Above us, Only Sky

Politics, Philosophy, Science, and Everything Else.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Responding to Tom

Somebody put a comment on one of my posts. This is very exciting. Now I need to respond to it, because Tom is both polite, respectful, and in disagreement with me on almost everything.

We agree that reason is a tool, but you argue that with only reason humans would engage in all manner of anti-social activity, because we would reason that stealing and murdering would be good for us when there are no consequences. Well, that would be true if the only possible way to have consequences was that there was an omnipotent god watching everything. Actually it is entirely possible for other human beings to police our behaviour, and that is in fact what happens. When society breaks down and the rule of law broken, people do go out and steal, kill, and rape to their hearts content. The level of religiosity in a society won't affect bad behaviour when there are no earthly police to actually enforce laws and punish offenders. Reason is a necessary component of this because it allows us to understand when we're breaking laws and when our stated moral principles are at odds with our actions. Religion is superfluous to this process at best, at worst it can gum up the works by creating different streams of 'justice' for believers and unbelievers, or by trying to reconcile contradictory religious rules within the legal system.

I see nothing in Tom's discussion on homosexuals to ease my fears about Christian homophobia. The problem here is that homosexuality is not a choice, it is a fact inherent in nature, just as heterosexuality is. It is akin to gender or race- something that people are born with. If you were to say 'I don't hate African Americans, I just hate people who are being black', it would be equally meaningless. Christianity has made an attempt to reconcile this by never acknowledging that it is a fact of nature, moving sexuality into the realm of choice and therefore into a fair arena for moral scrutiny, but it doesn't wash. I am straight. I could not choose to be gay if I wanted to. I know I would never enjoy sexual relations with a man- so I therefore know that those who do engage in them must not feel the same way that I do, that there must be something different about how they feel about the world. I can't then turn around and say that it is a moral choice they are making- how can what you feel about the world, how you are born, be a moral choice? The choices you make are how you are going to live- honestly seeking what you desire, or trying to conform to what other people want you to do? Of course some desires lead us to harmful behaviour, and when we choose to seek fulfillment of those desires we face moral consequences. But there is nothing intrinsically harmful about who people are sexually attracted to. There are a whole slew of ways that people engage in immoral activity to satisfy their desires- rape, incest, pedophilia, even unsafe sex- because people can be harmed by these activities. But when two adults with no other commitments desire each other there are no other stakeholders, so whatever they choose to do is between them, and none of the business of the rest of us.

So when you say you hate homosexuality but not homosexuals, I see only hatred, and no morality. This bible you like so much says you should stone them or something, but it also says you shouldn't suffer witches to live or tolerate people of any divergent faith at all. If Jesus was a real person, I don't see how it matters, so was Buddha, so was Muhammad, so was Nietzsche, the fact that these people existed doesn't mean that what they said, or what was said about them, is true.

Finally, I am accused of hating Christians, which is a reasonable judgement given the tone of most of my posts. I don't, at least not as a class of people. There are a good group of people who are Christians for whom I do feel deep contempt, but there are also some people of other faiths who fall into that category. What I despise about them is their immunity to reason, their unflinching demand that others conform to them, their readiness to use whatever tools come to hand to achieve their goals, which all too often includes violence. I do have Christian friends, I admire a great number of people who also happen to be Christian, but I have to say I admire them and like them in spite of their beliefs, there is always a bit of the sceptic in me that wants to challenge them.

So thanks for your comment Tom, I doubt I'll convince you of anything here, but I think just airing out my arguments every once in awhile is good for me, and I hope you (and others) will feel free to comment in future.

3 Comments:

At 11:43 p.m., Anonymous Tom said...

Kevin,

Thanks for the opportunity to reply to your initial comments, as well as your respectful reply. The reply brings us a great opportunity to delve deeper into the issue.

From a “reasonable” stance, for each individual, deviant behavior is, often, beneficial. This individual position, however, takes society out of the equation, and legitimately so. Human beings, by nature, tend to look out first for themselves, second for those they care about, and third for those they are obligated to care about. If people are not obligated to care for those to whom they are not personally attached, they will not do so. It is obvious that society has imposed such obligations, but society in and of itself is not enough to create them. Why should the strong in society, those who create laws, care for the rest of us? They are protected and safe beyond the extent to which we are, though less so today than when societies first came to be. The individuals that have the power to implement measures to look after the weak, the people who do exactly that, will never be protected by such measures. For this very reason, it is a prerequisite for society’s existence that there be a God. Without a higher power creating higher laws, these people would truly dominate the earth. This again reminds that God is actually something the human race needs to exist.

Reason does allow us to understand when we are breaking laws, and what is socially acceptable. It does not, however, in any way, account for the creation of laws or the formation of societies that accept and enforce these laws. Those with power do not need the law, and are actually, most times, inhibited by it. Yet those with power are the ones who do implement and enforce laws. Realistically, it is undeniable that the moral beliefs of every culture in the world come from a religious foundation. Without this foundation, societies of people never would have banded together, with the strong protecting the weak. Rather, the strong would have exploited the weak. While this has occurred, in most cases, laws are created to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and usually, they are effective in doing so. The only thing that can account for society’s willingness to protect the weak is a higher law from a higher power, with ultimate consequences. Without this, many people in society would still have absolutely no reason to create, enforce, or follow the law, and society would collapse, along with the human race. Again, God is a need, and science has shown us that we do not exist without every need naturally accounted for.

Christians are not homophobic. I disagree with homosexuality. I also disagree with abortion. Equally, I am against smoking, marijuana consumption, excessive speeding, stealing pens from the office. While I would not equate the first two with the rest of these, really, these are listed to make a point. We can disagree with a practice without hating the individuals who participate in it. I do not agree with abortion. The practice disgusts me, and I really don’t understand how someone could ever reach a mental state so as to eliminate a growing life. However, I do not, in any way, hate people who abort their children. I believe they’ve made mistakes, as have homosexuals. I believe that, while my mistakes have been different, I am no better, and no worse, than any of these people. They are just as wrong, and just as forgivable, as I am. This is the general Christian philosophy, and I have actually heard it preached in nearly this same manner in a Baptist church. This is really, truly, what we believe. You’re going to have people, in any group, that step out of the norm and get radical. In any religion or other organization, there are going to be people who walk away from the fundamentals of their faith and ignore its teachings for whatever reason.

Christianity has always been about love, forgiveness, and salvation. There is another side to that coin (damnation), but the object of Christianity is to prevent anyone from ever having to see that other side. This is why you have people knocking on your door at times. While I disagree with some of the values that I understand Jehova’s Witnesses to proclaim, I do believe that most Christians, of any denomination, only approach you and witness to you out of concern for you, and your eternal soul. We believe in a Heaven and a Hell, and we all genuinely want you to see the former, rather than the latter. Witnessing is, at times, very uncomfortable to a Christian. In doing this, we risk rejection, persecution, and conflict. We really don’t get a whole lot out of the practice in this life. We do it because we really care about you. To us, it’s all about you.

If homosexuality isn’t a choice, why do a significant number of homosexuals turn away from it? Why are so many teenage girls experimenting with bisexuality in America’s high schools today? Of course, some people may be prone to homosexuality, just as some people are prone to violence, alchoholism, and sexual promiscuity. We all have things in our lives that we combat every day; things that would should not permit ourselves to succumb to. We each have different vulnerabilities, many of which are tied in no way to reason or logic. Someone once told me that our emotions are what make us human, but I strongly beg to differ. Every creature has emotion, and desire. Every creature wants to pursue various things, often things that it should not. What makes us human is the fact that we know how to, and are willing to, restrict our emotions to our values of right and wrong. Whether you believe homosexuality wrong or not, it is important to realize that Christians do. We have every right to hold this belief, and every right, as citizens of a democratic nation, to pursue legal sanctions that coincide with these beliefs. We do not, however, have a right to discriminate or abuse people for beliefs different than our own. You have every right, and opportunity, to voice your different feelings on the matter, and so do we. We can agree to disagree without calling each other hateful. Again, we hate the sin. We do not hate the sinner. This is the message that Jesus taught, reminding us that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. None of us are without sin, and none of us will condone the killing, harm, or discrimination of homosexuals. However, we will condemn the practice. Condemning the practice is completely separate from condemning the individual.

Really, you might want to read the New Testament, simply to give yourself a better perspective as to how Christians see things. You seem to have accepted some of societies views of what we Christians believe. Unfortunately, society doesn’t paint as us we are very often. There are a great many misconceptions about Christianity. While we believe in the Old Testament as well, the New Testament is where Jesus Christ comes in, and is the final say in Christian beliefs. In it, Christ never calls for us to pass judgment on other people, but rather calls for us to seek them out. We are taught to help these people, care for them, and attempt to bring them to God through Christ, the Son. Very seldom will you spot a Christian using violence, as you stated. While it does occur, this is only the case as we are human, and are fallible. We make mistakes, as everyone does, and that is exactly the reason we need salvation through Jesus Christ.

Homosexuality is undebatably unhealthy for the human race, even from a scientific perspective. It is well known that homosexuality is the practice that began the HIV/AIDS epidemic in both North America and Europe, and bisexuality caused this disease to spread to the heterosexual population. This is honest, scientific fact. It is also important to consider the implications of homosexuality, should it become too prominent among the human population. It stands to reasons that people have to be willing to reproduce for society to survive. Homosexual practices stand directly in the way of natural human reproduction, when considered on a societal scale, and therefore, it is important that the practice never become too popular, else mankind could literally disappear. From a scientific perspective, homosexuality can only be viewed as detrimental, an “evolutionary dead-end,” as I’ve seen it put. In any case, you don’t often see Christians calling for the illegalization of homosexuality. We simply would prefer not to promote it through the legal definition of marriage, which we believe to be unnecessary given the relationship. This is not hatred, but is simply the moral position we take, based on the moral beliefs we hold.

Thanks again for your response. I hope this further clears up what we believe in. I am glad that, as a group, you don’t hate Christians. I only hope that you will seek to learn more about us, as I truly believe you have some strong misconceptions about who we really are.

Tom

 
At 1:13 p.m., Anonymous Steve said...

Tom, you are mentally unstable. Take comfort in the fact that you are in the same boat as maybe 99% of all people. I'm going to ask, without any expectations, that you live a subdued life without making any big decisions. I'm going to ask you to read Ayn Rand. And I want you to look at the world as it is, not only as you want it to be.

 
At 1:55 p.m., Anonymous Steve said...

Sorry, that was more emotionally motivated than anything else, hence the harshness. It was not purely insult. Let me challenge one statement, because I only have time for one: "The only thing that can account for society’s willingness to protect the weak is a higher law from a higher power, with ultimate consequences. Without this, many people in society would still have absolutely no reason to create, enforce, or follow the law, and society would collapse, along with the human race."
You pretty much said here that without fear, nobody would be motivated to be altruistic, and therefore the human race would collapse. My first point is that virtually all problems in society can be headed off with the development of an adequate system of government. In the United States there has been evidence of this for 230 years- not from the system we have, but from the improvements we saw between the previous systems and this one. Capitalism allowed selfishness to breed production and wealth which was made available to anyone selfish enough to earn it and continues to make the necessities of life available to a growing population if people are selfish enough to earn them. Crime will not occur when it is not beneficial to be a criminal. If "Laissez-Faire" is not inhibited much further, the natural workings of the free market provide more wealth to those who earn and create wealth than those who risk everything to take it from you and I. Sure it gets complicated, but I assure you that living life without fear of a bad afterlife does not motivate criminality in this system. The only thing worth our time is benefiting from and improving the system and safeguarding it. Gods need not play any role in capitalism and even without Gods, we can work selfishly for mutual benefit. Altruism is just short-sighted security by way of subscription to a group, which historically has led to different groups with different interests that clash and do evil things. Whenever someone makes you feel guilty, you are subscribed to that group and have given up your mind to them. If you have given up your mind, then you have given up your body and are acting towards their will which is not yours to choose and therefore you cannot expect to do "good" or to avoid doing "evil" at their bidding to avoid feeling guilt. The only system that ensures your chance at survival is one that recognizes your individual rights tou to do exactly as you please so long as you don't use physical force on others or their property (except as a defensive measure against the crazy people who don't realize that there's an effective penal system). Millions of people live without God and are statistically less criminal than those who do. If you want more help, research the word epistemology and stop using subjective and intrinsic methods to distinguish between facts.

 

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