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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?


Anonymous said...

It was a time without contraception. I don't think men wanted to support children that they didn't concieve so the only way to make sure was to control women.

Becky said...

Yes. I understand that men can't always be counted on to support the children they DO conceive, much less the ones they don't.

And yet, many men these days DO take on caring for the children of other men. Biology is important, but so is culture / moral conditioning.