Thursday, July 30, 2015

On Smug Jon Stewart

Camille Paglia:

I despise snark.  Snark is a disease that started with David Letterman and jumped to Jon Stewart and has proliferated since. I think it’s horrible for young people!   And this kind of snark atheism–let’s just invent that term right now–is stupid, and people who act like that are stupid. 
David Daley: You mentioned Jon Stewart, who leaves the “Daily Show” in two weeks. There’s handwringing from folks who think that he elevated or even transcended snark, that he utilized irony very effectively during the Bush years. And that he did the work of critiquing and fact-checking Fox and others on the right who helped create this debased media culture? What’s your sense of his influence?
I think Stewart’s show demonstrated the decline and vacuity of contemporary comedy. I cannot stand that smug, snarky, superior tone. I hated the fact that young people were getting their news through that filter of sophomoric snark.  Comedy, to me, is one of the major modern genres, and the big influences on my generation were Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl. Then Joan Rivers had an enormous impact on me–she’s one of my major role models.  It’s the old caustic, confrontational style of Jewish comedy. It was Jewish comedians who turned stand-up from the old gag-meister shtick of vaudeville into a biting analysis of current social issues, and they really pushed the envelope.  Lenny Bruce used stand-up to produce gasps and silence from the audience. And that’s my standard–a comedy of personal risk.  And by that standard, I’m sorry, but Jon Stewart is not a major figure. He’s certainly a highly successful T.V. personality, but I think he has debased political discourse.  I find nothing incisive in his work.  As for his influence, if he helped produce the hackneyed polarization of moral liberals versus evil conservatives, then he’s partly at fault for the political stalemate in the United States.
I don’t demonize Fox News. At what point will liberals wake up to realize the stranglehold that they had on the media for so long? They controlled the major newspapers and weekly newsmagazines and T.V. networks. It’s no coincidence that all of the great liberal forums have been slowly fading. They once had such incredible power.  Since the rise of the Web, the nightly network newscasts have become peripheral, and the New York Times and the Washington Post have been slowly fading and are struggling to survive.
Historically, talk radio arose via Rush Limbaugh in the early 1990s precisely because of this stranglehold by liberal discourse. For heaven’s sake, I was a Democrat who had just voted for Jesse Jackson in the 1988 primary, but I had to fight like mad in the early 1990s to get my views heard. The resistance of liberals in the media to new ideas was enormous. Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true!  Liberalism has sadly become a knee-jerk ideology, with people barricaded in their comfortable little cells. They think that their views are the only rational ones, and everyone else is not only evil but financed by the Koch brothers.  It’s so simplistic!

Monday, July 27, 2015

On Citizens not Assassinating Abortionists

Terrible Irony
Abortions kill innocent humans.  Now suppose an abortionist knows that he is killing innocent humans.  Such a person deserves to be killed.  Justice (prima facie) permits the killing of the abortionist--at least by one who has legitimate authority to do so.
Ordinary citizens sometimes kill murderers and do so permissibly.  If a school shooting is taking place and an ordinary citizen with a gun finds that the only reasonable way to stop the senseless killings is to shoot the mass murderer, the citizen is within his legal and moral rights to do so.  In fact, as I have argued more than once in this blog, justice (and love) in some cases seem to demand it.

Why then shouldn't ordinary citizens take matters into their own hands and kill abortionists?  One reason, of course, is that to do such is illegal.  One will go to jail.  But are there moral reasons beyond the pragmatic reason of not going to jail?

What if a citizen finds himself in an abortion clinic where the abortionist is about to "crush" and "crunch" a baby, in part to pay for some shiny new rims for her Lamborghini?  Is the vigilante not justified, whereas the person who stops the school shooter is?  Why is the vigilante not justified?

I think he is not.  Here is a sketch of an argument in support of that thought.  One reason for thinking not has to do with the fact that abortions are a systemic practice and abortions are legal (at least some) given legislation passed by a legitimate governing authority.  One has a moral duty to abide by criminal laws promulgated by a morally legitimate political authority, where abiding by such laws does not commit one to doing something that is unjust (on the very reasonable assumption that legitimate governments sometimes pass unjust laws).  In killing an abortionist, one only prolongs the time it will take for abortions to occur--killing an abortionist in a society like ours will result in a dead abortionist as well as dead babies.  There are plenty of other abortionists who will step in to take her place.  In addition, killing an abortionist is not like killing a school shooter in the act of shooting.  Abortions are planned out in advance and do not take place randomly in the eyes of the community.   There are other means one could take to stop the abortionist.  In fact, there are much better means which do not involve killing another human. 

Killing another human being should always be the last resort when it comes to stopping other killings.  Assassinating an abortionist sends a signal to the community that the government is not the final authority (this side of Luna) in matters of life and death.  To do such promotes anarchy against one's government; and the best arguments against anarchy focus on showing that anarchies cannot protect the rights of people more generally better than the government.  The vigilante lacks the moral authority to take lethal action, but acts as if he is a morally legitimate authority and that the government is not.  The same cannot be said for the person who stops a random mass shooting--for one, he has the legal authority to do so from a morally legitimate government.

But what if the U.S. government is not a (morally) legitimate authority, as some anarchists, libertarians, and Marxists have argued?  What if the U.S. government has de facto but not de jure authority?  Then the above argument would need modification. 

Sola Scriptura: Pro & Con

Here is an ongoing exchange over Sola Scriptura between Ed Feser (con) and Andrew Fulford (pro).

Feser: Feyerabend on empiricism and sola scriptura

Fulford: Initial response to Feser

Feser: Response #1 to Fulford

Feser: Response #2 to Fulford

Fulford: Response Part I to Feser

Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Racist Democrats and Planned Parenthood

The left likes to talk about racism.  A lot.  Rarely, though, is the notion defined.  Often the idea is that--whatever racism is--there can be racism even if there are no racists (there are racist "structures," "institutions," and the like).  I take this to be an absurd and unjustified extension of the term "racism," but perhaps the left has so distorted the meaning of the term that "racism" is now properly attributable to groups of people who individually do not harbor racist sentiments and motives.  Suppose that is true.  Then so is the following:

If we use disparate impact analysis to locate and root out structural racism--as the Obama administration used in Ferguson--then given (a) the high percentage of minorities killed by Planned Parenthood compared to whites and (b) the high percentage of abortion clinics in or near minority communities, Planned Parenthood is surely the most racist organization in America.  And given the Democrats' strong support for abortion and Planned Parenthood, the Democratic Party is arguably the most racist party in the U.S.  The death statistics speak for themselves.

So the next time racism comes up, it might be worth beginning the conversation with a discussion of the most racist organizations in the country and what is to be done about them.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Arguments Don't Have White Testicles

In a recent exchange with Preston Sprinkle about his book on the Bible and homosexuality, Eliel Cruz, comments (I believe in a tweet):
“Oh great. Just what we need. Yet another book about homosexuality by a white, straight, privileged male.”

I can't speak for Preston (who issued an apology in light of Cruz's blog post rebuttal linked to above), but I'd say that if there were anyone who needed to issue an apology, it is Cruz for attempting to silence a dissenting voice (and a sympathetic one at that!) with sentences cloaked in academese, mumbo jumbo.
What we need are some memorable one-liners to quickly combat such nonsense and bring people to their senses (there is a point to proverbs and aphorisms after all). To "Arguments Don't have Testicles" we might add "Arguments aren't white" and "Arguments have no sexual orientation."

Examples of practical application:
"You're a man.  You have no right to discuss abortion!"
Response: "Arguments don't have testicles!"

"What could a white man possibly have to say about racism!?"
Response: "Arguments have no race!  Arguments have no skin!"

"That's very heteronormative of you to say!"
Response: "Heteronormative?  Arguments aren't hetero or homo!  Their normativity is purely epistemic!"

Are arguments privileged?  Cruz certainly does not write as if they are. For him, he seems to privilege the telling of stories.   Remember: the left likes to talk about stories and "narratives"--stories, of course, are useful and pleasing whether they are fact or fiction.

[Note: I doubt Preston would affirm my suggested sentences; he does not see one of his roles as an unpopular and annoying fly.]

Feminism and Open Marriage

This couple could stand a pinch of  "oppressive patriarchy." Excerpt:

As I write this, my children are asleep in their room, Loretta Lynn is on the stereo, and my wife is out on a date with a man named Paulo. It’s her second date this week; her fourth this month so far. If it goes like the others, she’ll come home in the middle of the night, crawl into bed beside me, and tell me all about how she and Paulo had sex. I won’t explode with anger or seethe with resentment. I’ll tell her it’s a hot story and I’m glad she had fun. It’s hot because she’s excited, and I’m glad because I’m a feminist.

Before my wife started sleeping with other men, I certainly considered myself a feminist, but I really only understood it in the abstract. When I quit working to stay at home with the kids, I began to understand it on a whole new level. I am an economically dependent househusband coping with the withering drudgery of child-rearing. Now that I understand the reality of that situation, I don’t blame women for demanding more for themselves than the life of the housewife.

Still, as a man, I could, if I wanted to, portray what I’m doing as “work,” and thus claim for myself the prestige men traditionally derive from “work.” Whenever I tell someone I stay home with the kids, they invariably say, “Hardest work in the world.” They say this because the only way to account for a man at home with the kids is to say what he’s doing is hard work. But there’s a subtext in the compliment that makes it backhanded: We both know no one ever says it to a woman. Mothers care; fathers provide care. The difference is crucial. Despite my total withdrawal from the economy and the traditional sources of masculine identity, I can still argue I am a provider. I provide care.

In this way, my masculine self-image was stretched but not broken. Diaper bag notwithstanding, I was still a Man. It wasn’t until my wife mentioned one evening that she’d kissed another man and liked it and wanted to do more than kiss next time that I realized how my status as a Man depended on a single fact....

Here is the rest if you can stomach it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Obamazone., Racism, and Disparate Impact

If you don't get the joke, look up Ricci v. DeStefano
While you were sleeping last week, the Obama administration has set up a regulatory rule which essentially gives the federal government a lever to annex communities on the basis of disparate impact. (Learn what disparate impact is and how it is used.) Read more about it here and here

Malcolm Pollack offers an excellent analysis.  Here is the meat of it:

Here is an item that’s been going around over the past couple of days: an essay by Paul Sperry describing the Obama administration’s latest race-leveling operation.

The idea is to fish for “disparate impact” violations, wherever they can be found — in housing, lending, school discipline, academic performance, enrollment in gifted-student programs, etc. — and to use the coercive power of the State [i.e. the federal government] to flatten outcomes.

The Left has a secret weapon here, and in the current cultural climate, it’s a beaut. Here’s how it works:

1) If you go looking for disparate outcomes by racial groups (or by sex), you’ll certainly find them. They are real, and persistent. (See, for example, just how persistent they can be, here.)

2) When such disparate outcomes occur, there are only two possible causes: either they are due to an external obstacle, or something intrinsic to the group itself.

3) If all racial groups are assumed, as by current social convention they must be, to have exactly identical distributions of every cognitive and behavioral trait, then any variation in outcome that disparately affects a particular racial group must be evidence of some external obstacle. This can only be due to racism and injustice, and therefore it is just and proper for the State to detect and remove it, by whatever means necessary.

4) If however, you suggest that disparities under neutral policies may be due, even in part, to innate differences in the distribution of cognitive and behavioral characteristics in different racial groups, then you are a racist. (If you present actual evidence of such differences, you’re a “scientific” racist.)
Moreover, the fact that you are even thinking such things is evidence of the persistence and prevalence of racism in general, which in turns confirms the assumption that disparate outcomes are the result of pervasive and intractable racism, and not innate differences. This is what justifies redoubled efforts on the part of the State to bring every aspect of our lives under racial scrutiny, and impose corrective measures wherever disparate outcomes are found.

So: notwithstanding that race, as we are told, is a “social construct” with no basis in reality, the government will spare no effort to group people by race, and to scour vast collections of intrusively gathered data to find inequalities in social and economic outcomes — not on any individual basis, but by race. But despite race being real enough, apparently, to justify making such racial categorizations, race can have no deeper reality as regards any shared characteristics that might contribute to such inequalities. Race is, in other words, real, but only real enough to serve, somehow, as a marker for defining groups, and thereby to serve as the basis of racism, without having any other actual properties. Moreover (and this is what makes the whole thing work so beautifully): if you disagree with any of this, you are yourself a racist — and you have thereby just demonstrated that persistent racism is indeed the problem.

Interview of Justice Samuel Alito

Another good interview by Bill Kristol.  The first third of the interview centers around Alito's law school days, the second third focuses on his time in the Third Circuit and the nuts and bolts of Supreme Court work, and the last third discusses some Supreme Court cases, including the notorious Obergefell decision. 

"We are at sea."

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Abortion, the Democratic Party, and Single-Issue Voting

Blue States, Red States
Last week I posted the following on Facebook:
If you're thinking about voting Democratic, or when you try to get talked out of the dreaded "single-issue voting," just remember that you're voting for someone in a party that has backed killing babies ("fetus" being the standard euphemism) in the name of "unwanted pregnancies." The innocents killed in all our recent wars pales in comparison. If that's someone you can trust, then go for it.
In this post I want to follow-up and first address what the Democratic Platform is with respect to abortion.  Then I offer a few remarks on single-issue voting.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Understanding the Myopic Psychology of Liberals

Progressives hate traditional institutions for they are an impediment to swift and unrelenting "progress," and for many, power. But there is more, if Jonathan Haidt is correct.  The left cannot even understand the right, though the right can partially understand the left.  (More below). Given such a state of affairs, where at least one side cannot even understand the other, what civil, political alternative is there to keep us from tearing each other apart other than a return to federalism?
How to Understand Both Liberals and Conservatives (excerpt):
But Haidt’s second major discovery is far more consequential:  the concept of “the conservative advantage.” Based on painstaking cross-cultural social-psychological experimentation, Haidt establishes that the moral foundations of liberals and conservatives are not just different, they are dramatically unequal. The liberal moral matrix rests essentially entirely on the left-most foundations [i.e. Care/Harm, to a lesser extent Fairness/Cheating]; the conservative moral foundation—though slanted to the right—rests upon all six [value categories, i.e. Care/Harm; Fairness/Cheating; Liberty/Oppression; Loyalty/Betrayal; Authority/Subversion; Sanctity/Degradation].
This is a stunning finding with enormous implications. The first is that conservatives can relate to the moral thinking of liberals, but the converse is not true at all. Haidt, who is liberal himself, elegantly explains how and why conservatives will view liberals as merely misguided while liberals tend to view conservatives as incomprehensible, insane, immoral, etc.
Another implication is that liberal prescriptions tend to be incredibly single-minded as compared to those of conservatives. Haidt uses the metaphor of a bee hive to illustrate. A liberal, finding a bee in the hive suffering from injustice, is motivated more or less exclusively by the desire to get justice for the bee. A conservative, being partially driven by the Care/Harm foundation, also desires to alleviate the injustice, but tries to find a solution that also contemplates the survival of the hive itself.
Liberals seek to create justice and equity; whether doing so harms core institutions simply doesn’t enter into their moral reasoning. Conservatives, in contrast to their typical caricature, do care about justice and fairness, they merely cherish vital institutions relatively more. If there’s a conflict, conservatives will err toward protecting institutions. [This is somewhat simplistic insofar as many conservatives will also think that destroying such institutions is unfair and unjust.]
Sadly, “The Righteous Mind” proves irrefutably that trying to explain to liberals that their solutions might undermine vital institutions is fruitless. They cannot and will not relate, or even concede that such concerns fall into the realm of moral reasoning. The good news is that a coalition can be built among the rest of us who understand that destroying the hive to benefit the lone bee results inescapably in suffering for all.
Read all of it.

A Meditation on Death on My 41st Birthday

A short time is all there is you have here.  What is in store for you afterwards?  Here today, gone tomorrow.  When out of sight, you are soon out of mind.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage and Heresy

Some Progressions are More Progressive Than Others
Ryan T. Anderson:

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, many people have been wondering what do we do now. In my just-released book, Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, I argue that the pro-marriage movement should take its cue from pro-lifers after Roe v. Wade. At The Federalist earlier this week, I highlighted three practical tactics:
1. We must call the court’s ruling in Obergefell what it is: judicial activism.
2. We must protect our freedom to speak and live according to the truth about marriage.
3. We must redouble our efforts to make the case for it in the public square.
In my book I flesh out these three strategies, and then close by suggesting a larger framework for thinking about these challenges as a whole.
The two-thousand-year story of the Christian Church’s cultural and intellectual growth is a story of challenges answered. For the early Church, there were debates about who God is (and who is God). In response, the Church developed the wonderfully rich reflections of Trinitarian theology and Christology. In a sense, we have the early heresies to thank for this accomplishment. Arius’s errors gave us Athanasius’s refinements on Christology. Nestorius’s blunders gave us Cyril’s insights. In truth, of course, we have the Holy Spirit to thank for it all. He continually leads the Church to defend and deepen its understanding of the truth, against the peculiar errors of the age.
A thousand years later, with the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the Church saw renewed debates about salvation—building on those Augustine had waged with Pelagius, no less. Whichever side you favor in the debates of the sixteenth century, they left the Church as a whole with a much richer theology of justification, ecclesiology, and soteriology.
[...] TB: Anderson doesn't say this explicitly, but part of his point is that theological and philosophical theorizing often does not take place until there is a substantial division in the Church which calls for theoretical argumentation.  Theoria often follows praxis. 
This false humanism in John Paul II’s time was on powerful display in the political order, where totalitarianism grew. Today, blindness to the truth about the human person has led to a crisis of family and sexuality. But then as now, we see clearly the Church’s latest intellectual and cultural challenge: not the nature of God or redemption, but of man and morality. Our task is to explain what human persons most fundamentally are, and how we are to relate to one another within families and polities.
For us, as for John Paul II’s generation, nothing less than authentic freedom is at stake. For a freedom based on faulty anthropology and morality is slavery. Only a freedom based on the truth is worthy of the name.
Read the rest.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Don't Kill Me: I Was Once a Fetus

Here is a fairly close rendering of Alexander Pruss's brilliantly simple argument against abortion put in the first person.  (I accept full responsibility for any errors, and part of what I say might go slightly beyond what Pruss says in the particular article to which I linked).

Let L name the living organism that came into being as a result of the sperm from my father fertilizing the ovum of my mother nine-months before I was born.
Let A name the only animal sitting in my chair typing: Me.
(1) L never died.
(2) If L never died, then L still exists.
(3) If L still exists, then L is the same animal as A.
(4) Therefore, L is the same animal as A (from 1,2,3).
(5) Therefore, I am the same animal as L (Leibniz's Law).
(6) If I am the same animal as L, then I was once a fetus (embryo, etc).
(7) Therefore, I was once a fetus (from 5,6).
(8) If I was once a fetus, then only reasons which would justify killing me would justify killing the fetus.
(9) Therefore, only reasons which would justify killing me would justify killing the fetus (from 7, 8).
(10) There would have been no sufficient reasons which justified killing me when I was in the womb.
(11) Thus, there would have been no sufficient reasons which justified killing the fetus in the womb (from 9,10).**

*This allows for at least materialism about animals as well as hylomorphism. It's hard to see how it fits with substance dualism wherein I am identical with an immaterial soul.  But then for those who think that they are identical to an immaterial soul, the best move might be to go with Idealism; and Idealism fits much better with religious monotheism than it does with naturalism.

**Pruss's argument does not explicitly go so far as to say that there are no justifiable reasons for abortion.  His argument is focused on the fact that if one killed the fetus one would be killing my mother's fetus, that is, one would be killing me.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Problems with Penal Substitution Atonement Theories

According to Christian teaching, Christ in some way atones for sins, in particular his death plays a central role in atoning for sins.  But what does this mean?    Is it that Christ atones for everyone's sins by his death?  Just a few?  How does this work?

Various proposals have been offered to explain in what way Christ atones for sins: Ransom theories, penal substitution theories, satisfaction theories, moral exemplar theories, Christus Victor theories, and so on.  I will not rehearse them all here, I will just note that I have never seen a satisfactory explanation.  Nonetheless, I do think that some theories are better than others and that perhaps each theory has a kernel of truth worth preserving and incorporating into a better model.  Unfortunately, I do not currently have that model.  What I shall do here is lay out some of the problems with the penal substitution theory which is quite popular in the religious orbs I circle.   If any of the readers can offer rejoinders, perhaps I will better be able to work out what (if any) kernels of truth survive the objections to penal substitution theories.

So what is the penal substitution theory of atonement?  It is the theory which says atonement occurs in virtue of Jesus being a perfect substitute for our deserved punishment.  We have sinned and deserve punishment.  God's justice and wrath demands that someone be punished for our sins.  But God is not only just but loving and prefers a substitute for our punishment.  Of course not just any old person can be punished for the sake of all our sins.  But a man who is also fully divine could be such a person.  So the Father offers his Son on behalf of us to receive our punishment.

That's the basic view but details will vary depending on who is presenting his own particular version.  But before I lay out the objections, I also want to be very clear about something else: What I list below are problems with a theory of atonement , not problems with individual Bible passages which are appealed to for the theory.  For instance, the Bible talks about Christ being a sacrifice and Christ being sin.  It also talks about humans being ransomed and Jesus conquering sin and the Devil.  The question for the theorist is, in part, to try to figure out when figurative speech is being used and when it is not.  It won't do simply to pick out a verse and use that verse as your theory!  A verse isn't a theory.  A theory tries to account for all the data, and a Christian atonement theory tries to give in literal language an explanation for how it is that Christ's work atones for sins.  (As far as the "data" is concerned I am trying include all of it: Scripture, tradition, reasoning from the nature of God and natural law, experience, etc.)

And now five problems...

Friday, July 10, 2015

Christianity, Theocracy, and Liberal Democracy

Christians think that Christianity is The Way.  Jesus is thought to be divine, and his way is the way for humanity.  Everyone should not murder.  Everyone should not lust.   Everyone should turn the other cheek. Everyone should not steal.  Everyone should love their enemies.  Everyone should trust in Jesus.

Moreover it is thought Jesus's way is the only way.  "I am the way, the truth, and the life."  Salvation hinges on having faith in Jesus, living by his ethics, avoiding sins unto death, and so on.

The stakes are immense.  Given the immensity of the stakes, Christians should do all they can to turn people to The Way.  So why shouldn't Christians living in a state which is not a theocracy, advocate and do all that they can to bring about a theocracy?  Why should they not compel Muslims to profess that "Jesus is Lord" or face imprisonment, fine dissident atheists $135,000 who refuse to photograph a Christian wedding and thus cause psychological harm, and compel all states to recognize Christian marriages?

Liberal Christians often have scorn for the "theocratic Christian right," but should they given the stakes which involve eternal consequences?  Rarely is an argument given for why a theocracy should not be advanced.

Perhaps this is a beginning of an argument: Christians should not advocate for a theocracy for the central reason given to explain why God Himself allows there to be so much evil (i.e. for the Problem of Evil): He greatly values freedom and autonomy and, as such, coercion is to be avoided. 

Of course more needs to be said if one thinks that Christians, given the massive, coercive nature of the state should not advocate anarchy or libertarianism but socialism or something in between.  More can (and should) be said.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Justice Kennedy: Pro-Polygamous "Marriage"

Here are some of the most memorable quotations from Kennedy's recent SCOTUS opinion.  I have taken the liberty of modifying his words to fit with polygamous marriage.  As an exercise for the reader, see what other types of marriage you can come up with.  Once the reader gets a feel for the point of this little exercise, feel free to skip to Scalia's remarks below.

“The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society. The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. That institution — even as confined to opposite-sex relations — has evolved over time.”

“Until the mid-20th century, polygamous intimacy long had been condemned as immoral by the state itself in most Western nations, a belief often embodied in the criminal law. For this reason, among others, many persons did not deem polygamous people to have dignity in their own distinct identity. A truthful declaration by polygamous people of what was in their hearts had to remain unspoken.”

“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight [what insight?] reveal discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.”

“The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, at least two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation…There is dignity in the bond between at least two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices.”

“Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there. It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other.”

“[W]hile Lawrence confirmed a dimension of freedom that allows individuals to engage in intimate association without criminal liability, it does not follow that freedom stops there. Outlaw to outcast may be a step forward, but it does not achieve the full promise of liberty.”

“Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser.”

Polygamous people are consigned to an instability many monogamous couples would deem intolerable in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriage all the more precious by the significance it attaches to it, exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching that polygamous people are unequal in important respects. It demeans those who seek polygamy for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation’s society.”

“Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial to polygamous people of the right to marry works a grave and continuing harm. The imposition of this disability on polygamous people serves to disrespect and subordinate them. And the Equal Protection Clause, like the Due Process Clause, prohibits this unjustified infringement of the fundamental right to marry.”

“It is of no moment whether advocates of polygamous marriage now enjoy or lack momentum in the democratic process. The issue before the Court here is the legal question whether the Constitution protects the right of people seeking to be in a polygamous relationship to marry.”

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, at least two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Now Scalia:

“The world does not expect logic and precision in poetry or inspirational pop-philosophy; it demands them in the law.”

“If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”

Jesus on Celibacy

The (second to) Last Temptation of Christ
When is the last time you heard a sermon on celibacy (or chastity) at your church?

Matthew 19:
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”11 Jesus replied, Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Of course Jesus himself was celibate, and we are told a man tempted in every way.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Against Polygamous "Marriage": A Bad Case of Lovin' Yous

Don't Hate.  Be a Mate.  Don't Discriminate.

In response to a previous post about an argument against polygamous "marriage" but for same-sex "marriage," Dr. M. Douglass (aka "Dr. M.D.", aka "Dr. Doctor.") responds with a different argument against legalizing polygamous "marriage," and he also supplies some supplementary arguments and thoughts (these were in the comments section on Facebook so forgive Douglass's typos; also I don't know if Douglass endorses all of the arguments) :

[A] Here's an argument against polygamy that would not also apply to monogamous gay marriage: 1. If polygamy were legal, Q could game the system by marrying lots of people in order for Q's health insurance (or whatever) to extend to his/her handful (dozens/thousands/millions) of spouses. 2. It should not be legal for Q to be able to game the system in such a way. 3. So, polygamy should not be legal.
[B] As for relationships in which one party cannot give consent (pet-o-philia, objectophilia, etc.), how about this argument: 1. Marriage is a life-long mutually agreed-upon union of individuals. 2. One cannot be form a mutually agreed-upon union with a pug or a toaster. 3. Therefore, one cannot be married to a pug or a toaster.
[C] Child marriage meanwhile, could be rejected on the grounds that it is inherently abusive in nature or on the grounds that children should not be allowed to form life-long civil unions, since they cannot give consent. I would guess that incestuous relationships are often (perhaps usually) abusive in one way or another, and thus should be illegal as well.
[D] As I understand it, arguments that compare gay marriage with polygamy/incest/objectophilia/petophilia amount to this: "There is no plausible principle that would give us good reasons to legalize gay marriage without also allowing the other the other stuff." (Or, contrapositively: Any non-ad-hoc argument against the latter "marriages" would also apply to gay marriage.) The above polygamy argument seems pretty plausible to me.
Let me start with [D].

Monday, July 6, 2015

Chicago Violence

Any serious conversation about the recent violence in Chicago has to begin with the breakdown of the family--especially in the black community--the causes, and what (if anything) can be done about that by way of public policy. This will be a hard conversation to have with a supporter of the recent Obergefell decision for whom biological "marriage" and "family" have no special meaning or pride of place.  

Here is a slightly dated but timely piece by Heather MacDonald.  It is long but well worth reading in full.  Excerpt:
"None of the prominent voices calling for an end to youth violence—from Mayor Washington to Jesse Jackson to school administrators—noted that all of Wilson’s killers came from fatherless families (or that he had fathered an illegitimate child himself). Nor did the would-be reformers mention the all-important fact that a staggering 75 percent of Chicago’s black children were being born out of wedlock."

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Social Meaning of Marriage

A must read from Keith Burgess-Jackson with several useful links:

Ralph Wedgwood on the Social Meaning of Marriage

Ralph WedgwoodMarriage is more than just a relationship that is publicly avowed, or a cluster of concrete legal rights and obligations. It is a legal relationship that has a generally-understood social meaning of a certain kind. None of the options currently available to same-sex couples—'commitment ceremonies' with sympathetic clergymen, private contracts, or 'registered domestic partnerships'—has a social meaning of this kind; none of these options is as familiar and widely understood as marriage. As a result, these options will be less effective than marriage for couples who want to affirm their commitment in a way that the community will readily understand. To fulfil this desire effectively, same-sex couples need to enter a relationship that has a social meaning of the appropriate kind. For this, they need the legal status of marriage, since, as I have argued, the social meaning is tied to this legal status. In effect, they need to be able to say that they are married. Suppose that same-sex unions had a different name—as it might be, 'quarriage'. There will presumably be many fewer same-sex quarriages than opposite-sex marriages; so the term 'quarriage' would be much less familiar and widely understood than 'marriage', and for this reason quarriage would be less effective at fulfilling this serious desire than marriage.
There is no reason to doubt that same-sex couples could have access to a relationship that has the social meaning of marriage. True, the current social meaning of marriage involves the assumption that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. But if same-sex couples could legally marry, it would presumably soon become common knowledge that some marriages were same-sex marriages. So introducing same-sex marriage would change the social meaning of marriage. But there is no reason to think that it would change society's core expectations of marriage (that marriage involves sexual intimacy, domestic and economic cooperation and a voluntary mutual commitment). Thus, we may presume that the legalization of same-sex marriage would give same-sex couples access to the social meaning of marriage.
(Ralph Wedgwood, "The Fundamental Argument for Same-Sex Marriage," The Journal of Political Philosophy 7 [September 1999]: 225-42, at 241 [italics in original])
Note from KBJ: Wedgwood and other supporters of homosexual "marriage" are in for a shock. They think that the social meaning of marriage will transfer automatically to anything the law deems a marriage. To see why this is unlikely, suppose the law decreed, today, that human beings are married (or can becomemarried, by taking proper steps) to their companion animals, such as cats and dogs. Are people likely to start thinking of these relationships as marriages? Obviously not. What they'll do, almost certainly, is reserve the word "marriage" for unions of one man and one woman. If people refer to the new relationships as marriage at all, it will be with a modifier, such as "animal-human marriage," or "animal-human 'marriage'." You can't (thank goodness) change the social meaning of a thing through legislation or court decree. I predict that very few people will refer to homosexual "marriages" as "marriage." The language will be either (1) "traditional marriage" (a retronym) and "homosexual marriage" or (2) "marriage" and "homosexual marriage." If you think this is unlikely, consider how often you hear the term "male nurse," many years after men went into nursing.
Note 2 from KBJ: My friend Bill Vallicella (a.k.a. Maverick Philosopher) has some thoughts about terminology.
Note 3 from KBJ: Perhaps "real marriage" and "homosexual marriage" will catch on. By the way, don't you love it that progressive elites can go only so far in ramming homosexual "marriage" down our throats? They can confer a bundle of legal rights on two men or two women (just as they can confer rights on chickens by requiring that egg-laying chickens be given so much cage space), but (1) they can't change people's minds (beliefs, values, attitudes), (2) they can't change the way people speak, (3) they can't change church doctrine (in Roman Catholicism, homosexuality is "a disordered sexual inclination"), and (4) they can't make something that is morally unacceptable (or widely believed to be morally unacceptable) morally acceptable. How long ago was it that homosexuality was a diagnosable mental disorder? Here is the text from page 44 of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2d ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 1968), commonly known as DSM-II:
302 Sexual deviations This category is for individuals whose sexual interests are directed primarily toward objects other than people of the opposite sex, toward sexual acts not usually associated with coitus, or toward coitus performed under bizarre circumstances as in necrophilia, pedophilia, sexual sadism, and fetishism. Even though many find their practices distasteful, they remain unable to substitute normal sexual behavior for them. This diagnosis is not appropriate for individuals who perform deviant sexual acts because normal sexual objects are not available to them.
302.0 Homosexuality
302.1 Fetishism
302.2 Pedophilia
302.3 Transvestitism
302.4 Exhibitionism
302.5* Voyeurism*
302.6* Sadism*
302.7* Masochism*
302.8 Other sexual deviation
[302.9 Unspecified sexual deviation]
How many of these sexual deviations are already normalized? Which will be next to be normalized?
Note 4 from KBJ: Homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1974 as a result of political protests by homosexual activists and their sympathizers. The psychiatric community caved. Think about that.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Crisis

Thomas Paine still relevant today.  Replace "Britain" with "progressives" and this is about right:
THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but "to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER" and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.

Here is the whole thing.  Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Case for Gay "Marriage" & Against Polygamous "Marriage"

That case is rarely argued for.  The left is driven largely by emotion, fluctuating between misguided empathy and outrage, as can be seen over and over by the lack of understanding when someone makes the comparison of homosex with incest and polygamy.  There is a ubiquitous failure to understand that the comparison is made because the reasons being given for the permissibility of homosex and for mandating homosexual "marriage" also entail the permissibility of certain incestuous and polygamous relationships.  Instead of offering an argument for the one which excludes the others, the proponent of gay marriage reacts with offense and indignation ("How DARE you compare them!").  As the saying goes, truth hurts.

But occasionally one does come across an argument for gay "marriage" but against polygamous "marriage."  Here is one such argument.

Some excerpts with commentary interpolated:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Obama's DOJ: Boys Must Use Girls' Potty

The Department of [In]Justice has now weighed in on the ever important issue of bathroom sex: transgenders must be allowed to use the one with which they identify.  Failure to do so violates sex [gender?] discrimination under Title IX.  (Ah, good old Title IX to the rescue.)

Remember not too long ago, sometime after Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) but probably before Lawerence v. Texas (2003), when it was common to say that government--especially the federal government--had no business being in your bedroom?  My how far we've come.  Government out of the bedroom and into the toilet.  Change you can believe in.  

What else has the administration has been up to?  Negotiations have stalled with Iran as (surprise, surprise) Iran refuses to have nuclear weapons inspections.  See also the Iran deal's fatal flaw.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

After SCOTUS: Withdrawing From Society

The final installment of Bill Vallicella's recent posts on the same-sex ruling.


SCOTUS and Benedict

In the wake of recent events, Rod Dreher renews his call for the Benedict Option:
It is now clear that for this Court, extremism in the pursuit of the Sexual Revolution’s goals is no vice. True, the majority opinion nodded and smiled in the direction of the First Amendment, in an attempt to calm the fears of those worried about religious liberty. But when a Supreme Court majority is willing to invent rights out of nothing, it is impossible to have faith that the First Amendment will offer any but the barest protection to religious dissenters from gay rights orthodoxy.
This is especially the case, as it seems to me, given the Left's relentless and characteristically dishonest assault on Second Amendment rights.  The only real back up to the First Amendment is the exercise of the rights guaranteed by the Second.  You will have noticed that the Left never misses an opportunity to limit law-abiding citizens' access to guns and ammunition. What motivates leftists is the drive to curtail and ultimately eliminate what could be called 'real' liberties such as the liberty to own property, to make money and keep it, to defend one's life, liberty and property, together with the liberty to acquire the means to the defense of life, liberty and property. 
Indeed, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito explicitly warned religious traditionalists that this decision leaves them vulnerable. Alito warns that Obergefell “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,” and will be used to oppress the faithful “by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”
[. . .]
It is time for what I call the Benedict Option. In his 1982 book After Virtue, the eminent philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre likened the current age to the fall of ancient Rome. He pointed to Benedict of Nursia, a pious young Christian who left the chaos of Rome to go to the woods to pray, as an example for us. We who want to live by the traditional virtues, MacIntyre said, have to pioneer new ways of doing so in community. We await, he said “a new — and doubtless very different — St. Benedict.”
Throughout the early Middle Ages, Benedict’s communities formed monasteries, and kept the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness. Eventually, the Benedictine monks helped refound civilization.
I believe that orthodox Christians today are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts. How do we take the Benedict Option, and build resilient communities within our condition of internal exile, and under increasingly hostile conditions? I don’t know. But we had better figure this out together, and soon, while there is time.
Last fall, I spoke with the prior of the Benedictine monastery in Nursia, and told him about the Benedict Option. So many Christians, he told me, have no clue how far things have decayed in our aggressively secularizing world. The future for Christians will be within the Benedict Option, the monk said, or it won’t be at all.
Obergefell is a sign of the times, for those with eyes to see. This isn’t the view of wild-eyed prophets wearing animal skins and shouting in the desert. It is the view of four Supreme Court justices, in effect declaring from the bench the decline and fall of the traditional American social, political, and legal order.
There is a potential problem with the Benedict Option, however. 

Read the rest.

Why Not Privatize Marriage?


Being a conservative, I advocate limited government.  Big government leads to big trouble as we fight endlessly, acrimoniously, and fruitlessly over all sorts of issues that we really ought not be fighting over.  As one of my slogans has it, "The bigger the government, the more to fight over."  The final clause of the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution enshrines the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."  So the more the government does things that grieve us, by intruding into our lives and limiting our liberties, the more we will petition, lobby, and generally raise hell with the government and with our political opponents.  If you try to tell me how much soda I can buy at a pop, or how capacious my ammo mags must be, or how I must speak to assuage the tender sensitivities of the Pee Cee, or if you try to stop me from home-schooling my kids, or force me to buy health insurance, or force me to cater a same-sex 'marriage' ceremony, then you are spoiling for a fight and you will get it.  Think of how much time, energy, and money we waste battling our political enemies, working to undo what we take to be their damage, the damage of ObamaCare being a prime example.
So if you want less contention, work for smaller government.  The smaller the government, the less to fight over.
Along these lines, one might think it wise to sidestep the acrimony of the marriage debate by simply privatizing marriage.  But this would be a mistake.  There are certain legitimate functions of government, and regulating marriage is one of them. Here is an argument from an important paper entitled "What is Marriage?" by Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson.  (I thank Peter Lupu for bringing this article to my attention.)

Read the rest.

Same-Sex Marriage: No Surprise Conservatives Lost

Philosopher Bill Vallicella has three excellent posts on the recent same-sex "marriage" issue.  I was going to put them all together in one post, but in case anyone wants to comment here or on Facebook I will separate all three.


Four reasons off the top of my head.
1. Conservatives don't know how to argue and persuade.  In the main, conservatives are not at home on the plane of ideas and abstractions where one must do battle with leftist obfuscation.   Conservatives are often non-intellectual when they are not anti-intellectual.  I am talking about conservatives 'in the trenches' of ordinary life, politics, and the mass media, the ones with some clout; I am not referring to conservative intellectuals who are intellectual enough but whose influence is limited.
Conservatives, by and large, are doers not thinkers, builders, not scribblers.  They are at home on the terra firma of the concrete particular but at sea in the realm of abstraction.  They know in their dumb inarticulate way that  there is something deeply wrong with same-sex 'marriage,' but they cannot explain what it is in a manner to command the respect of their opponents.  George W. Bush, a well-meaning, earnest fellow whose countenance puts me in mind of that of Alfred E. Neuman, could only get the length of such flat-footed asseverations as: "Marriage is between a man and a woman." 

2. Conservatives muddy the waters with religion, when the topic ought to be approached in a secular way. After all, we need to convince secularists and that will be impossible if we rely on religious traditions and doctrines.  You may believe that traditional marriage is an institution with divine sanction.  But that will cut no ice with an atheist!  Sorry to say something so bloody obvious, but it needs to be said.
3. Liberalism is Emotion-Driven.  Just as one cannot hope to persuade people using premises they adamantly reject, one cannot get through to people whose skulls are full of emotional mush.  To the emotion-driven, the obviously discriminatory exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage ends the discussion.  They won't stay to listen to an explanation as to why some forms of discrimination are justified.