eXTReMe Tracker WARNING: The opinions expressed and linked to in this blog are not necessarily mine (anymore).

My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Friday, May 30

What's the harm in obeying a commandment?

This is similar to a question I've heard commonly asked of atheists. The more general question is why not just act as if you believe even if the Bible isn't true?

My initial gut feeling is that there likely is harm in following any rule without qualification, without using some judgment about the situation. It's even worse if the rules aren't open to changes or refinements.

One particular example is the commandment regarding adultery.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.


Austin Cline gives some background on this commandment. Historically, adultery meant a sexual act between a man and a married or betrothed woman. An act between an unmarried woman and a man, whether he was married or not, was not adultery.

The commandment is premised on the assumption that women were essentially property of men.
Historically, has it been good for women to be treated as property? Overall, no, but even wrong, awful practices can sometimes have a few good qualities. I'll save that for another time. If it's not good for women to be treated as property, and the commandment depends upon women-as-property for validity, then the commandment is on shaky ground.

However, the commandment could also be examined alone, in current context.

Is there value in people not committing certain acts outside a marriage? Which acts? Why?

Here's a hypothetical premise which might make the commandment harmful.

Suppose it is good for people to touch. Actually, that's not in dispute. It's not just good for people to experience touch, it's necessary for survival. This has been shown in animal studies. It's not something that would be ethical to study in humans, given the outcomes in animal studies, but has been corroborated by informal observation of humans. It's pretty safe to presume this is the case for people as well.

Now, further suppose that the more pleasurable and intense the touch, the more beneficial it is for a person. It enhances attachment and bonding - something very important to human relationships. Now, imagine, if you can, a culture where this sort of touching was openly given and received on a very frequent basis. Barring and medical diseases, you'd think the folks in this culture might come to be very attached to each other. This would be great if cooperation is an important part of human life (and it is).

If touch is important and good, limiting it is harmful - at least to some extent. The harm may be minor compared to the benefits of restricting touch. This is a difficult question for me to answer well at present.

My question is: What are good reasons for limiting a very important kind of human interaction in such a way?

Monday, May 19

I think I'm in love.

You might know who he is.

He's famous. Internationally known. He's an inventor /playboy / hero all in one. A man who's good with his hands, his brain, and his heart, all in one.

I don't necessarily approve of everything he does. But then, he doesn't have time to dally around and weigh all his choices. I think he does pretty well given the problems he's faced and the stakes involved - and the mistakes he made.

Maybe I should describe him a bit more. Dark hair, dark eyes, mustache. I normally don't like facial hair that much, but I don't mind it on him.

Did I mention he's a weapons developer? Not something I thought I'd find attractive about anyone but as I think about it, I have an idea as to why I find this aspect of him appealing.

I love science - understanding how things work. It's like a beautiful puzzle where you figure out one little piece only to open up a world of other puzzles. And yet, they all seem to come together again over time.

Cause and effect. I know that reality is more complex than that, but it's still amazing to me - to understand a long chain of causes and effects. Technology, to me, is playing with this knowledge. Making your own little something beautiful.

A gun is a work of art. The primer, the powder, the bullet, the cartridge. The pin that hits the primer, that fires and ignites the powder within the cartridge which builds up so much pressure that the bullet flies out of the gun barrel at amazing speeds.

Some of my happiest childhood memories are of sitting near my father, watching him clean his guns or helping him reload cartridges. Sometimes, I'd pick up his Handgun Digest or a gun manual and try to understand how they worked. It amazed me how complex they were. They didn't look like much. I fondly remember the smell of the cleaning fluid. Folks that have ever smelled that stuff know what I'm talking about. It's pretty distinct.

I don't think of modern weapons as people-killing-machines first. To me, first, they are incredible masterpieces of ingenuity, of scientific knowledge, of power and control over our environment - and submission to it as well.

Back to sighing over my new love interest. I've never met him and never will.

After all, he's fictional character, Tony Stark.

Monday, May 12

Free Speech or Separation of Church and State?

This article addresses some questions I've been pondering lately. It doesn't answer them, but it reminded me of them, so I thought I'd share them and my answers. The answers are subject to rapid change as I am exploring these issues further.

Is the speech of religious leaders, when it concerns politics, free protected speech or is it a case of government favoring religion (because of the tax exempt status given to churches)?
If the government isn't granting tax exempt status to only one religion, then it probably isn't a matter of establishing a particular religion, but it might be a matter of establishing religion generally (which isn't illegal, as far as I know).

Is tax exempt status a matter of government favoring a religion or establishing a religion?

While it could be used this way, it doesn't have to be. Many religions have churches or branches with tax exempt status here.

Is it bad for the government to favor religion or establish a religion?

Probably.

Is it bad for the government to favor the general growth of religion generally (vs. discouraging religion generally or remaining neutral)?

Possibly.

Wednesday, May 7

Dilemma revisited

I've been browsing through some of my old posts and wincing at some of my old ideas. It's really quite embarrassing to have them available like this. It makes me feel, well, naked. Exposed. (And not with a slender, attractive figure that I'd want to show off).

After reading a few more posts, I'm even more disgusted with some of my writing.

Then again, what kind of writer would I be if I only left up my 'good' stuff?
A good one? A wimpy one?

I say that because one source of ignorance in our society is the stigma that goes along with making a mistake sometimes. It seems like one way to counter that is to be up front about one's mistakes, past mistakes especially - to let people see that change is standard. Imagine a society where you could expect that if you meet a person a year later, they will have become, oh, say, 200% less ignorant.

If my knowledge is "better" now, then I can be an inspiration or a guide to folks who have made my same mistakes. If my knowledge now turns out to be "worse" than before, well, at least I haven't deleted that old knowledge. It could turn out to be useful to someone. The other benefit of leaving old stuff up is that smarter folks than me might take time to criticize my ideas and tell me better ones.

It's just so yucky to read some of it.

I don't think the content bothers me so much as my presentation and ways of communicating bother me. That said, most of it is written stream-of-consciousness style, so, of course, it isn't really ideal for communication.

Perhaps I can find a way to rewrite them which explains my old ideas and how and why they've changed. This would meet all of my goals - sharing mistakes while not inflicting bad writing and bad ideas on myself and others.

What I've left out about War (and Peace)

One thing I am struck by as I read my older posts and articles is by how much is left out of even my most verbose writing.

For example, I wrote about my difficulty with understanding the pacifist position.

The post had started off with some figures on the number of deaths in Iraq caused by Saddam. I was astonished by them.

What I did NOT say was part of my astonishment was because the number was roughly 100 times the numbers of deaths that I was seeing reported daily on anti-Iraq-war sites. The number of deaths of American soldiers, that is. I hadn't seen a figure for the number of Iraqi people killed either before or after the war. Again, I don't think it's a matter of crunching numbers, but the numbers WERE pretty surprising.

Here are a few more things I didn't mention in that article that seem important to have communicated:
How sympathetic I really am, emotionally, to pacifism.
I think it's possible that one day pacifism could possibly win out and end all wars.
I suspect if it worked, it would be as a result of all those who would initiate war are killed off - or helped to find a better way.
It's the latter part I don't think we're prepared to accomplish... yet.

I would like to see war end altogether. I think many or most people would agree with that, but maybe it doesn't get said enough by... non-pacifists.

More important to me than seeing war end is seeing people free from oppression. It would be a good life, to me, if no one was ever killed, but we all lived in prison-like conditions.

When I expressed finding it hard to understand pacifism, I was thinking more about the idea of standing by, refusing to take an action which might protect innocent people or stop further oppression (and killing).

Tuesday, May 6

Dilemma

I've been browsing through some of my old posts and wincing at some of my old ideas. It's really quite embarrassing to have them available like this. It makes me feel, well, naked. Exposed. (And not with a slender, attractive figure that I'd want to show off).

Then again, what kind of writer would I be if I only left up my 'good' stuff? It probably won't seem good either in a few years. It also might help someone who has similar ideas relate to me and maybe eventually to my newer ways of thinking. Or maybe it will put off people who would like and respond to my more current views. Decisions, decisions. Not my strong point.

Perhaps a more interesting approach would be to denote which posts are no longer in line with my current world view. I am a little shy about that - having people really know my beliefs.

Still, I'm not satisfied with my one disclaimer about my views likely being different (now) than when I wrote any particular post.

It's not uncommon for my opinion to change before I can even actually "post" the post. I still post it, though, to keep myself from censoring everything and having a blank blog.

Ok, so, I'm going to go back to the beginning and start marking posts that I no longer agree with. I suppose I'll put a date, too. It could be fun to see if I get to "unmark" some further on.

I will try, I think, to even mark the ones I post as "I don't know if I agree with this". There may be so many marked that it might be easier to mark only the ones that I feel reflect my true, considered, current opinion. Hmm.