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rfrobison
07-08-2011, 10:42 PM
I propose this as a place to discuss questions of faith and social action.

I'm going to begin with a response to a post by eeeeeli. Anyone should feel free to take the discussion in any direction they wish...

sugarkang
07-08-2011, 11:15 PM
I propose this as a place to discuss questions of faith and social action.

I'm going to begin with a response to a post by eeeeeli. Anyone should feel free to take the discussion in any direction they wish...

I'll just say that religion is often derided on the basis that the premise is unprovable: "God exists and God is absolute." Atheists say that knowledge must begin with only what is knowable. For this, the atheists offer as their immutable truth: "I think, therefore I exist."

Imagine my surprise when I found out that this was also an unprovable premise.

In the case of religion or atheism, I believe neither can be legitimated by proof or non-proof of a metaphysical entity. I believe the best judgment may lie in the comparison of how the two societies cultivates its citizens.

rfrobison
07-08-2011, 11:18 PM
OK, so here goes.

Or maybe, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a defense of inequality to be predicated on the interpretation of Timothy 6:10 as merely being about greed and not not about a larger social truth."

I agree with what Stephanie said in her response on this point, i.e., I made no "interpretation" of 1 Timothy 6:10. My only point, if I had one at all, was to say the the verse does not call money per se the root of all evil, as Pink Floyd and their antecedents would have it, but the love of money.

Just in case people don't want to look up the verse for themselves, here it is with a bit of context:

1 Timothy 6:6-10
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

The truncated, Pink Floyd version leads one, perhaps, to a Khmer Rouge type solution (if one is a pessimist) or "Star Trek" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOcKGREiY30) (if one is an optimist).

Stephanie has already mentioned the Christian injunction against love of money as idolatry, that is, making some-thing the object of our heart's desire, when that place belongs rightfully to God and Him alone. Money can steal our affections, but it cannot return them. This, it seems to me, part of what Paul may be getting at when he refers to those who have "wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

[ASIDE TO STEPH: I am going to assume, for purposes of this discussion, the traditional view that Paul is in fact the author of this epistle. I'm not enough -- by a long shot -- of a biblical scholar to debate the question of its authorship.]

I can see already I'm going to be long-winded. I think I should break this up into bits so that people can skip the parts that don't interest them.

Ciao for now.

sugarkang
07-08-2011, 11:24 PM
Oh, so it's avarice, not money, per se. I think we could reduce this further and say desire is the cause of all suffering. In practical terms, however, the Christian teaching seems a lot more effective and punchier. I'm not giving you 10% of my salary.

rfrobison
07-08-2011, 11:30 PM
Oh, so it's avarice, not money, per se. I think we could reduce this further and say desire is the cause of all suffering. In practical terms, however, the Christian teaching seems a lot more effective and punchier. I'm not giving you 10% of my salary.

Pipe down, Gautama! I'll deal with you later! ;)

miceelf
07-08-2011, 11:40 PM
Stephanie has already mentioned the Christian injunction against love of money as idolatry, that is, making some-thing the object of our heart's desire, when that place belongs rightfully to God and Him alone. Money can steal our affections, but it cannot return them. This, it seems to me, part of what Paul may be getting at when he refers to those who have "wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."


Thanks for starting this conversation. I think the above is one issue with the love of money and its displacement of God.

I have an additional and somewhat related concern, that I think underlies some of my reaction to some political views.

Whether one looks at Job in the old Testament or Jesus' various mentions of money, wealth, and poverty in the new Testament, it is hard for me to come to the conclusion that, from a Christian perspective, money is a good indicator of one's value or worth. I am not taking the radical view that being wealthy is worse, morally, as some interpret the "eye of the needle" comment.

But in addition to the valuing of money as a focus for love, I think there's a real tension between most Christianity and the view that money is an indicator of my own (or someone else's) worth.

The concern I have (and i am not at all suggesting this is your view or of anyone in particular, but I see its influence in how some political thought gets expressed) is that a view that the market (or any other worldly force for that matter) perfectly rewards value gives the sense that the wealthy are so because they are more deserving than the poor, more valuable in some sense.

Wealth rewards a variety of things, some good (creativity, productivity, delayed gratification), some neutral (luck, inheritance), and some bad (undetected dishonesty or fraud or ungenerousness). Moral worth to the extent to which it can be found in humans is there either universally, because one is a human being, created in the image of God, or (from a less universalist perspective) is there because of one's personal relationship with God, how one relates to one's fellow humans and onesself. I just see this (to me) Basic Christian value as at odds with the prosperity gospel approach as it gets expressed politically in the notion that somehow wealth is an indicator of value or worth.

rfrobison
07-08-2011, 11:56 PM
What would Timothy have said to this [question of zero-sum economics]? I suppose the beauty of religious teaching is that it is ultimately about moral authority, as in doing what is right. The individual is asked to look within himself and find an integrity between his actions and his beliefs

...

I suppose this is why I cringe when calls for the rich to pay their "fair" share are so frequently reduced to mere expressions of jealousy or resentment. I think there are plenty of principled reasons why one might prefer that the rich not have their wealth taken from them in the form of taxation - government is inefficient, some programs are counter-productive, etc. I find those positions variously wrongheaded or mistaken, but they are at least only political or philosophical judgements.

I agree that the charge that calls for government intervention to reduce inequality are based on envy is often unwarranted. No doubt there are some people who would be just as happy to have rich people made poor, even if no one else was made better off. Such spiteful sorts are hopefully few and far from the levers of power, though I'd say the Cultural Revolution in China shows at least one instance of the politics of spite and where it leads.

But the 64 trillion dollar question -- see where our wrongheaded policies have led us? A perfectly good expression shot to hell by inflation! -- is of course what "fair" means. I don't propose to try and answer it. But it has to do with more than questions of efficiency. (i.e., Will my paying more in taxes result in the societal gain advertised in welfare program X?) It also has to do with questions of equity: What are my obligations to my fellow human beings? What, if anything, material can I claim as my own and inviolate, to do with as I please? What are my obligations to the state as a citizen? Of course these questions are never "settled," and any society that says they are, or even tries to do so definitively is well on its way to tyranny, if not already there.

Ocean
07-08-2011, 11:57 PM
I think we could reduce this further and say desire is the cause of all suffering.

The problem is in "wanting". It focuses on what you don't have. Once you have something, you no longer "want" it (in the sense of wanting before you have it, desiring it). So wanting or desiring, that which you don't have is a source of insatisfaction, an eternal hunger with no satiety.

Money has no intrinsic value. It only represents the potential of exchanging it for something that you want. So, money = wanting/desiring that which you don't have. Therefore an excessive wanting of money is a source of suffering. You're always chasing for more.

Crazy, huh? Well, you asked for it. ;)

sugarkang
07-09-2011, 12:05 AM
Crazy, huh? Well, you asked for it. ;)

Not at all. In fact, I believe I've said exactly the same thing, only, without the explanation. Grasp of this basic truth was instrumental in being able to quit smoking after 18 years. It was actually quite easy once I knew how.

Shh, RFR wants to talk about Jesus.

AemJeff
07-09-2011, 12:05 AM
I agree that the charge that calls for government intervention to reduce inequality are based on envy are often unwarranted. No doubt there are some people who would be just as happy to have rich people made poor, even if no one else was made better off. Such spiteful sorts are hopefully few and far from the levers of power, though I'd say the Cultural Revolution in China shows at least one instance of the politics of spite and where it leads.

But the 64 trillion dollar question -- see where our wrongheaded policies have led us? A perfectly good expression shot to hell by inflation! -- is of course what "fair" means. I don't propose to try and answer it. But it has to do with more than questions of efficiency. (i.e., Will my paying more in taxes result in the societal gain advertised in welfare program X?) It also has to do with questions of equity: What are my obligations to my fellow human beings? What, if anything, material can I claim as my own and inviolate, to do with as I please? What are my obligations to the state as a citizen? Of course these questions are never "settled," and any society that says they are, or even tries to do so definitively is well on its way to tyranny, if not already there.

Why do we cling together in civil society? What material thing could I claim as my own and inviolate without the protective cocoon that society represents? How much stuff could I accumulate without it? Do I owe anything back to that society for the things it offers? How does that debt scale as my position improves?

rfrobison
07-09-2011, 12:11 AM
Why do we cling together in civil society? What material thing could I claim as my own and inviolate without the protective cocoon that society represents? How much stuff could I accumulate without it? Do I owe anything back to that society for the things it offers? How does that debt scale as my position improves?

Good questions. Answers will be hard to come by and provisional.

rfrobison
07-09-2011, 12:14 AM
Not at all. In fact, I believe I've said exactly the same thing, only, without the explanation. Grasp of this basic truth was instrumental in being able to quit smoking after 18 years. It was actually quite easy once I knew how.

Shh, RFR wants to talk about Jesus.

Hee, hee! Sure, but not just Him. Feel free to chant a sutra or something. Congrats on kicking the habit, by the way.

AemJeff
07-09-2011, 12:17 AM
Good questions. Answers will be hard to come by and provisional.

For me, these questions suggest the basis for any idea of civic morality.

Ocean
07-09-2011, 12:34 AM
Not at all. In fact, I believe I've said exactly the same thing, only, without the explanation. Grasp of this basic truth was instrumental in being able to quit smoking after 18 years. It was actually quite easy once I knew how.

Shh, RFR wants to talk about Jesus.

Yes, I was expanding the basic idea. It's just that the more you elaborate the crazier it may seem. And I just wanted a dose of humor.

Ocean
07-09-2011, 12:41 AM
Hee, hee! Sure, but not just Him. Feel free to chant a sutra or something. Congrats on kicking the habit, by the way.

Gosh, your Jesus talk reminded me of one of my sons when he was a toddler. He must have seen one of those TV preachers or something, but he climbed on a dinning room chair, and standing on it, he would pretend to be giving a speech of some kind (or sermon), so while he moved his hands in the air, and tapped the table alternatively, he would mumble "because Juicy's said...blah blah, blah, ... Juicies blah, blah... " I guess that in his head, juicies was as good as Jesus.

What do you think? Will he be a preacher or a politician? Later he developed the idea that he would rule the world, so it could go either way.

rfrobison
07-09-2011, 06:27 AM
WARNING: This next section is heavy on the God bit. Viewer discretion is advised.

The real question that the wealthy need to ask themselves is what is the point of life here on Earth? As an atheist, it may be easier for me to slide into selfish materialism, with no regard for my fellow man. But where some would say God created us in his image, and thus compels us to sacrifice for the less fortunate, I simply believe that evolution - both biologically and culturally - gave us the ability to empathize and feel compassion for fellow man.

I would ask at this point whether evolution, in and of itself, gives sufficient ground for an ethic of compassion. Evolution may endow people with an impulse to empathize and cooperate; it seems to me to have given us an impulse at least as strong to exploit others for our own benefit, or perhaps that of our offspring. Why will a male of certain species kill the young of competing males and mate with the mother? An evolutionary biologist would, I suppose, say it is to benefit his genes by eliminating those of the competition. Such behavior may be natural, but one could not call it compassionate. I would argue that humans are uniquely capable of such motivations.

Moreover, evolution may have primed us to perpetuate ourselves as a species, but species appear and die off at random in a world without a creator. Presumably nature doesn't care one way or another. Who is to say our continuation as a species has any more intrinsic value than any other? Again, no one, presumably.

Still, your understanding of the Christian -- and I believe the world's other great religions' ethical teachings are broadly similar -- ethic on compassion toward one's fellow humans seems correct to me.

"Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
--Matthew 22: 34-40 (NIV)--

Loving one's neighbor includes, but is not limited to, the sacrifice of money, time, one's own desires for that person's benefit. Cf. the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10-25-37 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+10%3A25-37&version=NIV).

Thus, the dying man before me is in stark contrast with my feelings of solidarity with him, and my ability to help him. Therefore morally, I am required to act. So whether I pay my taxes so that the sick may be healed, or invest all extra moneys into business, or charity, I am bounded morally to every man woman or child alive - each of their consciousnesses floating around in each of their skulls - not yet able to realize the potential that I realize in myself.

That is a profound insight and not unlike Paul's lament in Romans 7:21-25

"So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?"

And according to Paul, the answer to that question is found in verse 25:

"Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

That is, through Christ's atoning sacrifice on the cross. Just don't ask me how it works. ;)

ledocs
07-09-2011, 06:48 AM
Sugarkang said:

"Imagine my surprise when I found out that this [sc. cogito ergo sum] was also an unprovable premise."

How and where did you find this out? Have you begun to doubt your own existence? Do you think that an Evil Demon is deceiving you by presenting you with a simulacrum of self-consciousness? You believe in the Simulation? Or do you mean that it is impossible to prove a premise as fundamental as this one, that proof only applies to what can be derived from the premise, which rests on an intuition, hence not susceptible of proof?

Everyone can look to his own thought processes, everyone whose brain is fully developed and not damaged. Everyone has this experience of self-consciousness. Not everyone has a vision of God, few people do, just as an empirical matter. So that is a significant difference.

rfrobison
07-09-2011, 06:49 AM
Thanks for starting this conversation. I think the above is one issue with the love of money and its displacement of God.

I have an additional and somewhat related concern, that I think underlies some of my reaction to some political views.

Whether one looks at Job in the old Testament or Jesus' various mentions of money, wealth, and poverty in the new Testament, it is hard for me to come to the conclusion that, from a Christian perspective, money is a good indicator of one's value or worth. I am not taking the radical view that being wealthy is worse, morally, as some interpret the "eye of the needle" comment.

But in addition to the valuing of money as a focus for love, I think there's a real tension between most Christianity and the view that money is an indicator of my own (or someone else's) worth.

I agree completely. Again, Jesus put it succinctly in Luke 12:15 (NIV):

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

It seems to me that if Jesus were walking the earth today he'd have some harsh words for the church, particularly American evangelical churches, on this score.


The concern I have (and i am not at all suggesting this is your view or of anyone in particular, but I see its influence in how some political thought gets expressed) is that a view that the market (or any other worldly force for that matter) perfectly rewards value gives the sense that the wealthy are so because they are more deserving than the poor, more valuable in some sense.

Again, I agree. This seems to me a distortion of the good ol' Protestant work ethic, which itself is theologically dubious. That is, material wealth is a sign that one is divinely blessed--so best to work hard and show everyone that you are! Of course, the Puritans would also have said it matters more what you do with all that wealth. Bill Gates and Andrew Carnegie come to mind. They may or may not be trying to curry favor with God, but one cannot doubt that great wealth brings great power to do good.

Wealth rewards a variety of things, some good (creativity, productivity, delayed gratification), some neutral (luck, inheritance), and some bad (undetected dishonesty or fraud or ungenerousness). Moral worth to the extent to which it can be found in humans is there either universally, because one is a human being, created in the image of God, or (from a less universalist perspective) is there because of one's personal relationship with God, how one relates to one's fellow humans and onesself. I just see this (to me) Basic Christian value as at odds with the prosperity gospel approach as it gets expressed politically in the notion that somehow wealth is an indicator of value or worth.

No argument from me, there, either.

rfrobison
07-09-2011, 07:03 AM
Gosh, your Jesus talk reminded me of one of my sons when he was a toddler. He must have seen one of those TV preachers or something, but he climbed on a dinning room chair, and standing on it, he would pretend to be giving a speech of some kind (or sermon), so while he moved his hands in the air, and tapped the table alternatively, he would mumble "because Juicy's said...blah blah, blah, ... Juicies blah, blah... " I guess that in his head, juicies was as good as Jesus.

What do you think? Will he be a preacher or a politician? Later he developed the idea that he would rule the world, so it could go either way.

You mean there's a difference? Others have noted Obama's oratorical style is much like that of a gifted preacher in a Black church. The skills are very similar. I wouldn't worry about him becoming a dictator, though. We'll keep him on the straight and narrow. :)

Ocean
07-09-2011, 08:32 AM
You mean there's a difference? Others have noted Obama's oratorical style is much like that of a gifted preacher in a Black church. The skills are very similar. I wouldn't worry about him becoming a dictator, though. We'll keep him on the straight and narrow. :)

Heh. He's got a good and tender heart, but pretends to be the ruler type. I let him because we know.

sugarkang
07-09-2011, 08:56 AM
Everyone can look to his own thought processes, everyone whose brain is fully developed and not damaged. Everyone has this experience of self-consciousness. Not everyone has a vision of God, few people do, just as an empirical matter. So that is a significant difference.

Like I've said many times before, I'm an atheist. However, just as Robert Wright said that he cannot prove that we are on the path of a set destiny or we choose our paths with free will, I cannot prove that I exist. Of course, as a practical matter, I do not doubt that I exist. However, I do not proclaim to be able to prove it.

So, if I do not doubt something I cannot prove, that still leaves it in the realm of faith. Despite the fact that we are grounded in materialism, the fact that we share the same sensory perceptions of the world and can communicate with one another is no different than Christians or Muslims communicating with each other about the existence of their God. Either way, you cannot prove you exist. And as a practical matter, this is of no concern. This premise means nothing to your daily life.

As far as the proper rebuttal to your beloved Descartes, this can be found in Hume's Treatise of Human Nature. If that is not enough to dispel you of your blind faith to atheism, there is the nagging Wittgenstein problem of language that defines the limits of what can be described; rationality loses primacy when one is unable to formulate the proper question in the first place.

Though, I expect that you would disqualify these two men on account of your French solipsism: If it is not French, it is not reality.

ledocs
07-09-2011, 09:33 AM
So, if I do not doubt something I cannot prove, that still leaves it in the realm of faith.

There is a difference between saying that a premise is a necessary precondition for life, in this case, that the cogito is a necessary precondition, and religious faith, because lots of people are able to lead productive and ethical lives without believing in God, whereas no one would really be able to live at all if he was fundamentally skeptical about his own existence. No one you have ever met actually lives that way. If you have met such people, they are in mental hospitals. It is true that some people claim to be withholding judgment about whether they exist, the Simulation crowd, for example, but I don't think their claims bear much scrutiny.

Either way, you cannot prove you exist. And as a practical matter, this is of no concern. This premise [viz. that I exist] means nothing to your daily life.


Profoundly incorrect. It means a lot. See above.

As far as the proper rebuttal to your beloved Descartes, this can be found in Hume's Treatise of Human Nature. If that is not enough to dispel you of your blind faith to atheism, there is the nagging Wittgenstein problem of language that defines the limits of what can be described; rationality loses primacy when one is unable to formulate the proper question in the first place.

You have no evidence for thinking that I am "blindly faithful to atheism," and Descartes claimed that he was not an atheist. Indeed, he invokes a version of Anselm's ontological argument in the "Meditations." re: your invocation of Hume, the question at hand is whether, and in what way, it makes sense to doubt one's own existence, whether that is really possible, not whether God exists. My claim is that you can doubt that God exists in a way that you cannot doubt that you exist.

Though, I expect that you would disqualify these two men on account of your French solipsism: If it is not French, it is not reality.


This is not even remotely funny. I am not French, I am not even particularly enamored of French philosophy.

Ocean
07-09-2011, 09:34 AM
WARNING: This next section is heavy on the God bit. Viewer discretion is advised.


Heh. No discretion needed. We can handle it.


I would ask at this point whether evolution, in and of itself, gives sufficient ground for an ethic of compassion. Evolution may endow people with an impulse to empathize and cooperate; it seems to me to have given us an impulse at least as strong to exploit others for our own benefit, or perhaps that of our offspring. Why will a male of certain species kill the young of competing males and mate with the mother? An evolutionary biologist would, I suppose, say it is to benefit his genes by eliminating those of the competition. Such behavior may be natural, but one could not call it compassionate. I would argue that humans are uniquely capable of such motivations.

That's not true. Other species are capable of actions that are similar to what you would consider compassion. Why would members of a group help each other? Think of elephants and how they take care of their own. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd-LtWtNvDw&feature=related)Or why would dolphins rescue people and bring them to the shore or help other animals (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fp_motddvnQ)? Why do members of one species adopt or rescue (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkrPdNz2v-k&feature=related)the young of another species (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmDdBuOa78Y&feature=player_detailpage) when they've been abandoned (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkrPdNz2v-k&feature=related) or the mother died?

Moreover, evolution may have primed us to perpetuate ourselves as a species, but species appear and die off at random in a world without a creator. Presumably nature doesn't care one way or another. Who is to say our continuation as a species has any more intrinsic value than any other? Again, no one, presumably.

True. No one but us.

Still, your understanding of the Christian -- and I believe the world's other great religions' ethical teachings are broadly similar -- ethic on compassion toward one's fellow humans seems correct to me.

[B][I]"Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Perhaps if dolphins could articulate why they save people or other animals they would put it in similar ways.

The point is, the behaviors of helping and caring for others are present in other species as well. We are able to put them into words, and give those instincts names, such as compassion. The origins of religious beliefs are complex and changing as our culture evolved and changed. But at some point "God's laws" were a powerful incentive to follow the highest moral rules of the time. So, perhaps in the same way that not all lions or dogs are going to bother saving members of other species, not all people have the same degree of moral development at any period in history. Those who are a bit ahead of the others may be the ones who establish the direction to follow (Moses and his commandments, Jesus and his teachings, etc).

sugarkang
07-09-2011, 09:45 AM
It is true that some people claim to be withholding judgment about whether they exist, the Simulation crowd, for example, but I don't think their claims bear much scrutiny.
Your skepticism on the matter provides the assurance I needed. Thanks.


Profoundly incorrect. It means a lot. See above.

I care even less. See above that.


You have no evidence for thinking that I am "blindly faithful to atheism," and Descartes claimed that he was not an atheist. It was a joke; I'm aware of the ontological argument; it's wrong.

My claim is that you can doubt that God exists in a way that you cannot doubt that you exist.Thank you, Captain Obvious. And my claim is that you cannot definitively prove that you exist, as Descartes had proclaimed. Back to square one.

This is not even remotely funny. I am not French, I am not even particularly enamored of French philosophy.
Things were better when I was on your ignore list.

I won't be mucking up your thread anymore, RFR. Sorry!

ledocs
07-09-2011, 09:48 AM
rf, the question of how Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism, reconciled itself with modern capitalism, has always interested me, but I have never really looked into it. I always wanted to do so. I never understood how William Buckley, for example, squared that circle. For Protestantism, it is less of a problem, although some of the American evangelicals seem to have taken things to an absurd extreme. A long time ago I saw Pat Robertson urging his television flock to invest in gold and silver, which seemed to me to be something of a perversion of the Christian message. But is this something to which you have devoted a lot of thought or study?

ledocs
07-09-2011, 09:57 AM
Things were better when I was on your ignore list.

This is one of the few things you have ever said, and which I have read, with which I am inclined to agree.

rfrobison
07-09-2011, 10:19 AM
As I said before, we are all "sinners". With my $1500 how much good could I have done? The emotional, behavioral and psychological calculations we do are complex. Does the happiness the TV brings me allow more to be more productive? Did striving to have it in the first place make me work harder? In this way, do I get to consider my luxury night out a charitable contribution, in the form of future productivity. My, how we could rationalize ourselves into oblivion there!

I dunno, Eli. I don't think I would define one's societal contribution as narrowly as you appear to here, if I'm understanding what you mean by "future productivity." If having a new TV makes you happy, then I see no moral reason why you shouldn't have it, provided you're not starving your kids or taking on debts you can't repay to get it. That you shouldn't just swipe one from the store or your neighbor's house goes without saying.

Moreover, your "selfish" desire to buy a new TV gives a livelihood to the people who make the TVs, drive the trucks that deliver them, the clerks that sell them, the mad men and mad women who market them, the lumberjacks who cut the trees, that make the paper, that the box company turns into cardboard... This is the very essence of economic surplus that drives capitalism. It works pretty well most of the time (http://news.yahoo.com/flat-jobs-data-signal-weakest-recovery-decades-211320802.html).

The trouble arises, I think, when we begin to think that material abundance can give our lives meaning. It cannot. Again, returning to Paul's admonition to Timothy, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."

So, I suppose, let us make these determinations individually. But let us do it within reason. I would argue that the return on investment, the ratio of productivity for monetary gain to productivity for other reasons (sense of accomplishment, security, enjoyment, etc.) bends rather limply towards personal excess. Does the man who makes an extra million for a personal yacht really need that yacht to work hard? We must remember that the wealthy have long since passed the point of needing to worry about enjoying the simple things in life. There is a reason for the term "luxury".


I don't think many of those who work hard enough to buy a luxury yacht do so primarily for the luxuries that work affords. Some do, no doubt. But if you're talking about the Warren Buffets of the world, it isn't about getting one more yacht or condo in the Maldives or whatever. If that were the case, they'd hang it up and be pure consumers. Hank Greenburg no doubt has more money than he could possibly spend in one lifetime. I posit there is something compelling about the work itself that drives such people--or the sense of power that wealth imparts.

And ironically, your plea for moderation may leave people of distinctly more modest means worse off. The mechanic who maintains the boat, the security guard who watches over it--these people probably will never have yachts of their own, but persuade that stockbroker not to buy it and the mechanic and security guard will have one fewer job option. Again, that is the nature of capitalism.

Getting into the really interesting (to me) part of your post from here on in.

Ocean
07-09-2011, 10:20 AM
Your skepticism on the matter provides the assurance I needed. Thanks.


I care even less. See above that.

It was a joke; I'm aware of the ontological argument; it's wrong.

Thank you, Captain Obvious. And my claim is that you cannot definitively prove that you exist, as Descartes had proclaimed. Back to square one.


Things were better when I was on your ignore list.

I won't be mucking up your thread anymore, RFR. Sorry!

You either made incorrect claims or used sarcasm in a way that made it impossible to understand what you may have intended to say. Someone replies to you and addresses the issues as they are being understood by readers who cannot read your mind, but your comments. And then you get into some kind of attitude about it?

I would suggest, just as a general opinion from a fellow commenter, that when you discuss topics that are difficult to communicate, (and philosophical concepts is one of them), that you refrain from using sarcasm or humor or saying the opposite of what you mean, or that you misquote other thinkers.

rfrobison
07-09-2011, 10:40 AM
I won't be mucking up your thread anymore, RFR. Sorry!

Mmm, well, it's not really "mine" once it's out there, is it? I can understand people getting mildly miffed if they start a thread and it wanders far from the topic, but it's not like the originator can't try again under a different heading, as long as Bhtv allows us the server space.

People should feel free to go where they like with a discussion.

sugarkang
07-09-2011, 10:56 AM
You either made incorrect claims or used sarcasm in a way that made it impossible to understand what you may have intended to say. Someone replies to you and addresses the issues as they are being understood by readers who cannot read your mind, but your comments. And then you get into some kind of attitude about it?
Okay, Ocean. First, you'd have to know a little background history. ledocs accused me of putting him on my ignore list. This is factually untrue. Then, on the basis of this quasi-defamatory statement, intimated that it was the proper justification for him to then put me on his ignore list.

Found here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=6852). I dare you to actually read through this thread and find any provocation on my part.


After a subsequent little interchange we had about Israel, I stopped reading operative. I've been hitting "View Post" a lot over the past few days. I have sugarkang filtered too, because he said he was going to filter me and I said, "Fine, no big loss to me." This was after he had written something unintelligible, and it happened to be the first time I had seen a post of his, I think.


Next in an unrelated thread,


I read your exposition about your developing political philosophy, and I found it quite difficult to understand. This is not because I am a poor reader or unaccustomed to reading difficult things. My feeling was that the author of that post should be less aggressive than I think you are in your online interactions.

To which I replied with a measured response (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=215881&postcount=215) that went unanswered.


I would suggest, just as a general opinion from a fellow commenter, that when you discuss topics that are difficult to communicate, (and philosophical concepts is one of them), that you refrain from using sarcasm or humor or saying the opposite of what you mean, or that you misquote other thinkers.

This isn't the first time you've presumed my guilt without all of the evidence. One incident, in particular, related to a misunderstanding of an insignificant word like "handle." No bother; I'm used to it. Based on your past postings, there seems to be a real pent up anger towards libertarians, or maybe that was a codeword for me, specifically. Either way, it's not unexpected. However, if you're sure that you want to place the blame on me, then I'd suggest you look through those threads I've linked. Or don't. I've been getting along just fine with all of the personal attacks. Ready when you are.

ledocs
07-09-2011, 11:11 AM
ledocs accused me of putting him on my ignore list.

This is not technically correct. I said that you said you were going to put me on your IgnoreList. But, apparently, you never carried out your threat. Or, alternatively, you never said what I say you said. But you quote me correctly above in a different part of this post, and I have never said that you actually put me on your IgnoreList. Here is the quote:

I have sugarkang filtered too, because he said he was going to filter me and I said, "Fine, no big loss to me."

This is all quite trivial, except that when making arguments in philosophy, one does have to pay attention to minor distinctions like this.

sugarkang
07-09-2011, 11:15 AM
But, apparently, you never carried out your threat.
Wow, keep lying without remorse. And you want to nitpick technicalities? How about you dig through that thread and see where I tolerated your insults and then put up with your outright lies. Then you have the audacity to repeat them?

You are impressive.

(Sorry, RFR. Keep getting slandered!)

Ocean
07-09-2011, 11:35 AM
This isn't the first time you've presumed my guilt without all of the evidence. One incident, in particular, related to a misunderstanding of an insignificant word like "handle." No bother; I'm used to it. Based on your past postings, there seems to be a real pent up anger towards libertarians, or maybe that was a codeword for me, specifically. Either way, it's not unexpected. However, if you're sure that you want to place the blame on me, then I'd suggest you look through those threads I've linked. Or don't. I've been getting along just fine with all of the personal attacks. Ready when you are.

You're creating too much drama around yourself. It looks like it is you who is keeping count of perceived slights. I haven't intentionally tried to make you a target of any specific criticism and I don't have pent up anger towards libertarians. I don't like a lot of libertarian ideas regarding economics, and I'm vocal about them. I don't pent up my annoyance about them.

As I said, you seem to be too sensitive to interactions that are perceived by you as "attacks" when in fact they're not. We had other commenters in this board (who have now been banned) who had a predilection for that kind of drama. I don't care much for that kind of stuff.

I'll put an end to this interaction. I'm sorry that you misunderstood, but I now realize that perhaps, avoiding interactions with someone who is so sensitive may be the best course of action to avoid further misunderstandings.

sugarkang
07-09-2011, 11:49 AM
Alright, who's ready to talk about Jesus? Did he really wear sandals? I doubt it.

rfrobison
07-09-2011, 12:03 PM
Alright, who's ready to talk about Jesus? Did he really wear sandals? I doubt it.

More to the, er, point: Would He wear Birkenstocks, Crocs, or no-name Chinese if he were walking the sands of Israel/Palestine today?

I also wonder if Eli plans to leave me talking to myself. I've been trying to do a point-by-point response to his post and he seems not to want to play. :(

Oh well, to paraphrase an ancient Jewish rabbi: We all have our crosses to bear.

sugarkang
07-09-2011, 12:16 PM
More to the, er, point: Would He wear Birkenstocks, Crocs, or no-name Chinese if he were walking the sands of Israel/Palestine today?

I also wonder if Eli plans to leave me talking to myself. I've been trying to do a point-by-point response to his post and he seems not to want to play. :(

Oh well, to paraphrase an ancient Jewish rabbi: We all have our crosses to bear.

I've been meaning to revisit Kierkegaard. He almost had me convinced that I should give God a try. I'd argue with you, but you've got all that fancy bible talk up there.

Oh, I did have a point about money, though. Many liberals still believe that they do the "real" work while management does nothing. I don't really understand this, though. Low wages should be signalling you to acquire new skills and transfer out of your current job, no? And then if it's really about owners vs. working class, there's no one stopping you from buying common stock and sharing in dividends.

Then there's this marginal utility of consumption notion. Like rich people just sit around and swim in money all day. Yet, liberals seem so much more intent on acquiring status goods. I don't mean this to be a rant about liberals, but I think it ties in with my utility of religion theory. When you go to church, at least you have one day out of the week to reflect about morality and the treatment of your neighbor. The existence or non-existence of God seems incidental to the fellowship.

miceelf
07-09-2011, 12:19 PM
rf, the question of how Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism, reconciled itself with modern capitalism, has always interested me, but I have never really looked into it. I always wanted to do so. I never understood how William Buckley, for example, squared that circle.

I am just a layperson, but a couple of responses come to mind.

First, both Catholicism and Protestantism (protestantism moreso, for obvious reasons) have a lot of diversity within them with regard to capitalism, especially as it bleeds into the really radical objectivism-ish end of things. Some strains of Catholicism have reconciled themselves and some have not.

But Catholicism historically has reconciled itself to all kinds of pretty anti-Christian stuff (not claiming that capitalism is necessarily anti-Christian), going back beyond feudalism, so this isn't especially new.

The other more modern issue, I suspect has to do with the hostility of communism (especially as it iterated itself in the USSR) toward organized religion in general and Christianity in particular. The enemy of my enemy kind of thing.

ledocs
07-09-2011, 01:31 PM
Listen, I may have insulted you, but I certainly did not lie, that's something I have done very rarely in my life, and an argument with the likes of you would not require me to lie. If the "Search" function in this software supported searches of your posts that were more than a year old, I am confident that I could find the interchange to which I keep referring. I did not filter you for no reason. It is possible that I made a mistake, just as I did very recently, when I mistook a post of operative's for yours (and then apologized as soon as I discovered my error), but lying is not really in my repertoire, and I am pretty confident that I am not mistaken on this point.

But I do think you were correct in saying that things were better when I had you filtered, so let's revert to that halcyon state of affairs.

bjkeefe
07-10-2011, 01:55 AM
Like I've said many times before, I'm an atheist.

Honkie, please.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 02:21 AM
Honkie, please.

Oh good, you're back. Please control your sociopathic followers.

graz
07-10-2011, 09:52 AM
Like I've said many times before, I'm an atheist.

Honkie, please.

No really, he's also a not-liberal that supports Obama.
And a libertarian unfamiliar with Ayn Rand's Objectivism.
And also, you're the only one on his ignore list ... A man of his word, no doubt.

We the gang of many are awaiting instruction dear leader, make haste.

Ocean
07-10-2011, 10:33 AM
We the gang of many are awaiting instruction dear leader, make haste.

By the way, we should do some clean up of the gang. There are a whole lot of dead bodies there. And some infiltrated spies.

Maybe we should come out of the underground and reactivate our rank and file. Also, we need to review our supernumeraries.

Gosh, it's a lot of work! ;)

stephanie
07-10-2011, 01:56 PM
I also wonder if Eli plans to leave me talking to myself. I've been trying to do a point-by-point response to his post and he seems not to want to play.

I haven't had a chance to jump in yet, but I'm sure I will and that I'll find your thoughts interesting, so keep going.

ledocs
07-11-2011, 11:16 AM
rf, you did not reply to my post here:

http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=216016&postcount=31

Also, there was another part of the quotation from 1 Timothy 6,9 that I thought was particularly germane to the question I pose above, but which no one apparently highlighted, namely the part of the verse which says that the desire to become rich is corrupting, it leads men to destruction. But this is not a view which is that widely spread among American Christians of any persuasion, so far as I know, and I do not know if you share this view. The verse is fairly unequivocal, as I read it. It's not that the desire to become rich might be corrupting, or can be corrupting, it is corrupting. So how does a Christian reconcile that verse with the economic system we have, because the obvious implication of that verse is that one should avoid the desire to become rich? A person who finds himself tempted by the desire to become rich needs to resist temptation.

miceelf
07-11-2011, 11:36 AM
It's not that the desire to become rich might be corrupting, or can be corrupting, it is corrupting. So how does a Christian reconcile that verse with the economic system we have, because the obvious implication of that verse is that one should avoid the desire to become rich? A person who finds himself tempted by the desire to become rich needs to resist temptation.

Nothing kills desire like its realization. So, to eliminate the desire to be rich, one can become rich and thus preclude the desire.

Don Zeko
07-11-2011, 12:12 PM
Nothing kills desire like its realization. So, to eliminate the desire to be rich, one can become rich and thus preclude the desire.

But isn't wealth the great exception to that? No matter how rich you become, there will still be someone richer out there and there will still be things you can't afford. No satiation means unlimited desire and unlimited potential for corruption.

miceelf
07-11-2011, 12:15 PM
But isn't wealth the great exception to that? No matter how rich you become, there will still be someone richer out there and there will still be things you can't afford. No satiation means unlimited desire and unlimited potential for corruption.

It occurs to me that being ironic in mixed company is probably not a good idea without a quick disclaimer.

I was being ironic. I agree with you.

I think the bottomlessness of wealth desire is part of the reason why Paul argues against it. Although I think that it's also not accurate that satiety occurs in a variety of addictive behaviors. Sex addicts, for example, don't get satisfied either.

AemJeff
07-11-2011, 12:30 PM
It occurs to me that being ironic in mixed company is probably not a good idea without a quick disclaimer.

...

Nah. We just all need to keep our irony detectors well tuned, I think. Elsewise things can become dreadfully earnest. (Note that that was completely unironic!)

stephanie
07-11-2011, 03:10 PM
Too quick. Never mind.

stephanie
07-11-2011, 05:29 PM
I have an additional and somewhat related concern, that I think underlies some of my reaction to some political views.

Whether one looks at Job in the old Testament or Jesus' various mentions of money, wealth, and poverty in the new Testament, it is hard for me to come to the conclusion that, from a Christian perspective, money is a good indicator of one's value or worth.

Agreed. I know there are some who make such an argument, but I don't think anyone here is.

The concern I have (and i am not at all suggesting this is your view or of anyone in particular, but I see its influence in how some political thought gets expressed) is that a view that the market (or any other worldly force for that matter) perfectly rewards value gives the sense that the wealthy are so because they are more deserving than the poor, more valuable in some sense.

I may have linked this before, but check out Harvey Cox's The Market as God. (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1999/03/the-market-as-god/6397/) (Cox is not a supporter of the idea, of course.)

stephanie
07-11-2011, 05:50 PM
Why do we cling together in civil society? What material thing could I claim as my own and inviolate without the protective cocoon that society represents? How much stuff could I accumulate without it? Do I owe anything back to that society for the things it offers? How does that debt scale as my position improves?

It seems to me that the correct Christian answer -- which may have nothing to do with this topic of "am I my brother's keeper" for political purposes, of course -- is that you can't claim any material thing as your own, really. You can't claim someone else's and steal it, of course, and I'm not saying we have no right to private property, but what we have is not ultimately due to our own merit, but the grace of God and we should have a healthy sense of that. It's therefore wrong to be too attached to one's possessions and to feel that we are entitled to what we have.

Examples that illustrate this include the examples of people being pissy because they deserved God's favor more than people who got more -- the brother of the prodigal son, the workers who were paid the same for a day's labor as others for only an hour, so on. You can also look to Jonah being pissy about the loss of the shade plant. A non-Biblical discussion of this is in Boethius' Consolations of Philosophy.

I think this is relevant to the 1 Timothy passage too, which is preceded by: "For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it. If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that."

I think it also fits in with what I said before about the relationship of the worry about money with failure to accord God the proper place and failure to sufficiently trust in God.

But there's a distinction between talking about these things as moral principles and as political ones. I think it's a temptation, and morally wrong, to overvalue money in one's life. I don't think that means that the government should interfere in my doing so, obviously. (And I don't think anyone is suggesting that, although it's true that I don't know the Pink Floyd song that started us off.)

What seems to me the relevant consideration for political purposes are the questions you ask -- what kind of society do we want to live in, what do we owe those born into the lower strata, what do we think people are entitled to as a consequence of being human or being a US citizen? What is necessary to help people achieve their potential? Do people who were lucky in what they were born with have any responsibility to others, politically?

stephanie
07-11-2011, 05:54 PM
rf, the question of how Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism, reconciled itself with modern capitalism, has always interested me, but I have never really looked into it. I always wanted to do so. I never understood how William Buckley, for example, squared that circle. For Protestantism, it is less of a problem, although some of the American evangelicals seem to have taken things to an absurd extreme.

Why do you think it's less of a problem for Protestants? I mean, I can think of reasons why it might be, but I'm curious what specifically you are thinking of.

stephanie
07-11-2011, 06:31 PM
Also, there was another part of the quotation from 1 Timothy 6,9 that I thought was particularly germane to the question I pose above, but which no one apparently highlighted, namely the part of the verse which says that the desire to become rich is corrupting, it leads men to destruction. But this is not a view which is that widely spread among American Christians of any persuasion, so far as I know, and I do not know if you share this view.

I actually think that this is given a decent amount of lip service, at least, although generally softened in practice, as hard teachings usually are. But the danger that those who pursue material success are prioritizing or trusting wrongly and that a focus on money may well lead one to immoral action seem to me common teachings. Also, a broad concern about Christian compartmentalization, whereas what one does in one's business life is separated from the teachings one focuses on on Sundays.

Why American Christians continue to compartmentalize and even churches which preach this may not preach it as fervently as one would expect, at least not outside of certain types of congregations, seems to me a shame, but not surprising or inconsistent with the way I see other issues being treated.

So how does a Christian reconcile that verse with the economic system we have, because the obvious implication of that verse is that one should avoid the desire to become rich? A person who finds himself tempted by the desire to become rich needs to resist temptation.

I suspect in the US the main way would be by separating the ideas about the government with ideas about personal morality. Render unto Caesar (although that statement is more problematic than at face value) plus St. Paul's statements about obeying the lawful government.

Beyond that, I think because capitalism is often seen as just a default way of operating -- no great distinction being made here between simple buying and selling for money and specialization and capitalism as it currently functions. I know there is a more specific church justification for why loaning at interest is now okay, don't know beyond that besides there being specific problems with the real systematic alternatives to capitalism, and a preference to focus on some kind of modified capitalism, therefore, such as ideas of the following type (from the Catechism of the Catholic Church):

1. The goods of the earth were given to humans in common.

2. The division of the earth into private property is okay and expected, however, because it is a way through which humans can provide for their own sustanance and learn to live in cooperation with others. (Also, of course, there's clearly no obvious injunction against private property in the Bible, as private property exists in the legal set-up in the Hebrew Scriptures. While the early disciples lived sharing all in common, it's clear that was a way of living that required grace.)

3. Humans should be conscious, however, that their property is not theirs alone, but is owned for the benefit of others. One is merely a steward of one's property. There's a general recognization here of an general set of rings of people to which one may owe greater responsibilities, starting with one's family.

4. Goods, whether material or immaterial, property or skills, are again not merely the possessions of the owner alone and thus "oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor."

5. Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good.

ledocs
07-11-2011, 08:03 PM
I was thinking of Calvinism, the idea that wealth is a sign of election by God, and more generally of "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit Capitalism." And then I was thinking about American evangelicals who preach that God wants you, the faithful, to be rich, and then they go on to give advice about how to get rich.

ledocs
07-11-2011, 08:24 PM
Generally, the problem is that it's one thing to make a living and work hard, it's another to want to be rich and to make that into the end of one's existence. In the 70's-80's in the US, the idea developed that one is acting virtuously by pursuing one's personal enrichment in a single-minded way, the "Greed is good" motto made famous in the movie "Wall Street" but also evident in "Wealth and Poverty" by George Gilder, for example. In other words, the kinds of activities that led to the financial crisis, and the kinds of people who engage in them at the highest level, are actually virtuous, because they are contributing to the common good by increasing the efficiency of capital allocation. That is, we won't worry about what people's motives are, as long as their actions conduce to the common good somehow. So the question is, is this kind of reasoning, the "Greed is good" kind, consistent with Christianity? If it's not, why don't we hear more criticism of, e.g.,the institutions and people who made the financial crisis possible, by Christians, from a Christian point of view? Presumably if Reinhold Niebuhr were alive, he would have been writing things along the lines I have in mind.

Here is another thing that has just occurred to me. Has there *ever* been one of these so-called Values-Added diavlogs in which the workings of the American and world economy are examined from a genuinely Christian point of view? I guess it's sort of a commonplace that Marxism is a kind of religion, and so Marxism replaces Christianity as the moral critic of capitalism, but how could Christianity possibly have ceded this ground, does that really make any sense, that we'll let the market produce as much as possible and then let private charity make up for any problems of distribution of wealth? What has that line, which is basically the one I gleaned from William Buckley in the 50's and 60's, got to do with Timothy 1:6,9?

We've got "Values-Added," but we don't have liberation theology. It's a plot by the Templeton Foundation. But what is the relationship between Christian faith and finance capital in the thinking of the Templeton Foundation? Inquiring minds want to know.

stephanie
07-11-2011, 11:45 PM
I was thinking of Calvinism, the idea that wealth is a sign of election by God, and more generally of "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit Capitalism." And then I was thinking about American evangelicals who preach that God wants you, the faithful, to be rich, and then they go on to give advice about how to get rich.

Ah. I guess I was wondering why the portions of the Bible we are talking about wouldn't be a problem for Protestants, although I see that it's not necessarily.

One reason, of course, is that the Bible contains writings that take different views on these things. One major theme in the Deuteronomic histories and prophets is the idea that what happens to you (to your society really, and specifically Israel) is due to your loyalty or lack thereof to God. So this gets taken by some people (Pat Robertson) as a justification for nasty claims like that hurricanes are punishments, and gets applied on the individual level by some evangelicals, like with that Prayer of Jabez thing or the like.

As miceelf says, it seems as if the portions of the Bible that counter this would govern, but oh well. Calvinism adds a somewhat different wrinkle, IMO.

stephanie
07-11-2011, 11:57 PM
So the question is, is this kind of reasoning, the "Greed is good" kind, consistent with Christianity?

No. Granted, obviously you will be able to find Christians who disagree.

If it's not, why don't we hear more criticism of, e.g.,the institutions and people who made the financial crisis possible, by Christians, from a Christian point of view? Presumably if Reinhold Niebuhr were alive, he would have been writing things along the lines I have in mind.

Good question. A few reasons come to mind (including the nature of the criticism), but I am going to wait until tomorrow to try and flesh them out.

Here is another thing that has just occurred to me. Has there *ever* been one of these so-called Values-Added diavlogs in which the workings of the American and world economy are examined from a genuinely Christian point of view? I guess it's sort of a commonplace that Marxism is a kind of religion, and so Marxism replaces Christianity as the moral critic of capitalism, but how could Christianity possibly have ceded this ground, does that really make any sense, that we'll the let market produce as much as possible and then let private charity make up for any problems of distribution of wealth? What has that line, which is basically the one I gleaned from William Buckley in the 50's and 60's, got to do with Timothy 1:6,9?

I don't think so, and this actually gets to my usual criticism of the Values Added diavlogs, which is that they rarely get into real applications of religious ideas about morality and ethics, let alone actual debates about these things within or between religions. Instead, they either cover "what religious people or people affliliated with a religious group thing about politics" without any deep analysis as to why, or they are political debates by people publicly affiliated with religion that are not really any different than the usual political debates. For example, they brought on a Catholic sister and some Protestant guy to talk about immigration, but rather than discuss how their theology and moral views informed the debate, they talked briefly about how both of their denominations were officially in favor of the particular policy being discussed but many in both disagreed and then proceeded to talk about the supposed economic effects.

I think the kind of discussion you talk about should be had if we are going to have "Values Added" diavlogs. Of course, I don't know anything about the Templeton Foundation, so if they sponsor the diavlogs, who knows what the point is.