Which Argument are we Having?

I may need some help here. I keep running into a certain argument, mostly from Catholics like Bad Catholic. The argument seems to start in a familiar way, but ends up being a discussion of universal morality, and I can’t help but feel that this is a red herring.

Bad Catholic posts a long text-heavy meme-studded image, which seems to tie atheists support of gay rights to a need for universal morality. But I think that BC is involved a different argument from the ones I’m used to seeing. Consider this segment:

BC rejects this, but I’m not so sure. I have no interest in policing the biases and mental states of my neighbors. I think it’s silly and ill-informed, but I’m not going to go so far as to say that a belief that homosexuality is sinful is itself immoral.

But there are two problems. The first is that I’ve never met someone who will say, “I just really hate gay people.” Bigots seem to feel they have a reason for their hatred, and a reason that you should share that hatred. Once these reasons come out the argument shifts from “Is hating gays immoral?” to “Is hating gays warranted?” And that is a completely different argument.

Second, what bothers me most is when this belief turns into action. I have homosexual friends, and I value them and their happiness. When someone attempts to harm them, it harms me. When someone attempts to strip them of a right or a privilege, it pains me. Therefor it is completely reasonable for me to oppose someone attempting to harm them, and doubly so when someone attempts to use the collective power of the state to do so. It quickly gets more complicated, but that’s the heart of it.

The short version is that I don’t see how this argument relates to a need for universal morality. Maybe I’m missing something?

Amazon Tribe, Suicidal Cult

You have to watch this. So sad.

Religion does not always correlate with ethics. Get over it.

there are good christians and bad christians. good muslims and evil muslims. there are ethical people who live without religion. and evil people who live without religion. religion does not always correlate with ethics. get over it.

Ever-changing Morality

Over at Daylight Atheism, Adam Lee is responding to some comments made by Peter Hitchens, the Christian brother of the late Christopher Hitchens. Specifically, he’s responding to this quote:

For a moral code to be effective, it must be attributed to, and vested in, a nonhuman source. It must be beyond the power of humanity to change it to suit itself

Lee seems most interested in tackling the first point: it’s meaningless, because we have no “nonhuman source.” To that end, his response is much like Deacon Duncan’s Undeniable Fact: God does not show up in the real world, so everything we say about God must come from humans.

That’s a solid point, but I think it’s also redundant because Hitchens’ second point fails as well: there very little in the world of religion and culture that is beyond the human ability to change.

That means that even if we were to grant Hitchens his first point, it would still do his argument little good. Even if we had the perfect book, we are still not perfect readers. Every word in that book must be translated, transmitted and interpreted. Even if you could perfect those first two processes, that last one would prove insurmountable.

What does “Thou shalt not kill” mean? A quick survey of biblical religions will return different interpretations of those four simple words. Does it apply to killing in self defense? To killing during war? To killing during an unjust war? To killing animals? To criminals, and if not, what types of criminals?

You’ll find Christians, Jews and Muslims on all sides of each questions. So what, exactly, is the advantage of having this “nonhuman source”?

I disagree with Lee that religion makes moral ideas harder to change. From my read of history, religious morality shifts at the same rate as other forms of culturally-embedded morality. Certainly the history of Christianity has shown massive shifts in its consensus over how to live a moral life, and no doubt this will continue. “Biblical morality” no longer means living a celibate life with few possessions, but perhaps it will return to that as the centuries roll on.

Part of this is because humans are champions rationalizers; we can find all sorts of reasons to do those things that we want or that make sense to us. Convincing someone to not do something that doesn’t make sense to them is tremendously difficult, as witnessed by the Catholic Church’s failure to prevent contraception use among American Catholics. But what makes sense to us comes from our preconceptions, which are shaped by our experiences and our society, and not just by what we hear from the pulpit.

For Hitchens to act as if having a “nonhuman source” grants us an unchanging moral code is to ignore most of what we learned from the past fifty years of philosophy and everything we’ve learned from history. There is only one law that continues to govern all human morality: This too shall pass.

I’ll Bet You One Unplanned Pregnancy…

someecards - i'll bet you one unplanned pregnancy that you are secretly pro-choice