Archive for December, 2008

Virginity pledges fail

This is a great example of how totally ineffective it is to try to make people good by making them simply follow certain rules or courses of action, without ever breeding good character in them.

Originally from the Journal of Pediatrics:

“Researchers say the federal government spends about $200 million annually on abstinence promotion programs, which include virginity pledges. Two previous studies have suggested that virginity pledges can delay sex, but researchers say those studies did not account for pre-existing differences between pledgers and non-pledgers.

In this study, researchers compared the sexual behavior of 289 teenagers who reported taking a virginity pledge in a 1996 national survey to 645 non-pledgers who were matched on more than 100 factors, such as religious beliefs and attitudes toward sex and birth control.

The results showed that five years after taking the virginity pledge:

  • 82% of pledgers denied ever having taken the pledge.
  • Pledgers and matched non-pledgers did not differ in rates of premarital sex, sexually transmitted disease, and oral and anal sex behaviors.
  • Pledgers had 0.1 fewer sexual partners in the past year but did not differ from non-pledgers in the number of lifetime sexual partners and the age of first sex.

The biggest difference between the two groups came in the area of condom and birth control use. The study showed that fewer pledgers used birth control or condoms in the past year or any form of birth control the last time they had sex.

Researcher Janet Elise Rosenbaum, PHD, of Harvard University, says the findings suggest that health care providers should provide birth control information to all teenagers, especially virginity pledgers.”

If (sneakily) forcing children to pledge abstinence doesn’t lead them to right living, the better option (aside from chastity belts) is to get them to genuinely value sexual temperance (or whatever) for good, sound reasons, and to breed in them the strength to follow their convictions when it’s difficult. These things are obviously part of good character, but you’d never know it by how people raise their children. Kids have rules and consequences barfed at them tirelessly without ever hearing a good reason for following them. Bah.

You can read the full article here.

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Rockin’ Reading List

A while back I was teaching a small group (and I mean small) for college and carreer types. The goal for any xian small group is, obviously, spiritual growth, and that’s what we aimed for. As Paul remarked though, that just can’t take place apart from the development of our mind. Disciples of Christ think and believe differently from others, and that’s part of what makes us what we are. To that end, I put together this list of books and websites and such that have helped me grow as a thinking, believing believer. Every book, website, and podcast (and whatever else may be on here) is worth checking out. I put a little intro at the beginning of the list because this was originally a handout for the people in the group. I’ve kept it for this post too, so here it all is:

……………….

One of the huge mistakes that I, as a reader, made early on was to think that there would be one book out there that, after reading it, everything would just click for me. I spent a lot of time looking for such a book, and bought a lot of books, which I read half of and then discarded after realizing that they weren’t ‘the one’. Some I read though because, even though they didn’t make everything make sense instantly, they at least helped me look smart.
Eventually I came to understand that the point of reading to grow is not to make everything click at once, and it surely isn’t to look smart or be entertained (actually reading is a pretty  boring thing for me a lot of the time). Intellectual and spiritual growth is a wide, gradual thing that involves coming to a whole way of seeing the world and life in all of their many dimensions, many of which we aren’t even naturally aware of. Growth doesn’t happen with a click, but comes through wrestling, anxiety, confusion, sparks of delight, and even the boredom that comes when we’re being something like intellectual cows, throwing up something we’ve already swallowed to chew it back over again and again.
All of these aspects of growing our minds into the mind of Christ are vital, and that’s the end to which this list of books is aimed. All of these books with bring you through all of the stages, from boredom and confusion, to anxiety and delight. And all of them will, in some way, help you (as they’ve helped me and others) to come to a wider, more detailed way of seeing the world and life in it.
So, here I’ve listed each book, with author, and provided a brief description of the book to help you decide if this is the one you want to pick up at the moment, but each of these is worth a read, and are written in a way that anyone can get something substantial out of it. I’ve also included a list of websites and podcasts that I’ve found beneficial. Enjoy.

The List

Books Worth Reading

‘Letters from a Skeptic,’ by Greg Boyd
This book is a compilation of letters between a very bright pastor (Greg Boyd) and his atheist father. In the letters, the father fleshes out his objections to Christianity (from the crusades, to the idea of a ‘god who hates sex’), and Greg responds with his understanding of Christianity, aiming to help his father see the goodness and reasonableness of the faith.

‘The Challenge of Jesus’ by N.T. Wright
This book will absolutely, fundamentally alter the way you think about Jesus. Without a doubt one of the most positively influential books I’ve read. I can’t recommend it enough.

‘Mere Christianity,’ by C.S. Lewis
This is probably the deepest, richest and most thorough overview of Christianity out there. It has parts complex and simple enough that anyone can read it and get a lot out of it. This should be at the top of the list, really.

‘Faith and Reason,’ by Ron Nash
This is a book on the relationship between faith and reason. Nash’s central aim in the book is to show that faith and reason don’t conflict with each other, but reinforce and refine one another. It is not an extremely easy read, and there will be parts that will be confusing because of terms he uses. It’s okay to just read through them and go on until you get what he’s saying though. That’s how I did it, and the book helped me a lot.

‘Screwtape Letters,’ by C.S. Lewis
This is a really enjoyable, fictional collection of letters between two demons who are discussing exactly how to tempt a certain man (probably C.S. Lewis) away from faith in Christ. Though it’s fiction, it’s incredibly insightful in it’s exploration of temptation and in showing just how intimately intertwined our faith and our everyday lives are.

‘The Meaning of Jesus’ by Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright,
This book is a conversation between a very liberal Christan (Borg), who would deny much of what conservative xians consider uncompromisable, and a much more conservative believer (Wright). Both are extremely well educated, thoughtful, and sincere in their approaches. They’re also good friends, and all that makes for a great conversation on the person they’ve both devoted much of their lifes work to. Each chapter takes a topic such as the virgin birth, the passion, Jesus’ teaching, etc. and they both write a short essay of their perspective on the topic. Worth every moment it takes to read, and an excellent introduction to the wide conversation about Jesus.
‘Love your God with all your Mind,’ by J.P. Moreland
This book aims to explore and instruct us on fulfilling the most neglected part of the greatest commandment. So much attention is given to loving God with all our hearts and soul, that very little is paid to loving him with our thinking selves, which feeds and directs our emotional and spiritual selves. The book’s aim is firmly built on his (at first)startling suggestion that, if you ever get to the point that you’ve asked all your questions, and sought answers in every place you know, and just can’t believe Christianity, you should walk away from it. At the end of the book though, you won’t want to do that.

‘Windows of the Soul,’ by Ken Gire
This one is written by a Christian literature professor who wants to show us how to read life itself in the way that we would read a good book, and so to see God’s love, goodness, and majesty in areas we normally wouldn’t. From what I’ve seen, girls tend to like this book a lot.

‘Words of Delight,’ by Leland Ryken
This book aims to show you how to read the bible well. That sounds pretty boring at first, but Ryken’s approach is really unique and interesting. His idea is that, to read the bible well, we need to understand literature well, and that, if we don’t understand literature, we will never understand the words of the bible, because they were written in a very literary way. He takes you through the different types of writings in the bible, from the often cryptic narratives of the old testament, to the religious poetry of the psalms, to the short, almost secular sayings of the proverbs, into the religious, biographical narratives of the gospels, the instructive letters of the epistles, and finally the visionary theologizing of the Revelation. This is an extremely eye-opening book, and will help you not feel lost or over your head when you read the bible.

‘How Should We Live?,’ by Louis Pojman
This book is a great, light introduction to ethics. It outlines various ideas about right and wrong, and helps you think through many serious moral questions. After reading this short book, you will be able to think through real life moral issues (such as abortion, homosexuality, etc.) much more naturally, quickly, and clearly. The virtue of the book is that, instead of giving you any clear answers to moral questions, it gives you tools so that you can answer them yourself.

‘The Universe Next Door,’ by James Sire
This book gives a short, but full overview of each major ‘worldview’ from Atheism  and Agnosticism, to Pantheism (the belief that everything is divine) and the New Age belief system. Very gook book to wake us up to see just how many options for belief there are out there besides Christianity, and show us how to talk with people who believe very differently.

‘Across the Spectrum,’ by Greg Boyd
This book has a chapter on pretty much every single issue within Christian theology that introduces the issue, and quickly explores each option within the issue. For instance, on the issue of predestination, it explores the different ideas of what predestination is – does God predestine every single event and choice? does God limit his/her control to make room for free will? does God self-limit so much that he doesn’t even know the future? This book is a great introduction to Christian theology for people who don’t get to take a class on it. Very readable.

‘Managing your Mind,’ by Gillian Butler
Though this is not a religiously oriented book, and is (obviously at points) not written by a christian, it is totally worth reading. It is geared toward giving you a good, non-technical understanding of the way your own mind works, and how to address various psychological issues that we all have, and which can cause major problems for our own mental and spiritual growth (for instance, a person who struggles with jealousy, or constant, anonymous anxiety may never even know it, and will never be able to calm their mind long enough to think seriously about their Christian life).

‘Does God Have a Future?,” by John Sanders and Chris Hall
This book is another collection of letters (actually emails) written between two very bright and down-to-earth theologians concerning a particular theological issue that they differ on – whether or not God knows the future. The benefit of reading this book is not so much in the fact that you will be able to discuss this issue. Rather, the great thing about this one is that is takes a particular issue that we’ve all presumed to have a good answer for (don’t we all just naturally think God knows the future?) and shows us just how multi-dimensional the question is, and just how quick we have been to assume one answer without considering the question. This discussion with make it clear that this is the way almost every question in Christianity is, but the book is a safe way to see that because, whichever way you come down on the question, you haven’t ‘fallen away’ from Christ. Ask Shane what he thinks about this one.

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde
Fiction gets underplayed regarding its educational and inspirational value. What’s worse, modern Christians seem to be the worst writers of fiction on the planet. In this, Wilde’s only novel, you get a great story absolutely full of though-provoking dialogue. Every human should read this book. It’s morally challenging though. One character, Henry Wotton, is literally trying to turn you evil, and he’s pretty brilliant.

‘Reading Between the Lines,’ by Gene Veith
This book calls itself ‘a Christian guide to literature,’ which is about the most boring, thin summary of the book imaginable. Publishers do that to sell books to snooty college-types. What the book really is is an incredibly eye-opening guide to reading books (including the bible), watching movies, listening to music, and engaging the culture of our world as a follower of Jesus. Great book.

‘Postmodern Times,’ by Gene Veith
Another great book by Veith in the same spirit as ‘Reading Between the Lines’. This one focuses on our modern culture. It has great, enjoyable discussions of modern art, politics, philosophy, and a great historical explanation of just how and why people in our day think and act the way they do.
Other stuff
Bible Study Helps

Commentary Series

New American Commentary
About as Baptist a commentary as you can get, but very well-written most of the time, and full of good scholarship.

Every Man Commentary Series by N.T. Wright
Bishop N.T. Wright is one of the best readers and scholars of Scripture alive today. He’s very engaging most of the time, and has revolutionized biblical scholarship in a lot of ways. This series is a popular-level version of his more scholarly work. It’s very readable and down-to-earth with lots of interesting historical information and clear explanations of the greek words used. The Romans commentary is especially good.

William Barclay’s Commentary on the New Testament
These are the most readable commentaries out there. I generally despise reading commentaries, but these are so well-written and interesting that you can read one like any other book. He gives his own translation of the passages in the book so you don’t have to keep a bible with you. They’re also good because Barclay is not the most conservative scholar out there (though he’s not a God-hating pagan either), so it’s a bit out of the box without being too painful.

Hermeneia Commentary Series
For serious, in-depth bible study this is the best commentary I’ve ever read. It includes the most cutting-edge scholarship, and each book is written by someone who has spent years specializing on that one book of the bible (or section of the bible; the commentary on the Sermon on the Mount is well over seven hundred pages long). For scholarly-technical commentaries this is definitely the most readable. Be careful though, most of these guys are willing to question everything about the text.

Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament
A good, solid series written from a conservative perspecitve.

New International Commentary on the OT (“ NT)
Another good, conservative series.

Study Tools

E-Sword/Mac Sword
These are computer programs that include several translations of the bible, commentaries, and lexicons (hebrew or greek dictionaries) that are downloadable and easy to use, and, best of all, they’re free. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of a lexicon. Even though you can’t read the original languages, the lexicons are programmed to link an english word in the bible (say, ‘brothers’) to the word in the original language (adelphoi, in greek) and give you the definition of that word. Just google the name of the program and you should find the site easily.

Holman Bible Dictionary
A great big dictionary with good articles on nearly everything in the bible that you might be curious about. Want to know who the Gamaliel guy that Paul studied under was? Interested in finding out more about the Passover feasts, or maybe you want to see what the Tabernacle or Temple would have looked like? Its probably in here.

Other Authors to Check Out

Peter Kreeft – a Catholic philosopher who is interested in addressing the most important questions (happiness, death, sex, etc.) in very fresh, interesting ways. One of my favorite guys out there.

Ravi Zacherias – a protestant Peter Kreeft.

N. T. Wright – one of the most highly-respected scholars out there. He was a bishop in England, then he started writing books and blew biblical studies professors away. He recently started writing books for lay-readers and they’re excellent. He now has books on death, resurrection, evil, heaven, and the heart of Christianity.

Eugene Peterson – this is the guy who brought us The Message bible translation. That book has gotten a lot of flack, because people assume he’s just paraphrasing the bible in whatever way he wants, and is getting rich. In reality he is rich, but he can also read greek and hebrew the way we read comic strips. He’s written several books about the christian life and they blow away 99% of the christian inspiration section in the book store. He’s eloquent, insightful, informed, and very sensitive. Women seem to especially like him.

Soren Kierkegaard – he was one of the most radical thinkers in Europe in the seventeenth century. One of the most passionate people to have written on faith and living. Everyone I know who has read him has become infatuated. The Diary of a Seducer is especially interesting.

Walter Wangerin – a great writer with a terrible name. His specialty is Christian fiction, which is normally pure cheese. He seems to do it fairly well though.

Annie Dillard – ten times better than Wangerin.

Ben Witherington III – a good thinker and scholar. At least check his blog out. He often has good movie reviews on there.

Clark Pinnock – a very powerful writer. Full of passion, and great at thinking outside the box. You’ll find yourself caught up and excited about a point he’s making, then realize that he’s saying something you used to think was out of bounds. If anyone out there has allowed his own beliefs to be challenged and changed, it’s Clark Pinnock. He used to be the number-one guy for theological positions that he now writes passionately against, namely Calvinism. A good eye-opener.

Marcus Borg – a very devoted, well-educated, ‘liberal’ christian. Friends with N.T. Wright, who is in many ways his opposite, Borg is a good picture of how someone can be seriously devoted to Jesus, but believe some very different, even troubling, things about the nature of Christianity. Before reading his personal stuff, I would suggest picking up the book The Meaning of Jesus, which he wrote with Wright. It will give you a good intro to his thought, but Wright will be there to shut him down when he makes a dangerously bad point so that you don’t feel helpless.

Websites

http://www.peterkreeft.com – audio and writings by Kreeft.

http://www.reasonablefaith.org – website with audio and writings by a major defender of the Christian faith.

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com – you can read tons of writings from the new-testament period and just after that had a heavy influence on the thinking of the first christians.

http://www.ccel.org – another cool library of early church writings.

http://www.jesuscreed.org – a blog by Scot McKnight, the NT scholar that I first heard explain the Adam/Ish/Isha thing.

http://www.veritas.org – an organization devoted to bringing great thought to lay people (particularly in universities). They pay Christian professors to give insightful talks to college students. Their website probably has a few thousand free lectures and videos to download that focus on almost any topic that is relevant to Christian life imaginable.

Podcasts

Any of these podcasts can be found by searching for the titles or authors in the iTunes store.

“Let My People Think” and “Just Thinking” – these are Ravi Zacherias’ two radio broadcasts. They are free and are full of good, solid Christian teaching.  http://www.rzim.org/USA/Resources/Listen/JustThinking.aspx

Peter Kreeft’s podcast – purely excellent.

“Stand To Reason” by Grek Kokul – a good show that seeks to explore how Christianity impacts the world and the lives of individuals.

William Lane Craig’s “Defenders” and “Reasonable Faith Podcast – you may know more than your pastor about theology and apologetics when you get done with these. Not extremely difficult, but not extremely easy either.

“Emergent Podcast”- a vibrant exploration of “emergent” Christianity.

The Veritas Podcast – as good as the site.

‘Philosophy Bites’ – a podcast that takes some interesting, deep topic and has a famous thinker dialogue with the hosts on it for fifteen minutes.

‘Philosophy Talk’ – two Stanford phil profs talk about some topic for an hour. Topics include sex, religion, morality, truth, basketball, and so on.

‘Entitled Opinions’ – Robert Harrison, a very eloquent, profound thinker, interviews an authority on some interesting topic. Worth listening to for the opening monologue alone. Please check this one out. Harrison seems like he might be a xian also, but probably doesn’t want to make it very public, since his university (Stanford) is quite a liberal environment.

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A telling question (with functional poll)

Imagine this. You’re taking a solitary walk on the beach one day, completely immersed in the world of your own thoughts as you wonder how humanity should respond, should the bears decide to rise up against us. Just about the moment you conclude that Al Gore would be a perfect ambassador to the bear people, your little wiggly toes strike against something hard in the sand. You guessed it. A lamp. You pick the thing up and do what any responsible adult would – you rub it like it’s the tummy of a basset hound. And, just as you expected, a purple-skinned man in a turban pops out, sans shirt. You don’t waste a second on introductions,  immediately informing him that, for your first wish, you’re going to need him to take away the constant itching. That, though, is where your expectations begin to fail you.

“That’s not how this works.” He calmly informs you. You don’t get three wishes, he explains, or even one. Instead, he has a very serious offer to make you, which you can either accept or reject. That’s the deal. The offer, he tells you, is a sort of enlightenment. There are many deep, cavernous truths of the world – of existence – about which you are totally ignorant. You are in a sort of darkness about things. He will turn the lights on for you, showing you the world as it is, and so empowering you to live your life in line with truth, knowing good from bad, right from wrong, fantasy from reality, and beautiful from ugly. But there’s a catch, he says. The opening of your eyes that he offers will cause you great pain. These truths will, largely, be greatly distubring to you; they will hurt you to know. He doesn’t mean that he’ll show you every suffering baby in the world, but that he’ll expose to you the truest nature of things, which he says will at times scare you, destroy some of your cherished loves in life, and possibly throw you into depression.

It is not all so bleak though, he tells you. From this low, existentially depressed state you can work toward a new life, with new happinesses in line with your right view, but that will take time and you will forever live with a slight sense of melancholy which, though it won’t keep you from experiencing real, deep happiness, will cast a sort of solemnity on most things, and you will not be able, in this new life, to take joy in many of the things you do now, for they will seem fraudulent and thin.

So, here’s the question (poll):


*Answers will be revealed after a few days – once there are enough votes to be a decent sample, so send friends if you care to know how our people generally decide.

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Oh You Poor, Misunderstood Links: A Disclaimer and a Vid

I once on this blog (perhaps some of you will remember) posted a link to a Barbara Walters interview with a former (now former former) porn actress named Belladonna. Well, as a result of my ignorance of Youtube’s media addressing, rather than linking to the video itself, I accidentally linked to a page that simply listed the results of a search for that particular actress’ name and the word ‘interview’ which simply began playing the first video in the search queue which was, needless to say, of a very different nature than the Dateline interview. I’m older and wiser now. Or something. So I wanted to make a once-for-all disclaimer, and give you another risque link.

The disclaimer: For anything to which I link, I have always judged it to be constructive and reasonably appropriate for a thinking adult audience. That won’t mean that it doesn’t have distrubing content, but it does mean that I’ve judged the content to be worth watching because it exemplefies some feature of reality worth noting. In doing that I’m assuming a lot of my audience. I’m assuming we all know what a penis is, for instance, or that we’re all familiar with the various words our parents dogmatized us into thinking of as dirty, and that we can blink it off with maturity, always looking for depth and truth that transcends the vileness of the world, because that’s a big part of living well. If you can’t do that, but are bent on guarding yourself against any encounter with the deep, tragic corruption of the world, then this isn’t the place for you. And I don’t just mean this blog. I mean human society. Terrible things are out there and we can either open your eyes (including that third one) and deal, or shut them all, stand still, and hope to sleep through it all until death. Melodramatic, you say? Not at all. That’s just the way it is. Although this sounds like it must certainly be directed at someone, or pertain to some conflict I’ve had with a reader, it doesn’t at all. It’s just my pep talk for fighting through life with open eyes, and, more immanently, prep for the link I’m about to give.

The link: In my last post, I talked about the effects of technology on personal and social human existence, and I included several links. This one was among them, but I removed it because, though it’s quite safe, the first page it links to might lead you to think otherwise. The link is to a documentary from PBS on pornography in america. It deals with the history of this massive industry (which grosses more than the NBA, NFL, MBA, and NHL combined), the legal status of pornography (which is enlightening, since apparrently what is morally acceptable for public distribution, regarding sex, is literally based on a popular vote), and, most interestingly, interviews a lot of people in the business, who give their take on the most demoralizing, marginializing, and dangerous (legal) business around.

The link is right here. A word of caution, especially to guys: there are a lot of attractive people in this and, while you never see their privates, or watch them have sex, the topic is probably going to get broached a lot in a documentary on porn. At some point you’ll probably think about sex yourself and most people can’t do that in purely condemning terms. That’s good. You shouldn’t be able to because sex is a naturally excellent thing. But, at the same time, if you watch this and it makes you want to go watch a porno or be promiscuous, then the point has been missed. The point in putting this up is to expose the very vileness of pornography, an industry that takes eighteen year old girls still in their braces and lures them into letting eight guys rip them apart for shopping money. The hope is that, in seeing the dirt and grime of the industry, we will see the deep perversion of the pornographic and promiscuous way of life that sees others as toys, will come to hate it deeply, and so will have a greater reverence for the sacredness of others and the beauty of sex, which is the picture of our hearts, good or bad.

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Aladdin’s Electric Lamp (Sing: ‘A whole new world’)

A meditation on world-making: Technology

Technology is something like an exile for us. It is like a gigantic ethereal backhoe uprooting us from the earth, our home. It lifts us out of our flesh-and-bone, dirt-and-sky, me-and-you reality in a sort of confusing way – by making everything ours; by putting everything at our fingertips. When everything is laid open and immediate to us through technology, we lose touch with anything – so Heidegger said. And this makes a lot of sense when you think about it. You are certainly not deeply rooted into the community you were born into now that anyone can pick up their life and family and move somewhere else – something people couldn’t always do. You’re not tied to a certain climate or region like people who have developed a way of life that depends on certain crops they grow, certain animals they use for clothing, and so forth. You don’t have to live in your home city, or home state, or country, or continent. These rootings used to form a significant part of a person’s identity; you were either English or Scottish; you were part of a tribe that had occupied your valley for as long as you’ve known. These elements simply don’t play anywhere near as big a part in making up who we are as they once did, and their role in our identity will continue to decrease. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is definitely a step away from so much of what humanity has been since its existence.

In addition to this uprooting of humanity from the earth, there is a flipside to this movement generated by technology – the creation of a new sort of world. Now, I’ve never lived as a tribesman in a jungle or as a self-subsistent Native American, but I imagine that the whole tone of their existence was very different from ours in an important way; think on this: Technology is power. The more technology we have, the more capable we are of having our way with the world; we can mold it and shape it into an expression of our inner will. I don’t think this was always so, at least not nearly to the extent it is now. Certianly we have always been able to affect our surroundings, but before the bright explosion of possibility caused by the advent of machinery, we were largely at the disposal of our surroundings. We had to adapt our lives to move in harmony with the world around us. We had to change our behavior to make our way in the world. Now, with bulldozers and dynamite and chemicals, we are changing the world without to resonate with and mirror the world within us. Where our lives and lifestyles were once an expression of the interplay between the demands of our surroundings and the forces of inner passion, now our lives are a triumphant expression of our wills over our natural surroundings, and the struggle shifts. We once struggled with the world without (which involved the struggle with nature and with one another). Now we conquer the world, and the struggle -the drama- is purely interpersonal. Through technology we conquer the world, and in doing so we destroy it. All that is left is for our own will – our desires and passions – to play themselves out in our new society, a society in exile from the earth.

And that only brings us through the industrial revolution. When information technology (especially the internet) arose, we took our exiled existence and planted it in a new world – a world without place, a ghost world that is everywhere, and so is nowhere. It hasn’t fully happened yet, but it has begun, and only a global catastrophe will stop it. A skeptic will say, “It’s all the same though! We still have homes, and friends, and food, and lovers, and culture, and lives. The world is essentially the same, just with more possibilities.” I say click away and see if it’s just a little different, or if technology really has uprooted us from everything that was so elemental to human existence. [Disclaimer – though maturity is required, all links are safe, despite the most initial appearance.]

Now the world isn’t out there any more. And it isn’t really just in here either. It’s in some amorphous nowhere between worlds. A things significance isn’t tied to its being anywhere or anywhen. The only significance for any thing is our experience of it. See, for instance, that the most significant symphonic performance of the year takes place….nowhere. And when you watch it, most of the performers won’t be playing. And when the performers do/did play, you weren’t there. And the people who watch it and enjoy it so much will have the experience in isolation of time and place.

So what is the problem here? It certainly could be that this uprooting isn’t a bad thing at all; maybe it’s just new, but not bad. I don’t think so. I think that this new world – this new way of existing – poses some challenges that we’re not ready for, that we’re not built for. Human life is just not the sort of thing that can thrive in the isolating prison of freedom built with our machines. The generation of people who can read this now are the first people to really face this transformation of the world, and this question of existence is ours to wrestle with, and that wrestling has to take place on a personal level before it can take place on a social one.

I have no solution to this other than to take the step of awareness, to watch and see where we’ve been uprooted, and to walk away from the opportunities to have such foundational elements of our humanity transformed and offered to us anew through technology. This way of authenticity and naturalness provides, for example, an excellent reason to reject pornography apart from any religious belief – because it is an isolated, dehumanized, technologized element of basic humanness that has been uprooted, steralized, and offered to us anew as an invitation into the ghost world we’ve created, a world in which there is only the pixeled shadow of the human, where we grow empty by feasting on our vacant abundance. So let us mind Nietzsche, who looked at his own world and remarked,

The wasteland is growing; woe to those who harbor wastelands within.

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Who said logical argument analysis is impractical?

Here’s an argument for the analytically minded (read: intellectually virtuous) to analyze. However you assess it, you will come up with something important for living.

Argument:

1. When a person with the capacity for moral responsibility and rational thought has put themselves in a situation in which no morally good person would find themselves, they are responsible to bear the pain of whatever may befall them for being in such a situation.
Ex: The moral thing for a teenager to do, when told by a parent not to snoop around in the parent’s drawers, is to obey. The teenager is responsible for his injury if there happens to be a rat trap in it; it is his fault and no one else’s.

2. One has no obligation to consider the well-being of people in regard to their immoral states. Such consideration is not obligatory (within the call of duty), but supererogatory (above and beyond the call of duty).
If the teenager with the rat-trap injury is your brother, you have no obligation to feel sympathy for him, or drop your important activities to take care of him, etc.

3. Some romantic relationships are immoral states in which no moral person would find themselves.
Ex: One should never voluntarily enter a relationship where one would be required or influenced to do wrong. Relationships in which one will be influenced by the other to abuse one’s children or break the law, relationships where one will be pushed to violate one’s conscience, homosexual relationships, etc are immoral relationships/states in which no truly moral person would find themselves.

4. Pre-marital, non-genital physical affection between opposite sexes is morally acceptable.
Ex: It wasn’t wrong for me to deeply and passionately kiss Rosario Dawson (she told me she wan’t married).

5. Therefore: It is not morally wrong to engage in premarital, non-genital physical affection with a person of the opposite sex who is in an immoral relationship, even though it would cause pain to their partner, since their partner would not have experienced such pain were they not in said immoral state. (From 1-4)

6. 5 is (almost certainly) false.

Were is the catch? One of the above statements in 1-6 has to be false. Which one (or one’s) is it, and what is the significant resulting ethical consequence?

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