Friday, August 30, 2013

Are you a diehard, loyal (Republican/Democrat) and a Christian? Then you're a fool.

One of the reasons I made the previous post is because of the following: I recognize that sincere, believing Christians can vote for, or favor, one or another political party, or favor various political solutions or non-solutions to problems. Believe in universal single-payer health care, believe in a mandatory minimum income for all people, believe in libertarian near-anarchy - really, I don't doubt you can come to such conclusions for one reason or another. I do not doubt your *motivations*, not necessarily your intellect, just for favoring these things, voting for one party over another, etc. Even if it's fairly extreme.

There's some exceptions to this. If you believe in the legality of abortion, very much unrestricted, after the second trimester? If you support punishing people with fines for refusing to partake in or express approval of gay marriage or same-sex relationships? If you support bombing a country into a state of de-islamification and democracy? If you support unrestricted illegal immigration? Then you've gone too far afield for me, Christian or not. I think the number of sincere Christians who accept any one of these things are thankfully low in number, however, so it's rare that actual political views are going to remove common ground between myself and someone of a different political persuasion.

There's one exception. If you're a Proud and Loyal Democrat? If you think it's a bragging point that you've voted Republican in practically every election you've taken part in? The moment I pick up that you have extreme party loyalty going on - not merely a pragmatic decision, but a full belief that yours is the party filled with good people and the other party must be filled with monsters and people deluded by monsters? That's the moment I realize I'm dealing with a political idiot who's going to be largely immune to reason when it comes to anything that has any obvious political ramifications. When your political party loyalty defines a good part of who you are, you have - willingly or not - decided at some point that calm, reflective thought is a dangerous thing, and is best holstered when it comes to anything related to society or politics. Which, nowadays, is pretty well everything.

I can count on the following from a party loyalist:

* Whether bombing a nation that has neither attacked us and has no capability to attack us will be justified almost entirely based on the political party leader ordering the bombing.

* Whether a case of sexual harassment is a terrible thing that one must immediately resign over, or an incident of some lying bitch trying to make a name for herself, or a simple mistake that one should apologize and be allowed to move on from, will be determined by the party of the perpetrator.

* In the case of the diehard Democrat Christian, the legality of abortion until and quite possibly moments after birth is just the law of the land and will never, ever change, and trying to change it is a waste of time, so you should just get used to it, even if you're pro-life and pay lip service to the claim that life begins at conception. In the case of a diehard Republican Christian, tax breaks on the wealthy are practically sacrosanct. There is no such thing as too large of a tax break, tax breaks always lead to more tax revenue, and even if they don't taxes are always too high as they now stand and should be vastly lower.

* Christians in the other party are, as a rule - and without exception - either monsters, or complete dupes. It is impossible for them to have a different opinion, to have different but reasonable priorities, or to want to solve the same problem a different way. Either they are heartless monsters, or they are incredibly stupid to disagree with Your Party. The idea that this is even potentially a terrible attitude to take will sound mystifying. After all, if one disagrees with another, one automatically thinks the other is wrong - they have made a mistake. And if they made a mistake knowingly, they're a monster. Unknowingly, and they're stupid. That's what stupid means, after all - being the person who is wrong, or who disagrees with what is right.

This isn't every person who votes primarily Republican or Democrat. You can do that, you can believe one party is largely better than the other, without stooping to this level. But once you're at this level - once the world divides into the categories of 'People on my party's side - good.', 'People opposing my party - evil or fooled.' and 'People who don't support either party yet - potential converts', you've stopped being someone who anyone can have a reasonable conversation with, and become a person who only responds to the most brute carrots and sticks.

What's particularly sad about people like this is that they've elevated their party over their religion. Instead of having common ground first and foremost with fellow Christians, they only have common ground with other people of their party. The Cult of Gnu atheist who wants all religion stamped out and quite possibly push to place belief in God on the DSM? Hey, you both vote Democrat - he's an ally at the end of the day, you guys just don't see eye to eye on some things. But oh, the pro-life believer in God and the resurrection of Christ who votes Republican? Idiot or devil-monster. Try to change this person's mind, maybe - primarily by telling them how horrible their beliefs are - but be careful, because they may say their party is right on a particular issue, and you'll have to be ready to fight such heresy the moment it leaves their sinning lips.

I think people like these pose a problem to American Christianity, and probably Christianity in general. I would like to believe this is a divide that can be crossed over - not with every person, but with many, even most. Some days, unfortunately, I believe this more than others.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A post specifically for liberals who are sincere Christians

I've been wanting to do a post like this for quite a while, and now - due to an opportunity presenting itself - I present it here.

I dislike both major political parties. I have some pretty considerable disagreements with most conservatives as well - but at the end of the day, my political views tend conservative. I oppose universal health care mandates, I oppose federal welfare states, and more. At the same time, I'm open to state and, especially, local health care and welfare policies - and I'd like to offer liberal Christians a chance to tell me just why I'm wrong in taking such a broad position.

My only requirement for commenters in this thread is that they be civil, and that they be sincere, believing Christians. Which here means, literal belief in God and the resurrection of Christ.

This is largely aimed specifically at two people in particular, but otherwise, all comers are welcome here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Defeating the anti-theistic argument from extinction

One of the arguments in the 'God would never have done that!' pile concerns extinction. After all, natural history is replete with a variety of now extinct species. After all, what kind of God would create various species - with or without an evolutionary process - only to let them die out?

I think this argument is pretty terrible, but for the moment grant that it makes a point. All I ask is the following.

Would this damage the aforementioned argument? Or even raise the prospect of that argument dying altogether in the future?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Who supports Russian anti-LGBT propaganda laws?

I've been reading up on the current East-West standoff brewing in Russia over their recent unanimously passed legislation outlawing, basically, LGBT propaganda. Before I comment, I want to note that I'm not supporting or opposing the legislation - I don't even know the strict summary of it. And I also condemn any idiots who take it upon themselves to physically assault people for just about any reason short of 'threatening their lives / family with harm'. What I want to focus on here is a few facts going unreported in the conversation about Russia's anti-LGBT propaganda law.

Claim: Russia's anti-LGBT law is entirely religiously motivated.

I mean, it seems reasonable - right? After all, as we've been told repeatedly in the West, all arguments against same-sex sexual relations and same-sex marriage are religious arguments, and thus have no place in the law based on that fact.

There's two problems with that. First is the fact that Russian polls are reporting 88% support for Russia's anti-gay propaganda law. But unless things have changed radically, around a third of Russia is either non-religious, atheist, or undecided. That would mean that, if these numbers are accurate, then it's certain that substantial numbers of the irreligious in Russia are supporting the anti-LGBT propaganda law. This is hardly being reported in any news article I've so far come across - they mention the orthodox, they mention religious objections, but atheist/'secular' support for the law isn't spoken of at all. Rather like how the previous APA position on same-sex attraction has gone down the memory hole, and now it's always been the opinion of the religious, and the religious alone, that same-sex attraction is disordered.

Further evidence comes in the form of the vote itself. Again, you'll read reports talking about these laws passing unanimously in the Duma - 434-0. What you won't hear about is the current Duma makeup. 49.5% United Russia, 19.2% Communist Party, 13.2% A Just Russia, 11.7% LDPR.

That means the far-left and the far-right in Russia came together to support this bill. Once again, unless the Communists are now hotbeds of religious fervor, apparently the situation is a little more complicated.

There's more going on here that's worth talking about, but I wanted to get these particular facts out. They're hardly being mentioned anywhere, and they put the entire situation in Russia in a very different light than what others are intentionally trying to present.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Another ex-lesbian sighting

Through a campaign spokesperson Ms. McCray told Capital New York’s Azi Paybarah: “In the 1970′s, I identified as a lesbian and wrote about it. In 1991, I met the love of my life, married him.”It is unclear how she transitioned from a self-described lesbian who was confident that she “had always been more attracted to women, both emotionally and physically, than to men” to a political wife in a heterosexual marriage.
That's a very good question. So, is she an ex-lesbian? If so, apparently sexuality is - at least for some people, even people who were outwardly quite convinced of their sexuality - a bit more fluid than we've been led to believe. If she was straight or bisexual all along, well, then people can apparently delude themselves even when they think they're being sincere (or she was lying for some reason, how weird would that be.)

Monday, August 12, 2013

LGBT propaganda is always a sight to behold.

What I really like about this picture is how it manages to imply that adoption agencies will give children to any drunken, dysfunctional, violent family around - it's only gay couples who are barred from adopting children.

Also, that gay couple's house? Unintentionally creepy. What, they just went and bought a bunch of toys and wallpaper and purchased a room, well in advance of even adopting a child? I suppose you could say 'They wanted to show that they are the absolute model, picture-perfect, ideal gay couple for raising a child', but if I were in charge of placing a child with a home, I think I'd be a bit spooked by the people who were so super-eager they already had a room picked out and furnished without even knowing they were a likely candidate.

But either way, I actually enjoy coming across this sort of propaganda. There's something to be learned from it, and it's fun to analyze.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

It's both reasonable to be agnostic about relativity, and also reasonable to accept claims of revelation - conversations with a deist

Yet another productive conversation. It's always nice when these things don't devolve into shit-flinging (pretty much all the Cult of Gnu knows how to do), and discussing things with an actual deist is rare.

The discussion mostly centered around the division of faith and reason. It was granted that natural knowledge of God is possible, but argued by Walter that to make that next step - accepting revelation - is something other than reason. 'Faith, rather than reason'. Nothing too new on that front.

I defended two main claims in the discussion. First, it's entirely acceptable for a person to be agnostic about claims that they are unwilling and/or incapable of verifying for themselves. I think that position sounds reflexively reasonable to most people - except if it's consistently applied, it means it's acceptable to be agnostic about large swaths of scientific claims. Is relativity theory true? Most people would probably say 'yes', and most of those people probably haven't the foggiest idea of how they'd even begin to verify this for themselves - and no, getting a quote from a seemingly super-smart scientist doesn't help, or even finding a poll of scientists in the relevant field answering this question, doesn't help. That gets us as far as testimony, often second or third hand testimony, about facts and details that most of us are simply out of our league when it comes to investigating.

Note that I'm not saying that it's mandatory to be skeptical about these claims: I simply think it's a live, reasonable option. As I said in the thread, I don't think the usual moves here work. 'The smart scientists say..!' Great. How do I know they're really good at physics - the topic I know nothing about - again? Yet more second- and third-hand testimony? 'All scientists say'? First, this is often an asspull claim, and asking for the data to back it up is enough to shut down the conversation. But even with it - even with direct, widespread testimony - I'm still stuck in the position of trusting a bunch of people who I don't know about a field I am unfamiliar with, trusting their expertise which I am very incapable of gauging, about a topic I barely know how to begin investigating even if I wanted to. Saying it's mandatory that I believe the answers to difficult scientific questions strikes me as bizarre, and I think says a lot less about the desire to be reasonable than the desire to fit in with a certain subculture. Again, it's not that I'm arguing we SHOULD all be agnostic - I'm just going to hold up agnosticism, in that situation, as a live option.

On the flipside? I also believe it's reasonable to accept revelation provisionally based on one's own investigations into the relevant data. Again, in this conversation I didn't argue that one MUST accept revelation - I just held this conclusion, after such an investigation, to be in principle possible to arrive at. The key here is that this isn't about a special brand of religious faith - instead, from the perspective I argued for (and particular for the deist), it's just a surprisingly banal brand of reasoning that most people are otherwise happy to employ in their day to day lives, not only about scientific claims but historical claims as well. The Deist already accepts that God exists. Alleged testimony from God can be researched, examined, investigated. Proved definitely? Not empirically, no - but we can't prove very much at all empirically. We can do a reasonable job of weeding out charlatans, we can see if the claims square with the knowledge we arrive at via philosophy or metaphysics or even intuition, and we can provisionally accept the revelatory claims. Granted, this isn't necessarily perfect. But so what?

I think, after a pretty long discussion (sometimes animated too), my arguments stood up. The deist already accepts God's existence, and I think modest deism is vastly easier to defend than positive atheism. The idea that God would communicate with man is certainly not ruled out (some deists seem to actually think otherwise, and in the process load up deism with a dogma that is very difficult to defend), so a claim that a man communicated with God is not ruled out of court immediately. From there on, it's a pretty run of the mill display of reasoning to accept revelatory ('God-given') claims in principle. No appeals to mystical experience needed, though of course those aren't ruled out. No appeals to an unfamiliar or necessarily special form of faith. It may be more dispassionate than people are used to, but there's nothing obviously wrong with the approach, especially if deism is granted at the outset.

This actually puts me in a different corner than the philosophers I most admire, like Ed Feser or the ID gang or otherwise. While I love and accept various metaphysical arguments, I think getting to a bare and basic theism is far easier than most people (even most theists!) are willing to admit - and that the move from a bare deism/theism to religious belief is pretty small, all through pretty banal, common sense reasoning. On the flipside, I find it funny that people - including a lot of people who would normally claim to adhere to the claim of "It is wrong, always and everywhere, to believe something on insufficient evidence" (putting aside its other failings for a moment), will piss themselves when you go ahead and admit you won't believe some things you neither personally have nor understand the evidence for. I think van Inwagen said that Clifford's Principle is selectively deployed - it's brought out against religion, but almost never for (say) political beliefs. I think he didn't go far enough with his observation.

A leftist Catholic sees the problem with the Catholic left

An interesting piece, all told. A self-described member of the Catholic Left notes the reason why some leftists are overlooking all of Pope Francis' exhortations to help and focus on the poor: because he's still against abortion, and he still regards same-sex marriage and same-sex sexual behavior wrong and sinful. Without capitulation on those topics, he's still a Bad Pope.

So what's the analysis in light of this?
If Catholics on the Left are not willing to stand up for the unborn, we have, and should have, no credibility when we stand up for the undocumented or the unemployed or the other "un's" in our society, the very people the Holy Father has asked out to embrace. We know where Ms. Hunt stands. Where is the rest of the Catholic Left going to stand? 
Sounds like as good of a line in the sand as any.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Do you wonder why this sort of thing happens?

Why would a group of pro-abortion protesters walk into a church and interrupt a mass?

Here's one reason, and what I believe is the likely one: they want to be threatening. They want to put out the impression that, if you don't agree with them, they may show up at your church - or maybe your place of work, even your home - and make you feel threatened. And if you're threatened, maybe you'll stop opposing abortion. Maybe you'll shut up and give them what they want. And if you don't, well, maybe they need to make the message get across clearer.

On that note, it's a good time to familiarize yourself with the concealed carry laws in your state. The fact that this protest took place in Chile should do nothing to make anyone feel relaxed.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

So apparently there's a cure for transgender desires

We simply have to find out what happened in this man's case.

I will say, I like the fact that he changed his name from Don to Dawn to Don again. If nothing else, he spared everyone the hassle of having to call him some brand new name.

Of course, it's a single case and who knows what variables are at work in it (scientists should really be trying to find out), but nevertheless... here a man was cured of an illness. He thought he was a woman, and then suddenly he no longer thought this. Quite the massive change in brain chemistry if his story is legit. Naturally, no one can call him 'cured' - that would cause outrage. Better yet, in articles, the man spends some enormous amount of time reassuring everyone that he's still totally on-board with the LGBT movement - gay marriage and everything. In fact he comes across as so obsessively repeating that that I wonder if the temporary spate of amnesia is just a lark, on the grounds that waking up one day and realizing 'I want my dick back, this sucks' is a situation no LGBT adherent wants to recognize as event remotely possible.

It reminds me of this case of a lesbian Arizona politician deciding that she likes men after all. Apparently she thought she was straight, then bisexual, then a lesbian in college - and then a pansexual. Of course, downplayed by all media sides was the fact that a lesbian suddenly included 'men' in her list of objects of sexual attraction, or what this means when a woman that old and in that liberal of an environment can either A) still be confused about her sexuality, or B) literally change it. But that would be quite an awkward conversation, so instead we have to pretend she 'came out as pansexual' and entirely downplay that this makes her an 'ex-lesbian'.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Punish corporations and business-owners?

One of the saddest things about watching the whole immigration bill political theatre play out is how self-described conservatives are willfully, painfully blind about the source of their woes. They can identify 'liberals' as major backers of illegal immigrant amnesty. They can identify 'RINOs'. Even Republicans.

But they have severe trouble identifying, or even talking about, the role businesses are playing in this legislation. The idea that corporations - business interests - are pushing for legislation that will help them at the expense of the country is something they are blind and mute to. Just as they'll blame the courts, liberals, and universities for the advances of the LGBT agenda, but the role of businesses in treating gays as a valuable market demographic that they, by necessity, had to cater to and treat well (and therefore endorse the 'pride' of) just goes right over their heads. Because it's too sacred, and too close to the heart of economic conservatism.

Of course, there's also pragmatic reasons behind this. The business owners pour money into the GOP (just as they pour it into the Democratic party, but forget that for a moment), so you can't piss them off. No one's sailing to the presidency based on the money churchgoers, pro-life activists and the rest are donating - that sort of money doesn't buy massive stadiums to hold political rallies. Of course, once you recognize this, you also recognize that the GOP is no longer even 'the lesser of two evils' but just the same exact evil in a slightly different flavor.

But is it even possible to react to this situation anymore? What can you do - threaten to punish the business leaders? Great, now we're making the government the kingmaker overseeing business policies - what a stupid idea. How about boycotts? Sure, that would work... except we can't count on much of anyone to do any boycotting, and half the country would go out of their way to support any business the other half was attacking.

So what options are left? There really seem to be none that are obvious.