In divided roles

Matthew, whom we know as a member of the  St. Hypotheticus drinking and nerdery club, is talking with a college friend.

Simplicio: So Matt, when are you coming out atheist?
Matthew:  Huh?
Simplicio: Come on, you don’t really believe in talking snakes.
Matthew: Look, I’m Catholic. Catholics think this a little more complicated than you seem to imagine. If you actually want to debate talking snakes, I think Joe goes to Bill and Ted’s excellent bible shack.
Simplicio: Yeah, whatever, you don’t believe in heaven either.
Matthew: That’s news to me.
Simplicio: You just need to come out to yourself, deep down you know it’s a myth!
Matthew: Excuse me, but I think when it comes to what I know, my introspection carries a tad bit more authority than your wishful thinking.
Simplicio: It’s called belief in belief. You don’t really believe in heaven, just that you do believe in heaven. But you’re mistaken, you don’t actually believe it.
Matthew: And of course if I deny that, you’ll count it as evidence of my belief in belief. Well, I can’t prove I’m not a witch, and I don’t think I should have to.
Simplicio: Ah, but in this case I can prove you’re a witch.
Matthew: Enlighten me o wise one.
Simplicio: You claim to believe people who die free from sin go directly to  heaven right?
Matthew: Right.
Simplicio: And you think baptism extinguishes all sins?
Matthew: Yup.
Simplicio: So do you support drowning children in the baptismal pool?
Matthew: No.
Simplicio: See, but if you actually believed it was sending them directly to heaven, why wouldn’t you support it?
Matthew: Yeah, how obvious. You caught me, my faith is a sham.
Simplicio: You’re only getting sarcastic because you can’t answer the question.
Matthew: Oh sorry, I had thought it rhetorical. Well, my answer is, I’m not a consequentialist, so that just doesn’t follow.
Simplicio: Ah, fine, but suppose someone else drowned the kid in the baptismal pool, would you feel happy for that  child?
Matthew: No.
Simplicio: There you have it.
Matthew:  So suppose the child was rich. Would you feel happy for the heirs?
Simplicio: Probably not. OK, so let’s take morals out of it completely. The child drowns in the baptismal pool by accident.  Will you be happy now?
Matthew: No.
Simplicio: Gotcha!
Matthew: Not really. Heaven is that child’s ultimate purpose, but not his only one. Many of his other purposes got frustrated.
Simplicio: Hey you sexist pig, I never said it’s a boy!
Matthew: Her purposes then. I need to use some pronoun.
Simplicio: You could use gender-neutral pronouns.
Matthew: Yes, if I was trying to signal green-haired socialist genderqueer collective individualism. I could also saw off my hand with a rusty knife.
Simplicio: A fight for another day. Anyway, that frustrated purposes stuff is just meaningless theobabble.
Matthew: I don’t think so. If I remember right, you think life is ultimately for happiness right? So why not drug the water supply? That would make loads of people happy.
Simplicio: They wouldn’t really be happy! It would be an illusion!
Matthew: So it’s a new drug that makes their brain look exactly like a genuinely happy brain.
Simplicio: Well actually it’s not just happiness I value. The way to happiness is important too.
Matthew: Exactly. And it’s not just salvation I value. The way to salvation is important too.
Simplicio: But that’s different!
Matthew: How?
Simplicio: If the child grows up, xe may turn out evil and go to hell.
Matthew: So will you support drowning her?
Simplicio: No, but I don’t believe in an afterlife, so it’s not my problem.
Matthew: It is. What if she turns out evil and tortures a dozen people to death?
Simplicio: Then it’ll be the torturing that’s bad, not that xe lived.
Matthew: Likewise, it will be the damnation that’s bad, not the life.

[Update: This dialogue got continued a week later]

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7 Responses to In divided roles

  1. Nick says:

    I like your dialogues. You should do them more often.

  2. Pingback: A Catholic response to the “why don’t you consider dead kids lucky?” question

  3. Steven Carr says:

    Does the thought of going to Heaven make Christians happy?

    Or do they need to be given drugs to make them happy (as Matthew takes it for granted that Christians are not happy people without the aid of drugs)?

    • Gilbert says:

      Matthew doesn’t take any such thing for granted. He’s just noting the obvious fact that drugging the water supply would make lots of people happy. This doesn’t presume they were unhappy before, because happiness  is gradual thing rather than binary. Neither is the observation limited to  Christians, after all Christians, atheist, and anyone else drink from the same water supply.

      As to your question, yes the thought of Heaven is one factor that influences the happiness of Christians. Of course there are also lots of other factors.

      • Steven Carr says:

        ‘He’s just noting the obvious fact that drugging the water supply would make lots of people happy. This doesn’t presume they were unhappy before, because happiness is gradual thing rather than binary.’


        I take it then you will go back and change Matthew’s argument from ‘making people happy’ to ‘making people even happier than they already are’ – now that you have clarified what Matthew really meant, rather than what he actually said.

        • Gilbert says:

          I’m not sure if you’re trolling or unable or unwilling to understand ordinary language or maybe some combination of all three. Anyway I’m not interested in playing. Unless you also have substantive points you are invited not to return.

  4. Paul says:

    The trouble with Matthew’s answer to the drowning-child argument seems to be the infinities involved in the problem. Taking the child from a significant probability of infinite torment to guaranteed heaven beats out the other finite values/”purposes” his life involved, no?

    Also, the best response to unabashed, open use of straw men is “fuck you”, regardless of any historical-reference excuses. [I partially retract this in light of the sequel’s ending…]

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