Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Religious Conservatives

I was on my standard 600 mile drive yesterday and surfing the radio (CD player is broken). I came upon the President speaking to some enthusiastic crowd so I stopped surfing and listened.

Our President was addressing a rally on the mall for Gay Rights. And the President was telling these Americans that he supported some of their causes. That he supported the Repeal of DOMA. That he supported the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. The crowd was going nuts.

It sounded like a really good speech.

After it ended, some guy named John came on. He was absolutely horrified that President Obama had ended his speech to a group of Americans with "God Bless America!". How dare the President support people who were gay!!!!

John then went on to talk about how Homosexuality was an abomination and a sin and a really nasty thing. And then he opened the phone lines and caller after caller came on to say that this was a horrible thing.

And in the middle of this there was an ad.

The ad was for some group supporting Christians in some country who are being persecuted by Muslims simply because they are Christians and the Muslims are trying to impose Shiara Law.

And I thought, how much the same those Religious Conservatives were.

They both cherry pick from their holy books to support their beliefs that other people are evil or sick or depraved or just infidels.

And they both want to make their vision of right and wrong into the law.

They pick and choose from their holy books what they want to read and ignore the rest and then claim some sort of moral high ground because they are just doing what their holy book tells them to do. At least the part of their holy book that they choose to emphasize.

And in many Muslim countries, the conservatives are winning and women are being forced under the veil and Christians are presecuted and harrassed.

And here, in the Land of the Free, there is a powerful push to repeal the law in New Hampshire to ban Same Sex Marriage. Not because there is any evidence that Gay Marriage is bad for anybody. Not because there is any evidence that allowing lesbian couples the same benefits as straight couples does society any harm. There isn't any evidence because allowing two people who love each other to marry turns out to be a good thing for society. But they oppose it because the parts of the bible they choose to read tell them its an abomination.

And they think their opinion should be law.

What, really, is the difference between these two groups of religious conservatives?


Matty said...

First 3 off the top of my head....

1. Christian conservatives don't kill those who convert from their religion.

2. They effect their vision of their society through persuasion/lobbying a democratic government not by dictatorial oppression.

3. Unlike in most fundamentalist Muslim societies, here in a Christian society gays are free to live a gay lifestyle without legitimate fear for their lives.

I've heard this argument before and it's simplistic in the extreme. That said, the rhetoric of some conservatives makes it all to easy to make the comparison, and that is frustrating.

While I maintain my firm belief that homosexuality is morally wrong and that gay marriage is a dangerous redefinition of a long-standing institution (two topics which we have debated ad-nauseam) I am absolutely opposed to the language and tone that many people on my side of this debate employ.

I honestly think there is room for reasonable people to come down on both sides of this debate (largely depending on where they derive their moral compass) but demonizing the opposition is no way to make converts and it is in direct conflict with what I believe is my responsibility as a Christian in a society.

Anonymous said...

I will give you #1, but disagree on your two other points. There was no persuasion of Roger Williams by the religious conservatives when he fled Rhode Massachusetts. It was his life that was threatened. Just one man? Well lets not forget about the Spanish inquisition. Also gays are not free to live to live safely but are too frequently the victims of violence.

Uncle Walt said...

1. I agree that Christian Conservatives don't kill those who leave the religion. That particular fetish seems to be unique to Islam.

2. Not so much. When Conservative Christians kill doctors who perform abortions and picket the homes of people who work at Planned Parenthood centers, and yell obscenities at those who are trying to enter a medical facility. Those people are not trying to use the political process to achieve their goals, they are trying to use terrorism to achieve their goals.
When you call a doctor who performs abortions a murderer, and publish his home address, you are inviting violence. And that invitation to violence as a means to a goal is the definition of terrorism. And those people are conservative Christians.
When you beat someone to death because they are Gay or protest at the funerals of slain servicemen with signs like "God Hates Fags" you are not trying to make a political statement.
3. I think you might talk to gays who live in rural areas and small towns and ask them about their fears. Matthew Sheppard was not the only gay man killed for the crime of being gay. And if Conservative Christians had their way, sodomy would still be illegal and you could send people to prison for the way they choose to share pleasure. And if Conservative Christians had their way it would still be legal to discrminate in employment and housing purely because of whom someone loves and gay would not be allowed to adopt children. And because of Conservative Christians gays still cannot serve openly in our Armed Forces and they still can't marry the person they love in most states.
So don't try to claim that Conservative Christians do not actively and aggressively try to ensure that gays cannot live the lives the choose, purely because they are gay.

It is a simplistic argument. No question. And it often does rely on extreme examples.

Uncle Walt said...

Comment continued
It is a simplistic argument. No question. And it often does rely on extreme examples.

But this kind of extremism is the almost inevitable result when a group feels that they have the magic answer to all questions and that answer comes from god and those who don't agree with their vision of right and wrong are sinners and evil and doomed to burn in hell.

If your world view is shaped by beliefs, not facts, then extremism is both easy and inevitable.

Matty said...

Fair enough, I was under the mistaken impression that we were dealing with issues from say... The United States. Walt seemed to be referring to people who are alive and well enough to call into a radio talk show. I must say that if the most pressing issues of religious intolerance occurred 300 or more years ago then I have been vindicated.

As to gays being all too often the victims of violence... I think people in general are all to often the victims of violence. Am a bigot to feel that the crime is more of a problem than the motivation?

Matty said...

You have a lot there and it'll be tough hit it all but I have a few thoughts.

Killing abortion doctor (in the singular)=wrong. Going to people's homes to protest=wrong. God hates fags= both wrong to say and Biblically inaccurate. I have nothing but contempt for Phelps and you'll find that he is regularly counter-protested by the very conservative Christians you are denouncing. BTW, you insisted on using the term terrorism... have you forgotten our past debates regard Ayers?

So now I have agreed with you on these issues which deal with the narrowest of slivers on the margin of the political scene.

I suppose I could ask gays in rural areas and small towns but that would just be perceptions (likely slanted) and anecdotal, not the almighty facts that you purport to worship.

Do you have indisputable facts regarding the treatment of gays in these areas? If not you are merely relying on your belief that a large portion of conservative Christians and not only hateful, but violently so.

I've already stated that I dislike the tone of discourse of some and am disgusted by the acts of that very small number. So am I a bigot simply for having/holding to a belief system and voting along those lines?

I would concur that any type of absolute belief system will inevitably create a fringe which resorts to violence but you're wearing blinders if you think that this is confined only to the religious.

Can we agree to debate mainstream thought or must we resort to cherry-picking the radical fringe (cause the left has a boat-load of them too)?

Uncle Walt said...

The left wing has nut jobs, ours just aren't as violent. They don't openly call for the death of a President they dislike. They don't kill doctors. They don't bring guns to town halls.

Your nut jobs try to intimidate those they disagree with. And yes that is terrorism.

As an aside, I never claimed that William Ayers wasn't a domestic terrorist, just that his relationship with then Senator Obama was of no consequence to Senator Obama's qualification for the Presidency.

The closest we come to the level of violence taht seems to be far more common to conservative nuts is the Eco-Terrorists who burn down ski resorts. As far as I know, even those nuts haven't killed anybody though.

And in the end you agreed with my whole point.

"I would concur that any type of absolute belief system will inevitably create a fringe which resorts to violence but you're wearing blinders if you think that this is confined only to the religious."

I dont' claim that such extremism is confined to religous groups, but I do claim that having a faith based world view does make violent extremism both more likely and more violent.

Matty said...

You have got to be kidding me if you never picked up on the multitude of 'kill Bush' stuff that went on this decade. It was at many of the ironically titled 'peace rallies.' I'll send you links to the pictures if you want to see them. Speaking of rallies, there is always plenty of leftist violence outside the G20 or WTO meetings.

True they don't kill doctors but they do kill cops. There are several cop-killer jailed heros of the left.

I wasn't trying dredge up the Obama-Ayers link, but only to remind you that he was a leftist terrorist (unapologetically so) and is now a relatively mainstream leftist thinker (ie. not from the fringe).

I might even concede that there are more incidents of ideological American conservatives loonies (mainly cause I don't feel like taking the time to go tit for tat with you) if you'll concede that the left is far more likely to idolize murderers.

There are still people alive today who defended Papa Joe Stalin and his mind-boggling violence. Castro and Che are still held up as icons in many spheres of the modern American left (including prominent placement in an Obama campaign office).

So we have 1 conservative looney killing a doctor vs 100 regular liberal folks glorifying a mass murder. They're all disgusting.

I have not agreed with your point. You assume that I limit an absolute truth ideology to the religious sphere. I don't. I think any world view - secular or religious - which has an absolutist view is going lead to loonies on the fringes. It's not necessarily a fault with the world-view, it's a flaw in humanity.

As far as a faith-based world view creating more violent extremists....

I can't agree with that. With as many people as were killed by the pseudo-'scientific' Nazi ideology and the atheist communist ideology, it hard to claim that religion lends a specific violence to it's extremist adherents.

Uncle Walt said...

We have strayed a little from the theme of my original thread and are in broader waters now.

Here's the thing

Both sides have their nut jobs.

But I stay with my observation that your nut jobs are more prone to violence and that a world view based on belief at the expense of facts is far more likely to spawn the kind of radical and violent action I am refering to.

Both sides have dictators that have killed millions. And in every case, they acted based on beliefs, not facts and they allowed their beliefs to run to such extremes that millions died.

Which gets back to the core theme of this entire thread.

If your world view is shaped by beliefs, not facts, then extremism is both easy and inevitable.

And that was the thrust of my original post. Religious Conservatives of all stripes base their lives on their beliefs and will often deny facts and science because they believe that their beliefs are better.

And once facts don't matter, then its easy to be an extremist and justified to be violent.

Matty said...

Fair enough. I apologize for broadening the debate beyond it's intended perimeters. Let me refocus and put a fine point on the points I intended.

1. Per my point about the WTO/G20/anti-war protests... lefty activists are regularly violent. They are just generally stupid enough to start violence against riot cops who are prepared for it.


2. Liberalism (and at times the worship of science) has all the hallmarks of a religious faith and blind, conscienceless adherence to it are just as prone to end in violence as extremists from a traditional religious standpoint.

This was my main point about Communism and Nazism. Their 'science' told them that certain races were sub-human. Their 'rational thought' told them that in the interests of progress and a utopian society the deaths of 30 million Ukrainians was an acceptable cost.

My reference to them wasn't geo-political, it was very much a critique about how in the extreme, a purely humanist, secularist, atheist, etc. world view is just as prone to individual atrocities as a religious one. And really, differences in worldview is what we are talking about, right?

Uncle Walt said...

We are saying the same thing with a somewhat different emphasis.

Your statement about liberalism
"blind, conscienceless adherence to it are just as prone to end in violence as extremists from a traditional religious standpoint."

is essentially as me saying

"If your world view is shaped by beliefs, not facts, then extremism is both easy and inevitable."

Which folds back to my initial question.

Other than the degree of their tatics, what is the difference between fundamentalist Christians who are willing to go to extremes, both legal and illegal, in support of imposing their world view on the rest of us, and fundamentalist Muslims who are striving to impose their view of Sharia law on those around them.

Matty said...

Yes, those 2 statements are, in essence, making the same point and if you are willing to take my quoted statement about liberalism (to which you seem to have agreed) and graft it to your closing statement then I agree.

It seems that our main bone of contention is my taking exception to your having singled out religious extremists instead of dealing with extremist ideologues of any stripe.

Congratulations, I think we have come to our first pseudo agreement!

Love you, old man.

Uncle Walt said...

OLD MAN?????
OLD MAN???!!!!!

Why you little twerp!!!!

Love you as well

Secret word

Patty said...

The problem with referring to facts as if they are the final arbiter of truth is that no one has ALL of the facts, only those that they have learned. No one knows how many crazies there really are on either side of the political spectrum, we just believe that the others are more unreasonable and thus more dangerous.
Of the 4 American presidents that have been killed in office 3 were Republican. In the last thirty years there were attempts to kill two other Republican presidents. We can assign our own interpretations to this information, that does not make our interpretation a fact. While there are too many crazies on the fringes of both parties- most are not.

Uncle Walt said...

I don't claim that facts are the final arbiter of truth.

But facts are generally the best arbiter of truth.

I don't ahve all the facts, don't claim to. And I am always willing to listen to the facts that someone else thinks are important. But far to often people of faith counter fact based arguments with their feelings or beliefs and insist that their beliefs are every bit as valid a basis for public policy as facts.

And I disagree.

I don't argue abortion much. The entire debate comes down to a person definition of what is life. When does life begin. When does it end. Those are philosophical or metaphysical questions. I have my beliefs on the questions as does everyone else. But this is not a debate that can come down to the difference between your facts and mine. There are no facts in that debate, only beliefs.

But that is not true on so many important issues facing us today.

Gays in the military is a classic example. People of faith oppose allowing gays to serve openly because they believe homosexuality to be wrong or immoral. They talk about perserving good order and discipline and claim that allowing gays to serve openly would hurt retention and recruitment. The problem is that there is no evidence for their beliefs and plenty of evidence they are wrong. Surveys of active service members indicate that they believe that they are already serving with gay people and as long as the gays do their job and carry their own weight, the vast majority of straight service people simply don't care. Gays that have come out and been discharged have very frequently gotten the support of those they served with who either didn't know they were gay or suspected and just didn't care. Most nations in the industrialized world allow gays to serve openly in their military and there is no evidence that military readiness or effetiveness has suffered in the those militarys.
But those without facts, only beliefs, continue to insist that their beliefs are a valid basis for public policy, despite their conflict with the facts.

You mentioned that 3 of the 4 Presidents were assisinated in office were Republicans but you made no arguement that they were assisinated by liberals or Democrats or anyone other than fanatics or nut cases so I am not suere what point you were trying to make.

Facts are not everything, but they are important. And people who believe what they want to believe, despite the facts, shouldn't be trying to impose their beliefs on the rest of us.

You are entitled to your beliefs. But facts have no owner.