Category Archives: ethics

Preventing a repeat

FT Magazine has as regular feature entitled “The Shrink & the Sage,” written by therapist Antonia Macaro and philosopher Julian Baggini. A recent topic for their column was, “Should we ‘get over it’?

Here are two excerpts.

reasons to choose differently next time

“A big part of getting over something is learning from past events so that we can act differently in the future.” — Antonia Macaro

The Prosecution looks to the future

“Think, for example, of the friends and relatives of people who have died due to the negligence of others. They may embark on tortuous legal processes, usually with the aim that no one else should have to go through what they did. Sometimes, it might be true that their persistence is indicative of a failure simply to accept that things happen. But often this is a principled move that has real benefits for others. The fact that life might have been easier for all concerned if they had tried to move on quicker is besides the point. Justice needs to be done, more to prevent future tragedies than to try to fix what can’t be mended.” — Julian Baggini

Are college students changing their minds about casual sex?

Author Donna Freitas recently wrote this shocking article in the Wall Street Journal; here’s an excerpt:

After conducting a national college survey of over 2,500 students, I found that among those who reported “hooking up” — a range of sexually intimate acts, from kissing to intercourse, that occur outside a committed relationship — at Catholic and nonreligious private and public colleges and universities, 41% are profoundly upset about their behavior. The 22% of respondents who chose to describe a hook-up experience (the question was optional) used words like “dirty,” “used,” “regretful,” “empty,” “miserable,” “disgusted,” “ashamed,” “duped” and “abused” in their answers. An additional 23% expressed ambivalence about hooking up, and the remaining 36% were more or less “fine” with it. And 45% of students at Catholic and 36% at nonreligious private and public schools say that their peers are too casual about sex. Not a single person at these schools said that their peers valued saving sex for marriage, and only 7% said that they felt that their friends wanted to reserve sex for committed, loving relationships.

When last semester I taught Wendy Shalit’s “A Return to Modesty,” in a class at Boston University called “Spirituality & Sexuality in American Youth Culture,” I assumed that my mostly left-leaning students would reject her arguments about the terrible effects that the hook-up culture has on young women and the positive effects of traditional religion and morality on young women’s well-being. Instead, my students ate up her critique and were fascinated by her descriptions of modesty as a virtue, especially within the context of faith. One student said that she felt empowered to stop tolerating vulgar remarks about sex made by peers in her presence.

The class was equally attracted to some evangelical dating manuals, like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Joshua Harris and “Real Sex” by Lauren Winner, that I asked them to read. They seemed shocked that somewhere in America there are entire communities of people their age who really do “save themselves” until marriage, who engage in old-fashioned dating with flowers and dinner and maybe a kiss goodnight. They reacted as if these authors describe a wonderful fantasy land. “It would be easier just to have sex with someone than ask them out on a real date,” one student said, half-seriously.

Interestingly, most of the study respondents do identify with religious traditions that have rules about sexuality. But, with the exception of evangelicals, American college students see almost no connection between their religious beliefs and their sexual behavior. This radical separation of religion and sex tells us important things not only about the power of the college hookup culture but also about the weakness of religious traditions in the face of it.

Donna Freitas is the author of Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses, new this month from Oxford University Press.

Related issues were briefly addressed in the LiturgicalCredo.com interview with Peter Augustine Lawler.

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NBC’s ‘Life’

Here’s what L.A. Times TV critic Mary McNamara said about NBC’s ‘Life’:

NBC’s new show about Charlie Crews, a cop sprung after 12 years in the pen for a frame job, is the best new show of the season. Balancing Zen and vengeful rage, Crews (Damian Lewis) is the most interesting quirky cop since Columbo.

I couldn’t say it better and briefer than McNamara, but I’ll add a layman’s evaluation of the religious and philosophical content of the show:

I’m drawn to this show because Damian Lewis does a thoroughly convincing job of portraying a peculiar character who (1) genuinely appreciates every little thing in life following his time in prison, and (2) seeks a religio-philosophical path to mitigate a barely visible but driving anger. As with the ambiguities of all personalities in a fallen world, Crews’ cassette recordings of Eastern spiritual-philosophical texts help him remain calm at times, and don’t make a difference at other times, when he comes close to losing his cool or leaves his partner at a crime scene to pursue answers to why he was unjustly imprisoned. This points to the value, and to the limits, of ethical philosophies and religions — they help control human nature, but they cannot transform human nature. So when a friend of mine said most evangelical Christians are functionally Buddhists — denying passions instead of allowing God to transform those passions, managing desires instead of learning how to relate to God and others in love — I thought he was onto something. Furthermore, in the ethical systems that have interested me, Stoicism and Confucionism, as well as in Buddism, there are purposeful guidelines and rich thinking, but never a Person who will love you.

Ratings haven’t been great for “Life,” but there’s good news.

“The action-fantasy ‘Chuck’ and the crime drama ‘Life’ have both received full-season orders, despite less-than-stellar ratings,” reported the Contra Costa Times.

Give the ratings a bump. Catch up at NBC.com/Life and then tune in when the holidays — and hopefully the writers’ strike — are over.

-Colin Foote Burch