When being ‘morally upright’ goes a bit too far

Edit: What specifically spurred this post was when Jack deleted a post from his own site. The post, made by me, referenced harassing text messages, but would have been entirely incoherent to anyone who had not sent such texts. That is, I made a comment on Jack’s blog where I responded to the specific subject of a post. However, within that comment, I made reference to the immorality of sending harassing text messages. I did not specify that it was Jack who had sent anything, nor did I reference my cousin. Jack immediately deleted the post. For further evidence, see here where Jack has deleted all my posts from the record. Specifically, Jack says to have deleted the entire post for language. However, he contradicts himself by admitting that when he comes across “foul” language, he only edits posts. That, in fact, is a policy of his. He had never deleted an entire post for containing curse words before that point; only when the post also contained a reference only he would understand if he had sent out texts did he start with the deletions.

Jack Hudson is a creationist and frequent poster here. He’s actually even on my ‘friends’ list on Facebook (my requirements for ‘friendship’ basically being ‘any interaction on any level at some point in time’). Given that he has the conservative, creationist, Christian version of SIWOTI (unlike my version which is centered around things that are true), it’s understandable that he’s going to post from time to time on my links, status updates, etc. In fact, I frequently find my notifications up around the 40-50 mark each day, largely thanks to Jack and those who respond to him. And that’s all fine and dandy; it keeps me entertained.

But sometimes people will react with hostility. It isn’t unique to Facebook or people I know, of course, but it does happen on my profile. One person who did this was a cousin of mine whose hostility was given in a relatively unique way: rather than lash out or rant, he just went for the jugular. Even though the topic was health care or some such thing, he started making abortion jokes. They shouldn’t really bother any rational person who has ever worked with any cells of any kind since there’s no ‘spiritual’ difference between, say, E. coli, and a human embryo (with “spiritual” being meant largely in the Carl Sagan sense, i.e., ‘important philosophical difference’). But the entire point of using those jokes was to bother someone – a conservative Christian. My cousin didn’t want to engage the particular views being offered since there wasn’t much point in arguing, so he just sought to anger. And believe me, the plan worked.

But it worked too well. Instead of the issue ending on Facebook, it spread further; my cousin has his personal phone number listed on his page, which itself is not private. Over Easter dinner he told me of recent messages he had been getting from several different phone numbers. They read something like “How can you make jokes about abortion like that?”. At no point did the person identify himself, but the blatant references to what happened on my private Facebook profile makes it all too obvious.

Now to be sure, my cousin actually has no idea I’m typing this. And, in fact, he expressed no particular concern over the issue. It’s sort of funny, sort of pathetic, and if I actually thought Jack was dangerous and not just taking his notion of morality a bit too far, I might be more concerned myself. (In fact, I haven’t even defriended him.)

Instead, what does concern me is how this relates to what I’m always writing on FTSOS – religion and how it motivates. For those with children, imagine little Johnny sending hostile texts to a random person on the Internet. How would you react? Would it ever be okay for that to continue? I can vouch for the general sanity of my doctorate-pursing cousin, as it happens, but how much is that even worth on the Internet? Johnny would be told never do that again – right after he was grounded and had his phone and Internet taken away. And it wouldn’t be Johnny’s motivations that were of concern. No. It would be his actions. No matter how good he thought his reason, his actions were the problem. But that all changes when the autonomy of an adult (even if it isn’t the one I suspect) motivated by religion enters the picture. The whole What Would Jesus Do? jazz is what has caused my cousin to receive texts (from several different phones, no less) berating him for his jokes; that seems to have somehow made things okay. No longer are over-the-line-actions what matter; instead, (and because an adult is involved) it is the motivation that is important – because it’s religion.