The Life and Death Paradox

Supreme Court Crisis Pregnancy Centers, Washington, USA - 20 Mar 2018Okay, it’s time to stir things up a bit.

I don’t understand why those who oppose abortion also often oppose contraception. It seems rather paradoxical to me.

Contraception prevents unplanned, unwanted pregnancies, and women who choose to have abortions do so, to a large extent, because of unplanned, unwanted pregnancies. So doesn’t it follow that advocating the use of contraceptives and promoting their availability would reduce the demand for abortions?

But that logic seems to be beyond what many religious and social conservatives can grasp, so they continue to follow the paradox of being opposed to both abortion and contraception.

DAD7BB0F-89CB-4F7F-A4E3-2793DAB675A3In a related paradox, social conservatives often oppose sex education in public schools other than “abstinence-only.” They take this position even though the data shows that there is a greater teen pregnancy rate in school systems that teach abstinence-only than there is when a broad-based sex education program, including teaching about the use of condoms and other forms of birth control, is included in the curriculum.

“Oh Lordy, don’t teach the kids about condoms,” they say, apparently because they believe knowledge about condoms and their use promotes sexual activity.

Oh yeah, it also prevents pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

7CE49602-FC1E-4F86-8736-845B45DE6432And then there’s the paradox that many who are pro-life also support the death penalty. Can you really be pro-life and pro-death penalty? Where is the logic in believing it’s okay to terminate the life of an adult human being but it’s not okay to abort a fetus? And by the way, a fetus is not a baby, and thus, having (or performing) an abortion is not killing a baby.

Sure, those on death row are presumably bad people, but they are living, breathing human beings nonetheless. A fetus is not yet a living, breathing person, but pro-lifers are appalled at the idea of terminating a pregnancy while seemingly having no qualms when it comes to terminating the life of a prison inmate.

Liberals generally support a woman’s right to choose because they believe that a woman should not be forced to bring an unplanned, unwanted baby into a bad situation and that the government shouldn’t insert itself into private matters about what a woman can do with her own body.

And liberals tend to oppose the death penalty because they believe that the government doesn’t have the right or moral authority to take the lives of people, even allegedly very bad people, especially with the growing number of instances where DNA testing shows that some death row inmates were wrongly convicted.

Conversely, conservatives who oppose abortion do so because they believe that a fetus is a “person” as of the date of conception. But at the same time, they tend to support the death penalty because they want those evil, nasty criminals to pay the ultimate price for their crimes.

The question in my mind is whether there is a moral equivalence between abortion and the death penalty. When you get to the heart of the matter, it really boils down to the very sympathetic image of an unborn baby pitted against the very unsympathetic image of a hardened criminal who has been sentenced to death for committing heinous crimes against society.

Am I the only one who finds these matters of abortion, contraception, and the death penalty paradoxical? How about you?

SoCS — Mysterious Ways

e2cd22fc-d18b-40ab-b028-3accb7270d21“It’s less than three months away!” Brian exclaimed. “I’m not ready.”

“Not ready for what?” Ben asked his roommate.

“The Rapture.”

“The what?”

“The Rapture,” Brian repeated. “Here, take a look at this full page ad that was in today’s paper.

Ben read it out load. “Get ready for the Rapture. April 23, 2019 AD.” He handed the ad back to Brian. “Isn’t that what you call ‘end times’ or something like that? Where all true believers who are alive will be saved and will rise, along with the resurrected dead believers, into heaven to join Jesus?”

“Close enough,” Brian said. “And it’s happening in less than three months. I’m not ready, Ben.”

“Well, you know that I don’t believe in all that religious mumbo jumbo, Brian,” Ben said. “But you’re a believer, so what are you worried about? I’m sure you’ll float up to heaven with all of the other good boys and girls for fun and games with Jesus for the rest of eternity.”

“It just doesn’t add up, Ben,” Brian said. “Anna and I are supposed to get married on May 5th. But that will be too late.”

“Why will it be too late?” Ben asked. “Anna’s a good Christian, right? Maybe you and she can float up to heaven together, hand-in-hand, and get married once you’ve settled in. Hell, maybe Jesus, himself, will officiate at your wedding.”

“It’s not funny, Ben,” Brian whined. “I’m not ready for this. Why didn’t God give me some sort of sign so I could have planned for this?”

Ben pulled the newspaper ad from Brian’s hand and held it up. “Isn’t this a sign?”

“I don’t mean a physical sign,” Brian said. “A spiritual sign.”

“I don’t know, Brian,” Ben said, “but haven’t you been telling me ever since we met each other how God works in mysterious ways?”


This little sacrilegious tale, one that I hope doesn’t offend anyone, was written for Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt. We are asked to use “ad/add/AD” (Anno Domini) in our post. We can use one, two, or all three.

Share Your World — Grounded

Another Monday and that means it’s time for another of Melanie’s Share Your World thingies. This time Melanie got her questions from Seth at ManTelligence. So here are her (or his) questions.

You’re walking in a forest and you find a black suitcase.  Inside it is one millions dollars and a piece of paper, stained in blood and bearing the single word “Don’t!”  Would you take the suitcase home or leave it?

I’d take the million bucks out of the suitcase and stuff it into my backpack, toss the note and the suitcase, and not look back.

Imagine you lapsed and cheated on your partner. You feel horrible and you know you’ll never do it again, because the feeling is so awful. Would you confess?

I would have to. The guilt would be too much to bear. I’d have to face the consequences of my choice.

Would you live your life differently if nobody ever judged you for anything you did?

I have reached the age where I no longer give a shit what other people think me or of how they judge me.2ee19140-fe38-4b50-96e4-baa6c1a2cf44

Would a fly without wings be called a walk? No? What would you call it?

Grounded.

This question really bugs me. Reminds me of: why do they call a place where you park your car a driveway and a place where you drive your car a parkway?

What’s something that brought joy and lightness of being to you this past week?

Sadly, not a goddam thing.

Are Dead People Voyeurs?

CEB274F9-BD76-4B99-A978-93702D2271F0I was watching a TV show the other night when one character said to the other, “You’re father would be so proud of you. I bet he’s looking down from heaven right now with a big smile on his face.”

Yeah, right. Do people really belief that their dearly departed friends and relatives are looking down — or looking up, as the case may be — at them to see what they’re up to?

“Oh my God, Dan, that was the best sex ever. I bet your mom is looking down on you from heaven with a big smile on her face.” Oh wait, maybe it was Dan’s father who was looking up at him from hell and masturbating while watching Dan having a hot time with that blonde he picked up at that party. Hmm. Do the souls of dead people masturbate?

Do people really believe that the souls of their deceased loved ones are spending their days in the afterlife spying on their earthbound family members and pals? Do they do it all the time, or do they only do it when something extraordinarily good or bad happens?

And where’s the line? Are there boundaries, safe zones, where you can escape the prying dead eyes of the deceased? Like the bathroom, maybe. Is my mother watching me sitting on the toilet taking a dump and beaming about what a big boy I am?

Is there a statute of limitations? For example, are these dead voyeurs watching over us forever? Or are we sentenced to a finite number years after their death to be subjected to their constant observation? And how large is this circle of voyeurs? Just your parents or does it go back multiple generations and include more watchers than your immediate family and closest friends?

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m an atheist and I don’t believe in the notion of an afterlife. But I’m genuinely interested in hearing from those who are believers. Do you believe that the souls of your deceased loved ones — your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and closest friends — are looking down at you, watching what you’re doing day in and day out?

I’m not trying to be an asshole. I really want to know what you believe. Tell me in the comments or write your own post and link it back to this post.

Thanks!

Morality: Objective or Subjective

909E2401-3F73-4359-AC70-D4B839CE7F59In my latest provocative question, I asked, “Is morality objective or is it subjective? If you believe it’s objective, what is its source? If you believe it’s subjective, how do you know whose concept of morality is correct?”

Perhaps a better question should be: does objective morality actually exist?

What exactly is “objective morality”? One definition I read said that objective morality is “the idea that a certain system of ethics or set of moral judgments is not just true according to a person’s subjective opinion, but is absolutely and undeniably true for everyone.”

Another definition said that objective morality is “the idea that an act of good or evil is always right or always wrong, regardless of whether one person believes it is right and another believes it is wrong.”

Did you notice that both of these definitions start with the words, “the idea that…”?

And what is an idea? It is an opinion, a perspective, a belief, a thought, a concept, a notion. Interesting that the word “fact” is conspicuously absent from any definition of objective morality.

Back to my original question. “Does objective morality exist?” Is objective morality a set of definitive laws gifted to humanity by God, where God has determined what is “right” and what is “wrong,” and these determinations are deemed to be unimpeachable?

Or is morality subjective? Does it relate more to time, place, and social norms (culture) than to a universal code of conduct attributed to a supernatural deity?

Objective morality exists because God exists

4E1D4FF7-A36A-4BD2-84FB-FDC71FB9CB6FDo you buy that? If morality is an objective set of rules handed to us by God, shouldn’t what God defines as morality be considered the same by every human being across time and in all cultures? Shouldn’t all humans, since we were created in God’s image and we are all God’s children, universally agree upon and accept that which God has told us is objectively moral?

Yet we don’t.

Time, place, and culture

Let me make a few observations about the influence of time, place, and culture on morality.

Hitler had millions of people killed in the 1930s and 40s. Did he consider what he was doing immoral? Or did he believe that he had a moral imperative to cleanse Germany of all but the purest Aryans?

At the time of the Spanish Inquisition, did the Catholic monarchs consider it immoral to require Jews and Muslims to convert to Christianity or to face expulsion or execution? No. They simply wanted to ensure Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms. What could possibly be immoral about that?

Did the Pope and the nobles of Europe in the Middle Ages see anything immoral about the Crusades? Why would they? Their goals were based upon a command passed down by a higher authority to restore Christianity to holy places like Jerusalem. What was wrong with pillaging the countryside and killing thousands of Jews and Muslims while doing God’s work? Nothing. It was what God wanted.

Our own American genocide of native Americans was excused because of the moral imperative of Manifest Destiny, which was deemed to be the young country’s mission from God. And less than 200 years ago many farmers and plantation owners in the American South owned slaves. Did they consider slavery to be immoral? Of course not. To them, all God-fearing Christians, there was nothing immoral about owning another human being.

Today most people find what Hitler did, what slave owners did, what occurred during the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, and even the American West, to be morally wrong.

But for the people at those times, in those circumstances, and within those cultures, they were widely accepted as being society’s norms.

Most of us in Western cultures in the 21st century agree about what is or is not moral. There is a broad consensus across our culture about what is right and what is wrong. And that broad consensus helps us arrive at our communal morality.

Yet not long ago, there was a broad consensus across some parts of our country that interracial marriages were immoral and that homosexuality was immoral. Even today, some people believe both are still immoral. Yet the broad consensus in this country is acceptance of interracial and gay marriage.

Morality, then, is really how individuals interpret a cultural consensus. And since different cultures at different times have had different consensuses on what is moral, then morality must be subjective, relative to time, place, and culture.

What God wants

Those who insist that objective morality can only exist if God exists define objective morality as what people should do or ought to do, regardless of time, place, or culture. But who defined what people should do or ought to do? Was it God? Or was it humans who, based upon their ideas (opinions, beliefs, thoughts, views) of the communal good, decided what people should do and ought to do?

I read somewhere — I can’t remember where, but it stuck with me — that the religious, having invented God in their own image, use objective morality as a way of turning “what I want” into “what God wants.”

Isn’t morality really what people would like to have happen? Isn’t it a human consensus, shaped by the time, place, and culture in which we live, that defines what we should do and how we ought to behave?