[Turing 2013] Atheist Entry #10

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

 

Polyamory

The actual question on civil marriage is if it should exist at all.

Regardless of the answers we come up with, the need to debate which romantic and sexual arrangements should get the government stamp of approval is already a bad sign. Practically speaking, spousal benefits would be way less relevant if we had a better social safety net. Most other effects of marriage could be done through private contracts. Then different social groups would still have different opinions on what counts as a “real” marriage, but at least the conflicts would be defused by disentangling them from power questions.

Of course realistically there won’t be political majorities for this in the foreseeable future. Even if there were, long transitional periods would be necessary. Suddenly abolishing the benefits of marriage without larger social change would clearly hurt the people who have built their life around the existing institution. (For comparison, introducing gay marriage doesn’t affect straight marriages at all.)
So talking of second-best short term realistic institutions, I think limiting people to one civil marriage is a reasonable utilitarian trade-off. This question is somewhat different from gay marriage on both sides of that trade-off: Disallowing gay marriage is a judgment about all romantic or sexual relationships a given person could potentially have, which is in effect a judgment on the person. Legally recognizing only some of a person’s relationships also can bad for the people involved, but still is different from condemning the partners themselves. On the other side, polygamy would depend on some rule-changes for marriage and the rest of society has a legitimate interest in those rules. For example, an employer’s wish not to pay spousal benefits more than once is much more respectable than a wish not to pay them to someone who has sex with the wrong kind of people. Also, leaving medical decisions to a group of people who can disagree sounds like a really bad idea. One could try to alleviate those problems by having primary and secondary marriages. But given that people already can have partners outside of civil marriage, that wouldn’t be really different from not recognizing secondary marriages at all. The distinction wouldn’t be a complete solution anyway, because some polyamourous relationships simply don’t map to that model.

So all in all civil monogamy isn’t perfect, but good enough.

Let me be perfectly clear however, that there is nothing morally wrong with consensual polyamory. In fact seeming like a moral judgment is one of the major downsides of civil monogamy.

As for sacramental marriage, that should be for religious people to figure out in their respective churches. The laws prohibiting religious polygamy are historical relics and should be repealed. This is actually about the last part of the definition of marriage religious communities aren’t free to sort out for themselves. They already can allow or disallow remarriage after divorce, allow or disallow gay (or even interracial) marriage, polyamorously marry dead people, or pretend their divorced marriages never really happened. I don’t see why polyamory among the living would be any different.

 

Euthanasia

There are very hard moral questions, but this isn’t one of them.

Euthanasia is morally legitimate if the patient actually wants it for good reasons (or did want it before losing agency), and those good reasons definitely won’t go away. So a depressive phase doesn’t qualify, but, to take the stereotypical example, not wanting to spend the remaining time to death in terrible pain does.

One way to figure this out is looking at who benefits from the prohibition of Euthanasia. It’s clearly not the patients, because all they get out of it is more unwelcome suffering. Society in general doesn’t benefit from their suffering either. So it looks like people like such a rule itself rather than its results. The general taboo against killing actually is central to civilization, so we are naturally squeamish about relativizing it. Simple bright-line rules generally seem more comfortable than fuzzy complex ones.
The question then is if a vague good feeling about never making any exceptions justifies the very tangible suffering it inflicts on other people. Asking that question already answers it.
Euthanasia is never obligatory.

It isn’t obligatory to patients, because letting them retain their agency is the whole point. Some people argue heirs or health-care providers would exercise social pressure to accept Euthanasia, but that just-so story is hard to reconcile with the fact that those are the exact groups now exercising lots of pressure to accept futile care.

I see no need to make it obligatory for health care providers either. There’s much more room for conscience protections here than with abortion or contraception, because Euthanasia isn’t time-critical. Where Euthanasia is legal, figuring out if it is appropriate in a specific case takes extensive patient-doctor consultations anyway. Making someone engage in such consultations with a doctor who opposes Euthanasia in general would only add to the needless suffering.

 

Bonus

I guess the spirit of the question is talking about fiction, so “scientific paper” probably doesn’t count.

That makes the question fairly hard, because a large part of my worldview is actually knowing what we don’t know.
Complex multi-step arguments tend to have mistakes. Even if we are, say, 90% sure of every step of an argument, 7 steps in the argument is more likely wrong than right. And sure enough, experience confirms complex a-priori theories rarely survive contact with actual data. So it’s actually rational to stay close to tight feedback loops and admit we don’t know much about questions we don’t have reliable reality-checks on.

One candidate for a genre expressing that would be parody. The downside is that a parody can only ever refute a particular theory, which probably comes across as expressing another one.

Science-fiction might be another candidate. Of course no specific science-fiction scenario should be taken seriously, but collectively the genre can express the size of the of the possibility space.

But ultimately, I think preaching through fiction is a bad idea.

This doesn’t mean fiction shouldn’t be deep though. For example, the explicit form of the worldview information transported through Shakespeare’s Othello is rather trivial. Jealousy, paranoia bad, gruesome deception evil. But that kind of system 2 analysis misses the point. The play communicates that message to system 1, which struggles much harder with understanding this.

 

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."

  • Randy Gritter

    So a depressive phase doesn’t qualify, but, to take the stereotypical
    example, not wanting to spend the remaining time to death in terrible
    pain does.

    So what is the rule here? Throw out the sanctity of human life. Replace it with something vague. What could go wrong?

    Seems quite naive about the “obligatory” parts. Health care is a system. Systems push people to conform. Huge money is involved. Patients with little strength, little knowledge and little money are going to be easy to manipulate.

    • stanz2reason

      While I share concerns that there could then exist pressures (if not incentives) on the old and sick to end their lives, are there really many (if any) aspects of your health care that you are obligated to address? With the exception of being involuntarily admitted for mental health issues (which is legally exceedingly difficult in most cases) I can’t think of any where the law demands you get care.

      Allowing someone to remain in pain and ignoring their choice to end their lives in a manner they see fit is far more disrespectful to the sanctity of life than having euthanasia as an option.

      • Dan

        In the U.S. you have a constitutional right to refuse medical treatment (one of the “substantive due process” rights from the 5th/14th amendments). The rationale is that unwanted medical treatment is the tort of battery. There is an exception for mentally ill people and consent to medical treatment is presumed if you are unconsciousness (although living wills, DNRs, etc. can override this presumption).

        This was another one that I had trouble pinning down. I guessed Christian but with no real conviction.

      • Randy Gritter

        It is not a question of what is legally demanded but what is culturally expected. Whenever a old person becomes a bit of a burden on anyone the first option will be kill, kill, kill. This is very tempting. The last days of life can drag on and become very draining on friends and family. We tend to think when we are in stress that anything is justified. But principles we are not willing to make sacrifices for are not worth much. So do we believe in the sanctity of life or the path of least resistance?

        We hide behind consent a lot in our culture. Consent is not that meaningful when it comes to sex yet we make it the center of our sexual morality. Consent is not that meaningful when it comes to death either. Yet we hide behind it again. The truth is we want what we want. We manufacture consent or at least the facade of consent. We got them to say Yes or at least to not say No loudly enough to matter. What more do you want? Actually caring about the good of another person? That is a bit much.

        • Brutus

          >Consent is not that meaningful when it comes to sex…

          Wait, what?! Are you saying that there are immoral actions which are consensual sex, or are you saying that there exists nonconsensual sex which is not immoral?

          • Randy Gritter

            I am saying that the line between consensual and non-consensual is very fuzzy and not all useful for determining whether something is moral or not. We have discussed this before on this blog and on my blog.

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2013/01/two-terrible-ways-to-have-sex.html

            http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/2013/05/consent.html

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Thank you, those two discussions were far better than my attempts have ever been on the same topic.

          • Brutus

            Your confusion over whether or not an act is consensual does not make it more difficult to determine if it was immoral; the spectrum of morality is also fuzzy in those same places.

          • Randy Gritter

            Not really. When consent is even a little fuzzy the morality becomes clearly wrong. Very few would want to have sex when they are unsure about consent. Even when they are unsure about whether or not consent was freely give and well informed. I would say most want consent to be rock solid.

            The thing is that most consent is not free or well informed. People don’t know enough about the true nature of sex and how deeply it effects your heart and your soul. Most of the information they are given is false. They are told it is safe. They are told it is the adult thing to do. The lies go on and on.

            So when you get gap between what the truth is and what people believe you come to the conclusion basically all consent is fuzzy.

          • Brutus

            I agree that neither clarity of consent nor morality are sharply defined areas. I disagree that the world is such that basically all sex is clearly morally wrong.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I’d say both, especially since the word “consent” is essentially meaningless outside of contract law, and a verbal contract is virtually unenforceable.

          • Brutus

            Yeah, you just moved the discussion into a very dark place that is as best tangential to any discussion prior. If you were physically present, I’d verify what you said one more time before punching you in the face and then killing you.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Thus, of course, abridging my CONSENT. See the problem?

          • Brutus

            You claimed that your consent to being punched in the face is not meaningful, and you took the position that you would not consider the consent of others when interacting with them.

            That is a very specific threat to me, on a very direct, personal, and physical level. Warfare theory considers that threat to constitue consent to violence.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And thus you prove that you don’t believe in consent either, because you take that as a direct threat.

          • Brutus

            You said that you consider some rapes to be moral acts, because a verbal contract is unenforceable. (essentially verbatim).

            You cannot have that belief expressed in your actions without either abetting a specific act of violence against me, as well as a large number of acts of violence against other people. You cannot even have that belief in a meaningful manner without actively committing violence against others in general, which is also sufficient to be a threat to me personally. I have no way of telling which ‘contract’ you will conclude makes it acceptable to rape any given person.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Actually, I consider NO extramarital sex to be moral, because it *lacks a written contract*. But feel free to get everything backwards. No rape is a moral act. And rape does occur even in marriage, but it’s harder to prove because of the written contract of consent.

          • Brutus

            So, every interaction requires a written contract consenting to that interaction? Or only interactions which fall into a nebulously defined ‘sex acts’ category? (I once had a conversation with a partner in which we did not have prior concurrence on what we meant by ‘sex act’, and both of our wildly different usages were well-supported.)

            Because in that case BDSM and pornography (which often have written contracts detailing what is being consented to along with the specific exit conditions much more clearly than either a typical civil or even sacramental marriage contract) should be more moral than marital sex in your eyes. However, I believe you don’t recognize those contracts as existing at all,because you have said so.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Every interaction, in which consent is to be used as an argument in a court of law, requires that consent to be written. That goes for economic, sexual, and even fraternal relations.

            BDSM and pornography are slavery, no different than any other form of prostitution. Certain forms of contracts are no longer allowed in American Law, and shouldn’t be.

          • Brutus

            Why do you reference law in a discussion about morality?

        • stanz2reason

          Whenever a old person becomes a bit of a burden on anyone the first option will be kill, kill, kill.

          That seems an unreasonably gross exaggeration of an admittedly hypothetical situation.

          So do we believe in the sanctity of life or the path of least resistance?

          I’m curious how much time you’ve spent watching people wither away in pain, and whether or not you’d then call that the ‘path of least resistence’.

          Consent is not that meaningful when it comes to sex yet we make it the center of our sexual morality.

          To clarify, are we suggesting that sexual consent is not meaningful?

          • Randy Gritter

            That seems an unreasonably gross exaggeration of an admittedly hypothetical situation.

            It is a bit of an exaggeration. I don’t assume people are always noble. Money is involved. Convenience is involved. What prevents them from being the driving force. If they are what makes this killing different from any other murder?

            I’m curious how much time you’ve spent watching people wither away in pain, and whether or not you’d then call that the ‘path of least resistance’.

            You misunderstand me. I think the path of pain is often the moral one. In fact, if a moral principle never calls us to go against the pain and pleasure principle then it is not much use.

            To clarify, are we suggesting that sexual consent is not meaningful?

            Meaningful in terms of making something moral. Not really. Certainly an obvious, vocal lack of consent would be bad as it is with killing someone. The absence of that is really not that important. Sex and death are things we don’t fully understand. Just asking for a Yes or No cheapens the person being asked. The question implies a lack of love.

          • stanz2reason

            I don’t assume people are always noble.

            Neither do I. That’s why we have laws and incentives not to break them.

            Money is involved. Convenience is involved. What prevents them from being the driving force.

            I’d say suffering a terminal illness in perpetual pain is quite inconvenient. Still, there’s a money incentive in putting marginally crazy people in mental hospitals yet that really doesn’t happen with the regularity of being labeled some sort of systemic problem. I feel you’re shortchanging the human race not to be able to create an ethically satisfactory environment that balances the wishes of a patient without un-due pressure.

            I think the path of pain is often the moral one.

            That’s all fine and dandy for you. It’s not your call for anyone else.

            Meaningful in terms of making something moral. Not really. Certainly an obvious, vocal lack of consent would be bad as it is with killing someone. The absence of that is really not that important.

            Ok, I just wanted to clarify that this was as utterly ridiculous as I was originally reading. Thanks for clarifying. Rape is generally frowned upon, whether it’s forceable against someones vocal/physical consent or whether the person is deemed old enough to grant consent (ie. a 12 year old), or to inebriated or otherwise mentally unfit to give consent. If there’s no agreement on that & you genuinely feel it’s ‘not that important’, then we’re operating in two different realities.

            Sex and death are things we don’t fully understand.

            We don’t fully understand cancer either yet that doesn’t stop us from taking good faith actions to fight or at least alleviate the effects of the disease. We understand sex enough to feel rape, generally speaking, is a bad thing. We understand death enough to entertain the notion that expediting it might be a ethically superior position for people whose suffering is unbearable, in addition to the fact that it respects someones right to do with their lives as they see fit. Saying ‘we don’t understand’ in this instance is the equivalent to ‘god is mysterious’. It’s a last ditch effort to hold on to a viewpoint when common sense is telling you you’re incorrect.

            Just asking for a Yes or No cheapens the person being asked. The question implies a lack of love.

            Which question is that?

          • Randy Gritter

            I feel you’re shortchanging the human race not to be able to create an ethically satisfactory environment that balances the wishes of a patient without un-due pressure.

            I believe in sin. I believe we can rationalize a lot especially when we are in pain. That is why we have laws against murder in the first place. If the world was as you describe we would not need them.

            That’s all fine and dandy for you. It’s not your call for anyone else.

            Actually murder is about society saying it is wrong to kill another human being.

            Rape is generally frowned upon, whether it’s forceable against someones vocal/physical consent or whether the person is deemed old enough to grant consent (ie. a 12 year old), or to inebriated or otherwise mentally unfit to give consent.

            Actually you have it backwards. Consent means 12 year olds. Consent means inebriated. Consent means mentally ill. What world do you live in? You are mentioning exceptions to the consent rule which are almost never enforced. Even forcible rape is narrowly defined and enforced. I would say the exceptions need to be broadened not narrowed so you are misunderstanding me. I would even move in the direction of a more public long-term consent that is more like marriage.

            Saying ‘we don’t understand’ in this instance is the equivalent to ‘god is mysterious’. It’s a last ditch effort to hold on to a viewpoint when common sense is telling you you’re incorrect.

            Actually this seems pretty common sense to me. Decisions about sex are often regretted. They are made quickly under much pressure and often under the influence of drugs. People grossly underestimate the emotions involved, how it effects their self esteem, how long the impacts last. We generally make huge errors and pay dearly for them.

            You want decisions about life and death to be made the same way. Just get one signature and you are morally in the clear. That does not seem like common sense at all.

            Which question is that?

            I meant both questions: Do you want to have sex? and Do you want to die? Both are essentially selfish questions.

          • stanz2reason

            That is why we have laws against murder in the first place. If the world was as you describe we would not need them.

            I specifically noted in my previous post that I acknowledge that people don’t always act with good intentions, and that we have laws in place to safeguard against that. I then noted that the un-noble actions of people can be anticipated to a point and accounted for via thoughtful people drafting laws to create a more ideally ethical environment. I’m not entirely sure how that leads to my description of the world doesn’t require laws. In fact, my argument is essentially specifically that we have a need for laws.

            Actually murder is about society saying it is wrong to kill another human being.

            The consensual ending of life of euthanasia is not the same as the non-consensual ending of life of murder. Both might be be categorized as killing, but beyond that they are entirely different events. That our laws fail to properly differentiate between the two is a fault of our laws being antiquated and out of date.

            Actually you have it backwards. Consent means 12 year olds. Consent means inebriated. Consent means mentally ill.

            I’m unsure what’s unclear here. Is rape not frowned upon? With regards to consent, young children are not deemed old enough to give consent with regards to having sex, nor are the inebriated, nor are the unwilling. Are you suggesting that a 30 year old who has sex with a 12 year old wouldn’t be prosecuted? or the rapist of a college co-ed getting sexually assaulted while half unconscious on a couch? I’m unsure what qualified these as exceptions or what they might be exceptions of, as they’re pretty textbook run of the mill examples of proper consent. Fortunately in this world, these events are prosecuted and the respective rapists go to jail.

            I would even move in the direction of a more public long-term consent that is more like marriage.

            Marriage (or ‘public long-term consent’, whatever that means) does not equal sexual consent. Wives (& husbands) can still be raped by their spouses. What qualifies rape as rape is the consent aspect at the time of the encounter. What you’re proposing, or at least how I’m reading it, wouldn’t solve anything.

            Decisions about sex are often regretted. They are made quickly under much pressure and often under the influence of drugs. People grossly underestimate the emotions involved, how it effects their self esteem, how long the impacts last. We generally make huge errors and pay dearly for them.

            I’m not sure how this ties back into a euthanasia discussion, or what exactly this is in response to.

            I meant both questions: Do you want to have sex?…

            Well, I mean maybe if you wore a nice skirt and bought me dinner first…

            I meant both questions: Do you want to have sex? and Do you want to die? Both are essentially selfish questions.

            Seriously though, I’m still not sure what you’re talking about. You said “Sex and death are things we don’t fully understand. Just asking for a Yes or No cheapens the person being asked.” to which I replied “Which question is that?” to which you replied “I meant both questions: Do you want to have sex? and Do you want to die? Both are essentially selfish questions.”

            Both of these questions require context to really have any meaning, nor do I see how either are inherently selfish questions. Do you want to have sex? when asked to a stranger is a different question when asked to your spouse on a random tuesday night. Similarly, Do you want to die? asked to someone in pain as death is imminent is a different question when asked to someone at gunpoint. So I’m really not sure what you’re driving at here.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Most of the time, stuff I’d consider rape is actively encouraged by liberals.

          • stanz2reason

            That’s because you’re an idiot.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You’re the one who is the idiot if you’ve bought into the consent lie.

          • stanz2reason

            Which lie is that?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The one where verbal consent is enough to discern between rape and sex.

            If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen, by the strictest rules of evidence. Where is your evidence that she said yes, other than your memory?

          • stanz2reason

            In the case where both parties are 1) of age, 2) of sound mind, 3) both have consented and admit as much then it’s fairly easy to discern between rape and sex.

            It becomes rape if either 1, 2, or 3 aren’t held. #1 is fairly easy to determine. #2 & 3 might become he said / she said, so we’d rely on additional evidence, physical evidence, additional eye witness testimony, blood and fluid samples, and perhaps even the accused persons past for an indication of previous behavior, etc. Such basic standards of determining things are used to help resolve other issues like ‘he robbed me / no I didn’t’ or ‘he punched me / no I didn’t’ etc.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            #1- in this age of precocious puberty, no, it isn’t terribly easy to tell the difference between a well-developed, post-pubescent 10 year old and an 18 year old.

            #2- I’m not a mind reader, and near as I can tell, most people don’t even come close to the standard “of sound mind” in the DSM, let alone by the standards of previous generations where having extramarital sex at all was proof of “not of sound mind”.

            #3- one could be lying, so there’s no proof there at all. “Additional eye witness”- so you’d agree with the Prophet Mohammed that there have to be four people who *saw* the penetration for it to be rape?

            So far, you’ve just dug yourself into a hole with NO actual evidence at all.

          • stanz2reason

            #1 Sometimes it is not. A general rule of thumb, if you have to ask, you probably shouldn’t bang her. In a court of law, a simple birth certificate will do in determining whether it was rape

            #2 No one is asking a jury to be mind readers, only to consider the evidence. If substantial evidence can be provided that the person in question was not able to consent, then a jury might be persuaded to call that rape. There are legal definitions of intoxication that are relevant here too.

            #3 One could be lying… so again you rely on the additional evidence… like you would in ANY OTHER SITUATION in attempting to determine such things. I haven’t suggested that it is necessary to have a (or 4) witness, only that if you have one and he says ‘yeah, it was messed up, he held her by the throat and had sex with her while she screamed and cried’, then a jury will probably find such evidence compelling. And again, if you took a moment to read the rest of what I wrote I offered additional non-witness evidence that could compel a jury, who are really the ones determining whether the incident in question was or wasn’t a rape. But no, you’d prefer to bring up some Muslim non-sense then pretend that was what I was inferring. Maybe for shits and giggles or maybe cause you’re crazy enough to think that. Who cares.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Once again, you’re looking at the opposite side I am.

            When can you be 100% certain that the person you are having sex with actually consented to the sex, was over the age of consent, and is not intoxicated?

            I suggest it is when you have a *written contract* stipulating to that fact, also known as a marriage license. And that in NO other situation do you have a clear cut case.

          • Brutus

            Can you provide either an exhaustive list of categories of behavior that you believe are ‘rape’, which are mostly encouraged by ‘liberals’, or a large number of examples?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It’s easier to provide the positive than the negative, in this situation.

            Procreative marital hetrosexual intercourse is always not rape.

            Everything else is suspect.

          • Donalbain

            Procreative marital hetrosexual intercourse is always not rape.

            So, hold your wife down, while she struggles against you, but as long as you fuck her in the vagina without a condom it is not rape. Thank you for that clarification of your views. PLEASE never stop talking. Never stop standing up against everything I stand for and believe in.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You know nothing of my views, and are not smart enough to understand my views.

          • Donalbain

            You know nothing of my views, and are not smart enough to understand my views.

            You said that “procreative marital heterosexual intercourse is always not rape” (emphasis added). Thus, the scenario I described is according to YOUR stated, written, expressed views NOT rape. I think it is important that such things are pointed out. I think that your vile opinions are worth pointing out.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            That isn’t a marriage by my standards- because it is a contract based on slavery.

            Try to keep up, or simply admit that I’m operating at a much higher level of morality than your superficial neurotypical sort will ever attain.

          • Donalbain

            Oh. Fair enough. You have just reached the point where you have redefined ALL the relevant words in the conversation, so it is over. I would suggest that you are far higher than I am, but probably not in the way you are thinking.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Oh, I don’t need drugs to get here- only an IQ better than room temperature.

          • Randy Gritter

            I then noted that the un-noble actions of people can be anticipated to a point and accounted for via thoughtful people drafting laws to create a more ideally ethical environment.

            This is key. I don’t believe euthanasia laws will or even can do any such thing. You are moving from “killing is wrong” to “killing is wrong if you do it for the wrong reasons.” That creates massive legal loophole to murder. It is like rape but when you can only ask the rapist if the sex was consented to. In this case the victim is dead.

            The consensual ending of life of euthanasia is not the same as the non-consensual ending of life of murder.

            The difference is not that much. If you want to get consent there are ways to do it.

            Are you suggesting that a 30 year old who has sex with a 12 year old wouldn’t be prosecuted? or the rapist of a college co-ed getting sexually assaulted while half unconscious on a couch?

            Actually I doubt very much these cases get prosecuted. You say a 30 year old. Can a 12 year old give consent to have sex with a 15 year old? The truth is the age of consent laws are very unevenly enforced and mostly not enforced unless the parents raise a complaint.

            The college co-ed? People have sex while drunk all the time. If they are completely unconscious and there are witnesses to this there might be a case. Otherwise I doubt it. Even when a guy uses a rape drug the chance of prosecution is low.

            It just shows consent is a fuzzy thing. For criminal law all you need is reasonable doubt. It does not work. It creates a rape culture. Just like your euthanasia idea will create a culture of death.

          • stanz2reason

            I don’t believe euthanasia laws will or even can do any such thing.

            Consider laws regarding government treatment of people accused of a crime or the criteria required to involuntarily hold someone with mental issues. I think people are capable of drafting ethical laws. In addition consider that the only option available to people who wish to end their lives is to step in front of a bus (or something similar). Agree to disagree I suppose.

            You are moving from “killing is wrong” to “killing is wrong if you do it for the wrong reasons.” That creates massive legal loophole to murder.

            But of course it does not. Consider when one walks out of a store with a television. Would you consider the simple matter of whether or not they paid for the television (the difference b/t a theft & a purchase) a ‘massive legal loophole’? The overwhelming majority of the time it is clear which is which. Why should, in principle, euthanasia be any different? I’m certain that simple laws can be implemented that create a system that can differentiate between the two (euthanasia & murder).

            It is like rape but when you can only ask the rapist if the sex was consented to. In this case the victim is dead.

            Do we not have the ability to give verbal consent in front of witnesses? or written consent? or recorded audio consent? or recorded video consent? or posting to facebook photos with a thumbs up and an IV in your arm? Don’t skydivers sign ‘hold harmless’ waivers prior to jumping that are legally applicable even if they die? Is it really so difficult to conceive a similar system or reasonable reliability?

            The difference is not that much. If you want to get consent there are ways to do it.

            Getting consent is the difference between getting laid and rape, such as getting consent is the difference between murder and euthanasia. It’s a small matter that makes a hell of a difference to your bottom line. I’m not sure why there seems to be confusion on this matter.

          • Randy Gritter

            Do we not have the ability to give verbal consent in front of witnesses? or written consent? or recorded audio consent?

            This is all pretty meaningless. If you are being pressured you will do what the law requires. Lots of people will be pushed by doctors or by family. They are old. They can be manipulated. People will get good at it.

            Getting consent is the difference between getting laid and rape, such as getting consent is the difference between murder and euthanasia. It’s a small matter that makes a hell of a difference to your bottom line. I’m not sure why there seems to be confusion on this matter.

            The point is the difference between getting laid and rape is not that much. It is essentially using someone. You buy her some drinks. You tell her some lies. You get her to say Yes. That makes it OK? I don’t see it.

          • stanz2reason

            I’m not implying that being a jerk is OK. However, being a jerk is not rape. It’s the difference between having your toes hang off the cliff and actually being off the cliff.

          • Randy Gritter

            From a legal point of view that is true. You may one day fall but if you stay on the cliff you can’t be convicted today. But is it true from a moral point of view?

          • alexander stanislaw

            I’m having a bit of trouble following your argument that rape and getting laid are morally equivalent. Let me try to reproduce it:

            P1: Rape involves using someone for sex.
            P2: Using someone for a selfish means is bad.
            P3: Getting laid involves using someone for sex.
            P4: Rape and getting laid are bad.

            Is that about accurate? Also, the term “using” is a bit imprecise so let me try to flesh that out:

            P5: Someone X is being used for a means Y by another person Z if three conditions are met:
            1) Z benefits in some way from Y.
            2) Z does is indifferent to the welfare of X.
            3) Z causes X to more likely to make a decision that will result in Y.

            Does that sound about right?

          • Randy Gritter

            I don’t think they are the same. I think from the man’s point of view the difference is one of degree not kind. From the woman’s point of view the difference can be much larger. My thinking is there is a continuum. That the difference between aggressively manipulating consent and rape is not such a huge jump.

            Then there is the case where a man really wants his partner to enjoy the sex. Is that really different? Yes and no. Is he really respecting the nature of sex and all its implications? Often he is not contemplating what will happen when they break up. Almost never is he contemplating what will happen if there is a child. So he cares about the short term predictable feelings she might have but no so much the long term or permanent consequences of sex. So again, the degree has changed but not the basic dynamic.

            It gets even more complicated yet when you consider the woman’s point of view. John Paul II uses the example of prostitution. He says if a man pays a woman $100 for sex we can see he has not respected her dignity as a human person. If a woman pays a man we can see the same thing. What happens if both pay? Well, both are still using each other and not respecting each others dignity. Modern sex is like that. We use each other. No money changes hands but the dynamic of prostitution is very much there.

          • Randy Gritter

            In terms of your categories I would say P5.2 is the important one. It does not imply total indifference. It implies a level of caring that is inappropriately low given the nature of the act. I am the center. My needs. My pleasure. That might involve some level of positive feedback from your partner. You might care about that in still a very selfish way. But given the level of intimacy involved and the likely coming in breaking off the relationship and the possibility of children coming from this act is that level of caring even that relevant? Is it just so far from being adequate that it is not worth talking about?

          • alexander stanislaw

            Okay, I’ve edited my original formulation and added the following two premises:

            P6: A level of caring should be in some sense proportional to the nature of the act invovled.
            P7: If an act A is capable of producing an outcome B (eg. children or a relationship), then in order for Z’s level of caring to be proportional to A then Z should care about the full consequences of B.

            Is there anything you would like to alter?

            EDIT: P7 edited from Z should care about B.

          • Randy Gritter

            I am not sure where this is going but that looks good. Z should care about B still seems vague. Just saying “I am OK with children” is different from being truly willing to spend the next 20+ years raising a child together. Still this a comment box discussion and not a moral philosophy paper.

          • alexander stanislaw

            So a specific instance of P7 would be:

            Sex is capable of producing of producing children, therefore in order to a person’s level of caring to be proportional to the nature of the act of sex, that person would have to be okay with the 20+ years of commitment that raising a child entails.

          • Donalbain

            You tell her some lies. You get her to say Yes. That makes it OK? I don’t see it.

            Of course you don’t get it. You are a misogynist who doesn’t even believe that women have the agency to decide if they consent to sex.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Consent is worthless without a written contract.

          • Brutus

            Wait- are you moving the point that euthanasia is immoral, or that it should be prohibited by law? Because all of your points discussing why it would be hard to enforce such a law simply do not apply to morality.

          • Brutus

            >Sex and death are things we don’t fully understand.

            Do you know what you don’t understand about those? I never would have thought that a major point could be resolved by reference to standard medical literature.

          • Randy Gritter

            That is precisely what you don’t understand. That what is found in medical literature is not all there is to know about sex and death.

          • Brutus

            Why do you believe that there is more?

          • Randy Gritter

            I am married

          • Brutus

            Noted. Have you any insights not covered in medical literature?

    • Brutus

      Whence comes the sanctity of human life? What desanctified the lives of the firstborn sons of Egypt?

      • Randy Gritter

        The lives of the firstborn sons of Egypt were sacred. That is why the punishment was great. God does have the right to end life. We don’t. But God makes clear the firstborn sons of the Israelites were no better. God saved them by the blood of the lamb. Lambs were seen as a form of god by the Egyptians so really it was seen as killing a god. God dies, his flesh is eaten, his blood protects us from death. The death was real that night.

        • Brutus

          Is that a restatement of “Do as I say, not as I do.”?

          • Randy Gritter

            It is saying that we are not God. We cannot do what God does in matters of life and death.

          • Brutus

            Why try to avoid doing what cannot be done? I think the confusion comes from the fact that we CAN effect matters of life and death.

          • Randy Gritter

            We have always been able to commit murder. We have always been able to rationalize it. But with great power comes great responsibility. I actually don’t think there is that much confusion. People see clearly what is right and wrong when they want to see it clearly and do what is right. If we are not willing to do the right thing then moral questions suddenly become unclear.

          • Brutus

            Yes, there IS great responsibility involved. Power and responsibility are essentially the same thing, in that one cannot have either without both.

            I’m saying that we have the power to reduce the amount of torture some people experience before they die, which makes us responsible for it. If God also has the power to reduce that torture, He also has responsibility for it. Our responsibility does not lessen His, nor His ours.

            I look at the effects of agents’ acts and judge the agents on them. I think that creating the outcome of increased torture is

          • oregon catholic

            “If God also has the power to reduce that torture, He also has responsibility for it.”

            One of the recurring themes within the new atheism is the almost unbelievable and illogical inability to understand God as anything or anyone better or wiser than yourself. If you can’t understand something, then by golly it can’t possibly be wisdom or truth. This is why we say that some atheists worship themselves as their own god.

            Don’t believe in God if you don’t want to but for pete’s sake have some rationality about your reasons if you want to have a serious discussion with Catholics. The ‘God can’t exist because his approach makes no sense to me’ or even worse the ‘If he exists he’s a big meanie’ arguments don’t cut it and are just tiresome.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Yes, it is, when it comes from your betters.

          • Brutus

            That’s a circular position: God is better because he says so, and it is wrong to question your betters.

            I say I am equal to God, and therefore He must answer to me regarding why He is superior to me; in particular, why He demanded that humans not become both smart and immortal, when those characteristics were trivial to provide. If His plan is to torture LITERALLY EVERYONE to death for the greater good or out of Love, I reject the greater good or that form of Love as immoral.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            More that he’s proved it, to those who actually examine the evidence.

            The core of atheism is refusing to accept authority. It’s more akin to anarchy in that aspect.

          • Brutus

            I think the evidence amply supports a God that resembles Stalin or Hitler more than anyone else.

            Suppression of opposing positions with force, genocide, mass murder and torture (both over and above the limits imposed by denying immortality), suppression of knowledge in the general sense, ordering human sacrifices, and offering rules without also explaining the rationale behind those rules.

            But go ahead and tell me what observations you make that are more likely if God is better than I *can* understand than if He is should follow the same general rules that I should.

            (Is your summary of the core of atheism and anarchy synonymous with ‘demanding full personal responsibility’? I am neither, but I understand those positions better than many who claim those titles.)

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You are finite. God isn’t. Simple mathematics tells us that an infinite being *should* be following different rules than a finite being.

            I find your characterization woefully inadequate- as are *ALL* descriptions of God.

      • Dan

        Or perhaps the plagues of Egypt were a metaphor. The actual writing of the book of Exodus is historically placed at the 5th-6th century B.C.E. The plagues are more likely literary devices that the authors used to emphasize the underlying truth: Moses (with the help of God) led the Israelites out of Egypt.

    • Martha O’Keeffe

      As we may see with the recent review of the Liverpool Care Pathway in Great Britain, where a protocol developed to rationalise care for terminal patients by promoting best practice somehow ended up being used as a ‘checklist’ for the elderly to be shuffled out of this world for beancounting purposes to free up beds and reduce expenditure.

  • Martha O’Keeffe

    Going for atheist definitely on this one, mainly on the bonus question. I can well believe this person’s favourite reading is non-fiction, especially “scientific papers”.

    Anyone who thinks the purpose or point of Shakespeare writing “Othello” was to communicate a message, much less “worldview information”, of the kind of simplistic “jealousy is bad, mmkay?” type moralising – oh, dear.

    People back then knew jealousy was bad; they didn’t need a play to tell them that. The jealousy of the play is a MacGuffin as much as the handkerchief; Othello doesn’t care a straw for the actual piece of cloth, it’s what it symbolises that is important to him (Desdemona’s fidelity and love).

    But! This is not an exam question! Let us merely look at the poetry and say no more:

    Nay, had she been true,
    If heaven would make me such another world
    Of one entire and Perfect chrysolite,
    I’ld not have sold her for it.

    • Dan

      I have a hard time imagining anyone’s favorite reading to be scientific papers. But if true, to each his own.

      I do disagree with “preaching through fiction is a bad idea.” Perhaps it is because I’m a bit of an idealist.

    • Brendan Hodge

      I went atheist as well on this one — but the bonus section almost turned me Christian in that it seemed so over-the-top I wondered if it was a strawman.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    “The actual question on civil marriage is if it should exist at all.”

    Bingo. I think that’s where Orthodox Catholics and Atheists can meet in the middle.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Having said that, I suspect a strawmanning strong Thomast here.

  • ACN

    Do Ted’s adorable little “everyone’s a rapist!” rants (which seem to grace this blog’s combox with alarming regularity) have to actually make it through active moderation, or does he just get a free soapbox for this stuff?

    • LeahLibresco

      I don’t moderate comments for content. He can say what he would like, and I tend to occasionally pop in to ask the people in this recurring argument to think about whether it’s worth pursuing again and again and again. I strongly disagree with Ted, but I don’t reengage unless I have a better strategy than the one that failed last time, so I don’t waste my time and my interlocutor’s.

      • ACN

        Fair enough.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I thank you for that. I post in hopes somebody will come up with a *better* argument against the sin I saw in myself and repented of about 18 years ago.

        So far, nobody has sadly, other than to point out that we already have another word for the same sin: fornication. Changing the name doesn’t change the fact it is a sin; nor does it change the fact that American liberal society seems to want to deny that it is a sin (for no reason I can see at all).

        • ACN

          Your concern is noted.

        • Randy Gritter

          Saying it is sin is not the same as saying it is rape. Rape has much of the same dynamic as fornication from the man’s side. It really does not from the woman’s side. But even that is too simple. Fornication has a broad range. You go from those who only care about themselves and don’t even want to know their partner’s name to couples who are engaged to be married but not married yet. Yes, some of the same dynamic is there all the way through but it looks and feels quite different to those involved. I am not sure the tactic of just calling it all rape is helpful. I discuss this at greater length here:

          http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/2012/11/language-and-sex.html

          You may have already found this if you Google your own name.I actually wrote that blog post last November so this has been going on a while.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I don’t normally google my own name- so thank you for the link. I need to read and consider this, and will respond there, not here.

    • Slow Learner

      This is why I don’t argue with Ted in the comments anymore. I’d rather he didn’t have an interlocutor helping him to explicate his disgusting opinions; if he wants to be depraved, let him do it on his own where people can ignore it.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I want somebody to explain to me why, in *rational* terms, I am wrong.

        “Disgusting” is not a rational term.

        • LeahLibresco

          Theodore, I think a bunch of people are trying to engage with you (not all of them charitably) and are not failing because they’re necessarily incorrect, but because there’s a gap (including your non-standard use of ‘rape’ that is hard to bridge in a combox.

          Everybody else, if you don’t think you have comparative advantage at having this conversation (not argument) or if it’s not a good use of your time, I’d recommend not replying here.

  • oregon catholic

    “For example, an employer’s wish not to pay spousal benefits more than
    once is much more respectable than a wish not to pay them to someone who
    has sex with the wrong kind of people.”

    Interesting that the question of whether insurance coverage should come through the employer is never even questioned, just assumed.

  • oregon catholic

    We need some paradigm shifts in our thinking. One of the reasons we have so much suffering and expense at the end of life is because our medical system tends to prolong life past it’s normal (and often easier) end. Of course, this has come about due to a worship of science as our new god and a consequent fear of facing the end we were created for which is an eternity with our Creator.

    Our more ‘civilized’ medical-model deaths in which we are medically supported long past what would be our natural end can have the effect of simply prolonging the suffering. We now we remove massive portions of diseased bodies, we support people with organ transplants and chemotherapy and disease management pharmaceuticals that inflict their own illness burden. We keep disease ravaged bodies going decades longer so they can simply die slowly of multiple chronic illnesses instead of the quick heart attacks and traumas and cancers and kidney failures common only half a century ago. So now, the utilitarian answer is euthanasia. We play god to keep people alive as long as possible and then when it becomes too awful we play god again to kill them and ease the suffering we created.

  • Scott Hebert

    Well, since this person’s argument regarding the entire farcical ‘civil marriage’ dilemma more or less mimics my own, to the point that I could easily believe I wrote all of this, lends me to believe that this person is, in fact, a Christian.


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