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Old 06-23-2012, 02:52 AM   #136
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"Shoot for the moon and you'll land among the stars" blah, blah, blah. . .

Seriously though, the question of perfection is where you really do start to see quite bit of disagreement among people of faith. Probably Nathan and I would disagree on it for example, since we come from different denominational backgrounds.

Beyond whether "perfection" is possible or not though, is really the question of whether "pretty good" is good enough. I think most of us think "Hey, look I'm a pretty good person. I may not be perfect, but I'm basically a good person. . .'don't cheat on my taxes, don't cheat on my girl, I've got values that would make the White House jealous'".

To be honest, I think most people on this world are pretty good. There's a few truly evil types and a few real saints, but most people are basically good. The question is: How is that working out, this world full of pretty good people?

When I look at the world I don't think it's working out so well. Pretty good, somehow, for whatever reason, isn't apparently good enough. And that's where the religious person's discussion of sin begins. IMHO.
Not really a participant in this discussion, but I did read this the first time, and at the time thought that pretty good is about as good as you can expect the great mass of people to ever be.

If that isn't good enough, the problem - problems, whatever, and as if our era is uniquely troubled - is most likely structural and systemic.

It reminds me of when I pretty much parted (active) ways with my (disclosure: catholic) origins; a too-clever-by-half sermon in which the priest, a lovely fellow really, relayed an old story along the lines of: various devils are debating how to get more people into Hell, one says tell them there's no heaven, another says tell them there's no hell, a wiser head up the back says tell them there's no hurry. That always got up my ass the wrong way for some reason.
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Old 06-23-2012, 05:06 AM   #137
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again, I'm not the one who initiated that whole thing.
I've never found "he started it" to be a convincing excuse for one's own behavior.

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The convo was very civil originally, but I guess we don't have to worry about it anymore
Then why not skip the antagonism and just return to civility? Just because someone responded to you in a way you thought was less than civil doesn't mean you have to respond in kind - and then carry a chip on your shoulder for the rest of the conversation.
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Old 06-23-2012, 10:48 AM   #138
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Lets talk about sin. On a scale of normal to dysfunctional, where do you suppose this guy falls?

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Old 06-23-2012, 03:25 PM   #139
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Lets talk about sin. On a scale of normal to dysfunctional, where do you suppose this guy falls?


I'm not quite sure what I'm witnessing here, so it's really hard to stay. He seems very. . .intense.
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Old 06-23-2012, 03:57 PM   #140
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I didn't intend it to sound oversimplified, but I understand looking back it comes off that way, and I apologize for any misunderstanding on my part, both in my response and in reading Nathan's post.
No apology necessary. It's fine.


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Heh, and I'm a bit more optimistic than you are. I generally agree with your overall assessment of people in the world, but I also think that the media overload we have going today makes it seem like things are much worse than they probably are. That's not to diminish the severity and horror of whatever bad things ARE actually happening, which should be dealt with, but I think they're happening in probably roughly the same amount now they always have been, give or take a few spikes or drops here and there throughout history.
I hear what you're saying but I wasn't really referring to the sensationalized true crime stories that the media flogs. I'm actually thinking more of the things that don't get covered, that pretty decent people both near and far don't like to think about. Everything from the wars playing out across the globe to the anonymous crimes of domestic violence, the state of our environment, the state of our economy, not to mention your everyday ass-holism that comes with impatience, selfishness, arrogance and so on. In that sense you're right this is more or less the same as it's always been throughout history. This is also the part where the conversation about sin begins for Christian.

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I also don't mean to imply we shouldn't strive for better. We should, absolutely. I want to be able to live in as fair and peaceful and helpful and caring a world as possible. And on a personal level, any flaws in my personality or actions that negatively affect myself or people around me, I should definitely take a look at and work to fix.

I just think the way religion frames the debate about sin and ways to remove yourself from sin seems self-defeating and contradictory at times, is all. It's like there's no leeway or "Well, at least you're trying, so that's worth considering" in some denominations' eyes. Add in the fact that religions can't seem to come to an agreement on what constitutes sinful behavior to begin with, and if religious institutions that people look to to help them solve their problems can't agree on how to solve said problems, or what are problems worth solving to begin with, it's going to be harder for people to take them seriously and give their suggestions any weight.
"I am the world and you are the world" (from a song by Live. ..anybody remember that band from the mid-nineties? I hear they remained popular in Australia for awhile after the passed the scene in the states. . .but I digress). I think trying to accept the reality without being overwhelmed by it is an important balance to strike.

I'd like you to unpack "the way religion frames the debate about sin and ways to remove yourself from it." I'm not sure I follow your line of reasoning.

Also, despite some differences on specific activities, I don't think that there is that much disagreement between people of faith on what constitutes sin, at least not to the point that understanding is impossible.

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And then of course there's the argument that you don't need to believe in God to begin with to try and lead a good life, but that's another topic in and of itself.
I've often said that the Christian faith isn't so much about telling us how to live a good moral life as it is about dealing with when we don't.


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I would also point out, however, that some out there argue that rape has less to do with sex and more to do with exerting power over someone. So if you look at it from that perspective, that would put things in a whole new light.
I've heard that too, and I suppose there is some truth in it. But sexuality remains the arena in which that power is exerted. Not trying to imply anything by that, just observing.

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Irvine's article poses some interesting thoughts. I'm going to be mulling that over a bit, share my thoughts when I have a bit more time on me.
Me too.

One more thing I wanted to add. Acknowledgment of sin in the Christian faith often means confronting on our status quo, and requiring us to go outside of our comfort zone. It often means that the "me" I was content with all along might not be so "okay" after all. For many people that reality alone is enough to dismiss the whole notion of sin all together.

But I think there is something to be said for a healthy sense of discontent if you will. It's all a balancing act though, and I'll be the first to concede that religion has often used guilt as a tool to control it's followers. Throughout history opportunistic folks have realized the usefulness of religion as a means of using and controlling others. If you can tap peoples deepest fears and anxieties and convince people you have The Answer, you've got yourself a remarkable amount of power. It's why I think Jesus' harshest criticisms were always of religious people, particularly the powerful ones.

Of course opportunistic folk have found other ways to tap into people's anxieties too--advertising for example, and many a self-help author and motivational speaker.
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Old 06-23-2012, 04:12 PM   #141
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Lets talk about sin. On a scale of normal to dysfunctional, where do you suppose this guy falls?

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Old 06-23-2012, 10:24 PM   #142
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Also, despite some differences on specific activities, I don't think that there is that much disagreement between people of faith on what constitutes sin, at least not to the point that understanding is impossible.
I don't really disagree with this, but would point out that your "despite some differences on specific activities..." itself implies a Christian viewpoint. In Judaism and Islam, "sin" consists exclusively of specific (wrong or proscribed) activities; it isn't the ongoing existential condition that it is in Christian theology. In this regard I'd almost want to say that the Christian concept of sin actually more resembles the concept of karma in Hinduism and Buddhism than the concept of sin in Judaism and Islam. On the other hand, if we're talking religious evaluation of "specific activities," then obviously on that front the three Abrahamic religions would have more in common.



As far as the application of "love the sinner, hate the sin" to homosexuality specifically (since that seems to be what led to this thread)--it doesn't seem to me that the anger that platitude provokes has much to do with general objections to the concept of sin. The problem is that it feels like an evasion of acknowledgment that declaring homosexual activity wrong/sinful/sick harms gay people by causing them to feel constant shame and guilt about themselves. It is true that in other contexts (like staging an intervention with an alcoholic, for example) we sometimes accept such a consequence as a necessary evil of getting unacceptable behavior to stop. But we don't usually make a big contrivance of declaring the distinction between our goodwill towards the person vs. our rejection of their behavior in those situations.
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Old 06-23-2012, 11:14 PM   #143
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I don't really disagree with this, but would point out that your "despite some differences on specific activities..." itself implies a Christian viewpoint. In Judaism and Islam, "sin" consists exclusively of specific (wrong or proscribed) activities;
I would be interested in hearing more about this. What are some of the specific activities?



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As far as the application of "love the sinner, hate the sin" to homosexuality specifically (since that seems to be what led to this thread)--it doesn't seem to me that the anger that platitude provokes has much to do with general objections to the concept of sin. The problem is that it feels like an evasion of acknowledgment that declaring homosexual activity wrong/sinful/sick harms gay people by causing them to feel constant shame and guilt about themselves. It is true that in other contexts (like staging an intervention with an alcoholic, for example) we sometimes accept such a consequence as a necessary evil of getting unacceptable behavior to stop. But we don't usually make a big contrivance of declaring the distinction between our goodwill towards the person vs. our rejection of their behavior in those situations.
The very fact that people feel the need to make a distinction tells you something.

I understand the "love the sinner, hate the sin" problem even though I once ascribed to that in relation to homosexuality. It also comes across as rather condescending too, but I don't think it's intentional. I think it is very hard for straight people to understand the experience of being gay in a culture that treats you as second class citizens. We have no correlating experience that we can use to help us understand. Even now that my views have changed, I still have a hard time understanding "what it would feel like if your most important relationships were declared sick and wrong."

Well, then again that's not entirely true. I think being black there is a comparison available. Certainly for me marrying a white woman and hearing comments like "Well, it's okay, I suppose, as long as you don't have children" was pretty hard. But even then, we didn't live in a time when were literally not allowed to get married. This was the condemnation of a few people here and there not society as a whole. Likewise racial prejudice.

Having grown up hearing casual racism as the only black among mostly white friends in Central Florida, I am struck by how similar it is in tone and even wording to the casual homophobia I hear among my mostly black colleagues and students where I teach now.

It's sad.
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Old 06-23-2012, 11:14 PM   #144
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I don't really disagree with this, but would point out that your "despite some differences on specific activities..." itself implies a Christian viewpoint. In Judaism and Islam, "sin" consists exclusively of specific (wrong or proscribed) activities; it isn't the ongoing existential condition that it is in Christian theology. In this regard I'd almost want to say that the Christian concept of sin actually more resembles the concept of karma in Hinduism and Buddhism than the concept of sin in Judaism and Islam. On the other hand, if we're talking religious evaluation of "specific activities," then obviously on that front the three Abrahamic religions would have more in common.

As far as the application of "love the sinner, hate the sin" to homosexuality specifically (since that seems to be what led to this thread)--it doesn't seem to me that the anger that platitude provokes has much to do with general objections to the concept of sin. The problem is that it feels like an evasion of acknowledgment that declaring homosexual activity wrong/sinful/sick harms gay people by causing them to feel constant shame and guilt about themselves. It is true that in other contexts (like staging an intervention with an alcoholic, for example) we sometimes accept such a consequence as a necessary evil of getting unacceptable behavior to stop. But we don't usually make a big contrivance of declaring the distinction between our goodwill towards the person vs. our rejection of their behavior in those situations.
Exactly. I don't think having sins is bad. But I think the selective method of employing them is more the issue. Treating homosexuality like its an ailment is the issue. And excusing it as religious compassion is infuriating.

I think part of my frustration stems from the fact that I am surrounded constantly by very religious people and wish they could understand where I am coming from. But I know they cannot. So I have to live the lie of being a lapsed Catholic instead of an anti-theist with conviction. I fear that I have taken out on some religious people here my personal frustrations with the way that religion has misled my friends and family.
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Old 06-23-2012, 11:16 PM   #145
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Not anymore than this guy may be:


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Old 06-23-2012, 11:20 PM   #146
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So your family/friends don't know you don't believe peef? Are you anticipating a time when they're going to found out and there's going to be a massive argument?

I can't understand where you're coming from at all, the only people in my life who were/are religious were my grandparents on my dad's side, who passed away long before I even cared about (or even had any) thoughts on religion, and my cousins on my mum's side, who have moved to Queensland and I only see once in a blue moon. I went to a religious high school (I actually took theology in Yr 11 too) but to me it's always been the people who believe, believe, and don't try and push it, and those who don't, don't.
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Old 06-24-2012, 12:07 PM   #147
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So your family/friends don't know you don't believe peef? Are you anticipating a time when they're going to found out and there's going to be a massive argument?

I can't understand where you're coming from at all, the only people in my life who were/are religious were my grandparents on my dad's side, who passed away long before I even cared about (or even had any) thoughts on religion, and my cousins on my mum's side, who have moved to Queensland and I only see once in a blue moon. I went to a religious high school (I actually took theology in Yr 11 too) but to me it's always been the people who believe, believe, and don't try and push it, and those who don't, don't.
Well, my friends have a pretty clear idea, but they're all believers. In America, being anti-religious is considered insulting to those who are religious, so it would be impolite for me to push very hard.

I think stating that I didn't believe would create a massive rift between myself and my family, especially on my mother's side. My grandmother attended church every single day until she was no longer physically able to. She didn't even own a car, she would just walk. My mother isn't quite that aggressively religious, but she is still pretty thorough.

I think I've said before: I could say I was gay, I could marry a person of a different race, and my family would not abandon me. But if I came out against religion, I could absolutely see my mother shunning me.

Maybe this is a uniquely American thing. I don't know. I hate it.
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Old 06-24-2012, 12:45 PM   #148
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This is why the Olympics should never be held in Europe. Look at the crap sports they come up with.
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Old 06-24-2012, 01:12 PM   #149
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When you have philosophy on "truth" running from Hume to Jesus. Definitions of virtue and vice running from John Paul II to Nietzsche... excuse me if I generalize here.

Sin is defined, judged and punished by God -- crime is defined, judged and punished by man.

Morality is the worldview one uses to differentiate between good and evil, right or wrong. Morality in Western civilization has traditionally been based on Judeo-Christian beliefs. Elsewhere other religions, political philosophy or cultural traditions shape the moral codes of society. The new kid on the block is moral relativism. We had an interesting thread awhile ago about younger generations and their situational ethics when dealing with stealing, cheating, sex, lying, etc.

So slowly moral standards are being replaced by personal tastes and feelings. Count me as one who sees that as a danger to a civil society and self-governance.
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Old 06-24-2012, 01:40 PM   #150
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I would be interested in hearing more about this. What are some of the specific activities?
Hmmm, well, not sure what kinds of themes you're interested in? In Judaism, this would mean any act which violates Jewish law (which is derived from Torah, obviously). So, "sin" could be anything from committing murder to eating shellfish, from gossiping to getting a tattoo, from bearing grudges to mixing meat and milk, from "coveting" your neighbor's possessions (which means contriving to acquire them, BTW) to failing to feed the dog before the family sits down to eat. And on and on. Although we do break down the laws into various conceptual subcategories, like for example mishpatim ("justice," ethical laws governing relations between men, which can be analyzed rationally) as opposed to chukkim ("fiat," arbitrary and irrational laws, typically forms of ritual discipline), in principle Jewish law establishes no formal priorities for observance whereby some "sins" would be "worse" than others.* But in practice, unquestionably it's the ethical laws which receive the lion's share of attention. (In general, Reform Jews commit only to following the ethical laws, treating the ritual ones as optional. So while there is some overlap in specific proscribed acts, they couldn't really be said to follow the same view I do of "the nature of sin.")

I'm not qualified to say much regarding Islam, but the basic principle is the same: "sin" consists of discrete acts which violate Islamic law; it isn't an ongoing existential condition of alienation from God which humans are powerless to redress on our own. However, Islam--unlike Judaism, but like almost all forms of Christianity--does have a doctrine of "Hell," so that would be a difference with important implications for the understanding of sin.


[* There is somewhat of a Jewish equivalent of "Love the sinner, hate the sin" that you'll occasionally hear antigay religious Jews invoke regarding homosexuality, where they'll protest that they find it no more or less wrong than all the hundreds of other violations they strive but often fail to avoid, such as not gossiping, not eating this or that, etc. I find this equally disingenuous, for pretty much the same reasons.]
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The new kid on the block is moral relativism.
This isn't new; it's the core dilemma of modernity, and we've been brooding over it since the Renaissance. A central theme of Hamlet, for example, is the paralyzing indecision which results from having grown too far away from the feudal world to submit one's will to its imperatives (something Laertes still finds easy), yet having no alternative means available for attaining absolute conviction as to how to proceed righteously. (And speaking of "elsewhere," when I taught Hamlet in seminar in HK a few years back, my Chinese students, most of them mainlanders, had no difficulty recognizing this dilemma. There were other aspects to the text they had difficulty understanding, but not that.)
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