Morality isn’t only hard on special occasions

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 … [Read more...]

A Martyr for All Seasons

Two weeks ago, I had an absolutely lovely time reading A Man for All Seasons out loud in a coffee shop with a new group of friends.  In what I hope was not type-casting, I read the part of Cromwell. (ok, it was probably type-casting).  I greatly enjoyed the play (though I'm now going to have to put aside all the very nice spiritual reading people have recommended or lent me, so I can reread Wolf Hall), and there was one exchange that particularly struck me, just after More resigns his position … [Read more...]

Remember that chat we had about Nazi analogies?

The post was "It’s hard for me to hear you over the sound of your Nazi analogies" and the comment thread was... err... frustrating, so I'm not advising you revive it.  But there's been a positive development: Mark Shea has decided to stop using the phrase "gay brownshirts" (with more comment from him here). We didn't exactly come to consensus (he and I still definitely disagree on whether the comparison is accurate), but we can pretty much agree it does bupkis for dialogue.  I want to … [Read more...]

When Moral Hazard is the Safest Course

Patheos blogger Thomas McDonald of God and the Machine is horrified by the FDA's recommendation to approve Truvada (an antiretroviral cocktail) as preventative treatment for HIV.  When people use the prophylactic regime, their chances of contracting HIV are reduced by 50-75%.  As far as I can tell, these are the 'actual use' numbers.  With perfect use, the chance of infection goes down to pretty much zero.  This is why, in affluent countries with good health care services, there's virtually … [Read more...]

Winning a Moral Arms Race?

The first person to comment on my post about The Hunger Games and not seeing gifts as debts had a pragmatic concern: I don’t see this as moral progress. If more people would see a sacrifice as a debt the world would be a better place. I've got a (richly deserved) reputation as a not-so-soft paternalist when it comes to social policy, so I'm sympathetic to this critique.  Isn't there a benefit to chafing under a debt insofar as it spurs us on to better acts?  How is this kind of inducement … [Read more...]

“What’s Hard is Simple, What’s Natural Comes Hard”

This post is part of Patheos's book club for T.M. Luhrmann's When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. I recieved a review copy free of charge. In T.M. Luhrmann's ethnographic study of charismatic evangelical Christians, When God Talks Back, communing with God is a strenuous practice.  Cultivating a personal, two-way relationship is a choice for these Christians, and the sheer level of effort they put into changing their minds trips a lot of … [Read more...]

Morality in Multiple Dimensions

In college, I got into a lot of debates about moral relativism, cultural imperialism, and epistemological modesty.  When we were picking fights, it was useful to be able to get a quick sense of your sparring partner's positions, and my friends and I had an easy way to do triage: During the British occupation of India, were the British imperialists right to condemn sati (the practise of burning widows alive on their husbands pyres)?  Were they right to want to eliminate it?  Were the … [Read more...]


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