Update: Jason Weeden gave an interesting interview discussing “ring-bearers” and “free-wheelers”.
I feel that a lot can be solved if people have the right attitude (meta-moral sense?). Trying to understand each other. Rather than having a foundational goal to draw a dividing line between oneself and others (it’s amazing how many actions can be traced back to that “tribal” motivation), seek to understand each other and both better your own life and other people’s. I think if you replace these foundational goals, the justification for certain actions melts away.
A lot of it comes back to what Karen Armstrong said about jihadists. If people feel their belief system, their values, their community is being threatened, they will go on the offensive. It’s human nature. Someone has to break the cycle, and try to understand the other side even as the other side is throwing words, or worse, sticks and stones, at you.
One place where this is especially true is in sexuality. On the one side are conservative people (sex after marriage, man and woman, etc.). On another are LGBTP people (P=poly), or people who promote a more open sexual culture (a la Stranger in a Strange Land). And there are people who participate in the “casual hookup culture.” Of course, there are many shades of gray in between.
So let’s look at the web of threats. LGBTP people are threatened by the conservative people—it’s hard to talk with someone who thinks it’s a moral sin (go to hell) for you to have the sexual identity that you have! Conservative people are threatened by the increasing number of people who participate in the “casual hookup culture.” It’s been flipped from 100 years ago, that believing in sex after marriage can actually make you part of the minority, and disparagingly called a “prude.” They feel threatened by sexual jokes that people make to them, and lewd behavior in public. (Brave New World shows this by taking it to the extreme: what if you are the ONLY person who believes in committed monogamy?) (And it’s complicated: people will claim they have the freedom to do what they want, which is true, but with freedom comes the responsibility to use the freedom wisely. Just because you can eat steak in front of a vegetarian, doesn’t mean you should.) The people who participate in casual hookup culture feel threatened by the conservatives: this is the kind of prudishness that they’re trying to escape. The conservatives feel threatened by the LGBTP people because they go against religious teachings. This last link is flawed though—if these conservative people remove their “tribal” motivation and allow their opinion to be changed, then it’s pretty clear that what they are rebelling against is the loss of family values—where freed from the Bible’s word, family should have a more abstract interpretation as a cohesive, symbiotic community unit—and then they should look for evidence for or against LGBTP relationships meeting that criteria (and the evidence is overwhelming for the fact that they can meet that criteria).
I think we need to draw the line between what a person believes in, and what’s universal. What’s universal here is wanting to be happy, have some kind of stability in life, having good relationships with other people, protecting from disease (which is actually very important here—and a fact that has been disguised. rather than standing on its own as a goal, it’s been cited as evidence of immorality of sex. The causality is screwed up here: immorality does not cause disease!). Trying to tack more than this starts to skew this universal picture towards one’s own view. There’s the kind of person who wants to follow the traditional path of marriage, and the kind who will have flings with a lot of people. (The problem with SiaSL is that it seemed to suggest that the second option is strictly better for every person, which is untrue.) Each person has their own personal truths, but some truths are better than others. The best that these different groups can do is not to impose their worldview on each other, but to explain to people what is it that their way of life offers, to try and talk to people about the link between the universal things that they want (see above) and the sexual life that they choose. Imagine them next to each other in an activities fair. The conservative group talks about how abstinence helps one develop a strong moral fiber in the sense of “delayed gratification” being a general helpful quality to nurture in one’s life, attach more weight and meaning to one’s actions, etc. (I personally believe in sex after marriage for myself, and these are the terms I think in, not religious commandments.) The liberal group talks about how sexuality can be an important part of your identity as a human being, how it can be a pleasurable and healthy part of your life, etc. And what I mean by “some truths are better than others,” is that anyone can declare that they’re doing is “right, you got a problem with that?” but if you haven’t thought through these issues, and you leave behind a trail of broken hearts and find your life empty, then chances are that you should have thought things over more. I find that often the most mature views on sexuality come from the LGBTP community, just because they have had to grapple with these issues while most other people just shove them under the rug (ex. poly people talk about things like jealousy and commitment because they have to, while mono people can often have trouble even starting the conversation on these topics).