Morality isn’t only hard on special occasions

This is not the kind of problem I’m usually dealing with

In the discussion of St. Thomas More’s martydom, and how it helps me understand moral obligation, Kewois had a question about something I said, and I quite appreciate the chance to clarify and expand.  I’m double blockquoted, and Kewois’s reply follows in normal blockquoting below:

Morality might be natural, but most of us don’t think of it as easy.

You said “morality” but you are talking about “moral dilemmas”.
I mean, I think that for most of us is easy not to steal or to kill at random.  But in a moral dilemma you have to choose between two “evils” trying to achieve a greater good.

I think it’s a mistake to talk about morality as something that only comes into play in edge cases (that, for whatever reason, are mainly involving trolleys).  The kinds of dilemmas that Kewois is referring to are definitely hard, but they’re also romantic.  We think there’s something exciting in being called to make a hero’s choice, where we know we or the people we love will suffer greatly in either case.

That’s not the kind of hard morality I was talking about.

I wasn’t talking being tempted to steal or kill at random, but about repeating a funny, unflattering story about a friend or lashing out when someone doesn’t seem to be listening to your answer to their question or  responding to a friend letting you down by just resolving to rely less on other people in the future.  People who know me in person will recognize a rogues gallery of my own weaknesses in the above, and I’m sure you can come up with other examples of petty-seeming sin.

The first examples that came to my mind are all sins of commission: when I do what I shouldn’t.  The glaring omission is, well, sins of omission: when I fail to do something I should: not helping a lost-looking tourist, not paying enough attention to a friend to notice s/he’s upset and needs attention, not attending to the physical needs of the poor (through donations and political activism) or their dignity (by recoiling when approached by a panhandler).

Calling my struggles with these weaknesses heroic is as silly as labeling my quest to wake up at my first alarm ‘epic.’  But the small scale of the failing doesn’t mean it’s not hard to fix.  If I focus too much on the big, romantic dilemmas or the exciting intricate ones, I run the risk of ignoring the problems that I’m already messing up.  And the people I hurt when I screw up aren’t any less wounded just because there isn’t a whole world’s worth of them.

 

 

UPDATE: Richard Beck has a really nice piece on this problem and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux’s advice. Merci to the commenter who thought to link it.

A little too far afield for a full treatment in this post: Doing due diligence to make sure our heuristics for ‘bad’ and ‘good’ are in sync with reality is also a moral duty and is definitely hard.  Read “The Sword of Good” if you haven’t already.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • butterfly5906

    Richard Beck at Experimental Theology did a whole series on this idea, based on a Catholic Saint. This was my favorite post from the series: http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2012/01/meditations-on-little-way-part-4.html
    As an atheist, even I found St. Therese’s ideas compelling.

    • leahlibresco

      Thanks, I’m going to link this at the bottom.

      • grok87

        thanks for the link to the Richard Beck piece on St. Therese. Very interesting, I was not that familiar with her. The Little Way with its emphasis on self-mortification sounds hard but true to the Gospel.
        I think there is a connection with Jesus’s messianic message as well- “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”- as shown in today’s gospel:
        http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071212.cfm
        Jesus said to his Apostles:
        “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
        Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.
        Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.
        Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic,
        or sandals, or walking stick.

        It’s hard to imagine living that kind of a life of self-denial and service (presumably Jesus is saying no second pair of sandals but you are allowed one pair!) But in the context of “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” I guess it is more easily understood- i.e. the focus on self-denial and service and the focus on the “kingdom of heaven is at hand” are one and the same at some level…
        cheers,

        • grok87

          The homily on this Sunday’s gospel (similar to the above) was illuminating, if perhaps obvious. Self-denial and mortification is not to be practiced for its own sake. Hair shirts etc. are nonsense. It’s about traveling light for the journey. And the journey is to preach the gospel (the kingdom of heaven is at hand) No second pair of sandals etc. easy to say but hard to practice in our consumerist culture. Or to get back to Therese’s little way and the elevator metaphor, you don’t want material things or emotional resentments to weigh you down on your “elevator ride”, on your journey of faith.
          cheers,
          grok

      • Skittle

        If you’re looking for a practical push into the Little Way, you might want to make a set of Sacrifice Beads (also called Good Deed Beads). There are instructions many places on the internet. If you use them in conjunction with a little self-examination (so you adjust how you use them, to set an achievable challenge for yourself), you can use them as a simple way to put the Little Way into action. Plus, it ends up being a bit like a progress bar for the day, not that you’re aiming to exactly get all your beads across every day! And then, at night, you can use them as a prompt to examine your conscience and pray about the day.

  • Dave

    “This is not the kind of problem I’m usually dealing with” – hilarious! :-)

  • jw
  • joannemcportland

    “Doing due diligence to make sure our heuristics for ‘bad’ and ‘good’ are in sync with reality is also a moral duty and is definitely hard.”
    Is this what Catholics call practicing discernment and being guided by an informed conscience? Because if so, you’re darn right about the hard part. And especially in the non-trolley situations.

  • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

    So when the Catholics in Calgary recently decided to deny their schools the ability to provide potentially life-saving HPV vaccinations…. they thought about it? It was their moral duty to spread doom?

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/story/2012/06/25/calgary-hpv-vaccine-catholic-schools.html

    • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

      There would be lot fewer kids being born with HIV in Africa if Catholics hadn’t demonised contraception to the Third World. Some would say that the judgement call on that one was ridiculously easy.

      • cary

        Zack,
        You can’t commit evil to cure evil. Its not as if the Church didn’t think about this issue. Have you read Humanae Vitae? Just curious.

        • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

          Clearly the Catholic Church DOES commit evil in the name of curing evil. But instead of curing anything, the terrible Divinely Inspired advice just makes things worse.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            http://themoderatevoice.com/74138/catholic-nun-excommunicated-trying-to-save-a-womans-life/
            There, you see? You’d call that “commiting evil to cure evil”? Some are sensitive enough not to bring emotive terms like “evil” into it at all; some are insensitive enough to characterise whatever medical dilemma is at hand as “judgement from on High”! All this over appeasing the ego of someone you admittedly only “Have Faith in” as opposed to actually knowing he’s there.

          • Ted Seeber

            Contraception is evil. Far more evil than AIDS. AIDS will eventually eliminate those populations that are culturally immoral. Contraception will eliminate the human species.

          • Dianne

            Contraception will eliminate the human species.

            Poor humanity. A mere 7 billion of them on the planet. Seriously, I think H sapiens can be filed under the “least concern” category.

            But supposing you’re right. Doesn’t that make abstinence the worst evil of all? There’s a chance of conception in quite a lot of forms of contraceptive protected sex, none whatsoever in abstinence. Bad priests! Bad pope! (Please note that this is sarcasm and I actually admire priests who take their vows seriously quite a bit.)

          • MumbleMumble

            “Contraception is evil. Far more evil than AIDS. AIDS will eventually eliminate those populations that are culturally immoral. Contraception will eliminate the human species.”
            How exactly?

          • Alan

            Leah – I hope you see Ted Seeber’s reply at 2:32. You really sure Catholicism reflects your values?

          • Dianne

            Contraception will eliminate the human species.

            The more I think about this statement, the more disturbed I am by the basic assumption behind it.

            That is, the assumption that no one ever has a child because they want a child. The only way contraception could lead to the extinction of humanity is if no one ever wanted a child and only had children because their desire for sex was greater than their desire to avoid having children.

            This is blatantly untrue: more conceptions are wanted than unwanted, even in the US, and most of the time children are born because their parents chose to go off birth control in order to have a child.

            Perhaps at least some catholics are unhappy because they had too many children, can see children only as a burden, and not imagine anyone WANTING children? It’s a disturbing world view and it seems to me that a horrific amount of unhappiness must lie behind it.

          • Ted Seeber

            I’m not a brainless moderate who has no ethics, Zack. Nor like Dianne, do I not understand the difference between withholding pleasure for love and taking pleasure at the expense of another person. Contraception is evil because it is a form of rape. Abortion is evil because you start with two patients and end up with one or none. And abortion isn’t medically necessary anymore- hasn’t been since 1998. There are now 5 living children in the world who survived an ectopic pregnancy- and whose mothers survived as well.

          • Ted Seeber

            @Dianne- I get that assumption from the feminist culture that taught me back in the 1970s that all pregnancy is evil, and that all men are rapists. I most certainly do hope you are as disturbed by that assumption as I am.

      • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

        Well, that’s where your definitions have gone wonky. That’s why I say breaking free of dogma makes you more moral. You know these things are good or bad from blind acceptance, not deliberation. Humanae Vitae is from 1968, when HIV was unknown. Exactly my point, things change. I will humour you; explain why these medical interventions are “commiting evil” when they save lives. Is it something to do with impressing your imaginary friend? God created HPV and HIV so who are we to interfere? Fine, we’ll stop putting casts on broken bones, we’ll just pray! Let them heal crooked, it must all be part of God’s plan…

        • Joe

          Zack
          Take a few deep breaths and read these.
          http://www.1flesh.org/argument_page/condoms-aids/
          http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=14638#.T_-Peo7UDHg
          What makes you think folks in Africa are going to have extra-marital sex and then suddenly obey the Church and not use a condom?

          • Alan

            Um, you should be wary of relying on sources that, even for the selective and misleading statistics it does use does so incorrectly. That first link is pretty bad.

        • Joe
          • MumbleMumble

            That is an article from someone who supports the use of condoms, who mentioned how effective they are at combating HIV/AIDS in other parts of the world, and detailed why, due to the particular social nature of sexual relationships in Africa, as well as misuse of condoms themselves, the presence of condoms by itself is not enough to curtail the spread of HIV/AIDS. His main argument was that the primary goal should be mutual fidelity in sexual relationships, and that while condom use should still be encouraged, it should not be the main goal. In your mind, does fidelity in a relationship equate with religion?
            Also, just out of curiosity, are you opposed to condom use in countries like Thailand and Cambodia, where the author stated that condom policies have been effective?

          • MumbleMumble

            Sorry, that was a response to a post by Joe at 11:39 pm.

          • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

            In your mind, does fidelity in a relationship equate with religion?

            The idea of waiting with sex until there is a lifetime commitment (aka marriage) is very much associated with religion.

            Also, just out of curiosity, are you opposed to condom use in countries like Thailand and Cambodia, where the author stated that condom policies have been effective?

            I am. But the question is whether human society is always better off with condom use being encouraged by the government. Does such a policy have a short term benefit? It is unclear. Long term the solution is to associate sex with love and commitment. That means some consistent moral code. That means believing that people can live morally even in matters of sex. It all ties together.

            I find it interesting that Cambodia and Thailand are tow countries where Christianity and Islam are less prominent. Maybe that has something to do with the data. I think they are more Buddhist. Not sure of the exact connection but it seems like there might be one.

          • Alan

            Yes, christian countries are well known to lack a sex trade.

            Maybe you should compare STD rates among the regulated brothels of Nevada and the unregulated prostitutes in CA?

          • Ted Seeber

            Nevada and California are not Christian States, they are atheist ones. And once you accept the idea that there is no morality and no God, why should STD rates bother you at all?

          • Alan

            Oh yes, atheism is definitely the dominant belief of those states with what 20-25% of the population considering themselves irreligious and a small proportion of those actually atheists they are definitely Atheist states.

            I sure hope you are just some bored dude playing this role on the internet and aren’t really the moron you present yourself as.

          • Ted Seeber

            I wasn’t talking about the citizenship, I was talking about the *state*. The government. Most American states, having modeled their constitutions on the Constitution of the United States, are atheist.

          • MumbleMumble

            I understand that fidelity and religion are related, but they are not inextricably linked. A program focused on strict monogamy (or even focused on promoting a consistent moral code) in order to prevent disease transmission is not inherently religious. And if condoms can help stop the spread of a disease (again, in conjunction with other programs, not as a primary tool), doesn’t it make sense to promote their use?
            There are certainly negative side-effects, risk compensation being one of them, and these are definitely problems that need to be addressed – but they are not reasons to abandon the use of a cheap STD-prevention method.

          • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

            I wish more critics of Catholic moral teaching were as open-minded as you.

            The question is of permitting versus promoting condoms. ABC methods permit condom usage among those who are (for whatever reason) committed to engaging in high-risk behaviors. But they do not promote condoms as a solution to the epidemic. Rather, condoms are a sort of worst-case stop-gap.

            A Catholic moralist would point out that, in such a situation, the high-risk behavior that leads to condom use is itself already immoral – a point which can be argued separately, but which Catholics base on Natural Law rather than divine revelation – and that using a condom is merely one more immoral aspect of an already immoral act.

            Meanwhile, the Catholic moral tradition explicitly does not think the civil law should prohibit every form of vice. So one can argue, even from a Catholic perspective, that condoms use should be legal and permitted, without acknowleging that condoms are anything other than a worst-case stop-gap, that is, without considering condoms to be good in themselves. A Catholic could not argue, though, that condoms should be promoted as a solution to the crisis because, in fact, they are not.

          • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

            Is the reply function broken here?

          • MumbleMumble

            True story about the reply function – I don’t what’s going on with that.
            But I guess what bothers me is the standpoint of discouraging (or just not promoting) condom use simply because it’s a form of contraceptive. Not being Catholic, I don’t have any problem with condoms, or any form of contraceptive, and if their use can help stop the spread of disease, I say go for it. If they don’t help for whatever reason, then, yes, get rid of them. But if they are effective, then from my perspective they are not immoral at all – they are, in fact, a great tool (and it would be morally wrong not to promote them).

          • Ted Seeber

            Why should I accept the reasoning of any man who has rejected reason?

          • Zack

            “When you abandon dogma, you abandon rational morality” That’s Ted’s idea of reason. Dogma is good, no need to think about it, accept it at face value. It’s the same circular logic you hear when it comes to Biblical Inerrancy: “It’s in the Bible so it must be true; because the Bible says everything in the Bible is true.”
            So when Ted says “Why should I accept the reasoning of a man who has rejected reason?”, I would argue that if I call a cat a dog, it’s still a cat! So I agree with you, Ted! Clearly you’ve rejected reason, why should I listen? I maintain that dogma drowns the mind in mothballs, so your thinking stagnates while real life gets more complicated than you can deal with.

          • Ted Seeber

            I would point out in Thailand and Cambodia, condom use is restricted to the regulated commercial sex industry, and there is a very low rate of sexual infidelity in those highly ordered cultures.

          • Zack

            Oh, I hear you. There’s no comprehensive solution so we should give up entirely? Don’t even try, right? Edison would say, trying to invent the lightbulb, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. And we have lightbulbs!

            I’m also reminded of the man walking along the beach who saw a boy throwing starfish back into the ocean. “Look at all these starfish!” He said to the boy. “You’ll never get them all back in the ocean. Give up, you’re not making any difference!” The boy threw in another starfish and said “It made a difference to that one!”

        • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Z.

          Hi Zack,

          I’m not Catholic and I totally agree with you about contraception. But the way you’re going about this argument seems calculated to infuriate anyone you’re talking to and practically guarantee they won’t listen to you. If your prime interest in such a discussion is to encourage folks to re-evaluate their views and potentially change minds, I would gently encourage you to try another tack (as someone who would love to see some minds changed on this issue, I admit I am biased towards this response). If, on the other hand, your interest is to vent your anger at the moral failings of the RCC, it seems you’re doing well, and you’re probably not hurting anybody other than yourself. In that case, carry on, by all means!

          -Rosemary

          • Rachel K

            Yeah, there seems to be some major-league threadjacking going on. I’m not exactly sure what Leah’s original post had to do with condom use in Africa.

          • Rachel K

            The above was supposed to be re: Rosemary Z’s post on July 13 at 3:38.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            It’s an example of where Divinely Inspired Morality is having an impact. Before HIV, the example was of the HPV vaccine ban by some Catholics in Calgary. Not everyone’s heard about the HPV vaccine thing, though.

          • leahlibresco

            Yeah, there seems to be some major-league threadjacking going on.

            Must be Thursday.

        • Ted Seeber

          “That’s why I say breaking free of dogma makes you more moral. You know these things are good or bad from blind acceptance, not deliberation. ”

          Absolute bullshit. All doctrine comes from deliberation- centuries of it. When you abandon dogma, you abandon rational morality- ALWAYS and usually on purpose.

          “Humanae Vitae is from 1968, when HIV was unknown.”

          And yet it made several testable predictions, all of which have come true.
          http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/2012/02/predictions-from-past-psychic-pope.html

          Tell me, what does your science have to compare? Did your testible predictions come true?

          Has nothing to do with impressing anybody. Has to do with continuation of the species. I realize that it is quite unpopular for the species to continue, since liberals like you who have “freed yourself from dogma” hate the human race so much you’d rather see us go extinct, but hey, guess that is the cost of losing one’s ability to reason.

          • Zack

            Clearly it’s blind acceptance. Moral dilemmas hit at the personal level, and you think everyone should look up what someone from the Catholic Hierarchy has to say. It’s not deliberation if you throw Humane Vitae at everyone. And it’s the same blanket answers for everyone. That isn’t thoughtful. That’s Hobson’s choice.
            And the Human Race is doomed in the long run; when the Sun runs out of Hydrogen it will expand and swallow the Earth in about 7.6 billion years. Unless those scientists you hate so much work out how to move us somewhere better, that’s it. Show a little gratitude for their fine efforts.

            I think it’s hilarious you attribute Psychic Powers to a past Pope. I thought thou shouldst not suffer a witch to live!

            A great many testible scientific predictions came true. A very great many. Would you like Science out of your World? You’d have to say goodbye to the Internet, developed as it was mainly by researchers at the CERN particle accelerator.

          • Ted Seeber

            Obviously, Zack has neither read Humanae Vitae, and doesn’t understand why Appeal to Authority is not a fallacy.

          • MumbleMumble

            @Ted Seeber at 2:02pm
            But Appeal to Authority IS a logical fallacy. And for an atheist, an appeal to God as that authority has even less merit. If you’re arguing for abstinence-only programs, or prayer in school, or denying same-sex marriage, or anything else, and you’re arguing with an atheist, you’re never going to convince them of anything while basing your arguments on God or the Church. You can either use God as your reasoning and end the argument there, or you can rely on other forms of persuasion. Use non-religious examples to bolster your claims. But the Appeal to a Higher Authority has no weight to an atheist. And it never will.

          • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

            Appeal to authority is not a logical fallacy. It is a logical premise. That authority X is trustworthy. Like any premise it makes the argument unconvincing to those who reject the premise. But that is different from a logical fallacy.

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

            It’s not exactly a logical premise though either. It’s not saying “X is true”. It’s saying “Anything X says is true”, and that’s a pretty key difference.

            The problem is, this statement can’t be evaluated at compile time. You don’t actually know what claim you’re making until X reveals it’s claim- and since X is generally a fluid thing (like the position of the Church on a particular topic, for example), we can’t claim any stability to the premise (it’s not just “true” or “not true”, but it’s truth actually changes based on future unknown events). It’s true that many claims of the Church have remained consistent throughout history, but many have also changed. More to the point, if Authority is the basis of our belief, then we have no guarantee that those positions won’t change in the future- if the Church says they are different in the future, then by the Authority of the Church, they are different.

            Ultimately, we need to establish where this Authority comes from. I suppose you can make the axiomatic claim that “Catholic Authority is the ultimate judge of reality” (as the scientist claims about “observation”), but that’s not very helpful in a world with a multiplicity of religions. But if we’re not taking Catholic Authority as axiomatic, then it does seem logically fallacious. We can’t go from “Newtonian physics explains interactions of mid-sized objects correctly” to “Newtonian physics explains subatomic particle interactions correctly”, because the questions are in different domains. Likewise, if the Catholic Church explains the redemptive qualities of human suffering well, it does not follow that it explains sexually normative behavior well- those things are in different domains too.

            I don’t mean to be contentious (I really hate arguments about definitions), but it seems like whether or not an appeal to Authority is a logical fallacy depends on what we mean by “Appeal to Authority”. If we’re saying that reality is dependent on the Authority’s claims (when the Authority makes a claim, it actually changes reality to fit that claim), then we’re basically talking about God. That’s not a logical fallacy, but it is certainly a difficult pill to swallow for anyone who’s not Catholic. But if we’re talking about Authority that is just never wrong about reality, then an appeal to that Authority as a proof is a logical fallacy. We know the Authority is never wrong about reality because we can look at the claims the Authority makes, look at reality, and compare the two. If we don’t do the last step, then it’s trivially easy to come up with an “infallible Authority”- just never bother to fact check, and we’re done. I guess I’m saying that even if the Authority is never wrong in practice, the Authority making a claim isn’t what makes it true. It’s true because there is some underlying reality to it that the Authority recognizes. If the Authority is consistently proven correct (Chesterton’s “truth telling thing”), then you can be perfectly justified in believing the Authority’s claims to be true (in the Bayesian sense), but it doesn’t seem to me to constitute a proof of their veracity.

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

            Whoops… that was supposed to be a reply to Randy

          • http://twitter.com/blamer @b

            Informal fallacy. Stated premises (such as they are) fail to support their proposed conclusion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Informal_fallacy

            Argument here is really about the hidden premise; what is buttressing the assumption that “authority X is trustworthy/untrustworthy”. Randy might suggest the reputation of 1st century record keepers, today’s infidels understandably skeptical.

          • http://twitter.com/blamer @b

            My comment is also wrt Randy vs the rest

          • Ted Seeber

            Appeal to authority as a logical fallacy is an Appeal to Authority. If it is a logical fallacy, then it is a false one- appealing to the authority of the laws of logic in a circular definition that becomes an infinite loop.

            My point is not to convert the atheist- but simply to show that his thinking has as many, or more, holes than mine.

            Every Atheist is appealing to a higher authority- because *every human being* relies on higher authorities. Axiomatic definition is just another form of faith- doesn’t matter if it is Aristotle, God, or the Freedom From Religion Foundation making the rules.

            Now Leah is in the process of conversion. I support that, and don’t want to see her derailed by people like Zack who don’t even know that Jerusalem is at the center of the Silk Road, or who somehow think that murdering the unborn is kindness.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            The fallacy revolves around assuming the Authority is Authoritative. I can’t check if God got his BA from a Degree Mill or from a real University.
            And there were better places than the centre of the Silk Road if God wanted to wow us. God could have impregnated every virgin in every township, he’s God! Is he omnipotent or isn’t he?!

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            Prochoice opinions aren’t hard to understand, though. Forcing (legislatively or by a sanctity of life guilt-trip) someone who’s already traumatised to bear their attacker’s child is a lot harder to understand. Especially if it’s at a non-independent, unconscious stage of its development. Are you a keen proponent of adoption services, or is the fallout of Prolifers’ meddling someone else’s problem?
            Elizabeth Hyde wrote a book, she did: “The Abortionist’s Daughter”.

          • MumbleMumble

            @ Ted 6:32pm
            I don’t know what you mean in your first paragraph – an appeal to authority is a logical fallacy. It assumes the authority can never be wrong, which is implicitly false.
            In your second paragraph, I’m not suggesting that you’re trying to convert anybody. But if you are having a logical argument with an atheist, then relying on Scripture to prove your case is pointless. You’re not going to show anybody holes in their thinking by appealing to a god that they don’t believe in. All it does is highlight the flaws in your own logical arguments.
            Third paragraph: no, that is not the case. Not all atheists rely on the kinds of dogma that we are talking about here. Science and logic are not dogma.
            And in your fourth paragraph, I have no idea where that came from. However, I am fairly confident that Jerusalem is not at the center of the Silk Road, literally or figuratively.

      • deiseach

        Oh yes, because every single person in Africa is a Roman Catholic and are all married and having fifty kids each because the Pope says so.

        And there are no such things as social and cultural practices regarding sexuality, or other religions and beliefs, or the de-racination and fracturing of the village model of community with mass migration of rural people to the cities, or anything else. And no NGOs and WHO or anyone else distributing condoms. And no studies comparing ABC campaigns versus condom-distribution only campaigns for effectiveness. And no problems of prostitution and muti superstitons to ‘cure’ diseases.

        No, it’s all down to the Pope.

        • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cq3U09DeKpg Zack

          Contraception is a form of rape, Ted seeber? I suppose you’re mystified why religious people get called stupid so often. It’s a brainless thing to say, so your ethics are in question. Your 5 survivors of ectopic pregnancies are nothing next to the uncountable number which didn’t survive and which won’t survive in future. As for abortion being evil, I guess that makes miscarriage evil? In your mind Ted, forcing a rape victim (nothing to do with contraceptives, let’s get that clear Ted) to have their attackers child would be a moral, noble, ethical thing to do? That’s why it has been necessary since 1998 and before. I suppose we should be holding funerals for dead sperm and ova, too, and calling the people who wasted them sinners? I’ve linked in a relevant youtube clip, it’s all about how supportive God is towards abortion. Thanks for reaffirming my Atheism

          • Ted Seeber

            Yes, it is. Contraception removes the unity and procreative aspects from sex, which reduces it to one person using another human being for sexual pleasure.

            The brainless thing is letting your hormones take over your brain to the point where you think this is actually ethically ok.

          • Ted Seeber

            The only thing killing ectopic babies under modern medical care are atheists.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            For crying out loud. Removes the unity? You think there’s no interpersonal connection, no shared experience, just because contraception is used? Clearly ideology took over your brain.

            And no. Your information on ectopic pregnancy is way off.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            Simplest answer: a lot of ectopic pregnancies resolve. This doesn’t mean there’s survival, it means something like a miscarriage occurs. Disregarded in your argument, of course, as it’s not so emotive. And I’m sure you’re loaded up with “God works in mysterious ways”….

    • Ted Seeber

      They thought about it- don’t forget that the HPV vaccine is largely UNTESTED and may still have side effects. In addition to that, it assumes a less than ideal solution- and encourages distrust between the genders.

      Plus, in Catholic theology, suffering isn’t evil.

      • leahlibresco

        Can you mention what testing you think the vaccine should have undergone? Did other vaccines (smallpox, polio, flu, etc) clear this standard before mass rollouts?

        • Ted Seeber

          I’m just pointing out that maybe, just maybe, the real reason for pushing the HPV vaccine has nothing to do with curing cancer, and everything to do with making money, and that a girl who practices chastity marrying a boy who practices chastity has little to fear.

          Still, I would have liked to see the HPV vaccine actually go through around 50 years worth of trials with long term followup before claiming it to be a miracle cure. I say the same about Tylenol though.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            Well, to you it’s about cultural immorality, isn’t it? God created HPV and HIV to wipe out people he doesn’t like. “AIDS will eventually eliminate those populations that are culturally immoral”, right? So God is conducting biological warfare. Being born with HIV, receiving it through a blood transfusion, it’s all down to sin?
            I’d like to know why your cultural morality should have the upper hand. It has a terrible track record. You have a lot of confidence in Chastity working, for instance; how many Hail Marys after a Confessional would uninfect someone with HPV?

          • Ted Seeber

            Yes it is about cultural immorality- on both sides of the political fence- claiming you can use other human beings for pleasure or profit without consequences.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            Great, when are you Catholics going to stop that?

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            Because suffering isn’t evil in your worldview, right? You’re looking around thinking “How fantastic there’s all this suffering…”

      • Alan

        What on earth are you talking about – do you understand anything about the clinical trials required both before and once a vaccine are approved?

        • Ted Seeber

          Do you understand anything about actual long-term effects beyond a decade?

          • Alan

            So you think we shouldn’t be using vaccines or medicines until they have been through 50 years of test for possible side effects?

            Well, at least you are willing to take your stupidity to extreme absurdities.

          • Ted Seeber

            “So you think we shouldn’t be using vaccines or medicines until they have been through 50 years of test for possible side effects?”

            Unless you are certain, how can you claim to be doing good instead of harm?

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            If we waited to be certain, nothing would get done.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOfjkl-3SNE Zack

        In your theology suffering isn’t evil? Well, the problem’s come into focus at last! On the basis of that, you could support any kind of psychotic balderdash with a clear conscience.

        • Ted Seeber

          Of course suffering isn’t evil. It has been used for great good in the past, and will be used for great good in the future.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            You’re giving carte blanche to people who want to cause the suffering. From that, they’ll think they are instruments of God’s teaching. And that will make everything worse, it’ll happen more often

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            What would you care; more suffering would be better, right?

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            We should be like that Silas guy from The Da Vinci Code? He was really in favour of suffering…

  • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Z.

    Really enjoyed “The Sword of Good.”

    I think morality would be much easier if all of our choices were obviously as large as, say, Frodo’s. The problem is that really even the choices that SEEM very small can be enormously significant . . . they are just disguising themselves. I tend to think that we show our moral hand most clearly by how we act in small ways, rather than how we act in large ones. The best bits of moral storytelling do a good job pointing this up . . . I think this is why Jesus focused so much on doing good to the person next to you, not on good as an abstraction.

    • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Z.

      Oh, and only now did I go and read the St. Therese piece, and yes, of course, that! Now I am out of things to say. Other than examples from health care, but I will restrain myself!

      • Iota

        Rosemary,

        > I think morality would be much easier if all of our choices were obviously as large as, say, Frodo’s.

        Are you sure? I wonder if this isn’t a bit over-romantic – we think Frodo’s choice is somehow obvious (and we would have been compelled to do the big right thing), while forgetting that besides Frodo there were other owners of the ring, who were advised to destroy it and didn’t (e.g. Isildur). Historically, when heroic acts were necessary some people “passed” the heroic ethics test and some “failed”. I wonder if the ones who failed didn’t fail for a lack of practice in the smaller things.

        • Brandon B

          I think what she means is that it would be easier if we were aware of just how much every choice mattered. If the smallest unkindness provoked the same conscience-attack that murder does for us now, then of course of consciences would be harder to ignore, and we might do the right thing more often.

          • Ted Seeber

            It does to me, but that might just be the combination of Asperger’s, OCD, and a well-informed Catholic Conscience.

            The sins I struggle with the most, are the ones I run into when I am alone with my thoughts. The ones that if I let them escape my thoughts, would have horrific effect on the world.

          • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Z.

            “I think what she means is that it would be easier if we were aware of just how much every choice mattered.”

            Yes.

          • Iota

            Brandon,
            I can hypothetically see people just giving up pretty fast if having a row with a neighbour got promoted to the same class of evil as starting World War Three. Or going crazy from the sheer pressure. Guilt and fear aren’t bad motivators, some of the time, but I’m not sure they are the best ones. And if you presuppose that it’s almost impossible to never fail, this means a lot of people would have loads of guilt and fear to deal with.

            I’m sort of reminded of the emotional blackmail people sometimes use when they try to convince their children to eat really awful food because “children in Africa are starving” (eating that awful dinner doesn’t actually help them by itself, so non sequitur really, but still makes you feel “properly” guilty).

            But that might be just me.

  • Rachel

    morality is formed by the continual day-to-day struggles to do the proper thing. Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a charachter, reap a destiny. Make a habit of doing the right thing in “non trolley” situations and the “trolley situations” will be easer tio deal with. or at least I would like to think so

    • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Z.

      Heh, I think the trolley situations are already easier because they’re more clearly choices. When I roll my eyes at an obnoxious patient I don’t usually think I’m choosing.

      • Dianne

        When I roll my eyes at an obnoxious patient I don’t usually think I’m choosing.

        Just to make trouble, what about times when your “wrong” acts lead to the “right” conclusion. For example, suppose you roll your eyes at an obnoxious patient. You catch yourself rolling your eyes and think “that was unkind and unjust of me” and are nicer or more open with your patient, resulting in him/her being less obnoxious and more open to working with you to help his/her situation. Was rolling your eyes right or wrong?

        After all, in the scene referenced in LOTR, it’s not Frodo’s attempt to make the right decision, but Gollum’s attempt to make the wrong decision (taking the ring for himself) that ultimately leads to the ring’s destruction.

        Sometimes you just have to do what you can.

        • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Z.

          It was still wrong. In fact, I catch myself and act as you suggest pretty frequently. It just means that I’m not perfect yet, but am trying!

          But yeah, we just have to do what we can.

  • Daniel A. Duran

    “You said “morality” but you are talking about “moral dilemmas”.
    I mean, I think that for most of us is easy not to steal or to kill at random. But in a moral dilemma you have to choose between two “evils” trying to achieve a greater good.”

    This is a very questionable passage. There are many things Mr(Mrs.?) Kewois is assuming. First he’s assuming that there are moral dilemmas or conflict among duties and that sometimes we must pick among evils. But are there really moral dilemmas? Do we really have to choose among evils? Your first reaction might be “yes, of course.”
    But think carefully of what will happen if you concede that there are moral dilemmas; you cannot claim that there’s an objective, non-relative moral system. You will be forced to say that in some situations killing an innocent baby is the lesser evil and therefore what we ought to do or that sometimes torturing and maiming people is the lesser of evils and so forth. That doesn’t sound like a moral system at all since it asks you to do things that are immoral.

    I would rather say that the apparent dilemmas are actually collisions of duties. You have an obligation not to kill and a duty to take care of your life. A killer wants to murder you. Your duty to preserve your life over-rides that of not killing; it is *licit* to kill in self-defense. you’re not choosing among evils at all but what was formerly illicit now becomes licit.

    Ethics is complex challenging subject. Best of luck in navigating these turbulent waters, Leah.

    Also Leah, are you going to Otakon in Baltimore this month? I know that you like to co-splay so I thought it’s something you might want to do. If you’re going, make it stylish.

    like this:

    http://fc01.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2012/050/c/1/byakuren_touhou_cosplay_1_by_k_a_n_a-d4qa2gs.jpg
    ;-)

    • Kewois

      Daniel Duran
      >This is a very questionable passage. There are many things Mr(Mrs.?) Kewois
      Does it matter?
      It´s Mr.
      >First he’s assuming that there are moral dilemmas or conflict among duties and that >sometimes we must pick among evils. But are there really moral dilemmas? Do we >really have to choose among evils?
      THE EXAMPLE of Moore was between betraying himself or die. Seems to me that is really a moral dilemma.
      If there is an easy choice there is no dilemma.
      >But think carefully of what will happen if you concede that there are moral dilemmas; >you cannot claim that there’s an objective, non-relative moral system.
      Of course. I never claimed that. I believe that there are NOT objective moral systems.
      There are many things that human moral systems somewhat share in common.
      Not to kill an equal without a good reason, for example.
      > You will be forced to say that in some situations killing an innocent baby is the lesser >evil and therefore what we ought to do or that sometimes torturing and maiming >people is the lesser of evils and so forth. That doesn’t sound like a moral system at all >since it asks you to do things that are immoral.
      Like throwing atomics bombs to civilians (including innocent babys)?…
      Or Killing the firstborns of Egyptians?
      Yes moral systems are relative.
      But you can have your own.
      There is a typical example of moral dilemma. Your town is invaded but an really evil army. You and other people (including a baby) hide in a basement. While some soldiers search the place upstairs the baby begins to cry. If the soldiers discover you they will immediately kill everybody. So, do you kill your baby to keep quiet or take that chance to be found? What if the baby is yours?

      >A killer wants to murder you. Your duty to preserve your life over-rides that of not >killing; it is *licit* to kill in self-defense. you’re not choosing among evils at all but >what was formerly illicit now becomes licit.
      I agree with you. BUT some people perhaps choose not to kill. Imagine that is your son ho is having a psychotic episode perhaps can shoot him but you choose not to and you die.
      That’s another problem with Biblical morality, the commandment say YOU SHALL NOT KILL…….. Absolute.
      Of course that most people also add “not without a good reason”
      -You can kill in self defense
      - You can kill in a war even if you are part of the invader army
      - You can kill if some God commands you to do so.
      - If someone is a witch… or committed adultery….
      -Or if is not really an equal…. That’s a though point. Who are your equals?
      Many, many years most people thought that could kill or enslave a lot of other people because they were less.
      >Ethics is complex challenging subject. Best of luck in navigating these turbulent >waters, Leah.
      It´s a person perhaps can talk. I mean morality. Some people talks with God.

      Kewois

  • Alex

    I’ve heard this line of reasoning by virtue ethicists before and I agree that morality isn’t confined to hard problems involving trolley’s. However, I don’t think any moral philosopher thinks that way either. Philosophers use ethical dilemmas because they help to determine how different ethical theories differ, and which ones seem more plausible as a result. Furthermore I’m not sure if virtue ethicists have any advantage in the realm of day to day moral problems: here is an essay critiquing the view you’ve presented.

    http://a2ethics.edublogs.org/files/2008/03/is-virtue-ethics-a-misleading-category-nussbaum-1nye9jr.pdf

    • Alex

      Here is a quote from it that I am sure will catch your eye.

      Here is a misleading story about the current situation in contemporary moral philosophy:1 We are turning from an ethics based on Enlightenment ideals of universality to an ethics based on tradition and particularity; from an ethics based on principle to an ethics based on virtue; from an ethics dedicated to the elaboration of systematic theories to an ethics suspicious of theory and respectful of the wisdom embodied in local practices; from an ethics based on the individual to an ethics based on affiliation and care; from an ahistorical detached ethics to an ethics rooted in the particularity of historical communities.
      This story (which from now on I shall call “the confused story”) is told with satisfaction by some, who see in the rejection of the ambitious abstract theories of the Enlightenment the best hope for an ethics that is realistic, historically grounded, perceptive, and worldly. It is told with deep alarm by others, who see in the ascendancy of particularity and local knowledge a grave threat to the Enlightenment’s noble aspirations to social justice and human equality. But the story is, even on its face, confused.

  • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

    Hi Leah,

    I want to disagree actually with your statement “Calling my struggles with these weaknesses heroic is as silly as labeling my quest to wake up at my first alarm ‘epic.’” (Sorry, not sure how to do blockquotes).

    It seems to me that there are two notions of heroic. The first is the one you referenced earlier – it’s romantic, being called to make a hero’s choice. However, I think that there is a certain heroism to the small daily struggles to master ourselves and conform ourselves to Christ (see I can write things like that here now that you are converting! ;) )

    I think that in the big situation – in public – making the right choice is often easier than the discipline of daily choices with no positive feedback from those around us. It’s a little like Jesus’ teaching on Almsgiving and Prayer (Matthew 6 – http://www.usccb.org/bible/matthew/6).

    Maybe it’s just me but mastering myself and living a disciplined life in obedience the Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit (i.e. the daily work of being a Christian) is more difficult and to me, seems at least as heroic as any public hero’s choice.

    Just some thoughts (and I’m somewhat less convinced of my position than when I started to write this comment so there’s that too).

    • Ted Seeber

      The difference being that I find following the rules *until I understand them* to be highly rewarding. If I followed my flawed, autistic conscience, I would be in jail for mass murder by now.

      • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Z.

        I also sometimes find it useful to follow rules until I understand them, but I have a certain threshold rules have to pass of reasonableness before I’ll do that. They have to make a certain amount of intuitive and rational moral sense or I’ll be worried I’m doing the wrong thing. It’s sort of a cost-benefit analysis.

        I didn’t intuitively “get” why gossip was immoral until I decided to try and stop doing it (and then it became perfectly clear). I had enough rational understanding that I was willing to try not to do it and then live into the understanding. With gossip, especially, the moral risk I took by giving it up even without being entirely sure that it was immoral was low (even if gossip is morally neutral, I don’t HURT much by giving it up), while the potential gain in morality was high. It was the moral equivalent of entering one of those free raffles.

        On the other hand, my rational mind actively tells me that contraception is VERY moral, so no matter how many times the RCC tells me otherwise, I’m not willing to try and live into it, because the moral risk I’d be taking feels too great. The moral harm I believe would ensue from both my personal abandonment of contraception, plus my adoption of anti-contraception as an ideological stance (I’m in health care) is SO RISKY that I’m not willing to gamble by trying to live into it on the chance that I’m wrong. It’s the moral equivalent of playing Russian Roulette.

        • Ted Seeber

          Considering I’m of the other bent (I believe that if I had abandoned a contraceptive mentality earlier in life I’d have more children now, perhaps even be a grandfather as many in my 20th high school class reunion were; and the years I wasted pursuing material gain instead now weigh quite heavy on my life- to the extent that I now equate contraception with hatred of humanity rather than love), I’m curious to know your reasoning on why preventing children can ever be a moral good in the long term (the short term gains being obvious- our economy rewards selfishness).

          • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Z.

            The disastrous state of the environment.

          • Ted Seeber

            I don’t see the environment as being in a disastrous state at all. I see a few local isolated examples, but even they are just reason for adaptation, not panic. Even the clams in Los Angeles Seaport know that one.

  • deiseach

    “(R)epeating a funny, unflattering story about a friend or lashing out when someone doesn’t seem to be listening to your answer to their question or responding to a friend letting you down by just resolving to rely less on other people in the future”

    Oh, yes. Struggled with the Eighth Commandment about repeating an anecdote that was funny but cast someone in an unflattering light, examination of conscience made me realise I wanted to share this in order to make the person look bad, decided to hold my tongue. Really, really hard to do so; surprisingly more hard than I would have thought – and the temptation keeps popping up every now and again when this person does something to annoy me.

  • Faramir

    As my avatar says (the real Faramir, not the movie one), “Not if I found it on the highway would I take it.” As opposed to my actual self: we usually says to ourselves, “My precious!” Yes, we does, my precious, gollum. In the battle between Slinker and Stinker, Stinker comes out on top far too often. Thank God for confession.

    As the OP and several of the commenters have said, it’s the small, seemingly innocent, everyday choices that are the really important ones, because they’re the ones that shape how we will respond when we face the big choices. As Bilbo said, “There’s really only one road in the end” (or something to that effect). The road that runs by the door of Bag End is the same road that leads up the slopes of Mt. Doom.

    (Can you tell I’m glad you chose an LOTR image to accompany this post?)

    • leahlibresco

      I hope you are also planning to see the Hobbit at midnight in costume.

      • Faramir

        At midnight? Possibly. In costume? Probably not. That’s never been my thing (I’ve dressed up for Halloween maybe twice), plus I prefer to be comfortable (i.e. hoodie and jeans) when I’m watching a movie.

    • Faramir

      And I just noticed, Leah, that you captioned the image “This is not the kind of problem I’m usually dealing with.” But I think it is. Not to turn this post into an LOTR review, but I see the Ring as a metaphor for sin (and yes, I know what Tolkien said about hating allegory). It’s powerful, it’s seductive, it’s mysterious, it calls to us. Sometimes we resist it, sometimes we give in. Sometimes we don’t notice it, sometimes it feels like a heavy weight. We’re usually most strongly tempted when the Nazgul are nearby, or the eye of the Enemy is on us. Sometimes we are tempted to use its power for good (Boromir, Denethor) but the wise (Gandalf, Galadriel) know that it will consume us in the end if we try. So actually yes, this is the kind of problem we usually deal with. Do we put on the Ring, since so often that seems like the easy way, the smart way, the safe way? Or do we destroy it, even though it seems foolish, risky, and impossible in any case?

      • Tom

        More specifically, I think the Ring is about sins associated with addiction: whether it’s substance abuse, lust, or power/control. The ring is poison and it destroys from within. But I wonder what Tolkien intended the ring symbolize. Not sure about that.

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  • Steve

    Late to post, because I’ve been chewing on this one. My thought boils down to this: sins of omission amount to anything you can envision that you should be doing. But it’s super easy to simply be deluded–the ought is, indeed, the sticking point. It’s easy to come up with oughts that are completely divergent from one person to the next. Why is Catholicism the truer map to sins of omission than another religion?

    As an aside, I have been hoping you’d get to the brass tacks of your prospective conversion–i.e., why the Catholic god is true vs. the various other Christian conceptions of god, not to speak of the plethora of other divine characters humanity has made mention of over the last thousands of years. But you’re still interesting enough to follow even if your explication is woefuly absent!

    • Ted Seeber

      I don’t know about Leah- but when I went through my agnostic/atheist college years, I did extensive research into the properties of several thousand “Gods” and several religions.

      A huge part of the reason I’m still Catholic is this line from Nostra Aetate:

      The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.

      We’ll see if the blockquoting worked on that. Basically, what this means is that the Catholic God and the Catholic view of morality is the sum total of *all the Gods* and *all the good* that *all the other religions contain*. There is nothing good that the Church rejects.

      • Steve

        If I read you and the quotation you refer to correctly, you’re claiming that whatever moral gains humanity has made, the Church claims them as its own–because, after all, their conception of god contains those other religions.
        The problem here is defining what is “true and holy.” It seems a convenient way of saying “whatever we agree with,” and includes the possibility of rejecting moral gains that are incompatible with the Church’s view of the good. I won’t go so far as to call it a cop out, but I’m certainly left unconvinced.

  • http://loveofallwisdom.com Amod Lele

    Thank you. This is a point that I think secular people (among whom I count myself) often have a hard time realizing.

    Some related thoughts:
    http://loveofallwisdom.com/2011/02/the-problem-with-the-trolley/
    http://loveofallwisdom.com/2009/08/chastened-intellectualism-and-practice/

    • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

      The Trolley Dilemma is a new one on me. When I get over the chuckles I’ll give it a go.

      I’m not sure if I can overpower the fat man, haul him over the railings off the bridge and onto the tracks. Might do my back in. And he might be an important fat man with some Cure for Cancer thing in his brain. And what are the 5 innocents doing on the tracks in the first place? It ain’t a bright thing to do. Are they 5 innocents with Original Sin, or do I not care about Original Sin? What happened to the “Danger, Trolleys!” sign? These are the things that go through your mind while you’re trying to decide whether to try and get the timing right on overpowering a fat man and plummeting him to his death with pinpoint accuracy.

      As always, I can look something up in the Bible so I don’t have to think at all: Deuteronomy 22.4″If you see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it. Help him get it to its feet.” It’s as near as dammit…

      Did I remember my Bible? Did the trolley hit while I was looking it up? Fortunately there’s Star Trek! “The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many”! Oh, wait, that was from Search for Spock. I need Wrath of Khan “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one”! Kind of a New Testament/Old Testament problem there…

      What about if you’re fat enough you can throw yourself on the tracks?

  • Kewois

    >I think it’s a mistake to talk about morality as something that only comes into play in >edge cases (that, for whatever reason, are mainly involving trolleys). The kinds of >dilemmas that Kewois is referring to are definitely hard, but they’re also romantic.
    Leah You were talking about Sir Thomas Moore!!! not everyday morality.

    >We think there’s something exciting in being called to make a hero’s choice, where we >know we or the people we love will suffer greatly in either case.
    I really prefer never to be in such situation. And I hardly called them as romantic.
    >That’s not the kind of hard morality I was talking about.
    So we have to choose between our moral principles or death all days??
    >I wasn’t talking being tempted to steal or kill at random, but about repeating a funny, >unflattering story about a friend or lashing out when someone doesn’t seem to be >listening to your answer to their question or responding to a friend letting you down >by just resolving to rely less on other people in the future.
    We are all sinners…. 

    >The first examples that came to my mind are all sins of commission: when I do what I >shouldn’t. The glaring omission is, well, sins of omission: when I fail to do something >I should: not helping a lost-looking tourist, not paying enough attention to a friend to >notice s/he’s upset and needs attention, not attending to the physical needs of the poor >(through donations and political activism) or their dignity (by recoiling when >approached by a panhandler).
    If that is hard to you…fine.
    >Calling my struggles with these weaknesses heroic is as silly as labeling my quest to >wake up at my first alarm ‘epic.’
    What is really silly is to write a post about a man who choose between death and his ideas and pretend than that is equal to, for example, not helping a tourist.
    Also silly is to call that a SIN.

    Kewois

    • Ted Seeber

      From those who are given much, much is expected.

  • @b

    >>Morality might be natural, but most of us don’t think of it as easy.

    Spotting moral failures in stories is what comes naturally, what isn’t easy is compelling your own body in the here-and-now into doing (or to stop doing) some action that you’ll later tell yourself WASN’T the empathetic or fair thing to do.

    If you didn’t naturally reflect on your moral decision points with empathy and fairness, you might be sociopathic.

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