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Rogue Mormon Bishop?

Is this a case of a rogue Mormon bishop? Bishop Church of the Nauvoo 3rd Ward authorized an email via the LDS church’s official website that said in part:

As has already been seen in Massachusetts, this will empower the public schools to begin teaching this lifestyle to our young children regardless of parental requests otherwise. It will also create grounds for rewriting all social mores; the current push in Massachusetts is to recognize and legalize all transgender rights (An individual in Massachusetts can now change their drivers license to the gender they believe themselves to be, regardless of actual gender, which means that confused men and women are now legally entering one another’s bathrooms and locker rooms. What kind of a safety issue is this for our children?). Furthermore, while the bill legalizes civil unions, it will be used in the courts to show discrimination and will ultimately lead to court mandated same-sex marriages.

To help defeat this bill, please call your state representative and state senator and ask that they support traditional marriage and vote against the civil unions bill. If you are unsure who your legislators are, please see the link at the end of this email. [emphasis added]

Note the overt appeal to fear and subtle appeal to disgust. This is the typical modus operandi of the leaders of authoritarian followers. The message offers no evidence of compassion or an effort to understand his fellow human beings, something I would expect from true followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

This message also belies the idea that Mormon leaders don’t tell their followers how to vote. It also comes closer to expressing the true desires of most LDS people: no equal rights for people in same-sex relationships. I doubt that the bishop’s leaders will be publicly pleased at his actions.

One more piece of evidence that the fears and squicks of many of the LDS people stand in the way of social justice. These less than honorable gut reactions should not be allowed to masquerade as the moral high ground.

(via Dancing With Crazy)

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Moral Psychology

I see the complementary progressive and reactionary impulses as necessary to the survival of the human species. One provides the drive to innovation and adaptation in the face of challenges new and old. The other puts a brake on rampant change that could pull our fragile system apart: “…the centre cannot hold;…“.

That is not to give credence to a middle position between, for example, the artificial extremes of Liberal and Conservative politics in the United States neither of which represents what it claims.

A recent talk at TED by Jonathan Haidt explores the psychological roots of the two modes of thought. He provides a useful framework to understand our own views.

(via Lubab No More)

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Better Than Jesus

Daylight Atheism has an excellent post on the deficiencies of the moral teachings of Jesus along the same lines (but better than) my post Lithium for Jesus. In short, not only is Jesus not the best moral teacher in history, on average we are now more compassionate than Jesus.

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Rationalizing Incest

Julie is traveling in France on summer vacation from college with her brother Mark. One night they decide that it would be interesting and fun if they tried making love. Julie was already taking birth-control pills, but Mark uses a condom, too, just to be safe. They both enjoy the sex but decide not to do it again. They keep the night as a special secret, which makes them feel closer to each other. What do you think about that—was it O.K. for them to make love? (The Moral Instinct—via The Situationist)

Why? Leaving aside appeals to authority and tradition, explain you answer (in a comment if you like). I’ll wait.

Did you have a hard time justifying your answer? Some psychologists suggest that this is because our moral judgments aren’t based on reason and logic alone. In this example, we are born with a strong, visceral aversion to incest that defies rationalization. We would like to think that we are rational beings who make conscious decisions, but the truth seems to be that we are largely driven by instincts, the endowment of our evolutionary past.

Jonathan Haidt suggests that human beings have five innate moral senses:

  • aversion to harming innocents
  • fairness
  • community or group loyalty
  • respect for authority
  • purity

These affect us at an unconscious level. Each person and culture mixes these traits differently. Taking myself as an example, my loyalty to the group seems pretty low. This allowed me to leave the Mormon community. This shouldn’t be too surprising because I’ve grown up in a culture that strongly values individuality. My culture stresses fairness to the individual and its rights over respect for community or authority. Aversion to the incestuous scenario above probably triggers our desire for purity for another example.

The instinctual nature of our morality is part of the reason that I have little time for formal ethics. Morality seems to boil down to what humans want, not some abstract set of laws that we can discover given enough time and brainpower. Moral laws look nothing like mathematical or physical laws in this respect.

[By the way, catchy title, eh? :) ]

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Why Faith?

I wonder why we value faith in an unseen God. Isn’t it really faith in what we’ve learned from our culture? Isn’t a single act of kindness more virtuous than a lifetime of believing without evidence?

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