s off-topic as hell, but it’s all already here…

  • Tricksterson

    Because it’s pretty impossible for just one person to completely fulfill another.  In a multiple relationship, at least in theory, I’ll admit it doesn’t always work that way, but then nothing ever is 100% perfect, different people lean on each other at different times and in different circumstances.

  • Daughter

    Even couples in a monogamous sexual relationship shouldn’t expect the other person to completely fulfill them. But the other people you lean on don’t necessarily have to be sexual or romantic partners.

  • Tricksterson

    True and i didn’t mean to imply that they had to be.

  • Anonymous

    “I know plenty of women who are polyamorous of their own choosing, not because a particular partner wanted them to be.”

    /me waves :)

    aka +1 from me

  • Tricksterson

    I know of at least one relationship where it was the other way around.  Believe it or not, not all menages are one-guy-two-girls.  I know of another that was two-on-two until one of the guys quit.  and so on.

  • konrad_arflane

    ““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.””

    I’m continually amazed by how the sort of Christians (or, well, other theists, I suppose) who use this argument in apologetics don’t realize how it reflects on themselves. It’s a bit like how most arguments for enforced female modesty are pretty insulting to non-rapist men (on top of being misogynist, of course).

  • Tonio

    Shore’s entry is excellent. The principle that morality is about what helps or harms others is so obvious that it’s astounding to me that so many oppose it.

  • friendly reader

    See, I’ve always felt that “no harm” is an overly simplistic way of looking at it. You can’t always tell whether what you do will harm someone else or not – actually, sometimes you can’t, and frequently you’re choosing between actions where “no harm” to someone isn’t an option. And do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? It’s the usual problems with ontological ethics.

    I think the idea is onto something, particularly with sex, but it needs to be made more complicated. Adding in Kant’s deontological principle of treating people as ends in themselves rather than as means to some other end could certainly help.

    The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve liked skipping rules and looking at virtues. It isn’t so much “Is this specific action correct in this situation or all situations?” and more, “What does doing this ultimately make me as a human being?” More compassionate? Honest? Helpful? Tolerant? Content? Brave?*

    Obviously it’s difficult to decide on what virtues everyone should
    follow. Tolerance is a pretty new one, and not held by everyone. And
    virtues should have a measure of reality thrown in with them. We laud
    self-reliance as a virtue in America, but thinking about it for more
    than five seconds should make you realize that self-reliance isn’t a
    virtue because it is impossible. That’s also why
    tolerance came to be considered a virtue; it’s very useful to avoid
    constant war and persecution (which fits into the virtue of compassion).

    I’ve been thinking about when this change happened for me in the wake of Santorum’s ignorance/lies/doesn’t care about the Netherlands’ euthanasia laws. I was taking a bioethics class and we watched pieces on their policies. There were two cases they covered, both of men with AIDS. One was sticking it out through the worst of his illness, saying that as long as he could still talk with his loved ones he wanted to stay alive (though reserving the right to euthanasia if, say, his systems completely failed). The other decided to have euthanasia as soon as he got his AIDS diagnosis. And the doctors had to give it to him.

    The debaters in the piece and everyone in the class were hitting an almost impossible wall trying to figure out why, instinctively, one of these felt like a moral decision and the other didn’t. It finally hit me after class, and I approached the professor to say, “I think I know why the first man’s position seems better than the second: he was courageous, and the other guy was a coward. That’s virtue ethics, isn’t it?” And he was very pleased that I’d realized that on my own. I just wish I’d realized it during class so I could have thrown it into the mix of usual deontological vs ontological slippery slope and ends justify the means argument.

    *The standard Christian set is, of course, being loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind,
    generous, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. I’d much rather see those on a courthouse wall than the Ten Commandments.

  • 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.,

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

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

  • Matri

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

  • Amaryllis

    Okay, Fred, I thought the last title was just a coincidence, that the earworm was just my own old-person problem.

    But now I see that it was intentional. Thanks a bunch.

    * settles back quietly to try to catch up around here *

  • Lori

    You know if you keep reading that crap the next thing you know they will have you believing there is no sin in this world, that if it feels good do it, God is all about love and there is no such thing as punishment for sin, that Jesus died for nothing because we can all do whatever we want to do with no consequences as long as it makes us happy and makes us feel good….

    My family members say things just like this. My dad is especially big on Rules. The rules are the rules because God said so and virtue lies in following the rules because with out limited human perspective we can never really know if what we’re doing causes harm or not.

    You can’t convince and authoritarian that “If it harm none, do as you will” is a good idea.

  • P J Evans

     Lori, I may have been lucky: we went to a church where the minister used ‘love God and do as you please’ for a sermon – and meant it.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The need some people have for Rules with a capital R could explain a lot of why some people sneer at belief systems that depend on the basic nature of human goodwill and decent character that’s part of the smooth functioning of social systems. “Harm nobody else” is a rather basic thing taught to (most of) us at a young age, and it forms a very valid basis for a workable system of law and ethics.

    For some people though, the need for an externally imposed immutable This Is How Things Shall be Done set of rules governing behavior ends up creating social conflict because they insist that all people have to live under those exact same Rules.

  • Anonymous

    Okay, I’m going to make one more comment and then go do productive things with my Saturday.

    Pretty much all protestants ranging from libertines like John Shore to the social control happy Baptists accept divorce.  The normal rationalization of completely ignoring Christ’s (not that sex-hating killjoy Paul!) command on divorce is, “We’d fallen out of love and were thus living a lie and I know Jesus wouldn’t want us to live a lie.”  And then off to the spousal trade-in.  Now, it’s fairly clear that most of the enormous number of people who get divorced aren’t really caught in a terrible mistake but just don’t want to keep their oaths. And that’s why my general take on the whole business of being a Christian libertine is that it involves a lot of self-deception.

    “The dick heart wants what it wants” opens up the path to all kinds of rationalization and self-deception.

  • P J Evans

     My own take on Jesus and divorce is that at that time – and up until fairly recently – men were the ones divorcing women, leaving the women to die or to become prostitutes to survive. Which is, if you think about it, a really bad thing to do.
    Now that doesn’t have to happen, and women can divorce men, so maybe it’s time to reconsider that view of divorce.

  • Tricksterson

    Every divorce and breakup I know about was because one or both people were genuinely miserable.  I’m not going to say monogamy is completely unnatural because I have known a few that worked but mostly couple that stay together do so out of desperation that they won’t find anyone else or out of spite, not wanting the other person to be any less miserable than they are.

  • 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?

  • cyllan

    Now, it’s fairly clear that most of the enormous number of people who
    get divorced aren’t really caught in a terrible mistake but just don’t
    want to keep their oaths.

    Many of the divorces that I am aware of in my group of friends have been people whose lives have simply diverged so dramatically that there is no good way for them to knit them back together.  Some of them were mistakes from the very beginning that took time to become apparent.  Some were abusive relationships. I can think of only that that happened because the people involved just did not want to keep their oaths any longer, and frankly the dissolution of that particular marriage was probably a good thing as well.

     

    I’m having a very hard time figuring out how adding two, three, four or
    five people into the mix can do anything but add exponentially to the
    normal difficulties involved in a sexual relationship.

    If the people involved are naturally disinclined to be monogamous, then adding additional people to the relationship can make things vastly better.   Like any relationship, however, it requires open and honest communication between the partners to work well.

  • Anonymous

    I strongly suspect that this has more to do with the fact that you’re
    not poly than it does with any deep truths about polyamorous
    relationships.

    You’re probably right.  And I’ve also realized that I was having an
    argument about polyamoury.  On the internet.  Not quite as bad as an abortion argument on the internet, but I suspect that I should *ahem*
    pull out.

  • Tricksterson

    Let me ask you this and since withdrawing from the argument is a perfectly valid option feel free not to reply, but have you ever actually known anyone in a polyamorous relationship?  if not you might want to reconsider judging them.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’m not poly either, and I certainly think it sounds complicated, but fundamentally, of what business is it of mine how consenting adults shall organize their relationships?

    Of more importance is that our society:

    1. Teach proper sex-ed including the element of consent as a crucial part of social-sexual interaction.
    2. Emphasize that men must treat women as equals and not as inferiors.

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    There are many people who see a morality where anything that causes no harm is valid as fraudulant and wrong precisely because it is simple.  Rather they actually want a morality that is at some level oppresive because universally madated oppresion endows their selves with a sense of Olympic being. Imagining a world where most people are evil, most actions are evil, and staying on the narrow path of worthiness is a never-ending struggle against one’s own inner self is terrible, to be sure; but also sublime.  And for those who imagine closeness to God to be an experience of sublime terror this vision can be very appealing. 

  • friendly reader

     It is “so simple” — too simple. It works beautifully on paper, and then you get out into the real world and realize that determining what causes harm and what doesn’t is sometimes impossible, and that sometimes whatever you do, you cause harm to somebody. And what constitutes “harm”? And how much risk are you allowed when it comes to the potential for harm?

    (To put that last point in the context of what we’ve been discussing, one could easily make the argument that poly relationships, because they are more complicated, carry too much risk of harm to risk ever trying. Play it safe, stick to monogamy! etc.)

    I don’t think the answer to the conundrums of harm/no harm is a long set of arbitrary rules, though, and I think that, again, for sexual relationships it serves as a basic barometer, much better than a legalistic checklist. Forgiveness is also essential.

    But yeah — we live in a world where the only clothes you might be able to afford for your child are made in a sweatshop, or the only telephone you can afford to get that job you need to feed yourself was made from parts contaminating a river somewhere in China, or the oil that powers the electricity in your hospital comes from a nation run by a despot…. life is built around a lot of choices where someone gets harmed. There have to be a few other principles (or virtues or standards) to build your life around.

    It’s also vaguely amusing that this is what we’re all obsessing about – not the illegal immigration, not Planned Parenthood, though I think we may be argued out on that last one after recent threads.

  • friendly reader

     And because I don’t want to come off as a moralizing douchebag, let me offer one other principle that’s come up here several times: know yourself. Be honest about who you are, what you feel, what you’re capable of handling, and what will make you reach a point of contentment and courage.

    And that last bit, courage, is essential, and it’s what so many Christians miss about Christianity: God’s forgiveness and love gives the opportunity to do daring things in a world where we will unavoidably screw up sometimes and wind up hurting someone. Being frozen into a conservative, purity-maintaining ethic is to deny the gift of grace. Call it Christian freedom or the power to be, but faith in God should, as it is strengthened, bring a greater sense of confidence to meet life’s complexities. (Sin boldly!)

  • 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.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > 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.

  • 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.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    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.

  • Anonymous

    May I point out in that compendium of ancient wisdom–The Old Testament–practically every man seems to have multiple wives or concubines. So, if morality should be based on consensus learned over the millennia … sounds as if multiple sexual partners is fine.

  • Alicia

    Yeah, if you’re a wealthy, powerful man. Is that really the example we want to use to refute that argument? It’s not as if the scenario where one man maintains a harem of submissive (and sometimes captured) brides is a fair depiction of healthy polyamorous relationship involving normal anyway.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    The Old Testament is about the worst place possible to go if you’re looking for healthy sexual relationships, or healthy relationships of any kind. And it’s one of the worst places possible to go for how society should be arranged if you think women are people. Women’s consent was not a thing that mattered in the Old Testament — AT ALL. If you’re trying to prove that polygamy is a terrible thing, the Old Testament is a perfect text to do that with. 
    And most polygamy throughout history has been a terrible thing for women, because women’s consent has not mattered at all, and “wives and concubines” have been property. 

    As for consensual, equitable polyamorous relationships, if that’s what the consenting adults in them want, go for it. I think it’s possible that some people are born polyamorous and some are born monogamous, with other people being somewhere in between. I’m 100% monogamous, but I don’t think my sexuality is the One True Way and everyone must be just like me. That would be silly — and boring.

  • Anonymous

     Guess everyone missed the sarcasm. I was just pointing out that the person pointing to ‘tradition’ as the justification for his one-woman/one-man formulation of marriage was ignoring that most ‘traditional’ of all texts.

    And anyone who has read even a modicum of anthropology knows that there are many examples of successful societies that differ from our Western patrilineal/patrilocal arrangements.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    My internet sarcasm-detector is pretty bad, sorry. I’d like to be able to excuse myself by saying I see people on the internet with real, ridiculous opinions all the time, but I’ve never been great at detecting sarcasm irl either.

  • 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.

  • MaryKaye

    When my husband and I married, we explicitly agreed that either of us was permitted to sleep with someone else, but our spouse HAD to be made aware immediately, and we were mutually committed to any resulting children.

    We have now been married for 20 years and never used that agreement.  I think this is pretty good evidence (a) that naturally monogamous people exist, and (b) that agreements of this sort are not necessarily evidence of a desire to escape from commitment.

    “Harm none” is not a no-brainer.  You really have to keep an eye out for self-deception.  I like Sisella Bok’s book _Lying_ for a set of moral tests–she emphasizes that a wrong act (she uses lying as her exemplar but the principle is more general) can harm the actor, their target, or society as a whole, and that the first and third are often overlooked.  She also puts forward a useful “principle of publicity”–even if you cannot ask consent for this particular lie, can you ask consent for the general principle underlying it?  (This helps separate out lies meant to keep military secrets secret–which you could probably defend publicly as a general principle–and lies meant to mislead the populace about the need for war, which you probably could not.)

    On the other hand, I firmly believe that humans are too complicated for no-brainer moral systems to actually exist.  No matter what system you embrace, to actually be and do good you will have to make an effort.  Might as well face up to that at the start.

    At the moment I do not think I could morally sleep with anyone else, even though I have neither a moral principle nor a marriage oath forbidding me to.  I would be diverting too much energy from my family’s current acute needs.

    I think oaths of fidelity can work really well for some people in terms of putting infidelity out of their immediate “options list”.  I swore an oath when I was very young not to drink, and it’s been darned helpful not to even consider that as an option–much less emotional wear and tear that way.  On the other hand, if you swear the oath and keep infidelity on your options list you are just setting yourself up for oathbreaking, which is a bad thing.

  • MaryKaye

    My home state just legalized same-sex marriage, and while celebrating that fact today it occurred to me, quite to my surprise, that the argument that same-sex marriage somehow changes the nature of opposite-sex marriage isn’t completely false, at least for me.

    All my life I’ve been ambivalent about marriage.  My mother and grandmother both felt tremendous social pressure to marry and neither of those marriages worked out well.  I spent my twenties resisting a weaker form of that pressure, and then got married at 28 and felt like I was letting down the cause a bit.  Het romance stories often don’t really please me because they feel inevitable and thus pro forma.  Of *course* you pair up.  You’re supposed to pair up.  It’s not about you in particular, it’s just what men and women do.

    I’ve tended to express this grumpiness by telling and re-telling the very unromantic stories about our marriage:  that we knew each other a month before we learned each others’ names, that we got married so my health insurance would cover him, that I wore a $10 dress from Goodwill to the (civil) ceremony.  All true, but really we’re quite romantic, just not conventionally so.

    Same-sex marriages say that you marry for love, not because it’s what society expects of you.  And even though I’ve been in this opposite-sex marriage for twenty years and hope it lasts the rest of our lives, I still feel that I’m celebrating not only rights for my neighbors but a kind of liberation for myself.  Same-sex marriage puts forth the radical idea that marrying is for us, the married couple, and that we can define what it means to be married.  Woohoo!

    So I find myself in surprising agreement with the opponents.  I do think this will change society.  I just think it’s a good change.  The old “you marry because it’s expected of you” served my family very poorly.  My generation has done so much better (all three siblings still happily married, whereas every first marriage in the previous two generations failed).  I think same-sex couples can act as a shining example of the idea that this is something people should do if, and only if, they *want* to.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    Yes, Greta Christina has written on the same issue: Gay marriages are destroying normal marriages, and that’s a good thing. Because the default is no longer the default: you have to think about what actually works for you.

    TRiG.

  • MaryKaye

    Thanks for the link, TRiG, that’s a good essay.

    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 can see this being dangerously subversive, if you are invested in the status quo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    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.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     Thank you for articulating that better than I could.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Whenever I see arguments by “traditional marriage” proponents, I feel I would like to read an anthropological study of the culture they grew up in. I was taught that you marry for love. Period. And all the people I became good enough friends with to talk about the subject agreed with this view of marriage. It wasn’t until recently that I found there were many people in the U.S. who still think you get married to have babies and so that a big strong man will take care of you forever. 

    Companionate marriage has been the ideal for a large and growing portion of our society for hundreds of years, and it hasn’t stopped the traditionalists from claiming that their form of marriage is not only the only legitimate kind, but also necessary in order to keep all women from being raped and all men from being rapists and dogs and cats living together. It’s nice to think that traditional marriage advocates might change when people of the same sex can marry each other legally everywhere. But I don’t think they will. They didn’t change when the ideal of companionate marriage became widespread in the 19th century; they didn’t change when women got the vote; they didn’t change when women entered the public sphere in large numbers; they didn’t change when effective birth control became widely used. 

    Evidence doesn’t mean anything to these people. I think they’re going to keep throwing tantrums and claiming they know the One and Only Truth until the end of time. 

  • 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.

  • 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.


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