Archive for February 2013
Barbaric prisons, for-profit healthcare, the death penalty, the imperial system of measurements–my country is uniquely horrible among industrial democracies in a hundred ways. But what do we do right?
No monarchy. Monarchy is not an “outdated institution”. The regulatory bodies governing telegraphs are outdated institutions. Monarchy was a swindle from the start. There was never a time when “God says I get to rule over ya’ll, and also my kids do too” should have been a compelling argument. C’mon, say its defenders, the constitutional monarchies don’t actually rule anymore. But that’s just defending the crown by saying it’s pointless.
No titled nobility. Hell if I’m calling any other human being “Lord”. I’m still pissed Senator Ted Kennedy accepted an honorary knighthood.
No state church. Another decision by the founders to cut the feudal bullshit.
The first amendment. We have one of the most liberal free speech regimes in the world. I think some countries have reasonable restrictions on speech given their histories (Germany bans Nazi imagery, Rwanda bans ethnicity-based polemics), but I’m happy erring on the side of freedom here.
E pluribus unum. Strength in diversity is built into the national motto. I’m not saying immigrants are treated with the dignity they deserve, just that nation-of-immigrants rhetoric is mainstream and minaret bans are not. Birthright citizenship means we don’t have third-generation immigrants who can’t vote. I’m worried for homogeneous nation-states in a world of quick travel and climate change.
“I know! It’s probably the cigarettes and bulimia. But while we’re commenting on each other’s bodies, I love your new wrinkles, make you look real distinguished. One of your legs looks shorter than the other though–is it the pants? Speaking of those pants, you’re stuffing, right? Because that is one unbelievable bulge you’ve got going.
So how’ve you been?”
When I was in elementary school, we had Valentine’s Day celebrations. And we had to give Valentine’s Day cards to everyone else in the class. The reasoning seems to be: What eight year olds need is a holiday celebrating romantic love! This is weird enough on its own. But then teachers realize: Romantic love often brings a great deal of pain that even many adults cannot handle. At this point, they have three options:
1) Drop it. Realize your passing fancy wasn’t a spark of genius and ignore Valentine’s entirely.
2) “Build character”. This is the philosophy that life is pain, so you might as well pile it on while kids are young. If weird kids don’t realize they’re unloveable at age eight, they might be happy, and that’s liberal PC bullshit.
3) Gut the holiday. Remove the romance and exclusivity but keep the trappings, yielding a hollow shell of forced platonic friendship and inefficient candy distribution. Every one of my elementary school teachers decided this was a good idea.
School is a prison of the surreal.
Atheist Greta Christina is critical of gay Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson’s book God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage. She says religious arguments have no place in public discourse because they’re unfounded, unverifiable, and dangerously immune to factual correction.
If Gene Robinson were a politician, I’d agree! But he’s not a politician governing a secular republic, he’s a Christian trying to persuade other Christians. Hell, even Christina reports that it’s mostly a secular case for same-sex marriage with a half-assed religious veneer. In her blog’s comments Christina writes:
jamessweet @ #1, and others: I agree that the purpose of this sort of argument, whether consciously or unconsciously, is to give believers a religious rationalization for a position that they know, for secular reasons, is probably right. But… well, actually, that’s sort of my point. I don’t want religious rationalizations to be part of political discourse. You can provide religious rationalizations for anything.
But it’s not general political discourse. It’s intra-Christian discourse, so of course God and the Bible will be involved. There is no alternative except to demand Christians stop talking about God with each other, and dropping everything until we’re all atheists is a bad strategy. When Christina says things like,
When we base our decisions on what we think God wants…why should we even pay attention to the Bible in the first place?…But when we make a religious case for same-sex marriage — heck, when we make a religious case for any matter of public policy — we’re conceding that public policy should be based on religion.
I think she’s misunderstanding or misrepresenting Bishop Robinson’s position. Robinson isn’t in Christina’s “we” here. No one’s suggesting that atheists make religious arguments–that would indeed be dishonest and counterproductive. But I see little harm in Christians couching equality in religious terms to persuade other Christians.