Tuesday, October 26, 2010


There's this, for those of you with a philosophical and/or moral theory bent:
I’m looking for a discussion here, not a fight. I don’t want to challenge anyone’s belief system, and I hope that we can keep the discussion civil, without any aspersions cast or offense taken. It is possible to argue in light of human advancement over the last two hundred years that ancient belief systems are necessary but not sufficient to a shared understanding of what it means to be a moral person, no argument there.
But I really do want to know: Given my assumption that secularists find Jennifer Petkov’s actions morally repellent, upon what foundation do they pretend to judge her? They have their community, she has hers. Granted it was a mean and awful thing to do: So?
That would be Lex speaking.  I've just begun to wade through the 121 comments in this discussion and I expect to be there for quite a while.  There will be civility and there will be light.  Those are the BEST things about my favorite (former) Naval Radiator's house.  Well, there's great plane pr0n, too.  Can't forget that.


  1. Jennifer Who the Hell?

    I'll Google it.

  2. Just chase the link, Andy. The details about this reprehensible person are in the body of the post. The comments are gravy. Good, hot, thick, and calorie-laden gravy.

  3. "The other" Andy beat me to it. Who the hell is Jennifer Petkov?

    I guess I'll just chase the link...

  4. But the real issue is-why ask question at all? Religion is a basis for morality but it is no the only basis for it-nor should it be. It is entirely possible to be appalled by the actions of Ms Petkov without having to have a steeped in the bible moral education. In fact, from my viewpoint it is easier to understand from a secular viewpoint. Because if you truly are a follower of God, then you have to shake your head at why a loving God allows such suffering to exist in the first place-and takes no action to rectify it. The bible offers no good explanation for human suffering. Or for that matter why the supposed "good news" of the Gospels is so blatantly unfair.

    There are common concepts of human dignity and fairness-and there is a community standard that evolves over time. That's enough in and of itself and does not need a "foundation".

    But if you absolutely have to have one-then its simple for me. Basic human decency, fairness, and remaining with the boundaries of personal space. Those come from religious texts and non-religious ones in equal quantities.

    Solve the unfairness of the way God apportions suffering in this world and I will be more inclined to accept that there has to be a religious foundation.

    That does not, BTW, make me an atheist. On the contrary I believe in God very much. I just don't understand why humanity lost the toss and got one that was so vindictive and unfair.

  5. Okay...I guess I am too stupid to understand what's going on here.

    I see that this Petkov chick has a hate-on for the family of this young girl that is dying. I guess I missed it in the story, but I can't figure out why. And, I see that this Petkov chick now feels bad about what she's done because hubby might lose his job.

    Look, I started to make some smart-ass remark about how this does all seem to be taking place in Michigan...and that folks up north are civilized and all, and don't do crazy redneck stuff like we do down here...but I won't.

    To be honest...I'm lost here. So, I'll go back and read some more comments...

    Okay...I went back and read some more comments. I think these people are WAY over my head in literature, and introspection. But, what I'm getting from this personally is that there are secularists with morals...and non secularists with none. I could certainly be wrong, but the whole dang thing is so confusing that I'm not gonna kick myself if I am.

    Besides, I already knew that.

    I'd just classify this Jennifer Petkov as a nut job, and leave it at that.

  6. But the real issue is-why ask question at all?

    I'll take Lex at his word, Skippy, in that he honestly wants to know what motivates the secular-humanists to act in a moral way, absent a belief in a religion... any religion. And I'm QUITE surprised to see you here rather than at Lex's, on top of all that. I just now finished reading all the comments in that thread and didn't see you. Did you and Lex fall out? Or should I even ask?

    None the less, thanks for dropping your dime at my humble abode. Especially where this is concerned: I just don't understand why humanity lost the toss and got one that was so vindictive and unfair. How true that IS of the monotheist religions!

    L-Andy: I think Lex was just setting up the discussion by citing the Petkov case, which IS reprehensible. I found the discussion interesting and, yeah, way the Hell over my intellectual/philosophical pay-grade. I was much more interested in seeing what the secularists had to say; I'm pretty familiar with the theological side(s) of the argument. I found the whole lengthy thread quite interesting.

  7. Buck, it is interesting.

    One of my best friends in this here world is what we'd call a "secularist." And, he is just about the most moral cat I've ever known.

    Of course, I've got some good Christian buddies that are on par with him, too.

    A family member of mine has ZERO belief in any religious faith as far as I know. (He's a hockey guy, btw...I think I've told you about him in the past). Yet, he raised his four children with absolutely the highest of moral standards.

    "Don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal, don't disrespect your fellow man, don't sponge off the wealth of others, don't ever take pleasure in the troubles of others, and don't EVER talk back to your Mama!"

    Maybe hockey players should be in charge of stuff...

  8. You make an EXCELLENT point with your last, Andy. My archives are full of my subtle and not-so-subtle references to the basic goodness and sound ethics found in hockey players. There's something there.

    You know I'm agnostic, as well, yet I consider myself a moral person. The discussion at Lex's was enlightening for me because I've wondered about the source of "goodness" (for lack of a better term) in those without the benefit of a religious upbringing. Coz that am me. Sorta.

  9. Well Buck, I had a religious upbringing. And, I find myself lacking so much in true morality.

    We were taught to obey the commandments, and to love other folks like Jesus would. And, I did pretty good until about age 12. Then the failure sets in, and you realize you can not.

    I'm an adherent to the fact that He did...and I can rely on His perfection to be enough. But, you already know that.

    I honestly believe that most people are basically decent. Whether they have a "religious" (and I despise that term, but I can't think of a better one), or not...I believe that we're all born with a spark of the Holy Spirit within us. And, that "spark" keeps the great majority of us from acting on our demonic tendencies.

    Man! I've rattled on a long while now, and the Hot & Sour Soup is dang near ready...

  10. It was a very interesting discussion, Buck.

    While there is a definite basis for crediting judeo-christianity for our societal standards of morality, I don't find that religious belief actually imbues or conveys personal morality on an individual basis.

    Secularists are no less moral than the churched, no less "good" or altruistic than a person with abiding religious convictions.

    Societies that haven't embraced Christianity still seem to abide by the ten commandments, which would indicate to me that those are universally held humanistic rules that most people innately use to interact with one another in a moral manner.

    I do have a deep personal mistrust of those who waive their religion and personal beliefs around as a moral cudgel, I find it to be a self-validating conceit that doesn't convey an ounce of empathy, understanding or spiritual humility.

    I don't have a single quandary with my certainty that atheists and agnostics can be, and are, deeply moral people.

  11. I honestly believe that most people are basically decent.

    You and me both, Andy. I continue in that belief until someone proves otherwise.

    I do have a deep personal mistrust of those who waive their religion and personal beliefs around as a moral cudgel, I find it to be a self-validating conceit that doesn't convey an ounce of empathy, understanding or spiritual humility.

    Bingo! The quietly religious, of which I know more than a few, impress me the most. Anyone who is seriously vocal (read as: strident) about any sort o' belief... religious, moral, or political... is immediately suspect in my book. The quiet ones are firm and secure in their beliefs, the vocal ones much less so. YMMV, but I don't think so.

  12. While reading through Lex’s post and his comment, I couldn’t help think about “Lord of the Flies.” I know that it is fiction and is only the author’s view of how society would react without laws, rules, and authority, but I think it is a good example and probable. In LOTF, the boys stranded on the island try to make rules to govern themselves. In the power struggle of good vs. evil, evil wins out, because there is no authority – no moral code – no fear of God – no reason to do otherwise. And I think fear of God is important in living morally. I do think there are secular folk who are good people – maybe even better than some religious folk I know. But their “good” is not God’s good, and there is still nothing to hold them accountable other than society and society’s laws. I think when it comes down to it, people will basically do whatever the hell they want to do unless they have some sort of belief and fear of God or fear of societies laws or society’s disapproval. The Pekov lady is an example of someone doing just so. Although society is horrified by her actions (disapproval), she obviously feels justified. But what about something not quite so horrifying. What if someone cheats on his girlfriend? Technically there is no law against it, society sort of frowns on it, but people justify such behavior all the time. If the person does not have some sort of moral code or “little voice” that says, “Hey that is wrong,” they will justify it, do it, and never think about the hurt that it causes. Would you think this person would be faithful in marriage? I think without fear of God, people are selfish and will act accordingly doing what feels good and right to them at the time. It is called sin nature. Only through God can we overcome that nature. And Skippy-san, the Bible does explain why there is suffering and evil in the world.

  13. I have a brother and sister-in-law (my husband's brother) who are the most wonderful people I've ever had the good fortune to meet. They are deeply religious (Brethren) but you would never know it by talking to them.

    They live their beliefs in every step of their lives, but never discuss their religion unless directly asked and even then they are very circumspect. These people don't make references to God, refer to their religious tenets or invoke their beliefs as the basis for their political, social or moral obligations.

    They're kind people, who are quite happy to take you as you come, providing there is some common ground to be shared. A person's lack of belief or formal religiosity plays no part in how they deal with others. To be honest, they are the only protestant Christians I've ever met who truly embody the ministry of Jesus' words.

    I have a particular disdain for high-stepping religious zealots of any stripe. I don't care for people who claim to have all the answers, when they clearly don't have a fucking clue.

    You're non-belief is no skin off my nose, behave within socially accepted norms of morality and we're copacetic in my book.

  14. There was quite a bit of back 'n' forth on your point, Lou. I subscribe to that "little voice" theory as an agnostic. You can call it conscience if you like. I have no fear of God in my life... for better or worse... and one could also make a point that my past behavior contradicts my current position. And you'd be right to bring that up, because it is true. But that said, I'm also the beneficiary of old age, which tends to bring one's moral compass into alignment.

    I've said this before: I envy people of great faith for their convictions. As far as fidelity in marriage goes... I'm seen too damned many case of unfaithfulness in my time, perpetrated by both the pious and the secular. It all comes down to individuals, unfortunately.

    "Lord of the Flies" occurred to me, as well, while reading through Lex's comments.

  15. Bag Blog, I don't believe the fear of God prevents people from behaving in an immoral fashion. Their conscience does and that's a distinctly different animal from their soul.

  16. Daph: Lou is a person much like your brother and SIL... quiet in her belief unless asked. That's exactly the type of person I'm on about here: I love 'em to death. We see eye to eye here.

  17. This moderation BS is beginning to wear me down. Comments don't seem to appear in a timely manner and that's forcing me to spend more time than I want in the moderation screen. I apologize, yet I still feel this shit is necessary for a lil while more.

  18. Wordpress, my dear.

    I certainly didn't mean to discount or denigrate Lou's thoughts on the topic and I apologize if my opinion came across that way. She made good points that I'm not in disagreement with overall.

    She sees things a bit differently than I do and that's fine.

  19. Buck, It was probably not wise of me to have ventured into this topic. It is true that people who claim to be religious do not alway behave morally(I mentioned that some secular folk are better than some "religious" folk). But I still think fear of God is important to, well, God fearing people :)

    Laws often have severe punishment as a deterent to breaking the law. Hopefully when someone is weighing the right or wrong of something, they think, "Hmm, the penalty for that is death or life in prison or 30 days in jail, etc." A Christian should know what God's word says is right or wrong, but sometimes he/she will still waver in their mind - trying to justify what they want with what God says. Hopefully, they think, "Hmm, will this cause separation between me and God, or eternal damnation, or cause someone to stumble, etc." Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Psalms and Prov).

    That's if for me on this topic - don't want anyone to think that I am a fucking zealot.

  20. It was probably not wise of me to have ventured into this topic.

    You can venture most anywhere you like in these pages, Lou... at any time. You've always done so with grace and wit.

    I understand where you're coming from as far as your beliefs go. I also like the fact you respect others' beliefs (or non-belief) as well.

    Both you and Daph are good people. I love you both. In a sisterly way, of course. ;-)

  21. Coupla things, here....

    Neptunus makes the excellent point that most arguments for atheism are thinly-disguised screeds against religion.

    Second, that "still small voice" that leaves you feeling uncomfortable when you cheat on your wife is called "conscience," or more simply the awareness of right and wrong. Humans, like it or not, are born with it, which phenomenon Thomas Aquinas characterized as a feature of natural law. Steven Gaskin, that ol' hippie, was even more to the point when he challenged someone with the line "You do too know what I mean."

    Acknowledgment of something bigger than you are (not to be confused, necessarily, with the public practice of religion) always leads to the realization that there are things like Up and Down. You may choose to ignore that, but don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.

  22. Pure mental masturbation.

    Rather like staring at a double rainbow and crying “What does it mean?”

  23. Late to the party here; I did throw my thoughts out at Lex's place. Fortified by some extra coffee as that is one intellectual group.

    As someone who is rediscovering their Christian faith, I think this is a combination of things that are dependent on the environment you were raised in, whether you had a religious upbringing or not, whether you had a moral upbringing or not, etc...

    I suspect that Ms. Petkov had none of those; she likely had an upbringing focused more on whatever people in the house wanted, rather than the extension of that being how does what you want affect the people around you.

    I had a religious upbringing and a moral one. I have a conscience that is informed in large measure by those 2 things. I don't think you need to have both to have a conscience that keeps you on your toes. Either one will give you the same morality to measure your behavior against.

    And no one has talked about principles either. They go hand-in-hand with morals of course, but if you can't stand by your own personal principles then any morals you may have will fall by the wayside on the altar of the abandonment of your principles.


  24. ...the excellent point that most arguments for atheism are thinly-disguised screeds against religion.

    All too true, that. Some atheists, if not most, are just as strident as the worst religious freak. And your point(s) about conscience is/are well-taken, Rob.

    Rather like staring at a double rainbow and crying “What does it mean?”

    Not in a philosophical frame of mind today, eh, tim?

    Kris: I'm not sure how one distinguishes between morals and principles but I'll take your word for it. I'm having a bit of a cogitative hangover this morning.

  25. Okay, so since somebody brought it up...

    I have known exactly TWO true atheists in my 51 years. And, I have the deepest respect for those TWO.

    They both believed something like, "Hey, if people want to believe in a god, good on 'em. I'm not going to waste my time and energy telling them how retarded they are. I don't care if they have their little manger scenes at Christmas, or put their commandments up in public. It's ZERO skin off my nose." I actually have known TWO of those personally.

    The other many dozens of supposed atheists I've met are consumed with a passion to destroy the faith of others. I've likened it to #2 son. When he was a tot, he'd go out in the yard with a little plastic sword, and just swing it wildly at an imaginary enemy.

    That's what I always think of when I see/hear an "atheist" rail against those that believe in God. I'm like, "Heck, do you not know how juvenile it is to fight an enemy that doesn't exist?" "Do you not realize how foolish, and childish it makes you seem?"

    Of course, there is always the argument that religious extremism is detrimental to society in general. Heck, I've done my bit on that one with Islam, ad nauseating!

    But there is one thing that I do know in my knower...

    We all hit the ground with a conscience...a sense of right and wrong. This does separate us from the pack. Whether nature, or nurture stifles it, or encourages it, I'm not sure.

    And one other thing I'm sure of is that "comment moderation" at EIP has nothing to do with some possible need to move to Wordpress.

  26. They both believed something like, "Hey, if people want to believe in a god, good on 'em. I'm not going to waste my time and energy telling them how retarded they are.

    Those types are few and far between, and I say that based upon the large majority of the "freedom FROM religion" types. My feelings towards those folks is "Just STFU, why dontcha? Please."

    And Daphne NEVER lets an opportunity to flog Wordpress pass her by. She's a blogging platform bigot. Heh. I just created... or rather named... another political mini-niche. ;-)

  27. Buck - To me: morals are how you respond to situations you encounter in your life. Principles are how you conduct your own life.

    Don't know if that helps. Could be that I'm just batshit crazy on this - won't be the first time.

  28. "Those types are few and far between,..."

    Indeed. And, as I wrote before they have my ultimate respect.

    "...a blogging platform bigot." Nyuk! Go ahead on and put me in that category, too. Even though The Gooble is Wrong!, and The Globber gots faults, I'd rather fight than switch!

    Catch that one, and win you a prize. Heh! I just realized the age of the crowd around here...Crud! I don't have that many prizes to award.


    BTW, I hope you REALLY wanted a bunch of comments to moderate. Because, you got 'em, Pal!

  29. Don't know if that helps.

    It did, and thanks for it.

    I'd rather fight than switch!

    That's from some ciggie ad in the way-back... I think it might have been Tareytons. Girls with black eyes looking languidly into the camera while getting emphysema. How romantic! And attractive!

    Send me an Amazon gift card.

    re: moderation. Well, at least I didn't have 140 comments to wade through, like Lex. Praise be to The Deity At Hand!

  30. How about I just send you an Amazon?

  31. Dang! That would be even BETTER! Tell her to bring pizza, too. Yeah, I want it ALL.

  32. I just used the "I'd rather fight than switch" line the other day - it scares me that I'm like Andy.

  33. Heh. I find myself in agreement with the both of ya. Just sayin'. ;-)


Just be polite... that's all I ask.