[Turing 2013] Christian Entry #8

This is the eighth 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

Marriage, at its core, is limited solely to the union of two persons. I don’t know very much about civil marriage, but I can attest that natural marriage is dictated according to natural law and oriented toward the building of the family. Because it cannot exist without the complementary natures of man and woman exhibited in a mother and a father, the definition of natural marriage cannot be altered. Its purpose is to maintain the family unit—mother, father, and children—which acts as the building block and microcosm of society. Sacramental marriage transcends natural marriage, and is a more complicated topic than natural marriage. Natural marriage can be easily acknowledged by many/most people (see below), while sacramental marriage is much more difficult to explain without a particular metaphysical basis.

The idea of the family unit as the building block of society has been around for millennia; Aristotle himself is the one who suggested it as the “microcosm of society” and Confucius (who I sometimes call “Chinese Aristotle”) came to the same conclusion. The nuclear family is vital for the subsistence of society as we know it. This fact, combined with the biological oxytocin bonding which is a consequence of having sex, has led to the world of monogamous relationships as we know it.

These truths—the statistics on the necessity of two (and no more than two!) parents for the well-being of children, the fact of oxytocin bonding, the long philosophical tradition of the family as the building block of society—should be easily acknowledged by everyone but with the modern tendency to base marriage on love rather than on values (the decision is based on a friendship of interest rather than a friendship of virtue), the facts are often left by the wayside.

 

Euthanasia

This question is a little tricky because of its phrasing. For the purpose of the answer, I assume the question pertains to medical euthanasia and not a matter of self-defense.

It is never obligatory or permissible to actively end a life. Life ends on its own. In the event of an ethical dilemma such as a coma patient in a vegetative state, all reasonable routes must be taken to restore her to a non-vegetative state. In any and all cases involving human life, compassion trumps utility.

Active euthanasia—purposely intervening in order to kill—is never acceptable. Passive euthanasia—allowing someone to die—is acceptable in extraordinary circumstances where the detriments of the treatment far outweigh the potential benefits. If, for instance, a patient is very clearly terminally ill and the potential treatments cause great suffering and do not make any progress on the “healing” front, the treatment may be discontinued so that the patient may die in peace. This cannot be done without the permission of the patient, however, whether at the time of discontinuation or beforehand in a declaration of intention. Under no circumstances, however, is regular treatment of a dying patient to be discontinued; they must still be fed, clothed, bathed, and loved because a dying person is still a person.

 

Bonus

Fairy-tale style myth. Hands-down. To quote G.K. Chesterton (twice): “Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” And, in the same breath, “The world will never starve for want of wonders, but for want of wonder.” To marvel at the beauty of the world around me and still be surprised by it every time—that is a specialty of my perspective on the world and I think it would be best presented in a faerie story. I’d like to open it with a line from Warehouse 13: “Welcome to a world of endless wonder.”

I suspect my story would look a bit like the Lord of the Rings, though with a darker twist—somewhat like J.R.R. Tolkien meets Neil Gaiman. I’d like to say it would read like Good Omens but sadly I’m just not as funny as Terry Pratchett. However, I do think God has a fantastic sense of humour, so maybe the story which tells my worldview is kind of like Good Omens meets the Lord of the Rings.
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 a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. 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."

  • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

    [...] This comment got edited out of existence by its author.

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

    I’m going “probably atheist,” mainly because I hope that the phrase “the biological oxytocin bonding which is a consequence of having sex [...] has led to the world of monogamous relationships as we know it” wasn’t uttered in earnest. Also, it’s really hard to imagine the phrase “the world of monogamous relationships as we know it” being said without at least a tinge of irony…

    • Brendan Hodge

      Yeah, that was a pretty jarring note, as was the reference to Confucius as the “Chinese Aristotle”. This read as a caricature to me.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I voted “Very Likely Christian” because among Rational Catholics, that explanation for the evolution of monogamy, has become extremely popular.

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

        True, it has—but I’m not fond of it (hence the “hope” on the “probably atheist”front). True lifelong monogamy doesn’t seem to be a common enough human behavior to need biological explanation. The oxytocin angle also evades the question of how polygamous marriages emerged as a norm in many cultures. Now, why we seem to view monogamy as an ideal, even when—as a species—we’re not super good at, is a separate and perhaps more illuminating question, one that suggests that moral behavior might involve more than just following biological imperatives.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Why we view monogamy as an ideal is pretty simple: cultures that did, allowed their leaders who were going to focus on war anyway, to actually focus on defense of the nation instead of warring with various spouses.

          To me it’s the reason why even though the crusades were a miserable failure and aside from the Ottoman Empire, it took until the 21st century for Islam to make serious inroads into Europe.

          • Jakeithus

            I’m not sure I follow your line of reasoning here. Are you saying that in societies that allow polygamous relationships, members are more likely to fight with their spouses than with outside threats?

            If so, I may have to disagree. Polygamous cultures would produce an excess of young, single males, which is the perfect scenario to recruit willing warriors; either to gain notoriety in order to improving mating chances, or else to raid and capture women from neighbouring societies.

            Finally, are you saying that, generally speaking, Islam’s occasional allowance of polygamy made it militarily inferior to monogamous Europe?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It’s just a theory, and I think you’ve pointed out the weakness in it.

            But yes, that was what I was saying- that monogamous cultures, because they have more to protect, tend to form defensive rather than offensive structures.

            Hmm, maybe it still stands- yes, that excess of young single males not quite strong enough to gain households of their own is indeed a powerful weapon. But it is a weapon that can only be used offensively- for attack, rather than defense- because those young men have nothing else to live for.

            It would certainly explain the Islamic incursions, repeatedly repelled, into Europe. Attack, young idiots get killed off, retreat. Repeat until the modern age where Europe has gone from monogamy to serial contracepted monogamy and serious demographic decline looms on the horizon, then you can replace attacking with immigration.

          • Jakeithus

            The offensive vs defensive societies is an interesting idea. I think there is more to it than simply marriage. Even monogamous European culture had plenty of of single young men to use as weapons, which much of the aggression being done by the younger sons of nobles who were unable to inherent land and title and became knights instead. I’m not familiar enough with Islamic inheritance rights to compare the 2 situations.

            It’s also tough to say Islam was consistently repelled from Europe in the middle ages. Islam was beaten by Charlemagne in 732, and by Vienna in 1529, but in the meantime, history is filled with small but steady Islamic victories against European Christendom. It took political and technological advances to really turn the tide.

            Not saying you’re wrong, just that there’s a lot to it. Interesting discussion however.

          • Martha O’Keeffe

            I would have thought the danger was not that the king, emperor, khan or caliph was fighting with his spouses but rather that harem intrigues where the women vied to have their son recognised as the heir (and the victor generally celebrated by executing or otherwise doing away with rival half-brothers who would or could challenge for the throne) made it more likely that civil wars would break out and that the society would be destabilised as a result.

            But goodness knows, there was plenty of that kind of intriguing in European monogamous royal houses as well, so I don’t see that as an explanation – and the Ottoman push into Europe got as far as the gates of Vienna, never mind the conquest of pretty much the whole of Spain, so they didn’t do too badly while they were at it.

  • Martha O’Keeffe

    I’m going for Christian here (and not a good front by an atheist) precisely for the same reason Broken Whole dismisses it: the use of SCIENCE!!!! to prop up the argument.

    Sounds Christian to me, reasoning hangs together fairly well, nothing strange, new or startling.

    I approve the bonus answer, though I think Tolkien could be dark enough himself (the Silmarillion, the Narn i Chîn Húrin) :-)

  • Jakeithus

    This is another tough one, with no immediate answer coming to mind.

    The only line that really sticks out and causes me pause is “I don’t know very much about civil marriage”. Civil marriage seems to me to be a fairly straightforward idea that most people should be able to touch on, even if briefly. The motivation behind why it was not included, either legitimate unfamiliarity, or just a lack of desire to include it in the argument, puzzles me.

    I’m going to say that the author is legitimate, and just hasn’t spent much time thinking about civil marriage to feel it needed to be discussed in the entry. I can’t think why someone who is familiar with the subject would intentionally leave it out. I believe an atheist is more likely to be familiar with civil marriage, therefor I’m going to say likely Christian.

    • Dan

      Maybe the author meant that he isn’t familiar with the legal benefits and responsibilities created by civil marriage? Or perhaps the public policy arguments for civil marriage?

      On an unrelated note, “Chinese Aristotle” was a very weird thing to write. I have no idea why that was necessary.

  • Brutus

    I’m guessing double-bluff: Likely Christian, but someone familiar with the SMBC story, so they added the LotR and Pratchett.

    I don’t think that a participant would fall knowingly call falsehoods facts; calling out “the statistics on the necessity of two (and no more than two!) parents for the well-being of children” when no such statistics exist is negligent if one believes such statistics exist, but malicious if one knows that is the case. I think it very unlikely that anyone would be intentionally malicious, but believe negligence is common.

  • KL

    It’s possible this is a Christian, but I voted Likely Atheist purely because it reads verbatim like so many talking points I’ve seen thrown around on the Catholic blogosphere. The oxytocin reference, in particular, set off alarm bells because it’s just thrown out there with any attempt to explain or expand upon it. The entry is a great imitation, but it reads to me like a reasonably skilled impression; impressions, after all, depend upon invoking tropes, phrases, and gestures that the audience will immediately recognize, but not innovation (as that would likely confuse). I don’t see any original thought or analysis in here. Now, that may of course just indicate an intellectually shallow but honest Christian, but I’d like to hope that this is simply a good Atheist mimic.

  • Brandon B

    Err…when I clicked on the vote link, it said “Christian Answer #7″. Wrong link? Wrong text on the right link?

    • LeahLibresco

      Yup. Did it too late at night

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

    The “everyone would recognize I’m right, except for this awful modern tendency” struck me as something no atheist would say, unless they were consciously violating Leah’s “no exploiting Poe’s law” request, so I voted “very likely Christian.” Though seeing KL’s comment, I wonder if (s)he is right about talking points copied off Catholic websites.

  • Mariana Baca

    Christian. I don’t think it is atheist because it mentions secular/non-christian arguments, which I don’t think an atheist trying to be convincing as a christian would be as comfortable doing, but I could be wrong. In any case, shows familiarity with common christian arguments without being uselessly technical.


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