Friday, June 7, 2013

The Breakdown of Moral Arguments

My post about divorce yesterday caused the comments section of my blog to explode.  People are really passionate about marriage in America.  I imagine things will be interesting in our country when the Supreme Court makes its ruling on gay marriage.

The discussion reminds me of an article that Fr. Robert Barron wrote about gay marriage in April.  I'm going to summarize the article here.  Fr. Barron writes that it is hard for people today to have conversations about morality.  Why?  People have very different viewpoints on things.  "In regard to questions of what is right and wrong, we simply talk past one another, or more often, scream at each other."

One example of the inability to have coherent moral discussions comes from Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.  During the hearing on gay marriage, she became wary when someone mentioned morality.  She said, “Whenever someone expresses moral disapproval...the red flag of discrimination goes up for me.”  This is a curious statement.  She did not say she is opposed to bad moral arguments; she said she is opposed to moral arguments in general.

So Americans have difficulty, discussing morality.  What is a result of this fact?  People have become obsessed with poll numbers.  It is true that poll numbers are interesting, but they do not determine morality.  If a majority of Americans believe X, it does not logically follow that X is good or bad.  "If a poll had been taken in, say, 1825, concerning the legitimacy of slavery, I would bet that only a small minority of Americans would have come out for eliminating the practice."  Poll numbers cannot be a substitute for moral arguments.

Another indication of the breakdown of moral arguments is the tendency to replace "morality" with "sentiment".  This happens a lot with the topic of gay marriage; people sentamentalize the issue.  For example, you will hear a politician say something like, "I support gay marriage because my son is gay, and I want him to be happy."  That is a fine sentiment; all parents should want to see their children happy.  However, "I want my son to be happy" is not a moral argument.  It is a well-intentioned desire.

[Note from Michael: The closest it comes to a moral argument is "my son should be allowed to do what makes him happy".  Any parent who has toddlers can tell you this is untrue.  You can tweak this sentiment in various ways, to make different moral arguments of varying strength.]

Fr. Barron concludes his article, with the hope that some of the fog surrounding morality in our country may be cleared up.  He specifically avoids making any moral arguments about gay marriage himself, one way or the other.

46 comments:

Breanna(; said...

That makes a lot of sense I agree completely with you Michael.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more! Thank you for the follow up post, Michael. :)

- Virgil

rocca said...

i agree with breanna and virgil. thanks michael[;

Ali said...

Wow, you weren't kidding. You DID get a lot of comments on the last post...
This post really makes you slow down to read it and think from all sides. maybe it'll get even more comments! That would be a little scary.

Anonymous said...

if anything, michael, your last thread commentary just shows us how much hate there is in this country. I do wish you had more of an educated audience visiting your blog.

Blackledge said...

I don't understand why there has to be a "moral" discussion about homosexuality, though. It's not any different than heterosexuality and these are not things that have anything to do with morality at all. It would be like questioning the "morality" of the sky or the earth or an object. For most things in life, you can say "this is 'moral' if it is not abused" and that's it.

Anonymous said...

I love Fr. Robert Barron. :) Really good article and so true. Moral relativism has become the norm these days. There are phrases such as "if it feels good, do it" and "What's right for you may not be right for me". But this sort of mentality caused the fall of the Roman Empire. If we don't have morals than the world would be on fire? It is common sense. They are natural for us. That's why you feel guilty when you do something wrong. By the way, the comment section yesterday was insane. The arguments went from good to petty in a short period of time. And I am speaking about both sides on this.

William D said...

I just hope they do not pass the gay marriage law. It is against Catholicism, and that
9meaning no offense to any here) is the only true religion.

Anonymous said...

@Blackledge, it has to do with morality because it is unnatural. All you have to do is look at biology to see that men and women are different. Only a man and a woman can create a new life. Our bodies were made the way they were so we could make new life. It is really quite extraordinary. But say a man and a man cannot do that. They can try through unnatural processes and have genetically modified babies, but that is not natural either and is very immoral. If it is not natural then it is immoral! Like murder is not natural. No one should die by the hands of someone else. So it is immoral. I hope I am making sense here. I am sorry if I got confusing.

Anonymous said...

"...Catholicism, and that
9meaning no offense to any here) is the only true religion."

Wow. No it is not.

Blackledge said...

Your opinion isn’t natural, and I’m not saying that to be mean or be a troll. But your twisted idea that there can’t possibly be any people attracted to the same sex is not something you’re supposed to think. It’s there because you don’t like it and don’t want to face it and you’ve grown up in a world where ignoring things like that is okay. So by your logic, your opinion is a sin, which is also true either way, since it is dangerous.
Exactly – men and women are different. Biology can be used for the opposite argument – that men are made for each other and women are made for each other. As I said on the other post (although I wasn’t really being serious then, but now I am), men know how men feel physically, mentally and emotionally. The same goes for women. That’s not the case for people of opposite sexes. That’s why we’re constantly hearing about how they can never understand each other.
You’re projecting your own reality and your own nature onto the whole of humanity and are forgetting that you’re an individual brain. I would LOVE to do the same, but every day I am surrounded by heterosexuality in real life and in the media, so I can’t help but feel like maybe they aren’t just suppressing their selves – they actually feel it. There are actually people just like you on the other end – you’re lucky you’re talking to me and not my aunt who probably thinks everyone is gay (and she would be a lot angrier). But I’m not a victim. I grow from it, and I learn.
In a grossly overpopulated world, I’d say we need homosexuals more than ever so that we stop reproducing so damn much. And see, nature has Balanced that out – the more people we have on Earth, the bigger percentage of homosexuals we’ll have. God provides for everything.
And as for William D., even if Catholicism was the one “true” religion…this has nothing to do with it, and the government, as written in the Constitution, should not care. Then again, when have we ever followed the Constitution? Slavery and segregation were never about life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, and even still today America continues to grossly abuse human rights.

Stephanie Braddock said...

I'm afraid I'm not following any of the reasoning from anyone besides Blackledge... Catholicism is NOT the only religion out there, nor is it the only 'true' one (whatever that is supposed to mean). What about Jews, and Buddhists, and Muslims? Are their religions 'not true' now? Not that that has to do with anything. There is a separation between religion and state for a reason.

Also, people here seem to be focusing only on the sexual parts of the relationship; it is so much more than just sex. Women and men have different bodies, and it was for a reason. It was so the human race didn't die out. But just because a couple can't reproduce doesn't mean they aren't a real sort of couple. What of couples that are infertile? They can't reproduce, either. And you are speaking of moral and immoral in relative terms yet again. The whole point of this post was to highlight that they are applied as terms in different ways by different people, and you are not supposed to assume that everyone thinks of something in the way you do.

Continuing with the 'it's immoral for same sex couples to be in a relationship' topic. I don't think that can be decided by any one person, or any group of people, and- as proved by comments in the last post, which got severely out of hand- people will not agree no matter what argument you provide. I don't think sex is the only thing to consider in a relationship, either. If you are going to brand it one way or the other, you need to look at all the points: sex is one of them, but then there's how the people get along, the difference in the ways women and men are raised and the effect of two women or two men living together, etc. You can't look at only one aspect, and I think that's why this topic really can not be generalized to be one or the other. I personally find it to be amoral.

James said...

I think moral relativism is becoming so popular because 1.) it’s true, and 2.) the United States is an extremely diversified country, culturally speaking. There was a poster on the last topic who said she was a Japanese-American citizen (I forget her name and I don’t want to look through 300 comments to find it). In her culture, and her religion, homosexuality is not wrong. Why should she be forced to live under Judeo-Christian laws and morals when she is not of the Abraham religions? Is she not an American too? Is she supposed to abandoned her native religion and conform to Christianity? I don’t think so, and I think it’s wrong to make non-Christians live under Christian laws. The US was founded on freedom FROM religion, and from reading these post, I really don’t see how the States can claim to be a secular and open nation when it 1.) makes laws based on religion and 2.) forces people like that non-Christian poster to live under Judeo-Christian laws.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we can deny that same sex attraction is a very real thing. It has been part of human relationships throughout history, just look at the Greeks. However, the reality is that new life can only arise from the conjugal union between a man and a woman. Marriage was established to safeguard the wellbeing of those children. That does not make the attraction or love between two people of the same gender any less nor does it make it invalid. It is, however, fundamentally different as that love can never attain the natural end of conjugal love, which is the procreation of children.

- Virgil

Anonymous said...

Im only 12 years old so I dont know much about this stuff but shouldent you be able to marry the person you love gay or not? It just seems right to let people mary the ones you love and why do some people go aganst it frankly I dont care if someones gay or not. Thats my opinion and im stiking to it

Stephanie Braddock said...

Not everyone enters a relationship with the goal of having children, however. Not to mention adoption is always an option. It seems wrong to me personally (please, no hate comments for this) to bring so many new children into the world with so many abandoned, neglected, and in need of help. Also, the Japanese woman's name was Miwako. I remembered because I'm a Nancy Drew geek.

Anonymous said...

Gays are Freaks unworthy to be called human.

Anonymous said...

It is? Im not Chatolic what am I then?

Anonymous said...

...ok that was harsh and uncalled fore they are people to

Stephanie Braddock said...

If you want to rant about how much you hate LBGT people, go to the other comments section, where I assure you many share your beliefs. But that is not what this particular post is about, and I deem that comment irrelevant. Please don't seek out a fight; someone might give you one.

Anonymous said...

@Blackledge I'm sorry if I wasn't clear in my comment. I understand that same sex attraction is a very real thing. But just because it is real does not make it right. It is a mental illness that needs to be taken care of, not encouraged. Men and women were made for each other. If they weren't, we would be made differently. Gays cannot help if they feel those attractions, since they are not in the right state of mind (please note that I am not trying to be hateful, I love them with a Christian heart) but there are a lot of gays who don't even want to be gay. They see it as a sin and they can go to a special therapy that specializes in that and become straight. But it should not be embraced and encouraged. Also, the world is not overpopulated. In fact it is under populated. If you live in a large city it may seem overpopulated, but if you fly in a plane you will see most of land below is wilderness or farmland. Our childbirth record is at a low because of contraceptives and sterilization. I know a family who went to Europe many times and there were practically no children there. And I think Europe is starting to realize how bad that could be if they don't start reproducing.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8:32, I don't agree that it is right either but they ARE human and worth of God's love. Love the sinner, hate the sin.

Brittany said...

8:52 Anon: "In fact it is under populated." Source, please?

Blackledge said...

You say men and women are made for each other, and most of the time they are, but sometimes they literally are not made for each other. I don’t understand why that’s such a difficult concept. It’s not even an argument – I’m telling you the fact. Do you know why people “see it as a sin”? It’s because of people like you who tell them that in the first place. You tell them to ruin their lives in concentration camps and spend the rest of them trying to feel romantic love, or at worst, sexual attraction, for something they cannot. Brainwashing someone into denying love for their entire life is the cruelest thing you can do. You can’t change a nervous system or the amount of hormones you received while developing – Again, these are simple concepts. Why shouldn’t it be embraced and encouraged? You don’t have a legitimate answer for that, especially since it doesn’t even hurt anyone. Saying it should be “taken care of” just sounds so wrong. What’s next? Do we need to take care of autistic people? Do we need to give them electric shock therapy until they learn to “conform” by not speaking at all? Or we can go beyond natural conditions and maybe “take care of” opposing political ideologies, something that would probably help you. I would love for you to go such a therapy where you’re taught to force yourself to feel some attraction to your own sex and hear your cry and scream about how disgusting it is.
I guess what I meant by overpopulation is that we use most of, well, everything on 1-10% of the world’s population while the rest are starving.

Blackledge said...

Really this whole thing is just because Religion (with a capital R) hates sex. If it wasn't for reproduction, it would be banned entirely. The distortions of most religions today are just meant to be oppressive and to get people to enjoy their own oppression.

Anonymous said...

Blackledge you don't make any since.

Blackledge said...

If you would elaborate, I would love to try to offer a better explanation. But I know that's just your way of trying to communicate that you don't like what I said.

Kaitlyn said...

Guys can we please not start it again on this blog post lets just drop it.

Brittany said...

Kaitlyn, if you don't like it you can leave. Some people actually like debating.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Blackledge, if you read St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope John Paul II, Alice Von Hildebrand, or St. John Chrysostom you can clearly read that religion, or at least Catholicism, does not hate sex. It is seen as a very good thing, but can be easily abused. It can be used for the good in bringing two people together, but in doing so it should not be separated from its natural end, which is the procreation of children. That would be like consuming food, while purposely denying your body the nutrients from it.

Also, Brittany, I think Kaitlyn has a point. I don't think anyone wants a repeat of the previous post's comments. They turned pretty ugly.

- Virgil

Stephanie Braddock said...

Most people dont have sex for the single goal of having children. Also, we are AGAIN assuming that the people we are talking about are relogious.... A lot of them aren't. I don't find it fair to preach religion to them if they dont believe in it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not trying to preach religion, just show what the Catholic views on married/ conjugal love are. There seems to be some misunderstanding on that point. The goal of conjugal love is twofold, unitive and procreative. It should be used to unite the spouses in love for one another and give rise to children, and neither aspect should be wholly separated from the other. That's the Catholic view, not the secular view. :)

- Virgil

Brittany said...

Virgil, I actually like reading what people have to say (for the most part).

Anonymous said...

I'm also with Kaitlyn on this it is dumb to keep on arguing about this. It can't just go on forever. From what I've seen it seems everyone thinks different things and everyone was born and raised to think completely different ways on here and there is just no use in continuing arguing and just my opinion but it makes a lot of things.

Kuhna said...

I'm also with Kaitlyn. If it were actually debating, then it would be interesting (though still not appropriate to do on someone's blog post - again, I'm sorry for contributing to all this, Michael), but except for a few people there hasn't really been intelligent, cohesive, respectful conversation.

peace said...

i'd like to encourage you all to express your views amongst your peers and social groups. it seems like a lot of opinions are repressed and we have taken it out on michael's blog. perhaps we need all need an outlet.

Blackledge said...

I know that religions in their truth obviously support sex since it’s a thing that humans have to do (and not because of reproduction), but I was talking about what they’ve become in the present, controlled by big groups. That's all. You know, how they hate any woman who ever had sex in her lifetime because she's a "slut"...That's a deviation from love or Catholicism or whatever religion you could be talking about. Just as denying same sex unions their rights is.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Michael, but I think you miss the point, when you state that being for or against slavery is about morals. No it's simply about human rights, about the rule of law and justice to all mankind.
When it comes to gay marriage or marriage as a whole we may discuss differing opinions, whether we like a certain lifestyle or not, but there's still one important thing to be noticed and that's:
As I don't interfere with anyone else's lifestyle I expect the same of the other. So in my opinion if someone resents the choice of other people to live in a (gay) marriage he interferes in something that is -sorry to be harsh- none of his business. To each his/her own...

Anonymous said...

i agree with kaitlyn completly lets drop it....

Natalie said...

"If a majority of Americans believe X, it does not logically follow that X is good or bad" - what does LOGIC have to do with this? It's other people who decide whether X is good or bad. See? It cannot OBJECTIVE.

By the way, Michael, why are you so concerned about morality? Why don't just do not do things that you consider to be immoral, and leave other people to do whatever want (of course, as long as they do not violate the law)?

Anonymous said...

Natalie, I think that just because the majority of people believe something doesn't mean it's good. An extreme example is with Hitler - he was democratically elected. And while he was having Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, and other non-aryans rounded up, a lot of people still supported that.

Natalie said...

Anon, I agree with you!But it is also true the other way around. If a bunch of people say that the thing the majority of Americans support is bad, it does not follow that that thing is bad.
What is good for one person is bad for another. I only wanted to say that almost nothing is intrinsically good or bad, so the phrase "logically follows" is not suitable for discussing morality.

Natalie said...

By the way, I'm not sure about this, but I think Hitler was elected because most people endorsed his intention to cancel the Treaty of Versailles (some of its clauses which disadvantaged Germany) Other politicians were too afraid to do it, even though this idea was supported by most Germans.

I don't think people supported concentration camps and killings, probably they just were too afraid to speak up. They didn't want to end up in prison or dead.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Michael!!!! Keep up the good work and keep fighting with love!!!:):):) I am totally giving you a thumbs up!! God Bless you!!!:)

Graeme Cree said...

I'm not a huge fan of her, but in Kagan's defense, she didn't say she personally had trouble discussing moral issues, she seemed to mean that she had trouble with using them in a legal sense.

In a democracy, we don't elect the "right" or "wrong" candidate, we appoint the one who gets the most votes (or who successfully steals the election). Kagan's job (in theory) is not to do the right thing, but to do the constitutional thing. If the Constitution was wrong, it would be her job to make the "wrong" ruling, until the problem could be fixed at the legislative level.

Graeme Cree said...

"Anonymous James said...
I think moral relativism is becoming so popular because 1.) it’s true,..."

This statement is a contradiction in terms. If it were "true", it wouldn't be relative. That's kind of what "relative" means.