I recently got in an argument with my boyfriend on the topic of bestiality. He's a hardcore Satanist and he thinks that it's okay for people to have sex with animals if the animals consent. I replied with they cannot verbally consent as they have very low intelligence and run basically on instinct, and I pretty much called him sick for thinking that it's ok. (Wrong of me, but it really rustles my jimmies) He said that I might as well set my religion on facebook to Christian since I follow the morals of them (except for being pro gay marriage). I'm just... lost I guess. I'm not christian at all and I think the bible is hogwash, but is there anything inherently wrong with Christian morals?? Lying, murder, stealing, all pretty bad in my opinion. Aside from that the government influenced my morality long before I even understood what Christianity was. I don't know, I need some advice or just input on the whole situation.
Is this a guy to be the father of your children, Meg?
I recommend for you, and your boyfriend, a book by Robert Wright, 'The Evolution of God'. The first thing you will learn is that the idea of a 'Christian value system' has meant a lot of different things over the years, most of which would be unrecognizable to the Christians today. Every facet of modern Christianity (Judaism and Islam, as well) was at some point introduced as a new idea, gradually accepted, and finally clung to with, yes, religious fervor.
Second, and almost indistinguishable from the above point, is the idea that religions change to suit the times. As Wright often puts it, 'doctrine changes or is re-interpreted to suit the facts on the ground, not vice-versa'. This religious maleability has been enshrined in the Bible; contained within one book, taken to be an absolute, revealed truth, are passages as disparate as (to paraphrase) 'kill the ____ people and all their children' and (not to paraphrase, cause I know this one) 'Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you'. Written, of course, at different times, by different people, for different purposes. The only common theme is that they happen to be claiming legitimacy given by the same invisible man. The idea of Christianity today has been carefully screened and selected from the bible, with a convenient blind eye turned on prohibitions on eating pork, or on the injunction to stone adulterers, because those do not 'roll with the times', so to speak. We today are more scientifically and morally enlightened than those who wrote the bible or interpreted it in the past, so for it to keep some sort of legitimacy, its modern interpreters must suit it to the environment at hand. It's no accident that Christianity today is a 'feel-good' religion; this is only in response to what is in demand by the people who it ministers to.
Another interesting point; the things you mention as 'sins' (to use the term only slightly sarcastically) are thought of that way almost universally, as Wright points out. They are 'evolved' into every social system, and therefore into every religion, as a matter of practicality. One does not have a functioning society where murder and theft are condoned and openly practised; this leads to chaos. Thus, in a darwinian fashion, successful sociecies will be the ones that build up strong social inhibitions against such things. Thus, there is a strong secular arguement to be made for the valid practise of such values. There was also, once, a valid arguement against bestiality and, say, eating non-kosher foods. What arguements still remain against these things?
Personally, though, I feel you're spot on with your views on Bestiality. It is right in line with what I think of as the only empirical moral rule; do no harm to others. Like you, though I find it somewhat disquieting personally, I suppose if we could get an animal's consent it would be just fine, just as I think anything a person wants to do is fine, as long as he has the consent of those it could affect, as long as it does others no harm. For us fleshy imbeciles, barely lifting our heads out of the evolutionary wringer into meta-consciouness, this is perhaps the best we can do, in terms of a moral system. Perhaps someday (when we have people like Sokrates about again) we can hope to do better, but until then we seem to be condemned to people like the Christians who pander influence in the form of misguided morality.
Brian, two points.
First, I think you don't give Christianity enough credit. The New Testament Jesus "event" (reality or not) was, at least in most theology I've read, a major change in the focus of morality and ethics. Not so much a 'moving with the times' thing. Historically, Jews treated other Jews with respect and kindness. Others not so much. The Jesus event was when the idea was introduced that everybody should be treated as a Jew (or a Roman, or a Greek, or whatever you were).
Second, the "do no harm to others" for whatever reason always brings to mind the Sikhs. A devout Sikh will wear a face mask so he doesn't accidentally inhale and kill an insect. He will carry a broom and whisk the sidewalk in front of him to avoid stepping on and killing any living thing. Do you do that? How serious are you about this "do no harm to others" idea? I can see a progression from "They're only bugs" to "They're only dumb animals" to "They're only n*##$^s" to "They're only Americans."
I again defer to Robert Wright; you will find that the 'Jesus event', as you put it, was not so much a singularity as a culmination of various real-world political forces coming together to suit the demands of a culturally expanding world. The doctrine of universal tolerance was definitely not new when it was brought to Pauline Christianity, having been resurrected, as it were, from older Egyptian traditions, and it may surprise you how long it took for that doctrine to gain universal acceptance among Christian sects. The basic facts are as follows; Christians needed a religious 'platform', as it were, that could thrive in the open market of Roman sociopolitical life; as Wright explains in great detail, the model best able to thrive was one which emphasized brotherly love while also extending the invitation to join the brotherhood to non-members. This is the origin of what we now know as universal tolerance. Over many years, apologists and theologians have understandably sought to spin or distort this progression, to make it seem as if Jesus himself was the source of all such ideas. Besides being little more than a typical Jewish apocolyptic street prophet of the most common variety, historical Jesus seems to have been just as xenophobic and bigoted as the next Jew in his day. His universal tolerance, along with most of the stories about him and sayings attributed to him, were manufactured by the authors of the gospels, or in Paul's letters, to construct a messiah-figure worthy of the aims of contemporary Christianity.
To your second point; certainly, I do not even attempt to live like a Sikh, and would hate to have to be the one to point out that, if you're going to do so, you will inevitably fail, because you have committed the folly of not knowing where to draw the line. If your mantra is, in every literal sense, 'do no harm to any living thing', the very air you breathe will be strike against you. One who does the things you suggest above, wearing face masks and sweeping their paths, has chosen a very low threshold of 'respectibility, but one which is just as arbitrary as the ones we choose. I think anyone, seeing a dog being deliberately tormented, would agree it's wrong; I would be harder pressed to make such a clear distinction if we moved down the line a little, say, to a kid slowly tearing a worm in half. I certainly am not qualified to say what a worm knows or feels, so am in no position to pass judgement. If the Sikhs insist that the worm is a living brother, and they thus have no qualms about comdeming worm-murder, we need only move a bit farther down the line to, say, an E. Coli bacterium, to test where they would draw the line. The point is that all such moral distinctions are, to some extent, arbitrary, and thus my killing an insect is not an exception to the rule, just something that falls outside of my practical moral repertoire. It does not follow from this, as it might from me having to make an exception for every creature I accidentally kill, that the moral reasoning can be extended to any 'other' group I want to kill. The grey areas in the middle of this rule do not in any way invalidate its application to those cases clearly on in one category; it will always be morally improper to kill a person, and will never be improper to kill, say, a plant. These cases fit within my personal system; others may have their own, wider or narrower in one area or another, without invalidating mine.
Actually, you're right, it is the Jain adherents who do that. I was studying both at the same time and sometimes get them confused.
You do not have the morality of Christians but they frequently have the morality of modern Humanist society which they claim to be Christian which is why you share many values with Christians.
If you read the bible, you will find justified in there slavery, child murder, rape, genocide and much more awful stuff. No Christian thinks these are OK even tho God says it is. I have the benefit of living in the UK where non-theists are a huge majority - only a third of us identify as atheist and 55% say they are Christian but of that 55% only 1/3 believe that Jesus is the son of God which shows how few real Christians we actually have.Over here there is the assumption that most people will have values consistent with Humanism - human rights, humanitarian policies etc - America has almost the same ethics and values as we do but because Christianity is so dominant there, people claim that those values are Christian which they most certainly are not. Unless you subscribe to views which DO separate Christians from the average humanist - mostly views that certain types of sex between consenting adults are wrong for no reason except that the bible says so - then you are not living by Christian values but by Humanist ones. I agree with you that animals are unable to consent to sex and therefore any sexual activity with animals is unethical.
Saith Helen Pluckrose: "If you read the bible, you will find justified in there slavery, child murder, rape, genocide and much more awful stuff. No Christian thinks these are OK even tho God says it is"
No, it was OK when God said it was OK. Now that God says it's bad, it's bad. It is good because God says it is good, not that God says it is good because it is good. (Sarcasm alert.)
"I have the benefit of living in the UK"
I have the "benefit" of living in a Texas, US ghetto. I have a neighbor who is convinced that we never landed on the moon. Might you say that my beliefs are somewhat out-of-place here? I think so. But I think that the tension and conflict does me some good, as I am not constantly reinforced by those around me. (Read: "Persecution is good for the soul.")
If you're from Texas, David, I certainly applaud you for being here. If you're a native Texan, then I applaud you for being bi-pedal --
'No, it was OK when God said it was OK. Now that God says it's bad, it's bad.'
I always point this out when a Christian tells me moral relativism is bad. Also the whole thing about it being fine for their god to round up non-christians and brutalise them but wrong when Hitler did it. Don't get more relative than that. Life is certainly a lot easier for an atheist here and I am not sure I'd be brave enough to be an out atheist if I lived in the bible belt. Kudos if you are.
I live in Houston. Our elected mayor is an "out" lesbian. Not all Texans are as backwards as you might think. Though we did see some Christian churches around the state calling for a boycott of Houston in response. So yeah, some Texans ARE as backward as you might think.
And I identify as a Hindu, though atheism is closest to what I believe in a practical sense. I had a "spiritual experience" as an Evangelical Christian that led me to Hinduism, and I'm not ready to classify that as a mental fart just yet.