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May 14, 2009

More Grist for the Mill

“There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example,” said Oats.

“And what do they think? Against it, are they?” said Granny Weatherwax.

“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”

“Nope.”

“Pardon?”

There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.

“It’s a lot more complicated than that –”

“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth.”

CWCID

Posted by Cassandra at May 14, 2009 10:25 AM

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Comments

Then what of pre-marital sex? Surely it doesn't involve treating yourself or others as things, and yet it is one of the big sins in Christianity.

Now, from a secular point of view it shouldn't be, but that is neither here nor there.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 14, 2009 01:47 PM

There's a reason that pre-marital sex was viewed as a sin, Yu-Ain, and you're overlooking it.

Before paternity tests and birth control, having sex outside of marriage meant taking a significant risk of bringing a child into the world and dooming two people - the mother and the child - to poverty and possibily even starvation and death.

There were plenty of secular humanists who considered - and still consider - taking this risk a "sin". Statistically, a pregnancy outside of marriage rarely results in a good outcome. If the traditional definition of sin - harming others - applies, surely it is not unreasonable to classify premarital sex as a sin?

I didn't wait until I was married to have sex. But then I was lucky to have a partner who loved me enough and had enough integrity to do the right thing and I'm still married to him 30 years later.

Science has reduced, but cannot eliminate, this basic risk and it remains considerable.

We may not like where an honest look at the rightness or wisdom of our own behavior takes us. I try, however, not to flinch from the attempt.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 14, 2009 06:04 PM

If the traditional definition of sin - harming others - applies, surely it is not unreasonable to classify premarital sex as a sin?

Well, that depends. :-)

In Christianity, you are absolutely correct. Premarital sex is absolutely and always a sin.

But by the rubric of "Treating yourself or others as things" then the answer is: "It's more complicated than that".

There are several cases. I'll list outcomes from Christianity first and People As Things second.
1) You are sleeping with the other person prior to marriage because you have lowered yourself to being a thing for the other persons use: Sin, Sin
2) You are sleeping with the other person prior to marriage because you believe them to be a thing for your use: Sin, Sin
3) You are sleeping with the other person prior to marriage because of genuine and mutual love and respect: Sin, Not Sin.

So, if you hold that premarital sex is always and forever sinful, then you cannot also hold to the definition of sin as treating people as things as we have found at least one sin that doesn't require it.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 14, 2009 06:39 PM

Of course "If the traditional definition of sin - harming others " is a different definition of sin all to itself.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 14, 2009 06:41 PM

Yes, it is. But it is not unrelated.

Back in the day, women had no property rights and could not make a living for themselves in an honest manner. They also rarely inherited land or wealth. So having sex with an unmarried woman - unless you meant to marry her - was, in many ways, evidence that you did not value her as a human being. No 'mutual love and respect', because a man who respected a woman waited until the wedding. If you risk someone else's whole life and welfare for your pleasure, are you not treating a person as a means to gratify yourself - a thing? Premarital sex entailed exactly zero consideration for her welfare.

In the instance you cite (two people who loved each other and were engaged) the Church has always been pretty tolerant. In many medieval societies, once you were betrothed, premarital sex was condoned or even encouraged. And there are greater and lesser sins. The mere fact of having had premarital sex - if no one suffered from it - wasn't viewed as a greater sin.

But the bottom line is: if you "love and respect" her so much, you won't put her welfare at risk.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 14, 2009 06:49 PM

Sure, back in the day that was true. But not anymore.

Can premarital sex be a case of treating yourself or others as things? I believe I gave two cases for it.

But in the third... (I didn't necessarily say they were engaged) There are many people who object to the entire concept of marriage and are yet in committed relationships who have children and are raising them in an environment better than some married couples. Are they sinning?

The church says yes, even if they don't howl over it like they do other sins. But a sin still it is.

But I would say that it's a difficult claim that a guy who has stayed with his girlfriend for 30 years and has seen all their children through college had "put her welfare at risk" (especially considering that with the ease of divorce these days marriage is a trifling guarantee).

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 14, 2009 07:23 PM

I take the position that if the promise is made in your heart (vs. having the Church bless it) who cares so long as you keep it?

As it so happens, my oldest friend in all the world went into the woods with her husband and they exchanged wedding vows. They've both been divorced several times and for whatever reason didn't want a formal wedding. I consider them married.

Churches are political institutions, Yu-Ain. Some think dancing is a sin, or card playing. Others consider that preposterous.

I don't much care what the church says is a sin. I happen to believe that we are intended to search our hearts honestly and figure that one out using the Bible and reason as a guide. But then that's why I'm a 'Piskie and not a Baptist.

IMO, quoting some bishop doesn't relieve us of that responsibility. So this still makes sense to me.

But FWIW, the quote was intended to provoke discussion. I wasn't formally adopting it as my raison d'etre :p

Posted by: Cassandra at May 14, 2009 08:05 PM

Oh. And marriage gives both parties legal rights. They may have a subset of those rights in most states, since most states recognize common law marriage. But generally being married means the rights are assumed and you don't have to prove them, which is of some value in a court of law.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 14, 2009 08:07 PM

I am sure there is a bigger lesson and a load of wisdom that is going to come from this discussion, but right now I feel like I am sitting in a thermodynamics class and we are talking about entropy and enthalpy....just pieces of a puzzle, and I cant tell if the pieces even go into this puzzle yet....

*Raising hand* Is this going to be testable???

:^)

Posted by: Kbob in Katy at May 14, 2009 10:29 PM

I take the position that if the promise is made in your heart (vs. having the Church bless it) who cares so long as you keep it?

Which is a not uncommon position, and therein lies the conundrum.

Each church has "laws" about which types of marriages are considered valid. But no matter what those rules are, one engaging in sex outside of those strictures would be considered to be committing a sin.

And yet no one was treated as a thing.

A less charged example would be the others of Paul's declaration of the laws to which Gentiles were to be held to (Acts 15:29): Idolatry and the consumption of food tainted by blood or strangulation.

In neither of these three are there people who are treated as things. And yet the Bible very clearly calls them sins.

That being said, for those who are disinclined to accept that something is sinful "just because your imaginary friend in the sky told you so", the definition would certainly be one of the better ones.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 14, 2009 10:29 PM

And yet no one was treated as a thing.

You and I will never agree on this, Yu-Ain.

And the Bible calls a lot of things sins that virtually everyone in the modern church doesn't. Which just proves my point.

Anyway, you're arguing a point I didn't intend to make (one reason I didn't write anything on this one - something I don't do all that often) and have no interest in defending (i.e., that the 'thing' thing is the only definition of sin).

The reason I found the quote interesting, actually, and the discussion I hoped to provoke was in regard to the very last sentence:

When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 14, 2009 10:38 PM

I could kiss you for posting this one, but I actually like having my head attached to my shoulders and so I shant try. ;)

"By the fruits of thy labours thou shall be known." Right?

Posted by: ry at May 14, 2009 10:55 PM

"There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that."

There's something to be said for that perspective...

Posted by: camojack at May 15, 2009 01:06 AM

I thought that line was interesting too.

It's related to the idea of treating guilt or innocence and circumstances that act in mitigation as distinct entities.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 15, 2009 04:51 AM

I could kiss you for posting this one, but I actually like having my head attached to my shoulders and so I shant try. ;)

:)

Posted by: Cassandra at May 15, 2009 05:27 AM

It's related to the idea of treating guilt or innocence and circumstances that act in mitigation as distinct entities.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 15, 2009 04:51 AM
*************************************************

I see. But I don't. Decisions made in a vaccum, or without regard to mitigating circumstances or existing conditions are often, in hindsight, bad decisions.

It is possible to do and justify absolutely anything if one considers all the possibilities and options. No one (generally - psychcopaths need not apply) routinely considers killing another person as a normal option in day to day living. But in certain circumstances and under certain conditions, it can be justified. And of all the "sins" in most judeo-christian religions (to the best of my knowledge), taking the life of another is the worst one can do.

In the end, the judgement of man (or woman) is not the one religious people worry about. It is the judgement of their God. That is why certain other "religions" are problematic - they advocate the killing or at a minimum, the subjugation of people who do not believe in that religion. And if those people will not come off of that point, no one in society (outside of their religion) is safe, and consequently they must be eliminated for the greater good of humankind.

Peaceful coexistence is a goal that will not be achieved as long as people are intolerant and inflexible!!!

Yeah, slightly off topic, but not really.....and oh BTW B - Norfolk is just as bad as ever. I am in the area for some training. Ugh. Lots of new roads and stuff, but overall....SSDD.

KP

Posted by: Kbob in Katy at May 15, 2009 05:39 AM

Those are a lot of the ideas I want to talk about :)

Posted by: Cassandra at May 15, 2009 06:38 AM

Anyway, you're arguing a point I didn't intend to make

Well, same here. :-) After all, I did say it was neither here nor there.

The reason I found the quote interesting, actually, and the discussion I hoped to provoke was in regard to the very last sentence:

When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth.

Which was actually the direction I was, if perhaps too indirectly, trying to disagree with.

Hopefully more clearly:
The Christian position that pre-marital sex (or for a less charged example the Jewish view on eating pork) is always and forever sinful can be seen as the simple Black/White take on things.

The position that carves out an exeption of for "But their hearts are in the right place" can be seen as the "It's more complicated than that" position.

But Granny Weatherwax would believe the latter to be the Black/White position instead.

We we have both sides declaring that their's is the simple position and the other guy has the "It's more complicated than that" position.

So who is it that's afraid they won't like the truth?

Now don't get me wrong, I LURVE me some Discworld. Pratchett does a wonderful job of skewering everyones sacred cows. His works show a crap-ton of brilliance about the way the world works presented in some of the wittiest manners possible.

In fact, as I said earlier, If I had to develop a system of morality absent "My imaginary friend in the sky told me so" I would be hard pressed to come up with something better than his rubric.

And the view that those who think things are "more complicated than that" are really just afraid of what they find sounds nice. REALLY NICE. Like, I want to meet it's dad so I can ask for it's hand in marriage, nice. But so does the saying "Love means never having to say you're sorry". It sounds really nice, but it's also wrong. Love means having to say you're sorry *a ton* and often for things that aren't your fault.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 15, 2009 10:10 AM

It's related to the idea of treating guilt or innocence and circumstances that act in mitigation as distinct entities. - Cass

I see. But I don't. Decisions made in a vaccum, or without regard to mitigating circumstances or existing conditions are often, in hindsight, bad decisions. - KP

Perhaps,
But let's say that someone broke into your house kidnapped your daughter, tortured and raped her for a week before she finally died. If you were to track this animal in human clothing down and put a bullet between it's eyes.

I would say that the mitigating circumstances would render you justified. One doesn't put a dog on trial. One doesn't put it in jail. One just shoots it and is done with it.

But that being said, vengence killing is still murder and is still illegal and you will still go to jail for it.

It may be white, but it surely is awfully grubby.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 15, 2009 10:54 AM

Good grief. Looking back at those posts, boy do I need an editor. Maybe even layers of them. (But not nude layers, that would be torture.)

I hope ya'll can tell what I'm trying to say.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 15, 2009 10:59 AM

I can, and I enjoy your comments, as always.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 15, 2009 11:01 AM

"Yeah, slightly off topic, but not really.....and oh BTW B - Norfolk is just as bad as ever. I am in the area for some training. Ugh. Lots of new roads and stuff, but overall....SSDD."
My memories of Nawfawk seem to be relegated to shades of grey. But I was not there that often anywho. What I really want to know is how in the heck the USN maintains D&S piers position without the USS VULCAN AR5 at anchor?

YAG, I understand you too, which may be more of a detraction than any sort of affirmation. =;^}

Posted by: bthun at May 15, 2009 02:44 PM

I was down that way recently and was surprised at how much has changed. We lived there twice when I was growing up - once on the CINCLANT base (I was married in the chapel there!) and once on NOB.

There were areas of Norfolk I totally didn't recognize, which is saying a lot since I went to HS there and used to drive around the city all the time.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 15, 2009 02:48 PM

I actually got lost coming out of ORF (the airport), going the wrong way on Azalea Gardens Rd, Military Hwy, etc. All the sailor bars are gone from the areas outside the gates at NOB and NAB; Ocean view is almost all residential...even the dives over by NNSY are (for the most part) long gone.

Its not all bad, just that they represent landmarks I recognize from a time in my life when I was young, dumb and...well, young and dumb. It was kind of like stepping inot an alternate universe.

Posted by: Kbob in Katy at May 15, 2009 11:26 PM

...and YAG - you said "But let's say that someone broke into your house kidnapped your daughter, tortured and raped her for a week before she finally died. If you were to track this animal in human clothing down and put a bullet between it's eyes.

I would say that the mitigating circumstances would render you justified. One doesn't put a dog on trial. One doesn't put it in jail. One just shoots it and is done with it.

But that being said, vengence killing is still murder and is still illegal and you will still go to jail for it.

It may be white, but it surely is awfully grubby."

First, this is not directed at you personally. I know we are just discussing the issue. But being who I am, what I am and understanding the ultimate justice, if what you pointed to in your statement were to occur, there would not be a place that cretin could hide, nor would there be anyone who could stop me from dispensing biblical justice unto them without killing me.

You might be able to mess with me, but long ago I learned that you never EVER mess with a persons' family, animals or finances unless you were prepared for a maximum effort ass whipping.

If it's just me, I will do what it takes to make it stop; family, animals or finances and I will make it stop with lots of pain. And it is not revenge; that implies getting even. Even is not even close. Maximum effort.

Have a pleasant day. :^)

Posted by: Kbob in Katy at May 16, 2009 06:15 PM

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