Questionable Motives

May 7, 2014

Are ‘honestly held beliefs’ reason enough to justify legal discrimination?

can of wormsWell, let’s look at the principle upon which all of us expect to be treated fairly and impartially before and by the law, namely, that

“All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” (Article 26, UN covenant on political and civil rights)

To support legal discrimination in a particular case means you must provide a reasonable justification to the benefit of all for that particular exemption against the general principle. This can be (and is) done when that justification can be shown to enhance the public good. For example, we can legally discriminate against all of us who have not achieved the age of majority or all of us who have been shown to be incapable of being responsible for our actions. Legal discrimination is permissible without breaking the principle of the covenant… but the justification must be the same FOR ALL.

Now let’s consider the idea of ‘honestly held beliefs’ to be the metric for varying what equality rights mean. The question can be formulated this way: does an ‘honestly held belief’ by another person constitute a reasonable justification to the benefit of all in your mind for the loss of your own equality before the law and the loss of its protection to guarantee them? Are you willing to have your legal rights be subject and hostage to the variability of another person’s honestly held beliefs?

There are a couple ways to come at answering this.

The straightforward answer here is either Yes or No. There is no middle ground. You are either willing to allow others (based on their ‘honestly held beliefs’) to determine the quality of your legal rights or you are not. The metric at work here is belief, and rests in the willingness to have your legal equality rights rights rest not with you, not empowered in and by the law, but in the belief-based opinion of others.  This breaks the principle that currently supports legal equality for all of us… not just against those whose legal rights and protection you wish to limit for whatever beliefs you may deem important enough but your own. Supporting the notion that ‘honestly held beliefs’ is sufficient to devalue equality rights to personal preference of beliefs means that you do not support the principle that upholds your own.

The extent of privilege our societies grant to religious belief and the institutions and speakers who represent them is truly astounding. For example, returning to the UN covenant on political and civil rights, we find the following:

“Discrimination is allowed if it is based on genuine religious beliefs or principles. This includes the actions of religious bodies or schools.”

Take a moment and think about that. What does it really mean?

Well, it means that the previous principle for all has been replaced in practice by the beliefs of some. It means all people are not equal before the law; our shared equality rights are in fact subject to the religious beliefs (and principles contained within them) of others, others who would deny them first for ‘honestly held beliefs… before any other grounds of justification are introduced! Where is the universal justification for this discrimination that demonstrates its fairness and impartiality to the good of all? It’s absent; what we have are lot of assumptions and attributions and arguments and conclusions unsupported by compelling evidence. This is faith-based belief in action… simply presumed to be justified because it is religious.  And that’s religious privilege in action and it undermines the very principle of YOUR legal rights, YOUR legal equality, YOUR legal protections. This religious privilege buolt on faith-based beliefs is incompatible with the very principle of equality law.

Another way to understand and appreciate the scope of craziness needed to sustain the argument of privileging ‘honestly held beliefs’ over and above and preceding equality rights for all is to apply the same reasoning, the same privilege, the same lack of independent justification to some other area of public interest. We have a host to choose from but let’s take a public water supply for our analogy and see how well the justification works.

The management of that public water supply is based on the principle of providing clean water for all… and we are all in agreement that this water should be safe for all to drink because all of us drink from it! But let’s say some people in the management team decide that certain privileged exemptions to that principle are justified by the ‘honestly held beliefs’ of those involved with providing this service, making the water supply safe for some but not for others. When people complain that their water supply is, in fact, contaminated – because some people honestly believe that the addition of industrial waste products containing toxins and carcinogenics to this part of the water supply but not that part at the request of certain industries to eliminate their waste is a net benefit to all, while reassuring the rest of us that we will continue to receive only a clean water supply – how is it a justification that doesn’t directly undermine the principle of clean water for all? Would the same exemption be allowed, for example, if the quality of everyone’s water supply – including the captains of these polluting industries and the management team themselves – were to be subject to the same vagaries of who received what quality of water when? Or would we as a municipality stand united and insist that the water supply be kept clean for all? Sure, the industrialists might complain that they have a real problem with their toxic wastes, but why should the quality of our water supply be their solution… any more than threatening our shared legal rights of equality be the solution to the demands of these religious for privilege to exercise their bias and discrimination in the name of the public good?

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38 Comments »

  1. I’m very tempted to copy clip your post and send it to my brother for a critique and see if I can get him to point out the flaws in your thinking. It seems plainly worded to me, but then again, it’ll come across pretty mean to religious believers and sympathizers so there must be something you’re not considering. Because pointing out the ridiculousness of empowering faith based beliefs is just not considering all the good that religion has done for mankind. (I suspect that’s the argument that actually would come back)

    Comment by Ashley — May 7, 2014 @ 12:33 pm | Reply

    • You might want to ask him how he would feel if he were presented with the change in regulations for airports and aircraft so that all were subjected to the legal privileging by the ‘honestly held beliefs’ of passengers, flight and ground crew, and those living along flight paths about determining which electronics could be used when and where or if everyone should be subjected to a single regulatory standard. Same line of reasoning. Now imagine a particular airline allowed to freely use their electronic equipment but he was employed by another airline restricted by the vagaries of these beliefs.

      I have found that theists usually have no problem with discrimination that privileges religious belief in general but, when subjected to legal equality,argue that the religious are magically victimized! In addition, I wish every theist had to live in a theocracy where a different religious belief was the foundation for local laws that blatantly reduced their religious freedom and legally discriminated against them in many real ways. By being exposed to real discrimination they could then then have the means to compare and contrast what ‘victimization’ actually looks and feels like in practice and, perhaps for the very first time, begin to appreciate why legal discrimination privileged by its religious affiliation produces real victims… ones they themselves have long had a hand in creating and sustaining.

      Comment by tildeb — May 7, 2014 @ 1:55 pm | Reply

      • What’s even more interesting is that he’s not a theist. He describes himself as agnostic (I would say he’s actually an atheist, he just doesn’t realize it) but feels that religious belief has both negative and positive aspects to it. When talking about and Christopher Hitchens (who did more to inflame anti-religious rhetoric than anybody apparently) I asked him point blank to please explain how Francis Collins religious beliefs empowered him to assist Christopher Hitchens in his struggle with cancer. I got a lot of run-arounds and evasions. I got a lot of other questions answered, but I never got that one answered. I asked him to explain why religious belief was at least beneficial in the progression or development of mankind. Never got that question answered either. The best I got was “It DID evolve with religious belief”. Well, humankind also managed to evolve and progress with Stalinism, Nazism and Fascism. No one has ever been able to explain to me how those insane ideologies were beneficial to the development of mankind. There was a lot of art and culture associated with Nazism. Does that mean we couldn’t have done without it? Patently absurd right? Put the word religion in there and somehow, it’s “different”. Truly baffling.

        Comment by Ashley — May 7, 2014 @ 2:18 pm

  2. For the sake of clarity could you give us a concrete example (as opposed to a hypothetical one) in which the equal protection of the law was violated by “sincerely held beliefs”?
    (Here in the U.S. the debate is usually framed in terms of the 14th Amendment, which reads, in part, “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” — the amendment was added to the Constitution to protect the newly freed blacks. — Can you point to an example when it was violated?).

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — May 7, 2014 @ 8:26 pm | Reply

    • Well Bob, the violations are ongoing and ubiquitous.

      A recent example here in Canada was the accreditation of a law school that had students and staff sign a statement of acceptable religious beliefs that directly supported discrimination contrary to rights to be free of such discrimination guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That accreditation was refused recognition by many provincial law societies on the basis that it taught and enforced legal discrimination by sexual orientation… something lawyers in Canada know perfectly well is illegal. I know this same issue is active at many schools in the US, such as an equivalent mandatory signing of a faith statement – even by the professors of science – contrary to scientific knowledge at Bryan College (as well as many, many other schools that receive some public funding including some big named schools like Wheaton College).

      Off the top of my head, do business owners have the legal right to deny services on the basis of ‘honestly held beliefs’ even when those beliefs discriminate on the basis of an ill-favoured group identity? Can your pharmacist refuse to fill a prescription on this same basis, or your doctor refuse to refer you to another because he or she feels the medical profession he or she represents is subservient to a personal belief in conflict with the sought treatment? Can gays marry, and if so can they be denied spousal benefits by representatives of government who happen to hold an ‘honestly held belief’ that is in conflict to same-sex couples receiving the same benefits opposite sex couples receive? Should individuals in the military have to participate in religious services favoured by superior officers who privilege this version or that one as an ‘honestly held belief’ or be subjected to extra duties and/or have their careers adversely affected if they do not participate?

      The point I’m making is that this is not a short list by any means but an ongoing, pervasive, pernicious list created solely by the desire of those who wish to advance religious privilege (often by withholding legal protection of equality before the law) that creates very real victims in the name of ‘honestly held beliefs’. This reasoning is insufficient to justify victimizing real people in real life in order to privilege ‘honestly held beliefs’… of the religious kind.

      Comment by tildeb — May 7, 2014 @ 9:01 pm | Reply

  3. What you’re telling me is exactly what frightens me about the gay marriage issue — that it is impossible to remain morally neutral on the subject and that there is no room for toleration here. In your case you want to impose your moral vision on the rest of us.
    Keep in mind that the discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” is a question of making a value judgement on a form of behavior, and the question is, what forms of behavior is a society willing to tolerate? Every law penalizes some form of behavior — we stigmatize it by making it illegal — public drunkenness, rape, etc. The only way to have a truly “free” society would be to abolish the legislative function altogether.
    What especially disturbs me about your position is that the examples you cited involved private businesses and educational institutions. Presumably they are not entitled to operate according to their own honestly held beliefs. That is a whole different matter from the government treating everybody equally — the “equal protection of the laws.”
    It is hard to see how a free society can function on the basis you have lined out — what you’re saying, in effect, is that there is no room in society for freedom of thought or conscience. Once Tildeb has laid out the truth for us, everyone must get in line.

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — May 8, 2014 @ 5:43 am | Reply

    • Don’t imagine what I’m telling you; let me spell it out. You are a bigot. Your morality reflects this bigotry under the banner of morality. Your morality discriminates against real people. That’s fine. I, too wish to discriminate against religious people who think their morality is somehow superior to my own. The difference is that I don’t try to co-opt the law to act as my surrogate and refuse religious people the same rights I enjoy. You do. You want to abuse the law to enforce your bigotry and impose sanctions against people on the basis of your morality, which is discriminatory. Equality law attempts to correct this imbalance by ensuring that neither you nor I can co-opt the law to enforce our privileged views that disadvantages people based on some group affiliation.

      The Charter of Rights and Freedoms clarifies what constitutes legal discrimination here in Canada:

      “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”

      You wish to discriminate against real people concerning marriage; it’s fine for you but not for those who wish to make a legal commitment with another person of the same sex. That is illegal BECAUSE it is discriminatory on a prohibited ground. Your morality is not sufficient reason to meet the requirements for a special exemption, namely,

      “any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”

      See, here’s the thing, Bob: you confuse your morality with being magically superior to the principle of legal equality. It isn’t. It contains bigotry (as well as misogyny) that you are trying to make immune from containment provided by the principle for legal equality. You are so oblivious to the use of this principle in your own life to allow you to select your moral values and behaviours without legal sanction that you presume you can have both the rights and freedoms associated with this principle while denying others the same. In other words you don’t want legal equality… except for yourself. That’s discrimination, Bob, and advocating for it undermines the rights and freedoms in law for all of us.

      In place of legal equality, you want the legal privilege to disadvantage the rights and freedoms of others without providing the necessary justification to demonstrate improving the public good by doing so. You just assume your morality improves the common good by fiat (presumably because you believe it is god-sanctioned) while creating actual and real disadvantaged people who can demonstrably show – and thus legitimately claim – to be victims of discrimination by the loss of equality rights and freedoms you yourself possess. But rather than deal with these brute facts, you maneuver your rationalization to present behaviour you don’t agree with as if this were the issue. Again, it’s not. The issue is equality rights – meaning the SAME rights and the SAME freedoms you enjoy but wish to withhold from others. That’s legal discrimination and you’re not going to get your way by pretending it’s permissible because its a moral issue. It’s not. It’s a legal issue. And you can’t subvert the common law to accomplish what you want it to accomplish (without undermining your own legal equality): impose your personal moral values about personal behaviour by sacrificing the equality rights you must have in order to be responsible for your own moral values and personal behaviour.

      Comment by tildeb — May 8, 2014 @ 10:14 am | Reply

    • “What you’re telling me is exactly what frightens me about the miscegenation issue — that it is impossible to remain morally neutral on the subject and that there is no room for toleration here. In your case you want to impose your moral vision on the rest of us.
      Keep in mind that the discrimination on the basis of “racial mixing” is a question of making a value judgement on a form of behavior, and the question is, what forms of behavior is a society willing to tolerate? Every law penalizes some form of behavior — we stigmatize it by making it illegal — public drunkenness, rape, etc. The only way to have a truly “free” society would be to abolish the legislative function altogether.
      What especially disturbs me about your position is that the examples you cited involved private businesses and educational institutions. Presumably they are not entitled to operate according to their own honestly held beliefs on the mixing of the bloodlines. That is a whole different matter from the government treating everybody equally — the “equal protection of the laws.”
      It is hard to see how a free, white, pure society can function on the basis you have lined out — what you’re saying, in effect, is that there is no room in society for freedom of thought or conscience. Once Tildeb has laid out the truth for us, everyone must get in line.”

      OFFICIAL Preacher Phil Snider gives interesting gay rights speech

      Comment by Cedric Katesby — May 8, 2014 @ 11:34 am | Reply

    • The latest ruling describing why your contrary opinion is intolerable discrimination on the basis of bigotry in a fair and just society.

      Comment by tildeb — May 11, 2014 @ 10:51 am | Reply

  4. Bob,

    “It is hard to see how a free society can function on the basis you have lined out — what you’re saying, in effect, is that there is no room in society for freedom of thought or conscience.”
    No, that’s not at all what Tildeb is “in effect” saying. You can still have your freedom of thought or conscience all you like (even though you appear to exercise the former very infrequently). What you can’t do, is use those freedoms of conscience and thought to discriminate against people and deny them the very freedoms that you enjoy based on sincerely held beliefs.
    150 years ago, bigots, just like you, were making the exact same arguments The difference is only in the details. Where the southern Confederate states wanted to deny black people freedom and keep them from becoming recognized as full citizens under the law – a privilege that belonged exclusively to white people, you want to deny homosexual people the right to be married because you think that that should be a privilege that belongs exclusively to heterosexual people. You can dress up your story and point to tildeb and say that he’s the problem and he’s trying to “impose morality” on us all you like. You clearly don’t understand the difference between privilege and right and you don’t understand the difference between discrimination and equality.

    Comment by Ashley — May 8, 2014 @ 1:26 pm | Reply

  5. In the original blog post Tildeb gave us a vaguely worded diatribe directed at people who allegedly are depriving others of their equal rights under the law because of their own “honestly held beliefs.” When asked to provide a concrete example Tildeb cited certain educational institutions, such as Wheaton College, that require their faculties and staffs to sign their doctrinal statements. Presumably Wheaton is somehow depriving someone of his equal protection of the law by making him signing a doctrinal statement as a condition of employment.
    The implications of this assertion are stunning. Presumably it means that Wheaton College has no right to operate as a distinctively Christian institution — it must operate on the same basis as a secular university. But that would destroy Wheaton’s whole reason for existence — to offer an alternative to secular education.
    Where, then, is the freedom in that?

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — May 8, 2014 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

  6. I want to take up the subject of gay marriage in a separate comment to keep the two strands of thought separate from each other.
    There is a huge difference between racial discrimination and discrimination based on behavior. Racial discrimination is arbitrary and irrational — based on certain arbitrarily physical characteristics and genetic traits. But as human beings we are all members of a single, recognizable species — Homo sapiens. Some of us creationists, in fact, believe that the concept of “race” is an example of Darwinian pseudo-science.
    But we discriminate on the basis of behavior all the time. We distinguish between good behavior and bad. We condone the good and condemn the bad. I venture to say that even Tildeb exercises discrimination in the grading of term papers and exams. Discrimination is the whole idea behind “law.” If everyone is to be treated exactly alike, in spite of what they DO, there is no point in having laws at all.
    As you may know there are right now a number of cases working their way through the U.S. federal courts challenging state laws banning same-sex marriage as violations of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. What is at issue here is whether or not a state has a rational basis to confine marriage to a union between a man and a woman. Advocates of the more restrictive laws argue that the state as a rational interest in providing children with a stable home environment in which to grow up. Advocates of same-sex marriage say that no such interest exists.
    But if the state does not have a rational interest in preserving marriage as an exclusive union between a man and a woman, what rational interest does it have in regulating marriage at all? If it does not matter whom you marry, and if it does not matter whether you marry at all, what interest does the state have in regulating it? And if the right to marry whomever you wish is a natural right, you should not need a license from the state to exercise it. And now we are treated to the spectacle of a lesbian couple in Alabama who want that state to recognize their “marriage” for the sole purpose of dissolving it! What did they think marriage is, anyway? Apparently little more than a legal fiction.
    Gay marriage makes the whole institution of marriage pointless – a curious vestige or our primitive, Judaeo-Christian past that no longer serves a useful function. Isn’t it time to get rid of it altogether? Eat, drink, and copulate! For tomorrow we die.

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — May 8, 2014 @ 7:52 pm | Reply

    • Some of us creationists, in fact, believe that the concept of “race” is an example of Darwinian pseudo-science.

      If only they were here, we could point at them and laugh for being morons.

      (…looks around expectantly…)

      (…awkward silence…)

      Some of your creationists, in fact, believe that the Earth is 6000 years old.
      Plenty more stupid where that comes from.

      Comment by Cedric Katesby — May 8, 2014 @ 9:51 pm | Reply

    • Since when was ‘marriage’ a behaviour?

      Comment by tildeb — May 8, 2014 @ 10:04 pm | Reply

      • I seem to remember seeing married couples doing things together.

        Comment by Bob Wheeler — May 9, 2014 @ 5:17 am

      • So now you are going to tell legislate which behaviours heterosexuals are permitted because marriage to you is a behaviour? There’s no end to your meddling in the name of piousness, is there, no boundary to your presumption of authority. And you’re too dense to appreciate that what you insist for yourself – authority over the behaviour of others – can be used against you so that others who are pious can then insist that you submit your behaviour to their authority. This is an incredibly stupid and dangerous proposition that creates victims of discrimination. That’s why we have need for laws of equality that supersede in power your desire to exert your preferences on others and curtail your abuse of law to achieve this end. This is not a public good you are arguing: this is religious preference to be empowered by the state to discriminate and create victims to enhance religious authority. It’s a path to sanctioning religious bigotry.

        Comment by tildeb — May 9, 2014 @ 7:53 am

    • Bob,

      “There is a huge difference between racial discrimination and discrimination based on behavior.” Well at least you admit that it’s discrimination. That’s a small step in the right direction I guess.
      “Some of us creationists, in fact, believe that the concept of “race” is an example of Darwinian pseudo-science” Yes I have no doubt that “some of you creationists” certainly do believe that, amoung many, many other stupid things. That’s because “some of you creationists” are ignorant morons.
      Marriage is not a behavior. Homosexuality is not a behavior any more than heterosexuality is a behavior. It’s inherent in us. I didn’t wake up one day and say “You know what? I choose to be a heterosexual” and neither did you.
      “But we discriminate on the basis of behavior all the time. We distinguish between good behavior and bad. We condone the good and condemn the bad.” Let me guess Bob, heterosexual = good behavior, homosexual = bad behavior right? You can dress up your arguments any way you like, you’re still a homophobic bigot.
      I’m very curious. May I assume you’re married? If not, please let me know, but if you are, can you please tell me what affect gay marriage is going have on you? What’s going to happen to you if, say, your neighbor 4 doors down decides to marry his gay lover? Is your marriage suddenly going to become meaningless? Are the bonds that tie you and your wife (and family) together going to suddenly dissolve? Will it prohibit you and your wife from doing anything? Is your coffee going to taste different? Why are bigots like you so hell-bent on making other people’s lives miserable?

      Comment by Ashley — May 9, 2014 @ 8:48 am | Reply

  7. Bob,

    And furthermore “Wheaton’s whole reason for existence — to offer an alternative to secular education. Where, then, is the freedom in that?” Education, by definition is secular. Mathematics is secular. Physics is secular, biology is secular. There’s no such thing as Christian physics or biology or mathematics. Teaching children to read and write does not require religion in any way. What you meant to say, was “Where’s the freedom for Wheaton to inculcate or further support their religious beliefs in a school setting?” The religious “alternative” to secular education includes teaching children pseudo-scientific garbage like creationism, denying evolution and making them generally as uncritical and ignorant as possible. You can call that “education” if you like. I don’t.

    Comment by Ashley — May 9, 2014 @ 1:30 pm | Reply

    • The religious alternative is to teach students a value system, rooted in a coherent world view, that will prepare them for life. An education that consists only in mathematics, physics, and biology is not an education — it is vocational training, and leaves its victims maladjusted social misfits.

      Comment by Bob Wheeler — May 9, 2014 @ 5:49 pm | Reply

      • Bob,
        “The religious alternative is to teach students a value system, rooted in a coherent world view, that will prepare them for life. ” Critique number 1. No, the “religious alternative” is NOT an alternative to proper education. You can teach children about “value systems” all you like, it’s not an alternative to mathematics, physics, biology, etc If you’re reaching for a coherent world view, teaching children that an absolute crack pot fantasy (Christianity) is true is not going to accomplish anything.
        “it is vocational training, and leaves its victims maladjusted social misfits.” Yes, those poor maladjusted social misfits like Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking. How terrible they weren’t inculcated with idiotic bullshit like Christianity, then they might have been able to accomplish something with their otherwise useless lives.

        Comment by Ashley — May 10, 2014 @ 6:17 pm

  8. Tildeb,
    So you are saying that the government should not try to regulate the sexual behavior (of “sexuality,” if you are not prepared to admit any self-control in the matter) of its citizens? What, then, is the point of a “marriage license”?

    Ashley,
    I am a widower, but I have three daughters, two of whom attended Christian colleges. If two homosexuals married it would not have affected my marriage at all. But what would I have told my daughters about the neighbors 4 doors down? The neighbors would say that it is perfectly obvious: homosexuality is perfectly normal and there should be no stigma attached to their relationship. But what message does that send to my daughters? Namely this: there are no sexual norms. Everyone is entitled to do as he pleases. Of course, you are an atheist, there is almost no other conclusion to which you can come. But if everyone were an atheist social chaos would be the the result, and you don’t have to read the Bible to see that. You only have to read sociology to see what happens to a society that does not have any sexual taboos.

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — May 9, 2014 @ 5:59 pm | Reply

    • “If a black man married a white woman it would not have affected my marriage at all. But what would I have told my daughters about the neighbors 4 doors down? The neighbors would say that it is perfectly obvious: mixing of the races is perfectly normal and there should be no stigma attached to their relationship. But what message does that send to my daughters?”

      Ew.

      Comment by Cedric Katesby — May 9, 2014 @ 8:52 pm | Reply

    • Bob,

      “But what would I have told my daughters about the neighbors 4 doors down” Here’s where you tell her.You tell her that throughout history, there has always been a certain percentage of the population that is homosexual (fairly small, less than 5%). Then you you explain to her that even though they prefer the company of their own sex, they are consenting adults and in the case of marriage, adults who also happen to love each other. Then you explain to her that what they do behind closed doors is NO ONE’S GODDAMN BUSINESS and they aren’t hurting anyone or doing anything wrong. Hey, maybe go talk to them and find out that they are HUMAN BEINGS just like us “normal” heterosexual folk. Then maybe get invited up to their house for a pool party and a bar-b-q and drinks and party the night away. Gasp! How terrible!!!!
      So to sum up, people like me (and I dare say Cedric and Tildeb) have had about enough of self-righteous, ignorant, hateful, intolerant pricks like you telling people how they should live and who they should love and what they’re allowed to do and what they’re not allowed to do because of your idiotic fairy tale beliefs. Welcome to the 21st century Bob. Bible thumping is no longer considered a respectable vocation.

      Comment by Ashley — May 10, 2014 @ 6:33 pm | Reply

  9. Bob, you cannot possibly be so obtuse or you would already be institutionalized. Let’s try this: ask your favourite search engine what legal changes occur when an individual gets married. Find the part where you are now allowed to have sex. Not there, Bob. The point of a marriage license isn’t for the law to regulate your sexual behaviour; it’s to form a union with legal effect.

    Let’s assume your response to Ashley isn’t facetious but serious – as if you’ve actually read sociological literature and are alarmed at the data it contains linking social chaos to a lack of legal power to control sexual behaviour. Now that you have a bit of experience using that search engine, why don’t you find out what the social effects really are when

    a) there are no laws defining what sexual behaviour occurs between consenting adults, and
    b) what happens to societies when atheism becomes the majority.

    I think you will be shocked – shocked! – to find a very broad net social benefit referred to by probably all recent sociological textbooks about all kinds of reductions of all kinds of anti-social behaviours. (But I suspect you simply don’t care to gain any knowledge about the world if it fails to comport with the beliefs you want ot impose it.)

    Your model of the world, Bob, doesn’t work to reflect it accurately. This is a hint about why your beliefs about it are usually factually wrong and revelatory about your lack of desire to bring your beliefs and reality into alignment.

    Comment by tildeb — May 9, 2014 @ 7:20 pm | Reply

    • I’m sorry — I’m an old-fashioned paper and ink guy. Here are two books that describe reality:
      a) on what happens when there are no laws (or at least no taboos) defining sexual behavior: “Family and Nation,” by the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan which contains the Godkin Lectures that the author delivered at Harvard University in 1985. Moynihan was a sociologist, served in several administrations, both Republican and Democratic, and closed out his career as a U.S.Senator from New York. In the lectures he traced a variety of social ills in the black community back to an unstable family structure, especially single-parent families. This, in turn, can be traced back to a change in mores. Suffice it to say, things have hardly gotten better since Moynihan delivered his lectures.
      b) on what happens to societies when atheism becomes the dominant influence, see “The Rage Against God,” by Peter Hitchens (Christopher’s brother). Peter Hitchens spent a number of years in the Soviet Union and saw first hand what happened when atheism became the official creed. Corruption becomes endemic. It has been argued that part of the problem that Ukraine is having now is trying to overcome the legacy of corruption that it inherited from Soviet days.
      These are the hard facts of reality.

      Comment by Bob Wheeler — May 9, 2014 @ 8:41 pm | Reply

      • Corruption becomes endemic.

        Well, that’s true. Russia was a model for anti-corruption during Tsarist Russia and after Communism was abandoned, corruption became a total unknown again.
        Not.

        Comment by Cedric Katesby — May 9, 2014 @ 8:55 pm

  10. True. Czarist Russia was hardly a model of virtue. But Peter Hitchens details the efforts of the Communist regime to extirpate religion, and then makes this observation: “Since its failure [i.e., of the Soviet state], attempts to rebuild it as a proper civil society have failed. There are many reasons for its descent into crude autocracy, its continuing reliance on the Lenin cult, and the prevalence of organized crime, drunken disorder, universal dishonesty, cultural decay, devastated family life, and corruption. But one of the most important must be the absence of conscience and self-restraint among even its educated people, and the vacuum where the rule of law ought to be.” (The Rage Against God, p. 213).

    Comment by Bob Wheeler — May 10, 2014 @ 6:53 am | Reply

    • But Peter Hitchens details the efforts of the Communist regime….

      Three problems here.
      1) Peter Hitchens is a moron. Nobody cares what his opinion are. Only the evidence matters.
      2) Communism=//=Atheism.
      2) Regimes =//Atheism.

      If you think you can make an argument about same-sex marriage being wrong then….you’re going to have to talk about same-sex marriage…and why it’s wrong.
      Going off about Communism will not help you.
      The Cold War was a long time ago. We won. Deal with it.

      P.S.
      For bonus points, let me demonstrate why it’s easy to spot that Peter Hitchens is a moron.
      Ready?
      (The Rage Against God, p. 213).
      (The Rage Against Santa, p. 213).
      (The Rage Against Baal, p. 213).
      (The Rage Against Sutek, p. 213).
      (The Rage Against Sky Woman, p. 213).
      (The Rage Against Bigfoot, p. 213).

      Atheists are “a-theists”. Just like “a bigfootists” or “a pixieists”. Atheists reject the claim of god/gods. We don’t then rage against them. People don’t rage against stuff they don’t believe in the first place.
      You, for example, probably don’t do much “raging” against Tinkerbell.

      “I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” Stephen Roberts.

      Comment by Cedric Katesby — May 10, 2014 @ 7:35 am | Reply

      • I think Peter Hitchens understood atheism perfectly well — after all, his brother was Christopher Hitchens, and he himself was once an atheist until returning to Christianity.

        Comment by Bob Wheeler — May 10, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

      • I think Peter Hitchens understood atheism perfectly well — after all, his brother was Christopher Hitchens….

        So then, how much raging do you do against Tinkerbell?

        Comment by Cedric Katesby — May 11, 2014 @ 9:55 pm

  11. This pretty much sums it up. I’m sure Bob can connect the dots with a very recent example.

    What Atheists Wish Christians Knew About Them

    Comment by Cedric Katesby — May 10, 2014 @ 11:42 am | Reply

    • Mr. Carter is very personable — in fact, he comes across like a Sunday School teacher.
      I would hesitate to comment on what his inner motives are because he is a total stranger to me, although the Bible does say things about human psychology in general that I sure would apply in this case as well.
      I think, however, that his first point is a cop-out. No one is doubting that he personally, along with many other atheists, is a decent human being who is capable of being kind, honest and humane. The real question, however, is whether or not it is possible for an atheist to establish a logical basis for morality as a universally valid code of conduct.
      My first instinct is to say that atheism will lead us straight to the precipice of nihilism, and if atheists were logically consistent they would be nihilists. However I am perfectly aware that probably the majority of atheists would deny strenuously the charge, and there have been, in fact, a number of attempts by atheist philosophers to find a basis for a system of ethics. I think that there are serious problems with all of the ones that I have seen, however.
      What I don’t think an atheists should do is stick his head in the sand and pretend that atheism doesn’t have any moral implications. It raises some very serious questions that need to be answered.
      I would be very interested to hear whatever you, or Tildeb, or Ashley can come up with in the way of an ethical system.

      Comment by Bob Wheeler — May 10, 2014 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

      • I would hesitate to comment on what his inner motives are because he is a total stranger to me.

        Sadly, not everyone has your good judgement. Can you think of any recent, fresh examples?

        No one is doubting that he personally, along with many other atheists, is a decent human being who is…

        No one, Bob? Have you checked the comments on your own blog from the last two days? Do you want me to jog your memory with a few direct quotes?

        Comment by Cedric Katesby — May 10, 2014 @ 11:51 pm

      • I love talking to ignoramuses when it comes to religion and atheism. I especially love talking to American Christians who tell me that atheism leads you straight to nihilism and without religion, you’d have moral chaos…..all the while not realizing that THEIR OWN COUNTRY has built its entire foundation on the basis of the complete separation of church and state. No law may be passed that promotes or favours any religion in that country. The entire frame work of law and governance in that country is religion-free and god-free. Even if you’re not from the US (like me – I’m from Canada), you’d have to be living under a rock not to know that. You’d have to be a complete idiot to say that atheism leads you straight to nihilism and moral chaos and that you need god and religion to set you on the right path.

        Comment by Ashley — May 11, 2014 @ 5:31 pm

  12. I would be very interested to hear whatever you, or Tildeb, or Ashley can come up with in the way of an ethical system.

    The same one you had before you became religious. The same one you try to override with immoral religious precepts. The same one philosophers have been talking about forever. The same one we are just beginning to understand with neuroscience. The basis is the same: biology, and in its most fundamental form can be described as the a sense of reciprocity to define what’s fair. The ethical system built on this biological basis is not nihilism; it’s called empathy and the state of religious belief or lack of such a belief has nothing whatsoever to do with its exercise. The religious claim of ownership is theft. Plain and simple. Attributing empathy to religious belief is demonstrably untrue.

    Moral systems are developed by people; that’s why they are sometimes different. What is important to understand in order to evaluate moral systems is finding a justified singular baseline metric and then comparing and contrasting; what is ‘it’ (the justified singular baseline metric) that is being served by a moral system? That ‘it’ can be various ideas: tribal affiliation, group identity, some power for social authority, and so on. Atheists today tend to use a metric appropriate for all, namely, human well-being. This oftentimes goes by the name of humanism.

    Religious folk tend to prefer a particular brand of religious authority in which to submit their personal moral autonomy and use it to be the metric in order to serve what they presume is their Commander-in-Chief’s will… but usually try to hide this moral submission, this ethical capitulation, this bankrupt moral system, behind some claim about improving social well-being. In exemplary Newspeak from the Ministry of Truth, the giving up of personal moral autonomy and personal responsibility for the moral and ethical system employed by believers of the religion to justify their actions call this abdication (of personal responsibility to act morally and ethically) the only ‘logical basis for morality’. Of course, they demonstrate the opposite and refuse to be personally accountable for their moral actions. They’re following orders. This is why WLCraig’s apologetic stance on the slaughter of the Canaanites by the soldiers of his god is divine command theory in operation – it’s moral because god commanded it – which is identical in logical form to the moral defense offered by Himmler to the SS troops charged with carrying out the Final Solution: it’s moral because we are told by a ‘higher authority’ that it is moral and somehow will improve social well-being of the chosen!

    The irony of the religious charge against atheists for a lack of systemic and authoritarian morality is profound. Their typical defense is to then use the term ‘humanism’ to be pejorative… as if being concerned about the very real welfare of real people in real life is selfish, not to mention philosophically naive, in comparison to serving as a moral foot soldier of the religious’ version of the Dear Leader.

    Comment by tildeb — May 10, 2014 @ 4:18 pm | Reply

    • But if morality is determined by biology, and, according to you, the essence of morality is empathy, then why don’t all members of the species display empathy? It seems like the biological determinism breaks down somewhere.
      And then you referred to your system of morality as “The same one [singular] philosophers [plural] have been talking about forever.[?!] I am tempted to ask if you have ever taken a course in philosophy. Part of the problem with secular philosophy is that philosophers have never been able to agree on much of anything, and some of them have come up with quite horrendous systems of morality. Have you ever read anything by Nietzsche, for instance?
      Even psychologists cannot agree as to what sort of morality results from biology. Freud, for example, posited a conflict between the “id,” the “Super-ego,” and the “ego.”
      Interestingly, Freud agrees with Christianity on one point — aggression is a part of human nature. The huge difference between Psychoanalysis and Christianity is that Freud would not admit that the demands of the Super-ego reflect an objective moral standard set by a Supreme Being. And so he has the Ego trying to achieve integration by mediating between the conflicting demands of the Super-Ego and the Id. The implication is that a strict standard of morality is oppressive and unhealthy.
      So how do we determine what human urges and behaviors are morally “good” and “bad.” You say that we can determine a “metric” that can measure human happiness and well-being. But that assumes that we can define the “good,” and in actual practice that has proven to be impossible to achieve. Just look at all the different answers that the philosophers have come up with.
      The bottom line is that if God does not exist, there is no absolute “right” and “wrong.” I do whatever I think is in my own best self-interest to do. Who am I to judge Gandhi? Or Hitler? What if Hitler had won the war? Wouldn’t that have made HIM “right”?

      Comment by Bob Wheeler — May 10, 2014 @ 7:18 pm | Reply

      • The bottom line is that if God does not exist, there is no absolute “right” and “wrong.”

        This is an argument from consequences. It didn’t work the last time you tried it. Nor the time before that. Nor the time before that.

        “But if morality is determined by blah, blah, blah….”

        You are not listening.
        Repeating the argument doesn’t somehow make it better.

        I don’t know….um therefore [insert brand name].
        I don’t like that idea….um therefore [insert brand name].

        This is what you do. This is what you always do. Cut through the boring waffle and this is the bottom line. It doesn’t work. You need to stop going around in circles and come up with something fresh. Otherwise you are just going to get the same result.

        No.62: ARGUMENT FROM ABSOLUTE MORAL STANDARDS
        (1) If there are absolute moral standards, then God exists.
        (2) Atheists say that there are no absolute moral standards.
        (3) But that’s because they don’t want to admit to being sinners.
        (4) Therefore, there are absolute moral standards.
        (5) Therefore, God exists.

        Comment by Cedric Katesby — May 10, 2014 @ 11:00 pm

      • Bob,

        Here’s the best way to tell whether or not you’ve gone completely off the rails: You write something like this “Who am I to judge Gandhi? Or Hitler? What if Hitler had won the war? Wouldn’t that have made HIM “right””
        See Bob, that’s the difference between you and me. I wouldn’t care whether or not god ordered Hitler to do what he did. I’d view it as wrong either way. Not you though. Since the order came from the divine, absolute, ultimate authority on what’s right, whatever he says must be right. So if Hitler had won, he obviously would have been doing god’s will so it would have been the right thing to do.
        Congratulations Bob. When you start talking garbage like that, that’s the exact moment that you know you’ve become an unthinking, bread-dead sycophant slave.

        Comment by Ashley — May 11, 2014 @ 5:38 pm


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