Christian denominations and marriage equality: A simple quiz

This doesn’t need to be complicated. Here’s a simple quiz to help sort things out.

Some Christian denominations regard marriage as a sacrament — a tangible “outward sign of inward grace.” For others it is an “ordinance” — a rite performed in obedience to the commands Christ gave to his followers. Those are the two views shared by nearly all Christian denominations.

All any Christian needs to do, then, is to consider whether they view marriage as a “sacrament” or as an “ordinance.” That distinction will determine, in turn, any given Christian’s logical view on marriage equality.

1. Does your denomination regard marriage as a sacrament?

If “yes,” see Answer A below.

If “no,” then your denomination regards marriage as an ordinance. See Answer B below.

2. Does your denomination regard marriage as an ordinance?

If “yes,” see Answer B below.

If “no,” then your denomination regards marriage as a sacrament. See Answer A below.

Answer A:

Congratulations! You support marriage equality!

Sectarian arguments against same-sex marriage all boil down to arguments that only sectarian marriages should be legal. These are not good arguments.

Your particular denomination may or may not regard same-sex relationships as a sin, but this is irrelevant. Because your denomination regards marriage as a sacrament, it already accepts the distinction between civil marriage and sacramental marriage. You and your church have already accepted a framework in which members of other denominations, adherents of other religions, the non-religious, and former members of your own denomination are legally free to marry as they like.

This framework — your framework — holds that marriage is a holy sacrament for members of your denomination, but recognizes that marriage is not, cannot be, and should not be restricted only to those of your own denomination who share your sacramental view. If you are Catholic, for example, you already believe it would be wrong — ethically, morally and legally — to deny Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, Muslims, Mormons and Baptists the legal right to marry simply because they do not share your view of marriage as a sacrament. You recognize that the Catholic church has the right to deny the Catholic sacrament of marriage to whomever it wishes to deny it (the divorced, the ordained, Jews, atheists, Baptists, etc.), but that this sectarian sacrament must not be equated with the legal and civil right to marriage.

So, since this is your framework — since this is already how you understand marriage — there is no reason for you to oppose marriage equality for same-sex couples. You have already accepted that those who are not members of your church have a legal right to marry as they see fit. You have already accepted that their ethical claim to this right is legitimate. You have already conceded that it would be immoral for your denomination to claim a sectarian monopoly on marriage.

This is what you already believe. This is what your denomination has been teaching and practicing for your whole lifetime. This is your rule. You support marriage equality.

Answer B:

Congratulations! You support marriage equality!

Your particular congregation may or may not regard same-sex relationships as a sin, but this is irrelevant. You’re a Baptist or a member of some Baptist-y congregation, so you already know it would be wrong — evil, a sin — to try to impose your religious views on someone else.

That’s why you don’t baptize infants who are too young to decide for themselves. And it’s why you demand the strict separation of church and state — the civil expression of the very same doctrine from which you Baptists take your name.

You and your church have already accepted a framework in which members of other denominations, adherents of other religions, the non-religious, and former members of your own denomination are legally free to marry as they like. This framework — your framework — holds that marriage is an ordinance for members of your congregation, but recognizes that marriage is not, cannot be, and should not be restricted only to those of your own denomination who share your particular view.

Since this is your framework — since this is already how you understand marriage — there is no reason for you to oppose marriage equality for same-sex couples. You have already accepted that those who are not members of your church have a legal right to marry as they see fit. You have already accepted that their ethical claim to this right is legitimate. You have already conceded that it would be immoral for your denomination to claim a sectarian monopoly on marriage.

This is what you already believe. This is what your denomination has been teaching and practicing for your whole lifetime. This is your rule. You support marriage equality.

"During the absolute stuffiest, most Establishmentarian period of Victorian England, one of the bishoprics was ..."

Broken arrows
"My train wasn't even late. The one time the MTA has a valid excuse for ..."

LBCF, No. 163: ‘Speakerphone!’
"As a former Naval person who worked with Certain Weapons, the term "Broken Arrow" is ..."

Broken arrows
"I think it's cute how they imagine that the Babylonians and the Assyrians, who may ..."

LBCF, No. 163: ‘Speakerphone!’

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • FearlessSon

    But, but, but… Bible! Bible-Bible-Bible, appeal-to-nature, Bible!

    Your clever theology is no match for my dogmatism, and nothing, not even the authority I claim as highest and most infallible can change my mind about what I believe about that authority!


  • Baby_Raptor

    If only people actually thought like this.

  • Bradley Keller

    Sadly they do not. I know an accredited medical doctor that knows the world is six thousand years old. That’s life!

  • mausium

    You’re friends with Ron Paul? :p

  • Makabit

    Some do. I know a number of young evangelicals who have said to me, without much theological jargon, that non-Christians get married all the time, and if people aren’t Christians (by which they mean their brand of Christian), they should get to make their own decision about whether same-sex marriages are OK.

  • Hexep

    Which is the opinion of the Church of England? That’s what I was baptized as.

  • BringTheNoise

    Sacrament, I believe (Disclaimer: Not a member of the CoE).

  • christopher_y
  • Hexep

    So glad I never actually took to this religion in the first place.

  • Ian

    Since Cranmer, the standard Anglican response to theological disputes between Catholics and Protestants has been to use ambiguous language which can be interpreted either way and INCENSE SMOKEBOMB disappear into the sacristry.

  • Cole J. Banning

    That’s pretty accurate–and nicely clear and succinct. Love it!

  • Makabit

    I now want a team of clerical superheroes. The Anglican will have INCENSE SMOKEBOMB as one of his powers.

  • CoolHandLNC

    I don’t know about CofE. I looked it up in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, which is probably very close. Its complicated. The catechism talks about it as a sacramental rite that is a means of grace. The “Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage” has language like “established by God in creation … signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and the Church”, but then few ceremonies are carried out word-for-word according to the BCP and I don’t think many priests would insist on those phrases for a couple who didn’t want them used. There is also a Blessing of a Civil Marriage that has none of that, is similar in form to (adult) baptism, and is really beautiful. Then there is an Order for Marriage which is only an outline for use if it is “desired to celebrate a marriage otherwise than as provided on page 423”. So in typical Episcopal via media fashion, a doctrine is provided but not so much mandated. It is mostly at the discretion of the couple, the priest, and possibly the bishop.

    Whatever you believe, there is probably an Episcopalian who agrees with you.

  • ReverendRef

    The Episcopal Church views marriage as a sacrament.

    but then few ceremonies are carried out word-for-word according to the BCP and I don’t think many priests would insist on those phrases for a couple who didn’t want them used.

    I beg to differ. The whole point of having a BCP is for ceremonies to be carried out as written. Things do change over time, which is why we don’t use the 1789 BCP today. And some rites do get played with and adjusted before an actual BCP revision (I’m thinking of places that intentionally use more inclusive language [God in place of His], or that have begun to add female names alongside male names).

    But if a couple comes in and says, “We want to get married, but we don’t want to use any of that BCP stuff . . .” Well, then, they will most likely politely be thanked for coming in but maybe there’s another place more appropriate for you.

    And even if the Order for Marriage (which, as you say, is a basic outline) is used, it still requires the marriage vows to be used as written.

  • Ian

    It’s considerably freer in Canada. The Book of Alternative Services is the most commonly used liturgical manual, though the BCP is still sometimes used. With multiple recognized options on the table, a bit of customization is usually an option.

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

    Church of England’s position is, I believe, Cake or Death.

    There may be some error around the edges as we run out of cake.

  • Veleda_k

    Beat me to it.

  • Turcano

    “Tea and Cake or Death! Tea and Cake or Death!”

    “Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!”

  • Nick Gotts

    At a guess, both and neither.

  • Miff

    “you already know it would be wrong — evil, a sin — to try to impose your religious views on someone else”

    Are you kidding? If you don’t FORCE other people to accept Christ (as interpreted by us), then you’re condemning them to life in Hell! That’s like the worst thing you can do for somebody else, far worse then even murdering them (if a righteous man is murdered, he still goes to Heaven).

    If the state made everyone accept Christ (as interpreted by us) then EVERYONE would go to Heaven! Don’t you want people to have eternal reward in Heaven instead of eternal damnation in Hell?

  • Miff

    (Disqus stripped by /sarcasm tag btw)

  • Eric Boersma

    I thought “oh, the sarcasm tag isn’t necessary, no one thinks like that”.

    Then I read Baby_Raptor’s post.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I’ve actually heard this theory advocated. My roommate’s father (Your typical Faux News watcher) openly espouses forcing everyone to go to church at gunpoint “because they’ll thank us in heaven.”

    The first time he said this, I think I might have strained my eyes with the shocked stare I gave him.

    Entirely off topic, but I approve of your Pony’s hair.

  • Carstonio

    Apparently your roommate’s father believes that getting to heaven is all about attendance, even if one sits through the sermon wishing to be out golfing instead. Or maybe the father believes that one visit will make someone magically convert, like John Belushi during James Brown’s church service in “The Blues Brothers.”

  • JarredH

    That’s pretty much what I was thinking, except I was thinking about sitting through the whole service with my eyes close and taking a shamanic journey through the Nine Realms with Freyja as my guide. Does my church attendance still count under these conditions?

  • Albanaeon

    Not sure, but my family seems to think attendance is 9/10’s of the requirement. The only explanation as to why they keep inviting me if all I am going to do is meditate.

  • The_L1985

    Tell him that sitting down inside of a church doesn’t automatically turn people into Christians, just like going to McDonald’s doesn’t make you a hamburger.

  • Hexep

    Your roommate’s father is a turd.

  • FearlessSon

    I think that Fred has discussed this before, the “calculus of hell”:

    If you accept the premise of eternal and infinite torment in Hell, then the basic calculus there makes sense. Eternity is longer than a lifetime, and Hell is worse than any imaginable earthly suffering, so there’s a certain logic to being more concerned with saving others from an eternity of Hell than with assisting them with any earthly suffering, need, injustice or oppression.

    Once you accept that eternal suffering is the only alternative, any Earthly thing becomes justifiable to prevent it, it is a simple matter of lesser evils.

  • Lliira

    Eternity’s a convenient excuse for oppression. Gah, I hate the “this world doesn’t matter” bullshit found in so many religions so much.

  • Ross

    My roommate’s father (Your typical Faux News watcher) openly espouses
    forcing everyone to go to church at gunpoint “because they’ll thank us
    in heaven.”

    Sure they’ll thank you, but they’ll have to call you long-distance to do it.

  • mhelbert

    And, if the church would simply get out of the marriage business altogether….

  • histrogeek

    I disagree with that in part. They should get out of the civil marriage business altogether. Go to the courthouse or whatever for the legal goodies. If you want to go through the ceremonies of a denomination or religion, whatev.

  • Carstonio

    That’s how it works in some European countries. Revealing that some folks in the US are advocating the opposite as a “compromise” – doing away with civil marriage and leaving it entirely up to the religions, who allegedly have ownership of the concept.

  • ReverendRef

    They should get out of the civil marriage business altogether.

    I’ve been saying that for years. But then, so have a lot of priest.

  • Lliira

    Beyond everything else, wouldn’t it save you a lot of paperwork?

  • ReverendRef

    I don’t know about saving me a lot of paperwork. When you need to fill out the service register, the parish register, and the pretty marriage license, one more piece of paper to send to the county isn’t that big of a deal.

    What it WOULD save is a lot of worrying about remembering to send the legal form back to the county so that the couple is legally married. Setting it on my desk and saying, “I’ll get to it on Monday,” is often a bad idea.

  • Ross

    How exactly does it cause you actual harm that, during an already extremely stressful and busy time, my wife and I did not have to make an extra trip downtown, take extra time off work, pay $20 in parking, and stand in line to have a civil servant perform an extra ceremony? I’m not talking about “Oh, it abstractly encourages people to conflate these things*,” I want an actual harm it does you, because you’re talking about making some peoples lives harder, for, as far as I can see, no actual benefit other than “it seems abstractly more logical this way”

    (* Because frankly, I am damned sure that even if you did this, it would have precisely zero impact on the inclination or ability of religious groups to strongarm the state into letting them have a say in which marriages count)

  • Lliira

    It causes society actual harm for religion to infringe on something that is the business of the state. I sort of cannot believe that you cannot see that.

  • Ross

    That argument sounds suspiciously close to “You people being allowed to get married your way hurts my kind of proper marriage.”

  • Katie

    Because you already had to do all of that when you went to get the marriage license, assuming that you don’t live in Montana. Actually signing the document in the presence of the clerk would hardly be a major imposition.

  • Ross

    Um. No we didn’t. One of us had to go get the marriage license between two and four weeks before the wedding. Not both of us, and it legally could not be at the same time as the wedding.

    But is your counterargument “It’s not that much of an imposition”? Because I thought that normally, when someone tells you that something would make their lives difficult, it’s not appropriate to say “Shrug it off, it’s not really a significant inconvenience for you.”

  • Katie

    Ok, fair enough. I wasn’t aware that there are states that don’t require both parties to be present to get the marriage license. Even so, my larger point stands, since it would be a relatively simple adjustment to remove the ‘waiting period’ on civil marriages, since a lot of states don’t have them already. And in regards to ‘making life difficult’, we’re talking about a minor inconvenience, not a major one.

  • histrogeek

    First off, when I got married we still had to go the county office and pay to get the license for the priest to sign. It might have taken longer to go through some shortened civil ceremony but it would not have been any more of an imposition than the semi-obligatory parties. In any event, there is no reason the civil ceremony can’t be short if that’s what the couple wants. SIgning and witnessing the license is all that should be needed.

    As far as actual harm, it’s pretty clear that fear of ministers being required to bless same-sex unions is pretty clearly a major concern (unfounded I grant) or at least talking point. If more people got the point that civil marriage is not the same as religious marriage, it could be less of one.

    More abstractly it’s damaging to the concepts of separation of church and state since it makes, at least in one instance, religious officials officers of the state. And it doesn’t do much for the solemnity of religion when pseudo-religions (deliberately pseudo in this case) are often used so their “officials” can preside at weddings.

  • Carstonio

    Sectarian arguments against same-sex marriage all boil down to arguments that only sectarian marriages should be legal.

    True, but not deep enough. The arguments imply no distinction between sacrament and ordinance. These presume that individuals and societies have a duty to obey the Christian god’s orders, and that neither has a legal or moral right to disobey. The mentality rejects the idea that it’s imposing religious views on others, seeing itself instead as a theological police officer.

  • PepperjackCandy

    Then there is the United Methodist Church, which practices infant baptism but does not regard marriage as a sacrament. I don’t think that the UMC regards marriage as an ordinance either. The only way I can find it described is “covenant,” and I am not theologically knowledgeable enough to know if that is on the same axis with “sacrament” and “ordinance” or not.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Do you mean that they practice covenant marriage, perhaps?

  • FearlessSon

    A Covenant marriage? Like these guys?

  • Baby_Raptor

    I don’t think I’d want to be married to one of those guys…Just a premonition. It’s the armor, I think.

  • FearlessSon

    I am not sure that “guys” is an appropriate pronoun to describe these Hunters, since each suit of armor is actually worn by a colony of mind-linked worms which have individually little intelligence but gain more of it the more worms are in the colony. It takes a lot of worms to make a colony approach “sentient” level intelligence, and hence most Hunters move and fight as bonded pairs, where the presence of one can serve to stabilize the intelligence of the other.

    Incidentally, the only reason that these colonies look vaguely humanoid is because they are wearing vaguely humanoid armor built for them to inhabit. The colonies can be put into other arbitrary body shapes depending on the shell they live in. For example, they might be in a giant crab or insect shell big enough to hold a self-aware colony.

  • PepperjackCandy

    Oh, it’s nothing like that. It’s just a regular marriage, dissolvable by divorce. You can marry your second, third, or subsequent spouse in the UMC as well.

  • Emily

    That’s how my denomination puts it, but I think based on Fred’s descriptions above that it fits with the “ordinance” rather than the “sacrament” position. A bit of quick Googling hasn’t given me a good definition of marriage-as-religious-ordinance though.

  • walden

    U. Methodists don’t really fit Fred’s model. It’s clearly not a sacrament, but they also don’t have the “ordinance” distinction at all, but it kind of looks like that.

  • Michael Albright

    Then congratulations are in order because they too support marriage equality!

  • Carstonio

    Appeals to nature tend to resemble Catholic theology about sex roles, and I admit that my knowledge of that theology is limited. Some of this may be a deliberate attempt to translate those ideas into secular terms. That inevitably fails because the theology requires a theo, and the translation replaces “God” with “nature” as if the latter were like the old Chiffon margarine ads. But much of the resemblance may be the theology having a pervasive influence beyond Catholicism.

  • David Policar

    Yeah, pretty much. Decisions about secular marriage ought not be made on sectarian grounds; that’s implicit in being a religious pluralist society.

  • Carstonio

    The religious arguments against same-sex marriage reject both concepts, the secular realm and religious pluralism. Fred’s point seems to be that this rejection goes against the denominations’ doctrines.

  • David Policar

    (nods) Sure; if there are lots of Baptists out there who agree that “it would be wrong — evil, a sin — to try to impose your religious views on someone else” but reject religious pluralism, I’m all in favor of talking to them in terms of the former rather than the latter.

  • Mira

    And this is why I don’t have much patience for arguments about marriage equality on religious grounds. My church has performed same sex marriages for years, and as an expression of our religious freedom, we recognize them as valid spiritual and social bonds even though our state law did not. Now that they are legal (as of this week!), I’m thrilled that equality is part of our state law, but it really doesn’t change anything for my church, or any other congregation. Honestly, I don’t get it!

  • JarredH

    Yay for your state!

  • Hexep

    Just out of curiosity, are they validated retroactively, or do they have to perform it again?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Delaware civil unions are all being converted to marriages, I believe. I’m not sure that’s what Mira is talking about, though–the impression I get from Mira is that the church did the religious part of the marriage ceremony and now the happy couples have to go find a justice of the peace or whoever to do the legal part.

  • Carstonio

    From my reading, some denominations already solemnize same-sex marriage, including Episcopal, UU, UCC, ELCA and Quakers. And if we’re including Judaism, the Conservative and Reform branches. Could they reasonably argue that bans on same-sex marriage interfere with their religious freedom, by requiring the clergy members to discriminate when performing legally binding marriage ceremonies?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Could and have done, I understand. Not getting much airtime, because what fun is there for the media people in showing that religious people are not a heterosexist monolith?

  • Cathy W

    …another pesky side effect of the entanglement between the clergy and civil marriage – I think opponents could say that as long as they don’t stop the clergy members from performing the religious rite, they can still forbid them from acting as agents of the state in making the marriage legally binding without interfering with religious practice. (I do recall there was a state that wanted to ban clergy from performing weddings not resulting in a legal marriage, though.)

  • Mira

    They could, but the clergy can also just refuse to discriminate by not performing legal marriages at all, and some do. My minister called it “rendering unto Caesar.”

  • Ross

    Don’t be silly; no true religion would solmenize same-sex marriages, dontchaknow?

  • Mira

    Yup. They’re consistent about treating couples equally, too – I got married in the church and made a separate trip to a judge to get my “opposite-sex” marriage made legal.

  • cnoocy

    I love that I can’t, based on this, tell what state you’re in off the top of my head.

  • Mira

    I know! This may be the first week ever that’s happened :D

  • cyllan

    It’s a cnoocy! Hi, cnoocy.

    That’s all, really. No content here.

  • MaryKaye

    In high school (so, quite a while ago) I read about a six-stage model of moral development. The people who want to force everyone to go to church strike me as being stuck in one of the early stages, the one where Good is *defined as* Following the Rules and therefore forcing people to follow the rules makes them Good. This is normal and appropriate for a young child, but not somewhere an adult should be.

    I am torn between thinking that we ought to “fix” a lot of people as they aren’t functioning right, and thinking that we lack authorities who could ever be trusted with the power to fix people. I just go back and forth, because I feel both points really strongly. There’s nothing like involvement with the foster care system to persuade you that some people are REALLY not functioning right and this does severe harm. There’s also nothing like it to convince you that the authorities trying to improve this situation are, in fact, riddled with people who *also* are not functioning right and are capable of doing severe harm.

  • SisterCoyote

    I think I might disagree with you, a lot. Good should not ever be defined as Following The Rules – if this sort of mental habit is ingrained in kids, it makes it difficult to shake later in life. It furthermore brings on a lot of pain and confusion later in life, when kids inevitably do learn that the rules aren’t fair, aren’t right, and following them can either harm them or harm others. I think Good should be defined – always, from the start – as not harming others or oneself. How else are people expected to learn?

    Aaaaand then I look up and reading comprehension kicks in and I see you’ve got a six-step plan mentioned, and I actually am really curious as to how one gets from “Good is defined as Following The Rules” to “It’s actually all quite complicated!”

  • FearlessSon

    I actually am really curious as to how one gets from “Good is defined as Following The Rules” to “It’s actually all quite complicated!”

    That would be “Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development“. It is about how a person matures as a moral being, starting with very simple conceptions of morality as a child, and gradually coming to more complicated and nuanced views of morality. A person starts with the desire to avoid punishment and being scolded, while figuring out how to get what they want within that constraint. Later they grow into a more codified sense of morality, with firm ideas about what is right or wrong influenced by the behavior of other people around them. Eventually, they start to generalize these things and get some ideas about more broad principals which might dictate some of the rules they learned about earlier, and start understanding how the social contract between people works. Each stage adds detail and subtly as informed by that person’s life experience, and one better learns to apply morals to life in general as they advance through the stages.

    Ideally, by the time a person is an adult they should have progressed through to these later stages, informed by their experience and guided by the people influential to them. Unfortunately, some people tend to stay stuck midway through, and never learn to look past the rules that guide them to the principals underneath, or even worse, never learn to look past their own self interest and figuring out what they can get away with. It is kind of like a stunted moral development.

  • MaryKaye

    I think there is a limit to how far you can get with “don’t harm yourself or others” with a one or two year old child. You can try to explain the germ theory of disease, but it is less likely to keep them out of the raw chicken than a “Never eat raw chicken” rule.

    I have a troubled child, now 15, adopted at 10, who missed out on a lot of the steps he should have been taking at ages 2-10. We had to go back to “Don’t eat the raw chicken because Rule”. It was not helpful to wait around for his sense of self-preservation to kick in (much less concern for others), because it didn’t happen right away, and in the meantime I personally Do Not Want raw chicken mixed in with my salad. We also realized that we had to go with “Do not touch me without permission because Rule” after I had a crying meltdown in public over one violation of my personal space too many. “I don’t like that” was useless. “Two dollar fine every time” worked.

    (The intellectual capacity of 10 with the behavioral control of 2-4 is a very scary combo. I never appreciated what good parenting is really worth until I met my son. It turns out that even “obvious” stuff like knowing how to tell if you are hungry or tired, or how to calm yourself if angry or frightened, is *taught*. He is doing much better now, but it was uphill all the way.)

    There are ways you cannot treat a very young child as a proto-adult. Some stuff just isn’t there. Long-term consequences, as one example, take a while to develop. Even adults struggle with “If you get this on you, you will get cancer 10-20 years down the line”–but they can (sometimes) do it, whereas it’s useless to expect a 2-year-old to do so. Similarly, until the child can actually imagine that other people have a mental state (which shows up in early childhood but *not* right away, and later in some children than others) “That hurts my feelings” is literally meaningless and you have to go with “Don’t do that.”

  • SisterCoyote

    Okay, this makes a great deal more sense, and I get what you’re saying, and agree. Definitely point to the reminder that very small children cannot be reasoned with. Eep.

    (I think my knee-jerk reaction to that has to do with my parents halting moral education at Good = Obedient. Which is no excuse! But thank you for explaining.)

  • AnonymousSam

    Basically, Kohlberg was hypothesizing that kids start out at the levels which are most relevant to them. They don’t want to be punished, so they learn to follow the rules to avoid the consequences. Following the rules causes them to earn privileges, so they adopt a self-centered orientation.

    Eventually, they grow into following the rules because that’s what’s socially expected of them (no one wets themselves voluntarily, so whether I’m still spanked for wetting myself or not, I’m not going to do that!), then come to realize that laws are what keep society functioning smoothest (if people just left their stuff all over instead of picking up after themselves, there’d be piles of junk everywhere and that affects everyone).

    The final stages (which he said not everyone reaches) entail being able to decide for one’s self which of society’s rules make sense, which make sense to others and not one’s self, and how to negotiate morals in a world of subjectivity. The final stage is the ability to logically pull apart morality and build for oneself a system which encompasses universal truths.

    I actually disagree with Kohlberg on the last, because he was heavily influenced by Kant and I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the way Kant was about categorical morality.

  • Lorehead

    You’re probably thinking of Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. You might find Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice to be an interesting feminist critique of Kohlberg’s conclusion that abstract, impersonal reasoning about ethics is a higher stage of moral development than how almost all women think about it.

  • Lliira

    I find Carol Gilligan and all “difference feminism” utterly insufferable. So there’s that.

  • EllieMurasaki

    “Difference feminism”? What is?

  • Lliira

    Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Except with more jargon and more “and this makes women so non-violent and loving and maternal and fluffy huggy unicorns yay!”

  • EllieMurasaki

    That…doesn’t sound very feminist. Thanks for the explanation.

  • Ross

    Someone who believed in it would have described it in a way that makes it sound more feminist.

    (Like, one of the big ideas is “There is an irreducible difference in the male and female experience, and therefore men should not be allowed to set rules for women because men are inherently incompetent in this regard” I gather it was more popular in Europe, largely because you don’t automatically lose an argument over there when you describe something as “separate, but equal”)

  • LoneWolf343

    Disagreeing with something because a man said it, basically.

  • Lorehead

    I don’t agree with her about everything, but it is problematic when a man looks at the answers men give and the answers women give and concludes that the answers men give are objectively superior.

  • Lliira

    Except there are no “answers men give” or “answers women give”. The difference among the genders is far greater than the difference between them.

  • Lorehead

    Please don’t read me as saying all men and all women. For what it’s worth, Kohlberg himself originally developed his theory based on asking only men, and concluded that women were on average behind men in their moral development, but subsequent research has found that gender differences in moral reasoning are small.

  • Lliira

    Yes. That Kohlberg was wrong originally doesn’t mean that Gilligan is right. They both take the standpoint that men and women are inherently different in the way they think, which is completely incorrect.

  • Carstonio

    I did a quick lookup of “difference feminism,” and at first glance it resembles complementarianism dressed in a Women’s Lib T-shirt.

  • Lori

    Your impression is not that far off. As Lorehead points out the critiques can still have value, but you have to take them for what they are.

  • hf

    Not sure I understand Gilligan, but let me lay out my response to Kohlberg’s theory as Wikipedia describes it:

    “He says, ‘moral reasoning is based on abstract reasoning using universal ethical principles.’ So the utilitarian reasoning mentioned in the previous stage wasn’t doing this? That comes as news to me. He can’t mean we should derive everything from first principles, surely?

    ‘Decisions are not reached hypothetically in a conditional way but rather categorically in an absolute way,’ – Oh. So I guess he’ll have no trouble telling us what goals we can give an Artificial Intelligence without killing everyone or creating some horrible dystopia.

    ‘Although Kohlberg insisted that stage six exists, he found it difficult to identify individuals who consistently operated at that level.’ – You don’t say.”

    The fact that he apparently published this and nobody ridiculed him into changing it suggests that he, and a lot of the people he talked to, suffered from a blind spot. Gender might help to explain this. Though universal or inherent gender differences sound improbable on their face.

  • FearlessSon

    I read some Nietzsche into the final stage he described. I got that as a person develops they start developing their own moral compass influenced by but independent of the society they are in, but implying that they go onto something more “universally true” after that implied some kind of Übermensch idealism.

  • hf

    …Am I thinking of a different Nietzsche?

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Oh. So I guess he’ll have no trouble telling us what goals we can give an Artificial Intelligence without killing everyone or creating some horrible dystopia.

    Just because he concludes that there are universal rules of morality doesn’t mean he would know *what* they are, let alone how to program them into What The Fuck. Doing such a thing would not only require perfect knowledge of how the AI might *work* (and we don’t even have the foggiest clue), but also Level Seven morality…

    I read some Nietzsche into the final stage he described. I got that as a person develops they start developing their own moral compass influenced by but independent of the society they are in, but implying that they go onto something more “universally true” after that implied some kind of Übermensch idealism.

    I think it’s more that people will recognize the rationale of societies rules at the final stage, and some will question the whether the reasoning leads to the rules, while others will simply accept them. Basically, level 4 is an ‘authoritarian’ way of thinking, where the basis for the law is understood, but never truly examined.

    Level Five recognizes the diversity of possible answers and rules, and begins examining their own rules, accepting, rejecting, or altering them based on results and compromise. It is the basis of civil society and democratic government.

    Level Six is based on universal principles, where the ‘rules’ are pared down to the ethics underlying them. In this way, situations can be resolved without recourse to laws, but rather by constructing them from these categorical imperatives and empathic reasoning. A society that consistently operated at this stage would be a utopian anarchy, have no need for laws or ‘mores’ as they are traditionally known, but simply approaching each situation from these universal principles arrived at through empathy, consensus, and reason. (In this state, you can examine a situation, place yourself in the position of the other, and reason what actions will help or harm them, and reliably decide the best action to optimize outcome and prevent harm (perhaps not getting all you want, but causing no harm) for both of you.)

    (As a ‘stage of development’ it doesn’t really work consistently. In effect, I think you’ll find that most people are at stage five, but use Stage Six morality in the questionable cases, because it’s simply too much effort to derive everything from base principles rather than coming up with an adequate summary. Furthermore, Level Six morality only produces an ideal outcome when *all* members of an exchange are amenable to it – it is both derived from and dependent on cooperation. These factors lead to Level Six being almost impossible to be enacted consistently or universally.

    This is quite different from Nietzsche, where the ‘Ubermensch’ recognizes the futility of morality, and *creates* his own arbitrary standards. Level Six is about recongizing existing principles through reason and empathy.)

    Level Seven is God-Tier, essentially, a state of perfect understanding where one recognizes not merely the empathetic ’cause and effect’ Imperatives, but the metaphysical principles behind them (i.e., not merely ‘I should not do this thing because people are harmed by it’, but ‘I should not do this thing because it is incorrect in the same way Pi is not actually 3 (or 3.14159265359, for that matter)’, and acts to effect the optimum outcome in all cases. Of course, this tier requires a level of understanding beyond human capacity – it may not even be physically possible – and thus, has not been observed, and, indeed, is difficult to define or speculate upon.

  • FearlessSon

    You know, this reminds me of one possible ending for Deus Ex: Invisible War which always stuck with me.

    A mental amalgamation of the previous protagonist and a vastly powerful artificial intelligence is trying to find out an effective way to eliminate tyranny. The solution that it had in mind was to put everyone on Earth into a Level Six type of morality, such that they no longer had to depend on a fixed set of rules, laws, and structures which would allow ambitious people to dominate others, and no one would even want to anymore. In his own words, “If you start with minds that are lucid, knowledgeable and emotionally sound, the needs of government change dramatically.”

    He further goes on to say, “I want human affairs to be governed by wisdom. […] Wisdom must first be human. You must start with what a human sees and feels. But wisdom must also be knowledgeable, logical, and fair to billions of other beings.”

    This does present something of a moral dilemma though. On the one hand, this is a kind of Utopian vision that is being proposed, a world without cruelty, tyranny, or injustice. On the other hand, the requirements of it mean that no one is given a choice to participate or not, and the governing intelligence of this “post-human civilization” will be constantly reading the minds of everyone in it to achieve a Level Seven type morality for arbitration purposes. If it knows everyone perfectly and at a glance, and can be trusted to be absolutely fair and knowledgeable, then incomplete applications of law or justice would be impossible. But will people submit themselves to an almost literal “god from a machine”?

  • Madhabmatics

    I took a class in undergrad that touched on Gilligan’s Ethics of Care, but it had the horrible framing of: “Let’s look at the Ethics of Care through cheating on your spouse. As long as no one finds out it’s great!!!” and I was like, yo, is this supposed to make me sympathetic

  • AnonymousSam

    That would probably be Kohlberg. He summed his model up in six stages, although he allowed for more in theory-

  • Bradley Keller

    Using rational on people does not work.

  • VJBinCT

    purty sneaky…

  • spinetingler

    oh snap!

  • perfectnumber628

    BUT BUT BUT the slippery slope! Soon people will be marrying their sisters and toasters and whatever they want! It will destroy society!

    Seriously we’re just trying to love people by telling them they’re wrong about their own personal lives and we know their needs better than they do!


  • lodrelhai

    I had a discussion with my mom months ago on the difference between religious and civil marriage, and when I pointed that the churches aren’t protesting marriages for or performed by Hindus, Wiccans, Muslims, or atheists she said that they should protest those too.

    Some people are just a lost cause.

  • SirThinkAlot

    This is why I’v been saying for a while that we should remove the government from the marriage question.

  • EllieMurasaki

    And how pray tell will atheists and agnostics be able to get married if the government’s not involved?

  • Nick Gotts

    What “This” are you referring to?

  • AnonymousSam

    The problem you’ll run into with that is that the government safeguards many of the legal benefits and protections to being married. Without the government’s involvement, it’s harder to prove that someone has a greater stake in, say, inheritance, than the spouse’s family.

  • william

    you are making a liar..romans 1;21-32 in the bible tells what god thinks of gays and lesbians.i trust him.not you that have the devil agenda in your souls.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No, Romans 1 says what the author of Romans thinks of –actually we don’t know, but the concept of a loving relationship between equal-status members of the same gender was not a thing when the Romans author was writing, so the Romans author cannot possibly have been talking about us.

  • dpolicar

    You don’t know what God thinks.

  • FearlessSon

    I see that you have not read the comments to this thread, William.

    The first comment here (when sorted both by date and by up vote rating) is one I made addressing this very type of argument. If nothing else, I thank you for lending supporting evidence to my prediction.

  • steve finnell


    The New Covenant is God’s promise to make the Holy Spirit and salvation available to all men by His grace. The New Covenant was made possible by the shedding of the blood of Jesus on the cross.

    Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

    The promise, that is the New Covenant, is by faith in Jesus Christ.

    Ephesians 2:12-13 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

    The New Covenant is only available because of the shed blood of Jesus.

    Hebrews 9:16-17 For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. 17 For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.

    Jesus had to die before the New Covenant was in effect.

    Hebrews 8:7-13 For if the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second……13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

    The Old Covenant became obsolete when Jesus died on the cross and the apostle Peter preached the New Covenant. The apostle Peter preached the terms for pardon, under the New Covenant, on the Day of Pentecost.

    Peter preached to them Jesus as Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36)

    Peter preached the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.(Acts 2:22-35)

    When they heard Peter’s message, they asked what they should do. (Acts 2:237)

    Peter told them what to do. (Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.)

    The promise of the New Covenant was received by the 3000 on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:39-41)

    The New Covenant terms for pardon are:
    A. FAITH: (John 3:16)
    B. CONFESSION: (Romans 10:9-10, Acts 8:37)
    C. REPENTANCE: (Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19)
    D. WATER IMMERSION (BAPTISM): (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21, Galatians 3 :27, John 3:5, Ephesians 5:26, Romans 6:4, Acts 22:16, Colossians 2:12-13, Titus 3:5)


    1. You cannot be saved according to the Law of Moses. It is obsolete. (Galatians 5:4)
    2. You cannot be saved like the thief on the cross. Jesus will not be placed on the cross again. (Luke 22:42-43)
    3. You cannot have your sins forgiven like the paralytic on the bed. (Luke 5:18-22)
    4. You cannot have your sins forgiven like the woman who cleaned the feet of Jesus. (Luke 7:44-50




    1 Corinthians 11:25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

    What Jesus was not saying. Jesus was not saying the cup of communion was the entry way for individual church members or the church at large into the New Covenant. Christians are under the New Covenant because they have been obedient to the terms of pardon that were made available when Jesus shed His blood on the cross.

    The cup symbolizes, represents, the New Covenant which was brought about, made available, by the shed blood of Jesus. The cup its self is not the covenant. Jesus was speaking figuratively.

    Those who have had their sins washed away by obeying the gospel plan of salvation; are under the New Covenant. They do not have wait until they partake of the communion cup in order to be under the New Covenant.

    Partaking of communion “The Lord’s Supper” was not one of the requirements that the apostle Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost; in order to receive forgiveness of sins, to be saved, to be under the New Covenant.

    THE COMMUNION CUP IS NOT part of a sacrificial mass, is not a re-presentation of the crucifixion.

    JESUS DIED ONLY ONE TIME. (1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit;)


    You are invited to follow my Christian blog At: or google search steve finnell a christian view.