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A stone in your shoe

in Blogging, Social Issues, Theology / Biblical Studies

“The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.’” (2 Chronicles 18:7)

I’ve been getting under some people’s skin lately. I wrote a recent short blog post about race – specifically about issues faced by the black community in America including poverty and also its relationship with law enforcement. I’ve also been making comments on social media and I’ve shared several links to news stories and opinion pieces about race-related issues, stories of abuse by police, and pieces on how we respond to the deaths of victims of such violence, such as Eric Garner.

As I would have hoped, there have been people who appreciate this. But as one might naturally expect, those who have had the most to say about it are those who are not happy with me doing this. People are attempting to push back on the fact claims, pushing back about why I’m speaking to white people, pushing back about whether or not a foreigner like me has the right to an opinion about what happens in America, pushing back about whether or not I am empathising enough with the authorities and their representatives, and so on. I’m baiting, I’m making trouble, I’m “playing the race card,” I’m being “left wing” and so on. Not everyone who has reservations about the message expresses themselves in these terms, but there is certainly an undercurrent that doesn’t just say “you’re not quite right.” The message is “I’m unhappy with what you’ve said. It has affected the way I feel.” [click to continue…]

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Do not fight hate with hate

in Social Issues, World News

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34)

YESTERDAY IN Sydney armed man Haron Monis, carrying an Islamic flag, took hostages in a Sydney café in a siege that captured the attention of the world. Less than a day later, it was over, and Monis, along with two members of the public, lay dead. There will be some who, I suspect, over and above mourning the loss of innocent life, use this event to reinforce their view that religion is uniquely dangerous. My heart sank as the story broke, both because of the horror faced by the poor victims, but because of the inevitable backlash against Muslims in general that we may be about to see. This has nothing to do with what I think of Islam. I am hardly an advocate. But it has everything to do with the excuses we sometimes make to overlook the ways in which we fail to love others. [click to continue…]

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in Social Issues

Black people face real disadvantages and difficulties when it comes to crime and law enforcement. As soon as some people – usually white people – hear those words, they begin to switch off and act as though they are not interested in the problem, or in even admitting that there is one sometimes. But there is one, and if you’re a person who, like me, wants to be a follower of Christ in the world, then you should care because people are hurting over this. [click to continue…]

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Loose Cannons for Christ

in Ecclesiology

The lead story on tonight’s news was that of Pastor Logan Robertson’s email reply to Jim Marjoram. Jim Marjoram is a homosexual man who recently wrote an autobiography detailing his former life as a “fundamentalist” Christian. He emailed a number of Auckland Churches about the book, and about the “Support Silent Gays” support group. Robertson’s reply is now world-famous in New Zealand: “I pray that you will commit suicide, you filthy fag.” Read about it here.

Now, my cynical side (the side I usually listen to) says that when you send an email to churches advertising a book about your journey from “fundamentalism” to being openly gay, and advertising a gay support group, if you’re clever you send it to a few liberal churches who will offer supportive comments you can quote, and you pick the nuttiest you can find, so you can quote them. Either end of the spectrum is good for publicity, and that has certainly proven to be the case here. Send the book it to people who will react badly, and make sure everybody hears about it when they do. Works like a charm.

Still, what an overly nasty thing to say, you might be thinking. And you’d be right, of course! It beggars belief that the pastor of a Church whose website calls itself a “family-oriented” church would say this. And it makes one’s head explode to see that at that site, we are told that “Pastor Robertson has a love for the lost and our church has a vision of reaching the lost souls of Auckland.” A love for the lost! I doubt there would be much point in any of us, Christian or otherwise, trying to reason with a person who thinks this is a helpful way to reply to anybody. What’s more, there are enough people who already hold patently false views of how the church interacts with gay people, and this will only make that perception worse.

How does this happen? [click to continue…]

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in Ethics, Philosophy of Religion

A few years ago my article “The Epistemological Objection to Divine Command Ethics” was published. In it, I address a particular objection to a divine command theory of ethics. That objection is as follows: If the property of being morally required is the same as the property of being commanded by God, then people who do not believe in God cannot know that they have moral obligations, since they do not know that they have been commanded by God. But it’s part of the nature of moral obligations that people understand why they have them. So let’s reject a divine command theory of ethics. An epistemological argument is one that is concerned with what a person knows (or whether or not they can know something) and how they know it. In the process of making the argument I name a few philosophers who have made variants of this argument, but I focus mostly on Wes Morriston’s argument due to its detail and care.1

I don’t think this argument is compelling and in the article I explain why. Rather than rehearse the arguments here, I invite the reader to read the article.

One of my favourite atheist writers on meta-ethics and all-round nice guy, Erik Wielenberg alleges that I miss the point of Morriston’s argument (so much for being a nice guy, jerk). He says that I miss the point of Morriston’s argument, “mistakenly construing Morriston’s argument as an epistemological objection to divine command theory.”2 Really, says Wielenberg, Morriston does not offer an epistemological objection, but a metaphysical objection according to which reasonable non-believers would not even have moral obligations if a divine command theory were correct. [click to continue…]

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  1. Wes Morriston, “The Moral Obligations of Reasonable Non-believers: A special problem for divine command metaethics,” International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion 65 (2009), 1-10. []
  2. Wielenberg, Robust Ethics: The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Godless Normative Realism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 79. []


Double standards about being pro-choice

in Ethics

Surely there is an irreconcilable double standard in many contemporary pro abortion rights societies when it comes to the way we judge the choices of men and women. [click to continue…]

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Religion, Hard Times and Causation

in religion

I’ve heard it said a few times that there’s a correlation between religious societies in the modern West and social ills like crime and poverty. If we wanted to be really picky, the study that purported to show this (a study that has seen its fair share of criticism) actually showed that where the religious exist alongside the non-religious and where religion is construed in a particular way (a type of conservative religious outlook that included the rejection of evolutionary science), social ills were more prevalent. I’ve commented briefly on this before (See “Does Religious Faith make People More Moral?”).

When the alleged correlation was first brought to my attention in a radio discussion in 2010, I didn’t think much of it. There were probably a few ways the analysis could go. One possibility, I suggested, was that social ills like poverty could actually contribute to the religiosity of the people affected. But for some reason, every time I have heard the study referred to, it has only been in a context where somebody was trying to show that religion is bad for you.

As it turns out, while the ideologues were at it, so were researchers. “People living in hardship are more likely to believe in moralising, high gods, according to a major new study co-authored by New Zealand researchers.” [click to continue…]

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