Originally published on Deamwidth, SEP. 26TH, 2005 07:50 PM.

It’s because we must grow.

The first and most powerful impulse in living communities is the conservative impulse: the will to keep things the way that they are. And this is a good and a necessary thing: the Way Things Are is sufficiently complicated to learn, let alone master, without people coming along and changing it on you. Hence the fact that teenagers tend to be more conservative than others: they can just about see their mastery, and they don’t want the rules changing right now.

The second most powerful impulse is the rebellious impulse: anger, generally that one is thwarted in a specific goal, and then sees that there are more things that one is prevented from doing. Since the original goal was desirable, these other goals can become contemplated as desirable as well.

Then comes creativity: as inborn as handedness, those who are afflicted with it cannot be prevented from creating without twisting them into a frightening caricature of a socialized being.

Criticism comes next, and it derives from rebelliousness, above: the rebellion against the vision of another. Embedded within it is a profound conservative view, one that sees the shadows of perfection and matches them against the creativity that another has exhibited.

Justice comes next. Please do not think that I consider this not very powerful: all of these impulses are profoundly powerful, and fit very close to each other. The desire for justice, fairness, equitability, is hardwired into our systems and can be observed in our near and distant cousins: the fierce need to see that we are treated by the same rules as everyone else.

Together with justice comes love: the desire for the good of another, even at the cost of one’s own good.

Conservatism keeps things from spinning out of control: changes are temporary unless they meet several of the other impulses.

Rebelliousness keeps things from stagnating: as sheerly destructive as it sometimes seems, it exposes assumptions to light and air, and allows them to be challenged: if they are sound, they will survive. If not, the rebellious will toss them loudly about and cause all kinds of ruckus which will eventually wear them into small, easily smooshed pieces. Rebelliousness challenges without initial judgment: the calm of conservation examines nothing, and makes it hard to see what should, and what need not, be turned upside down.

Creative people invent, make, grow, and they come up with both genuinely new things and new ways of using old and ancient things. Creative people – the creative impulse in general – is the strongest force against entropy. On the other hand, if they are not kept under some sort of control – some manner of pruning – their works become cancerous, and crowd out other good things.

This is where the critical come in. They keep the creative in check, and force them to justify their works, and enrage them into further, but further refined, efforts. They cause focus.

Justice acts directly upon conservatism, in that it agrees that there must be stability, but defines that stability in terms of the entire organism. It subverts conservatism in that it demands a higher level, a more refined version, of the same society.

Love does not care about fairness. It commands creativity to serve its purposes. It employs criticism as a halberd. Conservatism is used as a blanket by love, and is tossed aside if it becomes smothering.

And who any individual loves is chaotic: it falls generally into patterns, but is entirely unpredictable for any specific person. Because of that chaos, society must continue to churn. Such churning always hurts because it grinds against what we most like about our lives.

And that’s why we can’t all just get along.


Originally published on Dreamwidth NOV. 16TH, 2005 01:49 PM.

Among the Norse, when a mankilling (fair fight or accidental) happened (as opposed to a murder by stealth), there were two options: the victim’s family could declare blood-feud on the killer and his family; or the Althing could set weregild, literally “man-gold,” a partial reparation paid to the family by the killer that superceded and replaced the blood-feud.

Interestingly enough, no one has ever suggested that Odin caused Olaf to kill Leif so that Sigrid could buy a boat for her son.

We see people teetering these days between a belief that God caused all sorts of ills so that individuals could better fulfil certain functions later, and a kind of distress that said ills might have brought any benefit at all.

I suggest that the wisdom and skill and understanding that results directly from ills caused to us should be regarded as Weregild: as a partial reparation paid to us to ease the harm we suffered, so that we may draw back from declaring blood-feud (on our attackers, or Diety, or Society – whatever).

We would rather have our family member alive, or our missing limb restored, or our childhood uncorrupted. But the gifts that were offered as a result are useful.

For my weregild, I have a profound understanding of sexual psychology, a gift for description, and, from time to time, the tact to say things in a way that is both true and capable of being heard.

What is your weregild?


Originally published on Dreamwidth MAR. 10TH, 2006 09:58 AM.

I’m gonna have to send that man fudge. An open letter to Donna Reddick reads, in part:

They’re so panicked at the thought that somebody accidentally might treat gay people like people. They run around Chicken Little-like, screaming, ‘Th’ homosex’shals is comin’! Th’ homosex’shals is comin’!” Meantime, people are ignorant in Appalachia, strung out in Miami, starving in Niger, sex slaves in India, mass-murdered in Darfur. Where is the Christian outrage about that?

Well worth reading in its entirety.

I’m embarrassed about my own response to the man, however.

Dear sir,

I was intrigued by your response to Professor Pitts, and, as always, delighted by your prose. But I’d like you to update your response to her invocation of Sodom and Gomorrah. In my experience, people always get that one wrong.

Ezekiel 16:49 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

49 ” ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.

As you can see, Ezekiel was wholly unconcerned about the sexual sins (which, from my personal reading, involved rape and assault rather than loving nonstandard consensual adult intimacy), and far more concerned about their welfare philosophy.

Which, so far as I can make out, matches fairly strongly to that of the current and the past several Republican administrations.

I’ve been calling President Bush a Sodomite for some time, on this basis.


*bangs head* Reddick! Her name is Reddick! His name is Pitts!

CHURCH CONDEMNS LESBIAN IVF USE (and gets condemned right back)

Originally published on Dreamwidth NOV. 19TH, 2007 02:30 PM.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor wrote: “The bill proposes to remove the need for IVF providers to take into account the child’s need for a father when considering an IVF application and to confer legal parenthood on people who have no biological relationship to a child born as a result of IVF.

-um, ya mean, kinda like folks calling someone “Father” who not only has no relation to them genetically or legally, but whom the folks answering to that appellation still see as necessarily overriding the folks of the first parts’ own judgment in all kinds of personal and political situations?

Of course, they did say that “The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life is always wrong and is not just one issue among many, […]It must always be opposed.” I wish they had been holding to that standard there in the 1960s-1990s, when they were asked to defend innocent human life. – Oh, right, they only care about protecting innocent life when there’s a chance of controlling a woman along with it. Because otherwise, as Garry Wills says in his LA Times opinion piece, “The supreme irony is that, properly understood, abortion is not even a religious issue.”

I have said before, verbally if not in this forum, that

the damage goes beyond disillusionment with a father figure because the exploiter-abuser was a priest, a “godlike” person, who occupied a position of sacred trust to the youth and his or her family. Furthermore, the victim had not only been violated but his or her source of spiritual support in a time of trouble—the church and its representative—had been rudely swept away.

The authors of this article and writers of the above words obviously (and unknowingly!) agree with me and bring back to the fore the fact that, media skew aside, we are really, really not talking about priests being homosexual predators. On page 56 of this document, they examine the various sources and interpretations of the statistics. But even if only half as many girls as boys get victimized – a statistic questionable on a number of grounds – that still means that a full third of the victims are young females, and their predators thus heterosexual priests. AW Richard Sipe is quoted in that same Boston Globe article as finding that “the numbers change dramatically among late adolescents and adults, with woman victims outnumbering males 4 to 1.”

John Paul II said in his Evangelium vitae of 1995 that

It may be that many people use contraception with a view to excluding the subsequent temptation of abortion. But the negative values inherent in the “contraceptive mentality”-which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal act-are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro- abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church’s teaching on contraception is rejected. Certainly, from the moral point of view contraception and abortion are specifically different evils: the former contradicts the full truth of the sexual act as the proper expression of conjugal love, while the latter destroys the life of a human being; the former is opposed to the virtue of chastity in marriage, the latter is opposed to the virtue of justice and directly violates the divine commandment “You shall not kill”.

I submit that the full truth of the sexual act is a proper expression of affection between consenting adults, and that the total rejection of any sexual permission outside that of a conjugal attempt for reproduction in itself breaks down the attempt by morally desperate but fragile people to understand the rules – which are psychiatric and neither physical nor legal in nature – by which we may sustain a society.

The sexual act between friends – male and female, or female and female, or male and male – does not in itself cause mental agony. The sexual act of a solitary person, like the sexual act between more than two friends, does not cause mental agony.

But a sexual act between an authority figure and a dependent person, whether a child, a legally or religiously submissive person, or a mentally or emotionally fragile or non-competent person, does cause mental agony. It destroys the dependent person’s full capacity for societal participation; it injures and may destroy the dependent person’s full capacity for sexual expression; and it destroys the dependent person’s trust in unconditional love, which has been shown to be profoundly necessary to full moral development.

And a sexual act between people who are not friends, or between people at least one of whom has promised sexual fidelity to one not present, does cause mental agony, to the participants who find their sexual experience to be mechanical or even despairing, and to the person or people not present, who find that their trust in their beloved is unfounded.

There are sexual crimes, oh yes. But I have no ability to hear the words of the authorities of the Catholic church on this matter: their actions are screaming too loudly.


Originally published in Dreamwidth OCT. 21ST, 2004 10:23 AM.

When a few progressive women asked for the right to vote, the society rose up in a body and answered, “That would devastate the family and change society as we know it.”

When more progressive women asked for the right to be treated equally under the law, the society rose up in a body and answered, “That would devastate the family and change society as we know it.”

When even more progressive women asked for the right to legal, safe abortions, the society rose up in a body and answered, “That would devastate the family and change society as we know it.”

Now that various and sundry people (including some gays) are demanding that laws be changed to permit the marriage of gay people to the ones they love, the society is rising up in a body and answering, “That would devastate the family and change society as we know it.”

It is important for us to acknowledge that they were absolutely correct, according to their definitions of marriage, the family, and society as they know it.

Marriage as they know it requires that, and I quote, “The wife submit to the husband as the church submits to Christ; and the husband love the wife as Christ loves the church.” There is a profound sense of unidirectional ownership in this marriage – the wife belongs to the husband, but the husband does not necessarily belong to the wife – and there is also the assumption that wrong behavior shall be chastised.

The family as they know it is the cauldron in which the above and below situations are trained and maintained. Within the family, everyone has a place and a set of duties, responsibilities, and rights that are the same in each and every family in society. Training to a position that will not be held by that family member is rightly suspected to lead to discontent by the one trained when that training is not used. (E.g.: a boy taught to cook will be disappointed when his future wife drives him out of the kitchen, as is her right.)

Society as they know it is predicated on the idea that those in charge tell the rest what to do, and are obeyed. That there are ranges of appropriate behavior for every person, and that those ranges can be understood by looking at the person in question. That the attempt to move outside those ranges of appropriate behavior indicates a desire to belong to the group for whom that behavior is appropriate. That such a desire is both sinful and criminal, and is possibly pathological, and is a pointer to further desires to break societal rules.

Our foremothers and their male allies and family members have absolutely accomplished all of the changes ascribed to them. It is up to us to continue the battle.


Yes, you are seeing this correctly. The Trumpian “conservative” political movement is, in fact, attempting to recreate “the family and society” as they knew it. Or thought they did.

Thoughts on the Source of Morality

May 4th, 2009, 08:14 am

[info]mecurtin posted part of a discussion happening elsewhere, where she argues:

Given that there are *in fact* virtuous atheists and agnostics, religious belief *must not* be required for virtue. That’s what “sine qua non” means. The existence of moral atheists disproves the thesis that religious belief is necessary for a moral compass. Rod has acknowledged the observable *fact* that moral atheists exist — you cannot go on to argue that belief in God must be necessary for moral behavior.
Given that there are *in fact* virtuous atheists and agnostics, religious belief *must not* be required for virtue. That’s what “sine qua non” means. The existence of moral atheists disproves the thesis that religious belief is necessary for a moral compass. Rod has acknowledged the observable *fact* that moral atheists exist — you cannot go on to argue that belief in God must be necessary for moral behavior.


I would personally argue, as I have before, that morality is trained into the individual before knowledge of a divinity is transferred to that individual.

The infant’s very first interactions with Society comes through her primary caregiver – mother, wetnurse, adoptive primary caregiver, the Giver Of Milk. Infants primarily learn at that point ask, and it shall be given unto you, although some must learn ask and demand as you will, it will do you no good: your needs will not be met on time.

Infants also learn Cry injustice and dismay, and you shall be comforted – again, with the above caveat. I shall ask you to take that as read, from here on in.

These are the very roots of moral behavior. Please note the extreme lack of an invisible deity, and the lack of fear of the caregiver which is going on here.

The next roots also occur in the absence of deity: Things still exist even when you cannot see them, and don’t hit/don’t bite.

The final two roots occur in the presence of the understanding of language, although not necessarily in the presence of the use of language: share your belongings even when you would rather not, and when you have a fight, you can go back to being friends afterward.

Those are the roots on which all other moral behavior is based. They all are trained into the human (or fail to be so trained) before language, and therefor the concept of deity, is available to her.

The book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum argues this same issue, as I understand it, although it comes in at a later point in the child’s development: behaving well is a cornerstone, a necessary foundation, to having a society in which children survive. These are things that our cousins the apes and the chimpanzees learn from their mothers and their kin-groups; and no one has yet argued that these are rooted in a religious system there.

In fact, I would argue that the thesis that a Deity is necessary to moral behavior is evidence that the one posing it does not have a sound moral compass of her or his own.

Points of Sexual Ethics as they apply to Homosexuals, Heterosexuals, Christians, and Pagans

From a discussion on ISCA.

Sep 19, 1995 09:43 from FtC
I need some advice!

I have a really good friend (we’ve been friends for almost 20 years!) and he is gay, or at least he thinks he may be. The reason he thinks he may be is that he has fantasized about relationships with men, but he has never acted on these fantasies. He asked me a couple of perplexing questions, and I was hoping you may have an answer. First of all, he doesn’t want to be gay, but he says he “just can’t shake these feelings,” and second, he has had sex with a woman, but “it was empty sex – there were no real feelings there.” His questions I couldn’t answer were this:

  1. Why would God make me homosexual or allow the devil to have this power over me?
  2. Since I don’t know if I am homosexual for sure [he’s never had sex with a man], should I try it to destroy these fantasies I’m having?

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