[FoRK] Re: reas. conv. 10/22: "Religion is not only wrong; it's evil"

Corinna < corinna.schultz at gmail.com > on > Thu Nov 16 08:31:37 PST 2006

Kragen Javier Sitaker wrote:
> However, more importantly, "inappropriate" and "appropriate" do only
> literally refer to temporary, contingent societal norms, rather than
> right and wrong.  

[My kids are 9 and 6, so I have no proof my theories work]

I don't have a strongly developed ethical theory, so there are probably 
big holes in my ideas. However, I think there is enough legitimate 
relativism that I shy away from using the term "moral".  "Moral" implies 
external, hard-and-fast, always-true, standards by which you judge 
yourself and others. Off the top of my head, I can't think of anything I 
believe that I would feel comfortable making such a strong statement 
about. Sometimes it's ok to kill an animal (or a person), sometimes it's 
ok to copy someone else's work, sometimes it's ok to take something 
without permission, etc.

Most of the situations we think of as "moral" have very few exceptions, 
or the exceptions are quite nuanced (e.g. lesser-of-two-evils 
situations) that it can be confusing for little kids. Kind of like sex, 
I think that you should tell then what they need to know, answer their 
questions honestly, and give them room to think and form their own opinions.

So, ethically, I use "appropriate" and "inappropriate" because I think 
there *is* a contingent component to the statement. It's inappropriate 
to interrupt when we're talking (unless it's really important). It's 
inappropriate to hurt other creatures (unless it's mosquitoes, fire 
ants, fleas, or you're getting attacked by a bear). It's appropriate to 
stand up for yourself (but you don't really want to start a fight, so 
think before you act).

I think kids can tell when you're being disingenuous with them. They try 
so hard to understand and fit in, that they can sense hypocrisy a mile 
away. And sometimes, I'm tired, grumpy, impatient, and in one way or 
another I imply "this is the way it is because I said so and you must 

On balance, I think I give them the respect of revealing the nuances of 
a situation, showing them some of my thinking, admitting when I'm being 
inconsistent, and encouraging them to think for themselves.

I must say though, that our lives have been pretty simple up to now, 
with homeschooling, and few social contacts. After we move, we will 
probably send them to school, and the world will suddenly become 
complicated and more challenging for them (and for us).


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