Tom Gilson

Why Did They Invite Dan Savage To Speak?

Why was Dan Savage invited to speak to high school journalists?

We know he was offensive. We know he bombed.

What I’ve been looking for on the web, and haven’t found, is why he was invited in the first place.

A statement from the organizers tells us,

At one of the plenary keynote sessions of the two organizations’ semi-annual conventions, Mr. Dan Savage had been invited to share with students the power of social media in today’s world as well as speak about the problem of bullying of gay youth, an issue all too familiar in many American schools.

So whom did they tap for this?

  • The man who, while he had a bad case of the flu infiltrated Gary Bauer’s office and went around licking doorknobs and staplers hoping to make people sick.
  • The man who set up a website (no, I won’t link to it) associating a hopeful presidential candidate with stuff that would make you sick just to read about it. (There’s a theme developing here.)
  • The man who pled guilty to voter fraud.
  • The man whose newspaper column deals in “sexoerotic diversity.” (No I won’t link to that, either.)
  • More here

The same organizers’ statement linked above tells us his incredibly offensive and ignorant speech was “not what we had expected.”

What did they expect?!

The organizers apologized for his speech—”just 24 hours after praising the speech’s ‘level of thoughtfulness and deliberation,'” according to Breitbart.

Why did they invite him?

Series Navigation (Dan Savage):<<< What “Not Bullying” Looks Like?Further on Dan Savage and SSM “Tolerance” >>>
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96 thoughts on “Why Did They Invite Dan Savage To Speak?

  1. Some suggestions for some rational answers to your question:

    This conference happened to be in Seattle. Savage lives in Seattle. The meeting is a meeting of journalists. Savage is a journalist, in the sense of being an opinion columnist. His column appears in hundreds or thousands of newspapers. He has appeared as a guest on dozens of TV shows, e.g. he was on The Colbert Report earlier this year. I think he has also spoken on hundreds of college campuses on various tours. Obviously he’s controversial, but equally obviously being controversial is exactly his gig.

    So I think everyone knew what they were getting, in general, well ahead of time.

    And, once he’s a speaker, you can’t control what he will say, particularly in the Q&A which I believe is when the remarks about the Bible and slavery were made (I heard somewhere that the question was likely organized by students who opposed Savage’s appearance at the meeting, who probably also pre-arranged to stage the walkout and the subsequent freakout in the right-wing echo chamber).

    And as for what Savage said, the various exaggerations and profanity do not reflect well on him, but his fundamental point wasn’t amazingly far off — namely that the Bible is weak on slavery, southerns actually used the Bible to support their pro-slavery arguments before the Civil War, and they actually didn’t have to twist it to do it — they just took the commonsense straighforward reading of the Bible so highly favored by conservative Protestants throughout history, turned the crank, and “God is OK with slavery” came out. It’s not just left-wing shock jocks that say this, it’s mainstream evangelical historians like Mark Noll that say this.

    Savage’s subsequent point, that sometimes our moral judgment overrules some particular morality derived from a plain reading of some Bible passage, and rightly so (and we subsequently reinterpret the Bible or emphasize other passage) is also basically correct.

    But, Savage’s method of communicating this wasn’t particularly effective, since it was sloppy and offensively communicated, allowing the conservative media to ignore his point and stage a freakout over being offended. On the other hand, precisely that controversy has gotten Savage and his remarks noticed much more widely than they would have been otherwise, so perhaps Savage knew exactly what he was doing.

  2. I’d be interested to see a source for what you say about the pre-arrangement, Nick. Until then I’m going to regard it as rumor.

    On slavery in the Bible and history, you are way, way too predictable, too historically myopic, too unaware of what happened between 50 AD and 1550 AD, too blind to all the Christian statements on slavery through the centuries, too ignorant of how the Bible caused the powerful to change their view of the weak, too lacking in knowledge of what a huge difference there was between, say, Paul and Aristotle, to look at anything but one group of southern Christians who for a few years got it wrong.

    Let me ask you a question. When you worked at the National Center for Science Education, and when you got your advanced degrees in science, did they train you to draw conclusions from small and non-representative samples? As I recall my early (and advanced) research methods classes, it seems to me (I might be forgetting something) they said that was bad science. Or are you just going to feel free to admit your conclusion is unscientific?

  3. You’ve already seen this without it having made a dent in your prejudices, but maybe some other readers will benefit from it. Maybe you will this time.

  4. @Nick

    they just took the commonsense straighforward reading of the Bible so highly favored by conservative Protestants throughout history, turned the crank, and “God is OK with slavery” came out.

    Only in the left-wing echo chamber…

    Anyone willing to examine the actual history of the case will discover that

    [the abolitionist] impulse sprang from two main sources: the theology and practice of Quakerism and the emergence of an aggressive, interdenominational evangelicalism.

    Concerning

    It’s not just left-wing shock jocks that say this, it’s mainstream evangelical historians like Mark Noll that say this.

    You’re misrepresenting Noll. He would (correctly) say the first part — namely, that there were those who used scripture to justify slavery (this is history). But he would not say (as you imply) that they arrived at this justification via a common, let alone historic, hermeneutic!

  5. Did they not know? Or did they know and just not care?

    Neither case reflects well on them.

  6. Correction – watching the video just now, Savage’s remarks weren’t in response to a question, they were part of a speech. And actually his remarks in context don’t justify the freakout — much tamer than I was expecting. He doesn’t even raise his voice.

  7. Further, Nick, when you said,

    So I think everyone knew what they were getting, in general, well ahead of time.

    You just accentuated my question. Dan Savage is a reprehensible character in ways that have nothing to do with his sexual preferences. Why on earth choose him to teach high schoolers???

  8. Freakout? The students walked out calmly and silently.

    And no, he didn’t raise his voice. He just used profanity four times. He just completely dissed my most cherished beliefs, and those of millions of others.

    And who are you to say our response is unjustified? That’s extremely judgmental on your part. Not to mention wrong.

    Did they teach you that at the NCSE and Berkeley, too?

  9. You’re misrepresenting Noll. He would (correctly) say the first part — namely, that there were those who used scripture to justify slavery (this is history). But he would not say (as you imply) that they arrived at this justification via a common, let alone historic, hermeneutic!

    Au contraire. Noll specifically and explicitly blames the “prevailing hermeneutic” for the south’s Bible-based proslavery arguments. To wit, some well-known quotes from Noll:

    ==============
    The pro-slavery South could point to slaveholding by the godly patriarch Abraham (Gen 12:5; 14:14; 24:35-36; 26:13-14), a practice that was later incorporated into Israelite national law (Lev 25:44-46). It was never denounced by Jesus, who made slavery a model of discipleship (Mk 10:44). The Apostle Paul supported slavery, counseling obedience to earthly masters (Eph 6:5-9; Col 3:22-25) as a duty in agreement with “the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness” (1 Tim 6:3). Because slaves were to remain in their present state unless they could win their freedom (1 Cor 7:20-24), he sent the fugitive slave Onesimus back to his owner Philemon (Phlm 10-20). The abolitionist north had a difficult time matching the pro-slavery south passage for passage. […] Professor Eugene Genovese, who has studied these biblical debates over slavery in minute detail, concludes that the pro-slavery faction clearly emerged victorious over the abolitionists except for one specious argument based on the so-called Curse of Ham (Gen 9:18-27). For our purposes, it is important to realize that the South won this crucial contest with the North by using the prevailing hermeneutic, or method of interpretation, on which both sides agreed. So decisive was its triumph that the South mounted a vigorous counterattack on the abolitionists as infidels who had abandoned the plain words of Scripture for the secular ideology of the Enlightenment.
    ==============

    ===========
    The theological crisis occasioned by reasoning like [conservative Presbyterian theologian James H.] Thornwell’s was acute. Many Northern Bible-readers and not a few in the South felt that slavery was evil. They somehow knew the Bible supported them in that feeling. Yet when it came to using the Bible as it had been used with such success to evangelize and civilize the United States, the sacred page was snatched out of their hands. Trust in the Bible and reliance upon a Reformed, literal hermeneutic had created a crisis that only bullets, not arguments, could resolve.
    ===========

    =============
    The question of the Bible and slavery in the era of the Civil War was never a simple question. The issue involved the American expression of a Reformed literal hermeneutic, the failure of hermeneutical alternatives to gain cultural authority, and the exercise of deeply entrenched intuitive racism, as well as the presence of Scripture as an authoritative religious book and slavery as an inherited social-economic relationship. The North– forced to fight on unfriendly terrain that it had helped to create– lost the exegetical war. The South certainly lost the shooting war. But constructive orthodox theology was the major loser when American believers allowed bullets instead of hermeneutical self-consciousness to determine what the Bible said about slavery. For the history of theology in America, the great tragedy of the Civil War is that the most persuasive theologians were the Rev. Drs. William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant.
    =============

    You can’t just sweep someone like Noll under the rug and pretend he doesn’t exist — which is what I have seen happen in every single recent attempt by conservative Christian apologists to deal with the slavery issue.

  10. Freakout? The students walked out calmly and silently.

    The freakout is in the right wing media.

    And no, he didn’t raise his voice. He just used profanity four times. He just completely dissed my most cherished beliefs, and those of millions of others.

    Like this freakout right here.

  11. Small sample. Unrepresentative.

    Nick, let’s stipulate that the southerners got it wrong. You need not beat that one any harder.

    Now, what’s your point? Try thinking in terms of adequate, representative samples, okay?

  12. You just accentuated my question. Dan Savage is a reprehensible character in ways that have nothing to do with his sexual preferences. Why on earth choose him to teach high schoolers???

    For all we know the organizational committee that invited him to speak included or was made up of high schoolers.

  13. The point is, you’re in absolutely no position to tell me I shouldn’t be complaining about a known moral idiot like Dan Savage, someone who admitted to licking doorknobs to make people sick, someone who committed voter fraud, someone who poured metaphorical s*** all over Rick Santorum, and someone who cussed at me and my beliefs the way he did there. You’re being unbelievably judgmental on others’ beliefs.

    I’m asking for an apology right now.

  14. For all we know the organizational committee that invited him to speak included or was made up of high schoolers.

    Not only are you judgmental, you’re amazingly obtuse.

    Suppose you were right. My question would remain: why did these organizations invited him? In other words, what is it about handing responsibility to students that relieves the responsible adults of responsibility?

    Why is that not as obvious to you as it is to everyone else in the world?

  15. There is no such thing as a “commonsense straightforward,” also known as “literal” or “plain,” reading of any text. People need to realize we all approach texts with presuppositions, and these influence our understandings.

    @Nick,
    My mini-rant is not directed at you. I simply think the wording you provided captures the idea, or rather the presuppositions of this group, much better than those of “literal” and “plain.”

  16. Nick, if you think giving high school students full responsibility relieves adults of responsibility, then you must also think the senior officers were not to blame for Abu Ghraib. After all, they delegated it to junior officers and non-coms.

    And no corporate CEO is responsible for anything in his or her company…

  17. @Nick,
    Noll’s

    the American expression of a Reformed literal hermeneutic

    is precisely not

    the commonsense straighforward reading of the Bible so highly favored by conservative Protestants throughout history

    But don’t take my word for it — drop him a line and ask him yourself!

  18. Small sample. Unrepresentative.

    Nick, let’s stipulate that the southerners got it wrong. You need not beat that one any harder.

    Now, what’s your point? Try thinking in terms of adequate, representative samples, okay?

    The point is that the Bible, read with a Reformed, literalist hermeneutic — which is still incredibly common with conservative evangelicals today, on many issues — led a huge part of a thoroughly Christian country astray on one of the most obvious and important moral issues of all time. Not just astray, but so astray that it turned into a shooting war.

    Another point is that slavery was abolished in the U.S. basically because of Enlightenment values, *in spite* of what a literalistic reading of the Bible said, not *because* of what a literalist reading of the Bible said.

    The subsequent point, made in a mucher cruder form by Dan Savage, is that we should be skeptical when a similar hermeneutic is used today to justify discrimination.

  19. @Nick,
    Noll’s

    the American expression of a Reformed literal hermeneutic

    is precisely not

    the commonsense straightforward reading of the Bible so highly favored by conservative Protestants throughout history

    But don’t take my word for it — drop him a line and ask him yourself!

    Oh really? Please explain the difference then.

  20. 1. The hermeneutic used to justify discrimination against sexual sin is considerably different, in identifiable ways using objective criteria, than the one used to justify slavery in the South.

    In other words, you are wrong in objectively identifiable ways.

    And your prejudice has kept you from seeing that, in spite of multiple efforts here and apparently also on David’s website.

    2. I’m still waiting for your apology.

  21. Nick,

    Before you ask someone to “explain the difference,” why don’t you take a moment to think this through, specifically this:

    “I might not know everything I think I know about this.”

    Try it. It’s very salutary.

  22. And when you offer that apology, you might also acknowledge that if someone here explains the difference you asked for, you’ll be willing to listen to it and learn from it.

    Rather than doing your incredibly unscientific thing of drawing conclusions from small unrepresentative samples, that is.

  23. Not only are you judgmental, you’re amazingly obtuse.

    Suppose you were right. My question would remain: why did these organizations invited him? In other words, what is it about handing responsibility to students that relieves the responsible adults of responsibility?

    Why is that not as obvious to you as it is to everyone else in the world?

    Whoever it was who made the decision in this case, they were just doing what hundreds of student body speaker committees on hundreds of college campuses have done.

    It would at least be more coherent if you objected to anyone inviting Savage to speak, anywhere. What’s weird is how you are focusing your rage on this one specific case, when Savage has done similar speaker gigs hundreds of times before, before similar youth audiences.

    I think you’re just following the implied strategem on the Breitbart website, which asks the same rhetorical “Why?” question, also without considering many of the basic and obvious answers that I pointed out. Maybe if you guys drum up enough outrage you think you can get someone at the journalists organization to resign or something. It’s just standard right-wing pressure tactics. I doubt you’ll get more than the apology which was already posted, particularly since journalists take a dim view of any attempt to ban unpopular views, but we’ll see.

  24. Your judgmental attitude here, and your complete ignoring of my request for an apology, combine to earn you being disinvited from this blog, Nick.

  25. The point is, you’re in absolutely no position to tell me I shouldn’t be complaining about a known moral idiot like Dan Savage, someone who admitted to licking doorknobs to make people sick, someone who committed voter fraud, someone who poured metaphorical s*** all over Rick Santorum, and someone who cussed at me and my beliefs the way he did there. You’re being unbelievably judgmental on others’ beliefs.

    I’m asking for an apology right now.

    I didn’t say the things that Dan Savage said, and I didn’t even say you shouldn’t complain, so I’m not going to apologize. You asked a question, Why Did They Invite Dan Savage To Speak, and I offered some plausible answers. I also expressed puzzlement over the specific targeting of this outrage over this one event, which ignores the fact that Savage has done hundreds of similar events without similar complaining.

  26. Tom, I think you’re just mad about the Savage thing, perhaps ginned up by the Breibart website, and you’re taking it out on me for some reason.

    I’ll wait for someone to explain the difference between my (offhand) wording on the hermeneutics question, and Noll’s wording.

  27. @Nick,

    slavery was abolished in the U.S. basically because of Enlightenment values

    The Enlightment values of Paul, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, … Patrick, … Anselm, … George Fox, John Woolman, Anthony Benezet, you mean? Or are you that keen to rewrite history the way you’d like it to have unfolded?

    It is kinda telling that you are pedaling the talking point of precisely the people in history whose position you disagree with the most strongly.

  28. Umm… Tom, we’re Christians. We don’t care if people are judgmental. We make judgments all the time. Are you being sarcastic? Why do you sound so much like a skeptic?

  29. “Another point is that slavery was abolished in the U.S. basically because of Enlightenment values,…”

    This is simply a lie. And I use “lie” purposely because Nick knows this not to be true. As usual though he wants to reinforce the culture war viewpoint that is regularly heard in the left-wing echo chamber. And, speaking of the real echo chamber, we’ve had at least two or three left-wing culture warriors parrot this exact sentiment here on thos blog in the last couple of weeks.

  30. The continued Christian resistence against the normilization of homosexuality is turning this into a war of attrition.

    This is simply what happens when you surpress a minority trying to take an equal place next to you in society. They try to hurt you, as much as you hurt them.

  31. This is simply what happens when you surpress a minority trying to take an equal place next to you in society. They try to hurt you, as much as you hurt them.

    So, d, you defend not only Dan Savage’s remarks, but this kind of tactic?

  32. The point is that the Bible, read with a Reformed, literalist hermeneutic — which is still incredibly common with conservative evangelicals today, on many issues — led a huge part of a thoroughly Christian country astray on one of the most obvious and important moral issues of all time. Not just astray, but so astray that it turned into a shooting war.

    This is complete nonsense. What led a ‘huge part of a thoroughly Christian country’ (America as a Christian country? Who knew!) astray were secular interests overriding biblical ones – in this case, the desire to institute and perpetuate a corrupt and vicious system, which was in part justified by Enlightenment values (scientific racism, etc.)

  33. I asked this question, directed to the skeptics over on the original Dan Savage thread (to Tris, specifically) – what about modern day slavery? Why are we seeing a resurgence of this in the supposedly enlightened 21st century? Is it a coincidence that this is occurring while Judaeo-Christian values and foundational principles are waning in our increasingly secular society?

  34. I’m interested in this as yet another example of how Gnu morality is anchored in justifying the means with the end. In his Gnu mind, Savage felt justified in attacking these students because he could rationalize it as some sort of self-defense. The end justifies the means.

    What’s more, I thought atheists were supposed to have this commitment to evidence. Since Savage attacked this particular group of students at the end of that clip, did he have any evidence that those students were bullies and used Bible verses to justifying their bullying? Or was he simply relying on stereotypes? If it is just the latter, we once again see that the atheist’s commitment to evidence is a sham.

    One more thing. If the speaker was a Christian activist who used the podium to praise the Bible, would Savage have a First Amendment problem with that given that many public school students were in attendance?

  35. Nick: Savage is a journalist, in the sense of being an opinion columnist. His column appears in hundreds or thousands of newspapers.

    Er, yeah, he’s a sex columnist. His column is called Savage Love.

  36. I’ve let two more of Nick’s comments out of moderation so all could see how committed he is to telling the truth:

    I didn’t even say you shouldn’t complain, so I’m not going to apologize. You asked a question, Why Did They Invite Dan Savage To Speak, and I offered some plausible answers. I also expressed puzzlement over the specific targeting of this outrage over this one event, which ignores the fact that Savage has done hundreds of similar events without similar complaining.

    Decide for yourselves.

    And…

    Tom, I think you’re just mad about the Savage thing, perhaps ginned up by the Breibart website, and you’re taking it out on me for some reason.

    It didn’t take Breitbart to tell me what to think about Savage. I only found that website today, after having done a lot of work on this issue already.

    You ask, “Why am I so upset this time, when Savage has given talks to hundreds of other high school audiences?” Well, I don’t think he’s done the same talk hundreds of times. (And I still wonder why anyone would invite him to speak to high schoolers.)

    But I’m not taking that out on you. The reason I banned you, Nick, is exactly what I said. I’m quite up front about these things, you see. You were offensive, you were judgmental, and you callously ignored my repeated requests for an apology.

    I find it interesting when, after you finally noticed the request, you said you hadn’t done a thing wrong. And went on to spin the events an entirely different direction than how they came down.

  37. First Nick says: And, once he’s a speaker, you can’t control what he will say, particularly in the Q&A which I believe is when the remarks about the Bible and slavery were made (I heard somewhere that the question was likely organized by students who opposed Savage’s appearance at the meeting, who probably also pre-arranged to stage the walkout and the subsequent freakout in the right-wing echo chamber).

    Then he later adds: Correction – watching the video just now, Savage’s remarks weren’t in response to a question, they were part of a speech.

    It’s nice to see Nick corrected himself before someone else did. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that Nick floated some crackpot conspiracy theory that he “heard”: “the question was likely organized by students who opposed Savage’s appearance at the meeting, who probably also pre-arranged to stage the walkout”

    Nick, just because you heard something (from a fellow atheist?) that fits your stereotypes is not reason to take it seriously. Anyone with a true commitment to evidence would have been skeptical of such a conspiracy from the start.

    Anyway, if you are banned here and still feel the need to defend the bully, you are always welcome to do so on my blog.

    http://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/gnu-bullies-christian-kids-at-high-school-journalism-convention/

  38. Crude,

    No I don’t really – but his comments on biblical slavery arent any more obtuse or offensive than many comments on the other side, some of which even make appearences on this blog (eg. “Homosexuals have all the rights and priviledges straight couples do – they can marry a person of the opposite sex!”)

    I’m just pointing out that this is the kind of ugliness to expect from the Christian position on homosexuality. And much of the outrage some of you may feel, is really just a taste of what the Christian position does to homosexuals.

  39. Question: What’s with the GNU atheist thing – GNU has a specific meaning, I don’t get why its applied to new atheism.

  40. I’ve heard him speak – was very intelligent, heartfelt, and polite. It was a very emotionally moving experience, actually… so I don’t see a precedent for him being overtly offensive and outrageous in his public appearances. The events that you’ve listed have happened over the course of 12 years… he’s not exactly made a career out of annual outrage or anything.

    In other words, what is it about handing responsibility to students that relieves the responsible adults of responsibility?

    So we cannot let students act as adults or let them have adult responsibilities or let them make mistakes?

  41. d,

    No I don’t really

    Okay. So then you condemn his remarks and his attitude, right?

    I’m just pointing out that this is the kind of ugliness to expect from the Christian position on homosexuality. And much of the outrage some of you may feel, is really just a taste of what the Christian position does to homosexuals.

    Really? The Christian position is ‘bully homosexuals until they put a gun in their mouths’? And you think the opposite – ‘bully christians until they put a gun in their mouths’ – is acceptable?

    Take your pick, d. Either you’re defending him or you’re not.

    And no, pointing out that people with SSA are not restricted from the same exact legal right to marry is neither offensive nor obtuse. The fact that you would try to compare belittling and bullying people with making an argument or observation you find dissatisfying doesn’t speak well of your position.

    Take your pick: is bullying acceptable, or isn’t it? If it’s not, condemn Savage. If it is, then bullying people with SSA – something I abhor – is simply to be expected, and not particularly condemnable.

  42. I used to read Dan Savage … at least a decade ago, I’d say … and he was writing the same filth (I presume, because I am not going to search out his website to confirm that it is the same garbage) about Santorum then.

  43. Also, the way Christians seem to wax on about ancient slavery in these sorts of discussions is just patendly ludicrous. As if we all should have been so lucky as to be an ancient slave!

    I do really doubt the welfare of slaves was as good and great as we’re being made to believe.

    While it may not be right to compare it to the slavery in the US, they both do share one important thing in common – the principle that human beings can be property.

    And that principle is morally indefensible. So Biblical endorsements of slavery remain as a strong criticism and a good reason to doubt its divine origin.

  44. @d

    The GNU thing to my knowledge has nothing to do with “Gnu’s Not Unix” or any other part of the free software movement, if that is what you are getting at. It’s something that PZ Meyers (I think) came up with as a play on the New Atheist label. It’s not a pejorative theists came up with.

  45. @d
    The real question, of course, is What is the root cause of slavery? If we can answer that, then we can move on to what the Bible says about it, in its own cultural contexts, why it says what it says, and what the real implications of Christian Theism are regarding it.

    We are not claiming that the Bible says slavery was a good thing – it is an evil, a corruption of the creation mandate God set forth in Genesis 1 & 2, that we (human beings) would have meaningful work to do, and that it would be a cooperative and corporate effort (based on the design ideal of Adam and Eve’s partnership).

    Those who justified slavery on the basis of what the Bible said about it failed in many ways: they did not bother to ask the important question of intent, in the context of the realities of life in the ANE and in the Roman Empire; they certainly did not ask the Spirit of God for His direction and wisdom (or else they would have heard Him say “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”); they were more interested in an ex post facto justification of what they were already doing.

    If you can explain why we still have the specter of slavery in this enlightened secular society of ours (google ‘modern day slavery’, for example), then perhaps we have a place to start.

  46. @Tom
    We have had this slavery debate before – can you link d to the relevant threads?

  47. @d
    I did post some thoughts starting here if you care to read them and comment (might as well stay in this thread, though 🙂 )

  48. @d

    And that principle is morally indefensible. So Biblical endorsements of slavery remain as a strong criticism and a good reason to doubt its divine origin

    While I agree with your first sentence, you could not be more wrong about the second.
    That is the difference between skepticism and Christian faith – we concur that slavery is a reprehensible thing, so when we come to the Bible, the skeptic (as usual) stops at the superficial answer and never asks any deeper questions; the genuine Christian (one who has the indwelling Holy Spirit and a heart to listen) knows the character of his Father, recognizes the apparent disconnect, and seeks to resolve the two – thus we look at the whole context of Scripture, and in the light of God’s revelation and actions in the person of Jesus Christ. We actually try to figure out what the real story is – you are only interested in throwing stones, to remain in your unbelief and hatred of God.

  49. There is a fundamental principle that God operates by in His plan of redemption for the human race, one that is not understood at all by those who do not know Him, and sadly also by some who claim to know Him. This principle is woven through the entire tapestry of Scripture, from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22 as two connected threads:(a) the human heart is wicked: this is the root cause of all of human civilization’s evils (with a lot of help from Satan, too); (b) God changes human hearts (and only those who are willing to be changed by Him), not human societies; He does not do it all at once, either – all Christians who have walked with God for any length of time realize all too well that we will never be made perfect in this life, but we persevere nonetheless (“I am not yet the woman that God plans for me to be, but thank God I am not the woman I used to be”).

    The final and complete fix will only occur in the new heavens and the new earth – when God’s eternal kingdom is established once and for all.

    C. S. Lewis had something to say about this in Mere Christianity.

  50. “…they both do share one important thing in common – the principle that human beings can be property.”

    No. They don’t. The point that has been made here, over and over and over, is that ancient “slavery” didn’t treat human beings as property. It was a method of dealing with debt in a society with a rudementary monitary system. You either haven’t been reading the numerous posts here descibing that or you are just ignoring them.

  51. @d:

    After the numerous accusations regarding the biblical view of slavery over the past few weeks, I did some of my own research (myself not being a scholar in the area but having quite a bit of interest as a Christian) and found that historically, Christianity had a view of slavery much different than the common conception today would have it.

    I challenge you to do the same. Read some of the church leaders for the past thousand years, get a grasp for their belief on it, and understand Israel’s position in the world and how different slavery was compared to your notion of it.

    I assure you, based on your comments here, that you will be unpleasantly surprised, but it would be better to discuss things that are actually up for debate than historical facts that are just not known.

  52. So far it looks like only one person has even attempted to offer any kind of answer to the original question. Was this simply an excuse to engage in more rhetoric about how offensive Mr. Savage was?

    In other words, what is it about handing responsibility to students that relieves the responsible adults of responsibility?

    I think that the important thing to take away from this is that we should never entrust students (young adults) with any form of responsibility because eventually they’ll just screw it up anyways. And, of course, since they aren’t competent to make decisions (since they make mistakes) we should make sure that an adult is on hand to blame.

    After all, we must protect them from themselves…. they’re just going to sit there and accept, agree with, and believe anything that they’re told.

  53. Sault, you’re not making any sense.

    First, you’re asking whether this was one more excuse to complain about Savage’s offensiveness, and the evidence you bring forth is that no one has offered an answer to my question. You do realize, don’t you, that when I wrote this I didn’t know that would be the case.

    It could be that the reason no one is answering is because no one reading this blog has seen any explanation either. It could be that explanations are hard to find, which would support the point I made when I asked the question. It’s possible, at any rate.

    And to your second point about high school students making decisions: have you never had a job? Have you never read any business news? The person in charge is still responsible, even if they delegate responsibility. Read what I wrote above about Abu Ghraib. Notice that if this were to rise to the level of demanding someone be fired, that someone would not be a high school student. We’re not seeing apologies or any such thing from any high school student committee for this thing, and that’s because they’re not the ones to do it; if such a group existed, it would not be the one responsible for it.

    So let’s suppose this came down as Nick guessed it might have, and Dan Savage’s invitation was a student committee’s idea. Students are still students. Adults are still allowed to guide them. Adults could quite appropriately guide them. Adults could also say, “You know, Dan Savage is an interesting person, he’s done some really amazing things, but on the other hand he’s done some incredibly immoral things–things that are immoral even if you think his homosexuality is just fine. His column exists for the purpose of promoting sexual experimentation, and we’re not fine with the kind of person he is.”

    And then they could ask the students to keep looking for a more suitable speaker.

    Not only could they have done that, but however Savage was chosen, I’ll bet they wish they had done it differently.

    Finally, do you have any children? I’ve discovered as the parent of high schoolers that part of my job with them is to protect them from themselves. Oddly enough, they don’t know as much about life yet as I do. Their brains’ centers of judgment are not fully developed (if theirs are like teens’ brains have been generally found to be).

    But I don’t do that in the authoritarian way you have put it. No one suggested that but you. For oddly enough (again) it’s possible to lead people while still allowing them to be real people. Happens all the time. You went over the top there.

  54. Tom to Sault:

    But I don’t do that in the authoritarian way you have put it. No one suggested that but you.

    Has anyone ever noticed that those who are quickest to level the charge of authoritarianism exhibit all the traits of an authoritarian mindset themselves?

    Is Sault guilty of projection here?

  55. I can repost this again since it’s becoming clear atheists have no response:

    I’m interested in this as yet another example of how Gnu morality is anchored in justifying the means with the end. In his Gnu mind, Savage felt justified in attacking these students because he could rationalize it as some sort of self-defense. The end justifies the means.

    What’s more, I thought atheists were supposed to have this commitment to evidence. Since Savage attacked this particular group of students at the end of that clip, did he have any evidence that those students were bullies and used Bible verses to justifying their bullying? Or was he simply relying on stereotypes? If it is just the latter, we once again see that the atheist’s commitment to evidence is a sham.

    One more thing. If the speaker was a Christian activist who used the podium to praise the Bible, would Savage have a First Amendment problem with that given that many public school students were in attendance?

  56. 1. The end justifies the means.
    2. The Gnu commitment to evidence is not what they claim it is.
    3. Would they claim First Amendment violation if this had gone the opposite direction?

    Good questions, Mike.

    Here’s my guess on #3. If some Christian had started preaching the Bible he or she would have been interrupted and not allowed to continue.

    Which is what some wimpy (I could have used Savage’s own term but I won’t) conference organizers failed to do when very obviously it would have been appropriate there in Seattle.

  57. Victoria,

    That is the difference between skepticism and Christian faith – we concur that slavery is a reprehensible thing, so when we come to the Bible, the skeptic (as usual) stops at the superficial answer and never asks any deeper questions; the genuine Christian (one who has the indwelling Holy Spirit and a heart to listen) knows the character of his Father, recognizes the apparent disconnect, and seeks to resolve the two – thus we look at the whole context of Scripture, and in the light of God’s revelation and actions in the person of Jesus Christ. We actually try to figure out what the real story is – you are only interested in throwing stones, to remain in your unbelief and hatred of God.

    First, I’m glad we concur that slavery is a reprehensible thing. But do we also concur that ancient slavery, though by some accounts not as brutal and terrible as chattel slavery in the US, was also reprehensible? Some other posters here don’t seem to think so. In their rush to defend the scriptures and counter-attack Savage, they just barely fall short of endorsing the institution of ancient slavery as a wonderful and moral thing.

    And if it were a reprehensible thing, it still stands as a valid criticism of the scriptures, and as one reason to doubt its alleged supernatural origins.

    Second, there’s nothing superficial about a skeptic position here. Many of us are aware of the various Christian answers to these thorny issues. Many of us see the Christian explanations as less plausible than other explanations. One plausible answer to the slavery problem of the Bible is that its that it was written by ancient humans who thought slavery was just fine, and were neither perfectly consistent with themselves, or their belief systems. Sometimes the best answer is that there really is just a genuine inconsistency and moral failing of the scriptures and the people who wrote them. That’s far more plausible than any contorted theistic explanation to harmonize slavery laws (which reduced actual persons to essentially the same sort of legal status that the family dog enjoys today), with the messages of Jesus or the contemporary Christian churches. I think you’ll just accuse anybody of a “lack of sophistication” who comes to conclusions that don’t put your religion in the best light.

  58. Is slavery the same as indentured servitude? Here is a brief description of IS from PBS:

    “Servants typically worked four to seven years in exchange for passage, room, board, lodging and freedom dues. While the life of an indentured servant was harsh and restrictive, it wasn’t slavery. There were laws that protected some of their rights. But their life was not an easy one, and the punishments meted out to people who wronged were harsher than those for non-servants. An indentured servant’s contract could be extended as punishment for breaking a law, such as running away, or in the case of female servants, becoming pregnant.”

    http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/feature/indentured-servants-in-the-us/

    Indentured servitude was voluntary, contractual and temporary. Was it reprehensible?

  59. @d
    I can only suggest at this point that you take the time to read Paul Copan’s book Is God a Moral Monster?, and take it seriously. There is also a thread on the blog site discussing this book.

    Christians know that the Law of Moses was not ideal, and definitely not God’s final word on His plan to redeem and restore the human race (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 26, the NT book of Hebrews, Paul’s discussion of the Law and Grace), but it was a definite improvement on the barbaric state of affairs in the ANE.

    There is nothing to harmonize – God hates the sin, human depravity and hardness of heart that leads to the corruption of His ideals and the evil practices that resulted from this. Yet in forebearance He put up with some of these practices, put laws in place to mitigate the worst effects, while calling Israel to aim for a higher standard (Acts 17:30, Romans 3:25). They (and we) could not even manage to keep that, let alone the full design ideals set out in the Creation mandates (Genesis 1, 2). Forebearance does not imply endorsement.

    You may not like the answers, but that is not our problem.

  60. re my #62 – that should be Ezekiel 36 🙂 I’ve been letting my fingernails grow again (shellac manicures are fabulous for that) – somewhat incompatible with a Dell low profile keyboard 😉

  61. Paul (Copan) writes:

    So when we read in Joshua 10:22-27 that Joshua executed five Canaanite kings and hung their corpses on trees all day, we don’t have to explain away or justify such a practice. Such actions reflect a less morally refined condition. Yet these sorts of texts remind us that, in the unfolding of His purposes, God can use heroes such as Joshua within their context and work out His redemptive purposes despite them…we can observe that Scripture itself acknowledges the inferiority of certain Old Testament standards…God’s legislation is given to a less morally mature culture that has imbibed the morality inferior attitudes and sinful practices of the Ancient Near East…Instead of glossing over some of the inferior moral attitudes and practices we encounter in the Old Testament, we should freely acknowledge them. We can point out that they fall short of the ideals of Genesis 1-2 and affirm with our critics that we don’t have to advocate such practices for all societies

    We affirm that God is not finished with the world yet…His redemptive plan culminates in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, but even that is not the end of the story. Christianity makes it possible for God to transform the human heart, and with it, human societies – but even that process will not be complete until the new heaven and the new earth are in place. Rest assured, that time will come, and the redeemed of the Lord will rejoice, and those who have hated Him will be filled with eternal regret.

    I ask you again, d (and other atheists) – if the ANE was such a morally inferior culture, what lame excuse do you give for our supposedly enlightened one (answer the charges of modern day slavery)?

  62. Adults could also say, “You know, Dan Savage is an interesting person, he’s done some really amazing things, but on the other hand he’s done some incredibly immoral things–things that are immoral even if you think his homosexuality is just fine. His column exists for the purpose of promoting sexual experimentation, and we’re not fine with the kind of person he is.”

    And then they could ask the students to keep looking for a more suitable speaker.

    I have heard Dan Savage speak. He spoke intelligently, in a very direct and heart-felt way – it was very moving, actually. If I had been on the committee who made the decision, I would have voted for him as well based on that experience.

    I haven’t found a recording of that speech, and I wish that I could because it might convey that this blow-up wasn’t a reasonable expectation.

    So what if his column is about sex advice? He wouldn’t have been on stage explaining how to practice bondage safely. (I’ve read his column a few times, actually. It has largely been sex advice, not exhortations to try new and more deviant sexual practices as you have alleged)

    Whether you agree or disagree with his sexuality or his column or his smear campaign (so to speak) against Rick Santorum nine years ago, the point is that he is a very successful local journalist and would be a logical candidate to have as a speaker.

    Any reasonable adult, given that information and given his recent track record as far as speeches have gone, would have come to the same conclusion – unless, of course, they had an anti-homosexual axe to grind….. and thankfully I live in Seattle, where there are precious few of those.

    It is regrettable that Dan did what he did. I imagine that his invitations to speak will decline somewhat going forward.

    But I don’t do that in the authoritarian way you have put it. No one suggested that but you.
    -Tom

    Has anyone ever noticed that those who are quickest to level the charge of authoritarianism exhibit all the traits of an authoritarian mindset themselves?
    -JAD

    Has anyone ever noticed that the people who accuse others of leveling the charge of authoritarianism exhibit all the symptoms of someone who doesn’t recognize sarcasm when they see it?

    I figured that it was so outrageously sarcastic that everyone would see it as such… I’ll just have to label it next time, I guess.

  63. Sault,

    It was a poor decision to have him there. I am opposed to homosexuality, to be sure, and that’s one reason I think that’s the case. But it’s hardly the only one, and even if Savage were not gay I would have considered him a very, very poor role model to put in front of high schoolers. When someone does something as completely despicable as Savage has done, they rule themselves out of leading children and teens for life, unless they turn around and show some signs of moral change.

    Savage runs a column that promotes “sexoerotic diversity.” This is not healthy, gay or not.

    Savage’s campaign against Santorum was not nine years ago. It goes on today. That website still exists. Savage is still pushing the issue with him. Name-calling on this level is utterly despicable as a tactic, gay or not.

    So you’ve heard him speak and it sounded fine. There’s a problem with that still. Suppose you put Dan Savage up in front of a high school group. What’s the first thing the students will do? Google him and find out what he’s done. Since he hasn’t repudiated it, and since the school is endorsing him, any halfway intelligent student is going to conclude that Savage’s kind of behavior is okay with that school or school group. This is not rocket science.

    Further, here’s what I’ve learned from life: a person’s character will reveal itself. Maybe it won’t show up one week, maybe not the next, but eventually it will. A wise adult will make precautions, because if a man’s rotten character reveals itself in front of the 2,000+ students that adult is responsible for, that adult is responsible.

    This scandal was predictable, or rather, it was predictable that Savage would do something really stupid and offensive somewhere along the way. Any sane adult could see the risk and would want to avoid it.

    So there are at least two solid reasons to avoid a Dan Savage, apart from his sexual preference.

    Not that I think his sexual preference is irrelevant. That’s a third good reason.

  64. d,

    Your questions are legitimate given that they are being asked from your viewpoint. What you viewpoint lacks, however, is one imporatnt thing. The big picture. This is all part of God’s plan redeem all of creation. There are no shortcuts, quick fixes or magic tricks. Everything will be accomplished but in it’s own time. As far as slavery, Christianity was the driving force behind it’s eventual (legal) demise. But that all happened in His timing, not ours. We trust in all of this. I can understand why you don’t but that doesn’t make it any less true or compromise God’s plan or methods.

  65. Victoria,

    Its not a contest. They had their moral failings back then, and we have our moral failings now. That’s not the point.

    The Bible has moral failings. Big ones. And people still hold some those blatant moral failings as moral goods (though they reject others). Savage rightly pointed out some of those, and is angry they still persist – though he did so with a less than desirable level of accuracy and decorum for the venue and audience – oh well. His point was still essentially correct.

  66. Oh.

    I see.

    Why didn’t you tell us that sooner?

    Victoria, it’s time to yield. d has explained reality. Dan Savage has explained reality.

    All of our bluster about the context Savage missed, the historical situations, what the rest of the Bible actually says, the way in which biblical thinking affected moral progress through the centuries—all of that stands as nought before the authority of d.

    It matters not what we might say, for d has spoken.

    I will close down this blog forthwith, for there is nothing further to talk about.

    d, would you like to take the reins and tell us the rest of the truth now? Please, please keep it simple, and for pity’s sake don’t bother us with any more facts than you have just now. Facts are a lot of trouble, and now we know it’s just not necessary to go to all that work.

  67. @d
    Still evading – you are good at that.
    The fact is that the moral corruption that plagued humanity in the ancient past is still with us today.

    Indentured service in Israel was their version of a social safety net, to catch people in desperate circumstances and give them the help that they needed to get back on their feet. Human nature being what it is, the system was probably abused by both parties (in fact, God harshly judged Israel for not just their constant idolatry, but for their lack of compassion for the poor, so don’t go thinking that God turned a blind eye to their sins).

    God’s ideal design for human relationships and sexuality is one man and one woman in a monogamous lifelong union of marriage – end of story. It was the Fall that led to a corruption and distortion of this ideal (and all the others). God’s redemptive plan is to restore those ideals – there is no way to restore adultery, sex outside of marriage, prostitution, same-sex acts, and worse, to that ideal. In the OT, God’s proscriptive rules against these things were tough and strict. In the NT, you will notice that the same ideals are there, but God now offers grace to us, to do what He had planned to do all along, to give us the opportunity to restore our relationship with Him. God is offering mercy and compassion for lost sinners in the here and now, and we are to extend that grace and compassion to our fellow man; but make no mistake – those who refuse to accept Him, who reject His offer will be judged accordingly – God is still the sovereign King and Judge of all the earth.

    I do not support bullying, harassment or hatred toward people dealing with same-sex issues; I would not advocate for treating them as anything less than equal citizens under the law. People who go around with signs saying “God hates ” make me as angry as it probably makes you, but for different reasons, no doubt.

  68. @Tom
    You mean we should yield, like Sean Connery told his people at the climax of ‘First Knight’?

  69. Now, the transformation is complete, I see. We’re no longer even calling it slavery, but “indentured servitude” (and “social safety net”).

    Was the following a feature of “indentured servitude”?

    “If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free; but he shall bring his compensation to the LORD, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering.”
    (Leviticus 19:21-20 ESV)

    I do not support bullying, harassment or hatred toward people dealing with same-sex issues; I would not advocate for treating them as anything less than equal citizens under the law.

    Then it follows that you should SSM as a legal institution! Great, why are we arguing?

  70. d,

    You are displaying the same disregard for context here as in the broader issue. You quote Victoria,

    I do not support bullying, harassment or hatred toward people dealing with same-sex issues; I would not advocate for treating them as anything less than equal citizens under the law.

    And conclude that she should support SSM. You leave out,

    God’s ideal design for human relationships and sexuality is one man and one woman in a monogamous lifelong union of marriage – end of story.

    Poof! Your conclusion fails, when you include the entire context.

    Denying that “marriage” is a word that can be bent to mean something other than what it means is not the same as violating civil rights for those who would bend its meaning that way.

  71. Hi Tom,

    Good questions, Mike.

    Thanks. I notice that Sault, d, and NickMatzke have been unable to respond. They have been employing the Ostrich Strategy.

    Here’s my guess on #3. If some Christian had started preaching the Bible he or she would have been interrupted and not allowed to continue.

    Which leads to the next question – How was this event funded and was Savage paid some stipend for the speech? If taxpayer money was involved, it seems the First Amendment was violated.

  72. I don’t know where to go to find out anything about these questions. I’ve tried to track down more on how this came to be, and I can’t find it on Google. I’ve looked for parents’ and students’ responses, and I come up with nothing. It has to be out there somewhere. Somebody must have something to say, but if so I haven’t been able to get to it.

  73. and d also left out

    In the NT, you will notice that the same ideals are there, but God now offers grace to us, to do what He had planned to do all along, to give us the opportunity to restore our relationship with Him. God is offering mercy and compassion for lost sinners in the here and now, and we are to extend that grace and compassion to our fellow man; but make no mistake – those who refuse to accept Him, who reject His offer will be judged accordingly – God is still the sovereign King and Judge of all the earth.

    Typical…

    @Tom
    in FK, SC (as Arthur of Camelot), told his people to take up the sword and fight the evil Malagant

  74. Victoria:

    May I borrow your sword, please. I’ll only be a moment… it’s not much of an effort, really. Most of the time the Malagant’s are doing it to themselves…

    😉

  75. Tom,

    The event was sponsored by the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association and it was held at the Sutter Union High School in California. According to Wiki, Sutter is a public school.

    Journalism Education Association, Headquarters
    Kansas State University
    103 Kedzie HallManhattan, KS 66506-1505
    Toll-free: 866-532-5532
    Phone: 785-532-5532
    Fax: 785-532-5563
    Email: [email protected]

    National Scholastic Press Association
    Logan Aimone, Executive Director
    2221 University Ave SE, Suite 121
    Minneapolis, MN 55414
    Phone: 612-625-8335
    Fax: 612-626-0720

    Sutter Union High School
    2665 Acacia Avenue
    PO Box 498
    Sutter, CA 55982
    530-822-5161 phone
    530-822-5168 fax
    Ryan Robison, Superintendent/Principal

  76. Mike Gene,

    I’m interested in this as yet another example of how Gnu morality is anchored in justifying the means with the end. In his Gnu mind, Savage felt justified in attacking these students because he could rationalize it as some sort of self-defense. The end justifies the means.

    I can’t speak for the Gnus, but anchoring morality in “the ends justify the means” is a feature, not a bug, of my moral system. And any moral system which takes that as a core principle, does so to its betterment.

    But that aside, I don’t presume to know what’s in Savage’s mind. He apologized, didn’t he? Maybe he was just angry – I’ve become quite aware of just how poisonous and detrimental the Christian position on SSM and the inevitable public policy that follows is to the psychology of many gay people – seriously, it HURTS people, and non-trivially so. As I was learning this through personal experience, with many of my friends absolutely hurting over the debate in NC right now, I ran across this interesting piece: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-hidden-brain/201003/the-mental-health-consequences-anti-gay-marriage-laws

    What’s more, I thought atheists were supposed to have this commitment to evidence. Since Savage attacked this particular group of students at the end of that clip, did he have any evidence that those students were bullies and used Bible verses to justifying their bullying? Or was he simply relying on stereotypes? If it is just the latter, we once again see that the atheist’s commitment to evidence is a sham.

    This is just pedantic nitpickery and “gotcha-ism”. You are generalizing about the whole, based on the (largely rhetorical) words of one man, given in a speech. A sample size of one. That’s some great evidence you got there about the atheists commitment to evidence.

    One more thing. If the speaker was a Christian activist who used the podium to praise the Bible, would Savage have a First Amendment problem with that given that many public school students were in attendance?

    Now this is an interesting point, and I’d concede that there would probably be a similar outrage if that were to occur.

    However, the Christians who walked out probably have supportive communities and families to go back to, where they will be met with praise and adulation for standing up for their beliefs. They’ll get props from their parents and congregation and everyone else in their (large) enclave. All and all, they will probably be elevated within their social circles.

    Now reverse the situation. A few gay people walk out on a Christian speaker. In all places but the more progressive, they will be committing social suicide, be likely to face more bullying, potential scorn or abandonment from friends and family… Only in recent times has that situation begun to improve (and Savage may have actually contributed to that, in some small way).

    One of these scenarios is more likely to cause more harm than the other… so its not the same.

  77. d,

    I can’t speak for the Gnus, but anchoring morality in “the ends justify the means” is a feature, not a bug, of my moral system. And any moral system which takes that as a core principle, does so to its betterment.

    Well that’s an interesting admission. So you would have no problem lying if such lies served a higher cause, right? Actually, come to think of it, terrorism is a good example of uses the ends to justify the means. Recently, atheists were caught trying to blow up a bridge as part of their higher cause:

    http://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/atheist-tries-to-blow-up-bridge/

    Do you approve?

    This is just pedantic nitpickery and “gotcha-ism”. You are generalizing about the whole, based on the (largely rhetorical) words of one man, given in a speech. A sample size of one. That’s some great evidence you got there about the atheists commitment to evidence.

    I see. So an atheist can hypocritically abandon his commitment to evidence in order to viciously attack students in a public high school and it’s just pedantic nitpickery and “gotcha-ism” to point this out. Are you implying it is wrong to criticize your fellow atheists?

    As for atheists who have a commitment to evidence, I would put them in the same category as pink unicorns – they don’t exist. I have not seen any evidence of such people. Savage’s disregard for the evidence (when it suits him) is actually quite typical among atheists and, as we can see, you are unwilling to criticize him for abandoning the evidence.

    Now this is an interesting point, and I’d concede that there would probably be a similar outrage if that were to occur.

    I’m trying to figure out if the constitution was violated. The State is supposed to remain neutral on matters of religion, while Savage did not adopt a position of neutrality when speaking to a meeting of public school students in a public school. I’d like to know if taxpayer money was used to fund this event.

  78. First, I don’t know anybody that realistically wouldn’t have a problem lying in certain circumstances, if the lie served a greater good. “The ends justify the means”, simply means that actions are to be judged by the sums of their consequences. On balance, if an action helps more than it harms, considering the entire range of probable consequences, then it is good. If it harms more than it helps, it is bad. But *all* the consequences need to be included in the calculation instead of only, at the expense of all other considerations, the single narrow goal in which one is particularly interested.

    So, in your bridge example, I’d have to ask myself: Are the consequences of such an act of terrorism likely to be, on balance, harmful or helpful? I think its pretty obvious that the harm from such an act easily outweighs the probable goods. But even if I thought it was likely to help more than it hurt, I’d also have to ask myself if there is another possible course of action that could achieve the same goods while incurring less harms. And if so, I would be committed to that course of action instead. That’s “the end justifies the means”, and its not so deserving of its bad rap.

    I think the way you characterize Savage’s comments (“a vicious attack”) is obvious hyperbole. He made biting comments, sure. But I saw the uproar before I saw the video, and was a little bored (and somewhat disappointed) after having watched it. I don’t know what Savage’s commitment to evidence is, or what his epistemology is. I simply don’t know. But you’re making some weird generalizations. Atheists have commitment to X, Savage is an atheist (is he?!), therefore he has a commitment to X. He violated that commitment, and therefore atheists are unreasoning hypocrites? Being charitable, he was also just using hyperbole to make a statement, not offering a rigorous logical proof. You don’t like that statement, fair enough. I’ll stick to my assessment, that trying to make some broad conclusion about atheists and their commitment to evidence based on his comments is pedantic, and seems all about the “gotcha”, more than anything else.

    And the nature of Savage’s comments aside, I already agreed that they were inappropriate for the venue and audience. If you want to go after somebody for violations of church and state, be my guest – but I think it will be a waste of time, as much as it is a waste of time for an atheist to go after some speaker or public institution for mentioning God or the Bible in a reverent context.

  79. d,

    But *all* the consequences need to be included in the calculation instead of only, at the expense of all other considerations, the single narrow goal in which one is particularly interested.

    An omniscient being can account for all the consequences, but you and I cannot. This seems to render your theory useless as a utilitarian principle because it cannot be carried out by those wishing to adopt it.

    In addition to that, by what objective measure ought one conclude from the facts that Consequence A via Means A is more good than Consequence B via Means B? Perhaps Consequence A via Means B is the most good. How do you know, d?

    Your theory fails to even address this. When you do get to addressing it, you will find objective purpose in that theory which means it cannot be a naturalistic theory.

  80. SteveK,

    An omniscient being can account for all the consequences, but you and I cannot. This seems to render your theory useless as a utilitarian principle because it cannot be carried out by those wishing to adopt it.

    Really now… Of course it isn’t useless. Forget about ethical decisions for the moment.

    Have you ever reasoned about the consequences of an action? Or a set of actions from which you have to choose? Did you ever weigh the pros and cons of those consequences? Did you give up that practice after realizing you aren’t omniscient?

    Whether you identify with consequentialism as the most robust or even valid moral framework, you reason about consequences nearly every day. Everyone does. It’s tremendously useful. Consequentialists just claim that style of reasoning (again, the kind you use every day, for all kinds of decisions) is the proper way to reason about ethics.

    In addition to that, by what objective measure ought one conclude from the facts that Consequence A via Means A is more good than Consequence B via Means B? Perhaps Consequence A via Means B is the most good. How do you know, d?

    This has been discussed at length elsewhere.

    Your theory fails to even address this. When you do get to addressing it, you will find objective purpose in that theory which means it cannot be a naturalistic theory.

    False, as I have addressed that many times over, and I do believe you have even been in and out several of those conversations at some point.

  81. d,

    Have you ever reasoned about the consequences of an action? Or a set of actions from which you have to choose? Did you ever weigh the pros and cons of those consequences? Did you give up that practice after realizing you aren’t omniscient?

    This isn’t about me or what I do. This is about your argument and what it does (or doesn’t do) logically. If the logic isn’t there, how can we ever expect to reason to a logical conclusion? Give us the logic, please.

    It’s tremendously useful.

    We’re talking about which means and which ends are good, remember? Everything is useful in one sense or another, but not everything is good in one sense or another. How do you propose to resolve that?

    This has been discussed at length elsewhere.

    And unanswered everywhere to extent that the logic doesn’t work.

    False, as I have addressed that many times over, and I do believe you have even been in and out several of those conversations at some point.

    I have been in and out so maybe I missed the key point. I’d appreciate a link if you have it. I did see your part 1 & part 2 links and read part 2 – most of it anyway. I wasn’t impressed because it fails to resolve the underlying problem that has been pointed out to you several times. You think you’re answering the problem, but you’re not.

  82. SteveK,

    I may eventually get around to writing up a post on morality, on a blog of my own. Till then, I’m a little burned out on the objective morality sans theism conversation – sorry. If you have the patience (I don’t), a Google search might be useful for going through my old comments on morality:

    site:thinkingchristian.net “d wrote:” objective morality

    This isn’t about me or what I do. This is about your argument and what it does (or doesn’t do) logically. If the logic isn’t there, how can we ever expect to reason to a logical conclusion? Give us the logic, please.

    We’re talking about which means and which ends are good, remember? Everything is useful in one sense or another, but not everything is good in one sense or another. How do you propose to resolve that?

    Back up in #86 you objected to my points by appealing to the fact that we aren’t omniscient, and “the ends justify the means” is therefore “useless” (“useless” being your own word choice). That was me directly responding to the issue you raised, as you raised it. And that objection leads to absurdities, as I showed. If examining consequences is useless because of our lack of omniscience, it is similarly useless for any choice, non-ethical or ethical. Yet we appeal to consequences in (probably) all of our rational decision making (both ethical and non-ethical), all the time, despite the fact we aren’t omniscient. And those appeals are often useful. There’s the logic – your objection doesnt work.

  83. “The ends justify the means”, simply means that actions are to be judged by the sums of their consequences. On balance, if an action helps more than it harms, considering the entire range of probable consequences, then it is good. If it harms more than it helps, it is bad. But *all* the consequences need to be included in the calculation instead of only, at the expense of all other considerations, the single narrow goal in which one is particularly interested.

    Oh, please. This is FantasyTalk. People don’t engage in “calculations” that include *all* consequences that entail the fuzzy wuzzy notion of “harm.” What’s happening is that almost everyone likes to think of themselves as “good persons,” so justifying the means with the ends is a common way to rationalize unethical/immoral behavior while maintaining that self-perception. Savage was able to rationalize his unethical attacks on those students not because he engaged in some calculation, but because he felt it served his higher purpose.

    Look, we know the Gnus have a higher purpose that has crystallized into an actual movement. Their higher purpose is to rid the world of religion as much as possible. Thus, if your thinking is common among the Gnus, they would gladly lie for Gnuism.

    You said you cannot speak for the Gnus. Why not?

    As for evidence, you are confused. I am not engaged in a broad generalization based on nothing more than one man. I point out that Savage shows no commitment to evidence. Again, did he have ANY evidence that those particular students were bullies? Well? And, from experience with hundreds of atheists, I do not find him atypical in this regard. I have found that atheists are quick to rely on stereotypes. Just browse the comments section of Coyne or Myers blog for a start.

    BTW, how many atheists have criticized Savage for not relying on evidence when targeting those particular students for criticism? None. Zero. Zilch. So when it comes to a commitment to evidence, we can see that atheists don’t expect that from their fellow atheists.

  84. Oh, please. This is FantasyTalk. People don’t engage in “calculations” that include *all* consequences that entail the fuzzy wuzzy notion of “harm.” What’s happening is that almost everyone likes to think of themselves as “good persons,” so justifying the means with the ends is a common way to rationalize unethical/immoral behavior while maintaining that self-perception. Savage was able to rationalize his unethical attacks on those students not because he engaged in some calculation, but because he felt it served his higher purpose.

    And, almost everyone likes to think of themselves as “good persons”, so abusing moral principles in order to think of their choices as manifest good, is a common way to rationalize unethical/immoral behavior while maintaining that self-perception. People abuse deontological moral principles too you know, but I take it you don’t consider that to be a slight against deontological ethics?

    But again, I don’t know how Savage rationalized his actions, or even if he did. I can’t read his mind, but I guess you can? Actually, scratch that – read his apology: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2012/04/29/on-bullshit-and-pansy-assed

    A couple excerpts:

    “I would like to apologize for describing that walk out as a pansy-assed move. I wasn’t calling the handful of students who left pansies (2800+ students, most of them Christian, stayed and listened), just the walk-out itself. But that’s a distinction without a difference—kinda like when religious conservatives tells their gay friends that they “love the sinner, hate the sin.” They’re often shocked when their gay friends get upset because, hey, they were making a distinction between the person (lovable!) and the person’s actions (not so much!). But gay people feel insulted by “love the sinner, hate the sin” because it is insulting. Likewise, my use of “pansy-assed” was insulting, it was name-calling, and it was wrong. And I apologize for saying it.

    “…while those slamming me most loudly for “pansy-assed” may be on the right, they are also in the right. I see their point and, again, I apologize for describing the walk-out as “pansy-assed.” But they are wrong when they claim that I “attacked Christianity.” There are untrue things in the Bible—and the Koran and the Book of Mormon and every other “sacred” text—and you don’t have to take my word for it: just look at all the biblical “shoulds,” “shall nots,” and “abominations” that religious conservatives already choose to ignore. They know that not everything in the Bible is true.”

    So there you go… you may consider those half-hearted apologies… but he clearly admits that he was in the wrong by making the “pansy”. You probably won’t be blogging about those comments though, am I right?

    Look, we know the Gnus have a higher purpose that has crystallized into an actual movement. Their higher purpose is to rid the world of religion as much as possible. Thus, if your thinking is common among the Gnus, they would gladly lie for Gnuism.

    Yea, its all just that simple isn’t it?

    BTW, how many atheists have criticized Savage for not relying on evidence when targeting those particular students for criticism? None. Zero. Zilch. So when it comes to a commitment to evidence, we can see that atheists don’t expect that from their fellow atheists.

    I doubt that’s true, but I don’t really care enough to go find out.

  85. But again, I don’t know how Savage rationalized his actions, or even if he did. I can’t read his mind, but I guess you can?

    No, I just watched the video. He rationalizes his actions at the end.

    So there you go… you may consider those half-hearted apologies… but he clearly admits that he was in the wrong by making the “pansy”.

    He admits his choice of words was wrong. Big deal. He doesn’t admit he was wrong for bullying those students (whom he calls “bibleguys”) without having any evidence they were bullies. He even seems to have enjoyed getting the other students cheer his attack on them.

    You probably won’t be blogging about those comments though, am I right?

    Not unless I feel like exploring them as an example of dishonest spin. But since the end justifies the means (in your mind and his mind), if dishonest spin can serve his higher purpose, it is okay, right?

    Yea, its all just that simple isn’t it?

    It don’t see much evidence to think it is much more complicated than that. If religion/Christianity is the root of all evil, and the end justifies the means, then lying to help fight against it would be appropriate from the Gnu mindset.

    So, are you are Gnu?

  86. I doubt that’s true, but I don’t really care enough to go find out.

    I’m sure in your mind, you want to believe there are all these atheists out there criticizing Savage for not relying on evidence when targeting those particular students. So why bother looking for evidence, right?

    There is no need to look any further than the mirror, d. Have YOU criticized Savage for not relying on evidence when targeting those particular students? On the contrary, when I pointed out that Savage was not relying on evidence when targeting those particular students, you replied: “This is just pedantic nitpickery and “gotcha-ism”.”

  87. Hey, d, you know that “apology” that you said I probably wouldn’t be blogging about (or maybe you meant Mike Gene)?

    You’re a little late.

    I included it in my first post on this mess. On April 30, that is.

    I’ve looked for responses to Savage, and I haven’t seen any Gnu criticisms. As Mike pointed out, I haven’t seen any from you. Do you disapprove of what he said and the way he said it or not? Was he exemplifying the kind of tolerance you support? Really?

    But I have heard Gnus call for the destruction of religion.

    Is it all that simple? Ask them, not me. I think that’s pretty much not-simple, but I’m not the one trying to make it happen.

  88. Why did they invite him? I would hazard a guess that it was because he’s an outspoken gay man, left wing commentator and gay marriage proponent. For some, that makes him an automatic hero and trumps any reasons not to invite him.

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