kerravonsen: What is essential is invisible to the eye (essential-invisible)
[personal profile] kerravonsen
One thing that has baffled me quite a bit in these angry arguments about things like abortion and gay marriage, is the protest "religions shouldn't impose their morals on other people". To me, that has sounded completely unfair, because it's like declaring that anyone who follows a religion shouldn't have a say in a democracy, because obviously their opinions and their votes are going to be informed by their morals, their conscience, their beliefs.

I had an "aha!" moment recently, during a discussion on Twitter. (yes, very unwise to try to discuss anything on Twitter, but it was initially a cordial and respectful discussion, I think.) There are two classes of moral rules: those that apply to everybody, and those that only apply to some people. I think we can agree that things like "don't murder" and "don't steal" apply to everybody. The usual rule of thumb is "if it harms someone else, it applies to everybody". The ones that only apply to some people (I think?) are in the form of a promise made by a person to do or not to do something. Like promising to be faithful to your spouse; doesn't apply to those who don't have a spouse. My "aha" moment was the realisation that non-believers in (Judeo-Christian Abrahamic) religions think that ALL of the religious moral rules ONLY ever apply to followers of that religion; because they're in the form of a promise to obey those rules when they follow that religion, and if you didn't promise to, you don't have to. Whereas followers of Judeo-Christian Abrahamic religions believe that since God/Yahweh/Allah is the ruler/owner of the entire universe, there are some rules that He has laid down which apply to everybody, believer and non-believer alike, and that these rules are self-evident.


Here is an analogy; and like all analogies, it has its limits.
Consider radical ethical vegetarians (if such beings exist), the kind who declare "Meat is Murder!" To them, vegetarianism isn't a choice, it's a moral imperative. To them it isn't just nice to be a vegetarian, it is wicked not to be one, because, to them, killing animals is wrong no matter who does it; killing animals is always wrong for everybody, whether they believe in radical ethical vegetarianism or not. Now suppose this radical ethical vegetarian -- let's call him Dave -- is part of the local PTA, and they move to fund a drive to give the children free meat pies for lunch. Dave is going to have to vote NO, because his conscience won't let him support anything which increases the amount of meat that is eaten and thus the amount of animal-murder that is happening. It would be unfair to expect Dave to vote YES. But he isn't voting NO out of spite, to deprive the kiddies of their meat pies for no reason; he's voting NO in order to protect the innocent animals, even if it's only a token gesture, since the animals are still going to be killed anyway (and because he would probably be outvoted).

Now... with issues like this, there ends up being a lot of anger, misunderstanding, talking at cross-purposes, incomprehension, and jumping to conclusions. Most especially, each side has a different idea about what is "obvious", and thus about what each side "obviously knows". Both sides cannot grok the motives of the other side, so they make incorrect assumptions about what those motives are. If there is not an assumption of goodwill, then the assumption of ill-will takes precedence. Each side says "If I can't think of a good reason for them to take that position, then there must be a bad reason."

Non-Believers: The Believers know that their laws don't apply to us, therefore their only possible motive is malicious spite.
Believers: The Non-Believers know that what they are doing is wrong, therefore their only possible motive is to spread their wickedness and corrupt the innocent.
OR, the less harsh
Believers: The Non-Believers know that what they are doing is wrong, therefore they are trying to drown out the voice of their conscience by forcing everyone to say that what they are doing isn't wrong, and silencing anyone who says otherwise, but even if the entire world shouted that it was okay, that still wouldn't silence their conscience.

Making assumptions about what the other side "knows", leads to completely incorrect conclusions, especially if one is not willing to consider that the other side could have positive motives for their position; motives that one does not understand, but that are nevertheless there.


The basis of any cordial discussion of differences is the assumption of good will on the part of the participants. Without it, there is no discussion, just an acrimonious argument.

I'm leaving comments on for the moment, because I am interested in what you think, but the moment someone starts engaging in verbal fisticuffs, I will turn commenting off; I can't deal with the stress.

Date: 2017-09-09 02:04 pm (UTC)
tptigger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tptigger
Whereas followers of Judeo-Christian religions believe that since God/Yahweh/Allah
If you mean "Jews, Christians, and Muslims" you should really use "Abrahamic religions" because:
a) It's more inclusive- you're meaning Muslims and not including them.
b) It's more accurate: we all claim Abraham as a forefather.
I kind of hate the phrase "Judeo-Christian" because there are a lot of things that, despite we're using what is purportedly overlapping books, we interpret things wildly differently and the religions are further apart than that implies.

Now, let's look at Dan's example for a moment. I think we're both agreed that giving food to children is generally good, and he's objecting to the type of food. But his analysis of the situation is very simplistic.
Some people physically can't be vegetarians. Whether that's due to chronic anemia or other health problems they actually need more protein/iron/whatever than a plant or plant and egg based diet can provide. So his analysis is looking at only the animal half of the equation and not the human half- so he's trying to apply what he knows to be true on everyone, even if it physically hurts them. A more balanced approach would be to try to change things so that children have a choice of meat pies or vegetarian pies. The option is then open for them to have less meat (thus reducing his perceived harm), but allows them to make the choice based on their personal ethics (meat is murder, meat is food) and body situations (some people are obligate omnivores.

Let's expand this to my state legislature: they recently passed a bill that, broadly interpreted could outlaw the pill and other forms of contraception. Their basic premise is "a fertilized egg is a life and therefore aborifactants are murder". This has two issues: 1) most of these forms of birth control prevent ovulation so their science is off and 2) there are many off-label uses for these methods of birth control. Now, in this case they have the secondary belief of "recreational sex is wrong" and they really want to restrict women from having recreational sex without getting pregnant.
So problem the first: They're imposing their judgement call on everyone else.
Problem the second: People are more likely to just have premarital/recreational sex anyway. Which a) leads to more abortions or b) leads to more kids that will either be not cared for or not financially supported by either their parents or the system (different kettle of fish).These are societal problems for various reasons. Either way, those kids are likely to have tough lives because someone decided to impose their beliefs on their parents.
But there's also problem the second: Many other issues are treated with birth control pills such as endometriosis, painful cramps, and I know someone who took them to prevent migraines. This rule had no medical exemptions, so people are forced to suffer because someone is making a simplistic moral judgment on other people.

Date: 2017-09-09 02:08 pm (UTC)
tptigger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tptigger
Can't edit, so I'll add here: My main frustration with these types of arguments is that often the believers are so focused on their core belief that they won't listen to concerns of the other side.
EG the US Evangelical movement has gotten so anti-abortion they're even trying to ban it in cases of rape, incest. and when the fetus is going to die no matter what, but the mother might suffer irreparable harm is a late term abortion isn't performed. (And most late term abortions are performed for precisely these reasons, but they still want to ban them.)

Date: 2017-09-09 10:30 pm (UTC)
tptigger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tptigger
Thank you!

Date: 2017-09-11 04:58 pm (UTC)
watervole: (Default)
From: [personal profile] watervole
It's a bit like me and climate change.

I know that almost all my friends are living beyond the capacity of the planet to support them. They live in houses that are larger than they need, they fly overseas on holiday and they eat more meat (especially beef) than necessary. They also use way too much water and buy loads of stuff they don't really need made from scarce resources.

It's clearly (to me at any rate) a moral issue that all of humanity should be considering in every aspect of their lives and trying to take action to preserve what genuine wilderness we have before it is all gone beyond recovery.

I have to assume my friends don't actually want to destroy the planetary life support system, and that they aren't stupid, but I also have to accept that their life styles aren't malicious in their over-consumption... It's a difficult thing to live with.

Date: 2017-09-14 08:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] izhilzha.livejournal.com
I like this analogy quite a lot; I've come to similar conclusions through having many friends who are feminists (as I am) but who are in favor of the only limitation on abortion being a woman's choice (and I would call myself pro-life--pro-woman and pro-infant and pro-everybody as far as I can be). Happily, some of them are super level-headed and we've had some excellent conversations which allowed each of us to make clear what our understandings and motives ACTUALLY were, resulting in no one at all changing her mind, but in everyone having much better idea of what the others are in favor of, what they're working or hoping towards.

Quite positive motives all around, indeed.

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kerravonsen: (Default)
Kathryn A.

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