"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Antidisestablishmentarianism

Oh, it's one of those usual press things, where they highlight a non-story to make stupid Christians look even stupider, but it certainly does seem that

Missouri legislators in Jefferson City considered a bill that would name Christianity the state's official "majority" religion.

House Concurrent Resolution 13 has is pending in the state legislature.

...if we're to believe KMOV's (sic) illiterate and spotty account.

Now, legislatures "consider" all kinds of bills, like proposing to recognize the fact that the earth is flat, illegal Martian aliens killed Nicole Simpson, or that Willie Mays was the greatest baseball player of all time. They usually vote no. (Mays was the 2nd greatest, sorry. Babe Ruth could pitch.)

I like the bill, in its way. The anti-theists can only push so far, and this is the pushback. No Roe v. Wade, no Pat Robertson, and that's a fact. They say you can't impose morality, but you can't impose moral neutrality either. Human beings aren't wired that way.

But let me say I think it's a bad idea for a state to simply declare an "official religion." I think they should put it up for bids, like being the official beer of the NFL. The Mormons would take a pass, but the Scientologists would take a stab at it and the Baha'is could certainly use the exposure. Then again, the UAE would probably just swoop in and buy it for Wahhabism.

The Official Religious Terrorist Cult of Missouri. Now that has a ring to it. Christian Identity skinhead losers* would be really pissed, though. Outsourced again.

*I was going to provide a link to "storm front," for some cheap laughs, but it looks like they've been closed down by their free-website provider. Cleaning up spills on Aisle 4 just doesn't provide much of a revenue base. Not a great act of courage on my part, but come and get me, you bastards. I'm a Republican and that means I've got guns, and enough dough to afford bigger ones than you.

15 comments:

ndik8 said...

Aint it the truth...........
Course ya'd xpct it ta be in a rural place like Missouri where the religious right always seem to congregate........

Nice read BTW........

Come see me :)

connie deady said...

So nice to have a label for me. Anti-thiest.

Naw. It's not nearly sexy enough Tom.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Militant relativist? Evangelical nihilist? Totalitarian democrat?

Regardless, you'll always remain my favorite Jacobin.

connie deady said...

You know I think we most often misunderstand the other's position, as you accuse me of misunderstanding Strauss.

Seeing comments, like Kathy's on another thread conflating utilitarianism and situational ethics is nails on a chalkboard to me. Sadly, situational ethics is usually understood to mean changing ethics, when it really refers to changing situations, alas.

I do need to chew around your idea of relativism being a foundation without a foundation, because I think that has merit.

Really, all philsophical positions have flaws that make me uncomfortable. Personally I'd call myself an interactionist, but I can live with anti-theists. I just cannot handle people telling me what I should believe.

I found merit as well in your comment in your initial post that you can't impose moral neutrality. I think it's valid to argue that moral neutrality is a a position as much as is adopting one religion.

Was it Aquinas or Augustine that differentiated between the secular and the divine and said that the two should be separate and we should leave the divine to God and the state to be secular? (I always get those two mixed up in my mind). It seems to me that one outcome of your position is what we are getting in Iraq and the MidEast, which is complete intermingling of State and Islam. Doesn't that give you pause to worry about letting the divine control the secular laws?

Tlaloc said...

"They say you can't impose morality, but you can't impose moral neutrality either."

No one is trying to enforce "moral neutrality" on you, Tom. That's entirely a hobgoblin of your own mind.

Saying that you cannot force your religion on others in no way precludes you from following it yourself (unless of course your religion says you have to force others in which case i have zero sympathy for you).

For some reason the christianist forces in America always have to make out that they are being persecuted despite their overwhelming control of American life (quick any states about to name Buddhism the "official" religion? Hinduism? Wicca? Judaism? Totemic Shamanism? No just Christianity).

Matt Huisman said...

Saying that you cannot force your religion on others...

This is a religious (value-based) belief in and of itself. Now I happen to be OK with it, as long as people don't go overboard with the whole notion. But why should we hold to that principle? Is there some objective truth you can cite for its primacy?

...in no way precludes you from following it yourself (unless of course your religion says you have to force others in which case i have zero sympathy for you).

Interesting. Your first statement (You can't force religion on others) is religious, and you demand that others comply with it (in certain settings at least).

Does that mean I should have zero sympathy for you (at least in those settings)?

(quick any states about to name Buddhism the "official" religion? Hinduism? Wicca? Judaism? Totemic Shamanism? No just Christianity).

Forget the 'about to name' part. How many states already are secular humanist?

Tlaloc said...

"Your first statement (You can't force religion on others) is religious"

Uh no it isn't. It has no basis in religion. You could say that it is constitutional.



"Forget the 'about to name' part. How many states already are secular humanist?"

You seem to be using "religion" as having an essentially infinite definition. What isn't religion in your view?

Matt Huisman said...

Uh no it isn't. It has no basis in religion. You could say that it is constitutional.

What moral authority does the constitution have? Is there a foundational presupposition that is based on something objective? Or is it just based on another truth claim?

Come on, you're the relativist here. You understand that people choose their truth, and there is no way to objectively tell them they're wrong. At that point, we have a test of wills.

You, understandably, don't want it to be that way. You have the establishment position. But don't confuse getting that position by winning a monkey trial with earning it.

Tlaloc said...

"What moral authority does the constitution have?"

None. It has a legal authority. It was an agreed upon contract that we have inherited.



"Come on, you're the relativist here. You understand that people choose their truth, and there is no way to objectively tell them they're wrong."

And? I don't see where you infer that I am objectively telling someone they are morally wrong...



"You, understandably, don't want it to be that way. You have the establishment position."

gr?
Sorry you've completely confused me. How do I have the establishment position? And Why don't I want it to be 'that' way?

There's been some major disconnect here Matt.

Tom wants you to believe that holding Christianity equal with other faiths is opressing it. Frankly so far Christianity has STILL been allowed to be way above equal. Imagine the whining when it actually gets held to the same standard as say Wicca (for example when christians can be drummed out of the military purely due to their faith).

I, as is my nature, then point to this false contention. Christianity has in no way, by any stretch of the imagination been oppressed in this country. Sorry no. It's still the 800 pound gorilla that sleeps wherever it wants.

Matt Huisman said...

The point here is that moral neutrality does not exist. Everyone has some form of morality, and the state cannot get away from favoring one type. It may be convenient to think that secular humanism isn’t a religion because there are no formal meetings (other than the NFL on Sundays), but it is simply not the case. Despite their disdain for the word, the foundations of secular humanism are religious in nature.

Now I don’t mind it too much that it is now the de facto operating religion in politics. It works fairly well when people of all faiths lay down some of their truth claims in order to function together under this arrangement. But just as the idea of a militant Moral Majority is repugnant to you, we don’t always like it when militant secularists get to define what is right and wrong because they are somehow above and beyond mere religion.

Take a look at how some of these issues are being decided today. Which side is making appeals to certainty or moral authority? Which side is making popular appeals (voters)? The "rationalists" look just as dogmatic as anyone else.

There is a constant struggle going on for the moral foundations of this country. As Tom pointed out, it’s been a remarkably civil process so far. Next time you think that we’re forcing ourselves down everyone else’s throat, take a breath and remember that we’ve not (yet) imposed sharia – and that maybe, just maybe, we’ve given up as much as anyone relative to our standing in the general population.

Tlaloc said...

"The point here is that moral neutrality does not exist. Everyone has some form of morality, and the state cannot get away from favoring one type."

I agree that every person has a moral slant. But the state is not a person, and it can indeed be morally neutral. In fact it can ONLY be morally neutral because the state has no morality whatsoever. It is a thing. It has no animus, no conscience, no dreams, and no morality.

That is reserved fro us blessed mortals.



"It may be convenient to think that secular humanism isn’t a religion because there are no formal meetings (other than the NFL on Sundays), but it is simply not the case. Despite their disdain for the word, the foundations of secular humanism are religious in nature."

Only if you define religion as esentially infinite in nature. Look if by secular humanism you mean the small group of guys who try to use science to disprove god then yeah they are religious, without knowing it. But in general secular humanism simply means that reason is valued as a tool for exploring the world.

There's nothing mystical about that. No faith required because it is expressly supported by fact. Indeed it would be a self defeating proposition if it were not demonstrable.



"But just as the idea of a militant Moral Majority is repugnant to you, we don’t always like it when militant secularists get to define what is right and wrong because they are somehow above and beyond mere religion."

I don't doubt that some people who are secular humanists also believe in concrete morals. I think they are mistaken, of course, as a relativist.
On the other hand if you are going to be bossed around by a moralist do you prefer the one who bases moralitiy on faith or one who tries to base it on fact?

I don't like either, but at least the fact based one can change their mind without having to undermine their entire belief structure.



"The "rationalists" look just as dogmatic as anyone else."

Look in any field, endeavor, school of thought, political body, religion, or union 75%+ of the people are going to be poseurs. Thats just as true of Anarchism as Catholicism. The vast majority of people do not think for themselves (even when they espouse a philosophy of individuality). Trust me, as an anarchist I'm PAINFULLY aware of this little fact.
Its something you just have to bear with because it's not likely to change in either of our lifetimes.



"There is a constant struggle going on for the moral foundations of this country."

You can't struggle for something that doesn't exist. What there is is a struggle for CONTROL. Not morals. Control is always the purpose and the justification both.



"Next time you think that we’re forcing ourselves down everyone else’s throat, take a breath and remember that we’ve not (yet) imposed sharia – and that maybe, just maybe, we’ve given up as much as anyone relative to our standing in the general population."

Heh.

Read this about equality:
my blog


The person who was on top always views equality as a loss. Christians still are held far above every other faith in America. That is the only measure by which we can judge whether you have "lost" enough. When you are held equal then it is enough.

If it feels like a long way to fall it is only because your ancestors built so high on the backs of everyone else.

Matt Huisman said...

In fact it can ONLY be morally neutral because the state has no morality whatsoever. It is a thing. It has no animus, no conscience, no dreams, and no morality.

So you think that the state is always morally neutral? I guess you won’t mind then if Missouri declares itself a Christian state. The moment the state actually says something it is imposing a value system on us – and it’s impossible for it to be neutral. As for the definition of secular humanism, I suggest you go look it up. You’ll see all kinds of phrases like: belief system, life stance, religious worldview, outlook, philosophy. It states that there is nothing supernatural, which is interesting, because I’m not really sure how you prove that. I’m sure you don’t want to hear it, but there is an element of faith involved there.

I don't doubt that some people who are secular humanists also believe in concrete morals. I think they are mistaken, of course, as a relativist.
On the other hand if you are going to be bossed around by a moralist do you prefer the one who bases moralitiy on faith or one who tries to base it on fact?


I'm not making a judgment about whether I like or dislike what anyone does. I'm just pointing out that they are imposing their beliefs on me. One side's 'lack of morals' is a morality itself.

Your analysis of the situation is, in fact, a value judgment - hard to see how I could view it as neutral.

The person who was on top always views equality as a loss.

I have yet to complain on this thread about what Christianity has lost. The point - which you have missed entirely, in every phrase, due to the craziest semantic gamesmanship – is that secular humanism (or whatever term you want to use) is a moral position that competes for control (is that better?) of the state with others, including Christianity. This control enables its moral positions to be implemented/imposed by the state. Secular humanists win these battles for control regularly.

Therefore, it is a load of garbage to think that Christians are the only ones imposing their values on others.

Tlaloc said...

"So you think that the state is always morally neutral? I guess you won’t mind then if Missouri declares itself a Christian state."

Certainly I mind, but not because the state has developed a morality. Rather it is about certain people trying to control others. And of course a grievous violation of the constitution.



"The moment the state actually says something it is imposing a value system on us – and it’s impossible for it to be neutral."

Again morals exist within people. The state is not a person. It has no morality of it's own. Now certain people can try to use the state to force their morals on others but the morals themselves remain within the person.

Look it's analagous to saying the state has thoughts. No it doesn't. It has no mind. What the state has is a bunch of aparatus which people can use to put their own thoughts into action. Same thing with morals. States are always amoral and thoughtless.



"As for the definition of secular humanism, I suggest you go look it up."

I did to double check myself before responding to you in the first place. It has a wide range of meanings. At its most basic it means what I said. At that level there is no religious component to it. Yes I'm sure you can find subsets that do incorporate elements of faith. But that is not the essence of the thing.



"Your analysis of the situation is, in fact, a value judgment - hard to see how I could view it as neutral."

Which analysis? The language here is imprecise. It is certainly a "value" judgement when I determine that imposing theological laws is unconstituional. I weight the values of constitutional vs unconstitutional and determine where the given action falls.

Needless to say, though, that is not a *moral* value judgement. It is an evaluation, but not one based on my personal morality.



"I have yet to complain on this thread about what Christianity has lost."

Maybe I misunderstood. What did you mean when you said "and that maybe, just maybe, we’ve given up as much as anyone relative to our standing in the general population"? That sounded to me like a statement that you felt you'd given at least your due and probably a bit more.



"The point - which you have missed entirely, in every phrase, due to the craziest semantic gamesmanship – is that secular humanism (or whatever term you want to use) is a moral position that competes for control (is that better?) of the state with others, including Christianity."

I'm not trying to play semantic games. I disagree with how you are using Secular Humanism. You seem to be taking the tiniest fraction of the whole and saying it is synonymous with the entirety. It is not a semantic game to say I disagree with your contention that SH is a moral view.

But that aside I certainly agree that theological and atheological forces do compete for control of the government.

The difference though is that the government is expressely supposed to be atheological. It is written into the very definig document of the legal contract that is america that there is no preference given to any faith.



"This control enables its moral positions to be implemented/imposed by the state. Secular humanists win these battles for control regularly."

And they absolutely should since that is the constitutional position. No preference to religion. SH is not a religion but represents an empirical world view. It should dominate all matters of public policy. Private matters of faith should be sancrosect as private. But public sponsored faith is verbotten.

By "should" I am not making a moral judgement but a constituional one.



"Therefore, it is a load of garbage to think that Christians are the only ones imposing their values on others."

I agree. I certainly never meant to say that Christians are the only ones who ever push their beliefs on others. God no. Every faith, every politic, every dogma is guilty of it some (and often most) of the time. Christianity is an egregious offender in the states because it has long been dominant in the states. Much as Islam is the worst offender in the Middle East and Communism was the worst offender in the USSR and China.

However that does not mean that STOPPING people from pushing their beleifs is the same as pushing your own beliefs on them.

Tlaloc said...

Let me try another tack.

A neutral state with regards to religion means that there are the maximum number of allowed states. Each individual has total freedom to choose any religion that appeals to them without coercion.

That is what the US is supposed to be.

On the other hand when people push their religious beliefs on others they reduce the allowed states. Coercion or compulsion makes the choice of faith no longer free.

There is a huge difference between pushing your faith on someone else and stopping someone from pushing their faith. To see the difference all you have to do is figure out if you have maximized or minimized the allowed states.

The Missouri bill is a minimizer.

Removing religious displays from the public square is a maximizer.

Using empiricism to make real world decisions is a maximizer.

Using a paticular faith to make real world decisions is a minimizer.

and so on...

connie deady said...

The point here is that moral neutrality does not exist. Everyone has some form of morality, and the state cannot get away from favoring one type. It may be convenient to think that secular humanism isn’t a religion because there are no formal meetings (other than the NFL on Sundays), but it is simply not the case. Despite their disdain for the word, the foundations of secular humanism are religious in nature.

Now I don’t mind it too much that it is now the de facto operating religion in politics. It works fairly well when people of all faiths lay down some of their truth claims in order to function together under this arrangement. But just as the idea of a militant Moral Majority is repugnant to you, we don’t always like it when militant secularists get to define what is right and wrong because they are somehow above and beyond mere religion.


Great points Matt.