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Conversational Consequentialism

I'm a Consequentialist: I believe that the moral rightness of a thing should be judged based on the (expected) outcome of it, not based on any particular moral rules. That is, it's (generally) bad to lie because that leads to a confusing world, but if lying in a specific instance will keep you from being killed by the Gestapo, then by all means lie. It's bad to murder because that results in somebody being dead, not because anybody said not to. It's bad to be gay because uh well actually since it turns out that doesn't harm anybody it actually is okay to be gay, even if a deity tells you it's bad

I wasn't always a consequentialist, though, and trying to get this idea to fully permeate all of my thoughts takes a bit of effort. One of the main things that I've had difficulty thinking of in terms of consequences rather than rules or virtues is conversations. When talking with people, I still feel a very strong urge to be completely, frankly, brutally honest, and even worse, I feel that if I don't say something, that's the same as lying about it. This has gotten me into trouble. More than once. I've lost at least one, possibly two friends because of this, and it was only through deliberate, learned effort that I managed to avoid that urge getting me criminal charges

When you're talking with people, what are your goals with the conversation? Are you trying to convince them to do something for you? Are you trying to convince them to adopt your position on some issue? Or are you just having a fun conversation? In all of those situations, getting angry, or making the other person angry, is not a useful thing to do. Saying things that from your perspective are true, but where you can predict that the result of saying it is going to be counter productive, is incredibly tempting, but is actually counter productive. I mean, come on! You saw that coming!

Thinking Out Loud

On Thinking Out Loud

I think about religion a lot. Usually my thoughts take the form of debates with specific people about their religious thoughts and attitudes. Those debates take place only in my mind. I am one of the most liberal members of my congregation, so there is a lot to debate. It would not be productive to have those debates for real. Neither of us would be spiritually uplifted, and neither of us would convert the other. I have been thinking lately that a weblog might be a good place for me to share my thoughts in a non-confrontational way. If you disagree with me, you can comment or walk away – the choice is yours.

I am a Christian. I try to follow the teachings of Jesus, as I understand them. When I hear other people talk about His teachings, I sometimes think we are following two different people. I follow a man who preached love. Jesus told the rich to give up their wealth; He did not preach the Gospel of Prosperity. Jesus told his followers to practice nonresistance; He did not preach the conquest of His enemies. Jesus told his followers to love their neighbors; He did not preach hatred for those that were different. Jesus made it clear that it is not our place to judge others. We are to love like He loved.

I am not perfect, and I think that is okay. I strive to do what is right, and I consistently fail. That just means that I am human, not divine. I believe that we will be judged based on our desires and efforts, not our accomplishments. I also believe that we will be judged as individuals. I will be judged based on my situation, which may be very different from my neighbor's situation. Maybe that is why we are not to judge each other; we do not truly know each other's situations.

My views of sin differ greatly from those of the conservative majority with whom I worship, particularly in the areas of sex and violence. I would rather my daughters see two men kiss than two men kill each other. I disagree with those that will play violent video games but are greatly offended that a movie contains a scene with a topless woman. I am not advocating promiscuity, though many of my fellow worshippers would disagree. I think that sexual activity is a sacred event and should be treated as such. I do not think that fornication is worse than violence, though I am often reminded on Sunday mornings that sexual immorality is second only to murder. Those who say that are wrong. I know that is a bold statement.

The prevalence of violence in my society bothers me a great deal. Even in my congregation, violence is treated lightly, even glorified. There is an elderly woman that carries a gun on Sunday mornings. Those that know about it think it is funny. There is currently a debate in my county about zoning ordinances. One of the congregational leaders was lamenting that it was a crime to kill those that favored the ordinances. He said that his only consolation was that he knew they would burn during the Second Coming.

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