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November 21, 2008

Comments

d'd'dave, When you say "financed by confiscation," do you mean taxes? If so, aren't conservatives equally guilty? Surely the difference between 36% and 39% on a very small percentage of the population doesn't significantly change the immorality of confiscating that first 36%, and of course sales taxes hit nearly everyone. But if it's a sin, it's original sin. Indeed, G-d himself commanded tithing, gleaning set-asides for the poor, and other forms of confiscation (notably the return of all bought land in the Jubilee year). Did you mean something else?

Brett, the objection to prayer is not the horror of having to sit through a prayer, but the fear that one's child is being inculcated into another religion. Most Christian parents wouldn't send their kid to a madrassah, and many bitterly resent it when the school teaches their kids actual facts about evolution, but they seem to have no problem with the idea of making atheist kids learn religion.

I might add that the only reason this issue comes up only for atheists is that by the time the Establishment Clause was made applicable to the public schools, the Christian Right had already been cowed into dropping their prior policy of forcing Catholic and Jewish kids to recite Protestant prayers. Us yids and micks got too powerful politically, so the G-d-botherers switched to neutral prayers that only bother atheists. But the principle is the same: religion is far too important to parents to let the majority preach to captive children 180 days a year.

On a related topic, can anyone explain to me why keeping religious assertions out of the mouth of the government is equated with keeping religion "out of the public square"? That's some pretty small square, if it doesn't include any private property. Last time I checked, you could find a religious ornament basically on any residential block in America, and a church every mile or so.

"... but they seem to have no problem with the idea of making atheist kids learn religion."

It's not a matter of learning religion; learning about religion is fine.

It's a matter of not being forced to practice someone else's religion. Or to literally sing hymns to it.

"On a related topic, can anyone explain to me why keeping religious assertions out of the mouth of the government is equated with keeping religion 'out of the public square'?"

Because it's only by distorting the issue into that frame that they have any hope of selling their distortion. Explaining that everyone in public is free to display and practice their religion, and worship as they please all they want, and that they're only forbidden from using government to force their own religion on everyone else, which is the truth, isn't a frame that convinces all that many people.

Same for the fact that everyone is free to pray in schools all they want; they're simply forbidden from using the schools to force prayer on people officially. (As the saying goes, there's prayer every time there's a surprise quiz.)

And, of course, few people are thrilled at the notion of turning the school or government owned building or forum over to a religion they despise or regard as highly foreign, for that religion to be preached to all.

Unless I've missed the political Christians who are up for official school Satanist prayers, Muslim prayers, Scientology audits, and so on, trading off with their own practices.

I'd like to return to Kerr's original post for a moment.

Think about abortion, school prayer, gay rights, flag burning, the death penalty — you know, the real 'hot button' issues. In each of these areas, a victory for the conservative side means that the political process is left unaltered. On the other hand, a victory for the liberal side means that the court intervenes and mandates that the majority preference — the generally conservative view — is out of bounds.

This is wrong.

Of the issues Kerr names here, there are precisely two for which the liberal position places the conservative position "out of bounds". Those are the death penalty and school prayer.

And the liberal position does *not* prohibit people praying in school. It prohibits schools requiring prayer regardless of whether individual students can participate in good conscience.

So, the only liberal position among Kerr's examples that actually prevent anyone doing anything they want to do is the death penalty. Some liberals would like it to be prohibited, period.

For every other example, the liberal position places nothing out of bounds. Rather, it extends the bounds to include personal choices that are prohibited by the conservative position.

Among examples Kerr does not name, the only liberal position involving a restriction on personal choice or behavior that comes to mind is gun laws. In general, liberals favor limiting and controlling the type and/or number of guns an individual can own, and also favor placing some restrictions on ownership.

Net/net, I don't think that you can characterize either the liberal or conservative position as consistently favoring or prohibiting the "majority preference", whatever it happens to be.

On most of the hot button issues, a victory for the liberal side means that liberals are saved the trouble of going through the political process.

This assumes that an appeal to the courts is not part of the political process.

A loss doesn't mean their view is not permitted, only that the issue is dealt with in the elected branches like most other issues.

Conservatives are perfectly happy to appeal to the courts as well. See the DC handgun ban.

Liberals want different things than conservatives, and vice versa. Both groups use the political process to enforce their preferences to the best of their ability.

That's because both think their preferences are *better*.

I think we need to live with the fact that we're going to continue to duke it out in the public sphere.

May the best position win.

Thanks -

"It prohibits schools requiring prayer regardless of whether individual students can participate in good conscience."

Respectfully, that's not quite it. What's prohibited is school-sponsored prayer, voluntary or not. That it's voluntary, and not required, isn't relevant.

ThatLeftTurn: This is why at the top of the thread I said to publius "It would be better if you were to stick to issues that can be confined to the frame you are trying to work within, IMHO."

Reinforcing Publius's mention of abortion with an assertion that forcing women to have babies against their will isn't really about individual rights? Yeah, that was so going to work!

david: My understanding is that they consider a fetus to have a soul. They don't consider parting a soul from its body to be a minor thing.

Yet, repeatedly: they show no interest in preventing these "murders", and actively support policies that tend to increase the abortion rate.

As for your analogy: slaves exist, still, all round the world. A person who takes a pure and public moral stance "No one should be a slave!" but does nothing whatsoever to free any slaves, and actively supports policies that tend to increase slavery, is hardly convincing as genuine, are they? Whereas someone who works their guts out to diminish both slavery and the ills that cause slavery, plainly does think that slavery is a terrible evil, even if at no time have they uttered the line "But no one should be a slave!"

Parting the soul from the fetus is a problem only for believers in the strict version of original sin. If one believes (as St.Augustine* decreed) that the soul of the unborn would go to hell, abortion is actually worse than "simple" murder (and the RCC has stated that often enough). If on the other hand the fetus is "innocent"**, the parting of the soul should pose no problem (at least for the fetus). I don't take really seriously those that ask "What if Mary had aborted Jesus?".

*whom I despise for this and some other similar inhuman doctrines
**before it starts to masturbate of course (fetuses do). ;-)

Yet, repeatedly: they show no interest in preventing these "murders",

Except for their interest in prohibiting them entirely by law.

and actively support policies that tend to increase the abortion rate.

Except for the policy of prohibiting abortions.

out, blasted italics.


Except for their interest in prohibiting them entirely by law.

Making abortion illegal, as anyone with any interest in the issue of preventing abortion knows, does not prevent abortions. It just ensures that women with a medical need to terminate their pregnancy are much more likely to die instead, and that women who just want to terminate an unwanted pregnancy get an illegal abortion - which is still safer, statistically, than carrying a baby to term. In any country where abortion has been made illegal, the net effect is never to decrease the abortion rate, but to vastly increase the maternal morbidity/mortality rates.

So no: there is no evidence that these people actually care about reducing the number of "murders".

Bloody Typepad. Bloody SixApart. Bloody Pro-lifer italics.

Abortion - the ice-nine of internet commenting.

Incidently,
Antislavery International (UK)

Free the Slaves (US)

Anti-Slavery">http://antislavery.org.au/index.html"">Anti-Slavery Project (Australia)

"I might add that the only reason this issue comes up only for atheists is that by the time the Establishment Clause was made applicable to the public schools, the Christian Right had already been cowed into dropping their prior policy of forcing Catholic and Jewish kids to recite Protestant prayers."

But before that happened, it made most of the modern culture wars look like a toy-soldier skirmish - most notably in 1840s Philadelphia. The local Catholic bishop had been protesting mandatory Protestant bible-readings (as well as the use of anti-Catholic textbooks), asking that Catholic children be allowed to use Catholic bibles, etc. The eventual weak compromise (Catholic kids got the option to leave the room) combined with rumor-mongering (the Papists were trying to take the Bible out of the schools!! )and especially rising nativism exploded into days of rioting in May and July of 1844, with perhaps 30 to 40 people killed, perhaps ~100 injured, homes and businesses looted and destroyed, and a Catholic church burned down; the July riot led to a pitched battle between the nativist mob and the state militia which had been called in to restore order, including the use of cannons on both sides (cannons were also used to bombard another church).

There was enough concern that the violence was going to spread to New York (they had their own Catholic church burning back in 1831, there was an ongoing political fight over Protestant public school indoctrination that may have sparked the Philly one, and nativists were planning a mass rally the day after the May riots) that armed guards were posted at Catholic churches and sufficient pressure applied that the rally was canceled, which worked.

Bible Riots: When Christians Killed Each Other Over Religion in Public Schools
Wikipedia: Philadelphia Nativist Riots
and etc.

Mr Trilobite

//do you mean taxes?//

Yes, I mean taxes. For the record, obviously some taxes are needed. The focus of my comment was on the urge to continually add services to the menu which, of course, demands more taxes.

//But if it's a sin//

I haven't, so far, resorted to G-d as an authority for my position. I have not labeled excessive and progressive taxation as a sin. But if you insist...

//G-d himself commanded tithing//

Tithing is not progressive. It is a flat 10%.

//gleaning set-asides for the poor//

Yes. It's a good idea. And more or less progressive.

//confiscation (notably the return of all bought land in the Jubilee year).//

It was not only land. All debts to fellow Israelites were cancelled at the Jubilee year. In regard to land, it is not technically confiscation because the land was not technically sold. It was technically leased by the 'buyer' for whatever period was left until jubilee and the lease payment was presumably commensurate with the length of term remaining. In many ways this is a good plan for equalizing the population every so often. A foolish guy could recover his property every so often and get a new start - and the foolish guy wouldn't have got the much cash to waste from the sale of his property in the first place.

I do not object to this plan at all.

There are further things to consider that I think do not help your point.

1. Tithing was commanded but not enforced. It was voluntary. A person could withhold his tithe with no civil penalty. The 'penalty' was outlined in the blessings and curses section of deuteronomy which is essentially a rundown of cause and effect rather than 'curse'. The effect of not tithing is essentially an inferior civilization.

2. The land ownership regime had some flaws. There was no means by which an immigrant could own land permanently. They could only lease it for short periods until the next jubilee. They were in danger of forming a permanent underclass. Furthermore, land was heritable by all children. Individuals in large families, after generations, would tend to have less land than individuals in large families. Would they begin to form an underclass as a result?

One could argue that the system equated land capital with human capital: large families had more human capital whereas small families had more land capital.

In any case, I think this system argues for a basic safety net and against progressive tax rates.

One final point. The tithe was used for the priesthood which was essentially the education and court system. It was not a pension system, or a medicare system, or a military.

"because they have a fundamental commitment to using the political process in a non-violent manner to effect change (rather than via direct action), and they realize that melodramatic direct action is unlikely to stop the activity they object to for very long and undercuts their chances of making progress in the political arena.

Just because one feels strongly on a matter of great moral import, doesn't mean that one have to go vigilante. The abolitionist movement wasn't all John Brown either. Also, unfortunately there are some who have stepped over the line by bombing clinics and threatening doctors."

Well if they don't want to take melodramatic action, then maybe they should refrain from using melodramatic language to self-aggrandize themselves as "pro-life."

It would be more accurate to say "Opposed to abortion but not willing to do anything about it except to congratulate oneself for moral superiority."

My husband is a Buddhist and opposed to abortion. he is also opposes war ,the death penalty and even killing in self-defense. He eats no meat and wears no leather. However he doesn't call himself "pro-life" and he doesn't refer to people who kill other people legally as murderers.

Why? Because he realized that he isn't morally superior to other people. He is just doing his best as best he can which is what the rest of us are doing.

I can remember hearing a speaker rail against Boeing for producing cluster bombs and cruise missles. WHich is, in my opinion, bad. The speaker, however, framed the Boeing workers as being no better than concentration guards and characterized the company exs as no better than murderers. And I can remember thinking,"Well, what does that make me?" After all, my taxes are paying for it and I am not willing to go to jail for refusing to pay my taxes.

We are all bozos on this bus. It is possible to object to things, and to object strongly without assuming moral superiority and without assuming that the people who disagree are bad people.

My objection is to people who use the kind of language wihich serves no purpose except to feed their egos and does so at the expense of discussion. Calling abortion "murder" doesn't do a thing to stop abortion. It just polarizes the discussion, creates shouting matches, and offensively implies that anyone who disagreses is complict in murder and is anti-life.

If people are going to indulge themseles in that kind of self righteousnes, then I think they should be vigilantes. At least then their actions would be congruent with their stated beliefs. My preference, however, is that people not be vigilantes and that, instead, they approach difficult moral choices with some humility.

"Making abortion illegal, as anyone with any interest in the issue of preventing abortion knows, does not prevent abortions."

It's a lot more complex than you make it sound. Prohibition of abortion has mostly been combined with other things like contraception controls, divorce controls, etc., so that it's hard to see the effect of prohibition alone on population growth.

But aside from that nit, you're absolutely right. Anyone who opposed abortion and was an informed, rational actor would be focusing on things other than absolute prohibition (Actually, a rational actor would be as informed as possible, so that's probably redundant).

That's the problem, though. I think all you've demonstrated is that they're not rational actors.

I've spent a lot of time trying to understand conservatives of all sorts, because I believe that understanding them is a prerequisite for persuading them to compromise (if that's possible) or defeating them (if it's not).

I don't know if you even care about persuading anyone. But that's my starting point. For that reason, getting their true beliefs and motivations right is, to me, very important. If pro-lifers are actually all about forcing women, then I'm asking the wrong questions.

Part of my working hypothesis was that issues like contraception and abortion became central (sorry, hilzoy!) to Christianity as a result of their use by church leaders in trying to increase the congregation's population. If that's true, the congregation could plausibly internalize abortion as being evil and wrong in the same way they internalized any other arbitrary religious stricture. But they would truly believe that abortion was wrong and evil.

Anyway, you've given me a lot to think about. I certainly can't dismiss what your saying. And even if you're wrong, your arguments seem powerful as a way to force conservatives, in a political setting like a legislature, to address the "rational actor" perspective. It's likely they would come off looking foolish in trying to do so.

ObWi rule #1:

a single mention of abortion any where in a thread guarantees that the rest of the thread will be about abortion, to the exclusion of any other topic.

I think that's just an instance of a more general rule:

A single mention of X anywhere in a thread guarantees that the rest of the thread will be about X, to the exclusion of any other topic.

Where X includes, but is not limited to:

1. abortion
2. the fairness doctrine
3. Bush v. Gore

I'm sure I'm missing a bunch

David Kilmer -- on some blogs, you could add

4. Israel/Palestine

I haven't seen that happen here, but maybe I just missed it.

And on this blog specifically: 5. The 2nd amendement (at least if Mr.Bellmore is around)

"Even dead humans are given the final right to decide (in my country, and I think in yours) if they'll permit their bodies to be made use of to save lives."

Not in the UK they're not. The next of kin has final say, even if you're carrying an organ donor card.

Ginger Yellow: Not in the UK they're not. The next of kin has final say, even if you're carrying an organ donor card.

Sure, the next of kin can override your expressed wishes and decide not to let them make use of your organs once you're dead. Hospitals never want trouble with the next-of-kin, however much the law is on their side.

If you have left clearly expressed wishes that you do not want your organs used once you're dead but want to be buried whole and entire... actually, I don't think that even your next of kin can override your wishes then: your cadaver remains your property.

One final point. The tithe was used for the priesthood which was essentially the education and court system. It was not a pension system, or a medicare system, or a military.

Not quite right.

The tithe was an offering that you, yourself, ate in a sacramental way. It was a gesture of thanks and a recognition that everything you had was from God.

Ditto the offering of the first-born of your livestock, and the first-fruits of your fields.

The tithe that you gave every *third* year was to be offered first to the Levites. They could eat as much as they wanted from it.

The bulk of the sustenance of the Levites, aka the priestly clan, came from the offerings presented in the context of the temple cult. For which, you'll want to refer to Leviticus. A lot of food is involved.

The priesthood was, primarily, responsible for carrying out the requirements of the temple cult. They did made up part of the court system, but the judges were also involved.

The requirement as regards folks in need was this:

Is there anyone poor among you, one of your brothers, in any town of yours in the country which Yahweh your God is giving you? DO not harden your heart or close your hand against that poor brother of yours, but be open handed with him and lend him enough for his needs.

Deutronomy 15:7-8.

"Lend" here is explicitly framed in the context of the sabbatical year, during which all debts are forgiven. In other words, just freaking give, and don't worry about when and how you'll be paid back.

It's also true, as you note, that there was no political infrastructure created to enforce the Deuteronomical law. That is because the law constituted the terms of God's covenant with Israel. If they failed to obey it, God himself would enforce it, by crushing the nation, delivering them over to their enemies, and driving them from the land into captivity.

In comparison: the IRS, not so bad.

Thanks -

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