Saturday, August 14, 2010

Consenting Adults Might Lead to Adult-On-Child?

Atheist Ethicist took a look at the Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life, and wrote in this entry about Proposition 5, which says “We assert that private conduct, which respects the rights of others should not be the subject of legal sanction or government concern.”

What if legalized incest and having open and casual acceptance of incestuous couples makes it psychologically easier - and thus more common - for adult parents or step-parents to pressure their children or step-children into having sex?

That question can be applied to every other behavior: eating fattening food, drinking, smoking, gambling, driving. It is up to parents to be good parents to their minor children. It is up to the authorities to step in if parents become neglectful or abusive.

A substantial portion of incestuous relationships are abusive. In order to prevent abusive incest, one of our best tools may well be to have a society that condemns incest generally, without exceptions.

A “substantial portion” is a guess, and doesn’t even assert a majority. A substantial portion of drinkers abuse alcohol. A substantial portion of parenting is abuse. Let’s ban drinking and parenting. Banning the former could make it easier or more difficult to ban the latter, depending!

I am not saying that it is the case that these private actions have these social costs. What I am saying is that the question of whether the sentiments associated with private actions has social costs is a relevant question to ask and answer. If the effect of having gladiatorial fight-to-the-death entertainment is that we make it easier for some people to commit murder, these facts matter. These facts may well give people many and strong reason to condemn violence until death even among consenting adults in private.

Isn’t this like saying that allowing gay sex makes it more likely that a man will rape a boy?

So, in summary, private conduct that respects the rights of others may still be the legitimate subject of legal sanction or government concern when the attitudes behind that conduct risks dire social consequences. However, this does not change the fact that it is a too common and contemptible practice among many who are religious to invent or exaggerate social costs in order to "justify" their call for state violence to be used to impose ancient bigotries and prejudices on others.

Whether someone’s motivations are religious or not, those who try to prevent marriage equality are unfairly trying to impose their views on others. Some adults are going to abuse children, regardless of law. We should not use abusive people as an excuse to persecute loving relationships between consenting adults.
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