Category Archives: Good people disagree

Nuns, Gina Haspel and forgiving ourselves

On September 12, 2001, the day after the horrific act of terror in New York and Washington, the collective morality of the United States changed in regard to torture. Nearly seventeen years later, some people know this was a bad thing to do. And some people don’t. I’ve been experiencing severe déjà vu watching the confirmation hearings of Gina Haspel for CIA… Read more »

Primal morality and torture

      5 Comments on Primal morality and torture

The morality of torture is back in the news with the confirmation hearings for Gina Haspel as director of the CIA, a woman with ties to post-9/11 secret rendition sites. In short, on September 12, 2001, the general moral consensus of the United States reverted to what I call “primal morality,” throwing out a couple of thousand years of rule-based,… Read more »

Are rules and duties sufficient?

      3 Comments on Are rules and duties sufficient?

Deontology, which is the view that ethics and morality should be based on rules and duties, is the viewpoint that dominates a lot of conservative Christian and political thought, and it has been the focus of the last several posts in this series. [1] In its many forms and interpretations, deontology has long held a central role in ethical theory…. Read more »

If it’s not illegal…

      1 Comment on If it’s not illegal…

One of the great logic errors in ethical discussions is committed by people who shrug off a moral question by saying, “If it is not illegal, then it must be okay to do.” We see a lot of this thinking even among supposedly-conservative defenders of the current leadership in America. The corollary to that error tends to come from religious fundamentalists,… Read more »

Making the exception

      3 Comments on Making the exception

“Every rule has an exception, including this one.” (Anonymous) There is an old joke among tax accountants that there is really only one rule in the entire Internal Revenue Service Code: “Everything is taxable unless we say it isn’t.” The rest of the thousands of pages of code and revenue rulings consists of detailed exceptions to that one rule. That… Read more »

“God language,” fundamentalism and Trump

      2 Comments on “God language,” fundamentalism and Trump

My take on the link between Christian fundamentalism and Donald Trump is different from both many of his most avid supporters as well his strongest opponents. In short, just like I think we do in discussing Islamic-attributed terror, we give too much credit to “religion” and not enough to “God language” itself, apart from religion. Humans need to communicate. Our… Read more »

Book review: “The Human Instinct” by Kenneth Miller

I have long had a habit of looking in used bookstores for copies of a 1999 book by biologist and best-selling textbook author Kenneth Miller entitled Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution, which I then give to friends. Miller’s book is one of the few scientifically-competent books about evolution that is written with the sensitive… Read more »

The Ten-ish Commandments

      6 Comments on The Ten-ish Commandments

Despite their iconic status in Christian and Jewish theology, it is unlikely that even the most Bible-literate person you encounter could easily and accurately name all ten of the commandments from chapter 20 in the Old Testament book of Exodus. [1] Bring up your computer’s notepad and try it yourself before looking at the source below. You shouldn’t be too… Read more »

King Hammurabi and your “deontology brain”

      11 Comments on King Hammurabi and your “deontology brain”

For many people, especially the most religious of a fundamentalist bent, the whole idea of ethics and morality is only about rules. In this continuing exploration of our four “ethical brains” (see this earlier post for an introduction to that concept), it is practical to start with “rules and exceptions,” not because they are the earliest or dominant ethical modes, but… Read more »