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?

March 30, 2014

Why should religion be kept out of healthcare?

facepalmBecause it has nothing to do with providing best practices healthcare and everything to do with promoting its theology! And the problem becomes obvious when authority for healthcare decisions must pass through religious leadership that determines – based on theology and not medicine – if best practices ALIGNS with its dogma.

This is Crazytown.

Welcome to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, a town of about 35,000 people who have one hospital called the Jane Phillips Medical Center. That hospital is part of Ascension Health, a large Catholic health care consortium.

Yeah, so what?

Well, in order to do their jobs, local obstetricians and gynecologists need to maintain privileges there.


In order to maintain privileges, a doctor must meet the hospital’s POLICIES.

Sounds reasonable, right, because healthcare policies should be informed by best practices, right?


Catholic hospitals determine their polices based on Catholic doctrine first and foremost. Medical ethics are subject to this doctrine.

Are you beginning to grasp how concern about an incompatibility between religious belief and science-based treatment might arise?

Stick with me here.

What happens when Catholic doctrine stands contrary to some science-based medical service like… let’s say… oh, I don’t know… there are so many to choose from… birth control. Let’s return to Bartlesville/Crazytown and find out together, shall we?

Here is where the rubber of medical service providers meets the road of Catholic doctrine: local OB-GYN doctors who wish to maintain privileges at the one hospital can no longer prescribe birth control for birth control because it’s contrary to Catholic doctrine.

a meeting was held Wednesday to inform local doctors of gynecology and obstetrics that they can no longer prescribe contraceptives of any kind — if they are to be used as birth control. – See more at:

Who determines what healthcare services best fits the needs of patients and on what grounds: medical practitioners with advanced medical training or a group of celibate men in dresses and funny hats who pretend they can turn wine into blood and crackers into flesh by mumbling some Latin?

You are not surprised to find out that the authority – the right and god-sanctioned ethical authority – just so happens to be the group of celibate men… who require no medical expertise whatsoever who are on the basis of their religious authority better able to determine what constitutes the right medical services to provide. The specific patient’s welfare isn’t worth shit; maintaining the Church’s ethical standards are paramount, and local OB-GYNs are turned into their accomplices.

And some people are so militant, so strident, so hateful as to suggest that this hierarchy is intolerable in the public domain where there really is compelling evidence that religious belief when imposed on others is fundamentally incompatible with exercising individual autonomy to hold evidence-based science, its products, and its medical practitioners in higher esteem than religious shepherds s leading flocks of willing religious sheep. We are to vilify those who complain about this religious interference in the public domain to be superior to those who are educated and highly trained people in certain practices. After all, they must immoral because that’s what religious leadership tells us so it must be true. This is equivalent to plumbers and their expertise subject to oversight by those who think pipes can be cleared of problems caused by evil spirits through exorcism. If you have a plumbing problem, this kind of authority suddenly  becomes your concern when the plumber you must hire is obligated to not fix it for religious reasons.

The ongoing incompatibility between faith-based and science-adduced practices is so obvious, so ludicrous, so ethically screwed up, that its a mystery anyone with two neurons to rub together might think this hierarchy for determining services is in any way reasonable. It’s not; the truly delusional inmates are running the asylum… or, in this case, the hospital and its medical services.

March 7, 2014

What does honesty from coal producers sound like?

Filed under: Climate Change — tildeb @ 10:32 am

Just like this (make sure you stick to it for a while):

(h/t to Climate Denial Crock of the Week)

February 26, 2014

What’s in an accent?

Filed under: accent,geography,Language — tildeb @ 5:45 pm

Well, as realtors are fond of saying, location, location, location. I can’t embed this short video but I found it very interesting. Check it out, and then think of your own locale and how slightly different geography tends to correlate with slightly different linguistics. And if you’re ever in Newfoundland, you’ll find you can multiply this effect by a hundred!

February 24, 2014

Should we assume that climate change is still debatable?

Filed under: Climate Change,Scepticism — tildeb @ 3:09 pm

Not when the science is settled and there are real consequences all of us have to face leaving us unprepared.



January 30, 2014

Can you spot the irony?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tildeb @ 7:26 am



International Catholic Association of Exorcists Director Reverend Isaac Kramer has warned that Internet exorcisms are just a scam.



January 21, 2014

How can you detect climate change denialism in action?

Filed under: Climate Change,denialism,Global Warming — tildeb @ 2:39 pm

Easy: listen to the language.

When you hear someone include a phrase like “invented by Al Gore” or “the models are wrong” or “climate changes all the time” you know you’re about to face climate denial in action. Here’s a reminder why:


(h/t to Climate Denial Crock of the Week)

January 6, 2014

Why this post?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tildeb @ 9:20 pm

questionFor those to have the means to question me further or have me explain in greater detail comments I have made elsewhere.

Go to it.

December 29, 2013

Speaking of why justifying action based on faith-based belief matters…

Filed under: faith-based beliefs,murder,vaccination — tildeb @ 11:26 am

From the Guardian:

Five female health workers vaccinating children against polio have been shot dead in Pakistan in a series of attacks blamed on Islamist militants. One victim was a 17-year-old schoolgirl volunteer.

Belief that vaccinations are equivalently dangerous to the diseases themselves is simply not justified.



If faith-based belief – even by otherwise intelligent people – can so easily relegate reality to a distant consideration, imagine how easily we can use the same methodology to justify imposing our beliefs on others… because we believe we are right and reality isn’t allowed to arbitrate the claim. The Pakistani murders are just one more example of faith-based belief in action. It looks to me just like delusional thinking and then acting on the crazy to cause real harm to real people in real life no different in methodology than believing Jesus was the Christ and was raised from the dead to redeem us from our inherent sin. Crazy is as crazy does. Believers of all stripes, please welcome to your tribe your murderous brethren-in-empowering-faith-just-like-you.

(H/T to Open Parachute)

December 1, 2013

What is woo (and why does belief in it matter)?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tildeb @ 11:56 am

Woo, woo-woo, Oga Boga, POOF!ism, and my favourite Oogity Boogity! (Blessed be His name).  Many people are deeply offended to have their most cherished beliefs classified this way. But should they?

Well, these terms represent not things but conclusions of causal effect by some mysterious yet apparently interactive agency that are unjustified. The cherished belief simply falls into this category if the claim for causal effect is made by the believer regardless of what the specific belief may be. The belief is  wrong not because what it represents may or may not be true in whatever the specific case may be (god or gods, Lanza’s biocentrism, young or old earth creationism, life after death, conspiracy theories, alternative medicine, supernaturalism, metaphysics, caste system, astrology, and so on) but because the method of arriving at the conclusion (the epistemology) doesn’t work to accurately reflect reality in the general. Here’s why: the explanation is first imposed on reality and then is immune from being arbitrated by it for accuracy. That’s how woo works! Using the method of woo to explain anything is a guaranteed way of fooling ourselves into empowering some measure of confidence of that belief (as an interactive agency of some kind causing effect in the reality we share) where it is not justified (not arbitrated by reality), and so we confuse our beliefs imposed on reality to be an accurate reflection of it. This is woo in action, justifying all kinds of beliefs that deserve none.

Believing in woo matters because acting on the belief really does cause effect. It really does cause real harm to real people in real life all the time. But this evidence from reality doesn’t matter, you see: the belief is true and nothing from reality’s arbitration of it can make a dent in this assumption. Evidence from reality can then be relegated to some other reason… usually in the form of becoming some artificial outlier (in statistical parlance). And we see this in action all the time: those believers identified causing this harm by utilizing this method are some imaginary fringe group, a ‘few bad apples’, extremists, fundamentalists, and so on, keeping the method of belief that fuels acting to promote harm free from scrutiny by reality.

The is how woo works and why it is so seductive. The methodology – applying a belief that cannot be adjudicated by reality – produces a false confidence we call ‘faith’. And it empowers all kinds of pernicious effects in the world… everything from denying climate change to presuming evolution is scientifically controversial, from going along with cutting off a girl’s clitoris to a boy’s foreskin, from assigning different legal rights to women to denying legal rights to gays and lesbians, from refusing to inoculate children to subsidizing tax free housing allowances to US pastors. People spend billions of dollars buying into bullshit like Deepak Chopra’s consciousness-determines-reality as they do applying snake-oil remedies in place of evidence-based medicine. Public policies are affected by these beliefs in critical areas such as abortion and euthanasia where belief in a ‘slippery slope’ determines very real suffering for real people in real life. The list goes on and on and on and yet the common root  – infusing unjustified confidence in faith-based beliefs – rarely is subjected to the withering criticism it so richly deserves.

Calling any kind of faith-based belief that people are willing to act on with the pejorative term ‘woo’ is a good place to start. More of us should be far more concerned with figuring out what constitutes justified beliefs than offending others who don’t. And if people don’t care about what’s true, then why on earth should we pretend that what they have to say about their faith-based beliefs is worth serious consideration? We already know that they have rejected reality’s role to act as an arbiter of the causal claims they make in its name and will dismiss as irrelevant even the most compelling contrary evidence with an intellectually deceitful wave of the metaphorical hand, because they know that far too many people are willing to concede that people’s faith-based beliefs should be respected out of politeness and personal consideration as if they were equivalently justified as beliefs arbitrated by reality. Perhaps that willingness to police our tone makes us part of the problem, and one that we as non believers of woo should consider.

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