Category Archives: Religion

L’uomo di sasso*

Tony Perkins, of Focus on the Family fame, shows the uninitiated how to iron man.  For those playing along at home, an iron man is a kind of reverse straw man.  Instead of weakening an argument so as more easily to defeat it, an iron man strengthens an argument so as to make it more difficult to defeat.  Both violate the dialectical principle of fidelity, and so are wrong.

Today we have Perkins doing the iron-manning (rather than being iron-manned, as would be more common in his case).  Here he is speaking on the subject of the President's Birth Certificate (via Think Progress):

PERKINS: [The media] have attempted to marginalize anyone who challenges this administration on those principles and that driving ideology. You know, it goes back to what they did to those that questioned the issue of his birth certificate. Look, I don’t know about all that, but I will tell you this, it’s a legitimate issue from the standpoint of what the Constitution says.

And I think what we’ve done is we’ve done great harm to foundation of our government by marginalizing and attacking anyone who brings up a legitimate issue.

Holy Batman is that awful.  Now, to be fair, whether a candidate for President is born in the USA is a constitutional issue.  An iron man view of Perkin's awful argument would stop there (as does his iron-man view of birtherism).  

But Perkins is saying more than that.  He saying it is still an open question in this circumstance–i.e., Obama may not have been born in the USA.  But that matter has been settled on all reasonable accounts, and those who continue to believe that it's false or questionable do not have good, sound constitutional points to make.  They have factual points to make–namely in this case the President was not born in the USA. 

This is of course false a thousand times over. 

Calling them loony-toons is precisely what is called for.  

*"the stone man," as in Il Commendatore.

Bishop Godwin

The Pontifical North American College, or whoever is responsible for instructing America's Catholic Priestly class, must offer a course in Godwinism: everyone with whom you have even a minor disagreement is a Nazi.  This is a move repugnant even to the most stoned college freshman who's just been busted for pot smoking.  For him, at least, the phrase "floor fascist" has some modicum of irony.  

Not so, sadly, for the venerable leaders of the Catholic Church in Chicago.  When a persecuted minority wanted to walk by a Church on the public way, they were the KKK.  Now, it turns out, the requirement that non Catholics have access to birth control in health plans offered by Catholics and Catholic Institutions (save actual Churches and similar organizations), has one Bishop screaming both Stalin and Hitler (from the Chicago Tribune):

“Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care,” Jenky said. “In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama — with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda — now seems intent on following a similar path.”

To me this sends a terrible lesson to the Catholic faithful.  It is not the case that every disagreement with widely neglected Catholic teachings is equivalent to (what they imagine to be) some kind of Nazi or Stalinist assault on their right to practice their faith.

This means, of course, that we can't have rational disagreements about such issues, as everyone knows that the only response to Hitler was war.

And war, as the good Bishops ought to know, is a last resort.  And even it has rules. 

  

This is the slippery slope we were talking about

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has identified the cause of the recent scandal involving the Secret Service, prostitutes, and discounts.  It turns out that this is the causal or logical result of the breakdown of the moral order.  This breakdown in the moral order was caused by the repeal of "Don't ask don't tell" among other things.

Perkins: Yeah, you know that’s a great point. Just for a moment step back and look at the implications of this, over the weekend we saw the news of the President’s Secret Service detail in Colombia and the issue of them hiring prostitutes and now the White House is outraged about that. Actually in a meeting this morning my staff asked, ‘why should the President be upset’? It was actually legal; it was legal there to do that, so why should we be upset? Well, the fact is we intuitively know it’s wrong, there’s a moral law against that.

The same is true for what the President has done to the military enforcing open homosexuality in our military. You can change the law but you can’t change the moral law that’s behind it. You can change the positive law, the law that is created by man, but you can’t change the moral law, it’s wrong. So what you have is you have a total breakdown and you can’t pick and choose. Morality is not a smorgasbord; you can’t pick what you want. I think you’re absolutely right, this is a fundamental issue going forward because if we say ‘let them do what we want,’ what’s next? You cannot maintain moral order if you are willing to allow a few things to slide.

I'd say this is maximally dubious.  Among other things, as far as I know, heterosexual men do not look to homosexual men for moral or sexual guidance.  Unless they're really gay.  I guess that makes the Secret Service agents gay.

Identity Theft

Chicago's Cardinal Francis George is not the master of analogies by any stretch. Recently, when a persecuted minority wanted to walk by one his churches on a Sunday, they were "Nazis."  Now, if someone requires that Health Insurers Provide a certain standard of care regardless of the religious affiliation of the insured employee, it's "identity theft."

Sadly, this remark seems to have followed upon the following (from the Chicago Tribune story):

"The difficulty of public discussion … is that the political is the highest level of public discourse," George said. "Therefore, the primary categories of discussion and mutual understanding are liberal and conservative. But they're not evangelical, Catholic or gospel categories. The categories that count in the Gospel are true and false. The bishops try to be people of God. And those are the first questions we ask is: 'Is it true or false?' Political terms are not adequate to discuss it."

The Cardinal recognizes the seriousness of his words, so this must mean he is just terrible at reasoning.  Let's say we change the terms somewhat, and insist that a Jehovah's Witness who runs a hospital or university must, through a private insurer, provide coverage for blood transfusions.  Yes, it's against their religion, alright.  For them.  But you just work for them.  You are the janitor in Kingdom Hall, or you're their accountant.  Unlucky you.  I guess. How dare you steal their identity by wanting blood transfusions during surgery.

But we're talking about contraception for women.  Not in the Tribune article, but in the local CBS story, was the Cardinal's very respectful and truth oriented threat: if some women can get the pill, the three percent of Catholics who actually care about this stuff will be forced to take their ball and go home.

“In order to do anything publicly, we’re going to have to cloak it in some kind of explicit religious circumstance that would not make it possible to run big universities and large hospitals as we’ve run them before,” George said.

The cardinal told members of the Union League Club downtown that the Church may otherwise sell its hospitals, pay penalties, or in a last resort, close them altogether, rather than offer birth control. George says offering birth control would be cooperating with evil.

The ad baculum, the appeal to force–that's what the Cardinal thinks the highest level of public discourse is.

Bend my beliefs

An obvious point (forgive me I've been really busy), but how does one properly evaluate views one finds hateful?  Here's Growing Pains' star and banana enthusiast Kirk Cameron:

I should be able to express moral views on social issues, especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years —- without being slandered, accused of hate speech, and told from those who preach 'tolerance' that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I'm in the public square."

In other words, when Kirk Cameron is calling others immoral, and advocating that they pray away the gay, or whatever it is they should do, how dare they ask him to bend his beliefs

Another squirmish* in the culture wars

In the category of self-refuting worries (by now noticed by all of the web), here is disgraced former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich:

"I have two grandchildren: Maggie is 11; Robert is 9," Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. "I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

A secular atheist country dominated by religious fundamentalists.  

*squirmish

To every beast of the earth

American Family Association style:

One human being is worth more than an infinite number of grizzly bears. Another way to put it is that there is no number of live grizzlies worth one dead human being. If it’s a choice between grizzlies and humans, the grizzlies have to go. And it’s time.

And another interesting moral calculation (same guy):

When President Bush sent our troops into Iraq in 2003, I remember telling my pastoral colleagues that there was one criterion and one criterion only for determining whether our invasion and attempt at nation-building would be a success: whether we left behind a nation with genuine religious liberty for Christians and Jews.

. . . .

Bottom line: God blesses nations who are kind to Christians and Jews, the descendants of Abraham, and curses those nations who are not. If we had an enlightened policy with regard to Iraq, the one thing we would have insisted on is complete freedom of religion for Christians and Jews. We did nothing of the sort, and consequently have spent seven years only to leave behind a nation that officially rests under the curse of God. What a waste.

God loves religious liberty (for some); but not bears.  God hates bears.



 

Not the First Amendment I Know

Over at the American Spectator, George Neumayr is arguing that the First Amendment does not protect the building of the "Ground Zero Mosque" or the burning of Korans. 

The truth is that the First Amendment protects neither the Ground Zero mosque nor Jones's burning of copies of the Koran. How do we know this? Because under the real First Amendment, the one written by the Founding Fathers, local communities within states were perfectly free to pass laws prohibiting the construction of particular religious buildings or pass laws that banned book burnings.

In fact, on his interpretation, the First Amendment should protect us against the "tyranny of the minorities" when it comes to religious matters.  His case is that because the various states had preferred state churches when they adopted the Constitution, there's no way that the First Amendment could prevent explicit state preferences for religion:

Six of the thirteen states that signed the Constitution ran established churches. It is a historical fact that the First Amendment was written not to suppress those state churches but to protect them. Those six states would have never signed the Constitution otherwise.

This is an interesting and promising point, one that deserves some consideration.  The rule restricts, as stated, Congress, not other legislative bodies or the executive branch.  But for a very long time, the restrictions on Congress here were taken to be exemplary for how the rest of all governing bodies and governmental executives were to conduct themselves in the US.  Taking it otherwise now contradicts stare decisis about the Constitution.  Moreover, it runs counter to what the 'free exercise' clause is supposed to protect.  In fact, a state must show compelling interest in restricting any religious expression.  So what kind of interest does the state have here?

The notion that the First Amendment requires individual states to treat all religious believers equally was invented out of thin air by judicial activists. . . . The rejection of the real Constitution for the phony "living" one explains today's tyranny of the minority. That tyranny has assumed ironically divergent forms in recent days. In New York City, a majority stands aghast as a group of Muslims tries to build a mosque within blocks of the World Trade Center ruins. In Florida, the majority stands appalled but idle before the pastor of a tiny church who launches an "International Burn-a-Koran Day." Both incidents are, in varying degrees, acts of gross and pointless incivility that do  not truly enjoy constitutional protections, but all public officials can mumble in the face of them is the cliché du jour that Americans have a "right to be wrong."

Wow. To say that actions that are gross and uncivil do not deserve First Amendment protection is just about tantamount to saying that you don't understand the First Amendment, isn't it?  Seriously, most of the stuff in The American Spectator would fail that test, wouldn't it?   Moreover, I will never be able to wrap my head around the idea that Constitutions are written to prevent tyrranies of minorities in a democracy.   Again, saying those sorts of things should be an easy tell that someone doesn't understand what they're talking about.

Term complements

Figuring out of what's the opposite of what is one of those Sesame Street skills that doesn't often get practiced in a critical thinking or logic course.  You get a little of this in the logic of terms if you cover obversion or contraposition.  It's a useful skill, I think, just ask Tony Perkins.  Speaking of the Federal judge who decided the recent Proposition 8 case in California, he says:

"Had this guy been … an evangelical preacher in his past there would have been cries for him to step down from this case," he added. "So I do think [his homosexuality] has a bearing on the case. But this is not without precedent."

The logical complement of "homosexual" is not "evangelical preacher."

Besides, on this argument,  a married or marriable straight person would stand in the same allegedly biased relation to the outcome as a single gay person.  Who does that leave? 

The Devil went down to Haiti

On behalf of Americans everywhere, I apologize and condemn these remarks:

ROBERTSON: [S]omething happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, "We will serve you if you will get us free from the French." True story. And so, the devil said, "OK, it's a deal."

And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other. … They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to God.

I thought the French were in league with the Devil.