DiaBlogue: Ashes to Ashes

Dear Alan,

Happy Ash Wednesday! [Yes, I realize that’s a problematic statement on many levels :-]. Though our church is otherwise very informal and contemporary, Lent is always as a major time of fasting, reflection, repentance, and prayer. In particular, as I’ve been reflecting on our DiaBlogue during the three-week “fast” since my last post, I’ve been thinking I need to “repent” of my current approach. And after reading your latest reply, I’m sure of it. πŸ™‚

[Read more] for a proposed new direction I hope we can meditate on for the next 40 days or so…

Part of our problem is primarily epistemic. You claim that “

from my perspective, the metric defines morality

“, which at first glance seems to conflict with your use of Universal Utilitarianism as Metric, Not Imperial. I’m not sure whether you deny the need for a paradigm, or feel that this particular metric somehow generates a paradigm without additional assumptions. It seems like you are trying to assert that a metric is necessary and sufficient to define (and practice) morality without reference to any sort of ontology — but that itself sounds like an ontological assertion!

In short, I don’t even know whether you are assuming or denying our previous epistemic work, or whether you’ve even grappled with how ethics and epistemology intersect.

I also worry that you’re reading both too much and too little into my questions. Too much, in that you seem to be interpreting them as an attempt to “prove” the existence of God; on the contrary, I’m simply trying to get you to articulate your underlying assumptions, which I strongly suspect you hold implicitly and haven’t fully articulated, even to yourself. Too little, in that I have the nagging suspicion that you don’t quite “get” what I’m looking for.

That is, I do appreciate your valiant attempts to answer my specific questions, but somehow they don’t quite address the underlying disconnect I’m trying to bridge. My goal — which I sometimes wonder whether you share — is to get us both to be clearer (in our own minds, as well our writing) about what exactly we believe, in terms of:

a. assumptions
b. reasoning, and
c. evidence.

In that sense, I really don’t see us as antagonists trying to “win” a contest, but fellow journeyers seeking to draw each other out into a deeper appreciation of both truth and the other’s viewpoint.

Given that (apparently) fundamental disconnect — regarding both goals and means — I must confess I am at something of a loss. So, I’d like propose we take a step back, and — since I’ll be busy with Lenten activities for the next 40 days — try to approach the problem from a completely different direction..

For my part, I commit to reading through the Essays on Desire Utilitarianism you so kindly sent me. Given his background, I have hopes that he will be better able to articulate it in philosophical terms that I can understand. My goal is to write up a Brickman that captures its essential arguments, and relates them to the various ethical and epistemic issues we’ve discussed before. It will be interesting to see whether you still agree with DU after I’ve fleshed it out on in my terminology. πŸ™‚

In exchange, I have a question I would like you to not answer — at least not right away. Instead, I would ask you to simply spend the next few weeks simply thinking about:

Why do you hate Christianity so much?
Or, if “hate” is too strong a term: Why do you see Christianity as something evil to be opposed, rather than merely something imperfect to be improved?

Clearly, there’s something about Christianity that you feel merits vigorous attacks, at least judging from your various anti-Biblical non-DiaBlogue posts. But, despite provacative hints, I really don’t know what it is that bothers you so much. It doesn’t seem to be the things I despise about Christianity, but neither does it seem to logically follow from the philosophical positions I’ve seen you articulate. If not that, then what?

There must be something else, something extremely important to you, that I’m simply not seeing. Perhaps it has been staring me in the face all along, but I need your help to understand what that is. As you yourself said, “

Like anybody else, Christians can be slippery people. We fight, consciously and unconsciously, to protect our most cherished beliefs

.” I have tried to be as up-front and vulnerable with you as possible about my core beliefs, to give you the best chance of understanding both my explicit goals and subconscious motivations. I hope that by answering the above question you will improve my chances of understanding yours.

Sound like a plan? If so, then I propose we take a month or so off to work on our respective homework, with a goal of syncing up by Palm Sunday (or April Fool’s Day, if you prefer :-).

If on the other hand you are not comfortable with that plan, drop me a line via email and we’ll try to work something else out. Fair enough?


Love and prayers,
— Ernie P.