The Pink Dress Analogy

Inspired by an exchange of comments with Gregory

A discussion, perhaps sparked initially by this comment by Gregory, developed between Gregory and me over apatheism, religious belief and freedom of conscience in a thread not intended for such discussions so I thought I’d start a separate thread. From some of Gregory’s remarks, I understood him to suggest I hadn’t made enough of an effort in understanding Christianity and if I were to make such an effort, I might begin to change my views. I seemed to be having trouble conveying my point to Gregory who was also taking offence and claiming I was insulting him. As in many of my disagreements, online and face-to-face, my best lines pop into my head some time after a discussion has ended. In mulling over the, in my view unfair, accusation that I was insulting him, an analogy that might have helped occurred to me. What if it were a pink dress?

What I was trying to explain to Gregory is that sometimes you just do not have a use for something, no matter how attractive, stylish, appealing it is to others. So, Gregory, I don’t need a pink dress. I would never wear a pink dress. I have no objection whatever to those who wish to get themselves a pink dress and wear it with pride. Pink just does not suit me.

Extending the analogy, I also object to the idea of a dress code. The wearers of pink dresses should be protected by law in going about their business pinkly clad. But they should not expect others who do not share their love of pink to join in. Pink dress wearers and non-pinks should be treated equally.

In the past, I’ve used an analogy with smoking, I realise now that was a bit pejorative in comparing religious belief to an addiction. I hope those of a religious persuasion will find this a better analogy. I am happy for anyone to follow their own conscience. I am utterly unable to see the attraction myself but I strongly support the right of those who do to be able to practice their religion of choice. I expect the reciprocal courtesy of not* being equally free to follow my own conscience.

However there are two issued (closely related) regarding religious freedom. Firstly, where religious groups have enough political influence for it to impinge on the freedom of others. Secondly, whether parents have an untrammelled right over how their children’s education treats religious belief. This is a hard conundrum for me and I’m not sure where legal lines should be drawn and safeguards introduced. Trying to indoctrinate my own child would be anathema to me but other parents appear to regard it as their mission. I’d be very interested to hear from others with a view on this and look forward to reading your comments.

ETA*

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82 thoughts on “The Pink Dress Analogy

  1. CharlieM,

    Charlie,

    I find this point of Hagglund’s to be rather senseless. If one is a secularist, what is the reason to care for others? Because, “its good”. Why is that good? Because, like you know, we should…

    If one were atheist, and yet care for others, so what? You are not doing it out of a sense of duty, you are doing it because, well, you just think you should. You have no idea why. Maybe your genes just make you. Maybe because you believe it will make your species live longer, and you want your species to live longer because, well, because that’s what selfish genes do. Its nonsensical.

    Yet, if someone believes that a God has given you the moral sense of right and wrong, that you can rightly consider that as an important trait, that should be cherished. Atheists have no such reason.

    So Hagglund has trapped himself. If he claims morality is something that is simply taught by parents, or society, well, so what? Maybe society is wrong. And what would society being “right” about morality even mean? That it is good, because, morality is good. Life is better if we are all moral. Then what is the motivation-to make life better? How is that any less selfish than his claims of theist morality?

    Sorry Hagglund, but only theists, by virtue of faith, can say that morality is good because God teaches us so. Not a Priest, not a Rabbi, not your schoolteacher, its good because that is what we have learned through faith. If we are rewarded for that, even better. But the reason is not the reward, the reason is the belief.

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  2. Oh, they were atheists were they?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Nazi_Germany

    In 1933, 5 years prior to the annexation of Austria into Germany, the population of Germany was approximately 67% Protestant and 33% Catholic

    No. So I’m not sure what your point is.

    My point, as evidently I have to spell it out, is that all theists justify their beliefs, or atrocities, using the same ideas you just espoused. I don’t see any atheists doing that. Nor do I see any atheists wiping out other groups based on their non-atheist beliefs. I only see theists doing that.

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  3. phoodoo:
    OMagain,


    and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith.

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  4. phoodoo: only theists, by virtue of faith, can say that morality is good because God teaches us so.

    That might be more convincing if there were just one version of God and one set of moral rules.

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  5. Alan Fox,

    Why? Why should anyone assume that people who do wrong, but claim they are doing it for a God aren’t simply ignoring what they know is wrong?

    Furthermore, there is no reason to assume that all morals must be the same for everyone. If one is doing what they believe is moral, maybe that is what is right.

    Either way, we can rule out the atheist somehow having a moral imperative over the theist. That simply makes no sense.

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  6. Alan Fox,

    I would never be willing to concede that the violent religious extremist doesn’t know they are wrong. People can know they are wrong and not care.

    Perhaps the challenge for everyone in life is simply to be given what they know is right, and then seeing if they can follow that.

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  7. phoodoo: I would never be willing to concede that the violent religious extremist doesn’t know they are wrong. People can know they are wrong and not care.

    À légal framework that is effectively and fairly enforced deals with that.

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  8. phoodoo: Perhaps the challenge for everyone in life is simply to be given what they know is right, and then seeing if they can follow that.

    Live alone on a desert island you have no need for rules. Social living needs rules and consensus is generally how such rules have developed.

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  9. Alan Fox: Live alone on a desert island you have no need for rules. Social living needs rules and consensus is generally how such rules have developed.

    That is totally irrelevant to the discussion of morality. Order is not morality, its convenience.

    I do like Hagglunds take on capitalism though. He sees it as hinging on exploiting man’s freedom of time, which in a better society would prioritize time as the primary gift to be treasured for all individuals.

    Its kind of a perverse thing, that the only creature on the planet who does not enjoy the freedom of their existence is man. We have built a society that says, your time must be given, almost completely, to the desire of the society. I think this is sinful. I think there are some less developed societies that don’t operate this way, and perhaps also a few, more developed ones, (Hello Northern Europe), that try, but as a whole, capitalist development has not been a wholly positive outcome. I certainly agree with this part of Hagglund’s writing.

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  10. phoodoo,

    “Hägglund adopts these categories: the realm of necessity involves socially necessary labor and the realm of freedom involves socially available free time. Rationally, Hägglund says, we should strive to reduce the realm of necessity and increase the realm of freedom. But capitalism is systemically committed to exploiting most of us, and to steadily increasing the amount of labor at the expense of our freedom. Capitalism treats the means of economic life, labor, as though it were the purpose of life. But, if we are to cherish this life, we have to treat what we do as an end in itself. “The real measure of value,” Hägglund says, “is not how much work we have done or have to do (quantity of labor time) but how much disposable time we have to pursue and explore what matters to us (quality of free time).””

    From May 20,2019 issue of The New Yorker article “If God Is Dead,Your Time Is Everything” excepts from “This Life”

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  11. phoodoo: I would never be willing to concede that the violent religious extremist doesn’t know they are wrong.

    And there it is, the ultimate cop out.

    No true theist would…… etc etc.

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  12. Free time is a bit like drugs. Seems like fun at first.

    The concept would work better if it were rephrased to advise people to try to find occupations where they do things they enjoy.

    This is not exactly a new idea. Utopians have always discussed it. Skinner envisioned a world in which necessary labor was auctioned. Unpopular tasks paid more than popular tasks. Cleaning toilets more than puttering in the garden.

    In the real world, labor seems to be worth whatever you can get for it, and employers raise wages until they get applicants. The alternative view is they lower wages until no one is willing to apply.

    I never figured out how utopians would deal with rising productivity resulting from invention and mechanization.

    The wonderful book, Factfulness, deals with economics in a rather novel way. It is optimistic without ignoring the problems created by industrialization. The author doesn’t prescribe solutions. He merely reports trends. My reading is there is no point on the scale of income at which people are satisfied and become unwilling to work for more. That’s my reading, not what the author says.

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  13. petrushka,

    I would suggest that the 40 hour work week is a totally arbitrary number, that does not take humans actual needs and desires realistically into account. I think most people could probably work 5-6 hours every day, giving close to a maximum of concentration and desire. I believe at 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, over an extended period of times, individuals will mostly just try to burn three or four of those hours off everyday, because it becomes a situation where a menial task is the thing they are doing most every day, more than anything else in their life.

    I think companies would work better if they rotated staff to different jobs throughout the day more, and kept task in smaller blocks of time. You could probably get almost as much done every week at a company with employees only working 25-30 hours per week, they would be more focused and more happy. I think tests have shown this to be true.

    Modern capitalism however, does care too much about long term, productivity and happiness goals of employees. Work them to death, then get more is the short term, stock price goal.

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  14. phoodoo: I think tests have shown this to be true.

    Do you have a link to those tests, please? I’m not sure where I stand on this one, but it sounds like an interesting proposition

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  15. phoodoo:
    CharlieM,

    Charlie,

    I find this point of Hagglund’s to be rather senseless.If one is a secularist, what is the reason to care for others?Because, “its good”.Why is that good?Because, like you know, we should…

    If one were atheist, and yet care for others, so what?You are not doing it out of a sense of duty, you are doing it because, well, you just think you should.You have no idea why.Maybe your genes just make you.Maybe because you believe it will make your species live longer, and you want your species to live longer because, well, because that’s what selfish genes do.Its nonsensical.

    Yet, if someone believes that a God has given you the moral sense of right and wrong, that you can rightly consider that as an important trait, that should be cherished.Atheists have no such reason.

    So Hagglund has trapped himself.If he claims morality is something that is simply taught by parents, or society, well, so what?Maybe society is wrong.And what would society being “right” about morality even mean?That it is good, because, morality is good.Life is better if we are all moral.Then what is the motivation-to make life better?How is that any less selfish than his claims of theist morality?

    Sorry Hagglund, but only theists, by virtue of faith, can say that morality is good because God teaches us so.Not a Priest, not a Rabbi, not your schoolteacher, its good because that is what we have learned through faith.If we are rewarded for that, even better.But the reason is not the reward, the reason is the belief.

    I think you’d be interested in what Arthur Zajonc says in the video I linked to in the “consciousness-cannot-have-evolved” thread. He talks about where he believes mind and morality meet. Knowledge becomes love and that is where it becomes empathetic and moral. Of course Christ advocated love.

    He speaks about the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Genetics and Eugenics which was the forerunner of the Max Planck Institute where he worked for a time. Many Nazi atrocities were carried out in the name of science at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute.

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  16. Kantian Naturalist: I would combine that with Hagglund’s distinction between “religious faith” and “secular faith”.

    Thanks to CharlieM picking up on Hägglund’s book This Life, I’ve checked it out and it looks like a good read. Thanks, KN!

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  17. phoodoo: Its kind of a perverse thing, that the only creature on the planet who does not enjoy the freedom of their existence is man.

    Is that true? How do we know what other creatures enjoy? Do humans not enjoy the freedom of their existence? None of us?

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  18. One obvious fact can’t be avoided in the pink dress analogy no matter what the arguments are: It had have had a designer…

    No matter how much you don’t want it. No matter how much you don’t need it. No matter how much it doesn’t suit you…
    Simple dress need a designer… It’s so simple that I could make it but random processes can’t…no mater how many billions of years you wait…
    What about life? It’s inexcusable…

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  19. J-Mac: It’s so simple that I could make it

    Doubt it. You have not done anything you have claimed you can do so why should this be any different.

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  20. OMagain: Doubt it. You have not done anything you have claimed you can do so why should this be any different.

    Actually, you are wrong…
    At one point my mom, and my extended family, were in tailoring business…I was always helping out…
    While I can’t remember ever making a dress, I made many coats of different sorts…
    Thanks to this skill, I was able to survive in many different countries all over the world, with minimum, or almost no ability initially to speak the local language…

    Looking at the dress Alan doesn’t want to wear, it looks much simpler to make than say…a winter coat, or a leather jacket…
    I never really liked the tailoring business that’s why I chose science…

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  21. J-Mac:
    I never really liked the tailoring business that’s why I chose science…

    Muahahahahahahaaaaaaaaa! Right. “Science.”

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