Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Aphorisms #s 1 & 2

  1. Some liberals think the U.S. national motto should be e pluribus unum like it was 220 years ago. Most right-wingers want it to be in God we trust. Neither motto captures the dominant U.S. philosophy: Arbeit macht frei.

  2. Rebecca West said I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat, or a prostitute. Stealing the pattern of that quotation, I myself have never been able to find out precisely what political correctness is: I only know that people call me PC whenever I confront them for expressing their sense of being entitled to their privileged status.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Towards a more gnuanced atheism

The caricature of gnu atheism has it as obsessed with wiping out every vestige of religious belief. A more accurate view of what many atheists want is just to eradicate the meme-pair that demands conversion of the world to the religion that it infects and condemns those that don't convert to hell. Though the pair may infect other religions, fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Islam seem to be the major hosts right now. Those 2 groups thus face off, each with the idea of eradicating the other. If they just did that and left the rest of us in peace, it might not be so bad, but since they might just take the whole planet with them (keep in mind that, depending on which party is in power, fundamentalist Christians either control the US government or at least influence it strongly), we all have an interest in getting rid of the meme-pair.

That is why I am much more interested in working with theists who don't condemn or try to convert good people who don't share their beliefs than I am in increasing the number of atheists. We all have a common cause of reducing the influence of the idea of conversion by the sword.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Nonsense about marriage

There's this meme out there that the answer to marriage equality is for the state to get out of the marriage business and let it become just a religious notion. This is a bad idea for at least 2 reasons.

First, regardless of what you call family relationships, society will have an interest in various issues that they involve: What happens if the relationship ends? Should remaining partner(s) get more favorable treatment with respect to inheritance than people outside the family? Can 1 partner be compelled to testify against the other(s)? I doubt that many opposite sex couples would want to have to engage a lawyer to draw up all the appropriate documents that some kind of laissez-faire, libertarian view of marriage would entail. What marriage equality demands is that same sex couples be given the chance to have all the rights that opposite sex couples have the chance to get and to get them in the same way: by getting married.

The other reason I think it's a bad idea is that it gets history completely wrong. Its proponents claim that marriage used to just be religious, but until the Enlightenment, talking about secular law, religion, and culture as separate concepts would be hard indeed, even if all talk of marriage had been in religious terms. But I really doubt that it was, anyway. Since marriage was an economic relationship back before the Romantic Era, the secular law would have played a large role in its regulation even back in the day.

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