Its not often that we see a social narrative change before our eyes but I humbly submit that I think we witnessed one on May 9th. North Carolina passed a controversial measure to prohibit gay marriage and President Obama declared that he had changed his mind and gay marriage should be legal.
Just like, Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, hard facts and strong opinions spread around the world as everyone and their cousin posted meme after meme expressing their opinion in no uncertain terms. Many, many people rejoiced at the news that the President’s opinion had evolved. For North Carolina citizens, the task of defending their vote became something else: a war of sentiment and emotion. The true extent of the moral strangeness that I discussed in my last post was laid bare for all to see.
Before May 9th, there was no shortage of disagreement about gay marriage or homosexuality itself. It was passionate. Christians no less so than non-Religious people. There was nothing new about one side claiming the other was unreasonable. There was nothing particularly novel about the debate about institutions and the significance of the word “marriage” but there wasn’t a lot of talk about bigotry. After May 9th, Bigotry was the prevailing narrative.
My son, Wesley, is getting to the age where we have to talk about stranger danger. This is particularly a concern for my wife and I because Wesley is, to put it mildly, sociable. He talks to everybody. While I was waiting for my oil to be changed at Wal-Mart the other day, Wesley was carrying on a conversation with a bicycle mechanic, a 70 year old grandmother of two, and a 19 year old co-ed. While I was at the counter being told I absolutely must get that $65.00 radiator flush or else, I overheard Wes announce to his companions “My dad turned forty and has a lot of grey hair because of me and my sister.”
So obviously we need to explain that striking up conversations with complete strangers is something we only do when a parent is around. Christian bioethicst and Eastern Orthodox Christian, Tristam Englehardt Jr., writes about a different kind of strangeness. Moral strangeness:
Moral strangers are persons who do not share sufficient moral premises or rules of evidence and inference to resolve moral controversies by sound rational argument, or who do not have a common commitment to individuals or institutions in authority to resolve moral controversies.
Here’s a way to illustrate the problems with having a substantive moral debate between moral strangers. Suppose that an Evangelical Christian and an Atheist both see the following picture posted on facebook.
Bill Cosby is one of my favorite comedians. In fact, he is a favorite for many in part because his themes are exaggerations of situations which are common to more humans cross culturally. For example, his album, To Russell My Brother Whom I Slept With resonated those of us who had shared a room with our siblings as we remembered drawing an imaginary line down the center of the room to keep our brother or sister on “their side” (the door was usually on “my side). His description of “the belt” is hysterical and yet seemed to describe the implement of punishment as I sometimes thought of it myself as a child.
Bill Cosby has also been able to incorporate religious themes with equal ease into his routines. Continue reading …
In my last post, I discussed one of two responses to the common complaint of the new Atheist resurgence. That response was to claim that Atheists who embrace physicalism/scientific materialism do not have the moral authority to claim that God is either non-existent or evil. My conclusion was that while I think this criticism is valid, to merely point out this is unsatisfying and serves to only make Christians look defensive. The reason is that merely pointing out the weakness in the moral claim does not answer the genuine moral objections atheists have when they look at events in the Bible. They are not just being snarky (okay some of them are) but most are sincerely puzzled by our irrational faith that God is, not just moral, but morally perfect in the face of seemingly gruesome evidence to the contrary. Continue reading …
One of the things that has become fashionable is for Christians and Atheists to discuss whether or not God is moral. I have blogged about this at length. At the risk of pummeling a certain deceased equine, I would like to give the loyal opposition their due. Usually the Atheists will produce a list of passages (mostly but not exclusively) from the Old Testament. Here’s a an example from Common Sense Atheism one of the many blogs talking about the immorality of the Old Testament God:
- In Genesis 7:21-23, God drowns the entire population of the earth: men, women, children, fetuses, and animals.
- In Exodus 12:29, God the baby-killer slaughters all Egyptian firstborn children and cattle because their king was stubborn.
- In Numbers 16:41-49, the Israelites complain that God is killing too many of them. So, God sends a plague that kills 14,000 more of them.
- In 1 Samuel 6:19, God kills 50,000 men for peeking into the ark of the covenant.
- In Numbers 31:7-18, the Israelites kill all the Midianites except for the virgins, whom they are allowed to rape as spoils of war.
- In 2 Kings 2:23-24, some kids tease the prophet Elisha, and God sends bears to dismember them
These passages are supposed to show that the God of Judaism and Christianity is evil, immoral, and sadistic in his ethics of war.
There are, of course, responses from believers. They fall mainly into two categories: Continue reading …