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Jul 30 2010

The moral compass

A fan just wrote in with a quote from a Catholic instructor who offered their moral opinion on both rape and masturbation:

“Rape is better than masturbation because there is a chance of a child to be conceived rather than wasting that of which God gave us.”

This probably doesn’t represent the view of every Catholic (or even most) and may not even map to orthodoxy – that’s not my reason for posting it.

Navigating the moral landscape can be difficult and religions give the illusion of simplifying the process while actually making it more difficult. Even the most flexible cognitive contortionist will struggle to reconcile the web of confusing, vague or contradictory conclusions that result from flawed religious premises.

I understand the appeal. Religious adherents get to be intellectually lazy. They get that comforting “problem-solved” feeling that you get when someone else does the work for you. They get to avoid responsibility for their moral views by shrugging and pointing to their imaginary scapegoat.

The big problem is that religious moral claims gradually surround one’s moral compass with magnets.

We may be able to discuss and debate the moral impact of masturbation (I’d say there’s no moral assessment to be made), but if you believe that masturbation is worse than rape, you’re no longer eligible to participate in the discussion. You’ve sacrificed your humanity on the altar of laziness and blind servility and you won’t be allowed to rejoin the discussion until you correct that.

The rest of us are trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together and we don’t need you spilling your coffee all over the table while you try to force pieces together – especially as you seem to have brought pieces from some other puzzle.

27 comments

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  1. 1
    Tina-cious.com

    A-the-fuck-men.Well said!

  2. 2
    Sean (quantheory)

    Notice that you can replace "masturbation" with "chastity" and that argument makes the same amount of sense (or more).Morality based on religion is so bizarre. I think the existence of people like this is an utter empirical refutation of the moralistic argument. Religion doesn't provide morality, but rather replaces it with something else. Religious "morality" not even the objective ethics it claims to be, but a subjective ethics, with the caveat that the "subject" is always God (or The Gods). It tells people that they can't make sense of the world, and that if God offends their own knowledge about right and wrong, they need to shut up and sit down.

  3. 3
    JT

    I love the final analogy.I'm going to go ahead and forcefully believe that the Rape < Masturbation assertion is satire. I'm going to go ahead and give the individual the benefit of the doubt instead of concluding that this person is utter scum.

  4. 4
    antonyhamill

    He must have been attempting deliberate provocation when he made that statement. Nobody can mean that seriously can they?

  5. 5
    Nadia Williams

    Jeebus freaking Krist!!!!!!!! And what you said. I love the phrase "The big problem is that religious moral claims gradually surround one's moral compass with magnets." So many Christians (I have zero contact with any other religion so I can't comment on anything but Christianity) are benign, sweet, are good people and draw good conclusions from their religion. I found it difficult to put my uneasiness with the way they live their lives (and the way I used to, also) into words. Thanks for giving them to me.

  6. 6
    Ithonicfury

    Well, according to the Bible rape is a good way to get a wife, and as we all know marriage is a holy institution which is perfect for raising children, and is the backbone of our society.Not really sure how they can say their religion provides objective unchanging morality, while changing their morality and making special cases for atrocities in their own book…oh right, they don't think about it.

  7. 7
    March Hare

    The problem with that is someone has to be the arbiter of what is obvious moral nonsense and what is a valid perspective.Until we have a decent agreement on the definition of the word 'morality' then I don't see how we could possibly have a domain expert in it or a way to sort out the astrologists from the astrologers.

  8. 8
    MTS Mariner

    Interesting. The person who said that should have to explain it to someone who's been raped. Face to face.

  9. 9
    Andy

    Matt:"…if you believe that masturbation is worse than rape, you're no longer eligible to participate in the discussion. You've sacrificed your humanity on the altar of laziness and blind servility and you won't be allowed to rejoin the discussion until you correct that."Exactly.I wonder what he would have said if it were male-on-male rape, which, obviously, does not count pregnancy as one of its liabilities. Wait, you know what? I don't want to know what he would have said.

  10. 10
    Kerri

    I was applauding your last 2 paragraphs and scared the hell out of my cat. These are pretty deep scratches, but it was totally worth it. :-)

  11. 11
    Zurahn

    There are male rape victims, too. You'd think he'd know that, being Catholic.

  12. 12
    Mandrellian

    Matt, it's amazing that posts like this even have to be written. But I suppose that's what Catholicism does to any conversation about genitals – turns it the fuck on its head and kicks it down the stairs.Money quote:"… if you believe that masturbation is worse than rape, you're no longer eligible to participate in the discussion."Mate, if you honestly believe masturbation is worse than rape you shouldn't be eligible to participate in SOCIETY.Our first child is due in December; remind me to keep her the hell away from anyone in a cassock.

  13. 13
    skepticmatt

    "Rape is better than masturbation because there is a chance of a child to be conceived rather than wasting that of which God gave us."Just an observation, but that only applies to one very specific type of rape – and not the type that catholics (clergy) generally seem to practice.

  14. 14
    Kevin

    I particularly like the ending.Reminds me of this cartoon: http://www.blacksunjournal.com/wp-content/images/crazyvsreligion.png

  15. 15
    Guillaume

    It is surreal to me, people trying to defend such stupid point so stupidly. It is beyond laziness at this point, the mind of this Catholic is in a vegetative state, morally speaking. I have seen many stupid Catholics in my life, some downright retards, but never one like this. If I had any kind of nostalgia for Catholicism, you just crushed it Matt.

  16. 16
    Eyedunno

    'Notice that you can replace "masturbation" with "chastity" and that argument makes the same amount of sense (or more).'This was going to be my comment. Why isn't this hypocrite douchebag (or is that "wanna-be douchebag") then fucking women who look impregnable almost constantly?…And then I discovered that "this douchebag" is none other than St. Thomas Aquinas. :)Here he is:"In every genus, worst of all is the corruption of the principle on which the rest depend. Now the principles of reason are those things that are according to nature, because reason presupposes things as determined by nature, before disposing of other things according as it is fitting. This may be observed both in speculative and in practical matters. Wherefore just as in speculative matters the most grievous and shameful error is that which is about things the knowledge of which is naturally bestowed on man, so in matters of action it is most grave and shameful to act against things as determined by nature. Therefore, since by the unnatural vices man transgresses that which has been determined by nature with regard to the use of venereal actions, it follows that in this matter this sin is gravest of all. After it comes incest, which, as stated above (09), is contrary to the natural respect which we owe persons related to us.With regard to the other species of lust they imply a transgression merely of that which is determined by right reason, on the presupposition, however, of natural principles. Now it is more against reason to make use of the venereal act not only with prejudice to the future offspring, but also so as to injure another person besides. Wherefore simple fornication, which is committed without injustice to another person, is the least grave among the species of lust. Then, it is a greater injustice to have intercourse with a woman who is subject to another's authority as regards the act of generation, than as regards merely her guardianship. Wherefore adultery is more grievous than seduction. And both of these are aggravated by the use of violence. Hence rape of a virgin is graver than seduction, and rape of a wife than adultery. And all these are aggravated by coming under the head of sacrilege, as stated above (10, ad 2)." [Aquinas, _Summa Theologica_ II-II, 154, 12]So this list seems to follow the order of:Masturbation/Bestiality/Not fucking in the front hole/Homosexuality > Incest > Adultery + rape > Adultery > Seduction + rape > Seduction > Simple fornicationTo be fair, most Catholics seemingly wouldn't hold this up as evidence that masturbation is actually worse than rape, just perhaps more "unnatural". See http://www.pathsoflove.com/blog/2009/06/aquinas-on-sexual-sins-dangers-of-speaking-formally/ for a priest's view.

  17. 17
    Jeremiah

    Re: March HareSure we need agreements on terms, but I think Matt's point was that people that try to base their morality on religion don't even want to start the discussion.

  18. 18
    ernobius

    So sick… Everything I would have added is already said, so I would like to say only one thing: based on my experience, many Christians are the victims of this crazy and dangerous meme. Indoctrinated that only hell and heaven matters in the end, you feel you must take all the bogus crap religion has to offer, or else you hurt skydaddy's feelings and burn forever…My point is, it's not just absolute ignorance that sometimes prevents Christians thinking, it's the indoctrination on which their world was built from early – and sensitive – childhood. So The Atheist Experience show is something that the world really needs now. Thank you guys for putting me on the way of freedom.

  19. 19
    DavidCT

    One constant theme in this greater sin calculation is that the victims count for nothing. This attitude has been shown to be pervasive in the way the Catholic Church has responded to the sexual abuse disclosures. Victims with competent lawyers are probably ranked lower that the hell bound atheists.

  20. 20
    ChaosSong

    Those who are comparing masturbation to chastity have forgotten Saint Monty of Python:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUspLVStPbk

  21. 21
    EricLeb010

    My friend once noted that not masturbating kills the unused seed, simply because sperm doesn't live that long.Kind of a lose-lose situation. God is telling us to have sex every day so that we don't waste.

  22. 22
    felix

    Running with the navigation analogy, let's take a map where we want to find the best way to get from A to B.We look at the mountain ranges and valleys, the bridges across rivers, the bends we have to take around forests, the shorter but slower ways going through town centers and so on.While we ponder and calculate (sans electronic navigation), the Christian is the guy who takes the wide-tip red marker and draws a straight line from A to any random point, labels that point B, and announces that any straight line is by definition the shortest way.

  23. 23
    Eyedunno

    "My friend once noted that not masturbating kills the unused seed, simply because sperm doesn't live that long."Yeah, and there's something about Aquinas, naturalistic fallacy aside – he clearly believed (as many did until fairly recently) that a man's "life force" is contained in his sperm, and hence one is depleting his life force without the possibility of generating new life, kinda like Shakespeare's Sonnet #4:Nature’s bequest gives nothing, but doth lend,And being frank, she lends to those are free:Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuseThe bounteous largess given thee to give?Profitless usurer, why dost thou useSo great a sum of sums, yet canst not live?For having traffic with thyself alone,Thou of thyself thy sweet self dost deceive:Then how, when Nature calls thee to be gone,What acceptable audit canst thou leave? Thy unus’d beauty must be tomb’d with thee, Which used, lives th’ executor to be.Modern Catholics have no such excuse.

  24. 24
    magx01

    @ Sean (quantheory):"Notice that you can replace "masturbation" with "chastity" and that argument makes the same amount of sense (or more)."Well, no, not exactly. "Waste" in this context refers to the ejaculation during masturbation, which they see as "waste." Chastity is not equivalent. No "wasted sperm."Now, replace masturbation with FEMALE masturbation, and watch them squirm ;)

  25. 25
    Nicksonman

    But the conceived child may turn out to be an atheist, adding another ungodly person to the world.

  26. 26
    Deviant and Fragile

    This is sad. this is an ridiculous argument, but I don't need to tell that. Recently the cathlic church said in Holland: Women in the function of a priest is worse than child molestation. Also deeply depressing. This wasn't meant as a joke, I read it in the newspaper. Greetings,Dutch webcam girl

  27. 27
    Ing

    SPerm and blood magic….How is this the sophisticated philosopher's religion and not a boggy hut shamanism again?

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