Monday, August 15, 2005

Quote of the Day: Moral Indignation

"Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo." -- H.G. Wells


I've often been mystified at the intense emotions of those usually religious people who become outraged when other people don't live according to their rules. Perhaps Mr. Wells is onto something. The idea that the strongest homophobes are repressed homosexuals is a cliche, but maybe a similar mechanism is at work for all of the loudest proponents of "morality." Maybe they want to have sex how they want and eat what they want and watch what movies they want. Maybe they want to look at all forms of art and listen to all kinds of music. Maybe they just want to read secular philosophy. Maybe deep down they're afraid that they're passing on these parts of life for no reason and so they must shout out the doubts in their own minds.

(Quote via the comments of this completely unrelated post.)

21 comments:

Laura said...

Nice blog.

I personally think you're onto something here. I tend to look at it this way: if something has been drilled into your head as the only "true" way, then to even entertain the notion that someone else's "truth" might be equally valid means your whole purpose to life has been a lie. That's pretty tough to deal with, so psychologically, they have a NEED to dismiss everything as "wrong" or untrue.

Sadie Lou said...

The problem with your theory is that you are forgetting that most Christians believe in an absolute truth--God's word. So while they might want to watch pornos, like you suggest, they know it is wrong so they go to battle with it. Now if person A comes up to the Christian and says, "Watching pornos is NOT wrong and I do it, so don't tell me it's wrong when it's not wrong for me."
Then that is the truth for them but not for the Christian. Even though they fight the urge to watch them--it doesn't mean it's right to watch pornos. The Christian can't change right and wrong to suit their desires.

Does this make sense?

Jewish Atheist said...

I understand a Christian who believes it is wrong to watch pornos not watching them, or watching them and feeling guilty.

What I'm trying to get at is why the same Christian, for example, would go on t.v. and scream about how pornography is ruining our country, or why he would start a campaign to outlaw pornography for everyone, including non-Christians and Christians who don't have a moral problem with pornography.

Sadie Lou said...

Well it's a well known saying in 'smart' Christian circles that you can't expect non-Christians to behave like Christians.
Therefore, all we can really do is shed some light on potentially dangerous behavior and hope that the non Christian weighs the consequences for themselves. You're right in saying that the Christian shouldn't ban pornography for everyone--if people want to distort their definition of sex in that way--they should have that right. However, where do we draw the line?
It's like the law that you have to wear seat belts. Why can't you drive around with the potential to not save yourself should you get in an accident? Or the motorcycle helmet law--why can't guys explode their heads on the pavement? It's their head.
I think there are times a Christian needs to step in and a time when a Christian should say their case and step out. Don't you?

JC Masterpiece said...

The problem with this example is that in reality, and as has been proven many times, pornography is destructive to individuals, families, and marriages. It often produces an addiction of severe proportions that begins after the first time viewing it. It is considered wrong because it does so much to destroy and little to none to help.

Thus you would need a better example to make this point work

Laura said...

I don't think the porn example is correct to use either. There are different levels of porn - and yes the violent, degrading porn has been linked to sexual violence. Though the research can rarely say definitively that it was the porn that caused this behavior, or whether viewing it exacerbated some already existing problems in the individual such as childhood abuse. Even so, not all pornography is the same, not all is violent. Just like not all Christians try to tell others how to live.

Jewish Atheist said...

The problem with this example is that in reality, and as has been proven many times, pornography is destructive to individuals, families, and marriages. It often produces an addiction of severe proportions that begins after the first time viewing it. It is considered wrong because it does so much to destroy and little to none to help.

I don't want to turn this into a discussion of porn, but please cite exactly where it "has been proven many times."

JC Masterpiece said...

Here are some sites that talk about this issue and the problems related to it.
Obsenity Crimes
Damage of Porn
The Effects of Prior Pornography Use on Marriage
The Prurient Problem of Pre-Pubescent Pornography
Porn Addiction Help

If that's not enough, just search it out

Sadie Lou said...

Okay...let's use the example of movies that are rated 'R'.
If one of the pastors at my church got up and started hopping up and down about NOT watching movies with an R rating--he and I would have to agree to disagree. He could make a case all day long using Scripture that says to think on things that are pure and of good report--he could quote Scripture that says "look not on unclean things"
but where the Lord convicts some Christians, He does not convict others.
Same with drinking.
When a group of us Christians get together, we have a couple beers with our BBQ.
Now if some Christian came up and got in my face about drinking and stumbling a brother--I'd have words with this person. Like I said, Christians are not convicted equally; especially on issues that the bible is silent on.
We are judged individually not corporately.

dbackdad said...

I think we're a bit off-topic ... which we all tend to do on blogs. Nobody was trying to argue for the merits of porn. The point trying to be made is simply that part of people's motivation for their moral outrage is repressed desires. It's not their whole motivation but it certainly plays a part. Not to pick on any one denomination, but I had a friend a co-worker, who was Mormon, that could go to church on one day and preach about the sin of porn and chocolate and caffiene, etc. and turn around the next day and chug a few cokes and secretly surf for porn. Hypocrisy is my biggest problem with religion. Do something or don't do something but don't lie about it and don't tell me whether I should do it. To quote John Stuart Mill's harm principle, "the only ground on which intervention is justified is to prevent harm to others; the individual's own good is not a sufficient justifcation."

Laura said...

JC - there are many studies on either side of the issue. However, what most fail to prove, as I said earlier, is the crucial causal link between violence and porn. Sure, trends show that men viewing certain types of porn show violent tendencies toward women and sexual dysfunctions. However, it cannot be proved whether porn caused a seemingly normal individual to change, or whether (as is more likely) that certain types of men, with pre-existing tendencies toward dysfunctional behavior are drawn toward violent porn, and thus exacerbate their problems. Normal men that view non-violent porn are NEVER the subjects of these studies.

Laura said...

Dbackdad: True dat... I just hate it when someone quotes a study or a book, thus arguing that their point MUST be true... there's a book! it must be true!

Esther said...

What about gay marriage? Religious onservatives make the ridiculous argument that same sex marriages threaten to undermine opposite sex marriages. Explain how it's possible for the marriage between two men in Massachusetts to undermine the marriage of a men and women that they've never met in Kansas?

dbackdad said...

Exactly. People will have already decided their opinion on something and will just find whatever study to support it. Hmmm. Facts being fixed around a policy ... sounds familiar. :-)

hayim said...

JA,

I noticed the same phenomenon you just described. However, I do not think that moral indignation is necessarily an expression of jealousy - some people *are* sincere, but the two intentions are so hard to tell apart !

I find it interesting that, both in Hebrew and English, the words used to describe these two states of mind are extremely similar - a sure indicator the proximity of the two concepts. In English, you are either jealous... or zealous ; in Hebrew, jealousy is Kinah, and a zealot is a Kannai !

I remember reading once a commentary on the story of the rape of Dinah - how Yaakov was angry at Shimon and Levi for destroying the city of Shchem and killing its inhabitants.

The explanation was precisely that Yaakov complained that it is impossible to know the purity of one own's motivation - jealousy (attraction to sin) or zeal ?

And indeed...

Hundreds of years later, according to the story of the Torah, the Bnei Israel sinned with the daughters of Midian. Who was the leader who fell ? Zimri, from the tribe of Shimon ; who killed him ? Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon Hacohen ... a Levite.

It took a long time, but the difference between "jealousy with a halo" and pure outrage became clear.

Anonymous said...

I have had the occasion in my life to meet many a people and have many discussions. I once spoke with an American Communist, who was also an Atheist.The reason I mention his political affiliation is because this person agreed with the concept of radical fundamentalism. He believed that he was right and everyone else is wrong. He then proceeded to convince me of how I had to pick a side when the revolution would come. What exactly is the difference between this nutball and some crazy religious nut? The answer is nothing one is far left and the other is far right. In so far as Religious people in general are concerned many only know what they are told few do their own homework. Answer this if person A is a devout religionist yet immerses himself in pornography, he should not rebuke another for this thing, rather if he really believes it is wrong he should state so in a polite and civil fashion. One has to clean one's own side of the street before they can help another. What I'm really trying to say is that people are people whether they are religionists,spiritualists,atheists ,communists,fascists ad infinitum. So if you feel that these people are getting in your face about porn it's more likely that they are pumping themselves up rather than trying to illustrate why they believe it is wrong. How many of us in any area of our lives politics,religion,philosophy,relationships etc. been harsh and misgiving in what we say?I would venture to say all.

Laura said...

Hayim,

That's very interesting about the language. Kinda makes you think, huh?

Sadie Lou said...

What about gay marriage? Religious onservatives make the ridiculous argument that same sex marriages threaten to undermine opposite sex marriages. Explain how it's possible for the marriage between two men in Massachusetts to undermine the marriage of a men and women that they've never met in Kansas?

Speaking for myself, I would never be an advocate to ban same sex marriages. I have an uncle who is gay and he and his partner have been together for a lot longer than even my parents. They love each other and who am I to get in their business? That's between them and The Almighty.
However--you asked a question and I think I can answer that.
Marriage is a God instituted arrangement.
If you look up marriage in the dictionary, it doesn't say "a union of two people" it specifically says a man and a woman.
Look up husband.
Look up wife.
Look up Bride.
Look up Groom.
The gay community is asking to redefine the istitution of marriage and "holy" matrimony.
Many Christians wonder why the gay community can't just enter into a legal union of some kind vs. trying to say they are "married". If it is for the legal benefits, there are ways to establish all those same benefits without being "married".
Anyways--that's how some people view it and I understand both sides.

Laura said...

Good points Sadie - that's precisely why I'm in favor of separating the legal and religious aspects of marriage, like they do in Europe. Your civil union is recognized by the state, granting you certain legal rights. Then, if you choose, you may also have a religious ceremony to square yourself with your chosen faith. If we looked at it that way, there's no argument.

Sadie Lou said...

If we looked at it that way, there's no argument.

Wouldn't life be so much easier if we could all just be rational and civil? You are a smart woman, Laura. We have our differences but we have our similarities too.

Godol Hador said...

Hey, check out my book burning post for a great example of moral indignation from a confirmed atheist. All fundamentalists do it, religious or secular.