Monday, February 9, 2009

A clash of values - doing business with a Christian

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In this blog I take the opportunity to cast dispersions on religion. Religion is of course the dominant value system in the Western world, and for that reason it goes unchallenged because its considered impractical to challenge it. This article will no doubt have negative implications for my future career. Why? Because contrary to Christian philosophy – they all judge – as they were supposed to. The problem is their judgement is motivated by fear and evasion rather than a respect for facts. The following is a recount of a dialogue with a Christian on an online trading site.

The counterparty in this dialogue has been concealed because its purely for educational purposes.

Communication before the auction

Hi Joe, I am living in XXXXX. It would be inconvenient to go to the South Island to get it, unless I organised a canoe trip to there in future. Might you have reason to meet half way in Wellington? I was the one who asked if you wanted to relist. I know the product, so if the condition is good, I can buy. I have a Tahiti already overseas. Might also be interested in the Tahiti as well for GF. posted by: shouganai 2:11 pm, Tue 30 Dec

Hi, we will be going to Wellington some time the end of March if this suits you. 9:09 am, Fri 2 Jan

After the auction

Hi Joe, I bought your canoe online. As per my posting below, I am a firm buyer, though I have a problem with a bank deposit payment because you could leave the country. Will you accept Paypal, credit card, cash on delivery (Wellington) as previously indicated? Sorry to ask this after purchasing one item, but TradeMe gives me no option to contact you. This method of purchase is more secure because if the canoe goes astray I can do a charge-back for non-performance. You don't have a credit history on TradeMe as a seller either. If you have other items like life jackets, oars, helmets I would be interested in those as well, subject to quality and price issues. Let me know, and I'll accept your offer at $210 on the Tahiti canoe as well. Thanks, Andrew

Thanks for getting back to me, I understand your concern about payment and oddly enough the reason we will be in Wellington the end of March is we are heading overseas, So now I've told you when I'm going to leave the country you don't need to worry. But our kids want to go to Wellington before we leave for a weekend, this will more than likely be Feb sometime does this still suit you? and cash on delivery will have to be fine. I'll keep you updated on our plans. Also I'm a Christian and stealing is not my thing :)

Hi Joe, Feb is even better, so that's no problem. I'm an atheist, but stealing is not my thing either. And I would caution you that there are Christians that do steal. Mostly it just comes down to a capacity to rationalise and opportunity. :) Regards, Andrew

A month passed until I initiated the next communication

Hi Joe, Are you still retaining the Bali canoe? And do you still envisage going to Wellington in Feb? Thanks, Andrew

No reply for 3 days

Hi Joe, You don't seem to be responding to my emails. I bought a canoe from you. Are you honouring our agreement? You even said you were a Christian. I'm interested to know what that means to you? Does it mean you are 'only human'? I would hope that means I should look up rather than down upon you. I hope I am wrong about you. Maybe you are rationalising that I can get one elsewhere. Yeh, but now I am left unprepared for an upcoming trip. Nice to receive an apology if you sold it elsewhere. It would be nice to get a reply so I know if you are overseas, out canoeing, or just repressing your guilt. I'm going with repression, it’s very popular these days. Regards, Andrew

Andrew. Firstly- Get over the attitude. Secondly- We are not sat by the computer waiting for your emails. (It was Waitangi weekend we was busy, However none of your business). Yes we still have the canoe but have not yet sorted out our plans to wellington. However after your outburst and total lack of trust maybe the deal is not such a good idea. Remember we were trying to help you out by meeting in Wellington. Apology.... no I don't think so we never agreed on any set day. I am sorry that everyone in your eyes is trying to rip you off, we have bought and sold many items and not come across this before (the double canoe was paid for immediately and they collected it from the Picton ferry terminal. They were happy and posted that on Trade Me.)

Regards Joe

Hi Joe, There is no need to be defensive....I was merely entertaining the possibility that agreements mean nothing to some people, and you might be one of them. My attitude is an extension of your comment upon purchase where you implied that you are a Christian, so therefore I am safe. Christianity is often used as an ethical device by others looking to gain others confidence. I was suspicious from that conversation. Yeh, I've dealt with a lot of Christians. I did consider the possibility that you might have been on holidays, and I concede that I could have waited longer than 3 days. A friend is asking me to travel so that created some urgency, and I wanted to canoe.
Actually I don't think having a holiday on Waitangi constitutes an issue of privacy, but clearly you don't like your honesty being questioned by people who have never met you. The distrust is because I have never met you and your lack of reply, and the Christian declaration. Probably best left unsaid - as it sounded so morality superior (arrogant). The fact that you were on holiday is pertinent because it’s a reasonable explanation for not replying. I should have waited longer before answering.

I actually didn't perceive the delivery to Wellington as helping me out, because you are not going out of your way. As I understood it, your kids wanted to go there, so easy to bring it along. So I perceived it as a counter-party trying to sell their product, and doing whatever it takes to do it. I suggest if there was any significant Christian charity (which you never see :) ) then you would be making such a sacrifice. i.e. In fact to be a very good Christian, you should be coming to Wanganui. But actually, I have too much regard for others to ask that, and too little belief that Christians actually believe in self-sacrifice. Anyway, everyone has their spin on Christianity. The story has changed so much in 2000 years, so it’s now more selfish, e.g. Charity begins in the home.

Correct, you don't owe me an apology. I merely canvassed the possibility that you might, and was trying to solicit a response rather than an evasion (i.e. The possibility of no reply) that gave me no idea where I stand.

I don't have a fear that everyone is going to rip me off, but I know there are dishonourable people in the world. That is reality. And there are more of them doing deals on the internet where they can stay anonymous. The fact that you are going overseas is also reason for distrust. Like I said, I was open to the possibility that you might have bad character. I don't think you should give so much weight to what strangers think of you. In fact you might show more empathy for their vulnerability. After all it’s possible I will be at risk, whereas you might have happily sold the canoe to a neighbour.
For what it’s worth I am pleased you think values are important. A lot of people don't. But clearly if you are acting on the premise that you are doing me a favour, then you are mistaken, and PERHAPS being dishonest with yourself. That's common too. Why? Because you are professing to be morally superior when you are not. Not that I consider charity as moral. I actually regard selfishness as virtuous, but not the flawed Christian conception. My guess is you didn't see that response coming. Regards, Andrew

Mr. Sheldon, You are making this very personal and your personal opinion is not something that I am at all interested in. You really need to get over the whole Christian thing. We are selling a Canoe that is all! YOU were the one that said it would be hard to get to the South Island so please a one line response will be more than enough. Do you still want the Canoe...YES or NO? If not that is fine. However If you do, unless you are prepared to pick it up here you will have to wait until we get to Wellington and that will likely be mid March. I would like to remind you that in the advert on Trade-Me we ONLY offered delivery to the South Island. Regards, Joe

Hi Joe, Everything is personal, that's what makes values worth pursuing. I didn't need to know your religion. You volunteered that info, I just made a value judgement based on the limited knowledge I had..hoping for a reply; to which you got defensive...but enough philosophy.

Back to the canoe. You offered to deliver the canoe to Wellington - in the ASK QUESTIONS section. But it’s ok, I might be able to relieve you of that burden. I might actually have reason to go to the South Island to meet a friend, though it’s not certain I will, or that I will take the car. I'm currently waiting for him to come back to me. Regards, Andrew

Andrew, we have just got advice from the team at trade me as the deal between us is not working. They not only told me to put what has happened in your feedback but also have stated that payment has to be received within a week of the auction closing, this is not open to discussion afterwards. As there has not been any payment within a week of the online auction, the auction has been broken. Before you start to jump up and down stating I could run off with the money, I would just like to point out a couple bought the double canoe, they paid for it by the Friday and they had it by the Sunday, they kept to all the online auction code of conduct and so did I and if you want you can read that in their feedback. Didn't have any personal insults from them. Maybe you should look in the mirror and ask why this auction between us didn't work but the auction between myself and the other couple (who I didn't know) worked. Interesting under the code of conduct all buyers and sellers are expected: "Conduct themselves honestly and in good faith at all times" I have been honest and interestingly the word "faith" I thought I would look that up in the New Zealand dictionary- 1 strong belief; trust. 2 a system of religious belief. Did you have any trust from the beginning? N.Z is a Christian country, so I didn't feel I was out of order to state I'm a Christian. If a Bible ever does falls on your doorstep look up 2Timothy 3:1-7, see I'm not sure why but this scripture keeps coming into my head when I read your Emails (maybe it’s the part that talks about being self-assuming, haughty, headstrong ect.), receiving Emails from you strengthens our faith in the Bible, so Thank you for that.

By the way as for philosophy you may want to remember that one man's philosophy is to another verbal diarrhoea. Please don't even bother to reply with a thesis on your own personal view points that we have absolutely no interest in,you can't seem to get it we were selling a canoe nothing more. I'll save you the time and block you out of my Email address. Joe.

Hi Joe, I don't care if you read this or not, it’s all content for my blog on religion, so the reply to you is incidental. The primary goal is research for my blog. In response to all your points:

1. True to my early points, you are taking the high (self-righteous) moral ground and contacted TradeMe. So what? No doubt you gave them your biased perspective. The context which you will be missing is that prior to the auction you offered to deliver to Wellington (saving me a $350-450 ferry trip). You agreed to deliver the canoe to Wellington, and it was cash on delivery. The point being that I did not re-negotiate the delivery terms after, it was in the questions.

2. I had a legitimate reason not to pay because you mentioned that you were going overseas. You say that the other canoe was sold without incident. Likely they were going to the South Island anyway, or had it delivered, and they wanted it within one week. You probably didn't tell them you were Christian, or maybe they were as well. Maybe they know less about human nature because you are behaving as a Christian would behave. i.e. rationalisation, evasion.

3. You said that you have been honest and forthright from the start, but actually I have found you to engage in gross rationalisations.

4. It was I that contacted you wondering whether the sale was going to proceed. I conceded that I could have waited more than 3 days before casting dispersions on your character. I actually agree I have a low opinion of Christian values for the reasons highlighted by this conversation.

5. Where is the evidence that I have not acted dishonestly, or in bad faith?

6. Well I don't read the Bible because it’s all dogmatic assertion divorced from the real world, but I will indulge you. Am I self-assuming, haughty, headstrong ect? Yep, all true, and you are insecure, evasive and repressed, which is not a combination that is going to get along. I have (honestly) conceded that I should have waited a few more days before sending my follow-up email. Three days was not enough.

7. The prospect that my emails strengthened your faith in the Bible is contradiction. Faith is unconditional, so my actions should have no impact. But there you go, the Bible has contradictions, so why should I expect any less from you.

8. Actually NZ is not a Christian country, it is just a country dominated by Christians. Let me go further. Politically there is a separation of religion and the head of state. If you want a religious country, you will find more luck in Iran, where there is a religious head of state. Secondly, the other aspect of NZ, the market economy is based on the premise of self-interest, which is contrary to the philosophy of selflessness which you espouse. You trade value for value, not selfless act for selfless act. For example, I don't surrender my money for more than I judged the value of your product, and you did not deliver to my city because it’s too far away. We reached an agreement half way in between at your convenience and mine.

9. In conclusion, this online sale failed because I sometimes choose not to grant people contractions. Sometimes for practical reasons I don't feel inclined to correct people. Usually Christians are more gracious than you, since I often debate them when they come to my door. The fact that I did not validate your repressed, conflicted ego made you upset and emotional. It’s to be expected. Did I expect you to change your values. No. This is merely an educational tool for those who want to understand the true nature of religion. Thanks for the example of your values.

10. You should consider this as you 10 Commandments if you want to be a better person. Of course I don't expect it.

I dare say that people will think me as much a 'religious' zeolot as Joe. True enough. I think values are important, and I want to bring to the forefront of people's minds the importance of effective thinking, and warn people as to the dangers of religion. The intent is not to persecute Joe. No force has been applied to Joe. When he stops being self-righteous the discussion will be over, and I will shift to another issue. The good news is - I don't go knocking of doors :) But as you can guess, I am always willing to open them. Always disappointed. I have lengthy conversations, but it always ends in empty assertions and quotes from the Bible. The contradictions I identify, they cannot answer. See other blog posts.

In defence of Joe, I don't think he is a person with bad intent. Why? Because he is proud. Its actually a good value if not rationalised. I just think he has a flawed value system which is embraced by too many people. Its great that he believes in something, but I want to convey that his dogmatic ideas are a threat to civil society because they are motivated by fear. His rationalisations meant I did not get the canoe I contracted to buy. This is the type of rationalisation that turned a previously 'civil' society like downtown LA into a looting tribe, as we saw with the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in the 1990s.

THE END. P.S. Unless Joe is like me and likes the final word.

Is Christianity the root of all evil? No, but its close. The root is man's failure to live in accordance with his nature - He needs to think rather than evade that responsibility. To focus rather than repress. There is too much of the latter, whether motivated by religion or collectivism.

Andrew Sheldon
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Attention all atheists!!
In fact anyone who has had an interesting encounter with a Christian which involved manipulation, deception or blatant rationalisation. This is research or material for a forthcoming book. I am not suggesting that all Christians are criminals, dangerous or threats to society, but I am suggesting that Christianity is a basis for moral inefficacy. There is a reason why Christian nations are always at war. There is a reason why former Christians (or children of Christians) have a tendency to drift into cults and extreme religious groups. Thank you for any life experiences you can recall. ----------------------------------------------- Andrew Sheldon