Tuesdays With Abhorrent Fiends vol. 33

Quote of the week:

"I find it difficult to envisage a mathematical theory of mother-love, and I doubt the world would be a better place if some misguided genius were to formulate one."

~Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice?: The New Mathematics of Chaos

This was originally my response to Amber's comment on my last post, "now you know what I did last night." However as it went on and on I realized it wouldn't be fair to Amber to make her read that whole durn thing in a tiny comment window. In addition, twouldn't hardly be fair to me to start a new Tuesdays all over from the start when I had a perfectly nice one brewing right here.

I've been reading Lackey's "Music To My Sorrow", and I've become quite fond of Hosea Songmaker, the Bard from the Ozark hills. Definitely putting an accent into the stream of consciousness feeding into my wordmaker. Regional diction is a tough thing to use well and Lackey doesn't usually attempt it, but it works well in the book. An eBook a week when you're stuck up a creek, with your foot in the hole in the bottom...yeesh, I better write a song soon. All this prose is making me limerick!

Yay! You read it and commented on it!
Trust me, I did not seriously expect anybody to respond in kind. ^_^;; Is to mental health like the kind of crazy weightlifting bodybuilders do: requiring of needless lifestyle changes, fiendishly impractical and bound to make one's presence slightly off-putting to those who don't share one's fetish.

I shall repay your kindness by making fun of your grammar!

Look who forgot which "they're" she was using:
"but their should be effort to make a good fit."
And isn't this a revealing change of narrative voice:
"they might want to do some self examination to see if they are really being honest with myself."
:D Tee hee hee. But is understandable also; you were describing your own position vis-a-vis congruity of declared values with actual behaviors. I am quite fond of saying that when it comes to personality construction, each of us is our only hard data set.

Yes, I also disapprove of choosing a profession of religion where there is a sharp contrast between that religion's dictates and one's own values. Dishonesty, as we were discussing on the phone yesterday, is a waste of valuable energy! (Besides being a great naughtiness, I know.)

But I like being able to delineate the different pathways of choice. What, for example, about the person under duress, whom necessity prevents from being able to commit suicide or otherwise escape? There is, I think, in this and other cases, an honorable use of a path that would otherwise be morally distasteful, and a waste. One can choose even so great a dishonesty as the only hope of offering confusion to the enemy.

(Hey, confusion to the enemy ain't original, but it occurs to me it'd make a great motto in Latin. Y'know. Could put it on letterhead and everything.)

How I read it, Amber, when you say you have a strong desire for ethics, is that you have warm fuzzy feelings about codified ethics. You want everybody on your team to be playing by the same rulebook. And it'd be raather convenient if the rulebook was something everyone could get out, riffle through, point at, say "SEE?!?!!" and effectively end an argument.

Part of what disgruntles me about Catholicism is the concentration of the authority to definitively interpret in the hands of a centralized clerical bureaucracy. (Hee hee, clerical is a pun.) Yes, it does limit the temptation of the average congregant to use their interpretive mettle to cow and undermine their fellow Christians. It also robs the serious convert of an important dimension of the intended relationship with God.

And if you rebut, "Well, Protestantism must be more to your liking then," you'd have me on structural grounds. The problem there is cultural. Various branches of Protestant culture in America have veered into such wild tangles I wouldn't trust a practicing psychologist to get out of them in one piece. (Granted, your run-of-the-mill psychologist has rather poor social skills. Jerks.) So finding one of the good churches out of a hat would take some major sorcery. In the technical sense.

And I've been to good churches. They bore the bejesus outta me.

*collapses giggling*

I still say the written dogmas of a faith should be maybe the second or third step in the process of choosing a religion. We agree that it is better for individuals to engage in behaviors which match their declared values. Could we not generalize this judgment, and say it is also better for the behaviors of a group to match both the spirit and the letter of their stated goals? Perhaps the best thing to do in such a case would be to join the religion anyway, and try to wrest the behaviors and vision of the group back into its more appropriate form. (The would-be reformer type, but the better kind.) Which is an exhausting and life-altering path. To my eye, the congruity of one's personal values would have to be exceeding close to be worth such a choice.


Amber E said...

Just a little comment as I have homework. It is no so much warm and fuzzy as logistical. How can human beings live together (at populations densities greater than say oner person per 5 square miles) without rules for behavior? What is more effective for getting a common set of rules, external compulsion? Or perhaps internal discipline practiced because of, ethics?? That is my thought. To my mind moral relativism in people around me is actually physically dangerous to me personally, not to mention to my loved ones and society in general. Granted, you recall that I do no approve of dictators which is why ethics to me seems to be the only possible solutions for human beings to live together with only infrequently killing, maiming and harming each other.

Hope you are having a good day.

Fiat Lex said...

Hi there!
Ah, I am pleased to have provided some distraction from the rigors of homeworkiness. Especially the exacting accounting-related kind. Yes, I am having a day with many good bits in it. Just finished the lovely book, drank some tea, talked about elves with Dad. Whew, takes a lot to get him to follow through with elves in the conversation.
The TV does seem to have died, at least for the moment. We'll see if it feels better later on.

Your argument is a very sound one! And indeed an agreed-upon written ethical code can be an extremely efficient means for getting a group of people to all stay on the same page behaviorally.

I guess my counter-rebuttal goes right back to my original discussion of the different motives for conversion.

You're going to have a mix of types in any given group. Yes, the ones for whom the norms and values of the group are internalized as part of a voluntary self-transformation will have that nice self-discipline. And will be using the agreed-upon set of rules to enforce it.

But in every group the proportion of the earnest to the insincere will be different. There will inevitably be fluctuation of this proportion, and in the relative balance of social power between the two categories of "believer", as the group evolves over time.

That's what it comes down to with me and Christianity. I suppose I lack the faith in the integrity of any given group on the one hand, or in my will and skill as a reformer on the other, to be convinced that the risk is worth the benefits of reconversion. Besides the previously mentioned item that available social tropes within the faith are boring and have no palatable outlet for my favorite gifts!