Category Archives: Religion and Philosophy

“The Death of Klinghoffer” : The Metropolitan Opera Flunks Its Ethical Duty

Death of Klinghoffer

New York’s Metropolitan Opera is scheduled to present John Adams’s 1991 opera, “The Death of Klinghoffer” this fall. [Full disclosure: Adams, then an unknown, was one of my professors in college] The opera is a dramatization of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking,in which the Palestine Liberation Front murdered the wheelchair-bound Jewish-American businessman Leon Klinghoffer. The opera has always been the target of Jewish and other critics who believe that it is too sympathetic to the Palestinians, and is thus anti–Semitic. Predictably (although for some reason the Met seemed not to be prepared for it) the Anti-Defamation League and conservative pundits are condemning the new production, typified by the reliably simple-minded Michele Bachmann, who denounced the Met for sympathizing with terrorists.

This is, and I state this without moderation or equivocation, is anti-cultural, anti-art, anti-free speech political correctness bullying from the right. This is an opera, and it, like any work of art, stands for itself. Whatever the political message of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” it is secondary to the main purpose of any opera, which is music and entertainment. The Met, as an organization dedicated to music and opera, should not be held to any standard in producing it other than whether it meets the company’s standards of excellence. An arts organization like the Met is apolitical, and should never allow the political or ideological messages of the artists whose work is presented there change its programming in any way. This means telling critics like those of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” be they advocacy organizations, would-be public censors or embarrassments to Congress like Bachmann to go fly a kite when they attempt to dictate what art is or isn’t “appropriate.” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Religion and Philosophy

Why The Winooski Bacon Controversy Matters

bacon signLast week, Sneakers Bistro and Cafe in Winooski, Vermont removed a sign reading “Yield for Sneakers Bacon” from a garden at the Winooski Rotary after a woman who described herself as “a vegan and a member of a Muslim household” called the sign offensive in an online post.

“Given the large number of Muslim families in Winooski, as well as many others who do not eat pork for a variety of reasons, it seems unnecessary for this insensitive business sign to be at the city’s main crosswalk,” she wrote. Sneakers, obeying the growing U.S. cultural mandate that any individual has a veto over words and conduct that he or she finds offensive regardless of 1) whether it is offensive to anyone else and 2) whether the alleged offense is certifiably bats, apologized, and took the sign down.

I am happy to support that this decision did not play well, even in ultra-liberal Vermont, and under a barrage of criticism on the web and elsewhere, the Sneakers’ management posted the following message on its Facebook page, thus making their situation worse:

“We are here to serve people BREAKFAST, not politics. We removed the sign that was located on public property as a gesture of respect for our diverse community. There were also concerns raised about safety. Removing it was not a difficult decision. We still love bacon. We still love eggs. Please have the political conversation elsewhere.”

That idiotic statement was the disaster anyone conscious should have been able to predict it would be. And let’s be thankful this is still true. Tomorrow, Sneakers’ response may be standard operation procedure, even if ISIS doesn’t take over the country while the President is breaking par. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Welcome to Mary's! Some are more welcome than others...

Welcome to Mary’s! Some are more welcome than others…

I wish this were a joke, (thinking back on the previous post) but apparently it’s not.

The diner gives a 15% discount to customers who appear to say grace before eating. Yes, it’s a public prayer discount. Mary’s  has been doing this for years, a co-owner confirmed to NPR. Finally someone posted a receipt with the line item for “15% Praying in Public ($6.07)” to Facebook.

I detest this kind of thing, and so should you, because it is ethically indefensible and un-American to the core. The policy, whether it is well-publicized or quietly implemented as this one was, exacerbates societal divisions and embraces bias and prejudice. There may be a legal difference between this and charging a premium (that is, a penalty) to those who have Obama stickers on their cars or who are wearing T-shirts with the logo of the local team’s nemesis, but ethically it is all the same: splitting the world into them and us, good guys and bad guys, the virtuous and the reviled. All of “Mary’s” customers are human beings, and that is the only thing that should matter in the United States of America.

Now that this offensive policy has been outed, the question is this: Is it unethical for a non-believer to pretend to pray in order to get the diner’s unethical discount for the godly? Of course it is.

It’s also unethical to patronize a restaurant that discriminates against its own patrons.

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Facts: NPR

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Dunces, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: Radio Talk Show Host Bryan Fischer

To be fair, I guess it's possible that Fischer captured a leprechaun who granted him three wishes, in which case his prescription for ending AIDS isn't crazy after all. So I may owe him an apology...

To be fair, I guess it’s possible that Fischer captured a Leprechaun who granted him three wishes, in which case his prescription for ending AIDS isn’t crazy after all. So I may owe him an apology…

When ideology, including religion, requires one to abandon all connection to reality, unethical positions are sure to follow.  Christian conservative talk show host Bryan Fisher launched an angry rant over what he called President Obama’s promotion of sexual deviancy in his remarks following the downing of MH17 over the Ukraine. Here are the relevant remarks by the President:

“Let me close by making one additional comment. On board Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17 there were apparently near 100 researchers and advocates traveling to an international conference in Australia dedicated to combating AIDS/HIV. These were men and women who had dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others, and they were taken from us in a senseless act of violence.

In this world today we shouldn’t forget that in the midst of conflict and killing, there are people like these, people who are focused on what can be built rather than what can be destroyed, people who are focused on how they can help people that they’ve never met, people that define themselves not by what makes them different from other people but by the humanity that we hold in common. It’s important for us to lift them up and to affirm their lives. And it’s time for us to heed their example.

The United States of America is going to continue to stand for the basic principle that people have the right to live as they choose, that nations have the right to determine their own destiny, and that when terrible events like this occur, the international community stands on the side of justice and on the side of truth.”

Now here is Fischer’s reaction: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Citizenship, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Religion and Philosophy, Research and Scholarship, Rights

Unethical Political Ad Of The Month: The Freedom From Religion Foundation

FFRF

If it accomplished nothing else, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision is doing a dandy job of flushing out the bigots. First it was the feminists blaming the decision on the all-male majority…because, as we all know, only women can balance ethical and legal conflicts fairly and intelligently, and they are incapable of bias. This line of attack is gender bigotry, acceptable because, well, just because. Then Harry Reid, leader of the Senate majority, condemned the five justices whose analysis prevailed as white males, adding racial bias to the mix. Also stupidity, of course, since last I looked, Justice Thomas was still black. Then again, to hear Harry and his friends tell it, being a conservative and not folding up like a deck chair any time women or a minority group complains means that you must be white, meaning that you must be bigoted against women. That’s just what whites are like. And males. Says white male Harry Reid.

It’s a strange, strange world we live in, no doubt about that.

Now comes the Freedom From Religion Foundation with an ad published in the New York Times blaming the decision on the fact that the five justices in the majority were male and Roman Catholic. Anti-Catholic bigotry! I confess, I didn’t know what religion the justices were, because I don’t care. Do you? John Kerry is a Roman Catholic; so is Joe Biden. It never occurred to me to attribute their various decisions and policy determinations to their religion, or to presume that anyone’s religion is fair game for criticism. Ah, but this is blood politics as defined by today’s culture. The right people can use bigotry against deserving targets….you know. Conservatives. Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Religion and Philosophy

The Gay Marriage Acceptance Reverse-Foxhole Conversion Problem

Atheists in trenchesThe New York Times sported a front page story extolling the actions and familial love of Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist minister, whose son Tim, now 30, had been raised  in his father’s conservative church in West Germany, Pennsylvania, where sermons, policy and the congregation embodied the belief that homosexuality was a sin, and gay marriage a monstrosity.  Then, after he had contemplated suicide, Tim told his father he was gay, and later that he wanted to wed his same-sex partner. The loving father accepted his son and presided over the wedding, causing him to become a target of criticism in his church, and the defendant in a church trial. To the Times reporter, Michael Paulson, he is an unequivocal hero.

He did the right thing, no question, just as Dick Cheney and Republican Senator Rob Portman did the right thing by changing their position on gay marriage when their children showed them the human side of the issue. I also agree that it takes courage to admit you are wrong, and that being able to change one’s ethical analysis is an essential ability for all of us. Indeed, in this post, I designated as an Ethics Hero an outspoken gay marriage opponent for changing his position after he became friends with gay men and women, leading him to realize, as he put it, that Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Heroes, Family, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Ethics Tools: “A Theory of Jerks”

Actually, no. The OTHER kind...

Actually, no. The OTHER kind…

In Aeon Magazine last month, philosophy professor Eric Schwitzgebel provided a serious essay on the nature of “jerkitude.” It is also an excellent essay, and useful. “Jerk” is a designation that I have occasion to use frequently on Ethics Alarms, and for the most part, Schwitzgebel convinced me that I have been using it properly. Some excerpts… Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Religion and Philosophy, Research and Scholarship