Tag Archives: CARM

Morality: Divine Dictates and Reason

The Former Conservative recently offered a critique of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry’s homophobic “Questions for Homosexuals” a while back, to which CARM leader Matthew Slick replied.  The Former Conservative offered a second response, and I encourage anyone who has not followed the exchange to go read it in its entirety.

One of the things that came up in the protracted discussion was CARM’s strange beliefs about morality.  It seems that CARM understands that there can only be three sources for morality (and only the first one is valid in CARM’s mind):

  1. A Supreme Being offering inviolable declarations of what is right and what is wrong.
  2. A societal system that offers near-inviolable declarations of what is right and what is wrong.
  3. Individuals who decide for themselves what is right or wrong based on what feels right.

This list demonstrates that the folks at CARM might want to invest a bit more into the “Research” part of their organization’s name.  There are a multitude of diverse bases for developing a moral framework, as evidenced by the number of philosophers, both ancient and modern, who have explored the topic of morality and offered many different methods for determining morality.

As a devotee o the Norse gods, I would actually suggest that my morality is loosely based on more nuanced versions of all three above points.  For example, my gods have a lot of advice to offer as to what actions and what virtues and actions are considered noble and moral.  However, these are offered as advice rather than inviolable commandments.[1]  Instead, they offer advice, suggestions, and reasons why certain courses of action are preferable and more worthy of praise.

This offers something for individual reason and reflection to work with.  This does make morality somewhat individualistic.  This is appropriate as morality is itself individualistic.  I am responsible to make sure that I act in a manner that is moral.  I am not responsible for anyone else’s morality or lack thereof.  So I need to reason through what right action is based on the understanding of my situations, the virtues that I and my gods deem noble and valuable.

This sort of individual consideration of morality is not the narcissistic “do what I want” attitude that the folks at CARM or like-minded people consider it to be.  It is possible to use one’s own reason and thought processes, yet start with some sort of basis that leads you to a rugged moral framework from which to act in an appropriate manner.

In reality, CARM’s knee-jerk rejection of the application of personal reason and reflection on matters of reality suggests an anti-reason bias in their approach to the world.  Of the three above versions of morality that they perceive, I suspect the last is the one they trust least, as it affirms the individual’s need for an external absolute authority to dictate right and wrong to them.  They simply believe that human beings are incapable of such moral reasoning on their own.

That suggestion is almost as insulting as it is frightening.

[1]  To put it bluntly, a bumper sticker that said “Freyja said it, I believe it, that settles it,” would not be a highly marketable product.

How not to do moral philosophy

While I was attending college at Susquehanna University, I took a class on religious philosophy.  A week of class-time was spent discussing morality.  The first day of that segment of the class, the instructor made it clear that the purpose of moral philosophy — and morality in general — was to aid an individual in evaluating situations in sir life and determining zir best course of action.  It’s a lesson that has stuck with me.

Unfortunately, it’s not a lesson that seems to stick with some groups, such as the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM).  Consider as evidence  CARM’s statements about morality in their Statement of Faith:

Homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, pedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia, cross dressing, trans-genderism, lying, bearing false witness, adultery, wife-swapping, pornography, fornication, and coveting are all sinful practices, against scriptural revelation, are contrary to proper living, and are not acceptable to the CARM ministry as normal or approved behaviors. Still, we do not hate those who practice these things but pray for their deliverance.

Note that with the exception of laying, bearing false witness (how it differs from lying is unclear), and coveting, this list is almost exclusively about declaring what sexual practices[1] and gender non-conforming practices are to be considered sinful.

This is not a useful moral paradigm by the standards of my college professor, standards which I’m inclined to accept for myself.  It offers no advice to someone who is confronted by injustice, nor does it offer any practical advice on how zie may come to recognize injustice.  It does not cover what it actually means to live with integrity, how to embody compassion, or what it means to love both your neighbor and your enemy.[2]  The average person would find this list completely unhelpful in answering the question, “What can I do to live a more moral life?”

That’s because CARM did not develop the morality clause of their Statement of Faith to help guide people through the process of determining the moral thing to do in everyday situations or when confronted with some troubling situation.  CARM developed this clause in order to declare who they considered immoral — particularly and almost exclusively in terms of sexuality.  They creed it to attempt to exert control over other people’s sexuality.  This is not called morality, but moralizing.

I tell you the truth, there is far more moral guidance in 1 Corinthians 13 than in the CARM blurb.

[1]  Actually, CARM doesn’t even say that same sex sexual activity is sinful.  It condemns homosexuality, bisexuality, and lesbianism.  It is not clear whether CARM does so because it does not consider sexual orientation does not exist beyond sexual orientation or if they are one of the last groups to still insist that even being gay — that is, having feelings for and experiencing an attraction towards  members of the same sex — is sinful in itself.  Either way, CARM demonstrates that even if we accept that CARM’s statement is only about sexual morality rather than morality in general, it is still deeply flawed.

[2]  Considering Jesus himself gave a direct command to his followers to love their enemies, I think it’s fair to say that any Christian organization’s morality clause that does not cover that command[3] is fatally flawed.

[3]  No, I don’t consider a quick “we do not hate…but pray for their deliverance” tacked on at the end as sufficient for that purpose.  That’s called “covering your ass.”