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Is God a pragmatist?(23 posts)

Is God a pragmatist?DougSloan
Jul 31, 2003 8:43 AM
Sorry for the somewhat overstated title, but the real subject is the history of morality.

One school of thought on the history of morality, particularly religious moral doctrine and tradition, is that most of it was actually very pragmatic. For example, long ago it was almost necessary to propagate the specie that men have several wives and lots of children. Many children were needed to work farms, tend sheep, and because of high mortality rates. So, polygamy was permitted.

On the other hand, it was important to know who fathered what children, largely because of inheritance rights. Back then, (Old Testament days and until recently), there were no blood or DNA tests to determine paternity. So, the morals and law developed to prohibit adultery; if there were no adultery, then it was much easier, if not certain, to determine paternity and inheritance rights.

Similarly, religious law banned eating certain things, required cooking them a certain way, etc. These laws and traditions were largely due to very pragmatic reasons - to keep people healthy.

I wouldn't doubt that rules against gay marriage resulted from similar strong beliefs in promoting child bearing, for obvious reasons.

After a while, polygamy was no longer necessary; there were plenty of people. So, the morals and laws adapted to the more modern circumstances, and the one man one woman marriage was deemed appropriate. Similarly, others rules have changed over time as they became out-dated and unnecessary.

Some rules, however, appear to be eternal. Murder seems to have always been prohibited, and likely always will be. Now, exactly what is defined as murder has changed over time.

For any society to exist with some order, I think there needs to be some commonality of core beliefs, and even if they change, the change needs to be at a rate that is acceptable to most people and appropriate for the newer circumstances. No doubt there are thousands of examples of this. Some change is natural and almost transparent when it happens; other changes only come with lots of effort, even wars.

Bottom line, morality really appears to be grounded in pragmatic needs of the times, but then lingers for generations, if not millenia after. The only thing that is certain is change.

Someone could easily fill volumes of books on the subject, and I'd bet there are plenty of readily available sources on the subject on the web.

Doug

Doug
obviously notmohair_chair
Jul 31, 2003 8:54 AM
Would a pragmatic God create a world that even has the concept of immorality?
Doug, you're hovering perilously closeOldEdScott
Jul 31, 2003 9:01 AM
to the moral relativism of the godless Liberals.
Doug, you're hovering perilously closeJon Billheimer
Jul 31, 2003 9:08 AM
With respect to the actual history and evolution of morality I think Doug's spot on. We adopt and continue behaviours largely because they have survival utility. Then we give them divine and legal sanction to reinforce the behaviours. God's surname is Pavlov:)-
but what if God is a moral relativist? nmDougSloan
Jul 31, 2003 10:31 AM
but what if God is a moral relativist? nmJon Billheimer
Jul 31, 2003 11:01 AM
What if God is not a he, she, or it at all, but an effect--real or imagined--of all the mental transactions in the universe at any one time, i.e. what if the universe is a "living thing" so to speak and each of us as sentient elements affects the outcome of things on an ongoing, moment-by-moment basis?
too much to consider on 3 hours of sleep-nmColnagoFE
Jul 31, 2003 12:03 PM
No 'what if' to it, Jon. That's the way IT is.OldEdScott
Aug 1, 2003 5:53 AM
I have in on direct authority, remember? I saw The Books. Ahem.
No 'what if' to it, Jon. That's the way IT is.Jon Billheimer
Aug 1, 2003 6:54 AM
That's what I've thought since a spontaneous, non-drug assisted altered consciousness experience when I was sixteen. At that point I became, to my core, non-sectarian, unlabelled but fundamentally spiritual. In fact we all are, because it's in our nature and morphology so to speak. Also, the Universe is fundamentally joyful. In my personal experience religion is more a hindrance than a help to any fundamental realization of the nature of things. Bourbon DOES help though!

BTW, no acid epiphanies in university! Just a lot of laughs and great sex!!:)-
what does "spiritual" mean?DougSloan
Aug 1, 2003 3:16 PM
I've never understood people saying they are not religious, but are spiritual. What does it mean? Thanks.

Doug
what does "spiritual" mean?Jon Billheimer
Aug 1, 2003 5:33 PM
You're always asking hard questions. To my untutored way of thinking religious indicates an affiliation with and a belief system consistent with an identifiable organized religion, whereas spiritual refers to certain generic beliefs and ideas of the nature of things, namely that a non-physical reality underlies all physical reality and that this non-physical reality is intelligent and mind-driven. That's about as general as I can make it. However, a spiritual but non-religious person may or may not characterize this mind-cause or define the nature of god and man's relationship to god in the same way as any given organized religion. Many religions are based upon beliefs in revealed truth as presented by its founding proponent. A spiritual person would not necessarily adhere to that belief. In my opinion, religion is doctrinal and dogmatic whereas spirituality is more intuitive.
PolygamyCaptain Morgan
Jul 31, 2003 9:16 AM
I don't agree that polygamy derives from the need to populate. One area of the world where polygamy thrives is the Middle East. It isn't the farmers and laborers who are taking numerous wives to help on the farm, it is the higher classes. Perhaps it is a way to flaunt their "socially superior" status, or perhaps it is a way to legitimize otherwise deviant behavior. Let's face it: polygamy is a way for a man to be able to bang a different woman each night.
Currently. Doug is speaking historically. (nm)sacheson
Jul 31, 2003 10:12 AM
I know, but I don't think that's it.Captain Morgan
Jul 31, 2003 11:09 AM
I disagree with the notion that polygamy was derived for this reason. The need for additional labor creates the need for "farmers" and the like to have many children, but not necessarily more wives. I see polygamy as more of an aristocratic-oriented phenomenon.

Of course, the Mormon polygamistic views were based on the premise that they needed to populate after heading west. They now say that it is immoral, but that God allowed it back in the 1800's and 1900's so they could populate. Wouldn't it have been easier if God would have just sent more people from the east coast instead?
I agree with you.sacheson
Jul 31, 2003 11:59 AM
Except I see polygamy as more a hormone-oriented phenomenon! ;-)
Not if you read what Mark Twain said about it...Matno
Aug 2, 2003 9:22 AM
Basically, before he went to Utah, he wrote about Mormon men being leacherous, dirty old men. He said the Mormon women must have been saints to put up with such a system of polygamy. After he visited Utah, he said (in effect) "I stand corrected, it is the men who are the saints." Something to do with the women being homely... Fortunately, that situation has corrected itself, and Utah now has a high percentage of beautiful women.
Sorry to disappoint, Capt., but I ain't gonna take the bait (nm)94Nole
Jul 31, 2003 12:55 PM
Estimates of 50,000 polygamists still in UT, AZ, NV, ID.Brooks
Jul 31, 2003 3:11 PM
Mostly of the fundamentalist Mormon faith. In order to get statehood, Utah (and the LDS Church) offically forsook polygamy. It's prohibited by the State Constitution. But it is still practiced, mostly by middle-aged men marrying 15-year olds. And by the way, most of the Mormon pioneers came from northern Europe, only passing through the east coast.
illegal, thoughDougSloan
Jul 31, 2003 3:18 PM
They don't have legal marriages to more than one wife, but maybe religious ceremonies? (Or are they merely "common law" arrangements?)

That's effectively what same sex couples can do now, can't they?

Doug
Absolutely illegal. What generally happens,Brooks
Jul 31, 2003 3:37 PM
as I understand it, is a first "legal" marriage and then either a divorce and subsequent marriage with first wife still around or just a religious ceremenoy with each succeeding "wife". Colorado City, AZ and Hilldale, UT just across the border from each other, are almost exclusively polygamous communities. Tom Green made national headlines last year when he was tried and convicted (mostly for fraud)in Utah with seven(?) wives and 30+ children. He brought it on himself by appearing on a number of talk shows, like Oprah, and flaunting his lifestyle. The family makes a living selling magazine subsrciptions, among other things. The state pays a lot for child support and food stamps for these families. The mothers usually claim on the forms that the father is unknown, a passing trucker or somesuch.

As a matter of principle, I have no problem with polygamy between consenting adults. The problem is that middle-aged men are marrying 15-year olds. Green was additionally tried for having sex with an under aged minor, who became a subsequent wife and is the sister of one of his other wives. A standard for me (arbitrary, I know) would be second wives or husbands must be a least 21 years of age.

I wonder how the whole divorce thing would work. We don't split property 50-50 but 3, 4, 5 ways?
Fascinating case...Matno
Aug 1, 2003 1:54 PM
I actually was clerking for a Utah State District court when all of this stuff with Tom Green got started, and I spent a few hours one day discussing the case with Dave Leavitt, the Juab County prosecutor who brought the case (and incidentally brother to Gov. Mike Leavitt).

Tom Green was begging to be prosecuted. Among other things, he was convicted of bigamy and incest.

One interesting note is that polygamists have been basically left alone for many years, in spite of breaking the law. In fact, the last time anyone tried to prosecute them was in 1951, and public outcry was tremendous in their favor. ("How dare the gov't tell a family how to live it's life!") This time around, however, public opinion is significantly different. I think in large part, this is because these polygamist groups are considered much more "weird" these days - much more separate from Mormon doctrine than they used to be.

One other side note: When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, the terms "Mormons," "Mormon fundamentalist," "Mormon dissidents," etc., are incorrect. The Associated Press Style Guide notes: "The term ‘Mormon' is not properly applied to the other ... churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith's death."
re: Is God a pragmatist?Duane Gran
Aug 1, 2003 4:20 AM
Since interpretation of the will of God is left to humans (I haven't encountered a burning bush speaking to me in my lifetime) it wouldn't be surprising at all if some people capitalized on the opportunity to interpret in ways that reinforce the cultural norm. If I remember correctly, in your undergraduate philosophy study you took particular interest in linguistics. In my view the biggest filter, resulting in misinformation about the will of God, occurs in the act of representing God in language. Poets and artists do their best, but language is simply too limited, and ultimately reflects more on ourselves than God.
1 man 20 wives or 20 men with 1 wife each--effect on population?Continental
Aug 1, 2003 7:43 AM
Since there are about equal number of men and women, how does polygamy increase rate of population growth? If the grand pubah has 20 wives, doesn't that just leave 19 guys having relationships with their hands? And can the grand pubah service his harem as effectively as 20 guys could? Maybe if a war wiped out a huge part of the male population polygamy would make sense. Otherwise, it's a way for the elite in society to have a more interesting sex life.