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January 18, 2008

In bed with a living God or a dead Constitution
Posted by Avram Grumer at 11:16 PM * 545 comments

I see here that Huckabee wants to change the Constitution:

But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.

Wait, “the living god”? Wouldn’t that be some kinda wishy-washy progressive modernist God? I figured Huck for a strict constructionist God, an eye-for-an-eye guy who meant every word of Leviticus when he spake it. “Living God” implies some kind of dynamic, changing God, probably soft on crime, the kind of warm, fuzzy God from whom Words emanate with penumbrae.

And as Constitutions go, does Huck favor a sola scriptura approach, or is he more a sola verbum patrum advocate?

Comments on In bed with a living God or a dead Constitution:
#1 ::: lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2008, 11:37 PM:

Huckabee is one scary dude - even by the standards of the modern Republican party. Don't let the smiling face fool you ..

#2 ::: Rebecca Borgstrom ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2008, 11:42 PM:

In all pragmatic fairness to Huckabee, you pretty much *can't* get the 2/3 supermajority necessary to amend God in this bitterly partisan era.

#3 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:11 AM:

Yet the fact that he wants to repeal the First Amendment - which is what that proposal would amount to - makes him deeply unAmerican and the enemy of our way of life.

He and Osama bin Laden should make common cause.

#4 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:12 AM:

Xopher, #3: don't give them ideas.

#5 ::: Tazistan Jen ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:15 AM:

Anyone from a fundie background around tonight? I am guessing that "the living God" is one of those dog whistle terms the rest of us don't get.

#6 ::: Eileen Gunn ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:17 AM:

God's standards? Huckabee knows God's standards? Did he get them from Tom Cruise?

#7 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:35 AM:

The word "living" in Huckabee's speech isn't meant to imply a changing or in any way "modernist" God. He's using it as a code word to "True Christians" that he believes that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and nothing has changed a whit since then.

Slacktivist talks more about the same passage here.

Anyway, he's using a sort of Evangelical code to speak to the religious right and slip concepts past us ungodly progressive liberal etc., et ceteras.

#8 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:37 AM:

Tazistan Jen, in #5, the phrase "living God" shows up a few times in the Bible, but I've mostly just heard it from so-called "born again" Christians. I think there's some connotation there of having God as an active presence in their lives, as opposed to just some guy who died on a cross millennia ago.

If it's a dog whistle, it's a very low-pitched one. I mean, it's very clearly religious. It's not like talking about Dred Scott and meaning banning abortion.

#9 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:37 AM:

Tazistan Jen @ #5: Yep. And it's pretty simple. It's the god that Nietzsche's thoughts couldn't kill--the god who's set to smite all wrongdoers and sinners at a moment's notice. The god that all good Southern Baptists and other fundie Protestants believe in, or profess to.

@ #6: Of course he does. Being an ordained Southern Baptist minister gives him that knowledge, as well as the knowledge that Tom Cruise is simply another tragic victim of Satan­­®.

Xopher @ #3: I see you have him figured. In principle, they already have.

#10 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:38 AM:

Tazistan Jen @5: It's a reference to Jesus Christ the Resurrected, I'm reasonably certain. Beyond that, in my experience, it was mostly used to refer to God as directly relevant in our lives today -- the "living" is a reminder that it's not just about what happened to the Israelites thousands of years ago, but He is here now, today.

As such, it's an appropriate loaded usage for his point, and one that will resonate with his audience, but it's not (in my opinion) one that's speaking with a forked tongue the way some such code-phrases are.

#11 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:39 AM:

re: #9, I have no idea why Eileen Gunn's name didn't show up in bold.

#12 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:43 AM:

#3 Xopher: You might want to check out this site. I find it hard to believe that people actually believe in that sort of thing.

Of course, Huckabee really reminds me of the Constitution Party position on a lot of things. Despite their name, the last time I checked they wanted to abolish a significant chunk of the Constitution.

#13 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:49 AM:

Spherical Time in #7 -- If Huckabee is trying to slip religious concepts past us, he's not doing a very good job of it. I think I'm speaking for most secular liberals when I say that a phrase like "amend the Constitution so it’s in God's standards" gets our attention, perks our ears right the hell up.

Me, I'm just amused by the fact that the adjective "living" seems to imply diametrically opposite things when you apply it to "God" or "Constitution", and yet the various approaches people take towards interpreting the words of God and the Constitution seem to fall into the same patterns.

#14 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:53 AM:

Somehow the living god always brings to mind images of the selected one being treated as a god ... for a year and a day.

#15 ::: CosmicDog ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 01:08 AM:

Taziastan @ 5

"Living God" is a phrase from the Bible. It's found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Yahweh is called living God as opposed to the popular pagan practice of praying to images or idols.

Unfortunately for Huckabee, it's impossible to meet God's standard. The whole point of the Incarnation and Crucifixtion of Christ was to provide a way to bridge the gap between God and man.

I'm not sure what Huckabee intends to change, but he appears to have missed the most of what the Old Testament was about, which is, external 'religion' or state religion Does. Not. Work.

In the OT, you find a government, a nation (Israel), founded from the beginning on the Word of God spoken to Moses and continually spoken to the people through the prophets. And what is the common theme throughout the narrative? The people and even the kings turning away from God and embracing sin. The New Testament is about internal change, a decision to turn to God. This cannot be legislated. If the Ten Commandments didn't work for Israel, they won't work for the United States.

So yeah, I believe all this God stuff, it's what my life is about. Would I want to live in a society/culture that reflects (my understanding of) God's character, his 'standards'? Sure enough. Do I think that changing the law, reducing our freedom to choose, in an attempt to force conformity to some preferred behavior will accomplish that? By no means. If man is not free to reject God, he is not free to choose God, and this thing that folks, like Mike Huckabee and myself, call Salvation and Abundant Life would not be available to anyone.

#16 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 01:42 AM:

#13 Avram: Spherical Time in #7 -- If Huckabee is trying to slip religious concepts past us, he's not doing a very good job of it. I think I'm speaking for most secular liberals when I say that a phrase like "amend the Constitution so it’s in God's standards" gets our attention, perks our ears right the hell up.

It depends on what he intends to slip past you. I think that in this case "living God" was intended to be a Shibboleth, and your interpretation in the blog entry missed that.

He doesn't care if you know that he's out to be a theocrat. He knows you would have figured that out eventually. He does care that his core constituency of conservative Evangelicals knows that he's not just passing as a Christian. He's got their unwavering support now.

Me, I'm just amused by the fact that the adjective "living" seems to imply diametrically opposite things when you apply it to "God" or "Constitution", and yet the various approaches people take towards interpreting the words of God and the Constitution seem to fall into the same patterns.

You're certainly right about that. That's one of the reasons that I'm such a huge Slactivist/Fred Clark fan.

#17 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 01:44 AM:

tristero at Digby's place has some background about Huckabee's ties to the far right Christian movement. I can't read the comments to see if anyone tried to refute it, since my browser is having one of its "I hate Haloscan" moments.

#18 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 01:58 AM:

Spherical Time #16: I think that in this case "living God" was intended to be a Shibboleth, and your interpretation in the blog entry missed that.

I think you may have missed a thing or two yourself.

#19 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 01:59 AM:

One of the things that drives me crazy in discussing this sort of fundamentalist horseshit is that my first reaction is always "Oh, God," but I don't want to drag Her into the conversation. She might start smiting people, and who knows where that would lead.

#20 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 02:37 AM:

Madeleine @ #19: I won't let my GOD smite you, if you won't let your GOD smite me.

#21 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 02:45 AM:

#18 Avram: I think you may have missed a thing or two yourself.

Quite possible. However, if you keep that sort of thing to yourself, I'll never learn my place. Show me, master, what it is that I, in my pitiful understanding, have failed to comprehend.

/supposed to be funny, but tone doesn't translate well over the internet, eh?

#22 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 02:50 AM:

I'm not sure just what God's standards are, but I can imagine her singing "My Favorite Things." Or maybe he sings "What a Wonderful World."

#23 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 03:24 AM:

I second Spherical Time's recommendation to read the post and comment thread at Slacktivist. Avram, you didn't copy Hucakbee's whole passage: at the end of that passage, Huckabee talks about respecting life and the definition of marriage. He wants abortion and man/woman only marriage amendments.

#24 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 04:55 AM:

TomB @22: Somehow, these days, I think God's singing "I Don't Want To Work (I Just Want To Bang On The Drums All Day". (Of course, if you ask Huck and The Gang, they'd probably say the song is "You Can't Get What You Want ('Til You Know What You Want)" )

#26 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 07:21 AM:

Unenlightened Aussie here, but is the process for altering the US constitution anything like the one for altering ours? Over here, if the constitution is going to be altered, there has to be a referendum on the subject, which has to firstly get a positive answer from at least 50% +1 vote worth of the Australian population, and secondly has to have a 50% +1 vote majority in half of the states (so that the people in NSW and Victoria aren't making decisions for the rest of us). Since Federation, there's been about 40 referenda here (the most recent being an attempt to make Australia a republic which was rigged from the very start) and only 8 of those have succeeded. The Australian population tends to be reasonably conservative about these sorts of things: if it ain't broke, don't try to be fixing it.

#27 ::: Nomie ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 07:53 AM:

I'm not fond of any of the Republican candidates for various reasons, but Huckabee is the only one who scares me at a gut level.

#28 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 08:27 AM:

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." - Hebrews 10:31. I seem to remember the scary dude in Manhunter intoning this at one point.

I don't think "living God" is fundie-specific. I was raised Catholic and heard it all the time. Religious folks often speak of God with biblical adjectives attached in order to emphasise his power, coolness, glory, etc. (And I guess that should say "His") power, etc.) It's fairly common, in religious circles to hear phrases like "the Resurrected Christ" tossed around where a less-enraptured person would say "Jesus."

To me, this is no more of a shibboleth than a Frenchman saying "Bonjour" in a speech would be. Huckabee's speaking the only language he knows, and there's nothing sneaky or clever about it. I agree with Xopher @#3, he's coming right out and advocating destroying our constitution and our way of life (because it's "easier!" As if governance should be about what's easy). Screw him and his Christian-Sharia crap.

#29 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 08:43 AM:

The Living God sounds like the title of a story of Conan the Barbarian. By Crom!

#30 ::: Nathan ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 08:44 AM:

Meg Thornton @ 26
Its really quite difficult to
amend
the Constitution. Note from the linked article:

It is interesting to note that at no point does the President have a role in the formal amendment process (though he would be free to make his opinion known). He cannot veto an amendment proposal, nor a ratification. This point is clear in Article 5, and was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v Virginia (3 USC 378 [1798]):

I love the fact that Huckabee is being so upfront about all of this. When a really dangerous guy is running for President, isn't it refreshing that he doesn't try to be subtle about it?

#31 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 09:01 AM:

Let's not go into the Constitutional Convention question. I have a friend that wants another one. My problem is that I don't think you'd be able to duplicate the quality of the members of the first one...

#32 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 09:06 AM:

Come on, people. If you trace all the way back to where this came from-- and with the daisy chain of sound-biting, it takes a bit of an effort to find that, and I still haven't seen the whole context in which the comment was made-- you'll find out that this is "only" an expression of a desire to get a ban on abortion and on gay marriage into the constitution. I put "only" in quotes because I understand those are hot-button issues for a lot of people here, but the notion that this represents a desire to establish some sort of theocracy is commentator spin and liberal alarmism, pure and simple.

As far as what God is singing, the "living God" phrase is precisely directed against the kind of deist god who doesn't make moral judgments against the inhabitants of the earth. Like or loathe it, but that's what it means.

I'm invested in the wrong place on the political spectrum for any of this to work on me, but what I find most striking is the stark difference in the emotionalism being used by and against the different factions. The attacks on the Democratic candidates generally try to cast them as bad people, but the attacks on the Republican candidates generally cast them as crazy people.

#33 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 09:25 AM:

CW, #32: there you go again. What a load of hooey! Writing religious law into the constitution is theocratic in itself. But it turns out that Huckabee has Christian Reconstructionist ties, so there's no need to speculate; he's connected with theocrats, though he may just be opportunistic himself.

#34 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 09:28 AM:

Got myself a dying, talking, smiting, walking
LIVING GOD!
Got to do my best to please him, just cos he's, um, a
LIVING GOD.
I'm a sinning guy and that is why he sanctifies my soul!
Got the one and only walking talking
LIVING GOD!

Take a look at those nails: just feel!
If you don't believe God's truth: it's real!
And the Constitution's just words, maybe you haven't heard,
Fall into his hands, you'll see...

Got myself a dying, talking, smiting, walking,
LIVING GOD.
Got to do my best to please him, just cos he's, um, a
LIVING GOD.
I'm a sinning guy, and that is why he sanctifies my soul!
Sign up here to worship every day, my
LIVING GOD!

The terrible thing about this is that it would actually work fine as one of those ghastly modern hymns.

#35 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 09:28 AM:

but the notion that this represents a desire to establish some sort of theocracy is commentator spin and liberal alarmism, pure and simple.

theocracy (dictionary.com): a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, the God's or deity's laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities.

So you're saying that basing the constitution on the tenets of one particular sect is not in any sense theocratic? That a ban on gay marriage, for instance, is not based on one particular interpretation of one particular sect of one particular religion's view of the Word of God?

I agree with you that this is not insanity in the DSM IV sense, but it is deeply offensive to me and a lot of other people, and shows a disregard for the rights and welfare of others that borders on sociopathic. But ignoring the question of sanity, why do you say that installing religious dogma as civil law isn't theocratic?

#36 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 09:47 AM:

a) "living God" isn't an exclusively fundie term, although it may mean something different Over There.

b) C Wingate @32: My response is best summarised as "WTF?" followed by "What Bruce said @35." I'm having trouble thinking of a more blatant example of attempting to establish a theocracy, short of explicitly requiring membership of The One True Church on pain of state sanctions.

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:02 AM:

a ban on abortion and on gay marriage into the constitution. I put "only" in quotes because I understand those are hot-button issues for a lot of people here

Yes, I'd say it is.

#38 ::: pixelfish ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:13 AM:

Pam over Pandagon has a bit today about how Huckabee's Christian reconstructivism ties in with various racist groups as well.

My favourite two remarks were: "Mike Huckabee is a complete embarrassment because he embodies the entire id of the GOP."

and

"Shorter Pam: Mike Huckabee is everything you expected him to be."

(And not in a good way.)


What I love is how large chunks of people on the right have flipped out over Mitt being Mormon but have no issue with Huckabee's reconstructivism.

(And as an ex-Mormon with family wot is still Mormon, I'm always boggled that so many LDS folk are so blindingly faithful to the GOP, when the fundy side of the GOP base thinks that Mormons are one of the first things to go when we bring America back to God. But then again, that sector of the GOP AND the Mormons are equally blind about things like Abramoff's casino money or the Halliburton war machine, which are against things they believe in. But it's all okay, cuz God is a Republican, doncha know.)

Also ironic: Doesn't anybody remember how during the early days of Bill Clinton's presidency, people on the right side of the spectrum went around writing books about how the Constitution was hanging by a thread. I never did read any of them, but the newspaper interviews in the Desperate, I mean, Deseret News all seemed to imply that the Constitution was in danger of being cast aside by those dangerous Liberals who were breaking out the Newspeak as we read and infiltrating our libraries and re-writing history. But in the last few months, we've had one major presidential candidate declare that you can't have freedom without religion (Mitt), we've had another candidate declare that he'd amend the Constitution to fit his God, we've had that silly let's recognise Christmas bill, and we have another bill floating around that wants to recognise the US as a Christian nation, and which has portions of false history in it. Hello, GOP base. If your Constitution is hanging by a thread, it's because your elected leaders have been taking scissors to whatever binds it.

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:17 AM:

pixelfish @ 38... Mike Huckabee is a complete embarrassment because he embodies the entire id of the GOP.

"Morbius! What is the Id?"

#40 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:27 AM:

Before we start the pile-on*...

There is a messy middle ground between democracy and theocracy, and this quote certainly inhabits it.

Laws, in the United States, are an expression and a codification of the will of the people. Constitutional amendments face a particularly stringent test, of course, to ensure that they are a good codification of the will of the vast majority of the people.

However, the will of the people does not spring from some mysterious force, separate from their moral and ethical beliefs. The idea that things "should not happen" is often inextricably linked to notions of right and wrong, many of which are embodied in religious belief.

So was this statement Huckabee's declaration that the foundation of American law, the will of the people, should be superseded by another foundation, namely the Bible? Or was it a statement that his will, and the will of a number of other people, has been formed and shaped by his religion, and that he wants that formed will to be given expression in law?

I agree that the former reading is, absent cultural shadings, slightly more supported by the text. But I also think that, absent more evidence, the latter reading is more plausible in the wider context.

I would certainly be disappointed to see either reading considered prima faciae evidence of either bad faith or an evil nature.

-----
* I know. Too late.

#41 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:32 AM:

Spherical Time #12:

Yeah, I remember listening to an interview with the Constitution Party's presidential candidate in 2004, in which he explained that his priorities as president would be respecting the Constitution and federalism, and banning abortion and gay marriage. Which is beautifully ironic, since laws regarding both marriage and murder[1] are almost entirely state matters, outside of military bases, DC, and similar stuff.

#42 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:37 AM:

Mary Dell #28: I'm Catholic, and have also heard the term. I agree, it's not a dogwhistle. To put it into different terms, this isn't the secretly gay congressman assuming a "wide stance" and doing a couple discreet handswipes, this is the proud lifelong gay-rights activist marching at the front of the pride parade.

#43 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:48 AM:

Abi @ 40... Good point. Still, it'd be nice if a politician were clear as to what he means, especially when he's applying for the Top Job in the country. And if he is being purposefully vague, why would proponents of either of the positions you suggest trust him one bit? Anyway.

#44 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:48 AM:

Abi, at the risk of devolving this thread into "What Fred Clark said", what Fred Clark said: "King offered secular arguments in sectarian language. Huckabee is offering sectarian arguments in (mostly) secular language."

I will also opine that if you read what this Jebus guy said, he seems to have an awful lot of priorities higher than banning gay marriage.

Then again, crazy constitutional amendments are par for the course for Republicans. At least Huckabee isn't advocating for a flag burning amendment like Bush I, which would have required amending the first commandment as well as the first amendment...

#45 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:51 AM:

#40 abi:

It's interesting to ask how we'd distinguish between the two. One problem is that basing law on your moral beliefs is a very reasonable thing to do. This is where stuff like child labor laws and laws against domestic abuse come from, as well as laws against murder, rape, robbery, vandalism, etc. But there's a problem because:

a. We don't all agree on morality, and in fact, there are major moral questions with direct relevance to law (abortion, mercy killing, the need for a living wage, torture, preventive and aggressive war, drug laws, gay marriage, a right to healthcare) on which we, as a society, don't have much of a consensus.

b. Morality is based heavily on religious and philosophical beliefs that differ widely, and that frequently come off as silly or nutty to nonbelievers. Heinlein's quote about "one man's religion is another man's belly laugh" is spot on.

c. There's no way which we can all agree to for resolving disputes about morality or its basis. It's easy to find people willing to decide those issues for you, but not so easy to find any reason to prefer one over another. Do you want the Pope, the President, a majority vote, the consensus of academic philosophers[1], the consensus of religous leaders[2], something else?

This leaves us in a hard position for these issues, right?

[1] Good luck
[2] Good luck, squared

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:52 AM:

FungiFromYuggoth @ 44... if you read what this Jebus guy said...

I think you can be sure that Abi knows what Jesus said, and what his priorities were. And I think she's doing a good job of following his teachings.

#47 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:53 AM:

Serge, Fungi*,

Judge Huckabee as you like. I think it was a pretty stupid thing to say if you are running for President, personally, and I evaluate his judgment accordingly.

But please don't pile on commenters who interpret the statement differently.

-----
* I love Fred Clark's take on the matter, and anyone who hasn't seen it should follow the link.

#48 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:59 AM:

Serge - oops, flawed phrasing on my part. That should have been "one", not "you". I blame English, and apologize to Abi for any implication that she needed to recheck anything.

Abi, my intent was clarification as to why people feel that Huck is on the other side of the line you drew, not piling on. I'll back off and return to the lurkerverse for now...

#49 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:09 AM:

albatross @45:

I don't think there is a firm, bright line between the two of them. I agree entirely that much of the good* of our legal system comes from a shared moral imperative.

I don't think that all moral standards are amenable to legislation. I can name a number of things that are entirely legal, but that I find deeply wrong, and vice versa. Some of that is due to the imperfections in our legal system; sometimes it just means that the price of doing right is a jail sentence.

Of course this stuff is hard. The easy stuff was settled long ago.

-----
* Take that as relative or absolute as you list

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:12 AM:

Abi Actually, I was not taking C Wingate to task for interpreting Huckabee differently from the way I do. At least that's not how I meant my comment @ 37 to be construed.

#51 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:13 AM:

re 33: I've read the Salon article, and it is not convincing. They can't really come up with anything that Huckabee actually said (excepting one claim that is unsubstantiated and likely out of context), so they have to settle for ten year old guilt by association. So I'll file this one under "innuendo".

#52 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:13 AM:

Fungi @48:

Don't worry - I didn't think you were having a dig at me. Nor did I think you were piling on. That was a shot fired in the air, maybe tilted slightly in the direction of Randolph Fritz @33.

And you should visit the posterverse more often. I like reading what you write.

#53 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:15 AM:

Y'all might be interested in my severely toned-down reaction:
Theocracy Now! Recap
Or not.

In any event, it's the last sentence in the second paragraph that should lead to Huckabee being strung up by the testicles (giving a new implication to "testifying for Christ"): If one actually reads the New Testament — regardless of translation; I'm sort of partial to the Revised New English, but that's because I'm a recovering literary scholar — one will find that Jesus never attacked the secular authorities except in the three instances in which the secular authorities crossed the line into "legislating" on moral issues. Every other instance in which Jesus himself attacked authorities, it was religious authorities... and Jesus seemed not only capable of distinguishing between the two, but implicitly approving of the distinction.

In other words, Jesus appears to have believed in separation of Church and State. Only when some of his disciples went off on their own do we find opposition to the State on religious grounds... and their positions are not "the word of the living god" (to quote Huckabee).

#54 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:18 AM:

Serge @46:
Thank you for the thought, but I'd not nominate myself for sainthood just yet. It simply happens to be that the worst of my weaknesses are not visible on Making Light.

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:21 AM:

Abi @ 54... There is quite a ring to 'Saint Abi' though.

#56 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:27 AM:

And as I said elsewhere, this is why we can't fix the dratted Electoral College mechanisms....

#57 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:29 AM:

C. Wingate #32: If you're looking for the ultimate source for the quotation, everywhere I've seen it posted has said it's from an interview on beliefnet.com. They have a link to the interview on their front page. There's an unholy number of ads on the site, but if you can navigate them, they have at least a partial transcript and a bunch of sound files. I don't know if it's the whole interview, but it looks like a lot of it.

And that's all I'll say on the topic, lest I be chastised.

#58 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:36 AM:

re 35: You seem to be leaving out the part about the "the God's or deity's laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities". So no, voting the tenets of your religion isn't theocracy; and what's more, it's protected behavior under the first amendment ("free exercise" and all that).

The whole thing is on the silly side anyway since there isn't a snowball's chance in Hell that such an amendment could be adopted. He has simply used preacher language in a campaign promise that Republicans make all the time.

#59 ::: Julie ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:39 AM:

I did some time in Christian radio (long story. Interesting few years, though) and can tell you that Huckabee's scheme isn't new. I can also tell you that there are a number of Christians who don't support that idea. They see just one flaw with that plan: God happens to offer free choice.

Forcing someone to follow a religious edict does not make that person a follower of (insert any particular religion here).

@C.E. Petit #53: "...testifying for Christ." Coffee, meet keyboard.

#60 ::: Julie ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:41 AM:

Oops. Messed up that bold tag. That's what happens when the keyboard is full of coffee.

#61 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:42 AM:

re 57: Thank you, Ethan. And in that interview, we have this:

[Interviewer]: Do you think that on issues other than marriage and the life of the unborn that the Constitution should be brought into conformity with the Bible, which is what that quote seemed to suggest?

[Huckabee]: No, I was specifically talking about those two issues. Those were the only two issues I spoke about in the speech, and that was the point. I’m not suggesting that we say, “Okay, the Bible says you should tithe, so now in the Constitution we’re going to amend it to say everyone tithes.

(my emphasis)

#62 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:54 AM:

#54 Abi: Thank you for the thought, but I'd not nominate myself for sainthood just yet. It simply happens to be that the worst of my weaknesses are not visible on Making Light.

Perhaps prophet Abi then? They certainly had their share of weaknesses.

#63 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:54 AM:

I think there's miles of difference between the statement "gambling* is wrong, so it should be illegal" and the statement "God forbids gambling, so it should be illegal." Even if you believe gambling is wrong specifically because your religion says so, doing the work to convince your fellow citizens that it's wrong according to more universal measures is part of the American way of government. Or should be, anyway.

*to choose a low-scoville example

#64 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:02 PM:

Spherical Time @62:
Perhaps prophet Abi then?

Oooh! Can I be Elisha? Instead of using the disemvoweler on trolls, I'll send in the bears.

Mwahahahaha....

#65 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:09 PM:

#32: "but what I find most striking is the stark difference in the emotionalism being used by and against the different factions. The attacks on the Democratic candidates generally try to cast them as bad people, but the attacks on the Republican candidates generally cast them as crazy people."

I guess you've missed the media left and right casting Kucinich as crazy for saying he saw a UFO.

Or here's someone at DailyKos calling Bill Clinton batshit crazy:

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/1/16/15525/2630/690/437631

The whole Obama madrassa bullshit was equivalent to calling him crazy, because the people pushing it equate madrassa with terrorist with crazy.

The Hillary "meltdown" nonsense was supposed to imply that she's too emotional to govern, i.e., crazy.

Meanwhile, *Republicans* are casting Huckabee as crazy; not implied, said outright:

http://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/scott-whitlock/2007/11/26/matthews-liberal-media-should-grill-crazy-huckabee-views

See also Limbaugh's feud with Huckabee.

Here's a more reasoned version:

http://leftword.blogdig.net/archives/articles/January2008/03/Viguerie_on_Huckabee.html

It's exactly that Huckabee is *not* speaking in dog whistles that scares the Republican establishment.

"What was already a steady campaign against Huckabee is about to become a full-throated assault. And the theocons will ultimately realize what the rest of the party thinks about them. They are supposed to be cannon fodder. Nothing more."

As for Huckabee only wanting to change the Constitution to ban gay marriage and abortion: what makes you think it would stop there?

#66 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:10 PM:

Avram, you really have to understand that the Living God is eternal and unchanging -- the same yesterday, today, forever -- unlike us changeable, dishonest humans. This is a core fundie belief.

#67 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:24 PM:

#7:
He's using it as a code word to "True Christians" that he believes that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and nothing has changed a whit since then.
Sounds more like an undead god, to me. Change is an essential property of life (even decay is a change caused by life, although not the life of the corpse). If you want a god that doesn't change, you might as well worship a rock. At least you have clear proof of its existence, and can study its nature by some means other than pontification.

Honestly, any god that can't see that the laws that weren't even so great 3000 years ago *definitely* aren't so great today is a god that's not worth following, irrespective of his/her other deeds.

#49:
I can name a number of things that are entirely legal, but that I find deeply wrong, and vice versa. Some of that is due to the imperfections in our legal system; sometimes it just means that the price of doing right is a jail sentence.
In theory, that's why prosecutors have the discretion not to prosecute, in the interests of justice. In practice it's a safeguard that doesn't always work out so well, but it might be better than nothing.

Gubernatorial and presidential clemency and pardons are also supposed to be used for cases when following the letter of the law would lead to a miscarriage of justice (odd phrase, who exactly is expected to give birth to justice?). The modern perversion of those powers to shield cronies is something the Founders explicitly discussed as an impeachable offense. (If someone *is* going to give birth to justice, that certainly prevents it. Does that make it an abortion of justice?)

#68 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:27 PM:

Given that the issue is marriage, it's worth noting what the standard of the 'living god' is. Matthew 19:

3The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

4And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

5And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

7They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

8He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

10His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.

11But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.

12For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

Now, I would not want to be living in a small town in the South if the standard in verse 9 above were enacted into law.

#69 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:43 PM:

C. Wingate, #51: So it's OK for Huckabee to cozy up to the theocrats, and talk about making their beliefs into law, if he doesn't himself believe? Saying that he's a hypocrite is a defense of the man?

Fragano Legister, #66: but if god is eternal and unchanging, how does he differ from a very hard rock? Ah! Much is explained: the religious radicals secretly worship death! And, speaking philosophically for a moment, I suppose that is true enough.

Feelin' snarky this morning!

#70 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:47 PM:

Ok, Lets remake government the in the image of the living god government, starting from the most important.

1) Department of loving thy Neighbor, Do unto others division. Formerly known as the Department of War. Stop it with the Do unto others before they do unto you, and more like Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We've got some restitution to deal with here, since we're not really loving the neighbors, we're threatening them. Likewise, on a more personal level, Dogs, no crapping in the neighbor's yards and cats, no more flower beds.

2) Department of Blessing. Lots of people have been deamonized lately, so we need to catch up here too. Poor, Meek, Peacemakers, Hungry, Merciful, Pure of Heart, We need to do some blessing here. We'll have to figure out some way to do the whole inheriting the earth thing.

3) Killing. Ixnay on the Illing-kay. Death Penalty, gone. Department of War, Think up something else. Black Prisons, Not allowed.

And digging back a little here:

4) Jubilee year. We've had this republic for 200+ years, and no jubilee year yet. So we're over due. Slaves, you're freed. Corporations, you're dissolved. Debts, Forgiven. Charging Interest, Banned.

5) Miracles Department. Water into wine -- Charles Shaw, while 2 Buck Chuck is a miracle of something, it's not wine. You're relieved of duty. Napa, Sonoma, Oregon, Columbia Valley, Step up to the plate. There's goign to be lots of celebrating this jubilee year. Loaves and fishes -- Norwegians: Just because no one wants to touch the lutefisk, 5 fish don't feed hundreds.

6) False Idols. That Bull on Wall Street has to come down. Though the Jubilee year probably did that anyway.


#71 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:52 PM:

The idea that it would be reasonably easy to amend the Constitution amuses me. Anyone remember the Equal Rights Amendment anymore? Yeah, that was quick and painless, wasn't it? Although I don't actually believe that things have gone that far, I would be truly alarmed if Huckabee's proposals met with more Congressional support than the ERA.

#72 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 12:58 PM:

Randolph Fritz #69: That's a good question. Not one I can answer, however.

#73 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 01:06 PM:

Honestly, if I were to go about amending the Constitution, I'd start with the Sixteenth Amendment. Raze the current tax system to the ground and start over (with a cap on total federal taxes— i.e. if you institute a consumer tax/sales tax, you have to scale back on the income tax.) And automatic scale recalibarations the year after every census (so the poverty line is properly moved) with an inflation adjustment five years after the census adjuctment. And where the progressive nature of the tax is not applied to the whole— you get X, the poverty limit, free and clear, then a certain percentage taxed on the amount Y above that, then a percentage taxed on income -(X+Y), and so on— so that when you get a raise and bumped into the next tax bracket you're not making less than before...

Um. Where was I? Oh yeah...

Popular though such an idea could be, I still don't think it would manage the necessary states to make it into the Constitution.

I can dream, though...

#74 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 01:09 PM:

Fragano @ 68: Hell, I live in Jackson, MS. I'd sit back and enjoy the show, complete with wailing and gnashing of teeth.

#75 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 01:27 PM:

Randolph Fritz @69:
Feelin' snarky this morning!

We'd noticed. Where do you get your coffee, and do they ship internationally?

I trust you're also feeling polite and respectful of your fellow commenters. Politicians are fair game, but it bears* repeating: keep it civil.

-----
* Yes, intentional

#76 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 01:38 PM:

I wouldn't want a Constitutional Convention; everthing gets put on the table and you cannot control what happens. You might not like how it comes out. Our current Constitution was a "reformation" of the Articles of Confederation. They were only supposed to tweak the Articles but we got a whole new and different system instead. And based on the ERA, how do we know that these two things -- abortion and same sex marriage -- wouldn't be the issues that get the state votes.

#77 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 01:59 PM:

(sarcasm)We'd probably get an Equal Rights Amendment that states that lesbian reproductive choice doctors have the same right to be executed for crimes against Ghod that real people do.(/sarcasm)

#78 ::: Chris J. ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 02:18 PM:

Back to Avram's opening question, Huckabee's "living God" usage doesn't bother me. I think it's akin to Vigil always using "pius Aeneas": it's just a standard tag line. That said, I, too, find Huckabee deeply disturbing. The upthread link to MLK was interesting in its description of how King used religious language as metaphors for secular ends. I fear Huck's not talking metaphor when he uses religious constructions--he has in mind the literal meanings of religious texts.

#79 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 02:19 PM:

C. Wingate @53: So no, voting the tenets of your religion isn't theocracy; and what's more, it's protected behavior under the first amendment ("free exercise" and all that).

Yes and no. The Lemon Test requires that any law, though it may have a religious basis, must have a secular basis as well. So you can't write the tenets of your religion into law without being able to show why the law should be applicable to everyone, not just believers in that religion.

Though I don't always agree with the conclusions he draws about specific issues, Barack Obama expressed this principle well in his keynote address at the Call to Renewal conference a couple of years ago. (Scroll down near the end, to the section that begins "Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason.")

#80 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 02:21 PM:

abi @64,71: Elisha: "When you write this story, make sure to leave out all the times the bears didn't show up!" (From The Book of Gonick, aka 'The Cartoon History of the Universe').

So it is the bears that are doing the disemvoweling... I appreciate the insight into the mechanism.

#81 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 02:22 PM:

Eric @70: Yeah, that's why I never buy the "our government is based on Christian principles" argument.

#82 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 02:38 PM:

I would like to say that the law is not based on morality. Justice can be explained (or else it is unjust), while moral imperatives transcend reason. Laws and moral rules do overlap, but it is dangerous to take that as meaning they are the same. Rather it is a symptom of moral authorities taking credit for civic virtues they did not create, and of civil authorities who have forgotten their responsibility to protect the rights of all.

#83 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 02:46 PM:

Trey #74: There would be a hell of a lot of those, that's for sure.

#84 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 02:48 PM:

Arthur Hlavaty @ 25 (hi, Arthur!): The Constitution is a living document.

Well, the Constitution is malleable, and changeable. The Bible, of course, is unalterable, and no one has tampered with it or proposed a new version since God handed it down to Moses and Paul in the original Aramaic.

#85 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 02:54 PM:

Jo @34, what makes that terribly chilling is the possibility that the word doll has etymological links with the word idol.

That seems to have double-acting chill, both in your delightful godderel and in the mock-deification and objectification of the original subject of the song.

Pixelfish @38, the compliance of the not-Christian-evangelist fundies with the Huckabee variety is fascinating. The Mormons stand to be outlawed, the Jews get moved to Palestine & mass converted, then embroiled in end-of-times war, the Republicans get their party taken over for them by radical anti-conservatives - and they all. play. along.

What is wrong with people? (That's a rhetorical question, I read Bob Altemeyer's The Authoritarians yesterday, so I know what the problem is. Followers follow (without particularly caring what they're following). Lemming time for humans on earth. Bah.

Fragano @68, one sure could read that passage in some pretty narrow-minded ways (and that small town in the South might well do so). But one could also read it otherwise - as in "yo! don't trade your mature wife for a younger model! That's not ok, dudes, even if it's legal" (or in the inimitable rabbinical response to the question of whether a properly slaughtered corpse may be eaten after several days in the sun: "it's kosher, but it stinks").

And that leads to the surprising (not) conclusion that religious (or possibly all) texts function as a sort of Rorschach test for their readers. A small town in the South being no exception.

#87 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 03:03 PM:

Spherical Time #21 -- I generally hate explaining jokes, but since you asked: I was playing off the opposite implications of the word "living" in the phrases "Living God" and "Living Constitution", how one is associated with conservative religious philosophy and the other with liberal legal philosophy.

Look at the two paragraphs after the quote. In the first, I'm talking about God, but using phrases generally used to talk about the Constitution ("strict constructionist", emanations and penumbrae). In the second, I'm talking about Constitutional interpretation with phrases used for describing approaches to biblical interpretation.

#88 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 03:16 PM:

#73: The 16th Amendment didn't legalize the income tax; it just addressed a Supreme Court ruling that taxes on income from property (rents, royalties) were property taxes not income taxes. The 16th enables taxing income from any source. The income tax itself comes from the basic power to lay and collect taxes.

Also, you don't get less take-home pay when you move to a higher tax bracket. You only pay the higher rate on the amount in excess of the bracket level. So if you're single and make $36,000 you pay 10% of $7,825 plus 15% of $24,025 plus 25% of $4,150. You don't pay 25% of $36,000.

Sorry to pick on you, but it seems the biggest proponents of changing the tax system don't understand what they're changing.

#89 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 03:25 PM:

Dena #85: That's the point. If the Bible is the eternal, infallible word of god, to be read as his literal commandments for every aspect of human life, it has to be read literally. That's what the fundies have been insisting for years.

#90 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 03:42 PM:

PurpleGirl @76 I wouldn't want a Constitutional Convention; everthing gets put on the table and you cannot control what happens. You might not like how it comes out. Our current Constitution was a "reformation" of the Articles of Confederation. They were only supposed to tweak the Articles but we got a whole new and different system instead.

Not only that, but the ratification procedure used was the one specified in the new Constitution, not the one in the Articles of Confederation. If the same thing happened again, there's not only no telling what the new constitution might look like, there's no telling what procedure, if any, might be available to stop it.

Meg @26: the procedure is different (there's not necessarily any direct public vote), but it's difficult in similar ways and for similar reasons.

First, the proposed amendment has to be passed by both houses of the (federal) Congress, by 2/3 majorities.

Next, it has to be passed by 3/4 of the states. There are two diferent ways this can happen, and Congress chooses which one will be used.

In the more common method, state legislatures will vote on it, and it has to pass there by simple majority. In states with two-house legislatures (all but one), it has to pass both houses.

In the less common method (used just once, for the 21st Amendment which repealed federal alcohol prohibition), voters in the states will elect members to attend a state convention, which will then vote just on the amendment. I assume the people running for the convention would run on either 'yes' or 'no' tickets, turning that into something reasonably close to a state-wide referendum.

The Constitution doesn't specify any time limit for 3/4 of the states to ratify the proposed amendments. Most of the recently proposed ones have included a 7 year limit in the text passed by Congress, but it's not clear to me if that can actually be binding, and since there haven't been any cases where it would make a difference I don't think a court has ever ruled on it.

There are currently 27 amendments, for an average of about 1 every 8 years. The first 10 (commonly called the "Bill of Rights"), however, were passed en masse almost immediately after the adoption of the Constitution itself. The most recently adopted was in 1992, having taken more than 200 years from being passed by Congress to being ratified by 3/4 of the states.

The most recent amendment which came close to passing was the Equal Rights Amendment, which was ratified by 35 states prior to its deadline being reached, three short of the 38 required. If three more states would ratify it, we could finally settle whether or not those deadlines are binding (we'd also have to settle the question of whether states can rescind their adoption; 5 of the 35 claim to have done so).

#91 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 04:01 PM:

Fragano @89, the fundies have had the worst time trying to point at an unambiguous, literal reading of any text.

If they could, though, now would be a really good time to d sell short a PILE of stock in companies that sell pork and shellfish.

It is most amusing to watch two groups of fundamentalists who THINK they are following the same traditions clash and burn over a difference in interpretation. When I was twelve and one group of crazies felt card-playing was wrong and sent home from school kids who played cards (we're talking War and Go Fish) and the other hadn't read it that way, the perplexity and distress of the parents in the not-anti-cards-yet group was a joy to behold. Hypocrisy (nay, hypocracy) was well worshiped that day.

#92 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 04:16 PM:

Dena Shunra #91 Fundies, if they are biblically literate, point to Acts 10 ix-xvi which would seem to permit eating foods forbidden in the Old Testament (though, since it does not mention shellfish, you have a point).

#93 ::: Jackie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 04:41 PM:

When the Baptists were wailing and threatening me with the one, true living God, I always thought, threatening me with a dead God would be kinda anti-climatic, wouldn't it?

The preacher used to use the one God thing for the rhythm when pounding on the pulpit (One, pound, true, pound, living, pound, pound, GOD (resounding pound). Usually woke up the people sleeping in the back pews.

Seriously, Abi, how do you feel about Huckabee signing the 1998 Southern Baptist accord calling upon women to submit graciously to their husbands?

#94 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 04:54 PM:

Fragano @92: if.

#95 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 04:55 PM:

Sean O'Hara at 86; I enjoyed the link, thank you. Reading about Christian Reconstructionists always make me feel a bit nuts, but it's interesting nevertheless.

However, I read Mr. Bainbridge to say that if Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee were to oppose each other, Bainbridge would not vote for either. He would stay home. Also good.

I can't help it. ...Send in the bears. There ought to be bears.... Send in the bears.

#96 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 05:01 PM:

BTW, according to TPM, Romney won the Nevada caucuses with 53% of the vote. McCain and Ron Paul are tied for second place with 13% of the vote each. Huckabee's tied with Dead Fred with 8% each.

Pass the popcorn. I can't afford to send money to Ron Paul -- do you think he takes grocery coupons?

#97 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 05:12 PM:

Pixelfish, #38: Doesn't anybody remember how during the early days of Bill Clinton's presidency, people on the right side of the spectrum went around writing books about how the Constitution was hanging by a thread

Long-term strategy. Convince enough people that the liberals are set on demolishing the Constitution, and perhaps no one will notice when we start doing it for real. Alternative explanation: projection -- this is what we would do if we were in power, so of course they must be doing it!

FungiFromYuggoth, #44: The specific flavor of Christianity that's taken over the Republican Party and the current Administration has excised Jesus' teachings entirely from their tenets, though his name is still used as a rallying cry. In the language of the Gospels, they are Pharisees.

Richard Brandt, #84: *SPLORT!* Slam dunk!

Alan Hamilton, #88: Also, you don't get less take-home pay when you move to a higher tax bracket.

Unless that's a fairly recent change (as in, within the past decade), your statement is incorrect. When I still had a day job, I knew a number of people who got a raise that kicked them into a higher tax bracket and ended up with less take-home pay than they had before, all other deductions being unchanged. I was one of them. Reality trumps ideology, I'm afraid.

#98 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 05:15 PM:

Jackie L @93:
Seriously, Abi, how do you feel about Huckabee signing the 1998 Southern Baptist accord calling upon women to submit graciously to their husbands?

Hey, between consenting adults, that's fine with me. Impose that outwith those boundaries or try to turn that into law, not so much.

Do not mistake me in any way, shape or form for a Huckabee supporter. I have never been any kind of Republican. Indeed, some of my political views would cause a certain stripe of American to want to revoke my passport.

My comments above are merely to ensure that, if we shred the guy, we do it honorably and decisively, and that we don't shred each other in the process. (Mostly the latter.)

#99 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 05:23 PM:

Jackie L, again
...threatening me with a dead God would be kinda anti-climatic, wouldn't it?

On the other hand, threatening you with an undead God would be pretty attention-grabbing.

#100 ::: Jackie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 05:30 PM:

Uh, Abi, it wasn't about sex. You see Baptists aren't allowed to talk much about sex. They get their babies from under a bush, dontcha know.

They meant submit, like let your husband rule your every waking thought.

Honestly, if you knew some of the stuff that gets preached in the name of the Southern Baptist Conference, you'd be more afraid of Huckster, er, Huckabee than Douglas Bruce. (He's Colorado's latest state representative and day one, he assaulted a newspaper photog. He represents the ultra-conservative area of F*cus on your own d*mn family territory in Colorado Springs.)

#101 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 05:43 PM:

Jackie,

My views on what should be left to the discretion of consenting adults extend far beyond the bedroom.

#102 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 06:08 PM:

Lizzy L @95:
Drat you, I was supposed to be doing something else this evening!

Isn't it rich? Aren't we a pair?
Me up above on the bridge, and you way down there --
Send in the bears.

Isn't it bliss? Honey and oats?
One who keeps feeding the troll, and one eating goats.
But where are the bears? Send in the bears.

Just when I joined in on the thread,
Acting as though the debate hadn't gone to my head;
Setting my arguments out with unusual care,
Sure of myself - no one was there.

Don't you love fights? My fault, I fear;
I thought that you'd listen to me - sorry my dear.
But where are the bears? Quick, send in the bears.
Don't bother, they're here.

Isn't it rich? Aren't we a pair?
Losing our vowels together? So unfair!
But where are the bears? There ought to be bears
Somewhere out there.

#103 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 06:23 PM:

Abi, you never disappoint.

*soft clapping, big grin*

#104 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 06:35 PM:

Serge 55: There is quite a ring to 'Saint Abi' though.

We should found a convent: The Abbey of Saint Abi.

C. 61: Well, of course he's MY enemy even if that's all he meant, but in addition, saying it's what he meant after the outcry doesn't quite prove that's what he meant at the time.

And his example of what he would NOT change is also telling. The living God forbid he should suggest that people be required to give up their MONEY, just because the Bible says they should! Why, that wouldn't be Republican at all!

I just can't even understand where flaming fckng sshl hypocrites like Huckabee think they get OFF, telling their neighbors THEY have to follow the Law (I mean the Bible kind), before they follow all of the Law themselves. Not that someone who DID follow all the rules in the Bible has any right to tell me I have to; this is the United States, not the Republic of Gilead.

He may be no worse than your basic jackhole politician, but he's certainly no better.

#105 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 06:40 PM:

abi 102: That's wonderful! Mind if I quote that elsewhere?

#106 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 06:46 PM:

Xopher @105:

Feel free. How much explaining are you going to have to do in advance, though?

#107 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 07:01 PM:

abi 106: I just quote things and let people ask me. I'm mean that way.

For a moment, btw, I thought you were OKing my suggestion at 104. Brief light of hope, but swiftly dashed, alas!

(DAMN that abbey would've had a great scriptorium!)

#108 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 07:09 PM:

Xopher @ 104: We should found a convent: The Abbey of Saint Abi.

I don't know about an abbey, but there's a church.

#109 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 07:23 PM:

Well, for me the biggest chill I get about Huckabee is his connection to Bill Gothard and Basic Youth Conflicts.

I spent some time on the periphery of BYC. It is a very, very scary Dominionist movement that's been around since 1964.

Here's a good recap of it here:
Breaking: Mike Huckabee Linked to Bill Gothard

These are truly scary people that Huckabee's in bed with. They warped my mind for a few years--and I was just on the very edge of that particular nasty cult.

#110 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 07:26 PM:

Argh. Link-fu not working.

Bare link here:
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/1/19/175629/012/188/439174

Do check it out. It's accurate.

#111 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 08:41 PM:

Jackie L., #93: This, of course, brings to mind an aphorism that I've had quoted to me by several attorneys:

"When the law is on your side, pound on the law. When the facts are on your side, pound on the facts. When neither the law nor the facts are on your side, pound on the table!"

#112 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 09:54 PM:

#97: No, it's been like that for more than 10 years. It's possible your withholding increased more than the tax increase, but in that case you'll end up with a bigger refund or can increase your exemptions.

The example I quoted was based on the actual 2007 tax tables.

#113 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:19 PM:

JRW, #110: gulp! Thank you. Based on analysis, I was sure that something like Gothard & all existed, but I didn't know the names. I suppose it was bound to surface in national politics eventually, but, like Digby, I am very unhappy to see these ideas coming into the mainstream of debate. It is very much of a shame that there has been no serious investigation of that group; I've little doubt it would result in many prosecutions that would discredit them.

Abi, I don't think Huckabee is defensible; it's been clear to many of us for some time just how much of a religious authoritarian he is. I've also responded once too often to people who drag out the debate on such figures by first casting reasonable doubt and becoming steadily more defensive until, finally, they offer the hypocrite defense ("you can't prove he really believes") I've slammed above. It takes a huge amount of time to answer these things, and the answers hardly ever persuade, so I'm short with such arguments. This is the equivalent of plausible deniability for candidates for office and justifies granting high office the likes of W. Bush and Huckabee until they have committed horrific crimes and, sometimes, long after.

The hypocrite defense is worth some further commentary, but I'm too tired to write it right now.

#114 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:33 PM:

86, 95: Steve Bainbridge isn't the hard-core conservative that his writing seems to make him, or that he sometimes claims he is. Really. He's much more reasonable than that. He is a social conservative who takes the philosophy of "what is conservative" very seriously... in the sense that he's against change and against any government role in excess of that absolutely necessary to minimally deal with free riders, not for a radical reversion to a past-that-never-was.

(NB Steve was my professor for securities regulation a decade and a half ago, and although he always brought a conservative/market-based philosophy into the classroom and used that to begin discussions, he never let that squelch the exchange of ideas... and, as a Euroliberal myself who was the same age as he was, I would have spotted that and objected to it in an instant.)

#115 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 10:55 PM:

abi @102: Wonderful!!

Folks, Mike Huckabee = Nehemiah Scudder...?

#116 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:09 PM:

Magenta @ 115: the more I hear about the Huckster, the more Scudderish he seems to become. Which I find more than a little scary, frankly.

#117 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2008, 11:23 PM:

C. Wingate @ 58

Remember that Huckabee is himself an ordained minister of his church, making him an "ecclesiastical authority". I think that makes his desire to legislate based on the dogma of his own religion theocratic.

#118 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 12:15 AM:

re 117: The one thing a Baptist minister is NOT is an ecclesiastical authority. Well, at least not in the Southern Baptists yet. Or to put it more precisely, he is an authority exactly as far as his congregation can throw him.

re 79: Permit me to be more precise. I cannot be prevented from casting a vote in an attempt to ban abortion simply because I do so on religious grounds (or because my bishop told me to vote so). The establishment clause doesn't enter into this, and I note that the Lemon case specifically relied on the establishment clause because the law in question was essentially supporting the Catholic school system.

re 69: Again, you're conflating what he said with something someone else he was sort of kind of associated with years ago to create a claim which he specifically disavowed. All he really said was "I'm going to push for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion and gay marriage." At least in the context here, I don't have a problem with anyone opposing it on its own merits or lack thereof. But the claim that he wants to make a Handmaid's Tale-like or Rushdoonyite theocracy run by (presumably Baptist) preachers is a gross, alarmist exaggeration.

#119 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 01:10 AM:

Alan, #112: Bigger refunds don't count -- that's not what "take-home pay" means. And I took every exemption available to me; as a single non-parent, there weren't many. To repeat: when getting a raise leaves you with a smaller paycheck because it bounced you into a higher tax bracket, that is a reduction in your take-home pay, and no amount of handwaving will make it anything else.

C. Wingate, #118: Y'know, I'm getting bloody sick and tired of being told that something is "gross, alarmist exaggeration" only to have it come true, as has happened with monotonous regularity over the past 6 years. We are headed for a theocracy by way of the frog in the kettle, and you are one of the people who's going to help us get there, because you just can't bring yourself to believe that it could possibly happen.

#120 ::: dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 01:33 AM:

C. Wingate @ 118:
The problem with your final point is that once you start changing the Constitution to bring it more in line with the tenets of one specific religion, the slippery slope is hard to miss.

#121 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 02:32 AM:

C. Wingate, #118: oh, that's another one: "He really believes it, but it's not that bad, really." (I just fell down the stairs. He only hit me a little. It wasn't that bad, honest.) Man, if the religious radicals can get a 2/3s majority of both houses and 3/4s of the states, they'll pwn the USA. And, yes, they've said they will create the Kingdom of Gilead or moral equivalent if they got that kind of power. They call themselves Dominionists because they want, you know, dominion.

Huckabee/Paul--for those tired of lesser evils.

#122 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 02:50 AM:

abi @ 102

Wonderful! Sets the mood just right and even brings in a load of that Old Testamenty goodness. Besides, I'm a sucker for Sondheim.

I'm going over to they must need bears and leave a link to that poem.

#123 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 03:03 AM:

C. WIngate @ 118

Or to put it more precisely, he is an authority exactly as far as his congregation can throw him.

Indeed. And if his congregation throws him into the White House?

#124 ::: Individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 04:58 AM:

Yeah, Living God is a common biblical term for God. I don't associate it with either wishy-washy progressive religion or with scary fundamentalism, but with Sephardi religious poetry, this sort of thing:

My soul's athirst for God, the living God
My heart, my flesh, to praise the living God

One God, creator, saying "I am life
No one may see me while he's yet in life"
My heart and body praise the God of life

In wisdom God created by a plan
Profound beyond the vision of all life
My heart and body praise the God of life

Who now is just, we who compare to dust?
In truth none just can be found in this life
My heart and body praise the God of life

I join my praise to praise of every mouth
Your hand reach out to give food to all life
My heart and body praise the God of life

(With apologies to Ibn Ezra for not being up to reproducing quite all his internal rhymes!)

#125 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 09:02 AM:

re 121: There are these kind of dominionists out there; I am well aware of them. But I don't see any real evidence that Huckabee is one of them other than a strained reading of a sound bite from one speech and some guilt by association.

And as for this theocracy, it isn't there. The Methodist Bush and (were he elected) the Baptist Huckabee rely upon a group of supreme court justices who are, to a man, Roman Catholic. The best that he can get, under the circumstances, is whatever the Catholic Church teaches and the President goes along with. In practice, it means these two issues. And inconveniently for the theocracy thesis, those two issues cut across religious lines. As we've been over before, the darkest red part of the country lies in the very Methodist, very mainline heartland, not the Baptist South. I won't live to see the day when the Baptists, the Methodists, and the Catholics unite to form a single religious polity to oppress the rest of the nation.

And Lee, I haven't been saying that some unnamed set of things that have come true are "alarmist". If we are talking Bush's police state tendencies, I've never doubted that things are going worse and stupider. If you're talking Supreme Court justices, well, it's hardly alarmist to expect that Bush is going to appoint the kind of people he said he would, just as it wasn't alarmist for abortion opponents to predict that Kerry would have made appointments hostile to their cause. Yeah, if Huckabee is promising to try to push through a constitutional amendment again your cause, then it isn't alarmist to be concerned about that, if it's your issue. It certainly IS alarmist to amplify it into a threat of a theocracy.

#126 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 09:15 AM:

Lee 119: What you may not understand, and to be honest I didn't understand either until an accountant explained it to me, is that the W-4 worksheet doesn't yield the maximum number of withholding exemptions allowed by law. For many people it guarantees that the IRS will get to hold your money (and earn the interest on it) for many months.

For example, I am a single childless person with one job. The W-4 worksheet gives me 1 exemption, and implies that that's all I'm entitled to; in fact it's just all the IRS wants me to take. The correct number of exemptions for me to take is 2.

It's against the law (IANAL and TINLA) to take more exemptions than you're entitled to. This is NOT necessarily the number on the worksheet; it's the number that comes closest to zeroing out your taxes (i.e. the result where you owe nothing and are not entitled to a refund). In practical terms you have to have either a small refund or a small owed amount, but you're entitled to a number of exemptions that minimizes the absolute value of that number.

reyrct C.: Hear, hear! We've had 7 years of the nutbar wing of the GOP running the country, and it's been one gross, alarmist exaggeration coming true after another. We don't want any more selfish insane fascists running things. Now, Huckabee is no Bush. He may even be sincere (though like most right-wing Christians he's a hypocrite), but from my point of view a Christo-fascist is no better than a more generic type of fascist.

#127 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 10:41 AM:

Huckabee is in several ways the kind of person who wants to ban (or require) things because "it's for your own good" - without ever bothering to find out what your own good might actually be, because of course the only right way to do it is their way.

(IMO, moral certainty of this kind is probably not from God.)

#128 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 10:55 AM:

Lee@97: Projection explains many things the Republicans try to blame on the Democrats. To the extent that whenever they try that I now look to see whether the Republicans have already done it. Most of the time a simple google finds they have.

Dena Shunra@5 Anyone who hasn't read Bob Altmeyer's The Authoritarians,
http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/
really should. It's based on decades of research. Then to see names named, read John W. Dean's Conservatives Without Conscience.

However, could you all get off the "small town in the south" nonsense? The biggest authoritarian in the race is Giuliani, and his fascist tactics in NYC are a bit hard to explain by reference to the south or any small town.

Charlie Wingate@125: You're making a common mistake of thinking the various Left Behind, Dominionist, etc. religious movements align according to traditional demonimations. They don't. They're in almost every denomination Quakers, for example, may be an exception, but Catholics are not. The Pope just got banned fromm speaking at a university in Italy because he said Galileo's sentence was rational and just. Do I need to mention abortion?

Further:

'"So I finally asked them: 'How many of you have ever heard a single sermon or even some kind of talk at church about what the Catholic faith actually teaches about the Second Coming?' There were 200 or more people there and four or five hands went up. That's what you see everywhere."

'These Catholics didn't know their catechism. But, many could quote chapter and verse from another doctrinal source -- the "Left Behind" novels by evangelical superstars Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.'

http://tmatt.gospelcom.net/column/2004/04/07/

For other denominations, see for example the Confessing Church Movement:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessing_Movement
http://confessingchurch.homestead.com/

Note #3 of their "three essential doctrines". Think about #2 in relation to the Constitutional amendment discussion.

The Constitution is hard to amend? Anybody heard of Prohibition? Religion can get it amended.

Huckabee only wants to amend it for abortion and gay marriage? He only said that's all he's thinking of *now*. And what's this *only*? Constitutional amendments for those aren't bad enough?

Huckabee can't get elected? Countering Limbaugh's attacks on him, Huckabee notes that he supported Reagan when Reagan was down in single digits in the polls. Remember when Reagan was considered a crazy radical rightist who couldn't possibly win? I do.

Remember how Reagan won: "We can meet our destiny... for all mankind, a shining city on a hill." --21 Sep 1980.
http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1996/debates/history/1980/index.shtml

In his farewell address he explicitly attributed it to John Winthrop in 1630 (who was paraphrasing Jesus), and he adds "built on rocks", another Jesus reference. Consistent "Christian Nation" allusion.

I know all the Republicans candidates want to be Reagan, but which one is most like him, in religious style over substance?

#129 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 10:59 AM:

Bruce #117:

Is your argument basically that no religious authority should be allowed to hold political office? Like, no ordained minister, no priest, no rabbi, no lay minister? Because that doesn't exactly square with the first amendment as I've understood it, though I'll admit I'm no constitutional scholar. Indeed, a prohibition against ministers of any faith taking office would seem to me to be a violation of the first amendment.

C Wingate #125:

I mostly agree with your point about spinning every statement in the most scary possible terms, but I'm noticing a particular pattern in the comments on this thread. When you're a mainline Protestant or a Catholic, laws and policies made on the basis of compromise between those denominations' beliefs doesn't feel very theocratic. As you move further away from those beliefs and comfort with them, it starts feeling more threatening--from the perspective of a Jew or an atheist or a pagan, I think it's a lot less clear that these divisions of denominations keep the resulting state from being pretty scary.

If I had to live as a Catholic in a society where the laws were made by a coalition of Muslim factions with very different beliefs, I might not personally notice the difference between that and rule by a unified church.

This is definitely not in support of Huckabee, who I think is the Republicans' best chance to lose the election, as Hillary Clinton is the Democrats' best chance to lose. (But I think she'd beat Huckabee.) But I think this may have something to do with why a subset of people find his comments a lot more threatening than you or I do.

#130 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 12:01 PM:

The Pope just got banned fromm speaking at a university in Italy because he said Galileo's sentence was rational and just.

Not correct. Sorry. What actually happened was a good deal more nuanced, as usual. Per John Allen at National Catholic Reporter:

"The big Vatican story this week was the pope’s withdrawal from a scheduled appearance on Thursday at Rome’s La Sapienza University, a public institution, following protests from the physics faculty and some student groups over his alleged hostility to modern science.

The Vatican rarely cancels a papal event once it’s been made public, so obviously they took threats of disruption seriously.

An avalanche of commentary followed. No less a figure than Giorgio Napolitano, the President of Italy (and a member of the country’s center-left political forces), weighed in: “I consider unacceptable these exhibitions of intolerance and pre-announced offensives, which created a climate incompatible with a free and serene exchange,” he said.On Wednesday, the Vatican released the address that Benedict would have delivered on Thursday at La Sapienza.

In it, Benedict argues that it is not the role of the papacy, or the church, to impose religious faith upon the secular academy; at the same time, he calls upon the academy to see the church as a repository of moral and spiritual wisdom that can’t simply be exiled from the sphere of rationality. [My boldface...] Benedict acknowledges that a secular university must be “bound exclusively by the authority of the truth,” not by ecclesiastical or political powers, and says that modern society “needs institutions like this.”

#131 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 12:05 PM:

C. Wingate @#125:

I won't live to see the day when the Baptists, the Methodists, and the Catholics unite to form a single religious polity to oppress the rest of the nation.

I believe "Christian" is an appropriate term for all of those denominations, and many of us who aren't Christian, or who are Christian social liberals, feel pretty oppressed already.

#132 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 12:26 PM:

LizzyL, you are right that there is a lot of nuance in play but IMO part of the nuance is that the Pope may have his own definition in mind for "the authority of truth".

I found a more completely copy of the comments for perusal. The contentious quote in question is actually Pope Benedict quoting Paul Feyerabend: "“The church at the time of Galileo was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo’s doctrine. Its verdict against Gaileo was rational and just, and revisionism can be legitimized solely for motives of political opportunism.”

From the rest of his articles, plus what I understand to be Ratzinger's positions on western liberalism and evolution, I can understand the students and faculty not wanting to be used as a backdrop for "a still greater form of reason". It's not like the Pope has no other way of getting his message out.

#133 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 12:38 PM:

FungiFromYuggoth, I don't disagree, and I understand the students' position, though I don't agree with it. If they think the Pope is wrong in what he says, let them argue for their position, not refuse to give an opponent a place to argue his. As for Benedict having other places to proclaim his message: at heart Benedict is a teacher, and the academy is a place he loves; the give and take of academic conversation is one of the ways he prefers to present his thoughts.

But I don't want to hijack this thread to talk about Benedict, Galileo, etc. -- I just think it's important to be aware of nuance... :-) Apropos of that, you might want to delve a bit deeper into Benedict's position on evolution. He's not a materialist, of course, but he's not anti-science, either. Again, nuance.

#134 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 01:28 PM:

I think that in this case "living God" was intended to be a Shibboleth

Somehow, I am reminded of this from my distant youth:

Choir: We're marching, marching to Shibboleth,
With the Eagle and the Sword!
We're praising Zion 'til her death,
Until we meet our last reward!
Men: Our Lord's reward!
Women: Zion! Oh happy Zion!
O'er wrapp'd, but not detained!
Men: Lion, f'rocious Lion!
His beard our mighty mane!
Women: At First and Main!
Men: Oh, we'll go marching, marching to Omaha,
With the Buckram and the Cord!
Women: You'll hear us "boom" our State!
Men: Ha, ha!
As we cross the final ford!
Women: The flaming Ford!
Choir: Zion! Oh mighty Zion!
Your bison now are dust!
As your cornflakes rise
'Gainst the rust-red skies,
Then our blood requires us must
Go-o-o-o
Men: Marching, marching to Shibboleth,
With the Eagle and the --
Women: The Buckram and the Cord!
Men: Sword!
Praising Zion 'til her death!
Women: Ha, ha!
Men: Until we eat our last reward!
Women: The flaming Ford!
Choir: Zion! Oh righteous Zion!
There is no one to blame!
For the homespun pies
'Neath the cracking skies
Shall release the fulsome rain!
Tenor: Shall release!
Men: Shall release!
Soprano: Shall release!
Women: Shall release!
Choir: Shall release the vinyl rein!

#135 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 01:32 PM:

C. Wingate, #125. Yes or no: is a desire for a 2/3s majority support in both houses of Congress and support of 3/4s of the state legislatures for religious policies a desire for extensive religious power in the US government at both the state and federal levels?

#136 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 02:39 PM:

Jackie L. @ 100: More accurately, Douglas Bruce is a slumlord who would like to see all taxes repealed while continuing to reap government benefits (and paychecks); an anti-government crusader who has managed to get himself elected to one government office and appointed to fill another.

#137 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 02:58 PM:

#131: Hear, hear. As a non-Christian living in a nation that has religious freedom (at least on paper), I take the "Christan nation" rhetoric as a personal threat. The people saying those things may not speak for all Christians (although if so, the Christians who disagree haven't been too quick about speaking out against it), but they really, truly want to drive a lot of people, including me, out of the country or kill them.

I don't think it's alarmist to be upset about that.

#138 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 03:18 PM:

Alan Hamilton #112, Lee #118 -- It looks like it is possible to get a raise that loses you money, if it's a very small raise and you've got just the right income level. For example, looking at the 2007 tax tables bundled in with this year's 1040A forms, I see that a single person wth a taxable income of $24,799 would have to pay $3,325 in federal taxes. If his taxable income was $2 higher ($24,801), he'd have to pay $3,333 in federal taxes, $8 more, a total loss of $6.

Note that this is pretty difficult to do. We're talking about a year's taxable income. The lines on those tables describe $50 income increments, and the pay increments never get larger than $14 that I was able to find. Even a raise of one penny per hour adds up to $20 over the course of a (50 weeks @ 40 hours/week) year.

Also note that I'm not taking state or city taxes into account. Or union dues, or pension plan or medical plan contributions, or any other stuff like that.

And Lee, note that Alan's original reply was to B Durbin's comment #73, in which Durbin advocates a tax system where "the progressive nature of the tax is not applied to the whole", apparently unaware that this is exactly how our current system works.

#139 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 03:23 PM:

Chris @137: Some of the people in this thread who have spoken out against it are Christians, including me @36. I didn't say that explicitly, as I was replying directly to C Wingate in large part, and C Wingate and I have had words before on the difference in viewpoint between liberal Anglicans and the more conservative amongst evangelical Anglicans and Anglo-Catholics. However, it is not a goodness for you to assume that anyone who speaks up against it cannot possibly be a Christian unless they say so each and every time.

#140 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 03:27 PM:

Julia Jones @139
Amen.

I was just opening the thread to type much the same comment, but you beat me to it. And you said it better.

#141 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 03:38 PM:

Chris at 137: Okay, since you asked: I am a Christian and I despise and reject the whole false concept of a Christian nation. In theory and practice, it sucks. Doctrinally, it sucks. Render under Caesar, etc. The kingdom of heaven is within you. And so on. Killing non-Christians, Bad. Driving them out of the country, also Bad. Bad, bad, bad. Not allowed. I hope that's definite enough for you.

And the folks you suggest might want to kill you, as a non-Christian, have no trouble lumping a whole bunch of us other Christians in with you non-Christians. After all, many of us fall into multiple categories that they consider heretical and even eeeevil. They might even choose to come after us first. Maybe.

See you on the barricades.

#142 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 07:04 PM:

Avram @ #138: Apparently I was, in fact, unaware of this; anecdotal evidence seems to have a time lag and I am still hearing horror stories about losing income by being bumped up in tax brackets (which I guess are incorrect.)

Anyway, my major gripe with the current tax system is that it is overly convoluted and that it is, in many instances, possible to be inadvertently breaking the law because of conflicting statutes. Or through complete confusion. (See certain writers and their tax issues; I'm pretty sure that most of them were very surprised when the IRS came a-calling.) I seriously doubt that's ever going to get fixed, no matter how much popular support there is for it, which is why I wanted to use it as an example. I'm glad that something I thought to be fair is, in fact, already there.

#143 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 07:47 PM:

I'm a bit surprised that you still do table look-ups to get your taxation amounts. It used to be an option in Ontario (some of the forms vary province by province), and the 1994 package included the tables but permitted the filer to calculate the tax (with the progressive-amount steps broken out on the form) if s/he preferred. The 1995 package omitted the tables and required the calculation. I think it's been that way ever since. If nothing else, it reduced the package by 28 pages (14 printed sheets) and, while "costing" some people an additional couple of calculations, spared them from having to work through the "are you eligible to use the tables?" criteria.

#144 ::: Jeri ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 09:32 PM:

Theocracy much?

#145 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 09:52 PM:

On Thursday the radio program down here in DC talked about Huckabee's statement. The hosts are pretty conservative. The callers are pretty conservative. All three hosts said it was a dealbreaker, and every single person who called in, including quite a few evangelical Christians, said it was a dealbreaker...

#146 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 09:59 PM:

Robert Glaub at 145: that's interesting, but what does it mean? I'm slow tonight...

#147 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 10:48 PM:

#139, 141: I sit corrected. I wish more Christians were like you rather than like Huckabee.

#148 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 10:54 PM:

One does hear complaints by Ozzies about being bumped up from one tax bracket to the next higher. There's an unspoken assumption in the complaint that all your income is being taxed at the higher rate. What happens is, of course, that only the income in each bracket is taxed at that bracket's rate. You can lose out by losing welfare benefits or standard rebates, but that's more at the lower-income end, and not part of the standard complaint.

I once tried to calculate when the oft-heard complaint at the time "they're taking half my income" got close to truth. It was, from memory, well into the $millions-per-year, and anyone with that amount of income will have an accountant who'll work out a few investments and deductions. In other words, it was an almost complete furphy.
From the Australian Tax Office site, the current system, without any of the deductions, offsets or rebates, is:
Below $6k, nil; $6 - 30k, 15c per dollar; $30 - 75k, 30c; $75 - 150k, 40c; Above $150k, 45c. This adds up to tax of $47,100 on $150,000, about a third. (The "mean" income for both genders is now, I think, around $55k - higher for men, lower for women. The "median" is closer to $30k, because there are a lot more people on low incomes than higher. So $150k is well above average, even $75k is well clear of most people's possibility.)

The State and local taxes are arranged fairly differently to the US system, from what I understand. States have little left of their own independent income, and it's always under attack. Under the current form of Federalism the bulk of State funds are meant to be collected by the Commonwealth and supposedly distributed back to the States & Territories by a formula that means the wealthier and more populous States give some of their income to help the very thinly populated ones, most of which are physically large so servicing their people is expensive. Naturally there's usually a bunfight at the annual meeting where they agree on the split. [I personally think the Feds have been short-changing the States and using both that and pernicious cuts in their spending to produce false & ruinous "surplus" budgets, but that's another subject.] Local government is a whole 'nother can-o-worms again.

#149 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2008, 10:56 PM:

Jo Walton, #34, it immediately brought up a blues melody for me.

#150 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 12:43 AM:

Lizzy L@133: "But I don't want to hijack this thread to talk about Benedict, Galileo, etc."

Well, then, I suggest you look up steeplejacking:

http://www.amazon.com/Steeplejacking-Christian-Hijacking-Mainstream-Religion/dp/097719728X/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1200893957&sr=8-1

My point, which you ignored in favor of seizing upon a detail, was that the sort of "Christian nation" rhetoric that Huckabee espouses doesn't divide neatly according to traditional denominations. Instead, "conservative" Christians (actually, mostly followers of recent reactionary reinterpretations of Christianity) are systematically undermining every denomination they can get their hands on, which is most of them.

#151 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 01:03 AM:

Xopher, #126: Huh, that's interesting -- and something I very definitely didn't know about! Now I'm annoyed about misleading representation of the rules on the forms... if a private entity did something like that, it would be actionable.

#152 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 01:13 AM:

Albatross, #129: "[...] When you're a mainline Protestant or a Catholic, laws and policies made on the basis of compromise between those denominations' beliefs doesn't feel very theocratic.[...]"

It's desensitization. Many people don't recognize authoritarian tendencies in a group that uses the rhetoric they've grown up with, though the authoritarian Christian sects are, in reality, almost as different from most US christians as the radical Muslims of the Taliban. In the USA we've grown up in a society that long ago banished the terrors of religious civil war and religious authoritarianism; they are hard to imagine for most US Christians. But, imaginable or not, there they are.

#153 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 02:44 AM:

albatross @ 129

Is your argument basically that no religious authority should be allowed to hold political office?

No, my argument is that we should be very wary of religious authorities who want to hold political office. And if we believe, as I do about Huckabee, that they intend to try to bend the political system to favor their own religion, we shouldn't vote for them, and should try to persuade other people of the danger.

As you move further away from those beliefs and comfort with them, it starts feeling more threatening--from the perspective of a Jew or an atheist or a pagan, I think it's a lot less clear that these divisions of denominations keep the resulting state from being pretty scary.

Precisely. I was born Jewish, and my personal religious convictions are probably indistinguishable from atheism by most Christians, so I have a great deal to fear from anyone wanting to make America a Christian nation.

#154 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 02:58 AM:

Just to be clear: I believe, based on the people I've met and talked to in my life, that the majority of Christians in the US do not intend any harm or bias towards people of other religions. There is, however, a highly vocal and strongly motivated group who espouse the idea of a Christian nation, in which all those who don't have similar beliefs to their own (or at least profess them publicly) are second class citizens, or undesirable aliens. It's not just that these people are intolerant, it's that they are planning acts of oppression against those not like themselves. I've met some of these people, and know they exist.

#155 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 04:18 AM:

Randolph, #152: In addition to desensitization, I think there are 2 other major factors in play:

1) "The fish doesn't see the water." When you are Christian, or grew up Christian and have never stopped self-identifying as such (even if you've stopped going to church), things like... oh, having your religion's special days be nationwide legal holidays, or having to say a daily prayer before you start school, or having the symbols of your faith prominently displayed in public buildings, or seeing a leader of your faith always be the person to open a session of Congress, doesn't seem unusual or strange; it's just the normal order of things. Even if you know people of other faiths, it's hard to understand why they're getting so upset over something you see as trivial; hard to internalize the fact that it's not trivial to them. (The people who were so outraged about having a Muslim cleric open a session of Congress, if they had any empathy, might have realized that they'd just gotten a taste of what Muslim Americans (and pagans, and atheists, and Buddhists, and Sikhs, and Native Americans who follow the old ways) get all the time. But I suspect that most of them don't have that much ability to put themselves into someone else's shoes.)

2) The majority of non-Dominionist good, decent Christians, when they hear phrases like "a Christian America", unconsciously assume that it will be run by people who are like them. They don't realize how unlike them the Dominionist movement is, nor that they will not be seen as Christian enough should the takeover succeed. This is a huge danger IMO, because those are exactly the people who may vote Huckabee, or someone like him, into power, thinking no evil -- only to find out too late the nature of the evil they've done.

#156 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 04:38 AM:

Just as a general point -- one of the reasons I find Dominionists scary is that I expect to be one of the first against the wall, precisely *because* I am a liberal Christian. They'll come first for the heretics and the apostates, not the worshippers of false gods. It's a common enough pattern with that mindset, regardless of what name they call their god by.

#157 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 09:05 AM:

Lee 155: "The fish doesn't see the water."

Exactly! This extends way beyond religion, as well: one of the privileges of being a member of the dominant group in society is to view oneself as "normal"—in linguistics we use the term 'unmarked'—and other people as special, as marked. And other people support this: when people use 'American' as a noun, unless they specify, the word refers to a European-descended heterosexual Christian male, and usually one over 25 (because they'd say "young American" if they meant anyone younger).

This is so unconscious an assumption that if you say 'American' without specifying and mean, say, an African-descended Vodun Lesbian, people get all resentful, as if you've somehow hoodwinked them.

That's why I try to remember to call myself a European-American. I'm trying to help dispel the idea that that's the unmarked state. (And that's part of why I think it's very bad that people like Oprah are absolutely religious about saying "African-American," but then turn around and say "white" when they mean people of my pseudo-species (a term I prefer to 'race' because it emphasizes how stupid the whole thing is). The word 'white' has all kinds of connotations beyond race, like purity and cleanness. All this is very subtle, but it contributes to that sense of unmarkedness.)

You should see the looks I get when I tell Christians that Christianity is privileged in this country. The mildest reaction is generally an incredulous stare. Yet Christmas is a national holiday, and in some areas Sunday is still a special day in law; even where I live you can't buy liquor before noon on Sunday, unlike any other day of the week.

The people in the non-dominant groups always understand the dominant group better than the dominant group understands them: they're forced to, because the dominant group is running things. I know the difference between Catholics and Protestants; do you think most Christians in America are even aware that American neo-Pagans are divided into many groups, and that the Asatru are not like the Wiccans? Are they even aware that the Asatru exist? Did you know that in US prisons, more prisoners convert to Asatru than to any other religion except Islam? That's a stunning statistic, especially since most Americans haven't heard the word 'Asatru'—and a worrying one, because the form of Asatru that prisoners convert to, unlike that practiced by my Asatru friends, has a distinctly white-supremacist flavor.

I have a lot more to say about this, but I've babbled on* long enough. I guess my point is that one of the mechanisms of oppression is that the non-dominant groups in society constantly have to struggle against assumptions, and that not having to do so is itself a privilege of the ruling class.


*Yes, Serge, I know.

#158 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 10:53 AM:

I think jayskew is exactly right when he writes in #150 that "'conservative' Christians (actually, mostly followers of recent reactionary reinterpretations of Christianity) are systematically undermining every denomination they can get their hands on, which is most of them." And Randolph Fritz is dead on the money when he observes in #152 that "Many people don't recognize authoritarian tendencies in a group that uses the rhetoric they've grown up with, though the authoritarian Christian sects are, in reality, almost as different from most US Christians as the radical Muslims of the Taliban."

I know perfectly how well it is to make excuses for authoritarianism that's argued for in the internal language of a group of which one is a member--or for authoritarianism that's practiced in that group's terms. Outsiders will commonly, frequently, make mistakes of nuance when decrying the authoritarianism. But they're often better than insiders are at seeing authoritarianism for what it is.

Increasing authoritarianism is one of the great rising enemies of the 21st century. I'm in favor of some very statist programs, such as national health insurance, because I believe their net yield will be greater human freedom: Americans who aren't terrified of having no healthcare will be Americans who can more easily tell an abusive boss to jump in the lake. But I'm not in favor of increasing state authority, or any centralized authority, just for its own sake. I think fighting back across the whole spectrum--government, corporate, institutional--is one of the big tasks in front of us. Everywhere. Including in the churches.

#159 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 10:57 AM:

It's gotten to the point where the alarmism is getting so unfocused that it's hard to respond to individual points. But let me try a few.

Someone asked if I could remember back when Reagan was an unelectable conservative wacko. I can't, because I'm only in my forties, and thus I can remember the election of 1976. But more to the point, I can't remember when the leadership of my own church were these dinosaur conservatives either, because I wasn't even born then. But I can remember plenty of liberal "dominionist" (at least as people here are tending to use the word) sermonizing in Episcopal pulpits. Heck, we can go as far back as William Wilberforce, if not a heck of a lot further.

I am well aware of how dominionist ideas spread across denominations. But what I am seeing here is that people are using the term extremely loosely, and essentially identifying any conservative, voting according to the moral code dictated by his religion, as a dominionist. Well, that would make most of the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church liberal dominionists.

I've been following the accusations against IRD for decades, and inevitably they have been overstated. As far as I can tell, the real problem-- at least in my church-- is that the liberals who have gained control of church resources resent deeply that the conservatives they have increasingly driven from power (if not out entirely, which is the current line of attack) have any access to resources of their own. The notion that there only are conservatives because of IRD is laughable.

#160 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 11:23 AM:

jayskew at 150: I didn't respond to your point about there being Dominionists in every branch of Christianity because I didn't have anything much to say about it.

In my small (900 families) blue-collar, small town California parish, if there are some Catholics who believe that the "Left Behind" books can be made congruent with the doctrines of the Catholic faith, wherever these folks are, they keep their attitudes private. I had not previously heard the word "steeplejacking," but I can assure you that the Dominionists are not going to be taking over San Pablo or El Sobrante, CA, let alone the Diocese of Oakland, anytime soon. (Bishop Alan Vigneron would definitely not like it.) Nor is Cardinal Mahoney going to give them much room in L. A. Though there may be a few, I don't think many Catholics read the LaHaye books. I would argue that most Catholics are not even aware of Dominionist rhetoric. They might vote for someone like Huckabee simply because they find him congenial, or because he supports ending legal abortion, which is very important to many Catholics. They see that he supports their issue and the weirdness and danger in what else he says passes over their heads. It is a problem, I suppose.

In my own parish, when political issues arise it is almost always in connection with what Catholics call "Social Justice" issues: that is, abortion, the death penalty, war, feeding the hungry, etc. Party politics rarely comes up. In the last 7 years that I have been a member of this parish, the issue of whom to vote for has been brought up in the pulpit ONCE, and in that one time, the name of a political party was not part of the homily. Sure, there might have been other references that I missed because I wasn't present, but not many.

#161 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 11:32 AM:

C Wingate @ 159

the liberals who have gained control of church resources resent deeply that the conservatives they have increasingly driven from power

Oh really? Examples, please?
Because all the ones I've heard about are conservatives who want to go back to the way they think it was (usually when they were young, or maybe what they got from listening to the stories told by their parents and grandparents about when they were young) ... or who resent everyone who does not agree with their views. Both are bad, but the second is far worse, and the second is more likely to become a dominionist.

#162 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 11:41 AM:

Excuse me (student in the back row raises a hand): could we have a specific definition of "Dominionist," please? Maybe one we could settle on, for the purposes of argument at least? I say this as someone who has been reading this thread for information/enlightenment, and I'm afraid I'm getting a bit confused . . .

Seriously, these are issues that I, personally, need to think about, and I really would appreciate a little clarification.

#163 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 11:51 AM:

Oh, I should mention--I've been through the Wikipedia article on
"Dominionism," basically trying to match it up with the discussion here . . . and I'm still confused. Sorry.

#164 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 11:53 AM:

Patrick at 158: your point that authoritarianism (recognized or not) is one of the great dangers of this century is well taken. There is also the danger is that people do not fear authoritarian tendencies even when they do recognize them, because those tendencies are being exercised in support of issues dear to them.

The authoritarian Catholic church has done a terrible amount of damage, over the centuries, no doubt about it. But knowing this, I don't have much fear that American Dominionists of the LaHaye sort are going to stealthily take over the American Catholic church. We have our own sort of authoritarian problem, to be sure, and it is a real one, but the likelihood of the American Catholic Church going Premillenialist is indistinguishable from nil, IMHO. The best antidote to that, of course, is the presence of committed Catholics in parishes.

#165 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 12:05 PM:

Xopher @157 (and the subthread that led to it): I spent thirty years in a country defined by religion.

It made things very difficult for me.

To start with, there was no opt-out. I was required to register with a particular religion. And there was no choice - I was registered under my parents' religion.

Having that religion entered in my national archive files (of course there are national archives. How else can you monitor everyone's religion?) meant that I could only be married, divorced, or buried by clergy of that religion. Despite the existence (in theory) of ways to do so, there was in fact no way for me to change over. I was stuck with the one my parents chose upon arrival.

In order to get married the first time, I had to produce evidence demonstrating the legitimacy of my parents' marriage (and his) and witnesses who would testify my virginity. (Really.)

In order to divorce the man, I had to bring forth witnesses to my identity - male only (women, children, the deaf and the mentally disabled explicitly cannot witness.)

When I wished to remarry, I could not do so - the man I wanted to marry was registered under the wrong religion and there was no legal way for people of different religious registrations to be married. We had to leave the country we were living in and be married on Cyprus. Waiting times made this a longish process - not just a day or two, and babysitting logistics were nightmarish, but *there was no legal way* for me to marry him without leaving the country.

This was far from being an unusual situation, due to those religious registration.

The theocracy in question was Israel.

Patrick @158 - hear hear. The fighting back will be a huge task, but the later we do so, the bigger the fight will be.

#166 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 12:06 PM:

C Wingate, for what it's worth, I don't think you're a Dominionist. I do think that you are an example of the sort of conservative Christian who is conservative and would like everyone else to follow the same values, but would never try to force other people into a specific church -- and thus finds it difficult to comprehend that "assimilation or annihilation" really is the aim of some people who on the surface have aims that you feel are reasonable, or to comprehend that they have a far narrower view of proper Christian behaviour than you do. You are not a Dominionist, and I think you would be horrified by the actions of an unfettered Dominionist theocracy; but you and others like you will be their beachhead, because you see nothing wrong with the idea of amending the Constitution to impose a religious dogma when it's in line with your particular religious beliefs. They will not stop there. They have made it clear within their own ranks that they will not stop there.

I think this not because I am a liberal Anglican, but because I am an Anglican who was baptised in the Church of Ireland, with all that implies about an up close and personal view of the sort of people who believe in conversion by the sword, and that other denominations are the tools of Satan. My parents got out when I was a child, but I still have family there. It's not something I can walk away from, and it colours my view of anyone who would impose their religious dogma on others by force.

#167 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 12:23 PM:

you see nothing wrong with the idea of amending the Constitution to impose a religious dogma when it's in line with your particular religious beliefs.

Julia Jones, can you point to where in C. Wingate's posts she or he has said or even suggested this? I can't find it.

#168 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 12:47 PM:

Xopher (126), Lee (151): Really? That has not been my experience. I, too, am single with no dependents. When filling out W-4 forms every few years, I have always noted that I can claim 2 exemptions. The information is right there on the form.

#169 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 01:09 PM:

Lizzy L: His denial @32 that there was anything theocratic about a Presidential candidate promising to amend the Constitution to ban abortion and gay marriage, followed through the thread by various versions of "he didn't say that anyway, and even if he did he didn't mean it" in response to others saying "here, here and here is where he makes it clear that he means theocracy", in conjunction with his previous statements on other threads about the topics of abortion and gay marriage -- these seem to me reasonable evidence that a) he sees nothing wrong with amending the Constitution to impose the religious dogma of no abortion and no gay marriage, b) that those particular dogmas are in line with his particular religious beliefs, and c) that there is a connection between these two things. (From which you may deduce that *I* consider those topics to be religious dogma.)

I would add that there are a good many things which I consider to be immoral, but do not think should be made illegal, let alone the subject of an amendment of the US Constitution. So I'm well aware that someone who was opposed to abortion and gay marriage on dogma grounds could feel the same way on those topics, understanding that they were dogma and thus not appropriate to impose on people of other religious beliefs. However, I don't see such a position as the most obvious one to associate with C Wingate's posts in this and other threads.

#170 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 01:09 PM:

The late Yeshiyahu Leibowitz once pointed out that the (OT) Biblical prophets had no formal government positions. He argued that putting religious authorities inside the corridors of political power (he was referring, in particular, to the Israeli rabbinic bureauracy) ends up corrupting the religion, because part of being inside a political system is making political compromises, and after you've compromised yourself into a coalition government that does X, you're in no position to go back to your pulpit and give a fire-breathing speech about how X is an abomination unto the Lord.

In that vein, I would ask: Why did Huckabee insist that his campaign to rewrite the Constitution to meet God's standards would end with amendments regarding abortion and same-sex marriage? Are these God's only standards? What about, say, school prayer and evolution?

#171 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 01:16 PM:

Let's ask. C. Wingate, do you support amending the U. S. Constitution to bring it in line with your religious beliefs in order to impose those beliefs on the citizens of the country?

And for those of you might be wondering, I don't. At all. As far as I am concerned, amendments to the Constitution had better be supported by good clear secular arguments. The only amendment to the Constitution I could support at present is the ERA.

#172 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 01:43 PM:

Patrick and others looking for a good definition and history of the terms "Reconstructionist" and "Dominionist," here's a couple of good sites to start:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/6/21/16230/4731

Mahoney's Kos article here is good, with excellent linkages. If you click on the "Dominionist" tag in Kos, you'll find some excellent research that's been done as well.

http://www.theocracywatch.org/chris_hedges_nov24_04.htm

For one thing, I didn't realize that Gary North was Rushdooney's son-in-law. Explains a lot.

Here's another site with an explanation of "steeplejacking"--and Lizzy, Catholics are not immune to this. Look at the rise of Pentacostalism among Catholics. The Catholic form takes the shape of belief in the "Three Days of Darkness"--google that for some interesting stuff--and Mariology/messages for that. The National Catholic Reporter has carried stories of steeplejacking occurrences within the Catholic church--we are oh-so-definitely not immune. There's a reason why I left my previous parish, and why I'm now getting restless at my current parish. My Gothardist background makes me very hypersensitive to those code words, even thirty-some years later, and Catholics ain't immune. Sadly, they don't know what it means, often, but they ain't immune to it.

http://www.talk2action.org/story/2007/6/20/231926/645

The Talk2action site is a good one to read for these issues, overall. Very informative, very much on the money.

I spent five years on the fringes of the Bill Gothard movement back in the 70s(and this is directed at C. Wingate), and I honestly must tell you that you are whistling past the graveyard. These people are not the same as a standard evangelical conservative, and thinking that they are is dangerous. I was around the movement when they seriously started to plan a long-term takeover of the political process, and did some studies of it for my bachelor's in political science. It's chilling now, thirty years later, to see how that plan has unfolded.

#173 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 02:02 PM:

Joyce, thanks for your previous pointer to the Kos linky goodness at http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/1/19/175629/012/188/439174
about the Huckabee/Gothard connection. I wasn't aware of any of that, and have since shared it with friends. Very scary stuff.

#174 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Joyce at 172: I believe you when you say that Catholics are not immune to steeplejacking, even though I don't see Dominionist tendencies in the parish I live in. I see attitudes and points of view I don't like, but that would be true of any parish, and these are my people, so it's my job to work and pray and live with them, and fight with them when the need arises. I'll check out the "Three Days of Darkness" stuff as you suggest, thank you.

#175 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 02:08 PM:

re 155: The fish does see the water. Indeed, the fish understands that the water is so vital to its existence that it watches it in ways that we humans don't see.

Re what "Dominionist" means: It's not entirely a legitimate term. Basically it's being used to cover four not necessarily related theories. Two of them fall under the heading of "Dominion Theology", which covers the specifically Protestant theories of Reconstructionism and "Kingdom Now" theology. The latter is particularly obscure and as I know has no traction outside of charismatic circles. The Reconstructionists (essentially followers of one Rushdoony) have a distinctive Calvinist theology with the added intent of restoring Torah law as the civil law. These people make great boogiemen (and it that department it's helpful that Howard Ahmanson used to be one), but again they are ridiculously outside the mainstream. It's a tenet of 99.9% of Christianity that Torah does not apply to gentile Christians as it does/did to Jews, to the point where one can quote from the Acts a specific decision to that effect.

The next group comprises the Catholic and Orthodox who in earlier days expected civil authorities to defer to the magisterium on matters of morality. Of the two, the Orthodox have neither the numbers nor the unity to be heeded in the slightest. The Catholics would, except that years of anti-clerical cynicism have left them actually quite divided. Besides, there are still so many Protestants with the knickers in a twist about "Papism!" that the best their hierarchy can hope for is that their membership will vote as the pulpit directs.

The Protestants? Well, about the only thing the Episcopalians have going for them is rather faded prestige and conspicuous overrepresentation in the military chaplaincies. The hierarchy shares the theory that people should vote as their faith dictates; what it dictates for most of the hierarchy is of course quite liberal. The Presbyterians have at least some faded traces of Calvinism behind them, but in practice their polity has the main body in a constant battle between its congregations and its national body. The Methodists have no such tradition, and the same conflict. The other organized bodies are too small to matter.

That takes us to the DISorganized bodies. These people-- "groups" starts to be a problem word-- tend not to believe in ecclesiastical authority, so the best they can do is advocate that people vote according to whatever moral teachings are being imparted. That's our fourth "dominionism", but by this point we aren't talking about anything resembling theocracy. It's simply people voting their consciences. The alternative is saying that people shouldn't vote their consciences, or the exclusion of certain categories of morality from legal consideration.

The churches don't use the term "dominionist"; as the article states, it's a term made up by the opposition. If you look at Clarkson's first defining point ("Dominionists celebrate Christian nationalism, in that they believe that the United States once was, and should once again be, a Christian nation. In this way, they deny the Enlightenment roots of American democracy"), it would appear to encode a claim about American governmental principles: that they are anti-religious, because the Enlightenment was anti-religious. Or to put it another way, religious freedom is OK as long as religion doesn't matter; but as soon as it matters, it must give way to secularism. And not true secularism, either, but a certain heavily Judaeo-Christian colored variety.

His second point ("Dominionists promote religious supremacy, insofar as they generally do not respect the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity") is extremely lame. Personally I don't think there's much point in signing on to a ideology that doesn't view itself as superior, but perhaps that is a personal quirk. It's the third point, however, that is the biggest problem. When he says that "Dominionists endorse theocratic visions, insofar as they believe that the Ten Commandments, or "biblical law," should be the foundation of American law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles", he's using "theocracy" in contradiction to the typical use. American religious ministers as actual members of the government are not unknown, and the two I can think of off the top of my head (Robert Drinan and John Danforth) can be unhesitatingly be put in the "liberals" column. But outside of various colonial governments (e.g. in Massachusetts and Utah) the kind of identity between religious and civil authority that "theocracy" means to most people simply isn't there.

#176 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Mary Aileen 168: Wow, perhaps they updated that form. I could be out of date. I just write down my 2 without reading it, and it's been years since I last filled out one of those.

#177 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 02:32 PM:

Um, C. Wingate, that's interesting, though you didn't answer my question, or if you did, I can't find it.

But just off the top of my head, signing on to a ideology that [views] itself as superior is not the way I see my faith; in fact, my particular formal path -- RC -- has gotten itself into loads of trouble that way. You may not see it that way, of course.

#178 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 02:45 PM:

From Glenn Greenwald:

Barack Obama: Committed Christian

#180 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 03:47 PM:

C. Wingate:

["Kingdom Now" theology] is particularly obscure and as I know has no traction outside of charismatic circles.

That's part of the problem. Huckabee is tied to Bill Gothard.

#181 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 03:50 PM:

Dena Shunra: @#165: Wow. Thanks for sharing that.

#182 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 04:09 PM:

Dena 165: Theocracies are bad. Did I say otherwise? I'm not a big fan of Israel either.

#183 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 04:21 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ #153, 154 (as well as others): The value of vigilance against the slowly increasing intrusion of Christianity into the governmental process can't be underestimated. A religious authority, or a devout religionist, who is or appears to be just a bit more invested of injection of religion into government, or more tolerant of the establishment of a religious totem or ritual as an unavoidable part of American life through its adoption by a governmental institution, may seem like an innocuous choice when he or she espouses other views that are popular. (Being against an unpopular war or untainted by a scandal enveloping a current regime are current examples.) However, if the candidate espouses any further encroachment of the majority religion into any part of government, and especially into the law of the land, that should be disqualification in the mind of the freedom-loving voter. It's easy to listen to these people (aspiring theocrats) and their apologists and believe that maybe they're "not that crazy" or "didn't really mean that. But extremism is like an iceberg; if some of it's visible to the public, there's a lot more under the surface. And that goes even more when it regards political campaigns. Religious talk that is meant to appeal to those of a theocratic bent can only be interpreted as an appeal to kindred spirits.

Our Constitution has given us many ways of making our moral and other views known in society. The free marketplace is a wonderful place for this in a capitalist society. If a company is violating them, we can vote with our dollars. If a professional is performing or facilitating procedures we find repugnant, we can go to a different doctor, use a different pharmacy, hire a different contractor, etc. Additionally, if we become concerned that governmental support is being given to an organization or agency that is also a religious front, we can insist on full disclosure of its sources of funds.

As Patrick pointed out in #158, this sort of vigilance is not easy. And sometimes it isn't altogether palatable (e.g.: the residents of Louisiana showed by their votes for many years that they valued the preservation of their unique culture over the fiscal honesty of their political figures). Sometimes the candidate who sees the danger of theocracy might not be squeaky-clean in other areas (and what candidate is?). We all have to be aware of our personal priorities. However, those who agitate for a theocratic revolution don't take breathers between political races, and only offer their support when it advances their cause in some way, even if it's to remove a greater danger to their overall aims. They act in the mainstream media every day, often letting media whores like Rush Limbaugh and other demagogues advance their causes, and use their own more extreme outlets to further polarize and indoctrinate their supporters.

Lee @ #155, you're spot on that "the fish don't see the water." The regular encroachment of crosses and similar symbols into the public space (not to mention governmental settings), and religious issues into the public discussion, seems so normal to those raised as The Christian Majority, comfortable with their normalcy. And unfortunately, a lackadaisical Christian is likely to be lackadaisical in other areas, such as knowledge of American history, and is easily swayed by fallacious arguments that "this is a Christian nation" and "our forefathers showed how important their Christian faith was to them when they put 'under God' into the pledge that we've been required to recite since the early days of our country." However, I believe that when "[t]he majority of non-Dominionist good, decent Christians, when they hear phrases like 'a Christian America,'" they prove that they're truly unconscious about the importance of religious freedom that is an essential part of what we consider to be the American way (sorry about the trite phrase). There's a big difference between being a member of the loose religious group that happens to be held by the majority of residents of the nation, and being part of a faith-based national identity.

C. Wingate, your semantic argument over "ecclesiastical authority" is either poorly-informed, as might be offered by someone who's never been to a Southern Baptist service, or held out as a straw man. The latter appears more likely, since you've actually offered the semantic argument in the first place. The Southern Baptist Convention makes it abundantly clear to its ministers what the current dogma of the denomination is to be, and fully expects (that's part of the dogma, in fact) its ministers to comply by preaching the current tenets of the faith. Hence, the spiritual wisdom of the entire convention is given to each minister to pass along to his congregation, and is given in such a manner that the minister knows he shall not fail to deliver a succinct message. And, as to authority's definition of "official power," anyone who has ever been a member of a large Southern Baptist congregation knows what authority the senior pastor holds. To deny that is outright dishonesty.

In your "too much alarmism" post @ 158, your attempt to reframe the debate over dominionism is clumsy at best. The direction of the Episcopal Church in America hardly determines, or offers to determine, the political structure of the nation. While the evolution of the American dioceses, and thus the American portion of the church, has been toward social liberality, it's hardly been a take-over, and never have those who have had a liberalizing effect on the (comparatively small) denomination offered up a slate for election. On the other hand, the realignment of some of the conservative secessionists with African bishops who advocate execution of homosexuals is dominionist in the extreme. Advocation of acceptance of sexual or gender minority bishops = intradenominational controversy. Advocation of execution of sexual minority members = imposition of religious principles onto national law.

You may or may not be a dominionist, but your arguments here certainly cast you as an apologist for religious authoritarianism, at the very least.

#184 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 04:50 PM:

The Dominionists also don't like public schools, the Department of Education, science in any form that doesn't confirm their beliefs, and women who don't do what they're told by their fathers / husbands / ministers / other male authority. One sign is if there are lots of ministers, each dealing with a small group of people, and all of them, except possibly (no bets here) those dealing with the very young, are male. (They have their own directories and businesses, too. Watch for fish hiding in signs and ads.)

#185 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 05:06 PM:

Xopher @182, I wasn't arguing with you, I was agreeing and handing you more ammo. Whenever people want to establish theocracies, it is useful to have quite so egregiously outrageous a counter-example.

#186 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 05:12 PM:

Lizzy L @ #160 & 164: While the concerns of your small parish in Northern California may not reflect any trend toward Pentecostalism, I can assure you that the number of "charismatic" Catholic services and parishes have grown considerably here in Texas in the past 10 years. I have a close friend, who's a devout Catholic and who teaches in the school attached to her parish, who recently has been included on the mailing list of some of the "Three Days of Darkness" folks. She asked me what I thought of it, and I could hardly forumulate a response. But her husband apparently has found it "interesting."

And the views of the current pope on evolution have been seized upon by a large number of conservative Catholics of late. There are e-mail lists that spread messages from these ultra-conservative Catholic thinkers among any and all interested parties in all the parishes, and those in the administrative hierarchy who aren't completely involved with the defense of the dioceses from sexual abuse claims are hard-put to make any claims of church support toward the more liberal (see also "modern") viewpoints. Even if there's very little chance "of the American Catholic Church going Premillen[n]ialist," what of the future of the American church in a world-wide church that should be led firmly into that camp?

#187 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 05:27 PM:

LMB McAlister at 186: I find the Three Days of Darkness stuff pretty appalling, but the Catholic church has always had numerous fringe devotional groups, and some of them are waay far out there. They'd have to get a lot bigger and more prominent before I'd start to worry.

As for the Pope's views on evolution; I'm not sure what you find objectionable. This article is from September 2006.

Benedict and Evolution

#188 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 05:30 PM:

Apparently the Constitution isn't Huck's only dead bed-partner.

#189 ::: Peter S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 05:42 PM:

And Kipling:

Tho' I've belted you an' flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

#190 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 05:45 PM:

re 180: My problem is precisely that word "tie". I mean, you could say I have "ties" to orthodox Judaism, or to Jack Spong's heresies, or a bunch of other mutually contradictory positions. Based on "ties" I could show that a huge chunk of the biblical translation/criticism communities agree with Bart Ehrman, which isn't true.

My standards for this are high: if you want to convince me that someone believes something, you have to show me something from them, not something from someone else. I mean, you can say that C. Everett Koop agrees with George Grant, or that the Queen of England endorses the theology of John Robinson, if you don't bother with the actual statements. Hell, you can claim that Robert Duncan agrees with John Chane, if you don't bother to look at what either of them actually says. The quoted passage that started this simply doesn't say what's being claimed for it, and the recourse to guilt by association shows that people have all but admitted this.

re 183: The doctrinal unity of the SBC is a controversial point within its own structures. Historically, Baptist conferences weren't supposed to enforce conformity. As far as I know they haven't enacted anything like ECUSA's "Dennis canon", though, so all they can really do is chuck out the offending congregations. And the Dennis canon itself represents simply a liberal version of the same thing; the canonical changes of late add up to mechanisms to force doctrinal unity on the church in a way that was heretofore considered to be unAnglican.

Dominionism itself, as a concept, is an attempt to recast the issue. In the end it is payback, of a sort, for the churches getting involved in the civil rights movements of the early 1960s. I personally see nothing at all wrong with that involvement; but as Clarkson defines the term, they were certainly "dominionist". The ultimate problem is that if people are to act as holistic creatures, they are thus obligated to act out their beliefs in all aspects of their lives. That was one of the arguments made to defend civil rights activism, and it was absolutely correct. But it also means that the opponents will act the same way. It was a foregone conclusion that people who viewed the evolution of American society as immoral would eventually seize those issues and enter into the public square with them, because their opponents within their own religion had said it was obligatory to do so.

To be an apologist for authoritarianism, it would have to be happening. My whole objection is that people keep raising the alarm, but I don't see the evidence. I mean, if someone could come right out with a passage from Huckabee where he endorses Rushdoony's ideas, then I'd certainly say, "yeah, you shouldn't vote for him." Well, Rushdoony is something of a bad example, because I'm happy to denounce his theology simply as theology. But anyway, what I see on the one hand is that people tag Huckabee with genuinely problematic ideas through guilt by association, and on the other hand, people tag as unacceptably extremist positions that they hold themselves, in a different form. It's sufficient, if Huckabee wants an amendment to outlaw abortion, to say, "I don't want that, so I'm going to vote against him and advise others not to either." He's not going to get it, so one way or the other it doesn't enter into my political calculations, but you may have other priorities. (When it comes down to it, I don't think I know anyone who has any intention of voting for him anyway. And if the SC vote is any indication, this is essentially an academic exercise, in the end.)

On some level I buy the argument that Huckabee has made some poor choices of friends. He's not someone I would vote for anyway, but then, I'm having problems coming up with the enthusiasm to vote for any of the presidential candidates this time around. So if anyone thinks I'm trying to drum up support for him or even defend voting for him, they are wrong.

#191 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 05:57 PM:

There is no way I'm going to get involved in a confederate flag flap, though I've been tempted to fly a 35 star flag in response to the guy flying this one on the next street over. Not having to deal with that crap is yet another reason why I live north of the Potomac.

#192 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 06:24 PM:

Dena 185: Ohhhhhh! I get it now. Sorry.

#193 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 06:49 PM:

Lizzy L @ #187: Thanks for the interesting link. I had been told Benedict XVI had "restated" John Paul II's statement, saying that it was a mistake to interpret that evolution was any more than a wild notion. Obviously I was misinformed.

#194 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 07:22 PM:

C Wingate:
Go over to Daily Kos, and do a search for everything written by 'dogemperor' (on dominionists) and 'troutfishing' (on the militant christianists in the military, especially the Air Force). We're not talking about your nice door-to-door missionaries: these are people who would cheerfully set up internment camps for everyone here. Thiink about Huckabee's statement that he still thinks he was right to advocate isolating for people with AIDS.

#195 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 07:57 PM:

P J Evans @ #194: "Huckabee's statement that he still thinks he was right to advocate isolating for people with AIDS."

Do you have a citation for that? Those certainly weren't his words in the statement that I heard, although what I heard was only a soundbyte.

#196 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 08:13 PM:

Timesaver:

dogemperor's article on Mike Huckabee's links to scary Christian groups.

Nehemiah Scudder, two years early.

#197 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 08:24 PM:

C Wingate @ #190: I can certainly agree that we a required to act out our beliefs in all aspects of our lives, if we expect to be whole (not to mention "holistic") people. What I'm questioning is the belief, or the suggestion, that it's necessary to strip the right of belief and action from any and all with whom we might disagree. Argue with me all day about what you think is right, but by all means don't deny me the right to my own beliefs.

You're right that the question of voting for Huckabee seems to have become moot since this thread was begun. But the point is still salient. And I absolutely disagree with you that bringing up the extremist views espoused by people who have previously influenced (or claim to have influenced, or been said to have influenced) a candidate is alarmist. A belief system doesn't have to have wide publication in order to have great influence, if one of its proponents gains high public office. If any extremist or religionist group gains a platform for its beliefs, it must be kept on the radar (see my previous post about vigilance). And saying a candidate is only influenced by some of its tenets never makes it okay, because the question always comes, which additional teachings will he come to support?

As you've said, Huckabee doesn't seem to be very careful in his choices of friends, or in choosing what areas they gain his influence. But to me, that makes him even more deserving of scrutiny.

#198 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 08:58 PM:

C. Wingate, unfortunately, as someone who's had grassroots political experience as well as political science training, as well as peripheral insider experience, I don't take the political Dominionist/Reconstructionist stuff as casually as you do. I've been able to observe their organizing methodology in one state for over twenty-five years. Would be that some liberal Democratic groups had the same long view!

I started researching these groups as part of my political science studies at the University of Oregon in 1979/80, in a Lobbying seminar (or maybe it was an issue group seminar, I can't remember now) with Harmon Ziegler, who at the time was a reasonably respectable Poly Sci type. At that time, explicit political religious groups were actively beginning to form political wings and develop long-ranging political plans--and they were pretty explicit about their goals to take over the political system.

I'd seen the beginning of these groups in action in the Oregon State Legislature in 1979 when I was there as a student intern, and followed them further during my times as an intern and as a citizen activist during the 1981 and 1983 sessions. My later involvement was less intense, but I have maintained observations and can, with a little bit of work, easily trace back the current conservative religious leaders of the Oregon Republican party to the organizers of the late 70s.

Handwave that away if you will, but there's been a consistency in that organization that bothers the heck out of me. We are not talking about a group that thinks in the short term, but in the long term--not as long term as the Catholic Church, yet, thank God--and has kept on going.

As for Huckabee and the Gothard connection, Huckabee's apparently been through the Basic Seminar, which tells me he's definitely strongly in line with the indoctrination that Gothard puts out. I don't know how much it's changed, if any, from the days when I was on the periphery of it, but I do know that damned few people I know who went through the seminar were at all unaffected by it.

#199 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 09:19 PM:

Debbie@71 (& subsequent): which 13 states and which 34 senators would you \rely/ on not to ban gay marriage, given the current score on referenda? My UUSWAG is that abortion is less at risk, but how many would vote against an amendment to nibble it away, and then another, . . .? The country that almost passed the ERA is a generation behind us -- a generation of a deliberate, coldblooded process of kedging the country to the right; I'm beginning to think Twain was correct.

#200 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 09:22 PM:

If you want to see what Dominion theology I've goproponents themselves preach, a bunch of their books, including some of the more influential ones, are online. I have a number indexed at

http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/browse?type=lcsubc&key=Dominion%20theology

(They're mostly Gary North, but there are various other authors as well, and North, as I recall, had a pretty big audience for a while, though I haven't heard about him nearly as much since the great Y2K fizzle.)

My subject map also pulls in some related topics which may be of interest, though they're not dominion theology.

#201 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 09:56 PM:

C: Wingate:

I don't understand why you keep bringing up liberal Episcopalian hierarchs.

Going just by your post #175, I might guess that your point is the term "Dominionism" is not very useful because people mean so many different things by it. But as far as I can see, you are the only one in this thread who includes the Episcopal leadership in the term. The rest of us mainly mean your first group.

But in your post #190, you seem to be saying these groups are alike in some important way, that there is a moral equivalence among them.

Which is it?

I hope to see your reply before I jump to conclusions about you.

#202 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 10:23 PM:

LMB @ 195

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/060590.php (8 Dec 2007)
'Today, the AP picks up on one of Huckabee's other more unusual social beliefs (which the fine folks at Right Wing Watch began publicizing a few days ago).

'' Mike Huckabee once advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public, opposed increased federal funding in the search for a cure and said homosexuality could "pose a dangerous public health risk."

'' As a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in 1992, Huckabee answered 229 questions submitted to him by The Associated Press. Besides a quarantine, Huckabee suggested that Hollywood celebrities fund AIDS research from their own pockets, rather than federal health agencies.

''"If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague [from the general population]," Huckabee wrote.'

'In the same questionnaire, Huckabee added, "I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."

'It may be tempting to think Huckabee's comments were just a reflection of the ignorance of the times, but that's far too forgiving an explanation. The AP noted that in 1992, "it was common knowledge that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact." Four years before Huckabee expressed support for a quarantine, C. Everett Koop and the Surgeon General's office explained to the nation that the disease could not be contracted through everyday contact.

'Does Huckabee still believe any of this? At this point, he's not exactly rushing to dissociate himself with his previous comments -- the AP reported, "Huckabee did not return messages left with his campaign."'

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/060610.php (9 Dec 2007)
'By any reasonable standard, Huckabee's comments were ridiculous and offensive, but at least for his sake they were made 15 years ago. Now, as a presidential candidate, he has an obvious course to take -- claim ignorance and explain how far his understanding has progressed since 1992. (It may not be the most accurate tack -- C. Everett Koop and the Surgeon General's office explained to the nation that the disease could not be contacted through everyday contact four years before Huckabee expressed support for a quarantine -- but it's still his best strategic option.)

'But the candidate who's still surprisingly far from being ready for prime-time hasn't yet learned how to respond to these questions.

''On Fox News Sunday this morning, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee denied that he ever called for quarantining AIDS patients in 1992, claiming that he "didn't say that we should quarantine," but that the onset of the AIDS epidemic "was the first time in public health protocols" that "we didn't isolate the carrier." [...]

''Huckabee then asserted that he stands by his 1992 comments, saying he wouldn't "run from" or "recant" them.'

'Does this guy even have a staff? Is there no one around to help prep him for these TV interviews?

'Huckabee didn't say we "should" quarantine AIDS patients, he only said we "must" isolate them from the public. It's hard to imagine even the conservative Republican base finding this coherent.'

#203 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2008, 11:25 PM:

Continuing the popejacking -

LizzyL, I see two objectionable statements in that article:
1) The division between 'microevolution' and 'macroevolution'. That's like accepting microeconomics but not accepting macroeconomics. There really is a lot of evidence for 'macroevolution', including the inability of chimps to produce vitamin C.
The false micro/macro division is more pronounced in this version of the article, but the sourcing is "a Friend Of A Friend" so it's hard for me to get worked up.
2) This sentence: A growing body of scientific critics of neo-Darwinism point to evidence of design … that, in their view, cannot be explained in terms of a purely contingent process and that neo-Darwinians have ignored or misinterpreted.
To me, this seems to be a shout-out to Behe, irreducible complexity, and other intelligent design bunkum. 2004 was too late in the game to be pushing this argument.

Particularly by American standards,these aren't extreme positions. Further, I would certainly agree with the article that evolution makes a lousy philosophy of life.

#204 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 12:14 AM:

LMB MacAlister, #183: If a professional is performing or facilitating procedures we find repugnant, we can go to a different doctor, use a different pharmacy, hire a different contractor, etc.

Note that this depends on there being another doctor, pharmacy, contractor, etc. readily available -- something which is emphatically not guaranteed by the unfettered free-market model. Hence, among other things, the current flap about pharmacists refusing to dispense Plan B or the Pill for "moral reasons". For me, in the 4th-largest city in America, it's no big deal if I run into one of those assholes. For someone in Bucksnort, TN*... there may not be anyone else that she can get to, especially in the case of Plan B where elapsed time is critical. That's why we need a certain amount of government regulation -- to keep predatory monopolies from stifling all potential competition, and to keep professionals being professional.

WRT the SBC, I was downright amazed to hear that the liberals have taken over the denomination and its resources! As you point out, reality is precisely the reverse; the SBC and Church of Christ denominations were chosen as the base platforms from which to launch the Dominionist offensive, and the moderates in both groups (there really wasn't much in the way of liberalism, but there was a strong moderate arm) have either been forced out or silenced. Talking about liberals taking over Chrstianity is like talking about liberal control of the media; the people who do it are mostly those who buy into wingnut talking points without reservation or research.

C. Wingate: Right back atcha. If you're so convinced that everything we're discussing here is "alarmist extremism", provide some evidence that we're not on the right track. I'm getting really, really tired of the "it's got to be true because I say so" handwaving, in the teeth of the counter-evidence others have been providing. Are you even looking at it?

* Yes, it's a real place. It's out in the middle of nowhere between Nashville and Memphis.

#205 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 12:38 AM:

P J Evans @ #202: In a Time article from 08 December,

Huckabee said in a prepared statement released by his campaign Saturday afternoon that he called for quarantine when there was a lot of confusion about how AIDS is spread. He said he wanted at the time to follow traditional medical practices used for dealing with tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.

"We now know that the virus that causes AIDS is spread differently, with a lower level of contact than with TB," Huckabee said. "But looking back almost 20 years, my concern was the uncertain risk to the general population — if we got it wrong, many people would die needlessly. My concern was safety first, political correctness last."

. . . . Since becoming a presidential candidate this year, Huckabee has supported increased federal funding for AIDS research through the National Institutes of Health.

"My administration will be the first to have an overarching strategy for dealing with HIV and AIDS here in the United States, with a partnership between the public and private sectors that will provide necessary financing and a realistic path toward our goals," Huckabee said in a statement posted on his campaign Web site last month.

The fact that Huck was several years behind the learning curve in 1992, particularly on an issue that was a hot-button with his base (RRR, southern, blue-collar) constituency, is certainly no surprise. Not that that's excusable--it's just not surprising. It's actually fairly typical of the man. He may be smart, but he's intellectually lazy, and a follower at heart.

#206 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 12:48 AM:

Fungi from Yuggoth @ #203: I would certainly agree with the article that evolution makes a lousy philosophy of life.

Such an outlook is not surprising in the least, from a life-form that has not evolved one whit in the last 2.6 million years, but, yet, is capable of shape-shifting at will. In a thread where stepping outside of one's own belief system in an attempt to offer toleration to those with different views has been so strongly advocated, however, I expected at least an attempt at keeping up appearances. [Insert optional exclamation marks here.]

#207 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 01:01 AM:

I just wanted to say "thanks" for the links and for the attempted definitions of "dominionism." I'm still confused, but at least now I've got an idea of what I'm confused about (if you see what I mean).

Step One: Figure out the right questions to ask. I'll keep reading.

#208 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 01:12 AM:

Lee @ #204: Believe me, I'm aware of all that. Although I live near enough to Dallas to be very aware of all the politics and news items, I live in a rural area north. Such an episode happened not long ago, in the 100,000+ college burg near here. However, the aggrieved party who was denied the prescription made a very public issue of it, which brought it to the attention of the pharmacy chain's national management (and PR) arms. I think people in small towns where there's no local option know to go elsewhere, and, at least in the South, there are transportation options available (though usually through private channels) if they don't have the means to get from Bucksnort to the County Seat Wallmark. I see your point about regulation, and thoroughly buy into the need, but this didn't seem to be the place to go into a long description of the minority market corollaries, etc.

And yeah, the Evil Liberal Cabal takes over the Episcopalians, while the RRR gets the SBC and the southern Church of Christ, the Dominionists get the Assemblies and stealth technology, and Ennui gets the Presbys, the Methodists, the Disciples of Christ. And the Lutherans get carved up among the lot. I don't think I like the odds.

Regarding Joyce R-W's remarks, seems like when Liberals put together a long-term plan, it's termed a Commie Plot by the Powers that Be.

#209 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 01:23 AM:

I'm struck, reading this thread, how similar the term "Dominionist" is in usage to the term "Islamofacist." There's a real, small, very scary group of people referred to by the term, and yet, the term is used pretty loosely for political arguments. It's very common to blur the distinction between these really scary folks, a larger, diffuse group of people who broadly sympathize with them, and the huge number of people who agree with many of their political aims, find their rhetoric pleasant-sounding, but aren't remotely connected to them.

#210 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 02:01 AM:

Lizzy L #171:

How do you feel about the 13th Amendment? The abolitionist movement was pretty strongly religious, as was their opposition.

People will and do and should base their political actions on their moral beliefs, which is why so many of us are mad as hell about W's support for torture. For religious people[0], our moral beliefs are closely associated with our religious beliefs. For all people, our moral beliefs are not subject to empirical validation, and disputes about morality are mostly impossible to resolve[1]. This leads to the situation where some people are having laws imposed on them, based on moral beliefs they don't share. That's the same situation whether it's a racist being forced to serve blacks at his restaurant or a gay man staying closeted to avoid going to jail or an Objectivist being forced to pay taxes to support welfare or a pacifist being drafted into the Army. I don't see why there's anything inherently wrong with this situation, and there doesn't seem to be any way to avoid it given the existence and necessity of government.

I don't see why it's worse if the moral beliefs are based on a religion than on some other unprovable, unfalsifiable set of widely-held beliefs. This doesn't seem to me to have much to do with religious freedom or establishment of a state church. A law against gambling driven by widespread religious opposition to gambling is pretty hard for me to distinguish from a law against gambling driven by widespread moral opposition to gambling. A constitutional amendment establishing a ban against alcohol is no more or less legitimate, if it's driven by religion-based moral beliefs on the part of its supporters, or by nonreligious moral beliefs.

[0] I haven't taken a survey or anything, but this seems true among the Christians, Jews, Muslims, and various Pagans I've talked with enough to have much sense of it.

[1] They can be resolved if we agree on premises and you can show me where I've gone wrong, at least in principle. But that's not the situation we're talking about here.

#211 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 02:07 AM:

albatross, #209: Dominionists call themselves Dominionists; there aren't any Islamics who call themselves fascists. False associations, that way, please. And I've been very specific in talking about authoritarian Christians, though I do sometimes shorten it in self defense.

I am discouraged to see C. Wingate not answering the question I posed in #135. My point seems plain enough: if authoritarian Christians can amend the constitution--which Huckabee advocates--, they will have more than enough votes to govern and it will not be with the consent of the governed. I am reminded of any number of people who said that that the horrors of this-or-that authoritarian social movement were "overblown" all the way until the movement started killing people. Sometimes, they talk of "overblown" criticisms all the way into their graves.

#212 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 02:13 AM:

LMB #205:

It also seems likely that this was a pretty sensible political position for him to take, given who and what he is. Very few of the folks who would ever vote for him were likely to be gay men or to know anyone personally who had AIDS at that point, but many of them may have been scared by the idea that they might be vulnerable to the disease. Nasty, but maybe not all that shocking as a political move.

Was it Cuba that actually did quarantine AIDS patients? Or some other country? I seem to recall that at least one did.

#213 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 04:11 AM:

Tangent alert!

(e.g.: the residents of Louisiana showed by their votes for many years that they valued the preservation of their unique culture over the fiscal honesty of their political figures).

heh. You have reminded me of how I formed my first working definition of the term "political expediency" some years before I was of age to vote, when the challenger to incumbent crook Edwin Edwards was... David Duke.

Whatever Louisiana's unique culture was, it seemed a majority of voters didn't want it to include "would elect a former KKK grand wizard."

(Signs supporting Duke tended to be posted very high up on street light and telephone poles, as those within reach tended to get yanked down and shredded. As it was, the surviving signs sprouted a number of BB gun wounds in short order.)

#214 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 04:46 AM:

Speaking of Nehemiah Scudder and dog whistles, how about a "Nehemiah Scudder 2008" bumper sticker?

#215 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 04:57 AM:

It's crossed my mind that the phrase "the Living God" re-entered the fundie vernacular partially in reaction to that Time magazine cover. Anyone who was literate in 1966 care to comment?

#216 ::: matt ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 07:36 AM:

What do sola scriptura (somewhat obvious) and sola verbum patrum mean?

#217 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 08:05 AM:

Living God: I am mighty Thor.

Young lady in bed: Tho am I.


#218 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 08:13 AM:

Well, "sola scriptura" is the Bible alone, and the usual counter-statement is "sola verbum dei"-- the word of God alone. (I haven't encountered "sola verbum patrum" before, but I'm assuming it's intended to have the same meaning.) As part of a Catholic slogan, "verbum dei" covers both the written scriptures, and the sacred tradition passed along from the apostles. Or so I understand.

(Apologies for the garbled words in part of my previous post, btw.)

#219 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 08:21 AM:

Fred Clark of Slacktivist, a skilled interpreter of the language of American evangelicism, weighs in on this discussion here.

(I sidelighted it as well, but I'm noting it here for those who may be reloading this conversation rather than Making Light's front page.)

#220 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 09:06 AM:

Dave Bell @ 217 -

The punchline I heard to that joke was, "You're thore? I'm tho thore, I can hardly pith!"

#221 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 10:32 AM:

likely to be gay men or to know anyone personally who had AIDS at that point

The first - well, the ones they do know will be well back in the closet (along with the other members of the GLBT group, and they tend to treat the entire set as squicky); it's usually a surprise to them when someone they know turns out to not be straight, because 'they looked so normal'. As to the second, there are more people with AIDs, or HIV-positive, in rural areas than it looks like. Some of them got it through innocent practices like blood transfusions. The rest are either in the closet or won't admit that they were doing.

#222 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 10:34 AM:

LMB@#208: "And yeah, the Evil Liberal Cabal takes over the Episcopalians, while the RRR gets the SBC and the southern Church of Christ, the Dominionists get the Assemblies and stealth technology, and Ennui gets the Presbys, the Methodists, the Disciples of Christ. And the Lutherans get carved up among the lot. I don't think I like the odds."

I suppose it's easy to think in terms of denominations, but that's not how it actually works these days. Presbyterians, for example, come in several flavors. The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is notably more evangelistic and authoritarian than the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA). And within both there's the Confessing Church Movement which is a grouping of lay members and churches that doesn't follow the standard Presbyterian church organization. It's a steeplejacking organization against ordaining gays, against gay marriage, and for pretty much everything authoritarian Paul ever wrote. The Confessing people are just as active in Buffalo, NY and Orange County, CA as they are in Bucksnort, TN.

The situation is similar in quite a few other denominations.

"Regarding Joyce R-W's remarks, seems like when Liberals put together a long-term plan, it's termed a Commie Plot by the Powers that Be."

Yes, and the bigger problem is liberals and progressives mostly don't put together a long-term plan, while the reactionaries do have such plans and are busily implementing them while the liberals haven't even caught on.

#223 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 11:36 AM:

Peter S. @189:

This may be more appropriate to the current situation:

"Far called our armies melt away,
On dune and headland sinks the fire,
and all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre...

Lord God of Hosts be with us yet --
Lest we forget, lest we forget."

#224 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 01:15 PM:

Nicole, #213: I was still in Tennessee at that point, and I clearly remember hearing about the "Vote for the Crook, it's Important!" campaign. I saw it as a hopeful indicator that there could be such a thing as too much racism even in the Deep South.

#225 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 01:36 PM:

P J Evans @ #221: I suspect lots of folks would be surprised at the number of rural folks who are are have been seriously into methamphetamines. Needle use in one's history serves as an antidote to any assumptions about sexual behavior. During my counseling days, I had as clients several ex-truckers who were HIV+.

Scott H @ #215: I was there at the time (of that cover), and although that phrase "the Living God" wasn't nearly as common as it is today, I'm not sure they're directly related (contrary to my first, more smart-assed post in this thread). My take, from my white middle-class, teen-age perspective, is that the mid-60's were toward the end of the reign of the Mainstream White Middle Class, and the mainstream Protestant denominations to which they belonged. The Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Christians, etc., of the day tended to view urban Pentecostal and other fundamentalist groups as "kooks," and many of those who believed in speaking in tongues kept it to themselves. Also, lots of middle class denizens had grown up in rural communities of more "spirit-filled" churches, and considered themselves to have graduated from the realm of life. By the late Sixties, it appeared to me that the revolution of peace was slowly taking over, the churches were becoming weaker as people questioned their beliefs and became more intellectual, and the dawn of a new age was surely upon us. [Apply laugh track here.]

The first awareness I had of the entry of fundamentalist religion into daily life was the famous "Jesus freaks in the park." Of course, some of those folks were harder to shut up than others, and some were clearly schizophrenic, but this was something that would have never been seen in public in a Southern city before. (Of course, neither were the dope-smoking, scantily-clad long-hairs I was with.) The second, more positive and firmer entry was the growth of David Wilkerson's Teen Challenge, which directly evangelized teenagers and young adults on the street and offered a "faith-based" drug treatment program. I knew several people who had been through that program, and while most didn't stay clean from drugs, they carried the Pentecostal message they had been given (as well as its mental and spiritual scars) to others.

It seems like it was the early Seventies when the Assemblies of God started to go stealth, and to attempt to gain middle-class members. So your local Parkview Assembly of God suddenly became the Family House of Worship, the First Assembly of God was renamed the True Believers Worship Center, etc. Also, some people who had been through programs like Wilkerson's, and who had gained stability, began to return to their old denominations with "new ideas," or to join mainstream churches in their new communities. By this time, some of the churches had suffered considerable attendance loss, both to new suburban congregations and to general apathy, and the new energy that some of these more fundamentalist members brought was welcome. In some cases, new ministers were sought, and hiring criteria included "energetic" methods that would have horrified the previous church membership.

I'll cut my narrative short, but suffice to say phrases like "the Living God" and "living Scripture" have always been around; it's their mainstreaming that's new. And although that Time cover didn't directly bring forth that mainstreaming, the evangelists certainly knew a good weapon when they saw it.

#226 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 01:53 PM:

jayskew @ #222: I'm well aware that the "conservative" movement has been affecting all denominations. My point, and I believe Lee's, as well, was that the movement has pretty well hijacked the SBC (I'm not sure the southern Church of Christ wasn't already there), while the general sense of apathy in the "mainstream" denominations has managed, over the years, to open them up to movements like Confessing Church and Charisma, as well as to so thoroughly weaken the congregations as to make them second-tier in many communities, behind the "non-denominational" churches where, often, it's the senior minister who's worshiped.

I'd say your explanation of the long-term plans of "the movement" to be completely accurate. I remember, back in the mid-Seventies, beginning to wonder "where are all these Jesus freaks coming from?" (often just shortened to "WTF??"). I believe many of the earlier evangelists, as well as some today, were mainly after money, with power as a secondary perk. However, I'm alarmed by the undercurrent of power lust I see involved today.

And I was quite serious in what I said about the "commie plot." Leftists and Progressives have been accused of treasonous activity for an entire century now, any time we've put together any long-range planning. And I'm not so silly as to think that another McCarthy era isn't in the offing if we aren't vigilant and active in our advocacy of the equal rights of all our citizens. And it's the viewpoint expressed above towards Huckabee, "oh, if those are the only minorities he intends to disenfranchise, then it's okay," that begins the slide.

#227 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 02:47 PM:

What's a little disturbing is the number of blatantly right-wing writers who resort to Kipling. They quote Recessional without any sign of understanding. There's no humble and contrite heart to be seen, just men (and it almost always is a man) who thinks the fault is in being too soft.

And it's not the momentary irony of the pride, or haughty countenance, that precedes a fall. You just know that the Kipling-quoting SOB is going to redefine the valley of the Shadow of Death, with technology that leaves innocent planets as drifts of loosely bound rubble.

Nineveh? Tyre? Who cares about them, they're gone. Well. that's the whole point. I don't know how long people are going to recall the British Empire, but perhaps India will endure better than some trunkless legs of stone. And perhaps not.

#228 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 02:58 PM:

re 215: Searching for "living god" in the cyberhymnal produces about forty hits, the best known of which is probably "Praise to the Living God", which is a 1914 translation of a medieval Jewish hymn. Doing a search in the KJV I come upon only one reference in the Torah, but lots in the prophets and two quite well-known examples in the Psalms (42 & 84). The NT has dozens of hits.

"Living god" is part of the common currency of Judaeo-Christian religion. Most Christians, and for all I know, most religious Jews, are familiar with the first two verses of Psalm 42: "As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?" (NASB) The whole "God is Dead" shtick to some degree played off of it, not the other way around.

re 209: That's essentially my point.

re 211: Ten pages into a google search for "dominionist", and I have yet to see a single page describing it positively, much less using it on themselves. Even the handful of church/Christian pages attack it! Furthermore, a lot of the pages use it to refer to adherents specifically of "dominion theology", which is a much narrower thing. So at the moment, I don't believe that anyone, except possibly the "dominion theology" people, uses it as self-description.

The slacktivist article seems to have more of a grip on reality. Much of the rest of the commentary is a liberal mix of laziness and false alarm. It took me maybe two minutes to confirm what I already knew, that "living god" is a pervasive term in Christian writing. It took less than that to confirm what I had already suspected: that "dominionism" is the creation of political and social activists, and that it is used rather sloppily to imply that basically any Christian who votes for conservative positions is tantamount to being a Reconstructionist. It took a little more time to fail to come up with evidence that the term has any currency except against the opposition, but then again, if you want to convince me that people use a term for themselves, you'll need a direct quotation from those people.

to go back to 135: Your use of "religious" in your question is likewise extremely sloppy. In spite of the constant propaganda to the contrary, opposition to abortion and to gay marriage is not simply the joint issue of the Protestant Baptist/evangelical right and the Catholic Church. There is a sense in which it could be considered a religious issue without qualification; but when considered "religious" in that sense, I'll go with Nietzsche and consider every moral/ethical issue in the same light.

With that in mind, I think anyone has the right to push for such amendments for whatever reasons please them, because that is what religious and political freedom means. However, at present it is absolutely an academic exercise, because there isn't the slightest chance that such amendments could be enacted.

Thus, in the end, the answer to the question is No.

#229 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 04:26 PM:

C. Wingate, #190: My problem is precisely that word "tie". I mean, you could say I have "ties" to orthodox Judaism, or to Jack Spong's heresies, or a bunch of other mutually contradictory positions.

Which is a good argument, except for one major point. It doesn't matter what influences you have in your life, because you're not running for the office of Head Of State. Huckabee is, so talking about the influences in his life and what effect they're likely to have on his political positions is perfectly appropriate.

ISTR having this discussion with someone in the thread about Mitt Romney's favorite book, but now I can't find it. Talking about how something can be applied to yourself may be valid as the counter-example to an assertion of universality, but in this particular instance it's a strawman.

#230 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 04:48 PM:

re 229: If it can be applied to me, it can be applied to anyone. I don't think Thomas More is available; but even if he were, I could construct a linkage associating him with views which he most certainly condemned. With any modern politician, such an association is trivial to construct. I seem to recall people like Karl Rove using it against Democrats.

#231 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 05:00 PM:

C. 228: I think you may have a good case regarding abortion. I don't believe that a first-trimester fetus is a human being, but I can understand how someone might think so without necessarily getting that idea from religious teachings.

However, there are NO rational and secular* arguments against same-sex marriage. All of them come from religious teachings, and amount to "MY religion says it's wrong, so YOU can't do it." Well, my religion doesn't say it's wrong, and anyone who says that to me can kiss my ass, then fuck off and die.

As such, it's a deeply unAmerican thing to want to enact laws banning same-sex marriage. Freedom of religion does NOT include the right to impose your religious beliefs on others; in fact that's antithetical to freedom of religion. With people who are capable of seeing things from another point of view, it's easy to demonstrate this: suppose the dominant religion in the country forbade same-race marriage instead? (Don't laugh too hard: I personally believe that interracial marriage is good for the species and for society, not least because I believe it's the only path to putting an end to racism.) So you can marry anyone from any race except your own; and if you're mixed yourself, your spouse has to have at least one other race.

And people with ancestors from all five continents? To be moral, they have to be celibate lifelong. This is stupid, to be sure, but no stupider than opposing same-sex marriage. And there are SOME people who could be perfectly happy. Hey, my boy is part Coptic Egyptian; I'll be fine!

But I digress. Most of the people who oppose same-sex marriage would simply reject the above argument, saying "But that religion would be wrong. My religion is right!" Such people are not worth arguing with, talking to, or knowing.

Because my religion and many others have nothing against same-sex marriage, any amendment to the Constitution banning it amounts to a repeal, at least a partial one, of the First Amendment. And while it's certainly legal for an amendment to repeal another, IMO anything that monkeys with the Bill of Rights is unAmerican and every patriot should oppose it with every fiber of hir being.

*Well, technically there is one rational and secular argument that I've heard: some gay couples will benefit from filing their Federal income tax jointly, and that that makes more of a tax burden for everyone else. That one is easily countered with "Why should gay people pay higher taxes, and live under economic oppression as a result, just to lower YOUR taxes?"

In addition, that argument isn't used often, I suspect because it's so obviously a "they might get what we have" argument that even Republicans are ashamed to make it. But it's technically rational, and certainly secular; just not reasonable or defensible.

#232 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 06:54 PM:

More about Huckabee, with relevant quotations, here, and it doesn't look any better for the he's-not-a-theocrat position.

C. Wingate, #230: You're still not getting it. These aren't hypothetical game-playing linkages under discussion, they are Huckabee's genuine and ongoing ties to organizations that should scare the shit out of any rational person. What could hypothetically be said about you DOESN'T MATTER, because it's not even in the same solar system, let alone the same league.

#233 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 07:07 PM:

C. Wingate:

If you don't see the implications, then you are a fish who doesn't see the water. The water in this case is your white heterosexual Protestant privilege. It's easy enough to draw a moral equivalence between Rushdoony and Spong, that they are both expressing their beliefs (which you don't necessarily endorse), as long as nobody is directly targeting you.

But this is monstrous moral relativism if you don't look at the contents of those beliefs and those actions. On the one hand, you have a cabal who would execute me and mine, and a leading presidential candidate sympathetic to them who has already talked of quarantine. On the other hand you have liberal Episcopal hierarchs who want whatever it is that people like that want. See, it's so innocuous that no example comes to mind. Maybe they want to proclaim that Heaven's admission standards are looser than you think they are.

Let's remember what Niemoller said, soon enough that we're not faced with Bonhoeffer's choice instead.

But if you're doing it on purpose, you are a troll.

#234 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 07:16 PM:

Lee @ 204: But pharmacy is already not a free market. Leaving aside the regulations of the drugs themselves, government licenses pharmacists to practice. This barrier to entry, among other effects, is one of the reasons why there might not be another option within a convenient distance. It also drives up the incomes of the licensed professionals. They have no claim to be surprised if society asks something of them in return.

#235 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 07:19 PM:

Oops. left some words out @ 233. Should be: "If I thought you were doing it on purpose...."

#236 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 07:19 PM:

Alan Hamilton Thank you for saving me the trouble of explaining that, ", then a certain percentage taxed on the amount Y above that, then a percentage taxed on income -(X+Y), and so on— so that when you get a raise and bumped into the next tax bracket you're not making less than before. is the way the system presently works.

I can explain, however, why the apparent system works in the way people think it does (that the rates are applied to the whole, not the portions).

Most employers use a fairly simple algorithm to compute witholding: pay period * X = 1 year's total income = Y tax debt = Z percentange of the present payment = enough to cover tax debt.

So a week of overtime will get multiplied out to a lot more money owed which means a really large bite.

Since most people don't realise that's what happening they don't realise that no small part of the refund they get is from this type of overpayment (they just think the gov't wants to gougue them). An employer who has a regular, but not guaranteed, overtime schedule, will err on the side of caution; because they don't want employees to get hit with a big tax bill for not doing the right sort of guessing.

So yes, I've seen checks where I worked overtime, and saw less take home pay than I should have gotten.

But the system is properly progressive, and a few minutes with a tax table, a calculator and some blank forms will show that to be the case.

Lee: Was that raise in the middle of the year? When all is said and done, you weren't going from (to use some simple numbers) 20,000 of taxable income at X percent, to 25,000 taxed at Y percent.

The 5,000 dollars was taxed at Y, and the 20,000 remained at X.

The amount of money you got to keep wasn't reduced, even if the folks managing your payroll screwed with your weekly pay. They actually have an incentive to do that, since most companies submit quarterly, and keep the interest.

Xopher: For example, I am a single childless person with one job. The W-4 worksheet gives me 1 exemption, and implies that that's all I'm entitled to; in fact it's just all the IRS wants me to take. The correct number of exemptions for me to take is 2. If one is working only one job. I made the mistake one year (my first off of active duty) of taking the second exemption at my civilian job. It bit me in the ass come tax time, because both of those jobs assumed the basic deduction applied when figuring the witholding. Duplicating that is a painful error.

Lee (#155): It's interesting to me (as someone who was once a belieiving Roman Catholic, and is now something related; lapsed isn't the right word, but neither is believing. There are too many things I absorbed as a growing mind to ever lose them altogether, even if I did decide that Ex cathedra made it impossible for me to become a Jesuit candidatem, but I digress), that I; who am tolerably Christian, refuse to take part in prayers at public functions, and refuse to say, "under God" when reciting the Pledge of Allegience (which I generally stand mute for anyway).

I feel that, should the people who want to establish a theocracy get power, I am going to be one of the oppresse, because I will not bend the knee for that sort of thing.

I'm not the right kind of Christian.

Patrick: Increasing authoritarianism is one of the great rising enemies of the 21st century. I'm in favor of some very statist programs, such as national health insurance, because I believe their net yield will be greater human freedom: Americans who aren't terrified of having no healthcare will be Americans who can more easily tell an abusive boss to jump in the lake. But I'm not in favor of increasing state authority, or any centralized authority, just for its own sake. I think fighting back across the whole spectrum--government, corporate, institutional--is one of the big tasks in front of us. Everywhere. Including in the churches.

Thank you. That's a wonderful encapsulation of why things like, "Liberal Fascism" aren't well thought out. Not all state programs are about controlling people, and some can, in fact, make it possible for people to be more free.


#237 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 07:34 PM:

Xopher: Re mixed race marriages.

One of the first public stands I took on a matter of social justice was about this. My school was having a United Way drive. I asked my mother for money to give (100 pecent participation was a big deal... this was 2nd grade, so back in... what 1974?).

She said no, she wouldn't stop me from donating, but she wasn't giving any. I asked her why, and she explained that the United Way required that adoptions they were involved in be racially matched.

We had friends who were mixed race; they had been adopted. I asked if that meant they wouldn't have been allowed to be adopted. When she said yes, I said I didn't think they should get any of my money either.

The most interesting thing about that (it was a tough year for me, that teacher started off badly; telling me I didn't know my own name, and much of it went downhill from there. I suspect I should have done better in school, all around, if I'd never met her) was her asking me why I wasn't donating (I was the only one in the class who wasn't, which was obvious to the other students, because donating got one a United Way pin... nothing like a little institutionalized peer pressure).

I told her. She called my mother, and berated her, "Do you know what you're doing? Your instilling your values on your child."

As I understand it, the United Way no longer has such a restriction.

#238 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 07:43 PM:

C. Wingate: As I see it you are arguing that Huckabee hasn't made a solid enough declaration of his intent to establish a theocracy, and trying to read his motives, and intent, out of things he's said in the past, courses he's taken and people with whom he associates isn't enough to decide what he might try to do if he's elected.

That his stated goals of imposing a dramatic change (removal of rights, not guaranteeing them) to the nature of the Constitution (Prohibition was our last attempt at restricting rights, it wasn't all that successful. One might argue that the 13th amendment removed a right; that of keeping another person as property, but I think that a bit of a stretch), to put things in accord with his religious views; because of those religious views, you don't see as a theocratic gesture.

You also seem to think that his lack of stating any further desires to make theoratic changes to the Constitution means we can't, fairly exptrapolate his beliefs.

So, what evidence would you require, to make the pointing out of the trajectory such steps puts into motion more than, "a liberal mix of laziness and false alarm."

How publicly must someone declare a belief in something before one can reasonably atribute such a belief?

Because I see you saying, "Yes, there are people who believe in those things. I disagree with them. Huckabee hasn't publically declared he believes in those things, so we can't, fairly, infer that he does.?"

And, given the way things work... I don't think that's a reasonable position to be taking.

#239 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 07:46 PM:

Nicole @ 213:

heh. You have reminded me of how I formed my first working definition of the term "political expediency" some years before I was of age to vote, when the challenger to incumbent crook Edwin Edwards was... David Duke.
Which led Duke opponents to issue what may be the best bumpersticker in US political history: Vote for the crook, it's important

#240 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 08:34 PM:

#87 Avram: I generally hate explaining jokes, but since you asked: I was playing off the opposite implications of the word "living" in the phrases "Living God" and "Living Constitution", how one is associated with conservative religious philosophy and the other with liberal legal philosophy.

Look at the two paragraphs after the quote. In the first, I'm talking about God, but using phrases generally used to talk about the Constitution ("strict constructionist", emanations and penumbrae). In the second, I'm talking about Constitutional interpretation with phrases used for describing approaches to biblical interpretation.

Ah, okay. I guess I just missed the joke. I caught the parallel, but I didn't think it was funny. My bad.

Also, thanks to PNH for highlighting Fred's take on this over at slacktivist.

#241 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 10:19 PM:

Terry 237: The United Way always tries to use that pressure to squeeze money out of people. I've worked for companies where donating would get you an extra day off!

Once I found out that TUW gives to the Boy Scouts but not to Planned Parenthood, I crossed them off my list.

#242 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 10:28 PM:

Xopher #231:

I've heard secular arguments against gay marriage, including one from my atheist boss. I don't buy them, but I've seen them.

More fundamentally, though, I don't think what you're describing is an imposition of religion, just an imposition of moral beliefs that you don't share. Frex, laws against interracial marriage could arise without any religious belief being involved at all. Laws against interracial marriage (or gay marriage) are bad laws, IMO, but I don't think they're the imposition of a religion.

As an aside, how many races do you think there are? ISTM that your proposed law would get rid of marriages entirely in a few generations. Though in the meantime, rare racial groups would have some real advantages. ("Hey, do you know any nice Australian Aboriginee girls?")

#243 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 11:11 PM:

albatross 242: More fundamentally, though, I don't think what you're describing is an imposition of religion, just an imposition of moral beliefs that you don't share.

Can you give me a clear idea of where you think the line is? For example, if a state forbids liquor to be sold on Sunday, would that be an imposition of religion in your view? How about forbidding the eating of meat on Friday?

What are these "moral beliefs"? Where could they possibly come from (as regards homosexuality) other than religion?

And I'm curious about the secular arguments against gay marriage that you've heard. I'm sure I won't buy them either, but what ones HAVE you heard? I haven't heard any but the most transparently selfish ones.

And yes, abolishing marriage altogether would be a nice second best. But you're assuming people would get married before having children if such a law were imposed. I assume no such thing.

#244 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2008, 11:45 PM:

Xopher @#231:

However, there are NO rational and secular* arguments against same-sex marriage.

Amen, sing it! The only secular argument I've heard is that marriage is for breeding. But since infertiles such as myself are allowed to get married, and straight childfree-by-choice folks are also allowed to get married, that's just silly. (Plus, gay people can breed just fine, particularly with assistive technology...too bad they haven't worked out an artificial womb yet so men could have some more options).

I'm curious, does anyone besides me think about the notion that "between a man and a woman" means "between unequal partners?" And that part of "protection of marriage" thing is about protection of traditional gender roles?

(I'm trying to think of a way to say the above without sounding like I'm saying "hey, check me out, appropriating your struggle and trivializing it into part of my own mostly-unrelated, currently smaller, struggle, while I sit comfortably on my legally-married ass" thing, but I'm not quite articulate enough. Sorry. I don't mean it that way!)

Terry Karney @#237:

"Do you know what you're doing? Your instilling your values on your child."

That's priceless.

As I understand it, the United Way no longer has such a restriction.

The Multi-Ethnic Placement Act in the 1990's made it illegal for an agency or social worker to delay or deny a placement on the basis of race, although race can still be considered as one factor among many. Birth parents who are choosing adoptive parents for their baby can, of course, consider anything they want, which is as it should be. But the agency can't refuse to show them profiles for parents of the "wrong" race.

#245 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 12:03 AM:

Mary Dell: "Do you know what you're doing? Your instilling your values on your child."

That's priceless.

I'm always amused by that, in a pained way. There are some values people instill in their children that I don't want them too (e.g. racism, sexism, classism, intolerance; in general), but, as my mother responded, "who better?".

It's a parent's right (and responsibility) to rear a child as best they can; which means the things they value, ought to be the values they encourage.

But I'm sure you already think that.

#246 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 12:08 AM:

Xopher @ #243: Moral beliefs, i.e.: based on right and wrong, are not necessarily based in religion, but they are usually passed from preceding generations. And of course this explains why an atheist (such as Albatross' boss) would have a "secular" argument against gay marriage, and why some very irreligious people will say things like "hey, dude, that's just wrong." I'd like to hear anyone who espouses views against gay marriage, homosexuality or ambisexuality in general, interracial sex or marriage, or most other "hot-button" issues explain in logical terms how their beliefs are based on anything but religion, because the stench of fresh bull manure will soon permeate the air. The only other arguments I could imagine would be those based on incorrect information.

#247 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 12:35 AM:

Albatross, @210: Two words: Lemon test. If a law has a legitimate secular purpose then it is not deemed a promotion of religion. Things like racial equality and paying taxes do have legitimate secular purposes. Restricting marriage to heterosexual couples or requiring certain types of people to hide their sexual orientation are examples of things that do NOT have a legitimate secular purpose.

#248 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 01:08 AM:

[I'm very tired, and that makes me more cranky than usual. But I think this will stand up.]

C. Wingate: "...Judaeo-Christian religion..."

If you use this phrase without irony, you've pretty much shredded your intellectual credibility.

"...there isn't the slightest chance that such amendments could be enacted..."

"It won't happen, so we don't need to worry about it" is another one of those evasions. It is, of course, equivalent to "it can't happen here" and, if the past eight years have taught us anything, we know that it bloody well can.

"I think anyone has the right to push for such amendments for whatever reasons please them, because that is what religious and political freedom means." And again, you evade the question. Yes, there is a right. The question, however, was whether or not this desire was an expression of a desire for power and of the purposes of that desire.

The more of this stuff you write, the more you come off as a person desperately avoiding a terrifying reality. Well, I'm scared too. But my eyes are open and I have not yet been silenced.

#249 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 02:30 AM:

Mary Dell, #244: I'm curious, does anyone besides me think about the notion that "between a man and a woman" means "between unequal partners?" And that part of "protection of marriage" thing is about protection of traditional gender roles?

That second part you don't have to wonder about; they come right out and say it! And yes, I'm sure that a significant part of the squeamishness about gay marriage comes from them wondering, "Who's the husband and who's the wife?" -- and given their views on the roles of husband and wife in marriage, you'd better believe that's about unequal partners.

Shorter me: Yes, we do; damn straight, it is.

#250 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 10:27 AM:

re 231: I agree with you completely as to the ontological difficulties of talking about the nature of marriage, but I think you're getting ahead of yourself when it comes to the conclusion. I worked on the lead paragraph for "marriage" in Wikipedia for a while, and while I came up with something that managed to survive for a time, the pressure on that defining paragraph was always in the direction of revising it to give a less and less concrete definition, to the point of saying that it is some relationship involving two or more people.

Well, OK-- except that the state is handing out marriage licenses. And there we end up in common law, which is to say, the legal/social nature of the beast is something which we have as a not entirely explained heritage. On the one hand the American tendency is going to be to see this with an underlying Judaeo-Christian ontology; but I agree we don't have to rely on this to tell us what to do. On the other hand, there's a strong sense that (a) Americans do it for essentially irrational reasons, and (b) American constitutional principles are so strongly directed towards personal rights that they don't give us any guidance as to why the state is in the marriage business. Indeed, marriage is such a fundamental fact of human society that one is in danger of a paradox: American culture is inseparable from American law, so keeping marriage completely out of the legal system amounts to its social deligitimization; but in practice we can't agree on what it is, so when we try to address change to family law, we tend towards deinstitutionalizing marriage.

In my experience, it is untrue that opposition to homosexuality arises essentially from religious instruction. The distaste for it has something of a religious component, to be sure; but there are plenty of irreligious people out there who share that distaste. And whether or not that distaste is rational, there comes a point at which we need some sort of overarching principle to suppress those people's otherwise inalienable right to vote their prejudices. That's what happened with racism: a social moral point was established, and enforced, and plenty of the people pushing that establishment did so on the basis of their religious beliefs.

The commonly expressed opinion, which you echo, that "[f]reedom of religion does NOT include the right to impose your religious beliefs on others; in fact that's antithetical to freedom of religion" is against the words of the first amendment. People who are religious can choose to vote according to the dictates of their religion. That right is truly inalienable, and the only recourse against it is to prevent them from voting in the first place. More specifically, it means either establishing religious tests in blatant contradiction to the constitution (NOT just the first amendment), or it means having the judiciary enforce a system of laws without justifying them through a moral system. Since the sentiment against the latter is overwhelming, the only other recourse for what you have to do is the hard work of persuading people, religious or not, to align themselves with your moral system and if necessary, the morality behind it.

Or at least to tolerate it. I think there is some hope for the argument that the government needs to make some accommodations for households/whatever which are "immoral" (for whatever version of morality). Some, but not much, because the whole thing is embedded in a battle between moral causes. Those who reject compromise hold too much power, a problem which besets the abortion debate too. It seems to me that the latter could be resolved with a position that says, "Look, you can get an abortion, no questions, early enough on. After such and such a point, though, you're committed to seeing the thing through, modulo medical extremity" and achieve a position that the populace could live with, if uneasily. But the rhetoric is so absolute that such a compromise is, for now, impossible.

I think some sort of legal solution is possible for homosexual marriage; but I think a solution isn't going to be possible as long as the meaning of that solution is official societal approval of homosexuality. To get the latter, you'll have to win it the hard way, by convincing enough people to approve.

#251 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 11:07 AM:

Xopher @243: And yes, abolishing marriage altogether would be a nice second best.

Actually it would be better to get the government out of the marriage business as much as possible.

My suggestion: instead of having the State/County issue marriage licenses to couples they would sell them to clergy of whatever religion. The clergy person would then give the couple their license when they perform the marriage, and would send the county clerk a copy of the completed certificate.

This way each faith could set the specifics of who they allow to be married. Oh, and the option of a civil service with a JP would still be permissable.

The result: the County still gets funds for the domestic court system, each church gets the option of defining what they mean by marriage, and same-sex couples would be able to find someone who could legally marry them...

#252 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 11:30 AM:

I don't believe that when most people call the USA a "Christian nation", they mean it should be a theocracy. It seems to me that it is more commonly meant that American law should reflect a basically Christian perspectives, since the "majority" is Christian. I don't mean to defend this position, by any means.

#253 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 11:38 AM:

C. Wingate: I see what looks to be some (even if inadvertant) card-palming. You say the US is a culture steeped in a religious tradition. You say it's, pretty much, inescapable, and shapes the way we see the moral underpinnings of our laws.

You then say there are people who are opposed to homosexuality for secular reasons. But you don't say they are atheists, you call them, "irrelgious", which is a different thing.

Me, I don't know anyone I've managed to quiz on the subject who isn't against it for what are, at heart, religious reasons. The squick factor seems to boil down to, "It's wrong because it's wrong" which is the religious culture shaping the way people look at it.

The other thing you seem to be palming is the conflation of voting as one see fit, on matters of policy, and actually imposing religion on people.

The Lemon Test is how we let people do that, and keep it from being a real imposition of religion. The people of the state of California could, out of their personal moral conviction decide to pass a law requiring people to attend a religious service once a week. That might do it out of their sincere belief that such a thing is a public good.

It's also imposing their religious (and a very generic one) on me, and everyone else who doesn't feel the need.

It would fail the Lemon Test (at least so far as my reading of the case law shows) becuase it has no purpose which is secular enough to outweigh the religious aspects.

So we can deal with the problem of people voting religious impositions, without making windows into their souls.

#254 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 11:40 AM:

re 251: Curiously, there is another conservative/libertarian movement within some churches to get the churches out of the marriage business and force it all on the state.

Turning the licensing over to the churches, I think, is going to get shot down by the church/state separationistas, because one would have to assume that the dissolution of marriages would likewise get transferred. Presumably that means that Catholics can't get divorces, and members of properly sealed Mormon marriages can't remarry? Oh wait: that's right, polygamy would be legal, so scratch the last. On the other hand, if one spouse converts to a religion that doesn't recognize another religion's marriages, that the marriage gets dissolved?

And giving the marriage over to the churches means giving the family over to them as well. I just don't think we can come up with a system where the state isn't going to end up as the referee.

#255 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 11:45 AM:

C. Wingate @252: Take your head out of the sand and check your tail for feathers...

The ONLY people I've met who insist on calling the USA a "Christian nation*" are the ones who are trying to turn it into a theocracy.

*This is not true now, and has not been true at any time in this country. A majority of the current population may claim to be Christian, but that does not give them the right to dictate that this country follow their belief system.

The Bill of Rights main objective was to protect the minorities from the bullying of any majority.

#256 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 11:57 AM:

C. Wingate: I suppose the way in which, "Christian Nation" is used is a matter of belief.

Do I think most people who use it want to see an actual theocracy, with an equivalent to the Sanhedrin? No.

Do I think they are using it as a cover to get things which would, otherwise, fail the tests which might say the thing they are using that rubric to defend are religious impostions? Yes.

I have some dear friends who espouse the "freedom of, not freedom from" and so think public prayers are ok, and having God on the money, is fine, and in the schools not wrong.

Well those are impositional. They force those who don't agree with those tenets to either pretend to conform, or publicly refuse (see above my comments about the United Way, which is something people are less touchy about than having someone "be rude to" [or worse, dismissive, or even disrespectful of] their faith).

So, are those "Christian Nation" comments stalking horses for creeping theocracy... Yeah, I think so. Probably not intentional, but actual; because those who want to impose one, are more than willing to use those who don't see the harm in, "just this once."

A bright line between church and state in the best interests of both.

#257 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 12:06 PM:

re Marriage: What we, as a society, want it to be is going to have to get resolved.

Right now it lives in two worlds, and that is the crux of the matter.

We have the legal world, which confers various priveleges and rights to those who have one (passage of property, status as next of kin, presumptive control of children, taxes). It also confers various non-legal benefits (being married makes it easier to borrow money for something like a house).

And we have a religious side of the house. Catholics can't remarry; in the church (any more than a sealed Mormon marriage can be dissolved by the civil authorities).

Right now we have some religious tests being applied to a secular functions (the rights, privileges and benefits of marriage).

The social situation is different. I know lots of relationships the state won't sanction, which the people who associate with the members of treat as "marriage". But they don't get the other stuff.

Now, if we get rid of the other stuff... than the field is wide open.

If we limit the other stuff to the state, then the tests for, "acceptable" have to change.

If we limit it to the churches, well it gets more complicated, but if the Catholic Church won't grant an annulment, nothing would be legally binding the couple. In theory they could just walk away and when they each wanted to remarry they could.

But there would be some really ugly lawsuits when only one person wanted out... stuff to make the present ugliness of contested divorce look pretty.

#258 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 12:07 PM:

#251, 254

My personal view is that all marriages are secular (a union of consenting adults only), and those who want a religious marriage can get married in church, with whatever limitations that church only places on it.

Churches, any church, any religion, should not tell non-members (or members, when not on church property) what they may do.

#259 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 12:14 PM:

C Wingate @ 254

Divorce is now done in civil courts, and has been for many many years. What exactly would be changed? (At one time divorce required a legislative act. That's not religious either.)

Now and here, in churches that don't believe in divorce, it requires various religious authorities to act to dissolve the religious marriage - but that is not the civil divorce granted in the civil courts, and should not be required of people not in those churches.

(BTW: My view of 'Judeo-Christian' as applied to anything is that it's a code word for Old Testament rules, and not Christian, by definition.)

#260 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 12:18 PM:

Mary 244: No, I didn't take it that way. And in my own view homophobia is just one of the more unpleasant secondary tumors of the cancer of sexism. In a completely non-sexist society, there would be no homophobia either, because gender-inappropriate behavior can't exist without dictated gender roles. And if a man can [sleep with | marry] a woman, why can't a woman?

I think of the struggles for gender equality and for GLBT equality as different theatres of the same war. Oddly, not all sexists are homophobes (at least on the surface) but all homophobes, without exception, are sexists. This is why I tell young heterosexual females never to date homophobic guys; they'll always turn out to be sexists as well. (Of course, this also serves my own agenda.)

LMB 246: Thank you for this! Exactly my point. As for incorrect information, a lot of people are startled to learn that The Economist, not a source known for liberal leanings, has endorsed same-sex marriage on economic grounds, saying it promotes stability. Just as one example.

Summer 247: Thank you too! I knew there was a specific decision about that, but I didn't know the actual case.

Lee 249: Hear, hear! As usual with what you write, you say things I only wish I could clearly articulate.

C. 250: I refer you to Summer's comment at 247. Reasoning for forbidding gay marriage has to pass the Lemon test. Find me some that does. The fact that it's been the law for a long time means nothing: many states had laws forbidding miscegenation too.

And yes, people can vote however they want. But no matter who they elect, Congress cannot make laws that abridge MY freedom of religion, even if I am the only person in the world who practices said religion (close to true). My private handfasting ritual, in circle with seven other naked people, should be as legally significant as any big public church wedding with tuxes and gowns and rice and minors drinking alcohol and the whole bit.

And if my religion does that ritual between two men or two women as freely as between one of each, the government has no right to forbid that ritual, or to treat it differently. And, I reiterate, the test of what they can and cannot do is NOT "justifying them through a moral system." It is that they must have a legitimate secular purpose, which forbidding same sex marriage does not.

And if you think segregation was abolished the way you're proposing marriage inequality be abolished, I think you haven't examined the history of the civil rights movement carefully enough. The revolution begins in the law; people's hearts and minds follow. Open, public racism was socially acceptable when I was young (not in my family, I hasten to add: the N word was the only one for which my mother actually washed a mouth (not mine) out with soap). Now only losers are publicly and blatantly racist.

True, you have to get people elected who will enact those laws. But Lyndon Johnson wasn't elected on a Civil Rights platform (or at all, before 1964), and a lot of people were angry at him.

Lori 251: I don't disagree. When I talked about abolishing marriage, I meant the legal institution. People can have whatever status they want within their religions; this should have no bearing on their legal status.

The state should not issue any kind of marriage license at all. Joint filing on income taxes should be abolished, with each person determining individually whether they must file, and taking their own deductions, not their partner's. Only one person should be able to claim any given child as a dependent (however, child-support payments should be deductable even within a household). If a couple wants to have joint checking accounts, or joint ownership of a house, car, business, or anything else, they can form a legal partnership or private corporation, with all the paperwork and expense that entails. So you see not only is abolishing legal marriage just, it's revenue positive.

Sound like a huge pain? Sound like a terrible burden? It is. But that's exactly the burden same-sex couples have to bear. Anyone who thinks it's right to impose that burden on same-sex couples but not different-sex couples can, as I stated above, kiss my ass.

#261 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 12:30 PM:

I think people who think the US is or should be a "Christian Nation" are, if not outright theocrats, at least opponents of freedom of religion in its most basic form, and therefore enemies of the American way of life, which has freedom of religion as a core value.

C. Wingate, you don't seem to see that making the US a Christian country is precisely what the First Amendment was designed to prevent. The founders did that on purpose. Most of them were freethinkers.

The "Christian Nation" types are not reasonable people with whom one can respectfully disagree; they are the American equivalent of the Taliban, and if you think they'll be any less oppressive (if, may the gods prevent it, they get into power) than the Afghan version, I will respectfully inform you that you're naïve.

#262 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 12:42 PM:

Maybe it would be helpful here to use a couple of terms that differentiate between the Dominionist platform and the demographic situation:

For the former, let's try "A Christian Nation" (capitalization intentional), and for the latter, "historically Christian*-majority". The latter usage at least acknowledges both the actual diversity of faiths, as well as the fact that the majority of believers have been Christians, in some form or other; the former has some irony going for it.

It would also help keep things clearer, which is a plus, I think.

*For cetain values of "Chistian", which might not be recognized as such by the Dominionists and their ilk.

#263 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 01:10 PM:

albatross at 210, you asked me a direct question, which I have been ducking in hopes that other people would answer it for me. They pretty much have. Thank you Summer Storms, Xopher, Terry, etc.

It's fine if I want to base my political decisions on my moral convictions, and for those convictions to be grounded in my religious beliefs and practice. BUT, in a pluralistic society in which power flows from The People, and which moreover has developed over the last 200 years by applying a pretty robust standard regarding the separation of church and state, if I want to persuade a majority of my fellow citizens to join me in that political decision (an application of aforesaid power) then I have to provide them with good secular non-religious reasons. I can, for example, appeal to some innate sense of fairness which I believe comes from God, but my argument cannot be, do this because it's fair, and God wants us to be fair, because we live in a secular state. We don't all believe in God. We don't all believe that God requires the same sets of behavior from us. We have chosen, because this is a secular state, to demand that secular reasons underly the political decisions which we, as a polis, make. I have to justify applying the standard of "fairness" by appealing to other arguments. I can talk about the health of the community, appeal to the country's founding documents, point to relevant jurisprudence, whatever.

Regarding marriage: I'm a Catholic, and I would be entirely happy with there being two forms of marriage: religious and secular. My church can say what it likes about marriage as a sacrament, a promise made before God, a sign of grace, etc., but in order for the marriage to be legal, it has to be recognized in some way by the civil authorities: you get a license from the county clerk, pay a fee, etc. Restrictions around who shall marry should not be subject to a specifically religious test. The actual civil ceremony should be available to those who want one, but it's optional. You can create your own ceremony, or have no ceremony. If my church wants to say that same-sex people can't be married before God, that's its business -- and mine as a religious person and a member. If I disagree with it, I take whatever avenues are open to me to make that view known. But my church should not be able to dictate who can be legally married, or legally divorced. That's the business of the state. Those folks, including my co-religionists, who want to deny same-sex couples the right to legally marry have to come up with good legitimate secular reasons for that denial. Good luck. I don't see it, myself. (Does this make me a bad Catholic? I don't think so, and if it does, again, that's between me and my church.)

C. Wingate: I'm a Christian, but I'm also a Jew -- at least, my mother was; whether I have any right to call myself a Jew is a matter of dispute -- and I can assure you, I don't want to live in a "Christian nation." I agree with Xopher, the Founders had no intention of creating an explicitly "Christian nation," and the thought that they were doing so would have horrified most of them. If you don't think that the folks who prattle about this being a Christian nation are marching forthrightly down the theocratic Yellow Brick Road, then naive is the nicest thing that I can think to say about you.

#264 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 01:13 PM:

re 253: The Lemon test was applied to the issue of creationism. At that point it is easy to tell what is religious and what it secular. When you move to matters of morality, a good argument could be made that there is no secular. Certainly I count atheists as religious; Christopher Hitchens is far more devout than I. That is why I distinguish them from the irreligious, who don't care about the category at all.

When you start trying to apply the Lemon test to moral issues, two problems arise. The first is that you'll find irreligious people on both sides of most controversies, making it hard to show anything as not secular in intent. But the second, and more troublesome, is that it breaks the church/state boundary, because it puts the state in the position of saying that in some matters of morality the religions have a voice, and in others, they do not. No religion worth believing in is going to accept that on the state's authority anyway, and no believer in such a religion need do so either. Besides, it's perfectly reasonable to assert that all moral legislation has a secular purpose: a better behaving society.

If the Lemon test has ever been put to use in the way proposed, I'd like to know about it. I'm guessing it has not, because I would expect such a case to get forced into the supreme court. And given its current composition, I'd expect that this application would be rebutted, if for no other reason than I can't imagine the Catholic justices to take that approach.

#265 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 01:36 PM:

C., you have it backwards. The government has to prove that a law DOES have a secular purpose, or it's overturned. If they could demonstrate that same-sex marriage causes harm to the community in some way, it would pass. But the example of Massachusetts is against them!

I think it probably won't go to the SCOTUS, because rather than rule on it the Injustices would simply refuse to hear the case.

#266 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 01:42 PM:

C Wingate @ 264... I count atheists as religious

I beg to differ. Carl Sagan may have felt an awe upon contemplating the Universe that is like Religion's. Being like something is not being that something.

#267 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 01:48 PM:

C. Wingate: We have, actually (some to our shame, some not) interfered with people's right to practice their religion. And a perverse application of the idea of Lemon was used to uphold it.

We said deniying the plural marriage of Mormons was a secular good, because it destabilised society in the West, where there was already a problem with more men than women (look it up, went all the way to the Supreme Court, and that was the rationale they used to uphold the interference).

We also don't allow suttee, or other forms of phsycial harm to be forced upon people as a tenet of faith.

We ban the us of certain drugs by religious adherents; because we don't think them to be legitimate forms of religious expression.

The problem with irreligous, as a term is that it's defined (and used) as one who is hostile, before it is listed as one who is indifferent.

When the tertiary meaning of, "ungodly" comes into play, the connotations get murkier.

I am not much of a practicing member of any church. It doesn't make me irreligious. But I am against any intrusion of the church into the state (and; with some caveats, see suttee, honor killings, etc., against the same in the other direction).

When someone's moral code is purely religious (telling me I can't eat shellfish, or beef) is being imposed, that's clear. No problem in telling them they can't do it.

But when they dress up a purely religious objection ("x" says it's wrong to do "Y" and I don't wan't other people; who don't believe in "x" to be allowed to do "Y", so I'm gonna propose a referendum on it, if I can't get my legislator to make it a law), as a matter of secular import, well that's just as wrong.

Are there overlaps? Of course. A rational system of morality will limit some of the same things (you can't kill people at random, for example. Though the definition of random is still up for debate) a religious one limits the ability to reason, and restricts the ability of the body politic to compromise on squick-factor issues (and yes, I am saying that religion has irrational elements. With the, possible, exception of some intellectual "religions" like Zen, there is a core of the "that's just the way it is, because I believe it", in all of them. Those core issues cannot be appealed to with reason; which is why religious texts can have such glaring problems as the multiple creations of Genesis, and people still accept them).

When I say breaking contracts is a bad thing, I could point to religious support for my position. But I can also point to, purely, secular reasons for it too.

I can't point to purely secular reasons to insist that everyone take their hat off when people make an invocation before a football game.

I can't, really, find a secular reason to allow prayers before Congress sits, or the City Council talks about the police chief.

Tradition isn't good enough. Inertia may mean it doesn't get changed. It may be there are other issues which need to be addressed. Fine.

But when someone comes up (recalling where this started) and tells me that something which has no secular reason (save inertia, and tradition) to be codified at the core level of the nation as a rule (e.g. marriage has to be between a single man, and a single woman, and all else is forbidden), in direct contravention of different threads of tradition; and against at least two other clauses of the Constitution (the first and ninth amendments), well I think it more than reasonable to wonder what other touchstone issues he thinks that way about.

What judges he might appoint. Which people he may place in charge of the agencies to which he has that authority.

It's reasonable to look to his advisors, and the people with whom he associates. It's not what goes into a man's mouth, to paraphrase Jesus, which makes him unclean, but what comes out.

Is applying the distinctions of Lemon easy? No. But neither are any number of things we have to decide to maintain, if we want to maintain the system we have.

Popular gov't, be it republic, democracy, or any other stripe, takes work. It takes tolerance. It takes being willing to tell people who want to impose their beliefs; no matter how well-intentioned (and, at times, harmless) they can't do it.

Because those impositions are like the camel's nose.

#268 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 01:50 PM:

C Wingate @ 264... I count atheists as religious

Which shows a profound misunderstanding of atheism, at least IMHO.

#269 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 01:50 PM:

Terry Karney @#257: Eeek, no, don't hand marriage licensing to churches! What do you do with folks like me? I believe in god* but I don't believe in organized religion.** So in your system, marriage would become a privilege that would be only for people who are willing to participate in some kind of organized religion. Fie unto that, say I!

I'm not out to abolish religion - I have a lot of respect for many stripes of religious folks, and I think spiritual rituals can be lovely and pleasing to {god/s}. Etc. My husband is reasonably Catholic and we'll raise any future kids reasonably Catholic, most likely. But we got married in civil court.

At the same time, I love being married, and I would hate to see it abolished. I love seeing marriage evolve and grow into new variants, as people have banged on it throughout time and hammered it into different shapes. The idealized concept of marriage that we all talk about - true love, two people building a life together, sharing values and goals, etc - that's all been created by people throughout history tearing down the old forms of marriage, and building new. Marriage is mutable--that's its strength, and why it has endured as an institution. Nobody who's capable of contributing to its evolution should be excluded from it.

*The Oversoul, actually
**"not believe in it? heck, I've seen it," as my Dad would say

#270 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 01:50 PM:

C Wingate @ 264... I count atheists as religious

Which shows a profound misunderstanding of atheism, at least IMHO.

#271 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 01:53 PM:

Oops, sorry about the double post, lost connection for a moment midway through.

#272 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 02:06 PM:

One reason for the fights over marriage is that marriage, as a legal contract, is in fact a bunch of different bundles of rights and responsibilities, which come together because of ideas people have about the purposes of marriage. Those purposes vary between different people and societies, and have varied a fair bit over time, including quite recently.

One bundle, for instance, was very important within living memory: the support of a gender caste system in law, with associated prerogatives for the dominant gender and protections for the subordinate gender. Hence the 19th century laws that gave the husband custody of all the wife's possessions and children, and the longer-lasting laws that required the husband to support the wife. (Those lasted long enough that one of the anti-ERA arguments I remember hearing is that the ERA would get rid of them.) This bundle is now nearly completely gone in the US, and few Americans miss it.

I think there are two useful general bundles in legal marriage as it's now practiced in the US: first, establishing of family ties (for people not already related by blood); second, the support of families who are raising, or who have raised, children. These are both important, I think, especially the second.

There are various other purposes people propose for legal marriages, including shared property arrangements, upholding of religious values (which I sometimes hear from some religious advocates), and validation of love relationships (which I sometimes hear from some same-sex-marriage advocates). But the first of these can be handled by contracts apart from marriage, and the other two seem to me to be the business of the people involved, their religions, and their social circles, rather than the business of the state.

There's also a bundle around the idea of exclusivity (in several senses) that seem to be important, but I haven't baked the idea fully enough to know exactly where they'd fit in relation to the other bundles above.

#273 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 02:12 PM:

Mary Dell: I think you mistook my purpose/point.

If Marriage has no secular purpose, then the state has no business being involved.

What we have now is the worst of both worlds. We admit to secular purposes (all those benefits and privileges I referred to) but we are allowing the religious to define who gets those advantages.

Unless you want a civil ceremony, you have to go to a religious institution to get married (barring some oddities of common law, where presenting yourself as married counts [esp. in Utah, where it count's for bigamy/polygamy], or living as a married, straight, couple, for a period of years confers the status of married, in the eyes of the law).

I can't go to the courthouse, get a marriage license, and ask my best friend to perform the ceremony. I have to go to a preacher, priest, or Meeting.

I can't, however, go to such a person, have them perform the ceremony, and call myself married (in the eyes of the law). I have a friend, right now, who is having some custody issues because somehow (I'm not speculating) the marriage was never legally recorded.

When his "wife" decided to leave, with the kid, and travel to Missouri, five years of living together, a religious ceremony; witness to the wedding, etc. meant nothing (Calif. not having any common law marriage). On the up side (if such there be) he doesn't need to sue for divorce. On the down side, the custody issues are murky. All is settled, for the moment, but I foresee some ugliness in the, not so distant, future.

I am all for removing all the civil appurtenances of marriage from the purview of the church. Let them solemnize people's unions. But the functions of property, taxes, kids, etc., those are the state's proper field of interest, and that's where it ought to lie.

And the only real hiccups are going to be when poly-folk start applying for recognition too.

Oh... the tax-law issues I see there.

#274 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 02:45 PM:

C. Wingate #264: 'I count atheists as religious.'

I count people named Wingate as Martians.

#275 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 02:49 PM:

C Wingate @ 264... I count atheists as religious

Actually, I would say that this statement constitutes more than a misunderstanding of atheism (as I characterized it earlier). It seems to me a deliberate attempt to belittle and marginalize, a sort of pat on the head and admonishment of the "there there, you don't really understand your own position, let me define it for you" sort.

It's rather like saying to a liberal "you don't actually understand those positions you're claiming, you're really a conservative." Or saying to a professed Christian, "oh, you're not really a Christian, you're actually a Zoroastrian." It is both demeaning and offensive.

#276 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 02:56 PM:

re atheism: It has, at it's core, a leap of faith. It is a better leap than Pascal's (because if there is a god(s) picking the right one matters, not just deciding the Christian version is the safest bet; because He promises the worst hell if you don't believe).

Lack of deity is unprovable. At that level it's a religious conviction.

What it doesn't have is any tenets, doctrine, or dogma.

To hold it up as equivalent, in practice, as that kernel of parallel exists in fact, is silly.

I don't think that's what C. Wingate was doing.

That said... so long as the "faith" of atheists isn't being intruded into the restriction of religious practice (with all the caveats I've made in the rest of this discussion) they have as much right to vote according to their moral code as anyone else.

#277 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 02:56 PM:

Is there a difference between atheism and not giving a damn?

#278 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 03:10 PM:

276 Terry Karney Lack of deity is unprovable. At that level it's a religious conviction..

By that logic the lack of belief in any unprovable thing constitutes a religious belief. That includes things that many find plausible or utterly believable including various forms of deity or spirit, but it also includes things like invisible unicorns which nobody finds plausible. If the standard is applied evenly, the lack of belief in the Flying Spaghetti monster is also a religious belief. Is that your assertion?

#279 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 03:24 PM:

There are atheists who don't give a damn, and there are some atheists who are rather passionate about their disbelief in deity. This belief system governs many aspects of their actions and interactions. "Öbservant" atheists, if you will. Parallels with observant members of religious groups don't seem extremely far-fetched, in my experience. That's how I understood C. Wingate's comment, at any rate. And I seriously didn't catch any disrepect or belittlement on his part; disagreement with issues, but that's all.

Otherwise I agree with CosmicDog 'way upthread @15--
...Would I want to live in a society/culture that reflects (my understanding of) God's character, his 'standards'? Sure enough. Do I think that changing the law, reducing our freedom to choose, in an attempt to force conformity to some preferred behavior will accomplish that? By no means. If man is not free to reject God, he is not free to choose God...

#280 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 03:25 PM:

C. Wingate, #254: church/state separationistas

Finally declaring what you really think about separation of church and state, eh? We're all just terrorists against the Moral Majority, who have the God-given right to see their opinions reflected in the law of the land.

If that's not what you meant, stop using that kind of language. It does neither you nor your cause any credit.

Xopher, #260: I can't take credit for all of that. The insight about "who's the husband and who's the wife?" came from Doug Muder, here. Reading that paper was like having a series of lightbulbs go off in my head.

With you 100% on everything you say about racism. Not to mention sexism -- women weren't given the vote, and the right to own property in their own names, because society had abandoned sexism!

And WRT getting the state out of the marriage business, I'd much rather just let same-sex couples have the same legal shortcut that's available to me. Admittedly, this doesn't address the issue of polyamory, but one step at a time...

Lizzy L., #263: Restrictions around who shall marry should not be subject to a specifically religious test.

That's it in a nutshell. The wingnuts are doing their best to paint this as "Catholic priests will be FORCED to marry two men!*", but in actuality I've never met (or even heard of) anyone who's interested in that. What same-sex couples want is the same right that I have to go down to the county courthouse with my partner and emerge married. If some churches want to agree to perform marriages for same-sex couples, that's icing on the cake -- but it's not necessary.

Kelly, #268: People who define "atheism" as a religion fall into two broad camps IME:

1) Those who genuinely cannot grasp the idea of being without religion, and therefore have to assign something about every other person to filling that slot. If the other person disavows religion, that very disavowal is often so assigned. At the root, this is a failure of imagination, but at least it's sincere.

2) Those who are trying to do an end-run around the Constitution by pretending that "no religion" is the same as any declared religion and then invoking the "religious freedom" arguments. These are often the same people who equate "not being able to force my religion on other people" with "my religion is being persecuted!" This is outright and deliberate manipulation of the system with fraudulent intent.

* Somehow it's always the image of two men that takes center stage in wingnut discussions of homosexuality. I don't think I need to detail what that says about their masculinity issues, or their opinions of women and those who "play the female role".

#281 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 03:34 PM:

Believing in Krishna, Ameteratsu, God, FSM, Cthulu, or any other deity, is a religious belief (by definition).

Saying that, ispo facto they absolutely can't exist, is; in the limits I gave above, a religious belief.

Both positions are, at core, unprovable.

That doesn't raise (as many theists would claim) atheism to a religion.

Lots of folks have religious beliefs, which don't rise to the ordered structure of a religion (see Spiritulism).

Belief in the actual existence of invisible unicorns (who leave no trace) would, by my lights, count as a religious belief.

So yes, asserting the absolute non-existence of the FSM is, by my definition, a religious belief.

One could argue the recency of His Noodly Appendenges arrival on the scene makes it not-unreasonable to so assert, but that doesn't mean those who first described him weren't privileged to see the Truth.

Right now, such a negative assertion isn't unreasonable. But the Incarnation is a religious belief (is it your assertion it isn't?). How (other than primacy, and time) is the statement that Jesus was the Incarnate form of God (which follows some Greek thinking on the nature of deity) any different, in substance?

There are a lot of people who believe that the Mormon take on God/Jesus is wrong. The Mormons, religiously, believe it's right.

Neither position is provable. They are religious assertions.

At this point I seem to be recycling the arguments, with different examples, so I'll stop trying to further clarify.

#282 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 03:38 PM:

I think C Wingate has been referring to the phenomenon of the evangelical atheist.

I'm surprised at how few people here seem to have met them. I have; I know quite a few. They not only tell me what they believe, but they presume to tell me what I should believe as well. It's as rude as any form of witnessing.

I'd be interested in hearing another term for such a person, but denying the existence of the type seems to me to be unrealistic.

#283 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 03:40 PM:

Oh, I don't think that C Wingate intended belittlement, but the defining of someone else's beliefs or (in this case) lack thereof is a time honored way of disenfranchising those beliefs and is inherently belittling, regardless of intent.

I really really don't want to get into an argument over atheism vs. theism, but I couldn't in good conscience let what I feel is a use of language to define people in a way contrary to their stated self-definition pass without addressing it.

One of my biggest problems with the definition besides the (imho) inherent belittlement is that it conflates active disbelief and lack of belief into one box, and I really don't see those two things as the same at all. Not believing that something is true and believing that something is not true are not the same. One is a stakeholding position. The other is not.

#284 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 03:46 PM:

abi, 282: I call those people "proselytizing atheists," since "evangelical" is shorthand for "evangelical Christians." (Where I live, anyway.)

#285 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 03:51 PM:

#281 Terry Karney

Thanks for the clarification. I guess I don't see atheism as necessarily a position of negative assertion. There is no god /= I lack belief in god. While there are certainly atheists who actively believe the former, there are also quite a few who fall into the latter camp and are simply without belief in deity.

The latter doesn't actually make a prediction about the existence of deity and can be read something like this: Do I believe in god? No. Do I assert that my lack of belief means there is no god? Also no.

#286 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 03:52 PM:

abi @ 282 -

Evangelical atheist seems like a good term.

I've always been sort of non-militant agnostic, believing that absolute knowledge of any kind is not achievable by human beings. Lately, though, I've gotten tired of religion being worn like a cloak of purity in politics, and I've been wanting to attack.

If politicians weren't so quick to buddy up to the Jesus lobby, perhaps the evangelical atheists would back off a bit, and things would be a bit quieter. But people being what they are, I'm not holding my breath.

#287 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 03:54 PM:

C. wingate at 250, your,
abortion debate too. It seems to me that the latter could be resolved with a position that says, "Look, you can get an abortion, no questions, early enough on. After such and such a point, though, you're committed to seeing the thing through, modulo medical extremity" and achieve a position that the populace could live with, if uneasily. But the rhetoric is so absolute that such a compromise is, for now, impossible.
is a pretty accurate description of compromise reached in Roe v. Wade

Lizzy L at 263, your description of secular and religious marriage is an accurate description of the current state of (heterosexual) marriage in most U.S. states. The state authorizes a religious authority to perform the state function of recognizing a legal marriage. A legal, nonreligious marriage is one performed by a non-religious authority, such as a J.P.

I personally think the state, secular representative should perform the legal marriage, and if a couple wants a religious marriage, they should have to get a second ceremony with the religious authority of their choice. This makes it clear that no church is forced to perform a wedding for a couple it does not approve of (gay, divorced, infertile, whatever). It also makes it clear that the state is only concerned with the civil, legal aspects of the union.

#288 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 04:05 PM:

Okay, "evangelical atheists" seems to be more popular than "proselytizing atheists." But I really do want to stress that "evangelical" has a specific meaning in the context of American religion and politics. Instead, I'd suggest "evangelizing atheists."

#289 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 04:08 PM:

Nuts. That last sentence wasn't supposed to be italicized.

#290 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 04:13 PM:

Lee: wrt to the masculinity issues. The people who are against it are very traditional. In that vein, a man (superior) submitting to a woman (inferior) is a greater upset of the natural order than an inferior asserting dominance over another inferior.

Now, why they can't accept that some superiors are more superior than other superiors...

The non-issue of female homosexuals has to do with that same sense of superior. Since it's "natural" for men and women to be attracted each other, a lesbian is just confused. Give her the affection of a good man, and she'll, "see the light".

Furhther, since they don't see (because of the above) a real threat from lesbians (they can't force themselves, as inferiors, on men, and men will be able to "save" them), it's not as much of an issue.

But it is something of an issue. Any woman who doesn't want to sleep with them is, "a dyke".

The, "all women are bi-sexual" meme I keep seeing is part of that. And, if all women are bi-sexual, then there aren't any "real" lesbians (except those nasty "dykes" who just want to oppress men).

But a male homosexual... he might be interested in them, and that might put them off the pedestal they believe themselves to be on.

That, of course, massively oversimplifies things, but I think it's part of the issue.

Kelly McCullough: (#s 283, 285) Not believing that something is true and believing that something is not true are not the same. One is a stakeholding position. The other is not.

The latter doesn't actually make a prediction about the existence of deity and can be read something like this: Do I believe in god? No. Do I assert that my lack of belief means there is no god? Also no.

I think Atheism (which means, No-God) is a stakeholding position. To be an atheist one asserts there is, in fact, no god.

To take the lack of belief in a god means, "I don't know if there is a god, and I won't stake a wager on any one of the possible gods I can't be sure about" (to keep Pascal in the equation, since a lot of hard proslytisers are fond of saying, things along those lines) isn't atheism. It's agnosticism.

At one level (that of daily observance) it's functionally the same (one doesn't believe in god). But, at the stakeholding level, one has no investment in the absolute lack of a deity.

abi: I've met, and more seen (esp. at Pharyngula, as well as hanging about at Pandangon) a number of militant atheists. I don't know if I expect them to be more tolerant, or if the tone they take is somehow goring my ox, but they are, in some ways, more offensive to me than the hard-core fire and brimstone sorts.

If there is no God, and I'm enjoying myself in the rituals of a religion, that's my business. I would like them to be as polite to the religious, as they want the religious to be to them.

#291 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 04:22 PM:

I think 'evangelical atheist' should be used the same way as 'Catholic atheist' and 'protestant atheist' are; that is, to identify atheists who differ according to their birth religion (and such differences do exist, trust me). So an evangelical atheist would be one whose birth religion was evangelical Christianity; these folks have IME a markedly higher incidence of proselytization than other types of atheist, but it's not a sure thing.

I've encountered this in the Pagan community as well. A friend who was raised Orthodox Jewish walked out of a ritual where they wanted the men to stand on one side of the room and the women on the other; I stayed, and there was enough confusion that there were women on the men's side and vice versa. It's not so much your expectations of ritual that define us in this case; it's that Judy has very different squicks than I have!

#292 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 04:27 PM:

According to my OED Atheism is disbelief in or denial of the existence of a god. That or is very important and at the crux of our disagreement. Disbelief is in turn the action of disbelieving which can mean either to not believe or to believe the negative of. I think that you will find quite a number of atheists who simply fail to believe in a deity. So, an atheist is one who either asserts there is no god or asserts they have no belief in a god. I know quite a number of atheists who fall into both camps.

#293 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 04:29 PM:

Lizzy L at 263, your description of secular and religious marriage is an accurate description of the current state of (heterosexual) marriage in most U.S. states. The state authorizes a religious authority to perform the state function of recognizing a legal marriage. A legal, nonreligious marriage is one performed by a non-religious authority, such as a J.P.

Nancy Mittens at 287: In my scenario, the state does NOT authorize the religious authority to perform the state function. They are completely separate. A religious marriage is not a legal marriage, ever. Otherwise, you are right, I think.

#294 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 04:33 PM:

Kelly McCullough @ 292 -

So, an atheist is one who either asserts there is no god or asserts they have no belief in a god.

Kinda hard to imagine an atheist saying, Yeah, there's a God, but I don't believe in him.

#295 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 04:36 PM:

#294 Steve C.

But not at all hard to picture an atheist saying "I don't believe there is a god" as opposed to "there is no god." I see at all the time.

#296 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 04:38 PM:

Life is too short to go around the "atheism is not religious, and therefore is privileged" carousel. I've spent all the time I ever care to on that, and twenty years of being argued with by atheists hasn't budged me a bit.

All that really matters in the end is that people who are religious (however one uses the word) and not being hypocritical are going to vote their religion. If most of them are Christian or are in alignment with what (some version of) Christianity teachers, then the law is going to have something of a Christian color. Insofar as the agents of the law interfere with that, they may very well try to remove that interference, with the full authorization of the 1st amendment.

I'm continuing to hear the insinuation that atheists and the irreligious are in agreement as to (to take the object example) homosexuality. I know for a fact that they aren't in agreement on abortion, so we don't even need to go there; but I think it's a very safe bet that a lot of people who hold homosexuality to be immoral are not churchgoers.

The deepest problem in all of this is that the whole thing is about avoiding the obligation to persuade anyone else. The big scary thing with Roe v. Wade isn't that it could be overturned: it's that if it is overturned, both sides are going to have to fight like hell to get the ordinary processes of law to give them a favorable result. They are paralyzed in extreme positions and could not work out a compromise. It's much easier to appeal to the principles of the process as giving one's side a trump card.

To throw some political realism on this: the Democrats are too beholden to a bunch of secularist interests to pose much of a threat towards establishing a theocracy. That of course leaves the minions of Satan the Republicans. Mitt Romney is a JFK figure: if there's one thing that's NOT going to happen in this country, it's a Mormon theocracy-- at least outside of Utah or Idaho. His Mormonism is every bit the bogeyman that JFK's Catholicism was, and all those Baptists in the south and Methodists in the plains states are implacably against it. McCain is technically an Episcopalian-- one gathers he cannot find a congenial parish back in AZ. We Episcopalians like to pretend we're the state church, but we aren't fooling anyone. After that, we are starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel as far as finding serious contenders, though if things get thrown into convention, who knows? But no matter what, it is hard to imagine that the Republicans could pick up anything like the congressional support needed to do something substantial; the most they could do is continue the current social issue stalemate. Indeed, if the economy tanks, it might be better not to win the White House. And frankly, I'm about 200 times more concerned about undoing all the homeland security crap, which has an actual impact on my life and which is a present threat to liberty.

#297 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 04:39 PM:

Lizzy L, I want your scenario to exist! (see my third paragraph up there)

#298 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 04:40 PM:

Sigh, should have been "see it all the time"

An awful lot of atheists, at least those I've discussed the issue, with see it as an odds thing. The chance that there is a god is very close to but not quite equal to zero. So close in fact that, barring hard evidence to the contrary, the assumption should be that there is no god and one's life should be lived under that assumption.

#299 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 04:45 PM:

Chapeau, C Wingate!

#300 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 04:49 PM:

C Wingate, where did the "and therefore is privileged" part enter the equation?

As for the rest, I haven't the slightest interest in arguing the point with you either. I just wanted to make it clear that at least some atheists find the assertion that atheism is a religion to be both belittling and offensive. If you honestly don't care about that, that's your lookout.

#301 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 05:01 PM:

Kelly, #283: I know someone who defines that as the difference between "strong atheism" (active disbelief) and "weak atheism" (lack of belief).

Then there's the Militant Agnostic: "I don't know, and you don't either!"

Steve, #286: If politicians weren't so quick to buddy up to the Jesus lobby, perhaps the evangelical atheists would back off a bit

Quite. It's one thing to know that a lot of people don't share your beliefs, and another entirely to watch them trying to make your beliefs illegal.

#302 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 05:07 PM:

Terry Karney@253: 'The squick factor seems to boil down to, "It's wrong because it's wrong" which is the religious culture shaping the way people look at it.'

Isn't it really the other way around? This aspect of so-called "religious" culture is shaped *by* the squick factor. Look at how and when the Confessing Church Movemment got formed, for instance. It's because of its founders' and members' visceral revulsion for homosexual marriage. They paint a thin veneer of scrip
tural justification over it (necessarily thin because there isn't much of any su
ch scriptures to base it on), but that's rationalization of their gut feeling.

They claim to worship a great God, but they really worship their tiny guts.

Meanwhile, here's Jim Wallis on the Daily Show telling Jon Stewart the religious right is finished as a dominant force:

http://revolutioninjesusland.com/index.php/2008/01/23/its-official-jim-wallis-said-it-on-jon-stewart/

And he has the intestinal fortitude to say people are interested in real issues such as poverty, war, and the environment, rather than the religious right's few tiny-gut hot-button wedge issues.

Of course, even if he's right, that doesn't mean we don't have a lot of cleaning up to do and we still need to keep a wary eye for the Huckabees of the world.

#303 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 05:26 PM:

C. Wingate: I (again) think you are palming a card. not-churchgoer does not equal non-religious. I am the former, but not the latter.

So yes, I agree, there are lots of non-churchgoers who are morally opposed to homosexuality. That is not the same as being able to point to lots of people who aren't religiously motivated being so opposed.

At a meta-level, I suspect those who fall into the last camp (few, and far between, have they been, in my experience), are viewing it through the prism of being reared in a faith which say so; of living in a country where the debate is driven by those who say it's immoral; because of their religion, and that reinforces the, largely unexamined, beliefs of thier childhood.

I haven't seen, in the debate here, that atheism is in someway priveleged (in fact, esp. when discussing the agressively atheist, they seem to be getting the same shrift as the theist).

What I don't see you making a distinction between is those who are religious, and those who are part of a religion.

No one has said those who cast votes, to keep the laws in accord with their religion are hypocrites. What we have said is they are wrong to do so, because we a nation which abjures such a conflation of the church and state.

Realising that moral codes will have parallels we have parsed out tests to see if those religious beliefs are parallel, when they match policy, or happen to be an intrustion of the sectarian to the secular.

I happen to believe that looking to see how a candidate feels about that is as important as more common evaluations of his thoughts on foreign policy.

#304 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 05:41 PM:

jayskew: If distaste for homosexuality was universal, then I might say the religious factor was one of the "gut-level" squick being codified.

But since that's not the case, I don't buy it. The culture we live in has had a large level of religious repression of homosexuality (though mostly male... viz Victoria saying lesbianism didn't need to be illegal), has become something people don't question.

Sort of like Christmas being a holiday for everyone.

#305 ::: Carol Witt ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 05:45 PM:

Al Gore's recent statement on marriage (video).

I apologize if this has been posted already, or if it ought to be in the current open thread instead.

#306 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 06:17 PM:

re 300: It is highly tempting to conclude that the sense of being belittled is unconscious payback for belittling religious believers. Such belittling is commonplace, not that I would accuse you in particular of it. But in any case I see a commonality between the people who actively express a denial of the supernatural and those who profess a belief in it that I do not see between either group and those who just don't care. On the level that matters here, I hold that an elevation, because in general thoughtfulness ranks higher than not caring.

re 303: When one looks at things like Buddhism, one gets stuck with religions that aren't essentially theistic. To some degree I would argue that Shinto isn't either, though not at all in the same sense. And I'm not relying on the notion of religions vs. the religious impulses of individuals. When one chooses to deal with the latter rather than the former, however, the same blurring that (I think) makes atheists religious also labels a lot of impulses as religious that aren't theistic either. At least, they are so unlike Western "God spoke this law" that they are irreligious in some sense or another. If one's views are essentially pantheistic, and one thinks that homosexuality is unnatural, is that latter belief religious? Who can really say?

When one starts looking at the moral systems of individuals, and tries to fit them to religious beliefs, one finds a great deal of muddied thinking, if not outright self-contradiction. I for one would not presume to say that J. Random American unbeliever who thinks that gays are icky is doing so as the consequence of some sort of latent Christian teaching. As jayskew says, it seems entirely possible that the religious teaching is simply a realization of the sense of "ickiness".

That is a major strategic problem. The assumption that shutting off the Christian right is going to make those moral qualms go away is, I think, overconfident. Irreligion in the USA, not to mention atheism, is heavily colored by reaction against Orthodox Judaism and dogmatic Christianity. But the fate of women's rights, whatever one thinks of it, is definitely colored by impulses more basic than mere right-wing Christian instruction. I doubt that men who beat their wives are overrepresented in church pews; more likely, I think, they are absent from them. The notion that opposition to homosexuality is all religion's fault is a wish, a hope, but not true, I think.

#307 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 06:19 PM:

C. Wingate @ 253: re 253: The Lemon test was applied to the issue of creationism.

No, it had nothing to do with creationism. You might actually try reading the material I linked to. Once you've done so, come back and we might be able to discuss the topic from a mutually informed standpoint.

#308 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 06:24 PM:

Rats. Make that:

C. Wingate @ 264: re 253: The Lemon test was applied to the issue of creationism.

No, it had nothing to do with creationism. You might try actually reading the material I linked to. Once you've done so, come back and we might be able to discuss the topic from a mutually informed standpoint.

(Don't want to confuse everyone by referring to post numbers recursively.)

#309 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 06:26 PM:

C. Wingate, 306: It is highly tempting to conclude that the sense of being belittled is unconscious payback for belittling religious believers.

I'm sorry, I don't understand this at all. Are you saying that atheists belittle believers, and feel guilty, and then feel belittled even when believers aren't trying to belittle them?

I've been staying out of this for a couple of reasons, one of which is the fact that your EC-USA is obviously not the one I belong to. But the sentence I quoted above is so tangled that I had to ask.

#310 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 06:33 PM:

C. Wingate, #306: I doubt that men who beat their wives are overrepresented in church pews; more likely, I think, they are absent from them. The notion that opposition to homosexuality is all religion's fault is a wish, a hope, but not true, I think.

The level of irony exhibited by this pair of sentences is difficult for me to find words to express. The idea that not going to church, by itself, is enough to significantly increase the likelihood of spousal abuse -- or, indeed, that going to church, by itself, is enough to decrease that likelihood -- is exactly the same level of "a wish, a hope, but not true" that you ascribe to the demonstrated religious basis of most homophobia.

#311 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 06:34 PM:

I'm an atheist. To me that means that, given the available evidence, I consider the best yet-proposed theory of God to be that there is none.

This is not the same as "ispo facto [God[s]] absolutely can't exist." Nor is it agnoticism. Nor is it a religion.

I'm also interested to hear what privilege I'm supposedly claiming.

#312 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 06:38 PM:

C Wingate: Who are the Buddhists (and which flavor...?) and pantheists, and animists and atheists, of whom you know so many (and I so few) who populate the vast numbers of people you claim are opposed to homosexuality, equal rights, etc.?

Because you keep claiming they exist, in significant numbers, and I've not encountered them (and that in a fair bit of wandering to and fro in the world).

As I said to jayskew... if the "icky" factor were universal, had existed through the ages, and were so today, I might accept the premise that some basic quirk of human nature made it something innate.

But it wasn't, and isn't, so that argument fails to sway me.

#313 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 06:43 PM:

#306
One Texas Baptist I knew (probably not a Southern Baptist) said that a lot of people are Christians, until they get out into the parking lot.

I've heard of people who are churchgoing and abuse drugs, spouses, and children. Some of them also lie, cheat, and steal. They may also look down on their neighbors, especially if their neighbors are different in religion, political views, or skin color. (I remember the hooraw when Bishop Pike (Episcopal) remarried, in the Bay Area. You'd have thought he'd converted to Cthulu.)

Going to church is not at all the same as being religious (consider all those people who only show up at Christmas and Easter).

#314 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 06:50 PM:

C. 306: The notion that opposition to homosexuality is all religion's fault is a wish, a hope, but not true, I think.

Is there any particular reason you think this? Where on Earth do you think it comes from, then? Surely you know that in various places in ancient times there was no such aversion? (No, they didn't have same-sex marriage, but marriage was a property arrangement back then, with women as one more item of property.)

By contrast, every culture we know about, ancient and modern, has had an incest taboo, justified by various means, but it's a universal human norm.

Since you cannot point to any such human universal wrt homosexuality, where DO you think the aversion comes from, if not religion?

#315 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 07:00 PM:

Tim Walters: That was probably an infelicitous choice of phrase on my part.

I don't say atheism is a religion. I do say it's a religious conviction (in that it requires a leap of faith).

Those who believe in God say, "given the available evidence, the best theory for deity is that it exists and is 'x'".

None of those require that any other belief/action/affliation follows from the premise, but the premise is unprovable.

Lee: Yes, I didn't wan't to address the churches which say a husband, as head of the house, has the duty to discipline his wife, just as he does his children; yes, even to judicious uses of force.

That, of course, isn't abuse, it's loving care.

#316 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 07:35 PM:

I do say it's a religious conviction (in that it requires a leap of faith).

Only in the trivial sense that every belief of any sort (including e.g. agnosticism) requires a leap of faith. I can't prove that the battle of Waterloo happened, but that it did is a better theory than that it didn't.

Those who believe in God say, "given the available evidence, the best theory for deity is that it exists and is 'x'".

Some do, perhaps, and if so, however wrong I think they are, I wouldn't consider them to be making a leap of faith, as long as they are genuinely open to new evidence and/or new theories.

But most theists, or at least many, don't. Instead they specifically avow that faith rather than reason leads them to believe in God(s).

#317 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 07:38 PM:

C. Wingate, the problem isn't that many Christians (Buddhists, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, pantheists, deists, Wiccans, worshippers of the FSM, insert your belief system of choice here) think homosexuality is icky. Many Christians think inordinate greed is icky. But we don't legislate against inordinate greed unless it becomes theft or fraud, and if we were to do so, because we live in a pluralistic, non-theocratic society, we would have to find a set of justifications for such laws other than pointing out that Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the Eye of the Needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. We don't base our laws on Jesus Said.

Believing that homosexuality is "unnatural" may stem from places other than religious teachings, I suppose that's true. But wherever it stems from, one cannot make laws against homosexual conduct based on an appeal to revelation or an appeal to religious authority or religious establishment -- not in this country. If that is the ONLY justification you can come up with for such laws to exist; sorry, in the immortal words of some nameless New Yorker, Geddoutaheah.

I feel like I'm going in circles. Okay, I'm done.

#318 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 07:38 PM:

Terry@312 asks: "Who are the Buddhists (and which flavor...?) and pantheists, and animists and atheists, of whom you know so many (and I so few) who populate the vast numbers of people you claim are opposed to homosexuality, equal rights, etc.?"

There appears to be a a fairly large contingent of Buddhists who teach that homosexual sex (as well as certain forms of heterosexual sex) is wrong. The Dalai Lama is the leader of one such school of Buddhism. He does, however, separate the issue of the morality of sexual behavior from the issue of the rights of gays and lesbians under the law (as do many folks in other religions, including Christianity.)

Here's 2004 interview with the Dalai Lama that covers both points. (The relevant section starts about midway through the article.)

#319 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 07:47 PM:

pj,

BTW: My view of 'Judeo-Christian' as applied to anything is that it's a code word for Old Testament rules, and not Christian, by definition.

that's funny. my view is it's seeing all of the old testament through the christian interpretation of it, throwing out all jewish traditions in favour of what the church says the text says. i see it as a way for the christians who invoke it to make their arguments seem more universal, roping jews (& our religious texts) into a fight that isn't ours.

for example c wingate said, in almost as many words, that marriage is, in the judeo-christian tradition, a sacrament between one man & one woman. wrong. jewish tradition is polygamous.

the institution of monogamy was a fix put in rather late, after the ashkenazim were already (geographically) split from the sepharadim & others. monogamy was instituted on sepharadim much later, if at all. certain mizrachi communities & ethiopian communities did not adopt monogamy until they moved to israel.

moreover, to bring this to here-&-now & practical ramifications, the fact that jewish law sanctions polygamy is one of the reasons israeli divorce law (which dena shunra touched on above) is so horrible. that a man can remarry as much as he likes, while keeping his ex wife(/ves) from ever remarrying or bearing children that aren't legally bastards, is only possible because marriage is not a sacrament between one man and one woman in judaism.

#320 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 07:49 PM:

I'll take a stab at the homosexuality thing, and why, besides religion, it might be seen as something that started to squick people. And this really applies only to males.

Besides sexual gratification, dominance is one of the other human motivations that can be expressed by sex. Mounting another man is a very clear expression of dominance - even today, over in Muslim countries, people make distinctions between tops and bottoms, and the bottoms are considered the homosexuals.


The Kingdom in the Closet

In a society that became increasing hierarchical in nature, the idea of being mounted by someone probably struck too close to home.

I realize that I may be all wet about this, but sexuality hits hard at people's primary drives and emotions.

Aside from religon, everything gets more complicated as you transition from a pastoral existence to a more crowded social space. Rules don't just pop up for sex - they come about for dress, for eating, for conversation, for manners, you name it.

#321 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 08:04 PM:

Xopher, #314: Since you didn't bring up the ancient Greeks*, I will. In the society that many people view as the fountainhead of Western Civilization, women were used only as receptacles for breeding. Real Love(tm) was reserved for the union of equals, man with man. Universal squick, my ass.**

* And it's too bad you didn't, since the comment number would have been so appropriate!
** Yes, that was intentional. No, I'm not ashamed of myself at all.

#322 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 08:17 PM:

Lee: I referred to them, but didn't name them. And like you, I'm pretty sure my ass squicks everyone!

Well, my boyfriend says he likes it. But he would, wouldn't he? :-)

#323 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 08:27 PM:

Miriam @319: ok, this is going to get rather esoteric... ...Since family law is based on religious affiliation in modern Israel, a Jewish man can still be granted license to wed a second wife while still married to the first one. This happens occasionally, usually if the first wife refuses to accept the writ of divorce or if she is disabled and cannot accept the writ.

In order to do so, the man who wishes to marry another wife must obtain the agreement of one hundred rabbis. It is pretty rare, but easily doable inside Israel (where rabbis are rather thick on the ground). I imagine that it was rather harder to put into practice in a time and place where rabbinical density was sparser.

Women, as you pointed out, do not have that option, and can be stuck with a situation where they have to bribe their way out of a marriage (give up all their property, for example).

And the war of rabbis against women continues, with new developments: there is a recent trend of RETROACTIVELY CANCELING DIVORCES. Rabbis, who are threatened by the encroachment of civil courts into family law, which had been their sole province, have been doing this to women who seem uppity. In one of the cases that recently made the news, the woman discovered that she had been un-divorced from her financially abusive husband when she was applying for a license for her new marriage. Complicating matters, she was pregnant by her fiance.
The rabbinical decision to undivorce her meant that the baby would be declared illegitimate (and thus unable to be part of Jewish community himself and his descendants for ten generations... ...thoroughly outcast). That put a deadline on the negotiations.

And they can legally do so. Imagine the implications in terms of an ex-spouse's ability to harass their former partner. When money is no object and control rules the day, things can get very hairy.

Which is why I don't ever want to live in a theocracy again.

#324 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 09:47 PM:

Wow. Just wow. I wasn't exactly a big fan of Israel before, Dena, but what you describe sounds very much like a society that doesn't deserve to survive.

#325 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 10:17 PM:

Umm...just to be clear, I emphatically do NOT mean that Israel should be wiped off the map, or anything like that. I mean a society that treats some people so badly will probably collapse from internal stresses, and this will not be a bad thing, except that social collapses are generally a bad thing...

...I'll just be over here.

#326 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 10:22 PM:

Xopher, there's no perfect society in the world. All have flaws, some more than others. Israel's failure to recognize civil marriage is one of its flaws. That doesn't mean it's gonna collapse because of it, nor (Dena) does that make it a theocracy.

Orthodox Jews in the US suffer the same problems Dena describes. Does that mean the US is going to collapse under the weight of it?

#327 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 10:25 PM:

Xopher, what I think Israel/Palestine needs is a reorganization under principles that allow each individual more power - which implies that it needs far better mechanisms than it currently has for enforcing fair play. (The Hebrew word for someone who is committed to fair play translates into Hebrew as a curse word. Really.)

That includes Palestinian individuals. And women individuals. And gay individuals. That includes powers (rights?) to have water, air, and food. Regardless of race, gender, or creed.

And I've been called an unrealistic, raving, anti-Semitic, holocaust denying monster for saying so. Oh well...

(And I will try and refrain from getting on my soapbox and wailing about Israel's war against Yiddish, the way it stole the inheritance of holocaust survivors, and the Orr Commission's conclusions about its mistreatment of a certain class of citizens. Or the stolen Yemeni babies. Or... ...well, I mostly won't wail. I care about the people there and I hate what is happening to them. And I mean Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and nondenominational people... ...not just one particular group. Theocracies are terrible things.)

(Gets off the soapbox, weeping.)

#328 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 10:28 PM:

In the US the get is not a legal requirement for divorce or remarriage, nor can a rabbi undo a civil divorce.

And from what Dena said earlier, I would gather that Israel is not a signatory of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that every person has the right to change their religion if they want to.

OK, maybe I overstated the case. But the more I hear about Israel the less I like it.

#329 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 10:29 PM:

Steve C.: That's why I asked what stripe of Budhism. It gets more thoroughly lumped than other really large religious families, and those lumpings are pretty dramatic.

I was also trying to keep the various dominance aspects of various homosexuality is icky discussions, because it seemed a distraction.

But it's true, who, "drives" makes a difference. Lots of cultures think it's ok to be the older male, who has a child lover, but to be a "receiver" as an adult moves one to the role of female.

So the idea isn't that homosexual acts, per se, are icky, but inverting the social order is the problem. Those men act like women, and so being one of them is wrong.

#330 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 10:35 PM:

See? So the crime of the homosexual is being too much like a woman. If being a woman were no longer seen as a bad thing, that would not be considered a bad thing either. Ergo, no sexism, no homophobia.

#331 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 10:37 PM:

Avram @326:

Observant Jews in the U.S. have a much greater selection of rabbinical authorities, to start with. And they have other options for marriage and divorce (civil law).

Since the rabbinical decisions in the United States only have force for people working within their framework, divorce and remarriage are possible without recourse to rabbinical law. The parties involved may be black-listed by the orthodox Jews, but they have recourse in other Jewish streams (which don't exist in Israel: Conservative & Reform aren't exactly banned, but they aren't given any official status. Their rabbis cannot legally perform any marriages, divorces, or hold any hearings in religious proceedings).

In Israel there is only one possible authority - and that is the religious one. With rules that most modern Americans would find distasteful.

As to Israel not being a perfect society - yes, of course nowhere is. But some societies change, evolve, and reorganize in more benign directions than others. Israel (with its occupation of Palestine, tensions with the "Israeli Arabs", and internal strife between factions based on religion, ethnic derivation, and military affiliation) looks like it is heading toward a spectacular crash. Xopher is exactly right in his assessment of the likely collapse from internal stresses. And rather like the U.S., the most theocratic forces seem to be the best suited for lock-step takeover - and the largest number of guns.

#332 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 10:41 PM:

Xopher @328: the answer to your guess is "not exactly". And I quote:

Q: Who are the signatories of the Declaration?

A: Since the Declaration is not legally binding technically, there are no signatories to the Declaration. Instead, the Declaration was ratified through a proclamation by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948 with a count of 48 votes to none with only 8 abstentions. This was considered a triumph as the vote unified very diverse, even conflicting political regimes.

#333 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 10:46 PM:

I don't know exactly how this memory is relevant to the discussion . . . but as I read through the various comments above, I'm reminded that it wasn't all that long ago that I was sitting in a public high school health class being taught that homosexuality was a mental illness. I suspect that there are people in the world who still believe something similar, and that that belief is only reinforced by various religious attitudes towards homosexual behavior.

It's a complicated issue, but I do think it is worth keeping in mind (especially for those who want to work towards social change, or guard against the kind of messing-with-the-Constitution that this thread started with) that religious bigotry isn't the only variety of bigotry the human race is prone to. We are capable of being morons in purely secular ways, too.

#334 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 11:12 PM:

i'd also clarify that i wouldn't go as far as to call israel a theocracy. but it is an excellent example of how the lack of separation between church & state degrades both.

#335 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 11:19 PM:

Dena 331: And rather like the U.S., the most theocratic forces [in Israel] seem to be the best suited for lock-step takeover - and the largest number of guns.

Wait, I was under the impression that the most religious Jews in Israel were also the most likely to be exempt from mandatory military service, and not especially likely to own guns.

#336 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 11:20 PM:

Mary Frances @ 333
It wasn't all that many years ago that I read a column by a (very) conservative minister claiming that the real rate of homosexuality was something like one in ten thousand ... with no source given. (This was at the same time he was railing against others who were claiming the four-percent-rate, saying that they needed to provide sources for their numbers, but I digress ....) Same minister also wrote, more than once, that it was a choice, and if gays really wanted, they could become straight: it only required an application of prayer and bible-reading. (This was not a Phelps-type minister, AFAIK, but you see what you can run up against.)

#337 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 12:04 AM:

P J Evans, #259: "My view of 'Judeo-Christian' as applied to anything is that it's a code word for Old Testament rules, and not Christian, by definition." For, worse still, Christian interpretations of the so-called "Old Testament"; itself a Christian term. Jews call their related but slightly different collection sacred texts the Tanakh (a Hebrew acronym for Torah, Prophets, Writings), and read it differently.

"Christian nation..." The Framers, very specifically, intend to outlaw this; many of them were Deists, and hated the Christian Churches of their day.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, #158: Thank you. One thing I am finding interesting is that some of the sharpest critics of Huckabee's religiosity here are the people who have to most direct experience of the type of radicalism he seems to be associated with. BTW, it does not seem to me that 21st-century authoritarianism is more intense than 20th-century; if anything, it has lost some credibility, though it is still very powerful. My impression is that authoritarianism has peaked; what we have now is somewhat different in character, though still oppressive.

Lizzy L, various: outside of the USA and North-Western Europe, Catholicism is very different; much more rigid, conservative, and powerful. One need only look south to Mexico to find a very different Church.

#338 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 12:39 AM:

Randolph Fritz at 337, I'm aware that Catholicism is different from country to country, and that the experience of being an American Catholic is not the same as the experience of being Catholic in Brazil, or China, or Uganda. But the conversation so far has focussed on the Constitution, American politics and church-state issues in this country, so I'm not sure why you bring it up. What connection am I missing?

#339 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 12:42 AM:

Terry Karney@#312: 'As I said to jayskew... if the "icky" factor were universal, had existed through the ages, and were so today, I might accept the premise that some basic quirk of human nature made it something innate.'

The ick factor is indeed innate. The particular expression differs per culture:

"When anthropologists like Richard Shweder and Alan Fiske survey moral
concerns across the globe, they find that a few themes keep popping up
from amid the diversity. People everywhere, at least in some circumstances
and with certain other folks in mind, think it?s bad to harm others
and good to help them. They have a sense of fairness: that one should
reciprocate favors, reward benefactors and punish cheaters. They
value loyalty to a group, sharing and solidarity among its members
and conformity to its norms. They believe that it is right to defer
to legitimate authorities and to respect people with high status. And
they exalt purity, cleanliness and sanctity while loathing defilement,
contamination and carnality."

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html?em&ex=1200373200
&en=180615d155579d74&ei=5087%0A

The particular religious right ick about homosexuality is presumably mostly about purity, and no doubt at least somewhat about authority, in the form of dominance, as other posters have pointed out. And probably about conformity to the group; see below. These are all things that are reinforced by religions, but that don't necessarily originate with the religion. Religions may be formed around groups with particular icks. Desert nomads tends towards sky gods, etc. If you prefer to see that as desert nomads are better attuned to seeing the true nature of the one true deity, feel free.

The Greeks have been used as an example of a group with a particular ick (or lack thereof). Yet Athenians and Spartans had very different icks regarding such things as how to raise the youth and how to party at night. Some scholars seem to think this has to do with Spartans originating as Dorian invaders (historians and archaeologists correct me on the details). But that customs differ doesn't mean that groups and people don't have icks; they just have different ones depending on their history and customs.

Xopher@#314: "By contrast, every culture we know about, ancient and modern, has had an incest taboo, justified by various means, but it's a universal human norm."

Oh really? Even Pharaohs who married their sisters? It seems even one of the supposedly most universal taboos had exceptions. After all, who else was a Pharaoh going to marry who was of equal rank? Religiously justified, of course, because the Pharaoh was a god. Speaking of gods, Hera was Zeus's sister.

For that matter, Abraham's wife Sarah was his half-sister, and there's no only no objection to that in the Bible: it's used as justification for Abraham loaning her out on more than one occassion.

C. Wingate@#306: "That is a major strategic problem. The assumption that shutting off the Christian right is going to make those moral qualms go away is, I think, overconfident."

Indeed. However, stopping the "Christian" right from taking more power would remove one of the biggest sources of imposition of personal feelings of ickiness onto the society at large.

"I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ."
--Mike Huckabee, 1998
http://www2.arkansasonline.com/news/1998/jun/08/huckabee-us-gave-religion/

I think everyone is missing an obvious aspect of why the religious right is so obsessed with homosexuality.

It's fear. Fear that they might be approached by a homosexual. Even more fear that they might (like numerous of the people they've elected) like it.

And fear that if gay marriage were legalized, their children might turn away from one-woman-one-man marriage. After all, if you believe that nobody should turn to government for assistance; everyone should depend on the family and the church; if alternatives to that become popular with your own people, where are you left when you're old or sick?

I think it's fear that makes most such people turn to that sort of religion in the first place. Fear of the other. Fear of themselves. So much fear they accept doctrines that make no sense and ignore plain facts before their faces because their religion provides structure and a group.

Hey, it worked for Augustine when he invented (OK, popularized and proof-texted) original sin! People then and now are willing to believe they're guilty because of something their ancestors did 6,000 years ago rather than try to make sense of the world for themselves.

This is relevant to Charlie's assertion that atheists are religious. It may seem that way to someone who frames everything in terms of religion. (Well, in Charlie's case, apparently in terms of monotheistic Christian religion, since he doesn't think Shinto or pantheists or maybe Buddhists, too, I can't tell, are religious.)

But what if you frame everything in terms of evidence, reason, and compassion? Then the burden of proof is on those who claim a vindictive judgmental god, especially one who wants to enforce rationalizations of its believers' ick feelings.

And such believers then seem not like the norm; instead like objects of pity.

We should help them. To grow up.

PS: Lest anyone try to claim I am attacking religion in general, I'm not. I'm poking fun and some pity at fear masquerading as religion. Augustine would be appalled by and Jesus would weep at the intellectual and moral shoddiness of the current crop of religious "fundamentalists" of all religions.

#340 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 01:04 AM:

Avram @335: it is way more nuanced than that.

There are the ultra-orthodox, 400 of whom were exempted in 1948; that same exemption for ultra-orthodox full-time scholars covered 41,000 in 2005.

But there are also the orthodox-but-not-ultra-orthodox ones, who spend a year and a half (instead of three) in the Israeli army. They often do officer training and serve in key positions.

And there are also the orthodox-nationalist ones, who do the full service and become career officers.

The last two categories pretty much cover the positions formerly held by the kibbutz cadre (ranging from secular non-orthodox (but, btw, still governed by orthodox Jewish law for family matters like marriage, divorce, and burial) to rabidly anti-orthodox).

The nationalist-orthodox are often settlers. Gun ownership is quite common among them. (Not all settlers are nationalist-orthodox, of course. There are the secular "lifestyle" settlers, and the "cheap housing" settlers, too). Settlers almost always carry guns.

The nationalist-orthodox settlers are very disappointed with the mostly secular Jewish politicians who are in control of the Israeli government. They hoped that Sharon (who had initiated the settlement project after 1967, in order to make it impossible to leave any territory that had been occupied during that war) and his Likud & Kadima (and rightward) partners would give them (even more) budgets and arrange for a greater security for them.

Instead of being their dream prime minister, Sharon unilaterally "disengaged" from Gaza, pulling out settlements as he went, and Olmert is both talking tough and to a certain degree resisting the construction of new ones. So they feel alienated from the Israeli government, and they demonstrate against it. A bunch of young teenage girls (nationalist-orthodox) were arrested a few weeks ago in one such demonstration, and have been refusing to identify themselves, which makes it impossible for the police to charge them, or their parents, for the damage they've done. Or to release them. This tactic is concerning because it is part of a declared war against a hated enemy (it was used against the British police during the 1917-1948 mandate the U.K. had over Palestine) and it broadcasts a huge rift between the people with the guns and the government that sort of pretends to be in control.

(And I didn't say a thing about the Palestinians. Or the immigrants from Russia, who are often right wing to the point of openly advocating genocides.)

Believe it or not, this is the SHORT version of the answer.

#341 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 01:38 AM:

jayskew: I'm not arguing that "icky" isn't innate. What I am saying (in re homosexuality) is that it doesn't have an innate "icky" factor.

As to the rest of the things you mention... they don't really relate to the icky factor. We can go haring off after other issues (such as the dominance one I ducked until Xopher brought it up; whence I elaborated on it), but looking to why some on the religious right might think the aspect of homosexual relations might be more, "fun" than hetero; and how that relates to Original Sin as sexual, and homosexual as more temptations of the Devil and all sorts of inference as to group identity is pointless, because the issue isn't really why religious groups want to legislate against it, but rather that they wish to do so, and that wish (no matter the underlying rationalizations and theologic reasoning) is wrong, in a society such as ours; so long as the reasons are purely religious.

Folks get off on all sorts of things which aren't just pointless to me, but downright appalling; even disgusting. So long as they do it consensually; and don't inflict it on me (at least no more than I inflict my obvious affections/lusts on them by way of public displays of affection, see Xopher re kissing his boyfriend in OT-99), I not only don't care, but it's none of my damned business.

Which is the sticking point. My religious beliefs, qua religious beliefs, are not a fit metric for running society (if it were, the tax code would be a lot different, more so the penal code), nor are anyone else's.

That's what this is all about. Homosexuality is just a convenient piñata to debate the why's of it, not the subject at hand.

p.s. The issue with the pharoahs was that they were gods, and the rules were different. The maintenance of the universe depended on keeping various levels of purity (or some such) in the bloodline. It was a specific exception, and ancient Egypt still had incest taboos, otherwise. It's not a good example of it not being a universal taboo. The other question is how close does the relationship have to be before the taboo comes into play. In the middle ages the Church forbade 3rd cousins to marry; but this was pretty much only honored in the breach (and used to anull marriages which weren't wanted anymore, see Eleanor of Aquitane and Louis, whom she divorced because of his being her 3rd cousin, so that she could marry Henry II, who was her third cousin).

#342 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 03:44 AM:

The Lion In Winter (1968) has an amazing screenplay.

Anyway, one point I'd like to mention is that I think that atheists need, more than most, the same sort of freedom of religious expression protection that is guaranteed to everyone else in the US Constitution. No Huckabee Happy Camps, plz.

#343 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 05:31 AM:

C. Wingate @ #296 writes: All that really matters in the end is that people who are religious (however one uses the word) and not being hypocritical are going to vote their religion.

This is wrong. Many of the staunchest defenders of the seperation of Church and State in America are religious people who don't want any other religion getting to influence the state.

Terry Karney @ #315 writes:
Those who believe in God say, "given the available evidence, the best theory for deity is that it exists and is 'x'".

That was my position back when I was religious, I thought God was a fact like Santy or Australia. Of course all the evidence came from the adults I knew; people I had good reason to trust, but not infallible authorities. I later figured out they were right about Australia, wrong about God and kidding about Santy.

I think very few people make it to adulthood with this simple belief in God as a fact based on evidence: most who do believe move to a position based on faith.

#344 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 09:30 AM:

jayskew 339: Bullshit. I didn't read that whole article, because it was the usual NYT light-duty crap (they quote Bertrand Russell to support punishment, when actually he was denouncing it), but I assume that you would have quoted any part that actually supported your point, which the passage you do quote does not.

Not everyone considers homosexuality a form of defilement. Perhaps you do (and it seems likely from this post), but assuming your own prejudices are natural laws is just plain foolish (albeit extremely common). There's no universal ick about homosexuality.

You respond to my citation of the universality of the incest taboo by saying Oh really? Even Pharaohs who married their sisters? It seems even one of the supposedly most universal taboos had exceptions. After all, who else was a Pharaoh going to marry who was of equal rank? Religiously justified, of course, because the Pharaoh was a god. Speaking of gods, Hera was Zeus's sister.

Yes, in those cultures the incest taboo was justified by saying that it was reserved for the gods, and it was blasphemy for ordinary humans. And also, the stories of Egyptians marrying their sisters (rare even in the "divine" royal house) are exaggerated; Egyptian men often called their wives "my sister" as an expression of emotional closeness, not because they were actually biological siblings.

And as for Abraham and Sarah, let's talk only about real historical cultures here, please. And the Bible is remarkably inconsistent about everything. Taking it as a moral guide would lead you to think it's OK to own slaves, or sacrifice your daughter (except, oh drat! there's no temple).

And the incest taboo isn't a universal individual ick, just a universal cultural trait. Some gay men think it's perfectly all right to have sex with one's brother, for example, especially one's identical twin ("that's not really sex...more like masturbation"). This is because they interpret the incest taboo as applying to sex that might result in reproduction.

The later bits of your post I actually agree with. The "Cruel God" Christians are truly pathetic. And you can add the Prophet (pbuh) to your list of authorities who would be mourning the behavior of the people who claim to follow them.

Terry (multiple posts): While I agree that many people view gay sex as a simple expression of dominance, among adults and once you actually get between the sheets, things are much, much less simple. I can't tell you why without going into details that would squick many here, possibly including you, so I'll leave it at that.

#345 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 10:07 AM:

Xopher: I don't know about squick, so much as not interested in a more than anthropological level (my squicks are odd and not at all predicatable; sometimes not even to me, so it's possible that I might go, Eww [as with various bits of cutting and bloodplay] but in the main, when it comes to sex, it's amazing what people enjoy, and so long as they are making informed decisions, and freely consenting, it's not my problem; even if I wouldn't want to do it).

I hope I didn't give the impression that my thoughts on the matter have to do with dom/sub relationships and innate power structures.

I don't see het relationships that way, and homosexuals (being people like any others) ought to have the same range of relational/sexual quirks.

I was trying to limit my wandering wonderings to the realm of political theory; as expressed by those who go, "yuck".

For amusements sake, none of us have gone into the problem of bisexual men (because we've glossed the problem of why women don't matter in the discussion of sex and "ick").

#346 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 10:57 AM:

Xopher #243:

(Dang, skip out for one day to have some tests done, and you can't catch up!)

I'll quote this, because it's a ways back.

I said (in part):
albatross 242: More fundamentally, though, I don't think what you're describing is an imposition of religion, just an imposition of moral beliefs that you don't share.

You responded (in part):
Can you give me a clear idea of where you think the line is? For example, if a state forbids liquor to be sold on Sunday, would that be an imposition of religion in your view? How about forbidding the eating of meat on Friday?

I don't think it's easy to define an exact line here, and I'm not any kind of legal scholar (nor is that any of the first fifty or so things I'd be, given lots of time to learn and study new fields). But I'm very sure that the line isn't crossed when voters and public officials use the moral beliefs which they derive from religious teachings to guide their votes and actions in office.

It seems to me that both the regulation of liquor sales on Sundays and meat eating on Fridays would involve laws that are motivated by a desire to impose a particular religious observance. Similarly, requiring stores to close on Sundays, or Saturdays, or Fridays, requiring all women to wear a chador or burqua, etc.

And yet, variations of all these kinds of laws happen all the time, to impose beliefs and observations of beliefs on people who don't agree. Indecent exposure laws require women to wear tops, for no more inherently justifiable reason than women in Saudi Arabia must be covered head to toe. Is that a religious imposition, exactly? Closing federal and state offices on weekends is pretty arbitrary, too--why Saturday and Sunday, instead of Tuesday and Wednesday? Pretty obviously, that has to do with customs that grew up around religious observances, even though a lot of folks never darken the door of a church on their weekends, and most of most peoples' weekends are not spent doing anything especially religious.

I think this line is hard to draw. If animal-rights folks got laws passed to forbid the sale or consumption of meat, would that be a religious imposition? Would it matter what fraction of the animal-rights folks were Hindus who believed eating meat was morally wrong, and what fraction were atheists or agnostics or what-have-you who believed eating meat was morally wrong?

What are these "moral beliefs"? Where could they possibly come from (as regards homosexuality) other than religion?

Wasn't the Soviet Union pretty rough with gays, despite being atheistic? How many formally nonreligious/atheistic countries now recognize gay marriage?

This is a point that often comes up when Christians are attacking atheists: Some Christians see that they base their moral beliefs on their religion, and hearing that atheists have no religion, assume that they must not have any moral beliefs. Now, this is nonsense; atheists can be and often are very moral people, with deep convictions about right and wrong.

Those convictions are just as fundamentally unprovable as anyone else's. Many times, those beliefs strike me as pure evil. There seems to me to be no special reason to think that those beliefs will be any nicer or more to my liking than those of any other person.

My experience is that peoples' opinion on gay rights, gay marriage, etc., is very strongly correlated with age. People my age, including educated Christians I know, mostly support some kind of gay rights. Older people, including atheists/agnostics/nonchurchgoers, mostly don't. If they're religious, they give religious reasons. If secular, they give secular reasons. The reality is, I think, that they're uncomfortable with gay people, and backfill some kind of justification for their feelings.

And I'm curious about the secular arguments against gay marriage that you've heard. I'm sure I won't buy them either, but what ones HAVE you heard? I haven't heard any but the most transparently selfish ones.

I don't know that I'll convey these well, because I don't buy them myself (which means I may just not see some of the internal logic). But here's what I've seen along these lines:

a. If you believe that homosexuality is to some extent a choice, made partly by role models, peer pressure, etc., and you believe that homosexuality is undesireable (yucky, unhealthy, unfortunate for the people involved, unnatural, etc.), then things that lend social support to openly gay people potentially lead more people to become gay, thus leading to a lot of people being worse off.

b. If you believe that a "standard" family structure of a married couple raising their kids is somehow healthier for the kids and society, then you can argue that social support and acceptance of alternatives undermine that structure, and make the whole society worse off. (Though I'll admit that I find multiply-divorced people making this argument to be a little hard to take seriously.)

I don't buy either argument, and I may not be following all the ideas behind them, but that's the kind I've seen.

#347 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 11:10 AM:

Terry #253:

You said:

Me, I don't know anyone I've managed to quiz on the subject who isn't against it for what are, at heart, religious reasons. The squick factor seems to boil down to, "It's wrong because it's wrong" which is the religious culture shaping the way people look at it.

This seems like a really, really overbroad definition of objections for religious reasons. I believe the majority of people (including atheists) opposes the legalization of incest, sex with animals, sex with corpses, and sex with children. One of those is victimless (if the relatives are both adults), two others have no living human victims, and yet they all trigger a major squick factor in lots of people regardless of religion. Are those laws also based on religious reasons? [Note: I'm not asking if they're good or bad laws, just where your boundaries of "religious reasons for laws" lie.]

#348 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 11:21 AM:

abi #282:

Met them? I was one, for awhile. And then a much quieter agnostic, and later an agnostic with vague Christian tendencies, and then a Catholic.

I think it's useful in many contexts (maybe not as much in a separation of church and state discussion) to distinguish between the sort of evangelical atheists, the atheists who have thought deeply about the issue and concluded that they don't buy the whole idea of God/Godess/gods, and the sort of uninterested folks like my dad, who I'd call a "non-churchgoer." I think he's just bored by the whole issue of religion, doesn't find it interesting or convincing, etc.

#349 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 11:43 AM:

Albatross: I think ignoring my comment that the cultural biases against homosexuality seem to be religious (because they aren't universals) is a tad overbroad; when you attach, without foundation, all these other questions of sexual interaction to religion; absent my claim they are so motivated. I'll run with it, but I never claimed religion was the only reason anyone ever objected to someone's sexual quirks.

Lessee... incest: we've covered that (excepting the level at which consanguinity comes into play) it's an across the board issue. Seems to be tolerably hardwired.

That said... if they are adults, it's their stick.

Kids... non-consent. Once they get old enough to make the call, power to 'em. That said, some social line has to be drawn. It's not that all people are incapable of making the call before "x" but how does one tell? In some ways that's a case of better too protective than not protective enough (and there are serious questions about how culture shape the point at which one should set "x" and with how one looks at experimentation between, relative equals. I've read that Iceland has an average age of losing one's virginity in the low teens. At a personal level, that's probably something which doesn't bother me, if the people they are having those first encounters with aren't five to twenty year older than they are. I also note that children without marriage are common, and unwanted pregnancies aren't. I don't know how much any of that correlates).

Sex with corpses... what's the point? Ok, sillines aside, no, in part that's not silliness. Assuming, arguendo, that there is no "soul," then who is harmed? Well the living. They might not want to think of the corpse/memory of their loved one used as a plaything. That's not a religous issue, it's a caring for others issue.

Squick warning. Thought problems which follow may be considered gross, and in ill-taste

Their is a public health aspect; so perhaps we need to legislate what sorts of sex-play with corpses is allowed; and like organ donors make it an opt-in issue. Condoms must be used. As for sex with male corpses, if it requires the dead man to be stiff, the time limit is short, because of problems with rigor.

Animals can't consent. I can see ways in which the predilictions of an animals nature can be manipulated for sexual gratification. Someone who like frottage can train a dog to more effectively (for them) hump a leg. I don't see that this is violating the animal.

Stump-breaking cows is probably not on. I don't know that it hurts the cow, but it seems an abuse. Again, for health reasons it's probably best done with condoms.

But, it's not a universal. There are lots of places, in the US, where bestiality isn't illegal; and those in some parts of the bible belt.

End Squick Warning

I point out that you are conflating "religious reasoning" with "colored by the religious overtones of the culture in which one was reared".

Americans think haggis and blood-pudding and pork uterous stews to be awful. That's culture. There is a lot of the culture which is religiously driven. Some of it is vestigial... we make Sunday a special holiday because there was a time it was a religious holiday.

Do I think having a break in the work week is a good idea? Yes. Does that change the fact of it being a holdover from a religious observance? No.

Can the religious overtones be shed? Slowly.

#350 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 12:01 PM:

albatross 346: skip out for one day to have some tests done

Is everything OK? I hope so.

I don't think the USSR's laws about homosexuality had much to do with moral beliefs. I think they were about social control, mostly, and appearances to the West. In Soviet times, according to a friend of mine who visited then, there was a gay bar district in Leningrad, and gay Russians who went there weren't bothered too much; but any foreigner who went there was arrested immediately. See, they knew they had gays but didn't want to admit it, because "homosexuality comes from decadence." Another friend who visited the USSR told me he asked what their mortality rate was, and was told "we have eliminated it." (I've speculated that they thought he meant infant mortality, but even so I'm pretty sure that wasn't true.)

So I guess I think they were more like your people who think homosexuality is a mental illness, and they think it came from capitalist decadence, or pretended to. But then they pretended to think that dissidence was a mental illness, too.

And while it was highly disapproved-of and oppressed, the Russian Orthodox Church didn't utterly vanish during the Soviet period.

And it's not that I don't think atheists have moral beliefs. I think they arrive at those moral beliefs through reason, not uninfluenced by the prejudices and cultural surroundings they were raised with. Mainstream religions' objections to homosexuality form part of that surround, and there are no reality-based reasons to hold such a moral conviction (unlike, say, the conviction that murder is wrong, which is easy to justify on social grounds), so I conclude that when atheists have such an idea it comes ultimately from the cultural surround.

That's not to say that an atheist couldn't convince me otherwise, just that none has yet. So far all the secular arguments I've heard against homosexuality are either based on flawed logic, or reasoning validly from incorrect premises.

And that's what's going on in your two examples: valid logical conclusions drawn from untrue premises, a case I admit I forgot in my earlier post. And I agree that your case b is so laced with hypocrisy that I would suspect anyone who makes it of disingenuousness.

#351 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 12:20 PM:

Xopher@#339: If you actually read the article, you might find it agrees with most of your points. Plus it is based on actual research, not opinions of a single pundit.

Also, I'm surprised at you; stooping to imputing to me views for which you have no evidence (and which are not ones I hold).

It's also amusing seeing you use the old western rationalization for how pharaohs couldn't really have married their sisters: it's just a linguistic thing. Sure, and Jesus didn't really have brothers, either. I think if you look into recent professional opinion on Egypt, you'll find that pharaoh did indeed often marry his sister.

Abraham and Sarah are relevant exactly because it's an inconsistency in the book that the religious right claims as basis for its "universal" moral stance, much of which is really its religious rationalizations of its own cultural icks.

Terry Karney@#349: "That's not a religous issue, it's a caring for others issue."

In my opinion, any religion that isn't mostly about caring for others isn't worthy of being called a religion. Unfortunately, many of them aren't. Many are just about their tiny guts.

Terry Karney@#341: 'I'm not arguing that "icky" isn't innate. What I am saying (in re homosexuality) is that it doesn't have an innate "icky" factor.'

Which was my point. Did you read the article?

As to "other issues", if you want to stop the religious right from imposing their religious beliefs on society, do you not think it would be useful to understand them, either as an enemy, or as a benighted group that needs help?

Merely attacking them just makes them more fearful, and can result in them being more organized, and thus more dangerous. Finding common cause (poverty, health, and environment, excuse me, "creation care") could be a way to help them stop being so fearful, and maybe even grow up.

#352 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 12:23 PM:

Terry 349: I agree that my revulsion for haggis is cultural. I do not advocate for it to be outlawed.

OTOH, I definitely would object to anyone being allowed to marry a haggis (I'm certain Santorum would have brought this up had he thought of it). Not only does the thought of their wedding night disgust me, but most haggiseseses are too young to consent.

#353 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 12:25 PM:

Back to Huckabee and politics:
New diary at Kos by 'troutfishing'. The scary parts are in the last third, where all the quote boxes are.

#354 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 12:26 PM:

#350 Xopher:

I'm apparently fine, thanks. Though my cardiologist thinks I need to lose weight. (I knew that already, but having a cardiologist at all, and especially having one tell me I need to lose weight, somehow gives the comment more oomph.)

I guess I'd find the second argument more plausible from someone who also wanted to, say, make it really hard to get a divorce, somehow reinstall the massive social stigma to unwed motherhood, produce an equally strong stigma, somehow, to fathering a child with a woman you weren't married to, etc. I still wouldn't want those policies, but at least I could hear the argument with a straight face.

I don't think atheists have any more inherently rational process to get moral beliefs than anyone else, though I have no idea how I'd test that, because I can't think of any way to test moral beliefs for rationality or rightness. (Other than "do these beliefs offend my sensibilities or contradict my own beliefs," but that's not too convincing as an objective measure of rightness.)

I also have the sense that a lot of times (as some other people pointed out), the cultural prohibition/belief was absorbed into the religion, rather than the other way around. I believe Christianity largely got the kind of structure of marriage we have from the Romans, that womens' heads were regularly covered in much of the region from which Islam rose long before Mohammed was born, etc. From my own reading of the New Testament, I get the sense that homosexuality was particularly offensive to the sensibilities of Paul, and maybe many some of the other Jews of the time; if this hadn't been the case, I wonder if homosexuality would just be a normal accepted part of most Christianity now.

#355 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 01:06 PM:

Xopher: Haggis isn't that bad. It's a sort of cross between a steamed pudding and a sausage. I don't think any haggis old enough to consent, however, is going to be all that attractive.

jayskew: You are missig my point. People aren't saying different cultures have squicks. They are saying their cultural squick ought to be the law of the land, because their God tells them so. If they want to kick out the homosexuals, refuse to sanction them in their churches, fine. But that's all they get to do.

As to my, alleged, treatment of the religious and that Merely attacking them just makes them more fearful, and can result in them being more organized, and thus more dangerous. Finding common cause (poverty, health, and environment, excuse me, "creation care") could be a way to help them stop being so fearful, and maybe even grow up.

WTF: I've been critical of a very specific thing, in this thread; which is the use of religion, alone, to shape policy, and to use policy to impose religion on me.

There's no hatred in that. I'd be just as opposed to Jews telling me I can't eat the haunch of venison as I would the Jainist insisting I have to wear a cloth on my face lest I kill bugs as I would a worshipper of the FSM telling me spaghetti with clams is an abomination.

I'm not, "merely attacking them". I don't say they are evil, per se. I address the things they do.

As for the "problem" of, "treating the RRR" as an enemy... how should I treat them? Meet them halfway when they try to impose their beliefs on me? Where is that halfway? Homosexuals are acceptable, so long as they stay in the closet? Catholics can live here, but they can't hold office, any more than Mormons can?

The things the RRR are espousing, have made them my enemies. I'm not going to hunt them down in the street. I'm not even going to strip them of the right to take part in politics, but I'l be damned if I'm going to give up things I believe in, make them comfortable and enable them to more easily carry out their agenda.

I think what they are doing is wrong. They think the things I believe (and do) are wrong. It's a, pretty much, irreconcilable difference, and one of the irreconcilables is that I am not willing to impose my beliefs on them. They want to forgo sex-ed, and refuse abortions, forego divorces, give up the fruit of the vine, spend all day Sunday in church, etc., Power to 'em. Not my concern (apart from the questions of how they educate their kids... that's a sticky wicket).

When they tell me my kids have to put up with abstinence only education, can't get Plan B when the BC fails, have to go to Church on one day of the week, put up with their religious laws in our public spaces, and tolerate public figure making statements about bringing the law of the land into accord with the religion they believe in... well that's not the same, and there is no halfway in that.

They are interfering in my life. They are interfering in my friends life, and they want to remake the country I live in so those harms are legally built in.

Whose telling them to treat me as though I weren't an enemy? Whose telling them that not being allowed to post the 10 Commandments above the judge isn't persecution, and that maybe they might want to tone it down a bit so the filthy secular humanists might not be so damned hostile to them trying to impose their beliefs on them?

#356 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 01:18 PM:

albatross @ 354: I can't think of any way to test moral beliefs for rationality or rightness.

Moral reasoning is no different from ordinary reasoning. Conclusions that follow logically from a small, uncontroversial, fruitful set of premises are valid. Conclusions that don't are probably bogus. "Ooo, icky" is not reasoning, and shouldn't masquerade as such.

#357 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 01:28 PM:

jayskew 351: I read the first page, and it was NYT crap (when it comes to science and history, the NYT is about as reliable as Wikipedia, even if they quote from people who actually know something). And if you reread your own post where you quote it, you can see how it sounds like you're saying that the "ick" against homosexuality is universal. (Btw, 339 is your post; mine responding to it is 344. Just for reference.)

What I said about your views was "Not everyone considers homosexuality a form of defilement. Perhaps you do (and it seems likely from this post)..." Remember that I thought you were claiming that the "ick" on homosexuality was universal. I based this on the fact that we were talking about homosexuality, and you said "The ick factor is indeed innate." Then, to support this idea, you quote a paragraph that says that revulsion for "defilement" is univeral. I think it's quite reasonable to conclude that you were equating homosexuality with defilement.

I'm extremely pleased to find that this is not correct, and that you intended no such equation. If you were a person who did equate homosexuality with defilement, I would be only too pleased to offend you as much as possible; as it is, I apologize for the tone I took in anger. Could you please drop the sneering tone of your comments as well? I refer to your third paragraph in 351.

With regard to the content of that paragraph, I'm afraid you missed my point. My point was that Pharaoh was essentially a god, and that therefore the fact that Pharaoh sometimes married his sister is not evidence that the culture had no incest taboo. The gods are allowed to do what is forbidden, or even impossible, for humans. Read the god stories of the Egyptians if you don't believe me. They not only have incestuous relationships ALL the damn time, they sometimes merge into one person. Sekhmet and Hathor, for example; Sekhmet-Hathor nearly destroyed the world, so it's a memorable case.

But there's no evidence that incestuous marriages were practiced or permitted among the common people. Some used to think there was, based on the men calling their wives "my sister," but this is incorrect.

As for the religious right...I think the time for diplomacy is past. I think it's time to man the barricades. They don't want to talk, they want to kill us. They have to be stopped, and they CANNOT be reasoned with, because they've discarded reason.

#358 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Xopher, #357: As for the religious right...I think the time for diplomacy is past. I think it's time to man the barricades. They don't want to talk, they want to kill us. They have to be stopped, and they CANNOT be reasoned with, because they've discarded reason.

Exactly. You can't reason with someone whose first line of argument is that reason is invalid.

#359 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 02:48 PM:

@LMB MacAlister #183, Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little #213 and Lee #224

Wow, that brings things back! I volunteered as a young-un for the Buddy Roemer 1987 Gubernatorial campaign, shortly before my family went "up the river" to Minnesota. When I was in High School up in Minnesota during the 1991 election, I was in a "Current Issues" class, and of course David Duke came up. My accent came out real thick when I talked about that, to the amusement of my classmates. I remember it being extremely important to me, even though I no longer lived in NOLA. I don't remember the numbers anymore, but there were a huge amount of convention-related bookings of venues and hotel rooms that stood to evaporate overnight had Duke won the election. It would have flushed Louisiana's already not-so-great economy down the toilet pronto.

It was explained to me that Edwin Edwards won over Buddy Roemer in '91 because Buddy was "boring" due to the lack of fiscal malfeasance... If there's no scandal, nobody's interested!

@Terry Karney #237: I told her. She called my mother, and berated her, "Do you know what you're doing? Your instilling your values on your child." Literal LOL at work on that one! Luckily, no fluids intercepted any important papers or computing equipment. In a semi-funny (if I couldn't laugh at it, I'd probably cry...) situation, my parents don't like my wife, basically because she comes from a "poor" background. (Maybe not as poor as John Scalzi talks about, but my wife's family knew/know people who were/are...) They taught me tolerance, and can't practice it well themselves, and don't seem to understand the hypocrisy it shows. It's not as bad as it used to be, but my wife sees all the passive-aggressive stuff my Mom does much better than I can, and points it out later when we get home.

Had to leave off the thread at #237, gotta get back to the paperwork.
later,
-cajun

#360 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 02:52 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @ 272: I think there are two useful general bundles in legal marriage as it's now practiced in the US: first, establishing of family ties (for people not already related by blood); second, the support of families who are raising, or who have raised, children. These are both important, I think, especially the second.

Does that mean that the marriages of childless persons who intend or are likely to remain childless (such as myself) are less important than marriages which produce children?

There are various other purposes people propose for legal marriages, including shared property arrangements, upholding of religious values (which I sometimes hear from some religious advocates), and validation of love relationships (which I sometimes hear from some same-sex-marriage advocates). But the first of these can be handled by contracts apart from marriage, and the other two seem to me to be the business of the people involved, their religions, and their social circles, rather than the business of the state.

First off, few people marry strictly for purposes of "property arrangements". And most Western marriages involve validation of love arrangements, so it isn't as if you can really make that a separate category. People who are only interested in property arrangements but don't have a love relationship aren't likely to seek marriage as a means of making those property arrangments anyway - these people already can and do use other legal means instead, so they don't affect the marriage equation and bringing them into it is essentially a strawman.

Getting back to "love relationships", which you have so thoughtfully relegated to a secondary concern wrt marriage, you almost seem to be implying that those of us who marry for love - rather than for purposes legitimized procreation - have somewhat less of a valid reason for wanting to "establish family ties" (to use your own phrasing from above) between ourselves and our partners than those who have or intend to have children. Care to explain why?

Thirdly, many same-sex couples DO have children, so where exactly do you place them in your hierarchy of "marriage bundles"?

#361 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 03:06 PM:

Xopher #352 wrote: but most haggiseseses are too young to consent

Isn't that making unwarranted assumptions about the sexuality of the haggis?

#362 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 03:06 PM:

Wow, there's at least two arguments here I really don't want to get involved with, but look! Here's something I know about! Let me quickly dazzle you with learning!

Xopher, 357:
But there's no evidence that incestuous marriages were practiced or permitted among the common people. Some used to think there was, based on the men calling their wives "my sister," but this is incorrect.

I think you may be wrong on this (very minor) point. One of my former professors wrote the standard article on the subject (or at least, on a very closely related one: K. Hopkins, 'Brother-Sister Marriage in Roman Egypt', Comparative Studies in Society and History 22: 1980) and demonstrated that in surviving census returns from post-Pharaonic Egypt about 15-21% of recorded marriages are between full brothers and sisters. These data have been confirmed by studies in 1992 (B.D. Shaw, 'Explaining Incest' in Man [the journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Northern Ireland] 27) and in 1996 (S. Parker, Cultural Anthropology 11). The evidence is presented in the articles, and both Hopkins and Shaw directly rule out the comfortable explanation that it is a transferred usage of 'sister' as a term of endearment. There isn't much room for ambiguity in: the normal formula in the census returns is "my wife and sister of the same father and the same mother", and Parker notes that "such unions not only were common but also were publicly announced and celebrated, complete with wedding invitations, dowries, marriage contracts, and so on". (No, I don't know how the dowry thing will have worked.)

20% seems very high, and it's worth pointing out a few things. First, censuses aren't themselves a complete survey - that is, they tend only to record the landowning classes; and of course not all of the returns survive. At the same time, though, none of these people would have any claim whatsoever to be divine or otherwise exempt from the "normal" rules of their society.

Second, all of this evidence comes from post-Pharaonic Egypt, as I mentioned. There is no evidence whatsoever on whether ordinary citizens in Pharaonic Egypt engaged in this practice; and although I don't know much about the Pharaohs, Shaw is careful to say that it was "apparently well-known" that Pharaohs married their sisters - which sounds unusually sceptical to me. It seems that a lot of the cases are of half-brothers and half-sisters, which is parallelled elsewhere - so Xopher may be right about that period. In Roman Egypt, though, full brother-sister marriage seems to have been remarkably commonplace.

Important caveat (from me): I have no idea whether this proves that the incest taboo is not universal, or whether one might argue that it is suspended in certain societies for one reason or another. (This question is what Shaw's article is about.) Even if it does prove it, I have no real position on what the consequences would be; my own feeling is that very few taboos are universal, and that even if something *is* universal that doesn't necessarily mean it carries any moral weight.

Which is to say: I'm just here for the scattered references to ancient history! OK, I'll get my coat...

#363 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 03:24 PM:

Candle: That dowry was included, and the, apparent, restriction to the wealthy makes me wonder if it wasn't an appropriation of the Pharonic practice as a means of keeping familial wealth in the family.

What I'd wan't to look at is the cenus figures for children. How many of those relationships had offspring, and how many had legitimised children of concubines?

It's not that I don't think the incest taboo is inviolable (a quick look at literotica, or the shelves of any adult bookstore will tell you it's a popular fantasy), just that it does exist across the spectrum of human societies, and those who breach it are seen as a group apart (I have a niggling chunk of memory which tells me that relationships we'd think incestuous took place in Polynesia, because the amount of mana the royals acquired was so much that non-royals would be killed by the contact; which led to further concentration, and a further restricted pool of peolle strong enough to be considered as spouses, etc.).

But I don't know any society which says, "Incest is no big deal", and I can point to those who said/say that about homosexuality, which is how we got to the question of, "innate" squick factors.

#364 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 03:24 PM:

Summer Storms #308: Wait, C Wingate said "The Lemon test was applied to the issue of creationism." And he's right, it was! See Edwards v Aguillard (1987). And 2005's Pennsylvania district court decision, Kitzmiller v Dover. Possibly other decisions too.

He did not say "The Lemon test originated in a case about creationism."

#365 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 03:43 PM:

Quick drive by comment on the incest taboo:

First, relatives to whom marriage is forbidden is a culturally defined class, and is neither identical from culture to culture nor beyond cultural manipulation; one demonstration of that manipulation was the use of the sudden discovery of blood relationships to dissolve unsatisfactory marriages (especially childless ones) during the feudal period in Western Europe.

Second, the incest taboo is a cultural more not a behavioral absolute: in periods of instability, all mores become less binding, and Post Pharonic Egypt is a pretty standard example of maximum social and cultural instability. More importantly, individuals at all times are prone to behavior which violates cultural mores; I'm trying to remember where I read a paper which speculated that one reason so many Euro-American geneologies end at a dead end caused by a name change was that the married couple were in fact an incestuous pair.


#366 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 03:50 PM:

Terry Karney #349

I'm Icelandic and I can confirm most of what you said there. I don't know really when teenagers start having these days now and it definitely depends on the person.

However teenage pregnancies are very rare while 64% of children born since the year 2000 were born out of wedlock.

It's actually so common to have the children of the couple getting married carry the rings up the aisle that when I attended a Scottish wedding and the happy couple 'borrowed' a girl the bride had been babysitting to be ring bearer I felt really uneasy about that.

I.e I have somehow been imprinted that it should just be the core family up there at the heart of the ceremony so to have child that wasn't a part of the family there was just wrong (from my point of view).

I'm not saying though that marriage should be made illegal unless you have a child (biological or adopted that's been raised with the couple to be for atleast three years), heh.. it'd be interesting though.

#367 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 03:55 PM:

Xopher #350: And it's not that I don't think atheists have moral beliefs. I think they arrive at those moral beliefs through reason, not uninfluenced by the prejudices and cultural surroundings they were raised with.

I think of standards of behavior arrived at by reason as ethics, and standards of behavior enforced by authority as morals. Is that too sloppy a dividing line?

#368 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 03:59 PM:

JESR: I think I touched on some of that (what degree of consanguinity counts as inscest).

The thing which brought it up is that some form of the taboo seems to exist, across the board. The same isn't true of homosexuality; which makes the argument so many make that homosexuality is innately wrong/deviant/immoral provably false; as a comparative study.

Completely unrelated, how is this set of storms affecting you? Here (Pasadena, Calif.), we've missed most of it, because it parked right on the shore. Today has been lots of micro-cells.

#369 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 04:11 PM:

Terr: fair enough - my suspicion (without being an anthropologist) is that "taboo" doesn't mean "nobody does it" or even "nobody respectable does it" but rather "when people do it they talk about it as if it were something else". If that makes sense.

I'm afraid I didn't look at the children of those marriages, although given the prevalence in the general population you would think there would have to be some progeny or population would drop pretty quickly. (Of course, children need not be the product of legal marriages - although in this context "illegitimate" seems the wrong word...)

JESR: Post Pharonic Egypt is a pretty standard example of maximum social and cultural instability.

I'm not sure I see why - from what point of view do you see it as socially and culturally unstable? In case it's not clear, I was meaning Roman and to a lesser extent Ptolemaic Egypt, and I don't see that they are particularly more unstable than a lot of other ancient societies. I guess I can see "culturally unstable", as maybe the mix of local, Hellenistic and Roman cultural norms and traditions would be destabilising, but my impression is that this isn't obviously the case in (e.g.) Oxyrhynchus, and that Roman Egypt is socially about as stable as anywhere in the empire.

But I suppose it all depends on what we mean by "unstable".

#370 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 04:12 PM:

Terry #349:

Actually, I thought you were, as you put it,

conflating "religious reasoning" with "colored by the religious overtones of the culture in which one was reared".

Specifically, I thought you were saying that this made laws based on values that are derived in that way a bad thing, an imposition of religion on others. That seemed to me to be a uselessly broad category of beliefs (including stuff like "don't steal" and "help the poor and sick and old").

Imposing the widespread values of your culture, by law, seems very different from imposing the specific ideas of some religion or coalition of religions. That seems just as true whether those widespread values historically are linked to religions, to the arts, to philosophers, to violent revolutionary movements, whatever.

#371 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 04:15 PM:

Terry Karney, in fact, we're getting a big blob of bright-blue terribly cold weather here (16.7F overnight, and still sub-freezing in the shade) and as a result I'm digging out from under the pile of hard-to-dry laundry that's built up over two months of wet weather. So far I've done eighteen loads of Levis, towels, and sweaters and hung them on the line. I need to figure out how to thaw the watering trough this afternoon; the cows are peeved.

#372 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 04:18 PM:

Avram @ 364: The way I read his post, he was certainly implying it, and using that implication to dismiss its applicability to anything else. So I stand by my statement, in relation to his.

#373 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 04:42 PM:

albatross: I think, if you look at the arguments I'm making, at, perhaps too much, length, are that laws based on just the religious tenets are wrong.

There are perfectly good reasons to inspect meat. Nothing, however, requires that it be a rabbi trained in the rules of kashruth who does the inspecting.

To make such a rule would be imposing a religious belief on everyone.

Summer Storms: That's the way I read the comment too. Lemon's applicability to things other than Creationism was being dismissed, in part, if not in whole, because the "clear, bright, line" wasn't there, and so it couldn't really be applied.

I'll try to explain what I was saying. There are religious beliefs with social parallels (murder is bad). Some of what we soak up as the definition of murder can be religious. If we redefine murder to meet the religious standard then we are on thin ice.

You can't escape the culture in which one lives. It colors one's worldview. This is why the bigotries of friends who are in their 80s bothers me less than the bigotries of their children, who are in thier fifties, and that a whole lot more than their children who are in thier 20s.

In the case I'm thinking of, the levels of predjudice are greatly reduced, but my judgements of them is increased. The culture has changed.

Abstinent only sex-ed is one of those things. There is no social reason to fail to teach BC to teens. To tell them the risk of unprotected sex, that masturbation isn't a health risk, nor a mental disorder.

Trying to impose such things is taking a religious belief (which is culturally prevalent in much of the country) and moving it to policy. That's the conflation of which I speak, and which I oppose.

#374 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 04:50 PM:

Terry Karney@#355: "You are missig my point."

Not so. I'm going beyond your point and *adding* that much of the so-called "religion" they're trying to impose on the rest of us isn't even really worth the name of religion. And this is not just to deprecate their "religion"; it's to point out that there are apparently underlying factors that produced it in the first place (fear, mostly), which can be useful to know in learning how to fight them.

Of course the right wing religious in the U.S. are enemies of the Republic and of those of us who support it insofar as they try to subvert the Constitution or otherwise impose their personal and religiously rationalized ick factors on the rest of us.

I said nothing about you hating anybody; I said "merely attacking", as in attacking isn't enough.

Do you want to fight this enemy without understanding who they are? Good luck to you. They'll be running rings around you, just like they have for the past six (or forty) years.

"Whose telling them to treat me as though I weren't an enemy?"

Some fellow named Jesus told them to love their enemy.
Not bad advice. Too bad they don't listen to it.

And love doesn't have to mean "meet them half way" (which I also did not say).

What the religious right needs, in my opinion, is to be stopped from taking political power and *also* shown that they don't have nearly as much to fear as they think they do. Stop them imposing their rationalized icks on us and help them help us with things that are actually worthwhile, such as poverty, health, environment.

That last part is maybe the harder part. But it's going to be necessary if there's ever to be a long-term solution to this problem.


albatross@#356: '"Ooo, icky" is not reasoning, and shouldn't masquerade as such.'

Ah, but so often it *does* so masquerade, and we need to be able to see when and where that happens, and be ready with appropriate countermeasures. For example, whenever somebody claims the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, be ready to quote the Treaty of Tripoli. Whenever somebody says the Bible bans homosexuality, be ready to point out that only a very few verses say anything about that, and they're all pretty shaky. Etc.

You probably won't persuade many of the people who say those things. But you will keep them from convincing other people; you will keep them from dominating the conversation; and you will look strong, which may sway some of their least-convinced adherents.


Xopher@#357: You continue to interpret the article as "NYT crap" without reading it; apparently you missed that I said Pharaoh was a god when I brought him up; you seem to infer that I made some sort of assertion about incest among the common people of Egypt or that there was no incest taboo, neither of which I said: I said *Pharaoh* was the exception.

(Although it turns out, according to candle@#362, that there was sibling marriage among the common people of Egypt.)

I do appreciate your apology, however.

My point was that there are exceptions or variations even to the most widespread taboos; they seem to arise for cultural or practical reasons; and they're often cloaked in religion.

Perhaps you are misinterpreting this point to think I'm trying to say that homosexuality is such a taboo. Rather the contrary. Homophobia may be a cultural manifestation of some other taboo, such as authority or group cohesiveness.

This supports my main point that the religious right's objections to homosexuality aren't really religious in origin. I think they're just some groups' religious rationalizations of their cultural homophobia, which itself is probably due to fear or (as someone else pointed out) sexism (which is also probably due to fear).

As for diplomacy, see above.

Regarding reason, I didn't recommend reasoning with the religious right.
I recommend that the *rest* of us use reason, so as to better understand them and our own positions.

However, the religious right is not a monolith. Many of their followers are confused and frightened; that's why they cling to their authoritarian leaders. If they can be shown a better way, they may follow that instead. Even better, if they can be shown that the oh-so-horrid other (gays or whatever) isn't so horrid after all, by somehow getting them to actually interact with what and whom they fear, they may get over their fear.

Some of them may even learn to think for themselves. Then they might grow up.

"I think the main problem we face today is overreaction, making martyrs out of people who desperately want to become martyrs. What it will take is patience, good information, and a steady demand for universal education about the world’s religions. This will favor the evolution of avirulent forms of religion, which we can all welcome as continuing parts of our planet’s cultural heritage. Eventually the truth will set us free."

--Daniel C. Dennett
http://www.edge.org/q2007/q07_1.html

#375 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 05:14 PM:

jayskew 374: At 339, you quoted and responded thus: Xopher@#314: "By contrast, every culture we know about, ancient and modern, has had an incest taboo, justified by various means, but it's a universal human norm."

Oh really? Even Pharaohs who married their sisters? It seems even one of the supposedly most universal taboos had exceptions. After all, who else was a Pharaoh going to marry who was of equal rank? Religiously justified, of course, because the Pharaoh was a god. Speaking of gods, Hera was Zeus's sister.

I think any reasonable person, reading your paragraph just above, would conclude that you were denying that the Egyptians of the Pharaonic period had an incest taboo, and citing Pharaoh's incestuous marriages as evidence.

It is a universal cultural norm to have an incest taboo. Taboo-breaking is also universal, and the extremely powerful are generally among those who can get away with breaking taboos.

Note that my sentence does not say "In no culture was incest ever permitted for anyone." It says that the taboo is in every culture, that its presence is a universal human norm. This is the case. Your 'Oh, really?' can only be read (by our hypothetical reasonable person) as denying that, and in a fairly snarky tone, too.

If you meant something else, you should have said it. For example, you might have said "The taboo may be universal, but it has exceptions. For example, Pharaohs often married their sisters." That may have been what you meant, but it isn't what you said.

#376 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 05:15 PM:

jayskew: Adding to what I mean, which is how it's coming across to me (and, it seems did/does, to Xopher, see supra 357) isn't the best course of action. It leads me to misunderstand you, becuse it feels you are misrepresenting me.

Further, I do understand them. I've spent time with them, dicussed, debated and been as friendly as I can be. I am very good at being polite and reasonable.

Some of them (a la the examples of Sara Robinson, at Orcinus, whom I commend on this topic) have changed their minds. I have managed to point out; to a couple, that tolerant pluralism is in their best interest. Do they still vote for "marriage amendments"? I don't know. But I know that there are people I speak with who are more, obviously, tolerant than they were when I started treating them in the manner for which you are criticizing me.

Given that, I think I'll stick with my methods. You may keep to yours.

That I love my enemy, doesn't make him any less my enemy. One of the reasons they are able to run circles around the rest of us is they pull off the, "meet us partway," and then move the goalposts.

I don't, actually, hate them. But I do resist them. Many of them see that as hate, persecution and discrimination.

They are wrong. There is nothing I can do to change that. I can't meet them halfway, because they are wrong.

As to the objections of the Religious Right to homosexuality... when they tell me it about something which isn't religious (e.g. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve), then we can talk about the merits, or not, of that position.

But they aren't, and there is no point; when refuting them, to ascribing those motives (no matter what underlying drives there might be, or not) to them. Certainly, since I think them wrong, there is no point in giving them more arguments to present their case. It's tough enough dealing with the number and variety they already present.

#377 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 05:16 PM:

It seems obvious that if "it feels icky" is an unacceptably irrational reason, then "it feels good to me" is likewise unacceptably irrational. One can then raise the "privacy!" flag, but someone else could quite reasonably insist this be interpreted as a willingness to give up interrogating people as to their reasons.

#378 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 05:19 PM:

Terry 376: I do hate them. I hate them so much I have to shield sometimes to keep from breaking my oath (the one about baneful magic). I have a t-shirt that says "So many right-wing Christians...so few lions."

If the WBC's plane went down and they all burned alive, I would not only not shed a single tear, I would dance with joy.

#379 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 05:26 PM:

C. 377: Now you're just being silly. "It feels icky to me" is a perfectly good irrational reason not to do things oneself! It's just not a good reason to keep others from doing whatever it is.

The analogy to "it feels good to me" (a perfectly good reason to DO something oneself) would be making a law to FORCE everyone to do whatever it is. Nobody wants laws forcing anyone to marry anyone they don't want to marry, and no one is advocating forcing clergy to perform same-sex marriages.

Do you really need this explained to you? I don't think you do. Why would you post something so spurious? I'm irresistably inclined to suspect you of disingenousness.

#380 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 05:29 PM:

Jayskew @ 339: Homosexuality is not specifically mentioned in the passage you quoted. You're bringing it in from the outside and arbitrarily assigning it to a particular part of the passage. Just thought I ought to point that out.

The fact is that there have been several cultures on this planet of ours in which homosexuality has *not* been regarded as "squicky" or "icky" or as a "defilement" or as "something to be avoided". Ancient Greece has been mentioned; so ought to be several Amerindian cultures and (I believe) some Oceanic cultures as well.

(Everyone please pardon me. I'm way behind, and doing my level best to catch up/keep up. You'd think that sitting here with a broken ankle would mean I'd have no trouble doing so, there being nothing much else to do, but damn, you people are prolific! *grin* )

#381 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 05:36 PM:

Xopher: My emotions are mixed. I wouldn't be crushed were the WBC to fall into Kilahuea. Love, and like, are not requisate pairs, and I can love them, in the sense that I see them as a creatures of creation/god/fellow humans, but that doesn't require me to like them.

The WBC, btw, doesn't get any of my politesse. I am not that good/strong/noble a person. Fred Phelps had better hope that I am working any funeral we are together at, because I don't know that I can turn the other cheek that far; or perhaps I'll just show him my other cheeks, and invite him to kiss one.

I am polite, and as loving as I can be, because it's the best way to persuade them.

It doesn't keep me from testing their faith.

Many years ago, Robin Hood, PoT was opening. It opened on my birthday. My g/f, at the time, had her b-day the day before me. I got some fifty people to dress in garb (they all worked the faire) and show up to the opening.

A couple of bible thumpers showed up, to harangue those of us stuck in line. Because of our odd clothing we got special attention. After a few minutes of this it was tiresome. After 20 it was more than that; come 30 my patience was gone.

So one of them got close enough to hear me, and I said he ought to read Matt. 6:5-7. He retorted I needed to read John 3:16. I repeated myself and his sidekick decided to look up the verse.

He came back, from below the streetlamp, and tugged his pal on the sleeve, and pulled him to the light. His face clouded, and he came back, in a towering; tough ineffective, rage, screaming at me, "I'm not a hypocrite, I'm trying to save your God-damned soul".

Sometimes, one needs to use tough-love.

#382 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 06:00 PM:

Summer 380: He meant something quite different from what he actually said there, and I read it the same way you did. It's not what he meant at all.

#383 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 06:35 PM:

Xopher @ 382: Yes, I have just now gotten to the part where that begins to be made clear. I told you I was playing catch-up!

Sorry, Jay.

#384 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 06:45 PM:

Candle @ 362, on brother-sister marriage in Roman Egypt: The evidence is presented in the articles, and both Hopkins and Shaw directly rule out the comfortable explanation that it is a transferred usage of 'sister' as a term of endearment. There isn't much room for ambiguity in: the normal formula in the census returns is "my wife and sister of the same father and the same mother", and Parker notes that "such unions not only were common but also were publicly announced and celebrated, complete with wedding invitations, dowries, marriage contracts, and so on". (No, I don't know how the dowry thing will have worked.)

20% seems very high, and it's worth pointing out a few things. First, censuses aren't themselves a complete survey - that is, they tend only to record the landowning classes; and of course not all of the returns survive. At the same time, though, none of these people would have any claim whatsoever to be divine or otherwise exempt from the "normal" rules of their society.

Just a (probably somewhat tangential) thought here: Isn't it at least possible that this might have been so common among the landowning classes precisely because they were landowners? Sibling marriage would certainly be one way to keep property within the family, after all.

All right, carry on.

#385 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 06:59 PM:

Xopher has a point that deserves repetition, so I'll repeat it: taboo-breaking is as universal as taboos, and in particular, taboo-breaking justified by one's personal power. In absolutely every circumstance I can think of where there's a general taboo, there will be someone breaking it basically to flaunt that they can. Power enables successful violations, and power attracts those who'd like to be a violator (along with the many other reasons it can appeal).

#386 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 07:23 PM:

Do you really need this explained to you? I don't think you do. Why would you post something so spurious? I'm irresistably inclined to suspect you of disingenousness.
I think some people just can't get the concept of YMMV into their heads, no matter how hard everyone around them tries to explain it. It isn't *necessarily* deliberate.

The idea that I might believe certain conduct could be good *for me* and not necessarily good *for you*... just bounces off their brains without making any impression. I must really be either for it or agin it, no other positions are possible, so any attempt at nuance can *only* be a smokescreen.


(Possibly related: the inability to distinguish between "I don't believe in this particular god, or this one, or this one, [repeat as many times as necessary]" and "There definitely couldn't possibly be any gods ever.", which Wingate has already demonstrated on this very thread.)

#387 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 08:44 PM:

All sexual taboos are cultural, even when they seem universal. The incest taboo arose because of natural inclinations against sex with those in the same family group, but that's because of familiarity, not because sex with siblings was selected against by evolution. There's no gene that says, "hey, that's your sister - screw her and your kids will flunk the SAT".


#388 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 08:53 PM:

Steve @ 387: There's no gene that says, "hey, that's your sister - screw her and your kids will flunk the SAT".

No, but there is thought (by some) to be one that predisposes people against sexual activity with whom they grew up in close quarters. There's a famous study done in kibbutzes to this effect, although there are arguments against as well.

I don't know if the pharaohs raised their children apart, but it wouldn't surprise me.

#389 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 08:55 PM:

Ack, sorry for the non-sentence there. Rewrite to taste.

#390 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 09:12 PM:

ISTR a claim that Pharaonic incest was largely ceremonial in that the succeeding male heirs tended to be born to unrelated concubines, but also (semi-conflictingly) that this was partially because of a higher male mortality rate among the children of sibling marriages-- perhaps because of sex-linked recessives?-- and that as a result, although there was a continuous matrilineal succession of queens, their husbands tended to be half-brothers rather than full ones.

However, I have no idea what the original source for this would've been, so it may have no real basis whatsoever :b

#391 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 09:43 PM:

Tim @ 388 -

Tim, I've heard that and while I believe it's true, I don't think it has anything with selecting against incestuous relations. I think that people are just naturally inclined not to pursue their siblings because they're not a novelty - in other words, I think unfamiliarity is part of eroticism. I could be wrong, but since most sex acts don't result in offspring, I'm not sure how it would be selected against.

#392 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 09:53 PM:

candle, Post-Pharonic Egypt/Roman Egypt, et'c, was socially unstable because of the disruption of the power elite- the big landowners and priestly classes, although that's an artificial distinction- that started around the time of Alexander. There was a long time when that instability was put down to foreign invasions and the usual Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire stuff, but there's good archaeological work (By Fekri Hassan, especially) that indicates environmental change in the Western Desert and in the Delta resulted in decreased agricultural productivity and a change in fortunes just before the time of Alexander. Imposition and poor integration of foreign systems on the temple management culture complicated matters.

If you look at the long history of the Nile Valley you can see similar periods of rapid collapse and slow recovery, usually marked as dynastic changes, but it's easy for a couple of hundred years of to get overlooked in prehistory.

#393 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 10:12 PM:

Steve: The same way anything else gets selected against. Exogamy has better survival, ergo those who are disinclined to endogamy will have more offspring, which would be more likely to reinforce the exogamous trait.

Since other mammals tend to exogamy, we have some parallels.

Snakes, which have a problem with smaller range of motion, and no sense of familiarity (to encourage an exogamous) gene don't care with whom they breed. Mice can be induced to breed within the family.

With snakes it takes a lot of inbreeding to see lethal recessives; in part this seems to be the result of tens of millenia of close breeding A corn snake may travel an area of three square miles in a lifetime. We lost one, some years ago, and the next door neighbor called to see if anyone wanted to see "a red snake" about six months later. It was the escapee (still doing well, her name is Houdini). She had, in that period of time, moved less than sixt yards from where she got out.

Assuming her siblings had all done the same thing, in three years, when they were mature enough to mate, the odds are they would find each other.

That said, there seems to be, even among snakes, a preference to find a futher mate. But given how hard it can be for them to find a mate at all, they aren't as picky.

We've done a lot of line breeding offspring to parents) as well as half-sibling crosses. With a few exeptions we've not seen a loss in fertility (eggs laid) or survival.

When we play with the mice (we have too many snakes, they gotta eat) we have a much faster example of low fertility (fewer pups born) and a higher incidence of malformations, and failure to thrive.

Some traits (including a beautiful color of golden orange, which is lovely when done on a long-haired silky mouse) are lethal recessives. When we cross a pair of mice who carry it, we get 1-3 pups, because they don't make it to term.

Take those same mice, and cross them out; lots of pups, and pretty colors (color in mice is not simple, it's easier than in snakes, but dominant/recessive doesn't completely explain it).

That, right there, will give those animals (to include people) the differential survival rates which lead to genetic drift/change, and the, "descent with modification" Darwin talks about, and so provide a mechanism for "incest" to end up as an innate disinclination.

#394 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 10:21 PM:

Terry, using that argument, you could argue against homosexuality since same-sex relationships never result in offspring.

#395 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 11:19 PM:

re 379: OK, so you're invoking privacy, which leads to the second part of the statement. as to the first-- yes, I admit it wasn't that good.

re various references to "taboo": The word implies something cultural. Standing against "taboos aren't universal" is "humans can get used to almost anything", so I can't get too excited by the cultural differences, because really everyone puts limits on cultural relativism.

But really, I think I pretty much got off the argument when we hit the barricades.

#397 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 11:38 PM:

Xopher@#375: I guess you didn't see the part about pharaohs being
exceptions to universal taboos in "Even Pharaohs who married their
sisters? It seems even one of the supposedly most universal taboos
had exceptions." Feel free to reorder those two sentences as you
suggest if that helps you understand them.

Xopher@#378: As for the hatred, count me out.

Terry Karney@#376: Curiously enough, other people may have opinions
that are supersets of yours.

I don't know who you think is asking you to meet right wing religious
people halfway; it ain't me.

You really don't think knowing what they're afraid of could be useful
in countering them?

Good luck to you with your approach.

Summer@#380: I'd been reading the articles other people linked to,
and foolishly assumed that other people would do the same, in which
case my point would have been much clearer. Thanks for catching up.

Terry Karney@#381: Loved your story. If that's one of your methods,
I'm all for it. Note that it involved understanding your enemy enough
to quote his own book back at him and show him up as a hypocrite
in front of people he was trying to influence.

"Sometimes, one needs to use tough-love."

Ain't it the truth.

Interesting discussion by Steve C., Tim Walters, Julie L., and JESR.

And to all a good night.

#398 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2008, 11:42 PM:

Lizzy L, #338: Well, for one thing, one can't assume that liberal dioceses like yours will always be so. I don't want to make too much of this; I'm glad the US Catholic Church is for the most part liberal. But the conservative factions could come to the fore, just as they have in the Southern Baptist Church. If we have really bad luck (or god is really annoyed with us, take your pick), the next Pope might be a conservative--in Catholicism worldwide, the conservatives are the majority.

Anyhow, this discussion seems to be fading away. See you in the next thread!

#399 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 12:00 AM:

Randolph Fritz, I don't think my parish is particularly liberal, though it isn't strongly conservative. My pastor's homilies tend to be about sin, God's mercy, loving God, and loving your neighbor -- pretty standard stuff. But yeah, next thread, fine. Sleep well, all.

#400 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 12:30 AM:

Jayskew @ 397: Well, silly me - I expected that if someone wanted to illustrate a particular POV by referencing an article (whether from the NYT or anywhere else) that person would use an excerpt that actually pertained to that POV rather than one that didn't actually support it.

But hey, different strokes for different folks, I guess.

#401 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 01:49 AM:

jayskew: Who is asking me to meet them partway? You are. You keep telling me I don't understand them; that I don't know what they are afraid of, that I've not bothered to learn anything about them.

You do this in contravention of my examples of having done all that. You do say I'm poisoning the well.

You say, most explicitly, that I need to be nicer to them, that I need to "find common cause". Well they don't seem to want to help the poor In, IIRC, Arkansas, they refused to support a progressive tax which would do just that; proposed by a Christian governor, they didn't support it so much that he was turned out of office.

Hell, they support the Republican Party, which isn't helping the poor.

They support those who shaft the poor, abandon the homeless, leave the mentally ill to fend for themselves and want to remove the social safety nets. Why? Because those people promise to make it impossible for gays to get equal rights, claim that this is a, "Christian Nation" and abortion, contraception and sex-ed are bad, and should be made damn near impossible.

The RRR and I have no common cause. There is no accord to be had. I support their right to be what they want, to live as they like, and to believe what they believe. Just as I support the Lubavitchers, the Amish, the Quakers, the hippie, the Goths, Yuppies and everyone else to live as they see fit; so long as they don't try to make me do the same.

But they are swinging their fists into my nose, until the stop doing that, there is no accord to be had. Loving them doesn't mean letting them run roughshod over me.

On a different, but related, note, you seem to read things into what people say; and yet people seem to be, consistently (because I am in the same camp as Summer Storms and Xopher in misreading your intent with the comments you used the NYT article to illustrate). Perhaps there's something about how you parse, and phrase, things which needs more attention.

Look at the last comment; you imply my methods won't bear fruit,

Terry Karney@#376:... You really don't think knowing what they're afraid of could be useful in countering them?

Good luck to you with your approach.

Followed by
Terry Karney@#381: Loved your story. If that's one of your methods, I'm all for it. Note that it involved understanding your enemy enough to quote his own book back at him and show him up as a hypocrite in front of people he was trying to influence

Perhaps it might be my knowing those things is becauseI have learned more than a little about them. That my approach (which you mock, and praise) is the result of having spent years (nay, decades) paying attention to them, studying them, interacting with them. Perhaps my saying so, in that same post was an honest representation of my habits.

Perhaps that "adding" you said you were doing before is getting in the way of what I'm actually saying.

Steve C. Not all traits are purely adaptive. One can make adaptive arguments for it, but one need not. So long as a trait doesn't lead to absolute failure for a genetic line, it will persist. At some point it may become useful, but a lack of usefulness won't matter. Hair color is one of those things, so too with my ability to roll my tongue lots of different ways. They aren't, so far as I can tell, of any use in making me more likely to have offspring.

Look at the sterility of all but queen bees, or the lethality of drone bees in sex. Those appear to be counterproductive to them, but from the species point of view they do all right.

#402 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 09:32 AM:

Summer Storms@#400: "use an excerpt that actually pertained to that POV"

I did, Summer; it pertained exactly to my POV that "the ick factor" in general is wired in. Having used the NYTimes excerpt to enumerate what the five icks found by research are, I then explicitly spelled out that I thought the religious right's supposed ick about homosexuality (not mentioned in my post until then) was really about two of those: purity and authority.

The article has some quite interesting thoughts about those five items. Hint: it's not mainly about homosexuality, either, which it mentions only in passing as "behavior" and a "bone of contention".

Terry Karney@#401: So I end by complimenting you, and you still make up stuff I didn't say and go out of your way to take offense at it.

Your own anecdote, by the way, illustrates my point, which, yet again, is not about meeting them half way; it's about countering them and using the counters to go beyond just stopping an immediate problem. Your mention of a specific Bible passage had no immediate effect on the main spouter, but his henchman eventually noted it, looked it up, and got the spouter to read it.

The point is: they're not all the same. You probably didn't convince either of them, but one listened enough to actually get what you were saying, and that was enough to cause the other one to make a fool of himself, decreasing his credibility in the eyes of the crowd, and possibly in the eyes of the henchman.

Meanwhile, there really are some of them out there who are not swinging their fists into your nose. Even some of them who are trying to deal with causes that we do indeed all have in common, such as poverty, health, and the environment. I previously provided links for some of those.

Those common causes give us all an opportunity to move ahead on things that do matter to us all, and along the way to peel off followers from the hardcore leaders of the religious right.

That isn't meeting them halfway. That's finding topics where some of them have already come over to the bright side, and pulling them farther along.

The RRR is not a monolith. It is people, many of whom are followers who have been duped out of fear. Your knowledge of how they work (which I explicitly praised) could be quite useful in unduping some of them, if you so chose.

You may find it appropriate to ignore anybody who fits into one of the categories you've labeled until one of them takes a swing at you. Meanwhile the religious right isn't doing the same; it's out there organizing rings around us. Some of us prefer to look at what to do about that.

Indeed that goes beyond your point of view. Sorry if that offends you.

#403 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 10:03 AM:

jayskew, lots and lots of people have been misinterpreting you consistently in exactly the same way. Examine the way you use words.

#404 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 11:46 AM:

Regardless of whether particular social taboos are universal (as we've seen, arguments can go back and forth), what is universal is the development and need for standards - the "rules of the club", so to speak. There are very good survival motivations behind that, and one of the most important is for individuals to ally and identify with the clan, and see that the clan's interests may supercede his. If members of Ogg's tribe all break their egg at the small end, that serves Ogg. Ugg's tribe are a bunch of immoral barbarians because they break their egg at the large end. (Apologies to Swift).

Now, the fact that we have morals, and that the development of a moral urge undoubtedly is selected for, does not lend any particular one a privileged place. All we know is that human societies work better with them, but the particulars change all the time. In fact, I think that the moral urge is responsible in part for the invention of religion. When something feels right, and strongly, then by God, some deity must be behind it.

#405 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 12:31 PM:

Rats, ethan said what I was going to say. Happens a lot.

Nuts. I'm gonna say it anyway.

jayskew, you are either a) communicating badly and blaming others when they misinterpret you, b)trying to weasel out of positions once they've been refuted, or c) deliberately putting out text you intend to be interpreted one way, so that you can then accuse us of poor reading comprehension when you claim you meant it another way.

I'm willing to assume a), but your increasingly hostile and sneering tone forces me to include the other two possibilities.

At any rate, if so many people are "misinterpreting" you, it's YOUR written communication skills that are at fault. Try to write more clearly and say things in an unambiguous way. And lose the attitude, please. It doesn't make people likely to interpret you correctly if they don't want to read your posts at all.

#406 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 12:47 PM:

Jayskew,

What Ethan and Xopher said. And Terry, and a few others along the way.

I'm sorry, but isn't us. It really does seem to be you. And I say this without rancor.

#407 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 01:14 PM:

I was going to stay out of this, but the pile-on is getting too much for me, so:

I have yet to read any of jayskew's posts as meaning anything other than what he or she has later claimed they mean. I don't know what the trouble really is here, but I note that Xopher said the referenced article "quote[s] Bertrand Russell to support punishment," which is not at all the case, and I have to wonder if you've been letting some preconceived ideas about the discussion interfere with your normally-sharp reading.

#408 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 01:19 PM:

I'm afraid I'm with Ethan @ 403.

#409 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 01:52 PM:

Summer Storms @ 360 responds to me:

"You almost seem to be implying that those of us who marry for love - rather than for purposes legitimized procreation - have somewhat less of a valid reason for wanting to "establish family ties" (to use your own phrasing from above) between ourselves and our partners than those who have or intend to have children. Care to explain why?"

If I seemed to be implying that, I didn't express myself well. I was trying to talk specifically about marriage as overseen by the state (hence my repeated use of the term "legal marriage") as distinct from marriage as a relationship between the principals, as seen by them and their social and familial circles.

The love between my partner and me is extremely important for me, as I'm sure the love between your partner and yourself is for you. Indeed, making a permanent bond based on that love was the main reason we got married. But the *state* doesn't particularly care about whether or how we love each other, and I don't particularly want it to.

The state *does* have reason to care about the family tie we established, though, for reasons like default property arrangments, inheritance defaults, proxy rights, and so on. And it also has reason to care about our raising children. I'd argue that the latter is particularly important *with respect to the state* because couples with children are more vulnerable, all else being equal, than couples without.

It doesn't mean that couples without children should be seen as inferior to those with, but raising children involves a lot of extra time, commitment of resources, and risk. Insofar as you believe (as I do) that it's in the interests of the state to encourage people to bring up happy, healthy, educated and responsible new citizens, it makes sense for the states to give parents (active and 'retired') some special support. That's one of the intents behind some of the benefits and responsibilities of legal marriage.

"Thirdly, many same-sex couples DO have children" -- Exactly. It's not the default, as it is for non-sterile opposite-sex couples, but there are many same-sex couples with children, including a number in our neighborhood. I'd like them to have the same support from the state as other parents.

Indeed, one of the main reasons I have for teasing out the 'bundles' of rights and responsibilities of legal marriage is to make it easier to see that, for the most part, they don't really have much to do with the sex of the person one is sleeping with. (Indeed, most of them don't inherently involve *any* sort of sleeping together. Two celibate friends making a household together to raise an orphaned niece could also make good use of the 'parent-support' and 'family ties' bundles that come with legal marriage.)

And once they've seen that, then I suspect it becomes easier for folks who still feel squicky (for whatever reason) about same-sex sexuality to still see that same-sex couples could use the same sorts of legal recognitions that legally married opposite-sex couples have.

#410 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 02:21 PM:

John Mark, thank you for that clarification and expansion. I understand your position a tad better now.

Part of what confused me originally was your mention of the use of other legal means to achieve marriagelike protections wrt property, etc. Often, that angle is used by people attempting to make a case for same-sex marriage being unnecessary because they figure that such couples "can always see a lawyer to protect their interests" and therefore that marriage can safely be restricted to hetero couples without in any way marginalizing same-sex couples. This, of course, is false, and even if the same entire package of legal protections and benefits conferred by marriage could be obtained by drawing up paperwork with the help of a lawyer (and it cannot), there would still be the question of why same-sex couples should have to go to that much time, trouble and expense to achieve what hetero couples can achieve simply by purchasing a marriage license and spending five minutes with a JP or the minister of their choice.

Note that I am not implying that you hold that position. I am merely pointing out the origin of my earlier confusion over your post.

(I'm noticing more and more that it really *is* difficult to fully communicate positions sometimes, without the back-and-forth of ongoing clarifications. C'est la vie, I suppose.)

#411 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 03:30 PM:

I'd just like to say that #409 is one of the clearest explications of many of the subtleties and nuances of this issue that I've ever seen.

#412 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 03:53 PM:

Steve C #391: My understanding is that incest taboos of some kind are extremely common, across time, place, technology level, wealth, etc. Exactly what gets hooked to those taboos is somewhat variable, and humans are (IMO) so flexible that we can learn to overcome even the really strong ones, but it sure looks to me like there is a tendency among humans to avoid incest.

I believe there's a bit of research on this, not just the Kibutz kids, but also some questionaire answers that supported the idea[1], and some cool research involving women finding the sweat of men more attractive when their MHC genes[2] differ a lot from their own.

#394: Widespread homosexuality is indeed an interesting evolutionary puzzle. It's hard to see why it would persist, in evolutionary terms. It does persist, so there must be some reason or reasons, but I don't think they're obvious. Homosexual behavior is seen in some animals, but I think it's pretty rare at the levels that it occurs in humans.

[1] I believe some large fraction of evolutionary psychology is based on freshman classes at UCSB, where several of the most important researchers in that field teach.

[2] As I understand it, these genes code for the individual pieces which are randomly reassembled in the immune system to make T-cell receptors and B-cell/antibody templates. I think they also code for a bunch of other immune-system-related stuff, some of which also benefits from diversity. So getting a diverse set of genes here means you get a wider range of T-cell receptors and antibodies that can be made, and this gives your kids a big advantage.

#413 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 04:25 PM:

John Mark #409, Xopher #411:

I agree, #409 was a really nice summary of the issues. I think the political sticking point on gay marriage is the social recognition/approval. According to a Pew Center study from 2006 here, only 35% of Americans favored gay marriage (56% opposed), but 54% favored civil unions (42% opposed).

This is very generational; younger people are *way* more supportive of gay marriage.

That survey also throws some limited light on the basis for opposition to gay marriage. 24% of Protestants, 38% of Catholics, and 63% of people listed as secular[1] were in favor of gay marriage. It's notable that being secular is correlated with approval for gay marriage, but not all that strongly.

I really recommend reading this survey summary. It's not all that long, and it throws some light on a lot of common positions among people--abortion, gay marriage, womens' rights. Some of what was there really surprised me--I think political/social movements are really good at projecting a false picture of widespread beliefs, a kind of PR-savvy version of "the silent lurkers all agree with me," and looking at the survey numbers is a great antidote to that.

[1] I think this just means when asked their religion, they said "not religious" or "atheist" or some such thing.

#414 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 04:27 PM:

albatross 412: About homosexuality persisting, the theories I've heard involve sideline benefits; in other words, having a childless uncle increases the chances a child will survive, because the child has an additional adult potential caregiver; a member of the community who works but doesn't produce children benefits other people in the community who do have children, etc.

I'm more skeptical of the more abstract versions of this argument ("having a priest in the family makes the whole family more likely to breed"), but I don't dismiss them entirely.

The other thing, and I'm sure you've thought of this, is that exclusive homosexuality is really almost vanishingly rare. I'm the only gay man I know (of those with whom I've discussed the matter) who has never had sex with a woman. That includes my current boyfriend and all my previous boyfriends. And as you know, the famous homosexual behavior of Athenian men did not in the least prevent them from breeding ("women for breeding, boys for pleasure").

Our culture tries its best to force everyone to be, or pretend to be heterosexual. Failing that, it has a special place for "homosexuals," which all too often means that anyone who has ever had same-sex sex is tagged with that label. True bisexuals (and in my belief their numbers are vastly underestimated) are called "confused" or "in denial." They are neither (yes, there are some people who are confused or in denial, but there are also real bisexuals). IMO they're the human norm, and our culture forces these simplistic categories on a complex reality.

Btw, gay men do this all the time. I try to tell them that when they deny the existence of bisexuals, they're buying into the "defilement" theory of homosexuality, but hardly anyone listens.

At any rate, this is far from the common historical case, nor is it the case in most of the world. It's not talked about because of homophobia, but in many places the categories 'gay' and 'straight' don't really exist, or exist in a very modified form. A man who has sex exclusively with other males in his adolescence and young adulthood eventually marries and has children—and may or may not continue to mess around with other guys on the side.

Which brings me to another evolutionary point. It strikes me as possible (by which I mean I have no evidence for this) that in primitive times bisexuality in males may have benefitted the females and children. If he doesn't have to have sex with her or do without, she will have sex only when she wants, which leaves her time to do other things, including caring for the children (I am assuming, again without evidence, that men did little or none of this before civilization and ethics arrived). And in general, if men can take care of their own sexual needs among their own sex, it leaves the women more time to do what they want to do (like, say, inventing agriculture).

I can't quote any sources, and I don't know how it actually works. I've heard the theories I started with; the last one I just thought up as a hypothesis.

If there were a single dominant gene for homosexuality, and having it meant a person would never, ever have sex outside hir gender, then the evolutionary persistence of homosexuality would be more of a puzzle. But it's not particularly a strongly negative trait as far as breeding, and it's almost certainly not a single dominant gene.

#415 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 04:53 PM:

One possible evolutionary reason for bisexuality is that it would allow sexual activity when pregnancy or extra kids would be burden on the tribe or clan. That's presupposing the tribe connected sex with babies, which isn't guaranteed. The support for this is tenuous at best - pregnancy is delayed by nursing, and kids were probably nursed for a couple of years, and women were probably either pregnant, nursing or past menopause (which in neolithic times might have been around 30).

#416 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 06:01 PM:

Xopher #414:
And in general, if men can take care of their own sexual needs among their own sex, it leaves the women more time to do what they want to do (like, say, inventing agriculture).

Or having sex with each other. :)

I think this ties in with human females having a menstrual cycle instead of an estrous cycle. Most animals have an estruous cycle, which means sexual activity is limited to the fertile part of the cyle ("in heat"). Whereas human females can have sex whenever we feel like it. So the link between fertility and sex is not absolute in humans.

Therefore, sex-for-fun must have some kind of benefit, because we've evolved to be able do it. It seems to be good for our health (leaving aside social diseases) - heart, skin, mood, etc. And it helps build social bonds, potentially. And if it is beneficial, it would be an additional benefit if we could get it from many different sources--opposite sex, same sex, self.

I tend to agree with the "uncle" theory you mention, too. We're geared, as a species, to taking care of ANY child as if it's our own, and to bonding with whoever we're thrown together with, so I do tend to think that the exclusion of some members of a generation from the breeding pool will help the next generation to survive, as children are left orphaned for one reason or another. The desire to raise children doesn't seem to spring from the desire for sex, anyway, even though having kids is a possible side-effect of some sex.

That's my totally unscientific take on it, anyway

#417 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 08:02 PM:

That's presupposing the tribe connected sex with babies, which isn't guaranteed.

Steve C, I will hazard a guess that any human society which shares its life with domestic animals (dogs, horses, cows, water buffalo, domestic fowl of all sorts, oxen, reindeer, etc.) quickly figures out the mechanical connection between the sex act and offspring.

#418 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 08:31 PM:

albatross @ #412: Homosexual behavior is seen in some animals, but I think it's pretty rare at the levels that it occurs in humans.

Not so much with the rarity. Look up Biological Exuberance by Bruce Bagemihl at your favorite lender or purveyor of books.

#419 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 09:05 PM:

Lizzy L @ 417 -

Steve C, I will hazard a guess that any human society which shares its life with domestic animals (dogs, horses, cows, water buffalo, domestic fowl of all sorts, oxen, reindeer, etc.) quickly figures out the mechanical connection between the sex act and offspring.

Lizzy, I was actually thinking of pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers. Agricultural societies would definitely have to get a clue about reproduction to function properly.

#420 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 09:06 PM:

jayskew: I am taking offense because you are offending me. I tell you I understand how the RRR think. You ignore this.

You tell me, in the same breath, what a good boy am I (because I know so well how they think that I can use it to effectively push their buttons; had he not come back screaming at me, none but they and I would know what I said to him), and that I need to study them, so I can make common cause with them.

Xopher, Summer Storms, ethan, and I all infer similar errors, and you blame us for them. Ok, some quirk of our respective educations and environments (separated by years,and thousands of miles) has caused us think similarly.

That, or some quirk of how you are trying to talk to us is nettlesome (I must say that I find being spoken down to more than a trifle irritating, when it persists; despite evidence that the thing I am being told to do has been done, well I find that offensive. It's a personal thing. I feel that you are either ignoring me, or disbelieving me, in either case I take offense at it).

I also take offense at your, repeated, assertions that my upset is that you are insisting I am offended because you are telling me painful truths about myself (You may find it appropriate to ignore anybody who fits into one of the categories you've labeled until one of them takes a swing at you. Meanwhile the religious right isn't doing the same; it's out there organizing rings around us. Some of us prefer to look at what to do about that.

Indeed that goes beyond your point of view. Sorry if that offends you.).

Going beyond my POV isn't offensive. Telling me what offends me, and saying you know better than I do, what I need to do, when you; so far as I can see, are pigeonholing me into some role (that of the ignorant fool who fails to study/understand/try to comprehend others with whom he disagree) which it pleases you to paint me, that offends me.

It's not that I am going out of my way to twist things. Perhaps I am, inadvertantly "adding" to what you say.

But that similar additions are being made by other people.

I'm sorry that I can't seem to find a way to make my position clear. I'm sorry too that I can't seem to grasp what you mean (I would say that I rather see what you say, but you don't see it that way, and at least one other person says they never took anything you said to mean other than what you seem to explicate it as meaning, so I may be wrong... but that's a different problem. At that point you might want to follow your own advice about figuring out what it is I need to hear to receive your message; because right now, it's not happening).

I think that covers about all I can say on the matter.

John Mark Ockerbloom: (#409) That was brilliant, and deft. I will be making use of those arguments, and may take advantage of your phrasing. I've not seen a better explanation of why both marriage, and relations with children both matter to the state, and need to be privileged. Thank you.

#421 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 09:23 PM:

@#388, 412: What you're referring to can probably be found by searching for the "Westermarck effect". In addition to explaining kibbutz-raised children, there's also the example of Chinese child-marriages (that is, two children are married to each other so as to cement some contract between the two families involved) that tended to not work very well as marriages.

Anyway, there's lots of research out there on the topic, as well as related psychological reactions.

#422 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 09:35 PM:

Steve C. pretty much covered my point. The second is that (as I said elsewhere) not everything has an adaptive function. So long as it doesn't prevent the species from dying out (by prevent breeding at the individual level) it will persist.

If it's a recessive (say Tay-Sachs) it can survive, even though when it manifests, it's fatal.

It can be diffrerently expressed it can even be dominant (say diabetes, which is fatal, if untreated, but comes on late enough in life to let people breed).

What adaptive value there is, is that of, "pre-adaption" (a terrible word, if you ask me, but no one did), wherein some quirk of fate makes it useful to be diabetic, then diabetes will flourish.

#423 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 09:46 PM:

One of my favorite politically incorrect facts is that Tay-Sachs trait (that is, a single copy of the recessive gene) confers some immunity to bubonic plague. The case of sickle-cell trait is well known too.

Perhaps there's something there. Unlike some gays, I will not go so far as to say that the gay gene also confers fashion sense!

#424 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 09:58 PM:

Xopher #423: What is even remotely "politically incorrect" about that?

#425 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2008, 10:13 PM:

Avram: Ashkenazic Jews are the common carriers of TST in the West. They were falsely accused of deliberately starting the plague. Part of the "evidence" cited for this was that they didn't get it as often. Traditionally (according to Judy Harrow) Jews have said that the reason they didn't get the plague is that they washed, unlike the Western European gentiles among whom they found themselves.

Well...that may have a factor, but some of them really had a resistance to it. Whether they brought it in from the east, another thing they were accused of, I have no idea (I don't think the timing matches, for one thing).

#426 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2008, 12:02 AM:

Steve C. while there was received wisdom that pre-agricultural societies were "innocent" of the knowledge of the role of sex in reproiduction during the same period which speculated about pre-agricultural matriarchies, no society which has been studied, no matter what its subsistence pattern, failed to recognize that connection. The mechanism of that connection may be explained by myth, but the necessity of intercourse for conception is something that's pretty transparent and easily recognized empirically.

And the commensality of dogs and humans allowed ample opportunity for observation well before the neolithic revolution.

#427 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2008, 07:32 AM:

John Mark Ockerbloom@#409: That was a good writeup.

Related to the general idea of thinking about the issues instead of just following accepted opinion, here's a video of Dan Savage going into a den of Huckabees and trying to make them think, or at least actually interact with an actual gay man:

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=NxXWoqIAuxw


Terry Karney @#420: "jayskew: I am taking offense because you are offending me. I tell you I understand how the RRR think. You ignore this."

I say "Loved your story. If that's one of your methods, I'm all for it. Note that it involved understanding your enemy..." and you say I ignore your understanding?

"you are insisting I am offended because you are telling me painful truths about myself"

Once again, you're just making up stuff that I didn't say. It might be worth considering that most of what I've written *isn't about you*; it's about the subject at hand: dealing with right wing religious people.

"It's not that I am going out of my way to twist things."

Given that you consistently come back claiming I said things I simply did not say, it sure looks that way to me. At least you admit that at least one other person read what I wrote as saying what I wrote. I have to say I agree with Tim Walters: I think you're letting preconceived ideas get in the way of reading what I write.

"At that point you might want to follow your own advice about figuring out what it is I need to hear to receive your message; because right now, it's not happening)."

The part you're not hearing is about the RRR not being a monolith. Some of them aren't ever going to be convinced of anything but their own views. Others may, with time, think different.

Other people have gotten that. You may, or you may not.

Xopher@#405: I think your position on attitude is projection. You repeatedly characterized an article about substantive research by a professional in his field as "NYT crap" and refused to read it. You said "I do hate them" at some length. Your comment about "it's time to man the barricades" caused C. Wingate to say he "pretty much got off the argument".

Meanwhile, at least one other person lauded your barricades comment. I guess some people like your attitude, so I won't suggest you lose it. I would suggest you stop letting it get in the way of reading what people write.

What positions do you think I've taken that have been refuted?

I believe I've gone out of my way to clarify my positions. Please do the same, without the ad hominem characterizations.

Summer, Ethan, Kelly, what do you recommend for dealing with right wing religious people?

#428 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2008, 09:19 AM:

jayskew 427: Well, from the first let me say that I find your comments to me in 427 free of the derisive and belittling tone I was complaining of earlier. Points made civilly deserve a civil response; herewith my attempt at same.

It has been my long experience of the NYT that any "science" articles they print in fields I know about are howlingly wrong, and I don't mean things that merely contradict "accepted wisdom," but real nonsense. People in other fields have reported similar things, and that the work of good scientists has been distorted.

That means the NYT is a bad source for anything involving science. I did not read the article because a) the above experience made me suspicious, b) the misleading (or, pace Tim, at least seriously ambiguous) use of the Russell quote on the first page annoyed me, and c) to be honest I didn't have a lot of time, and the article was long (going by the number of page links). Even if the research is good and well reported, I chose not to take the risk of filling my head with misinformation, and it's from experience: I've been burned by the NYT that way before.

That's the source of my attitude toward the NYT. But when I spoke of attitude, I was speaking of your attitude toward me and the others who've disagreed with you here, not your attitude toward the RRR. I felt you were being uncivil. As far as my comment that we have to man the barricades—it's true, I no longer think it's useful to attempt to reason with the religious right. Keeping them from getting any more recruits: useful. Educating people on the fringe of their movement: useful. Making compromises or common cause with their core members: worse than useless. They'll smile to our faces while they go on figuring out how to put knives in our backs.

It's times like this when I'm glad not to be a Christian (not that there's anything wrong with being one): I don't have to feel guilty about hating people who hate me and plan to kill or imprison me and mine. If you don't think they're planning that, I think you underestimate their extremism. I don't think I will convince you of this, though.

As for positions that have been refuted: I was speculating as to what you were doing here. I ultimately decided to assume good will, which meant you were simply communicating poorly. The possibility you refer to is less innocent, but still doesn't involve deliberate provocation: it's something I've seen before. A person (usually male) will take a position, it will be refuted, and then he will claim that he meant something else, sometimes with high and mighty "how dare you" declarations. This is usually due to a widespread tendency to regard admitting to having been wrong as weak.

Had you been doing that, the positions in question would have been 1) that homosexuality is regarded as a kind of defilement in every culture in the world, and 2) that incestuous Pharaonic marriages prove that Pharaonic Egypt had no incest taboo. Let me stress that I no longer believe you intended to take those positions; however, I do believe that those positions are quite reasonable readings (in fact I still think the MOST reasonable readings) of what you actually wrote.

Let me just give one example of why I think so. If you say "All X is Y," and I say "Oh, really?" and cite an example, that generally means I intend to refute that all X is Y, and I'm giving a counterexample: that is, an X that is not Y. In addition, 'Oh, really?' is a bit belligerent in tone, at least to me.

Let me just suggest that a better way to say what you meant might have been "Yes, but the taboo has important exceptions, and some people are considered exempt. For example, the Egyptian Pharaohs often married their sisters." I might have quibbled with 'often', but I certainly wouldn't have been angry. As it was, the cordiality of our communication deteriorated rapidly!

Nothing in this post is intended to belittle or insult you, and I hope you won't take offense to anything I've said here.

#429 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2008, 09:50 AM:

This thread started so contentiously, I tended to skim, so I'm glad to see some more civil exchanges cropping up. (I can rant as much as anyone, but am mostly too shy to put it into print or say it in public -- no Debating Society membership for me!)

Xopher (#423): Unlike some gays, I will not go so far as to say that the gay gene also confers fashion sense! Joining into the unscientific speculations, it does seem as though a notable percentage of artists, poets etc. etc. who have made great contributions to their fields have been gay (which is *not* to say flamingly camp). The human race would be diminished without them.

#430 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2008, 02:27 PM:

Xopher@#427: Thank you for laying out your position. That is much more constructive than making vague accusations of "attitude" and avoiding addressing the subjects at hand.

The NYTimes article was actually written by Pinker, not by some random reporter. The chances are thus in my mind rather good that he represented it fairly. Which is not to say that he doesn't have his axes to grind. As I've discussed with others on another forum, he does seem to work his political leanings into his writings, as for example where he characterizes leftists as emphasizing only two of the basic moral colors while "conservatives" emphasize all five. However, that doesn't affect the basic thesis of the article, that there are apparently some basic moral senses, of which apparently five can be enumerated.

Yes, the article is long. I took that to be another indication that it might be more or less accurate, rather than some newspaper hack job. When I get time, I plan to dig up some more of Pinker's writings on this subject, and possibly some of his sources' writings.

Meanwhile, your post establishes that you don't actually know of any points I've made that have been rebutted, and that your whole case for any "attitude" coming from me is based on one phrase.

Regarding the passage containing that phrase, you spell out that you read into it some general preconceptions you have, without actually paying attention to what the passage said.

You're also reading not only your preferred meaning into it, but a "belligerent" tone that just wasn't there. Amusement and astonishment is what you and Terry continue to provoke in me, along with a bit of sadness that such obviously bright people let their preconceptions get in the way of hearing what other people say.

Meanwhile, Lee@#161 used that exact phrase, while Mary Aileen@#168 started with "Really?" responding to one of your posts. I don't see you taking either of them to task for that phrase or calling them belligerent. Which makes me think it's not the phrase: it's the subject matter. I think you saw someone having the temerity to respond to your ex cathedra assertion of an incest taboo as a "universal human norm" and responded angrily.

Could I have written it more clearly? Sure, and that's the case with almost anything anyone writes. Have I clarified it since? Many times, and you now admit that you know your original reading was not what I meant. But no, I'm not going to agree that my wording was the whole problem here. Your preconceptions and anger do seem to have played a major role.

So no, I won't accept your suggested rewording; I've already supplied plenty of my own, thank you. I would suggest that you work on your anger and hatred; they're getting in your way. Your current post indicates that maybe you're doing that; thanks for trying.

"I no longer think it's useful to attempt to reason with the religious right. Keeping them from getting any more recruits: useful. Educating people on the fringe of their movement: useful. Making compromises or common cause with their core members: worse than useless. They'll smile to our faces while they go on figuring out how to put knives in our backs."

We're in complete agreement on all those points. Note that where I've recommended common cause, you've added "with their core members" which I've never said; rather I've repeatedly recommended peeling off their fringe members and keeping them from recruiting more.

There also seems to be some misunderstanding in that you and Terry seem to keep thinking I'm recommending reasoning with them. Being ready to rebut their pseudo-religious rationalizations in their own terminology isn't reasoning in any deep sense. It's showing strength and not letting them hold the floor, thus opening the possibility of swaying their fringe members or the uncommitted. Beyond that, I recommend that the *rest* of us use reason to understand the enemy. Such understanding may include not only understanding their tactics (they say John 3:16; Terry says Matthew 6:5-7), but also trying to discover what they're really afraid of and what they really want. That's where the Pinker paper seems promising.

Beyond that, we need to be doing something better. Dealing with poverty, health, and the environment, for examples. In addition to needing to be dealt with anyway, those topics have the added benefit that many of religious rightist followers already also want something done with them. Funny how they, like everybody else, want their children and themselves to be healthy and reasonably well off. So if they see real progress being made, they may turn away from their former radical authoritarian religious rightist leaders and follow real leaders for a change.

This is already happening to some extent. There have been several recent examples of megachurch pastors being bounced out the door by their own elders because the elders and congregation got sick of hearing nothing but hot button issues (abortion, gay marriage, abstinence!) and wanted somebody who would deal with more important issues. If you're interested, I can probably dig up references.

"It's times like this when I'm glad not to be a Christian (not that there's anything wrong with being one): I don't have to feel guilty about hating people who hate me and plan to kill or imprison me and mine."

There are other sources of morality than Christianity, and there are other ways to react to enemies than hatred or guilt. Personally, I find Epictetus most refreshing on such points.

"If you don't think they're planning that, I think you underestimate their extremism. I don't think I will convince you of this, though."

I was already convinced even before I followed the links you posted. In addition, I was the one who found and posted the quote by Huckabee in 1998 where he said:

"I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ."

There are plenty of examples in history of what a nation controled by "Christians" can do. Spain under Franco, who was (and at least until recently, still was) lauded by the Catholic church. Augustine, who, while famous for his writings, also used the full force of the empire to suppress anyone in his diocese who didn't kowtow to the party line as he set it forth. And of course Athanasius.

I'm sure many people on this list can add examples.

In my mind, these are all good reasons for why we should not let hatred blind us. It causes us to misrecognize friends as enemies. We all need all our senses about us to produce something better than a "Christian nation". Hey, how about a pluralistic democratic republic that deals with real problems?

"A Republic, if you can keep it." --Ben Franklin

Finally:

"Nothing in this post is intended to belittle or insult you, and I hope you won't take offense to anything I've said here."

Indeed I haven't before, nor do I now. Nor is anything I have written intended to belittle or insult you, and I hope you won't take offense.

#431 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2008, 05:52 PM:

jayskew 430: 161 was P J, not Lee, and yes, I thought it was a little edgy. Lots of people, including me, were being a little edgy with C. Wingate right then.

And at 168, Mary Aileen opened with "Really?" as you say. The 'Oh,' makes it a little more arch, she softened it still more by saying "That hasn't been my experience," and I would point out that she did, in fact, intend to refute my statement. And she did. You'll note my response to her was to say "Wow, perhaps they updated that form."

I don't really have the energy to discuss everything else with you point-by-point, so I'll stop there. But there are a couple of sentences in 430 which did offend and/or irritate me, unlike your previous post. I'm not going to respond to them; I'm just going to tell you which ones they are and let you decide whether you need to change the way you write to avoid being offensive, or whether I just need to have a thicker skin.

I would appreciate your NOT telling me which. Here they are:

I think you saw someone having the temerity to respond to your ex cathedra assertion of an incest taboo as a "universal human norm" and responded angrily.

I would suggest that you work on your anger and hatred; they're getting in your way. Your current post indicates that maybe you're doing that; thanks for trying.
#432 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2008, 11:22 PM:

jayskew: Where did I say the RRR was a monolith?

Why do you think my vicsiously attacking someone by knowing what, in his books, would offend him, is a good way of treating with them?

Why should I make common cause with them?

Why do you persist in telling me what you think I don't know?

As for the rest, Xopher's comment about your tone say more than I have managed to convey in all my attempts.

#433 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2008, 01:40 PM:

JESR @ 426

I remember reading some time ago about one Neolithic culture that the initial anthropological contact reported had made no connection between intercourse and pregnancy. Later investigation showed that the original primary contact had had a lot of fun telling whoppers to the anthropologists. This is a common danger in anthropology; read about the French expedition to the pygmies in East Africa in the 1920's. The head of the expedition was convinced that the people he talked to had some occult way of perceiving the nature of the stars that was at least as good as the telescopes of the observatories of France. Pity he wasn't an astronomer as well; he might have spotted the tall tales.

#434 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2008, 01:47 PM:

Xopher @ 423

There is a theory* that immunity to plague also offers at least minimal immunity to HIV, based on the epidemiology of plague in English villages versus current patterns of HIV infections. I don't think it's widely known enough to be politically incorrect.

* the only reference I have is a TV documentary on PBS. FWIW

#435 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2008, 04:18 PM:

Jayskew @ 427: Summer, Ethan, Kelly, what do you recommend for dealing with right wing religious people?

For me, it depends on the person.

And for the record, I can understand completely why Terry is unhappy with the way you've treated him. It's too bad that you apparently can't. Same with Xopher. You really would be better served by at least being open to the possibility that at least some of the problem might be on your end. You know, that same sort of open-mindedness that you advocate in others, and that would probably be beneficial for the RRR folks as well, should they ever try it?

You make your own preconceptions painfully apparent, in that you cannot conceive of your own communications as being anything other than crystal clear, nor anyone else's misunderstanding of your meaning or intent as being due to anything other than their own shortcomings, unreasonableness, or emotionality.

And that's all I have to say about that.

#436 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2008, 11:58 PM:

Here's a common point of view:

"the Baptists, a term that is quite rightly almost synonymous with Southern Baptist"

http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/2008/01/27/237-regionalism-and-religiosity/

But it turns out not to be correct, since many Baptists (more than in the SBC, I'm told) are banding together in the New Baptist Covenant Celebration, starting Wednesday in Atlanta:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/us/27baptists.html

Huckabee won't be attending. He was offended by Jimmy Carter criticizing George W. Bush.

I like this sort of approach: go out and do something to draw supporters from right wing religious groups, by creating something better. It seems Jimmy Carter has been working on this for some time.


Bruce Cohen@#433:

Regarding neolithic cultures, didn't Margaret Mead get the woold pulled over her eyes by some of her subjects?

In addition to the locals fooling the anthropologists, sometimes the experts just don't want to believe something really happened. Cannibalism, for example. Many people didn't want to believe the Anasazi of the U.S. southwest had at some point practiced cannibalism. Some of the most severe critics said they wouldn't believe it until a list of unmistakable signs were found, including certain human biological markers in human coprolites (fossilized feces). Fair enough. All the signs, every one of them, have since been found.

Disclaimer: I am not an anthropoligist, and I got this out of Smithsonian Magazine, so if you are or know better, please correct me.

Some "universal" taboos turn out not to be universal at all.


Terry Karney@#432:

Thank you for asking questions instead of making accusations.

"jayskew: Where did I say the RRR was a monolith?"

Good question, Terry. You didn't use that word; however you do seem to consistently refer to them as all the same. If I've misunderstood you, please let me know. (Note the difference here between declaring that the other person said something vs. saying they seem to be refering and asking for clarification.)

"Why do you think my vicsiously attacking someone by knowing what, in his books, would offend him, is a good way of treating with them?"
While I didn't characterize what you did as "vicsiously attacking", I believe I already explained at some length that the specific example you gave regarding a passage from Matthew led to the proselytizer embarrassing himself in front of a group of people, including people he was trying to convert and even more in front of his own assistant, thus losing credibility for himself.

If he's less credible, he's less effective, and thus less likely to gain more converts or to keep those he's got.

Without your Matthew response as rebuttal to his inappropriate (in my view) attempts to proselytize, his assistant would more likely have seen him as strong and effective. Strength seems to be very important to right wing religious followers; they want a strong leader to follow.

Does that answer your question? If not, I'll be happy to clarify.

"Why should I make common cause with them?"

There's another example of an unqualifed "them", relevant to your first question above.

I have already answered this question in #351, #402, and #430. If those answers weren't sufficient, please tell me what was inadequate about them and I'll be happy to answer further.

"Why do you persist in telling me what you think I don't know?

You keep asking me.

"As for the rest, Xopher's comment about your tone say more than I have managed to convey in all my attempts."

Well, Terry, if you want to be offended at your interpretation of somebody's tone, there's nothing stopping you.


Xopher@#430:

So it's all right for P.J. or you to be arch with C. Wingate but it's not all right for someone to be (in your interpretation) arch with you?

And while you have no hesitation about reading emotion and intention into everything I write, you're offended when I make a speculation as to yours? At least I wrote "I think" rather than just asserting that you felt or intended something.

New and perhaps less offensive interjections of mild astonishment: Dagnabbit! Gosh darnit! Golly gee whillikers!


Summer@#427: regarding dealing with right wing religious peopel:

"For me, it depends on the person."

For example?

"And for the record, I can understand completely why Terry is unhappy with the way you've treated him. It's too bad that you apparently can't. Same with Xopher."

I've treated them by calmly answering each and every one of their posts, and meanwhile carrying on with the topic at hand.

Further:

"...you cannot conceive of your own communications as being anything other than crystal clear, nor anyone else's misunderstanding of your meaning or intent as being due to anything other than their own shortcomings, unreasonableness, or emotionality."

If I thought that, why would I keep clarifying? See also:

"Could I have written it more clearly? Sure, and that's the case with almost anything anyone writes. Have I clarified it since? Many times, and you now admit that you know your original reading was not what I meant. But no, I'm not going to agree that my wording was the whole problem here. Your preconceptions and anger do seem to have played a major role."

Meanwhile, I notice that Xopher thinks (#431) it's all right (albeit "a little edgy") for P.J. to use the exact same phrase to C. Wingate that he's complaining that I used, and for Xopher himself to be "a little edgy" with C. Wingate.

Please consider your double standards.

And to all a good night.

#437 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 12:05 AM:

See what I mean?

#438 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 12:11 AM:

Summer Storms, why yes, I do. Seems almost as if the post just before yours was some sort of demonstration of what you'd just said. It's like magic!

#439 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:00 AM:

jayskew: I'm going to be ignoring some of this... see Summer Storms and JESR, prior.

Do I treat the RRR as monolithic... insofar as they have combined to mobilise their members on some very specific subjects... yes.

As to how effective he was going to be... hunh? He was irritating people whom he could harangue because they were a captive audience. None of them were actual targets of evangilism. He was jerking off in public and I called him on it. There was not a chance in on God's green earth that I was going to have any effect on his behavior past that evening.

#440 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 09:43 AM:

jayskew #436 brings up one point that I think is really important, in passing. One of the most important ways to take power away from the extreme Christian right is for those of us who are Christians to make it clear that those guys don't speak for us.

Judging from media coverage, Christans support the Republican party line, including on stuff which isn't exactly an obvious fit with the New Testament, like the War on Terror and tax cuts for large businesses, and Christians are all up in arms about gay marriage, civil unions, womens' rights, etc.

The reality is very different; see that Pew Center study I linked to for some evidence in that direction. I think this difference reflects the fact that Republican/Christian Right types have been really effective at the PR task of convincing lots of media types that Christian=Republican, even in the face of stuff like overwhelmingly Christian and socially conservative blacks voting 90%+ Democrat, or Catholics opposing the war and torture and favoring social programs, or the Episcopal church ordaining openly gay bishops. Those details just don't fit the story they have bought into, and journalists don't seem the least bit interested in looking for contradictions to their existing picture of reality. (Thus, McCain is a maverick outsider, W is a good old boy just like you, Hillary Clinton is a seasoned, experienced politician, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton legitimately speak for most blacks in the US, etc.)

#441 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 10:54 AM:

albatross at 440: excellent point. The national media has entirely bought into right's PR. My personal example is the number of Catholics who are unaware that the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops formally spoke against the Iraq war, stating that according to Catholic teaching it was not a just war, in 2002. Hell, the Pope (JP II) spoke against it.

#442 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 12:04 PM:

jayskew @ #427

Why do you ask? My comment had nothing to do with with the intended content of what you had to say about the right, it was entirely directed at the delivery. What you have been saying and what you then later claim to have been saying appear to be two different things to me. This has been the case for a number of people and I agreed with ethan @ #403 that if a significant number of people are not getting what you intend them to be getting from your post, then perhaps you need to think about finding different ways to say whatever it is that you mean.

#443 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 12:42 PM:

Summer 435, 437; JESR 438: Hear, hear.

Terry 439: jayskew: I'm going to be ignoring some of this...

I think I'm pretty much altogether done with him. It's become apparent that he enjoys the conflict more than the useful discussion, and I just don't want to play any more.

albatross 440: I think you're absolutely right. I do wish Christians would do more of that. I think the press (with very few exceptions) has become the enemy, as the wall between "church" and "state" (as they call it in the newspaper biz) has crumbled with increasing medea (typo let stand) takeovers by ever-larger corporations. So I think they're doing it on purpose, not because they really believe the PR.

A related thing that irritates me: the assumption that 'religious' means Christian in the US...or even Abrahamic. I really don't think there are a whole lot of Buddhists who support the war!

Lizzy 441: I think I remember that, actually. JPII speaking against the war, I mean. The current Pope is much less a man of peace, of course...has he said anything?

#444 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 12:46 PM:

If this threadkeeps going on, the only way people will find their way out is if we send in a church & rescue team.

#445 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 12:55 PM:

Xopher @ 443, 3rd paragraph: Ayup.

Serge @ 444: I need to buy a keyboard protector, apparently. That was too funny, and I nearly snorted my coffee onto the laptop. Again.

#446 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 01:05 PM:

Xopher: I don't know. Some of it is personal investment. Some of it is hoping I can do for him what he thinks I ought to be doing to the fundies (show him, by careful leading the error of his ways). Part of it is for others.

Most is probably a manifistation of several of my weaknesses... some pure stubborn and a belief I can make myself clear. But the derisive tone (e.g. please consider your double standards, and Other people have gotten that. You may, or you may not.) will probably put me off completely pretty soon.

A related thing that irritates me: the assumption that 'religious' means Christian in the US...or even Abrahamic. I really don't think there are a whole lot of Buddhists who support the war!

You and me both. That's part, parcel and packaging, of the cultural steeping I was talking about in the "icky" thread of conversation. We are told, by our media, our fellows and the advertising, entertainment, etc., the only legitimate religious beliefs are Xtian.

It's offensive, and me a Xtian.

Serge: And when the conversation gets to dull, there will erupt a serge of contra-pun-tative elocution?

#447 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 01:21 PM:

Terry, in certain Places, I'd be obligated to throw peanuts at you for that last. *snicker*

#448 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 02:13 PM:

Xopher, I don't know why you think Benedict is not a man of peace. Of course, I don't know what exactly you mean by that. But Benedict's position on Iraq is pretty well summed up by the following...

As a Cardinal, the new pope was a staunch critic of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. On one occasion before the war, he was asked whether it would be just. "Certainly not," he said, and explained that the situation led him to conclude that "the damage would be greater than the values one hopes to save."

"All I can do is invite you to read the Catechism, and the conclusion seems obvious to me…" The conclusion is one he gave many times: "the concept of preventive war does not appear in The Catechism of the Catholic Church."

Even after the war, Cardinal Ratzinger did not cease criticism of U.S. violence and imperialism: "it was right to resist the war and its threats of destruction...It should never be the responsibility of just one nation to make decisions for the world."

Yet perhaps the most important insight of Ratzinger came during a press conference on May 2, 2003. After suggesting that perhaps it would be necessary to revise the Catechism section on just war (perhaps because it had been used by George Weigel and others to endorse a war the Church opposed), Ratzinger offered a deep insight that included but went beyond the issue of war Iraq:

"There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a 'just war'."

Those are my italics. Benedict is willing to examine and question the very concept of a "just war." No, he's not charismatic and theatrical like JP II, and yes, he's made some PR blunders, and no, he's not a liberal, and I deplore his attitudes about women in the church, and about homosexuality -- but give him credit where it's due. He's no war-monger.

The above material came from here:

http://www.cjd.org/paper/benedict.html

#449 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 02:23 PM:

Terry, I've just spent a fair amount of time in that place. If you have the patience to continue, and especially if you succeed in any wise, you're a better man than I am. But then I've long suspected that to be the case!

Have you ever heard people use the word 'Christian' as if it were a synonym for 'virtuous'? The fact that some Christians find that offensive was a revelation to me and the glory of thy people, and is part of what led to my beginning to reexamine Christianity. Y'all aren't all like the Missouri Synod Lutherans I knew in high school—none of whom was, I stress, a bad person; they just had beliefs I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot neuron.

I've waited half my life for a person of color to say to me that something I did was "the Christian thing to do," so that I could reply with "it's white of you to say so," but it's never happened! Probably just as well, really.

And is eLocution speechifying, but on the internet? Or is ELOcution a way of killing prisoners by forcing them to listen to "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic" over and over?

#450 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 02:33 PM:

Lizzy 448: I stand corrected. Thank you.

I was referring to his insulting quotations about Islam, and his ongoing refusal (AFAIK) to meet with Moslems as his predecessor did. I would still say that he's not the reconciler JPII was, but I was clearly wrong about his stance on war. It's nice to know he isn't a complete monster.

#451 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 02:41 PM:

A related thing that irritates me: the assumption that 'religious' means Christian in the US...or even Abrahamic.

See also Richard Dawkins, and many other people who go on and on about the evils of religion--I am thinking specifically of the conversation here a year or so ago, in which it was insisted one couldn't be "religious" and a liberal, where "religion" was clearly code for "Abrahamic monotheism".

I've waited half my life for a person of color to say to me that something I did was "the Christian thing to do," so that I could reply with "it's white of you to say so," but it's never happened! Probably just as well, really.

But...but...it would be so funny! I'm going to file that in my Preemptive Escalier File*, with perhaps an amendment to "mighty white" to make the point a little clearer.

* The place where I store all the good comebacks I hear so that, if the setup line is ever used to me, I won't be visited by le phantome de l'escalier later. Alas, most of them are too specific for me to ever get to use them.

#452 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 02:46 PM:

Carrie 451: perhaps an amendment to "mighty white" to make the point a little clearer.

Ooo! Me likey! Um...yes, Madame Chairwoman, I'll accept that amendment as friendly.

#453 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 02:57 PM:

Is it absolutely necessary, when atheism is mentionned, to bring up the most obnoxious representatives thereof? I (and probably a few others who hang around ML) would hate to believe that people secretly think that's what we are.

#454 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:03 PM:

Benedict and Muslims

Xopher, the above link might interest you.

#455 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:04 PM:

Is it absolutely necessary, when atheism is mentionned, to bring up the most obnoxious representatives thereof? I (and probably a few others who hang around ML) would hate to believe that people secretly think that's what we are.

Sorry, Serge; I think it's an example of a fairly common trait: one only remembers the extreme examples. In much the same way that not every Christian is a hellfire-and-brimstone gay basher, and not every pagan is a tree-hugging crystal weeine, not every atheist thinks of me as insane for being religious. But it's easier to remember the bashers and the crystal weenies and the guy who tells you you're going to turn into a Flat Earther than the quiet person who doesn't mention their attitude unless asked.

#456 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:12 PM:

Serge 453: Well, Carrie mentioned Dawkins by name, and the word 'atheist' doesn't appear in her post. That didn't sound to me as if she were tarring everyone with the same brush. And he's specifically relevant as someone who "goes on and on about the evils of religion."

#457 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:22 PM:

Serge @453:
Is it absolutely necessary, when atheism is mentioned, to bring up the most obnoxious representatives thereof? I (and probably a few others who hang around ML) would hate to believe that people secretly think that's what we are.

I'd refer you, for symmetry, to Chris @137 and the subsequent comments. It is, unfortunately, a mutual problem.

#458 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:37 PM:

Carrie S @ 455... I know.

#459 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:38 PM:

Abi @ 457... True, but two wrongs do not make one right. Heck, I knew it'd be a mistake to come back to this thread.

#460 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:46 PM:

Xopher: Terry, I've just spent a fair amount of time in that place. If you have the patience to continue, and especially if you succeed in any wise, you're a better man than I am. But then I've long suspected that to be the case!

No way to judge the last.

As for patience... I don't know that it goes hand in hand with stubborn. I can be very patient (in many senses of the word). I got a wonderful dose of subconcious meditative practice last night. Seven pounds of sleeping newborn will induce a certain contemplative state, even when convsersing.

The real reason I persist is that, for certain perverse values of pleasure, I get rewarded for it. Some people are persuaded. Other manage to let me know that I'm not missing the mark as widely as I get told I am.

Hope springs eternal, and all that.

#461 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:49 PM:

Serge @459:
two wrongs do not make one right

They don't, but two iterations of the same wrong indicate at a common trait rather than a specific, targeted behavior. Something to take less personally, even while refuting it.

IOW, what Carrie S said in 455, but less well phrased.

#462 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:50 PM:

Serge, admit it. You came back for the pun of it.

#463 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:55 PM:

Someone upthread (Xopher?) made the point that they'd never heard a rational, secular argument against homosexual marriage. I've got one: heterosexual marriage.

But go ahead. It's your funeral.

#464 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:56 PM:

Lizzy, it did. I didn't read the entire thing (I'm at work), but it does change my perspective to some extent. But this sentence stood out for me: "To avoid a clash of civilizations, Islam should distance itself from terrorist violence; the west from secularist and atheistic violence."

Though the article says that the Pope doesn't approve of religious violence in the West either, that's an interesting juxtaposition there.

#465 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:58 PM:

Scott H @ 463: How is heterosexual marriage an argument (rational, secular or otherwise) against homosexual marriage?

#466 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:02 PM:

Summer Storms @465:

Movable Type (Making Light's blogging software) is known to be unreliable about some forms of markup. Its implementation of blockquote tags, for instance, takes some getting used to.

It appears to have eaten the <irony> and </irony> tags from post 463.

#467 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:03 PM:

Summer Storms @ 462... I wish I could say so. I did because of an attempt to try and remind people of the other atheists. It didn't quite work out like I had hoped. It's hard not to take things personally.

#468 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:09 PM:

Abi, 466: Ah. Quite so.

Serge, 467: I know. Once people find out I'm pagan, I'm often confused with the crystal-woo crowd, so I know what it's like to stand there and say, "But wait... we're not all like that. In fact, most of us aren't."

#469 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:13 PM:

I really, really have to stop reading this thread.

#470 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:14 PM:

No, he wanted to take retribution, and Pun-ish us for the continued conversation.

It's his calling, and our cross to bear.

Happily many hands make light work.

#471 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:16 PM:

Summer Storms @ 465 -

I wonder if Scott H @ 463 is just taking a poke at marriage in general.

#472 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:18 PM:

That could be, I suppose.

#473 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:23 PM:

I tend to call the atheists who imply that a person is dumb if he/she is religios 'evangelical atheists.'

As a pantheist, I consider them just as much of a negative force as people who don’t want evolution taught in schools: enemies of free thought, convinced they are right and that everyone would be better off if they agreed with them. Ick.

The thing is, in my generation and my social circles (twenty-something geeks), there are a lot more evangelical atheists than there are evangelical Christians - a lot of people who will tell you you are dumb or insane or defective if you believe in any religion, and very few that will say you are going to hell/evil if you don't believe in God/Jesus. Belief in God/gods/whatever is seen as private and personal, atheism is seen as a ‘correct’ dogma that must be pushed through to everyone at all costs.

It’s odd to see the balance, and it’s made me as sensitive to overly judgmental atheism as many people of older generations are to the religious right. By the time my people are in power, a lot of those people will be dead. We'll have to worry about balancing the atheists then.

#474 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:41 PM:

How is heterosexual marriage an argument (rational, secular or otherwise) against homosexual marriage?

I think the theory is that marriage sucks, and homosexual people shouldn't saddle themselves with it. Scott?

Oh, and the kneejerk-atheist thing: I should note that I thought of Dawkins not because of his atheism per se, but because his atheism seems to be based on the idea that religion is synonymous with Abrahamic monotheism, which attitude Xopher had just mentioned. (Well, Xopher said Christianity, which is somewhat more specific.)

#475 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 05:58 PM:

Xopher at 464; I'm going to make a total fool of myself here, and surmise that Benedict doesn't think the West's violence has much to do with religious faith. If we're talking about the violence perpetrated by the United States' foreign policy, I'm guessing he might say that it has to do with oil, finance, military hegemony, the desire for personal power, globalization, and corporate capitalism. Where we're talking about other, more intimate places and more intimate wars -- Bosnia, say -- I'm guessing he might say that it has to do with nationalism, the desire for personal power, and human greed. Plus, in both cases, the effects of sin and some serious heavy lifting by forces of spiritual malevolence. I would be direct here and say "Satan," but I don't know if Benedict believes in a personalized devil. However, I'm sure he believes in evil.

I think that where religious language is used to justify Western violence (as in for example the extreme Christian right of our country, or the Serbians in Bosnia ) he would absolutely not support or justify it.

He's not stupid -- he sees who's driving the bus, and it ain't Jesus.

But it's only my guess, and as I said, I'm a fool.

#476 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 06:30 PM:

I was thinking of Eric Rudolph and his ilk. The West has religious terrorists too.

#477 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 06:50 PM:

Lizzy L & Xopher

ISTM that a lot of violence in and by the West is motivated by non-religious purposes and goals, but is justified by religious arguments, often indirectly. A lot of what's done for the War on Terra is motivated by imperialist real-politik, or by whatever the current foreign affairs strategies the State Department has injected itself with, but the justification to the American people is in terms of "Islamofascism", which always seems to me to have its emphasis on the first 2 syllables: "Islam". Whether our government intends it or not*, that's taken by a large percentage of the population of the US (and probably some lesser percentage of Europe as well) as a codeword for a religion that opposes their own.

I'm not saying this is what the Pope intends, but I'm concerned that his statements, if not more carefully worded, may be taken to mean it.

* And I think they do

#478 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 07:08 PM:

Xopher at 476, I sincerely believe the Pope would find Eric Rudolph's violence insupportable. But I don't think you can get to a statement about Eric Rudolph when your starting point is a statement about the clash of civilizations and the relationship between the West and the Muslim world, so I'm somewhat at a loss as to what your expectations are here. Bruce at 477, people take the Pope to mean all kinds of things: I believe he does his level best not to feed the craziness. Sometimes it doesn't work.

#479 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 08:05 PM:

Not really sure who to address this to; I had to take 2-3 days off to catch the flu.

The viewpoints and background experiences which have, in many cases, shaped those viewpoints, seem to be shaped almost completely by upbringing. I know I'm not the only one participating in this thread who lives in the South, but I may be the only one who grew up here and didn't move away. I grew up in one of the parts of Texas (yeah, the Permian Basin, where GWB's parents lived) where everyone is Southern Baptist, no matter what name's on their church (except the Southern Church of Christ and the Pentecostals). This wasn't just one church, in one denomination, it was every one I attended in my public school years. We were allowed to dance, and to drink (responsibly, or with the preacher's kids), but the rest was guilt and shame. If we heard "God is love," the next several lines were all about how undeserving we were of that love. If we deviated even slightly from the norm, there was probably some core of sin that needed to be teased out, through ministerial shouts of guilt and sin. The only thing that could really absolve any of us was donation. Those who were generous were mentioned kindly in the church paper; the rest of us were the subject of less-kindly reference on Sunday morning. Catholics and Jews were to be avoided; atheists were Communists. My only example of a man of the cloth who paid attention to the parts of the bible that didn't involve smiting and condemnation was MLK, and of course he was a Communist. And soon, he was dead.

When I moved to Houston, and to the Rice campus, I found lots of people who believed in the same liberal causes I did (and in 1968 there were plenty), and that was nice. What was shocking was that some were adults, and some were actually religious. By that time, I had completely repudiated all organized religion, and was barely agnostic. There was no doubting these peoples' sincerity, but, with my background, it was as if they had immigrated from another planet. It took me until I was in my upper 30's to quell the immediate gut-clench reaction I had whenever someone announced they were a Christian in my presence. I still can't go for their conception of a higher power, but it's nice to know that there are some devout Christians who aren't of the "if you aren't like us, we hate you and want you to die and burn in hell" sort.

Those of you who are Christians (because you say you are), and who grew up in love-based congregations, consider yourselves lucky. If "Church of Christ" always has "United" in front of it, if your local Baptist churches belong to the General Convention, if your parish priest's messages reliably contain more about love, peace, and service to the communities, both greater and smaller, than they do about the horrors of abortion, the evils of homosexuality, and the base immorality of someone who would sue the church, remember that it isn't that way everywhere.

Leah Miller, you can rest assured that there are plenty of people your age who are happy, Kool-Aid® drinking members of the RRR®. They may not all live in North Texas, but lots do. I have my doubts about how well they'll be able to transmit their belief system to their kids (the third generation), though.

Carrie, Serge, Leah, Summer & others, I'm very familiar with that evangelistic form of militant atheism. Nearly all those people have an early background in evangelistic Pentecostalism or conservative Catholicism, and I view their behavior as a rejection of the tenets of their old faith because of feelings of unworthiness, without a concurrent rejection of the tactics and social beliefs. I've seen several who seize upon the most extreme belief systems of the RRR, and tell the rest of us that, if we wish to be Christian, we must take their whole package, lock, stock, and slimy, wretched barrel. The only other choice, they say, is to reject every form of belief. I'm sure you've seen people referred to as "cafeteria Christians;" I believe it was used upthread (well, maybe not). I'm just not a black-and-white kind of guy.

Summer @ #468: I'm picturing "Brave Heart" with scenes added. The night before the great battle, all the guys take a couple of hours out for a sweat lodge, then spend an hour or two with a feng shui artist who specializes in face and body painting ("I'm sorry, you're just so not blue!"), then finish up the wee hours before attack with a come-and-go Crystal Contemplation Cyrcle.

Lizzy L, Benedict XVI has never been accused of being stupid, has he? And he's met GWB, right? No matter what he might think of the current direction of Islam, he can't like much of what he sees in the US, and the cocky amoral idiot in the White House can't have made much of an impression.

Regarding the debate, it seems to me that there has been a bit too much time and effort spent on arguing with someone who's proven that, once logic prevails, he checks out for awhile and returns with some more Limbaugh Talking Points, while we've insisted on considerably higher standards from those with whom we agree in all but a few points. I wish there were a pharmaceutical that specifically targeted hyperactive defensiveness.

#480 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 08:07 PM:

Carrie S@474, Steve C@471, Abi@466: the gist was "I think the theory is that marriage sucks, and homosexual people shouldn't saddle themselves with it. Scott?

Yes, that's exactly it. Apologies for inadequate communication of snark.

For the record: I enthusiastically and unequivocally endorse the right of adults of any gender or ethnicity to marry the consenting spouse of their choice.

With equal vigor, I encourage you to run while there's still time.


#481 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 08:43 PM:

Scott H.,

Sorry I didn't quite grasp your meaning at first, then. I've been in too many arguments debates discussions where a comment like that would have meant something completely different (and you can probably guess what that something different would be). So, mea culpa and please accept my apologies.

As for the "marriage=misery" angle, I'd like to think that isn't necessarily so, especially with a sufficiently mature relationship between sufficiently mature individuals. For example, I'm engaged myself, to a man with whom I have lived in relative harmony for over seven years, and we view our upcoming nuptials as essentially a public celebration of the union that we have already been enjoying since the summer of 2000. Hopefully, tying the proverbial knot won't alter anything for the worse.

OTOH, I think I see a slight bulge in one cheek when I look at you... I'm guessing that's your tongue.

#482 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 09:08 PM:

Summer 481: OTOH, I think I see a slight bulge in one cheek when I look at you... I'm guessing that's your tongue.

Depending on circumstances, you would be very rash to make that judgement if the person with the bulgy cheek were me.

#483 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 09:12 PM:

Xopher, I never took your for a dipper.

#484 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 09:17 PM:

LMB MacAlister: Snortfle.

#485 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 09:27 PM:

LMB MacAlister #479: you can rest assured that there are plenty of people your age who are happy, Kool-Aid® drinking members of the RRR®. They may not all live in North Texas, but lots do. I have my doubts about how well they'll be able to transmit their belief system to their kids (the third generation), though.

That's one thing that homeschooling can do: transmit a fanatical belief system to a new generation mostly unfettered by the interference of the real world.

#486 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 09:31 PM:

LMB 483: Um...yeah, that's right. It's chawin' terbaccy, ain't that right, Ennis?

#487 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 10:11 PM:

Ennis?? Ennis??!!?

Oh, damn.

#488 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 10:31 PM:

"Xopher" @ 486:

I take back the warning part. You deserve marriage.

#489 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 10:47 PM:

486-488

It's a good thing my mug of tea was empty.
---
At least some parts of West Texas do have Catholics. I can't say that the various flavors of conservative self-proclaimed Christians really welcome them, though, even half-heartedly.

#490 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 11:07 PM:

Xopher @ 482: I've no doubt. ;-)

#491 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 11:29 PM:

LMB MacAlister at 479: thanks for this post; very thoughtful. I want to point out that I, at least, was not born or brought up a Christian -- in my family, believers of any kind were either devious, evil, stupid, or, (best case) psychologically unsound, and Catholics were probably all of the above.

I thank God every Sunday for the kindness and gentleness of the people in my parish. I am well aware that not all parishes are as welcoming as mine has been to me.

I shouldn't think Benedict XVI was much impressed by George W. Bush, no....

#492 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 11:50 PM:

LMB MacAlister: You remind me of how early rearing lingers.

I have a dear friend, who converted from Presbyterianism to Quaker as an adult.

His younger daughter, in her early adulthood, became a Roman Catholic.

He was horrified, angry and six kinds of upset. It wasn't that she'd left off being a Quaker, it was that she'd become a Roman Catholic.

Oddly enough, my being RC, wasn't a problem when I was dating her elder sister. His daughters both marrying soldiers wasn't a problem. It was her joining, "that band of superstitious fools."

I was pretty sure it was a long unknown holdover from his youth. When I saw the reaction of his father, I knew it was.

#493 ::: jayskew ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 11:53 PM:

albatross@#440: "jayskew #436 brings up one point that I think is really important, in passing. One of the most important ways to take power away from the extreme Christian right is for those of us who are Christians to make it clear that those guys don't speak for us."

Yes, that should help a lot..

Summer made an interesting point in #435: "You know, that same sort of open-mindedness that you advocate in others, and that would probably be beneficial for the RRR folks as well, should they ever try it?"

I imagine we'd all like it if the RRR had open minds, but if they did, they probably wouldn't be RRR. As Earl Cooley points out in #485, one purpose of homeschooling is to transmit their belief system. And even so, they lose most of their youth soon after they move away. Isolation works in their favor; exposure to people who think different works against them.


Terry Karney@#446: "derisive tone" from the guy whose resopnse to a question he asked is "hunh?"

Xopher@#443: Thank you. I"ve long been tired of the "debate".

#494 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 12:26 AM:

P J @ #489: Midland is 300 miles from El Paso, and thus fairly easy to ignore. The closest concentration of devout RCs in a parish that's not nearly entirely Hispanic is even further, up past Amarillo. Between the preached Protestant hatred of the RCC and its members and the general racism, Catholics just weren't "one of us."

Terry, between the lessons I got about the RCC from childhood, and what I found out about their beliefs while researching the religions as a young adult, I was pretty horrified, and would have probably reacted much as your friend did. I already knew I was bisexual by the time I was in my 20's, so it didn't bother me in the least when my youngest stepdaughter told me she was Lesbian. If she'd joined the Catholic church, though--man, oh man.

At this time in my life, there is a family that I love dearly (in fact, I celebrate holidays with them, just as a son/brother would) who is very devoutly Roman Catholic. In fact, they live in a small farming town (3,500) where there is no other church but Sacred Heart, and where the public school system is only slightly larger than the parochial. I find their history fascinating, and they've never asked me to attend church with them even once. When they say the ritualistic prayers (faster than the speed of sound) before meals, I just say "so it is, thank you Mother and Father" quietly to myself. The only problem is that I feel so uncomfortable in a religious setting, particularly a highly ritualized one, that I haven't felt as though I could attend either of their daughters' weddings. That, and the fact that I don't own a suit.

#495 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 12:43 AM:

Earl Cooley, #485, sure, homeschooling may make you fervent, just like going to religious school, but someday, you're going to hit the real world. My brother's first wife went to Christian school all the way through college and when she started teaching in a public school, she started reexamining ideas. When my brother wouldn't join her, she divorced him. He found someone who wouldn't hit the real world for his second wife.

#496 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 04:24 AM:

I realise (or have been brought to realise) that some of my comments in this thread, taken together, might appear to describe a view I do not hold.

My comment about evangelical atheists in 282 was simply to clarify what I thought C Wingate was talking about, for the sake of good communication. I have a certain dislike of evangelism in all of its forms, religious, political, literary or Pokémon.

My comments at 457 and 461 were to try to point out that the same phenomenon that Serge was having trouble with - the association of any point of view with only its most extreme exponents - is wider than atheists and Dawkins. The specific area of the thread I was pointing to - where Chris assumed that anyone reasonable was not religious - was another example of that phenomenon. When I see two examples of the same behavior on two sides of a line, then I tend to ask if the behavior itself is the problem. That's all I was trying to say.

The fact that the weight of my comments early on in this thread has come down on the side of the religious rather than the atheists, or the conservative rather than the liberal, was to balance what I saw as an impending dogpile until both sides had their feet well under them.

I don't consider atheists to be bad, or all evangelical, or whatever I may have come across as. I don't generalize about atheists at all. The atheists in this community, like the theists in this community, are very dear to me, and I'm deeply sorry if I've hurt any of you.

I wish I'd never got involved in this damned thread, even to keep the peace.

#497 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 07:43 AM:

Thank you, abi.

#498 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 09:52 AM:

Abi, no worries. You're fine.

#499 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 10:27 AM:

Abi... What Summer said.

#500 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 10:33 AM:

Abi, what Serge and Summer said.

#501 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 10:44 AM:

What am I, chopped liver?

(Also, what Summer Storms, Serge, and Fragano said.)

#502 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 10:49 AM:

abi, what the chopped liver said.

#503 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 10:53 AM:

LMB @ 494

Well, there is a parish in Plainview which may be hispanic-dominant ('Our Lady of Guadalupe'; I think there's another, but it's not noticeable: Guadalupe is downtown in a former bank).

#504 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 10:55 AM:

ethan...What am I, chopped liver?

Do you come with a glass of chianti?

#505 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 11:15 AM:

Serge...yes, and the disgusting slurpy noise is gratis.

#506 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 11:17 AM:

Serge, for shame.

You forgot the fava beans!

#507 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 12:15 PM:

A friend of mine says that line proves that we're getting the uneliable-narrator trip inside Lecter's deranged mind, because there are no nice fava beans.

#508 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 12:22 PM:

But he doesn't say that the fava beans were nice, only the chianti.

#509 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 12:59 PM:

Much like the shock associated with the realization that soylent green is crbcyr, I recently found out that edamame is soybeans, and they're pretty good. They're included in McDonald's Asian salad (which, by the way, isn't quite as good as the similar Wendy's salad which is sadly edamame-free). I am still innocent of the knowledge of the taste of fava beans, though.

#510 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 01:00 PM:

abi @ 496: I don't consider atheists to be bad, or all evangelical, or whatever I may have come across as.

You didn't come across as considering any of those things, to me anyway.

#511 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 01:08 PM:

Bruce Baugh: Your friend is wrong, what there isn't is nice liver (until it's been processed, a lot; patés, terrines, wurst, etc, are all edible, liver, qua liver, foul beyong almost all description).

#512 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 01:14 PM:

abi #496: What all those other folks said. Well, the ones who said nice stuff, anyway[1].

There's a kind of instinct or tendency people have to break the world into "us" and "them," and to build a model of "them" based on the worst things that can be imagined about them, especially when there's tension between the groups. I think that's universal, at least among people I've known.

It's painful to see people I care about and value putting one another in those us/them splits, inferring that all atheists are like Dawkins or all Christians are like Falwell. I know when I've reacted to some of these discussions here (and in the late, unlamented thread on Tim Burton), I've jumped in based in part on that pain. I hate seeing people I know not to be fools or monsters made out to be fools or monsters.

I find this kind of thread both painful and helpful. Painful because I see this kind of us/them stuff directed at me or people I care a lot about, from people I really respect and value. Helpful because over time, I think some of that us/them stuff is healed, we wind up maybe seeing a larger group of people as "us," or at least not at "them."

YMMV.

[1] Of course everyone said nice stuff.

#513 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 01:16 PM:

Earl Cooley: Fava beans are much like a cross between edammame, and fresh lima beans. They have O to my mind, a pleasant tooth (with a slightly rubbery yield), are just a hint of mealy (esp. if overcooked) and are large eough that, when added to a dish, they aren't lost.

The only problem with them is that eating them fresh (otherwise they are called broad beans) entails a lot of work, as the pods have to be stripped, and then the beans themselves need to be peeled.

It's not hard work, but it is tedious.

I like to make them part of the warm in a salad. Tear the greens, chop the various large vegetables (tomatoes, cucumber, etc.) maybe toss in some soft-cheese (buffalla mozzarella, crumbled stilton, etc) and then fry, slowly, some bacon.

While the bacon cooks, set a large pot on a low boil. When the bacon is done, and draining, raise hte boil to rolling, toss the beans in; for 3-5 minutes (the more water, the shorter the boil), until they are just done.

Break the bacon up, while the beans cook, and then toss the beans and bacon together. Mix that into the salad and serve.

#514 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 01:39 PM:

abi: What albatross said. There's a diffifulty in trying to manage the dichotomies of inertnal belief/external practice and the activities of those who travel in the same direction.

Add the trials of trying to make one's beliefs plain to others (and the frustrations of failure) and feelings run high.

That said, even at my most sensitive, the denizens here have rarely made me feel an idiot, ignoramous (well, ok, not on this subject... there's lots of places I feel as Susan and Xohper said they did, i.e. overhwhelmed by other's ability) or fool for stating my beliefs.

They've said I'm wrong, but I can take that.

When the heat of the moment wears off, I can even usually accept that (if I don't think them correct in my error, I can at least see why they think so, and usually accept that it's not a big deal that we differ).

So, to the rest of you, my appreciation for being fair and honest with each other.

abi, my apologies for the ways I've made this thread less pleasant to watch over.

My thanks for doing so.

#515 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 02:03 PM:

abi, let me join the chorus. This thread hits a lot of us where we live. Nothing you have posted has made me cringe, or twitch, or think less of you in any way.

#516 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 02:54 PM:

Thanks, guys.

And ethan, you're much nicer than chopped liver. You're at least a haggis*.

-----
* That doesn't mean I think you're awful†. I like haggis.
† It does make you offal, however

#517 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:02 PM:

Abi, since the remarks that concern you are only part of the remarks you made, and since it's entirely reasonable to expect the denizens of this blog to read all the remarks, for comprehension, I see nothing for which you need to apologize. Curtailing your participation because there might be someone with "major issues" lurking, or modifying your words to avoid offending the professionally-offended does nothing but perform a disservice to you and the rest of us. Although it's normal for someone new in your "job" to experience an occasional squee of insecurity, do ignore those moments. Your moderator-fu is getting stronger. As many have already posted, we appreciate all you do and the thought that goes into all you say.

#518 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:02 PM:

I can live with being offal. Ooh, maybe people can cast me to predict the future!

#519 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:03 PM:

ethan, don't mind abi. She's just kidneying you.

Intestine choice of words, abi; shouldn't there be a colon in there somewhere?

#520 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:06 PM:

Since long pig (human meat) is typically compared to pork, I'd think a human liver would make a delightful paté or turrine, and the "fattier," the better.

#521 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:23 PM:

Don't worry, Nancy; I found it quite liverating.

#522 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:24 PM:

LMB MacAlister: That was a gutsy comment, I think I'd be skinned if I made such a suggestion, but it was well rendered.

#523 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:30 PM:

Thanks, Terry. It was no skin off my pate.

#524 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:31 PM:

abi, I can't imagine what you think you need to apologize for -- even though you explained it.

I spent much of my childhood and early adult life in a non-theistic community, believing that I was sick or stupid because only sick or stupid people believe in God. In my present community, I occasionally have to remind people that atheists are just as moral or immoral as the rest of "us," and are to be spoken of and treated with respect. My most shameless tactic is to say to the person who has just made disrespectful or inappropriate remarks about atheists: "My parents were both atheists, and they were the most generous and compassionate people in the world." That shuts 'em up.

#525 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:32 PM:

Abi @ 516... And ethan, you're much nicer than chopped liver. You're at least a haggis

That's true, ethan. Abi would steak her life on it.

Ramirez: Haggis? What is haggis?
Connor MacLeod: Sheep's stomach, stuffed with meat and barley.
Ramirez: And what do you do with it?
Connor MacLeod: You eat it.
Ramirez: How revolting!

#526 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 07:04 PM:

Now, now chit'lins, just be calm.

#527 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 08:12 PM:

C Wingate, is your wife's name Sue and did she have a Page Three piece in the 1/2 WashPost? (I'm still behind on the paper.)

#528 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 10:13 PM:

These puns just get bladder and bladder.

#529 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 10:16 PM:

And just think: the wurst is yet to come.

#530 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 10:27 PM:

I'm beginning to feel pretty sheepish about these remarks, but I read in an article about country stars that The Hag is very fond of traditional Scottish food.

#531 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 10:29 PM:

As long as no one Burns it, that is.

#532 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 01:02 AM:

Summer, or gets fleeced, like a lamb to the slaughter.

Eating so much rich food, of course, will make one tired and paunchy.

#533 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 03:09 AM:

Xopher, #414: Our culture tries its best to force everyone to be, or pretend to be heterosexual. Failing that, it has a special place for "homosexuals," which all too often means that anyone who has ever had same-sex sex is tagged with that label.

That same false dichotomy crops up in issues of race as well -- the infamous "one black ancestor makes you black" rule.

I like to fall back on the Kinsey numbers when talking about sexuality. For example, if I have only "gay" or "straight" as choices, I self-identify as straight -- but I'm really closer to a Kinsey 1.5 or 2 than a 0; I can see another woman as being physically appealing (and have on occasion found myself reacting in a way that, with a man, I'd definitely have classed as "flirting"), but it's not a strong enough attraction for me to want to act on it.

(Interesting side note: one of the women who drew that "flirtation" response from me later underwent gender-reassignment surgery.)

Faren, #429: This is a bit of a chicken-and-egg issue. Traditionally, the arts have been one of the few areas in which gay men were able to achieve some acceptance; this, in turn, tends to accentuate the concentration of (openly) gay men in the arts as opposed to the general population.

Jayskew, #430: There have been several recent examples of megachurch pastors being bounced out the door by their own elders because the elders and congregation got sick of hearing nothing but hot button issues (abortion, gay marriage, abstinence!) and wanted somebody who would deal with more important issues. If you're interested, I can probably dig up references.

Whether or not Xopher is interested, I certainly am! Any references of that nature would be extremely good news to me.

Xopher, #431: I'd like to point out that P.J.'s "Oh, really?" to C. Wingate was in fact exactly the usage that you (and several other people including me) took from Jayskew's "Oh, really?" about Pharaonic incest: that the previous poster had said something demonstrably and egregiously untrue, and was getting it thrown back in his face. "Belligerent" is precisely the right word for it.

albatross, #440: One of the most important ways to take power away from the extreme Christian right is for those of us who are Christians to make it clear that those guys don't speak for us.

Thank you for saying this. When non-Christians say it, sometimes it gets interpreted as Christian-bashing.

Xopher, #443: How much of the mainstream media in America is controlled by Rupert Murdoch? And Murdoch is a hate-filled, power-grabbing fundamentalist of the most egregious variety. Personally, I think that has a lot to do with the whole "what's wrong with the media?" issue.

Earl, #485: Good point. But I do wonder what happens to those homeschooled kids when they leave the cocoon and suddenly have to deal with unfiltered reality? (Of course, some of them never do; that's part of the reasoning behind exclusively-Christianist enclaves, to make sure that external reality never penetrates.)

#534 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 03:39 AM:

Lee: I identify as straight. I can appreciate the male form, and I can, without discomfort flirt with other men.

But it's a purely intellectual excercise. The form, is pretty, but it doesn't stir me.

The men with whom I can flirt have to be men I know, if I don't have an extant relationship with them, that sort of expression of affection won't come to my mind.

Is it possible I might, someday, find a man whom I was sexually interested in... yes. But in going on 30 years of knowing about sexual interset, there's not been one yet.

#535 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 03:43 AM:

Lee, from PP7, a couple of the mega-churches in Wichita have recently gotten new pastors for just that reason. Seems there was a story in the NYT last summer, but it's too damn late for me to look it up tonight.

I don't agree with your statement in PP2, though. One drop of Negro blood makes you a Negro (obsolete terminology intended), but homosexual experiences only count if they're made public.

And you're right. Would that we could tie Rupert and The Donald's tails together, and let their issues fight to the death.

#536 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 05:28 AM:

LMB MacAlister @ 535... Would that we could tie Rupert and The Donald's tails together

Rupert Murduck and Donald Duck?

#537 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 10:55 PM:

LMB MacAlister, #535: One drop of Negro blood makes you a Negro (obsolete terminology intended), but homosexual experiences only count if they're made public.

There were a number of people with Negro blood (I'll go with your terminology, since it's correct for the period) who "passed", so I'm not sure your distinction is a distinction. Someone who had "a n***** in the woodpile" in their background certainly had just as much to lose, in many times and places, from a revelation as someone who's been toe-tapping in a public restroom. And there are large parts of the country (east Texas, anyone?) where that is still true.

#538 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2008, 08:10 AM:

The title of this thread, and a couple of Doctor Who stories from last year, and an overdose of Xena, have set me thinking.

It wouldn't work for monotheism. You can't have an all-knowing God who doesn't know what they are. But rework The Matrix in terms of sword and sorcery fantasies, and could Neo be a God in hiding?

Somebody must have had the idea. Oh, yes, Godstolk...

And in other ways it is a variation on the whole idea of the Superhero: the apparently ordinary guy who has a very public persona as the hero.

I suppose the late Seventies were the high spot for such characters. It was the era of Dungeons and Dragons, but before the game companies turned into fiction publishers.

You could even retcon it into any number of TV shows: anything with the itinerant hero who wanders into down, deals with the bad guys, and wanders on.But if it were TV, I guess you'd have to make him an angel, and the ass-kicking would have to be non fatal.

I wonder which deities the A-Team were personifications of.

Got myself a smiting, talking, sleeping, walking, living God.
Got to do my best to please her, just 'cause she's a living God.
Got the strangest kinks, which is why she thinks, her nights are odd.
Got the one and only walking talking, living God

#539 ::: Lee sees incoherent spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2010, 08:17 PM:

@ 539

#540 ::: TexAnne sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2010, 09:08 PM:

More of the same. They must be as bored with it as we are.

#541 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2010, 09:45 PM:

robots never get bored

#542 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2010, 11:08 PM:

Usually the text that the robot posts at least tries to pretend to be something general that could go into a thousand comment threads: "I never thought of it this way before. Thanks for giving me a new perspective," or something like that.

This one ... wasn't even trying.

#543 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2010, 11:19 PM:

This appears to be a good place to post the latest right-wing talking point: People who don't own property shouldn't be allowed to vote.

Notice that they're carefully framing it as being about disenfranchising the poor -- but "property owner" in the original requirement to which they're harking back meant one thing and one thing only: real estate. So what they're saying here is that if you live in an apartment, or even a rental house, you're not worthy of the vote. That would hit a lot more than just people on government assistance.

#544 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2010, 05:24 AM:

When I first heard about that property/voting thing, I thought that someone must be presenting a Poe's Law social experiment.

#545 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2010, 02:07 PM:

I wouldn't be surprised if, hidden in there somewhere, is the idea of disenfranchising a huge percentage of city-dwellers. We heard so many implications from Sarah Palin et al. that "real Americans" are the people who live in small towns and rural areas — even though 79% of Americans live in cities. Cities tend to skew liberal, I think; looking at this list, there seem to be far more large, major cities on the "most liberal" list, while the ones on the "most conservative" list seem smaller and (I would guess) less influential.

The information I've been able to find shows that cities skew towards renters, not homeowners. According to Loyola Marymount University

[In Los Angeles, only] 38.6 percent of residents own their homes, with 61.4 percent renting, census data showed. Only New York City has more renters at 69.8 percent.… in some of the nation's largest cities, a large percentage of people still rent. In Chicago, 56.2 percent of the city's units are rentals. In Houston, that number is 54.2 percent, and rentals comprise about 45 percent of housing in Detroit.
But no problem, people just need to be encouraged to buy, not rent. Right? LMU's report indicates otherwise:
Of Southern California residents polled in the census, 55 percent said they are pessimistic that the next generation will ever be able to buy a home. About 80 percent said it was difficult for middle-class families to find affordable housing in their areas.…
According to the report, the percentage of households able to buy a median-priced home last year was 36 percent in Los Angeles County, 28 percent in Orange County, 47 percent in Riverside and San Bernardino counties and 33 percent in Ventura County.

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