Wednesday, June 28, 2006

This is why you can't always argue with Christians rationally

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how the "liberal media" favors gay marriage. My point in talking about it is not to rebut the idea. For one, it is so thoroughly ridiculous that no rational person can really look at the news and find some inherent pro-gay bias. For two, that's not really what I'm interested in. For me, this article highlights some of the problems we have with "fundamentalist" Christians. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe Christianity is itself a problem any more than I believe that Islam is the source of terrorists. It's used as an excuse by many to be sure, but I'm pretty sure we'd have the same people wanting to enforce their moral views and lifestyles on everyone else anyway. They'd just have some other reason, like the godless Soviets did.

The main issue at hand is that when one side refuses to compromise, you have no room for the democratic process. It is often assumed that a democracy by its nature is not a tyranny, but this is a mistaken notion. Surely we've all heard the line "the tyranny of the masses" before. In a democracy it is entirely possible for the majority to force their will upon minorities who think, live, and worship differently. In the United States, we have come, over time, to believe that the rights of the individual are the keystone of our society, and therefore the rights of minorities, no matter how few in number, are equal to the rights of the majority. This topic arises in the book I recently reviewed, Divided by God, on my other blog. I'll discuss these matters more fully on that blog, but here let me say that one area of great contention that we are still wrangling with is how much religious views should inform our law-making.

Again, the fact that we discuss this question is not a problem in itself. The idea that believers want their laws to reflect their values (albeit values given to them by a religious system) is not unreasonable. The trouble arises when believers want their values placed on everyone, without compromise. This is exactly what men like James Dobson, the writer of this article, desire. Since the current generation of conservatives arose, it has become a popular strategy to present themselves as the "victims" of a liberal elite that rules the country. Never mind that Republicans control a majority in both chambers of Congress and the White House, never mind that most Supreme Court Justices are conservatives. Let me give a quote that I think demonstrates the mindset (and gameplan) of these guys.

If the battle to protect marriage takes even five more years, liberal judges and activists will have destroyed this 5,000-year-old institution, which was designed by the Creator, Himself. Even now, they are close to achieving that coveted objective.

Now this is pretty good spin for some guy who just said in an earlier paragraph that 20 states had voted for constitutinal amendments banning gay marriage! Wow, the attack on "traditional" marriage is so strong that only seven states in the union so much as extend benefits to a same-sex partner.

Of course, he's unabashedly arguing that the Christian definition of marriage is the definition of marriage. Never mind what Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists or anybody else thinks. Islam certainly doesn't include a ban on multiple marriages. And of course, no mention is made of the many societies that historically allowed and even promoted homosexual unions dating back thousands of years.

And naturally, he doesn't even address the practicality or morality of a system of law where one religion decides what's allowed and what's not. But then, he's not concerned with those things. He doesn't really care what anyone else has to say on the matter; he's got what he thinks is right and by God, he's going to make us all live that way whether we want to or not. I guess there are some issues where one side has to beat the other. Slavery, for example. You can't compromise on that. But contrary to this idea that gay marriage is an attack on "traditional" marriage, in what way are anyone's freedoms or rights reduced by allowing same-sex couples the same privileges as opposite-sex couples? And it's questions like that that these guys don't address. They're not interested in debate; they're interested in telling you what to do.

That's not the kind of thing any American should stand for. This "debate" over same-sex marriage is no such thing. It's mostly just a bunch of rhetoric and polemic. It's about fanatics who want to control us all. TWM ain't standin' for that. Neither should any American who values freedom.


adam said...

Slate has a good article on why people like Dobson are becoming irrelevant anyway:

Nat-Wu said...

That's good news. I'd rather be faced with a T.D. Jakes any day. Besides which, I actually believe he's sincere in his message, unlike those other hypocrites.

Xanthippas said...

That's pretty much the gist of it, isn't it? However you dress up the arguments, their argument essentially comes down to "It's wrong because God says so, and because God says so we can subvert individual rights and democracy to suppress it." I understand that many Christians are fervant patriots, and revere the Constitution and the ideals of individual liberty. But it's that sort of reasoning that makes me suspicious of anyone who claims to adhere to authority higher than that of the democratic ideal.

Seamus said...

Not that you really want to hear from me on this issue, but do you not see that you are merely trading one form of dogmatism for another?

"Fundamentalists" are bad because they want to ban gay marriage. Ok. So what are you when you claim the right to invalidate their beliefs and call them un-American?

Let me presuppose your response: you're right because you promote 'freedom'. Hmm. Ok, well maybe not everyone defines freedom the same way. To a fundamentalist, a ban on gay marriage would mean freedom from rampant immorality and a defense of an objective truth. What makes your freedom more valid or relevant than theirs?

I'll tell you what, the divide in America between left and right will be impassable until the left learns to admit that it has beliefs and dogmatism just like the right does. But the left won't budge, they refuse to admit that their "facts" are actually points of view. Talk about irony from a group who likes to bash the concept of objective moral truth.

You can not claim that "Fundamentalists" are biased bigots, all the while claiming your own educated objectivity without passively admitting that you are just as dogmatic in a different way.

Now I know that you'll probably attempt some character assassination, some ridicule, some elitism, some reasons why I'm an idiot, maybe even some statistics to rebut my comment. That's fair, I suppose. Hey, you might even delete my comment altogether. Honestly though, for the sake of America admit your own dogmatism and lets get on with the nation's political future.

Nat-Wu said...

Well, Seamus, once again you argue that liberals must be dogmatists because they think that your point of view is wrong. If you don't see the logical fallacy in that, we can't argue rationally. But here are some points nonetheless.

Here's the difference between me and a Christian who wants to regulate the way other people live: I don't want to regulate the way you live. If you want to have a Christian marriage and live a Christian life, I believe you have every right to do so. I also believe gay folks have a right to live their lives the way they want to. In my beliefs, you don't have any right to infringe on the rights of others. But in your beliefs, you do have that right because of.....your beliefs.

I'm talking about physical and legal freedoms, the same kind the Founding Fathers talked about. I'm talking about two men can walk into a JP and get "married" (or civil-unioned, as I'd prefer). I'm talking about then they would have actual legal rights to each other in the same manner as man-woman couples. Your camp desires the "freedom" not to be offended by others. Never mind that gay marriage does not impact on your physical, legal freedoms.

And I'll tell you what, Seamus, the divide in America between the majority and the Christian right (which is the minority, by the way), will never be bridged until the Christian right learns to stand up and call a spade a spade. They want unabridged power to strip others of their freedoms to make America conform to a moral vision of theirs.

I can claim "fundamentalists" are biased bigots because so many of them are. I've known plenty of them, and as Mr. Dobson points out, they're still around. And you can make it sound like I'm some educated, elite liberal while you've got the old time religion, but remember that I come from a lower class of upbringing than you do. I was raised Baptist. You graduated college from a private university, I haven't yet graduated from my public university. So unless you want your hypocrisy pointed out to you again, you won't bring that kind of false advertising into the mix again, ok?

For the sake of America, you admit to the public what you want. You've said it before: if the majority votes for theocracy, that's fine with you. That's not exactly the democratic tradition we established when we freed the slaves and passed the 14th amendment, or when we passed laws protecting the rights of minorities from the majority.

Seamus said...

No, Nathan, I argue that liberals are dogamtists, just like conservatives, because they argue certain points dogmatically.

I know you don't see any point in banning gay mariage, I already made a note of that. I wasn't asking for more dogma about it.

If you honestly can't see that you dogmatically stand on one side of things and that the right dogmatically stands on the other, then I'm a bit disappointed in you.

Christians do call a spade a space, they're honest and realistic enough to fight for their religious beliefs without clouding the issue by calling it objective or unpartisan.

You really can't see that the left also has a moral vision that it wishes to impose? You honestly don't understand that you stand for things in an absolute sense?

How am I hypocritic by pointing out that you believe things too? What am I shrouding or hiding? What am I faking?

Like I said, the notion that the right is a bigoted force of fundamentalists and that the left is some enlightened objective force of virtue and humanistic freedom is not only bogus but propodanada. The left stands for things just as fervently as the right, but on the other side which is why the debate is so impassioned and divisive.

Denying that you have an agenda, that you have beliefs, that you have a moral vision, and that you wish to impose policy/beliefs on others makes you the hypocrite, not me.

adam said...

You've been trained well, Seamus. I've noticed a trend in the religious right to try and obscure the difference between what they espouse and everyone else. You do a good job, but you still miss a major point. In Nathan's "moral vision" he could believe that it's morally wrong for two men to be in a homosexual relationship together, but because he believes in *freedom* - the kind which is not related to his "moral vision" unlike the "freedom from homos" you espouse - he would not stand in the way of them being wed.

I personally don't believe homosexuality is morally wrong, but if I wanted everyone to conform to my "moral vision" the same way that the religious right does, I would be in favor of not only allowing gay marriage, but forcing every church and every religion in the United States to recognize and grant gay marriage - which I, and no other liberal, are certainly not in favor of. Why? Because that would trample the freedom of religious people everywhere to practice their faith. Our issue is, of course, the legal nature of marriage in the United States - the rights that go along with a marriage license - which currently discriminates among its citizens.

...And that, in a nutshell, is the difference between you and us.

Seamus said...

Yes, Adam, I'm glad we can see that there is a difference "between you and us".

Here's another difference between you and us:

Fundamentalists (which you mistakenly confuse as something I personally espouse even though I do oppose gay marriage) are dogmatic in their position that gay marriage should be illegal.

Liberals (which I admit I stereotypically apply to your position) are dogmatic in their stance that 'religion' should be kept out of legislation; a.k.a that the church should be as separated from the state as possible.

Both dogmatic, different points of view.

Nat-Wu said...

Well, you've proven that you can't actually argue against me. You're arguing against some vague, conspiratorial "left" that has nothing to do with me. And, to those few interested readers, note how this enables my opponent to attack viewpoints I don't hold, a classic conservative attack (and a logical fallacy). It makes it seem as if my opponent is part of an embattled minority locked in mortal combat with a block of people who have just as dogmatic a vision as they do. The reason Seamus can't admit that his side stands on dogma while the other doesn't is because it would make his side seem like an unfair, unthinking block of people who wish to make everyone conform to their ideas of what's right. The truth is, there is no organization on the left to compare with the Christian right.

You can see this in practical effects in the fact that while most people are not Republican, or even conservative (in the modern sense, although they are in the traditional sense), Republicans hold sway in all branches of government. That is because the conservatives march in lockstep (I'm not making this up, people, just research the story of Tom DeLay). Since 1994, the Christian far right has unified with the traditional centrists of the Republican party, ever since GOP strategists had the idea of making the people serve the party instead of the other way around. This is why they have won so many elections. While a bunch of liberals went off to vote for Nader, no significant conservative minority went off to vote Libertarian.

The idea of some liberal "dogma" is popular on the conservative side because it rewrites the reality of the situation to make it seem as if the liberals are as stubborn and unreasonable as the conservatives. And, when they point out how liberals come together to defend homosexuals, they seem to have a point. And yet, when looked at on a large scale, you can see that all the way through the liberal spectrum there are factions that oppose each other on different issues. That's why the Democrats always seem to be un-unified. Gays and Lesbians might always be aligned with the ACLU, but not necessarily workers unions or the NAACP. And at different times these groups will oppose each other in different formations. It's happened before, and you just need to read a history of the Democratic party to find instances. In short, there is no liberal "dogma".

Of course, that's entirely irrelevant. Like I said, these are viewpoints I don't hold. Seamus is arguing that somehow, I wish to impose my moral vision on him by saying that he should have the right to live and worship exactly as he chooses, but that everyone else should too. I do have moral values. I value life and freedom. That's why I believe people should be free to live as they wish. Both sides, Christian and gay, forever and ever. If you regard that as an imposition on you, then you want more than is rightfully yours.

As a practical matter, let me point out to you two examples where one moral system was allowed to rule absolutely. Spain, during the Inquisition, and Nazi Germany. And of course, there's the Soviet Union, in which Stalin "disappeared" about 20 million of his own people.

Nat-Wu said...

"Liberals (which I admit I stereotypically apply to your position) are dogmatic in their stance that 'religion' should be kept out of legislation; a.k.a that the church should be as separated from the state as possible."

TWM espouses the view that legislation should not be written with what satisfies anyone's morality, but which preserves maximum freedom for the individual. There may be liberals who believe that certain of their values be written into law (ex. use of marijuana/drugs). TWM merely stands aside to say that as long as one party's actions do not infringe on the other party's rights, both parties may do what they please. TWM also does not believe that the values of (pseudo)science based doctrines be accepted in law. For example, selective sterilization to improve the human race. Individual freedom is paramount.

It is not our view that you must accept the sanctity of homosexual marriage. But as far as interactions between parties go, we would expect Christians to respect a civil union as much as any other contract between individuals.

Seamus said...

To quote Nat Wu from a different converastion "It’s like you didn’t even read what I said."

Your cry about a straw-man argument would be valid except that I admitted beforehand that I was using stereotypical terms. But even if I wasn't you do personally believe that religions shouldn't legislate, so my original point sticks all the same. Do you actually want your readers to believe that when you say "these are viewpoints I don't hold" that you actually don't oppose religions interfering with government? Since that was the only actual statement I made on the "liberal" side, what else could you be referring to?

I don't care about your theories of political conspiracies or how the right misrepresents the left, I could spout just as much rhetoric about how the left misrepresents the right. But that would be changing the topic.

I'll take your avoidance of my actual point to mean that you don't know how to respond. I'll also take your dogmatism about how people should live as further evidence in favor of my original statement:

"TWM espouses the view that legislation should not be written with what satisfies anyone's morality, but which preserves maximum freedom for the individual" Oh my gosh! A dogmatic statement from someone who "isn't dogmatic".

"TWM also does not believe that the values of (pseudo) science based doctrines be accepted in law" Another one, they're sprouting like weeds!

"Individual freedom is paramount." I could almost write a book from all these dogmatic statements.

Get over yourself and look at what's going on here. You have dogmatic beliefs, face it.

Such was my point all along, as I made repeatedly explicit. I consider it disgraceful that you can't admit such a simple and obvious fact.

adam said...

I'll let Nat-Wu respond to all of that because I think it's silly anyway. Why are we debating semantics? Because your fundamental point that you trying to make is "liberals and conservatives are the same because they are both try to force their beliefs on others" and you think arguing over the definition of "dogma" supports your argument. But I've already addressed and proven how liberals aren't trying to do the same thing, and you have ignored that in favor of a semantical argument because that's all you have to hold on to.

Seamus said...


If by accusing me of ignoring your arguments, you mean that I have resisted changing the subject of my original comment then I agree.

My point all along has been simple: Conservatives dogmatically believe certain things and want to see them reflected in legislation; Liberals dogmatically believe other things and want to see them reflected in legislation.

This is kind of silly, you're right. My point is seeminly so self-evident and simple that it does seem a bit silly to argue about it. But what's even silier is Nat-Wu's desperate and sweeping attempts to prove otherwise.

I think it is ironic that a person who tries to deny his own dogmatism dogmatically attacks me for being dogmatic and pointing out that he is too.

If we both agree that we have a certain form of dogmatic belief in what is right and wrong and want to see such things reflected in our government then we have nothing to argue about at all.

Nat-Wu said...

Actually Seamus, all you've proven is that you're missing the point over and over again. Deliberately or not, I don't really know. You were the first to bring up this idea of dogma. We didn't even say that Dobson and his ilk have a fundamental dogma, and even if they do, it's not our argument that they shouldn't.

If you actually read the article and read my opinion, I stated that I think it's wrong to try to force one's own values on others. Now, I've said this in a previous reply, and you still haven't addressed that issue. I'm guessing that's because you know how anti-democratic it sounds to affirm that ideal. The only reason I can see for you trying to use this "dogma" issue is that it makes both sides sound unreasonable and anti-democratic. But even if I had a dogma, it would be that democracy is good and freedom is good, so you proving a "liberal dogma" would only be to say that we never question the rightness of our belief in freedom and democracy. That's not exactly true, but I'm tired of your ridiculous arguments. And, by the way, there are third-party readers who are getting tired of them as well. You've said what you have to say and we've said what we had to say. If you're going to repeat yourself again, I'm going to copy and paste my own final reply every time you write something again because it's simply absurd.

Seamus said...

I can see that, regardless of the decibels, communication is not taking place.

I'll leave it to these "third party readers" whom you apparently speak for to decide who's made the better argument.

Nat-Wu said...

Well, the ones I actually spoke to were not favorable towards your viewpoint, but unfortunately they don't feel like putting themselves forth for your scorn. That's what the three wise men do. Perhaps there are some readers who have something else to say about the issue, and if they do, TWM welcomes comments.

adam said...

"Now I know that you'll probably attempt some character assassination, some ridicule, some elitism, some reasons why I'm an idiot, maybe even some statistics to rebut my comment. That's fair, I suppose. Hey, you might even delete my comment altogether."

Given how you have *personally* attacked me in the past via another blog, Seamus, I think it is a testament to our willingness to hear all points-of-view here at TWM that we continue to allow you to comment at all. And we will, of course, continue to do so, but perhaps you should, in turn, stop at the point of this virtual harassment as Nat-Wu has recommended.

The Hipp Librarian said...

I purpose a new drinking game... every time dogma or a variant there of is mentioned in this post one drinks. We'd all be drunk by the time we finished reading Seamus' first post! Fun stuff!

Save The DJs said...

First time reading this blog and I'm happy to find that there are interesting and educated points being made, well, except for Seamus as he hasn't made an actual point yet. Reading his posts are like watching nascar, they go nowhere yet they keep driving all the same.

Anonymous said...

"Liberals (which I admit I stereotypically apply to your position) are dogmatic in their stance that 'religion' should be kept out of legislation; a.k.a that the church should be as separated from the state as possible." - Seamus June 30th 2006

Umm, sorry, but isn't this the position of the Constitution, not Liberals?