Gay cakes and business by association

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When you engage in business and provide goods and services, is your conscience switched on? Are you in some way condoning the event for which you are providing your wares? Or is it strictly business, as the mafia men might say?

By now some of you will be sick to death of the noise being made about the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the United States Supreme Court (with some dissent) ruled that there exists a constitutional right for same-sex couples to have their unions recognised by law as marriage (via a marriage licence). I’ve commented on the Bill to create same-sex marriage in New Zealand in the past (a Bill that was passed), and – on quite another note – I’ve commented on some criticisms of the observation that the Bible prescribes marriage as the union of a man and a woman. I may have more to say about the latter in the future, but throughout all of these conversations the issue of religious freedom has popped up from time to time. There have been some cases of Christian business owners (bakers and florists in particular) who were asked to supply products or services for a same-sex wedding but who, due to their views on marriage, declined. In a libertarian society this would be a simple matter: They chose not to engage in business with somebody, so no contract was formed. Still, there are plenty of other bakers and florists out there, most of whom will be only too glad to take your money. Continue reading “Gay cakes and business by association”

Why a Christian should accept a Divine Command Theory, part 1

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If you’re a Christian, you should hold a divine command theory of ethics, and I’m going to tell you why.

As I’ve indicated before, I hold a Divine Command Theory of ethics. That’s the view (or family of views) in which what is right or wrong is what God commands (or forbids). I hold it tentatively in that I don’t think I have anything personally invested in holding this view. I don’t have to hold this view and I really would give it up if I thought the objections to it were any good. As best I can tell, they are not. I’m going to commit the philosophical sin of peering into other people’s motives, but I think that most non-religious criticisms of divine command ethics are really motivated by the critics’ rejection of religious beliefs, and since a divine command theory involves religious beliefs, it must be false (in the critic’s view). Continue reading “Why a Christian should accept a Divine Command Theory, part 1”

Vengeance is Mine: A Biblical smackdown on vigilante justice

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When confronted with repugnant crimes against other people – especially those we care about – is it right to take matters into our own hands and violently repay those who have wronged us or those we care about? Is there a particular answer to this question that we can call biblical? Continue reading “Vengeance is Mine: A Biblical smackdown on vigilante justice”

Divine commands, double standards and the objection from abhorrent commands

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Occasionally, when somebody first hears about divine command ethics (the view that what is right or wrong is what God commands or forbids), the response is one of incredulity: “What? You believe THAT?! So if God commanded you to kill that person over there, you would do it? Really?” And right there, whether the critic realises it or not, there is almost certainly a double standard at work. Read on to see why.

Continue reading “Divine commands, double standards and the objection from abhorrent commands”

Is Abortion Healthcare?

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“Access to abortion services is an essential part of women’s health!”

“Abortion is healthcare, not a crime!”

“You should not use your personal values as a way of interfering with women’s healthcare services.”

I’ve heard slogans like these used more times than I care to remember. These slogans are now being trotted out by the World Health Organisation as it is World Health Day. A number of pro-abortion rights bloggers have initiated a mini blogswarm over this issue. Labelling something “healthcare” gives the impression that by opposing it, you’re in some way opposed to good the good health of the people who seek access to it. Calling abortion a healthcare service automatically makes those who oppose abortion into opponents of healthcare. And who wants to be in that boat? But is it actually true?

Are abortion services a matter of healthcare provision?

The first thing to say is that even if abortion provides health benefits to the women who have them, this is not a sufficient reason to provide abortion services. After all, there are people whose health might be improved if they did not have school-aged children in their care, but this is not in itself an adequate reason to provide termination services to these people so that they can choose whether or not to remain parents of school aged children. Dressing such a grizzly scenario up in the language of healthcare would only make things more sinister and dystopian.

But what’s really interesting here is that the abortion rights lobby here in new Zealand has, for many years now, been well aware that abortion services are not, as a rule, about women’s health. Of all abortions carried out in New Zealand, the number that are actually carried out because of a danger to the mother are a minuscule fraction of the total. By contrast, over 95% of all abortions are carried out on the notoriously dubious grounds that the pregnancy (not future parenthood, but the pregnancy itself) poses a serious risk to the mother’s mental health. This is the ground that has seen abortions approved because the expectant mother fears getting pimples when she is pregnant, or is worried because she does not currently have enough seatbelts in her car for another baby car seat (as much as you might like to believe otherwise, there are not fictional examples).

In fact, for a number of years the Abortion Supervisor Committee has lobbied parliament to loosen abortion law in New Zealand precisely because all these abortions are carried out on the basis of a legal ground that they do not currently meet, namely the serious danger posed by the pregnancy to the mother’s mental health. What we are told by the ASC is that since the law is simply not being followed, this proves that the needs of women have changed and so the law needs to change with them.

So wait a second. If women are having abortions, but not because of any physical or medical risk posed by the pregnancy, and not because of any mental health risk posed by the pregnancy, then on what basis can abortion be considered a healthcare service? If the New Zealand abortion lobby has continually argued that abortion should be a matter of choice regardless of healthcare concerns, then why do they keep referring to abortion as healthcare? Someone’s trying to have their cake and eat it too. If abortion is a matter of health, then let’s see the abortion lobby in the country call to see abortion restricted to cases where health is genuinely at risk – which would reduce abortion numbers to less than 5% of what they are now.

Come on ALRANZ. Let’s see if you have the integrity. You’re going to have to make up your mind: Should abortion be an issue of healthcare, and restricted accordingly, or should it be a matter of personal choice that can be morally evaluated quite apart from the tar-baby of interfering with health issues? It’s not both.

Glenn Peoples

Other blogs on this issue:

Nuts and Bolts 011: Ethical Intuitionism

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G. E. MooreIn the “nuts and bolts” series, I explain and discuss some of the fundamental ideas in philosophy (and theology sometimes) that are taken for granted within the discipline, but which might not be very well known to ordinary human beings. This time the subject is ethical intuitionism (or moral intuitionism).

Firstly, and this cannot be emphasised strongly enough, moral intuitionism is not and has never been a theory about how moral facts are grounded. It is not a meta-ethical theory and it is not an ethical theory. It does not try to explain what makes anything right or wrong, nor does it try to tell us which particular actions are right and which are wrong. If you ever hear someone say “so your intuitions tell you that it’s wrong. That doesn’t make it wrong!” then you have my permission to do something unpleasant to them. Moral intuitionism is not meant to be about what makes things wrong – or right.

So if it’s not a theory of morality, what is it? Moral intuitionism is a moral epistemology. It is no more and no less than a theory about how we can come to know certain things, in this case certain moral facts. We can know them, according to this theory, by intuiting them, by experiencing the intuition that they are true. Continue reading “Nuts and Bolts 011: Ethical Intuitionism”

Where I stand on legal same sex marriage

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Recently I posted a couple of blog entries that made reference to homosexuality. I didn’t seek the subject out, it just popped up in current affairs due to the publicity surrounding a couple of recent studies. However, writing those two blog posts reminded me that I haven’t actually written a blog entry laying out what I think about the legal status of same sex marriage. Contributing at least partially to that end, I submit the following.

The following is not written to convince you that my view on the legal status of same-sex marriage is correct. All I intend to do here is to ensure that you know what my view on the legal status of same sex marriage is. Continue reading “Where I stand on legal same sex marriage”

Education and Morality: Are smarter people more virtuous?

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This blog entry was prompted by a recent Facebook conversation. A friend of mine was remarking that she had just watched the movie The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which is set amidst Hitler’s notorious “final solution” in Nazi Germany. Understandably, she found the movie upsetting, and she wondered (out loud) how people could bring themselves to treat each other so cruelly.

Facebook being what it is, a diversity of responses was on offer, but one that appeared fairly early one came from a young woman at university. The problem, she told all readers, is that people stereotype and discriminate, and in order to be more enlightened, accepting and more humane was to become more educated (like her, I can only assume). I replied by suggesting that actually education doesn’t turn wicked people into good people. It only enables people to be more cunning in their wickedness. A young student (or graduate, I’m not sure) promptly took me to task for suggesting that education made people evil, and then proceeded to begin cobbling together a lecture on the psychological factors that make people like that. Now of course, I never said that education makes people evil (apparently her education hadn’t helped her to read more carefully). I said that education makes wicked people more cunning in their evil. Continue reading “Education and Morality: Are smarter people more virtuous?”

Episode 009: The Moral Argument, Part 1

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Here’s part 1 of a 2 part series on the moral argument for theism. The argument is largely about meta-ethics, so the bulk of this presentation is devoted to explaining the meta-ethical issues: What are moral facts at all? And could there be any such things in a purely naturalistic worldview?