[Turing 2013] Christian Entry #1

This is the first entry in the Christian round of the 2013 Ideological Turing Test.  This year, atheists and Christians responded to questions about sex, death, and literature.  

 

Polyamory

Legalizing multiple marriage would deeply destabilize society. Anti-polygamy laws are a tool to fight fundamentalist Mormons and other cults which violate the dignity of the human person. In any patriarchal society, rich men would build harems, while poor men would be left without a spouse, which leaves them without an investment in society. Even if that might not be true in a non-patriarchal society, our current society is still very patriarchal. Society requires stable marriages: children are best raised by a loving, committed couple. However, while in a monogamous relationship there is only one relationship which can fall apart, in a three-person marriage there are three, a four-person marriage six, and so on exponentially. Given the already high divorce rate, can we accept that?

Even polyamorists admit that polyamory requires a high level of communication and self-awareness. If polyamory became more accepted, people who don’t have that level of communication might become polyamorous. Polyamorous people may be able to manage their jealousy, but for other people the discovery of an affair leads to murders; do we really want the latter type of person to try out polyamory?

On a deeper level, polyamory violates God’s plan for human sexuality. We are supposed to reserve our sexuality to unite with our spouse for our mutual good. Let me be clear: polyamorous people often love each other and build lives together– just as a couple that has sex before marriage may genuinely love each other. Nevertheless, the purpose of sexuality is that two become one flesh. Through sex, we say to each other: “I love you, I am committed to you in an exclusive and permanent way, through good times and bad.” That’s why people tend to feel a sense of connection and love to their partners after sex (caused by the release of the chemical oxytocin). A promise is made between people’s bodies even if their minds do not agree.

Obviously, God’s plan forbids ‘secondary’ sexual relationships, just as it forbids non-marital relationships; thus, much polyamory is immoral on the face of it. However, even a three-person marriage violates the purpose of sexuality by putting another person within the marriage. While polyamorists say they can manage jealousy, the existence of the emotion suggests that we are intended to bond in pairs. Can three people romantically love each other equally, or will two become a marital relationship while the third becomes a de facto secondary? The phenomenon of couples searching for a ‘Hot Bi Babe’ whom they objectify and treat as unequal to the main couple suggest that a truly equal three-person marriage is uncommon.

 

Euthanasia

I believe that euthanasia is immoral: everyone has the right to ordinary nourishment and medical care.

Our society is deeply ableist. Many disabled people believe they are burdens and that it would be best for everyone if they died; they cannot be said to be making a free decision about what is best for themselves. Other people, who are not yet disabled but may be in the future, may believe that a life paralyzed or on a ventilator is not worth living, when for many actually disabled people it is. What’s more, people may be coerced into euthanasia, which is morally murder. Legalizing euthanasia risks creating a whole class of murders that cannot be prosecuted. How can we, from the outside, tell apart someone who was pressured into euthanasia and someone who chose it of their own free will?

Furthermore, euthanasia reflects a core disrespect for life– the same disrespect for life that produces contraception, abortion, inhumanity to the poor, and war. The root of all of these is the idea that some lives are not worth living: the idea that poor people are not entitled to food or health care, that being an unwanted child is so horrific that we should murder them to prevent this fate, that being disabled or terminally ill is a fate worse than death. However, all lives have inherent value: everyone matters, everyone has a right to life.

Our culture despises suffering; we believe we have the right to pleasure and enjoyment, and when that doesn’t happen we have a right to turn off our lives just like we’d turn off a TV show that failed to entertain. However, pain has a great power to purify. Many of those we recognize as saints went through periods of suffering far more intense than (we believe) we could endure. For many people, a terminal illness is the first time they recognize that they are going to die, grapple with questions of religion and the meaning to life, or learn to rely on God rather than their own strength. There is a higher purpose to life than simple animal pleasure; it is immoral to cut off this opportunity for growth.

 

You can vote on whether you think these answers were written by a Christian or an Atheist here.  Comments are open to discuss the substance of the post and for speculation about the true beliefs of the author, so please vote before looking at the comments.

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."

  • EMMilco

    (Warning, bias-inducing comments below.)

    “Anti-polygamy laws are a tool to fight fundamentalist Mormons and other cults which violate the dignity of the human person.”

    No intelligent Christian trying to present their views to a mixed audience would say something so inflammatory so quickly. There are a few moments in this post where the author seems to just throw down Christian apologetic cliches without providing any substantive intellectual background for them. Granted, many Christians do this themselves, but I would expect someone writing one of these posts to offer considerably more nuance.

    And I don’t believe that someone whose second thought about polygamy is “fight them mormon cults” would use “ableist” in their second sentence about euthanasia.

    • Brutus

      I concur; understanding ableism enough to reference it seems contradictory with the kind of person who would say ‘Obviously, God’s plan…’

      • EMMilco

        I’m not sure that’s fair, but it’s not worth quibbling over, given that (imo) this is clearly not written by a Christian.

      • Pseudonym

        While I agree that the piece was probably from an atheist, that sentiment rings true to me.

        I’ve heard it people whom I know to be mainline protestants with a strong social justice edge (e.g. middle-of-the-road Lutheran or Presbyterian) and mainstream evangelicals of the not-from-the-USA-but-still-English-speaking variety. So much so that if it wasn’t for the mention of contraception, I’d be tempted to call it the other way.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I’m confused, is this one or two entries?

      • EMMilco

        Maybe the entrant was under the impression that the answers would be separated and randomized?

        • TheodoreSeeber

          If they had been, I think my vote may have been different. The first entry looks like an atheist trying very hard to be Catholic. The second entry looks like a cultural Americanized Catholic, or possibly an atheist who was raised Catholic previous to 1975 when Bishop Sheen went off the air.

          I’ve never heard our society called “ableist” before, even as a part of the Neurodiversity movement (it is absolutely true though).

          • Martha O’Keeffe

            I’m reading a lot more talk and discussion of “ableism” myself, as well as “neurodiversity”, albeit in the context of writing fanfiction, and the characters therein, and how you treat characters with disabilities/non-typical traits (e.g. most recent discussion, the Dwarf Bifur from Peter Jackson’s adaptation of “The Hobbit”, who is presented with a head and brain injury due to an embedded Orc axe).
            So no, I haven’t come across it outside of fandom discussion, which does make me wonder if it is someone in a ‘social justice’ movement and/or background (which, so far as I can make out, is a very different kettle of fish to Catholic social justice teaching). Or someone who is non-neurotypical/differently abled themselves.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I have Asperger’s- the neurodiversity movement is strong in that world. Ableism not so much. I think it is because my illness is mental, not physical.

          • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com/ Christian H

            As someone from the humanities in academia, I hear about ableism all of the time, from people with a wide range of anatomical, neurological, and psychological (a)typicalities. If that helps.

    • http://www.catholicismforcutters.com/ Broken Whole

      Yep. I also immediately found the “ableist” introduction to the “Euthanasia” section totally out of sync with the tone of the “Polyamory” entry—it was one of the main elements that led me to guess this was a “faker.”

  • Slow Learner

    Has a lot of Catholic buzzwords for an atheist; then again, there’s no real coherent thread drawing either answer together with the other. Each answer on its own is Very Likely Christian in my mind, the two together make me less certain – it’s almost as though each answer comes from a different Christian.
    Then again, that final paragraph about pain and suffering does sound very Catholic.
    Atheist or Christian, the writer of this is very likely USian, and has done some reading around social justice to have a reasonable awareness of polyamory and ableism.

    • Anonymous

      I’m with you on being unable to put the two responses together. The polyamory response seemed woefully unsophisticated, and had me leaning toward faker pretty hard. The euthanasia response pulled me all the way back, mostly with the respect for life paragraph.

      Upon further review, without this paragraph, even the euthanasia response can be subtly pretty atheist sounding (the only real danger is coercion… oh, and people naturally don’t bother with the whole religion thing until they’re dying).

      I think that one paragraph is really all that has me still thinking Christian, and I think that’s easier to explain away than all the faker signals I’m getting elsewhere.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Sounded to me likely atheist with one too many times playing the Fulton Sheen Drinking Game (watching Life is Worth Living and taking a shot every time the good Bishop mentions suffering).

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I think Tom H below doesn’t get this game- Tom, that’s not Leah posting, that’s one of the people playing the Turing Test.

    • Erick

      Neither section had any of the standard Catholic buzzwords.
      In the first section, Catholics do not use terms like one flesh, and sexuality is not talked about in terms of mutual good. We are more likely to talk about complementarity of the sexes. Also, we talk about the dual purposes of sexuality as an expression of love and openness to procreation.
      In the second section, Catholics believe in the equal dignity of human persons because we are all made in the image of God. We do not usually use the refrain about pleasure and pain in life.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Erick- I use the term one flesh quite often, when talking about theology of the body and marriage specifically. But yes, complimentary sexes should have been in there to be more authentic.

        • Erick

          Ted, I could be clearer I guess. “One flesh” is a theological term we use to describe the marriage state, and we rarely ever use it when describing marriage’s purpose. The purpose of marriage in the Catholic sense is procreation and mutual help. In this way, the poster above has conflated marriage with sexuality.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            True. Though as of late, events in the United States encourage bringing out the procreative aspect of marriage.

  • Magdalen Dobson

    Like the other commenters, I tend to think the writer is an atheist or a Christian of a terribly weak-argumented vein… and I doubt the latter would participate in the Turing Test, so my vote is for the former.

  • Ray

    “However, while in a monogamous relationship there is only one
    relationship which can fall apart, in a three-person marriage there are
    three, a four-person marriage six, and so on exponentially.”

    Pedant alert. This is quadratic growth, not exponential.

  • Brutus

    Failing to address polyamory in general, and instead addressing only polygamy shows either a willful or negligent ignorance of the prompt.

    Either way, this individual is either parroting arguments provided from some other source or failed to adequately explain their actual position. This is not a coherent statement of a position that was reached through critical thought.

    • EMMilco

      Well, I think from a Christian perspective non-marital polyamory is a non-issue, because fornication is morally unacceptable and is legal, and non-marital polyamory doesn’t add much to the concept of fornication. It makes sense that a Christian would jump right to polygamy, and I expect that other Christian responses will do the same.

      • Brutus

        So, ignoring marital polyamory is your expected behavior of Christians who participate? With what certainty?

        • EMMilco

          There are three varities of polyamory w/r/t marriage. Mixed marital/non-marital, non-marital, and polygamy. The first case is broadly known as “adultery” and is prohibited by the sixth commandment. The second lacks sufficient distinction to be discussed differently than fornication, as I said above. That leaves polygamy. I think most responses by Christians of a doctrinal bent (who are likely to be the ones participating, though there have been exceptions in the past) will focus almost entirely on polygamy. Furthermore, because the entire doctrinally-oriented American Christian population is currently fixated on the relationship between marriage and the law, any mention of polyamory will immediately bring to mind questions of the legalization of polygamy. My confidence in this prediction is pretty high.

          • Brutus

            Derp. I fell into the same trap of conflating polygamy and polygyny.

            >Failing to address polyamory in general, and instead addressing only polygyny shows either a willful or negligent ignorance of the prompt.

        • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com/ Christian H

          For what it’s worth, my original Christian entry had a section on non-marital polyamory, but I removed it because I wanted to say exactly the same thing in the atheist entry and I felt that an atheist was more likely to talk about polyamory than a Christian was (even though, you know, I’m a Christian who talks about polyamory) b/c of the well-documented Christian obsession with marriage.

          • Brutus

            Seems like you think that you agree with a larger percentage of atheists than Christians on that particular point. Is that significant?

          • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com/ Christian H

            Significant to what? I don’t know what you’re asking.

          • Brutus

            Rephrasing: Why do you dissent from the group you self-identify with?

          • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com/ Christian H

            The simple answer is that I think they’re wrong. The logic is not on their side; opposing polygamy is not a necessary extension of basic Christian tenants, and (I’d argue) opposing euthanasia, at least in the way Christians have done in the past, is actually contrary to basic Christian tenants. It’s all in my entry.

            But I think you’re maybe getting at a different question? Whether or not other Christians think that I am orthodox has never swayed my opinion very much. If the logic isn’t on their side, why should I agree with them? I don’t acknowledge any bishop’s alethiometric powers, and I don’t think that any institution has jurisdiction over the truth, ever. And I also don’t think that there is a “plain, clear meaning” to the Bible. (One of the reasons I’m attracted to the Anglican Church of Canada is because it avoids Catholicism’s strange epistemological relationship with the Vatican AND evangelical Protestantism’s shoddy understanding textual analysis.) So I don’t suppose there’d be any more reason for the majority of Christians to be right on all matters of Christian ethics and life than for the majority of humans to be right on all matters of biology, physics, ethics, or history.

            But, you know, all I’m sure about is that I am in dissent with Christians as they are represented here. I would wager that there are at least a small community of Christians who would largely agree with me, at least w/r/t euthanasia. (Well, there are some patriarchal Christians who positively encourage polygyny, but I’m not really interested in aligning with them.)

            Why do you want to know?

  • Anonymous

    I know this comment is reactionary to the experience rather than a proactive suggestion that could be implemented, but I really wish there were more gradations for describing the intellectual respectability.

    • avalpert

      Agreed

  • Erick

    In the end, I had to go with Christian. I don’t believe either section was particularly Catholic, but I could see perhaps a standard stereotype of evangelicals from the Christian right saying both items. I was tempted to go Atheist, but in the end chose not to.

  • Mike

    “Society requires stable marriages: children are best raised by a loving, committed couple”…why 2 and not three? What is it about 2ness that seems to get people on side?

  • LeahLibresco

    Tom, this is a guest post by either a Christian or an atheist imitating one (to check how well both sides understand each other). The only thing I can guarantee (until the answer key goes up) is that it wasn’t written by me.

    • TomH

      sorry leah. I know you do those turing tests in which I have no interest. and I did not bother to read any of the comments.. I just saw this “great” post under unequally yoked and I assumed it was you who wrote it. I usually check your blog in the evenings when I get home, and except for your love of abstract ways to learn I think you are fantastic. your conversion to Catholicism coincided with the first laptop I bought back in dec12. and I followed your progress into the church with great interest. next time i’ll pay more attention. thanks for the heads up.

    • Brandon B

      Leah – you might make the words “2013 Ideological Turing Test” at the top of the post a link to one of your posts explaining what the Ideological Turing Test is.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

    The biggest thing that stuck out about this entry for me is that the author seems to be trying to use liberal premises to argue conservative points. Now there are some people who have such idiosyncratic views, but odds overwhelmingly favor author being a liberal author trying to come up with arguments that ze would find plausible. However, the goal is not to come up with the arguments that you would judge to be the best, but to convincingly mimic the other side.

    Also, style seems off. I wouldn’t say, “strung together cliches,” but maybe “strung together talking points” might be accurate.

  • Martha O’Keeffe

    I voted for this one as “likely atheist” based on much the same reasoning as the comments so far. It’ll be interesting to see if we’re correct or wildly off-track when the results come out.

  • Kate Cousino

    I’m inclined to say Athiest. The language just doesn’t sound quite natural.

  • Claire Rebecca

    Atheist

  • Anthony_A

    “Even if that might not be true in a non-patriarchal society, our current society is still very patriarchal.”

    That sounds like a Christian trying to sound like an atheist.

  • ariofrio

    The first sentence gave it away. Not a Christian, since other religions, cults, polygamy, and fundamentalism are not usually said to violate the dignity of the human person by most Christians or Catholics. If the writer was introducing a new connection, they would have explained how these things violate the dignity of the human person.


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