Category Archives: Religion and Philosophy

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/21/17

1. No, there is nothing “ironic” about Rep. Steve Scalise being shot. I finally lost my restraint and pointed out to a gaggle of left-wing Facebook friends that their writing that Scalise’s shooting was “ironic” because he opposes gun control, or because one of his rescuers was gay (because he opposes gay marriage) was as much a of a hateful comment as saying that it was “karma” (another popular sentiment from progressive friends) or that he “reaped what he sowed” (yet another). They protested loudly and angrily that this was an unfair rebuke on my part, that they were not cheering the crime, just observing that the shooting was “ironic” which, they insisted, it was.

Disingenuous and evasive.

The seriousness,  criminal, hateful and absolutely inexcusable nature of Scalise’s shooting had absolutely nothing to do with his political beliefs unless you agree with the shooter, who used those beliefs as his motive. Karma, “reaped what he sowed” and irony (which implies an amusing or humorous nature) all signal and are intended to signal the same sentiment in the Facebook echo chamber—“It’s a shame that he got shot, but in a way he asked for it.” Oh, how those who sought to signal their virtue and their dislike of Scalise just hated to be called on the ugly impulses behind their words, and how they wriggled and spun to deny it.

What made the shooting ironic? Why, Scalise opposes gay marriage, I was informed. That’s neither a logical nor a justified answer. Although gays find it satisfying and expedient to automatically attach the label of  homophobia to those who haven’t yet adapted to one of the fastest cultural paradigm shifts in U.S. history, there is no evidence that Rep. Scalise believes that LGBT individuals cannot or should not be medical or law enforcement professionals. Scalise’s position on gay marriage is irrelevant to his shooting, unless that position—the same position Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton held for a very long time—makes you think his shooting and the subsequent assistance of gay citizens is somehow deserved and funny. Similarly, the fact that Scalise was shot does not undermine the justification for his support of the Second Amendment, except in the closed minds of Second Amendment opponents. Nor does that make his shooting “ironic,” except to those whose gut reaction was “He was shot? Serves him right. Let’s see how he likes it.”

So many progressives have become so instinctively hateful and bitterly partisan that they are incapable of realizing it.

2. Are there any ethics takeaways from last night’s Republican victory in Georgia’s 6th District? Pundit Charles Glasser wrote that “Ossoff raised $23.6 million to make a symbolic run against President Trump, most of it from Marin County, California and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Running the numbers, Democrats might have been better off considering that same amount would have bought 855,072 school lunches (at $2.76 each); 236,000 elementary school textbooks (at $100 each) or even 956 Priuses (at $24,685 each). Max Weber said that the purpose of a bureaucracy is to maintain or expand its own power. Who cares about children, education or the environment when there’s power to be grabbed?”

As a rule I object to the “spending money on A is unethical because you could have spent it on B” line of reasoning, since it can be applied to almost any purchase. Nonetheless, that’s a lot of money to be used by outsiders to influence a local election, particularly when the donors also decry the effect of money in politics. And as with Hillary Clinton’s defeat, this result suggest that money isn’t nearly as decisive as those who want to constrain political speech think it is. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ken White of Popehat”

This excellent comment requires no introduction, just reading. 

Here is Ryan Harkins’ Comment Of The Day on the post, “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ken White Of Popehat”:

One thing I have noticed on those rare occasions when I truly listen to someone whose viewpoint is diametrically opposed to my own is that I discover there are indeed legitimate points being made and legitimate concerns that need to be heard. That doesn’t mean that I experience a paradigm shift. I will still believe that opposing viewpoint is incorrect, but at the same time I discover that my understanding of that opposing view was actually wrong.

There’s a great deal of satisfaction in being right, and I confess that at times I am more concerned with being right than with listening to someone whom I think is wrong. But there may be much more to the desire to be right than mere ego. Our brains are wired to find the simplest and easiest course. We learn actions that can then be performed by rote, without even thinking about them. That is why we find ourselves, upon walking into the kitchen, opening the refrigerator door and staring at food for five minutes before we recall we really entered the kitchen to find a flashlight. Our brains have developed a pattern that says: “enter kitchen, open fridge”. Having the right answer is a great thing, for our brain can discard all else and hold onto that right answer. It is easier. Simpler. Life now makes sense and we can proceed with cataloguing the more important details in life (the current Kardashian scandal or the names of all the Pokemon and their evolutions).

Being challenged in our right answers is uncomfortable. It can be especially distressing when someone presents us with a set of facts that, at least on the surface, contradict our right answers. We have two choices when confronted with such a challenge: we can either try to hone our own arguments, or we can retreat and try to insulate ourselves from further confrontation. We’ve seen quite a bit of the latter. We develop little adages about how it is impolite to discuss religion and politics — the two most important areas of life, and the two areas most likely to spark an argument. We surround ourselves with like-minded people, listen to the news that most appeals to our viewpoints, and never venture outside the echo-box. Certainly all these tactics are easier than constantly assimilating new arguments, researching new theories and developments, stringing together logical narratives, and perhaps even adjusting our own viewpoints when our conclusions lead us to recognize errors in our previous judgments.

I’ve read a little bit recently on St. Thomas Aquinas, and in reading I gained a peek into life in the universities of the thirteenth century. Students did not come to a university to attend lectures. They essentially apprenticed themselves to a master, who then did not teach so much as dialogue. They demanded that their students ask questions and find answers themselves. I read an account of how universities would host open debates, and the masters would throw their students into the ring to answer the challenges and objections people would raise. Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Religion and Philosophy

Comment Of The Day: Why That “We’re Glad You’re Our Neighbor” Sign Is Unethical (As Well As Obnoxious)

Mrs. Q, who is keeping Ethics Alarms current on the oppressive politically correct environment slowly poisoning Portland, Oragon, was moved to issue another report in reponse to the Ethics Alarms post about a virtue-signalling sign popping up live wild-flowers on yards across America here is her Comment of the Day on the post, “Why That “We’re Glad You’re Our Neighbor” Sign Is Unethical (As Well As Obnoxious)”…(I’ll be back at the end.)

This yard sign is just about everywhere in the city including businesses, churches, schools, and city offices.

 

This one is also popular. I love how the “Science is real” part is in green.

Black Lives Matters signs often accompany the 2 above. Also on businesses, schools, etc.

This one is mostly on businesses/community centers but some residents have this sign taped to their living room windows.

What’s most interesting is that all the problems this town suddenly has with “hate” came after the anti-Trumpers started putting these signs up. I told a (former) friend that I thought these signs were virtue signaling and devisive and smug I didn’t appreciate that every day everywhere an average citizen can’t take a walk or go to the gym without knowing the political opinions of the home/business/agency owners.

She promptly quoted Eleanor Roosevelt’s “No one can make you feel inferior” mantra. Funny enough she’s white, I’m not, and instead of actually listening to me, you know as a special downtrodden minority, she dismissed my concerns altogether about how such signs may negatively affect a community (and then she cut me out of her life. Yep, so tolerant). Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Race, Religion and Philosophy, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

Why That “We’re Glad You’re Our Neighbor” Sign Is Unethical (As Well As Obnoxious)

NPR claims that people get teary-eyed viewing this supposedly viral sign in front of houses across the country. I’ve only seen two in my neighborhood, thank goodness, and they irritate me no end. Why? The sign is dishonest, unfair and divisive. It is also political, while pretending not to be.

First, the sign is not what it represents itself as being. It is not written for an actual neighbor. If it were, the sign would be remote and rude. I welcome new neighbors personally, not by putting garish signs on my lawn.  The sign is blatant virtue-signalling, telling the neighborhood that this household is in favor of diversity, love, and immigration…as if lots of other people are not. If it is not a public sign designed to rebuke those people, whoever they are, then why the sign? If everyone in the neighborhood welcomes Americans of all colors and origins—and I know of no Klan chapter in Northern Virginia—then the sign is a straw man. I’m sure, however, that Hispanic-Americans or Muslim-Americans who see these signs on lawns might be moved to think: Wait, does this mean that many people in this community DON’T welcome us as neighbors? How are we to recognize them?

That’s not a healthy or welcoming message, but hey, if it makes the homeowner seem enlightened and virtuous, it’s a net win. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/9/17

1. News Item: “More than 130 imams and Muslim religious leaders in the United Kingdom have said they will refuse to perform funeral prayers for the Manchester and London terrorists as a rebuke to the “dastardly cowardice” of the “vile murderers.” Notes Ethics Alarms issue scout Fred, “This time it’s religious institutions refusing [to provide a service based on religious/political beliefs and conduct], and it’s based on the actions of the people they’re refusing to pray for or bury. On the other hand, anyone born in Scotland is entitled to the government’s services even if he’s No True Scotsman. By analogy, is it right for them to deny funerals to Muslims, even the most egregiously sinful?

I’d have to do more research on Islam than I have time for right now to address that question, but it’s an interesting one.

2.  As a follow-up to New Orleans’ lamentable decision to remove statues honoring Confederate figures (discussed on Ethics Alarms here), The Atlantic published an exhaustive brief against the “myth” that Robert E. Lee was worthy of his reputation as a noble human being who fought for Virginia out of loyalty to his “country,” but who deplored slavery. I have criticized the hero-worship of Lee as well, but much of what is in Adam Serwer’s article was completely unknown to me. If accurate, it is horrifying. Just one example:

“Lee’s cruelty as a slavemaster was not confined to physical punishment. In Reading the Man, the historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s portrait of Lee through his writings, Pryor writes that “Lee ruptured the Washington and Custis tradition of respecting slave families,” by hiring them off to other plantations, and that “by 1860 he had broken up every family but one on the estate, some of whom had been together since Mount Vernon days.” The separation of slave families was one of the most unfathomably devastating aspects of slavery, and Pryor wrote that Lee’s slaves regarded him as “the worst man I ever see.”

3. I’ll discuss the Comey testimony in detail later, but I came close to writing about the unseemly and self-indicting display of gleeful anticipation by much of the news media (and “the resistance,” of course) over what they were just certain would be the smoking gun to get President Trump impeached. CNN had a countdown, second by second, on-screen the whole previous day, like Christmas was coming. Ann Althouse nicely summed up how foolish and ugly this was: Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Martina Navratilova’s “Open Letter”

Court the tennis icon (right); Court the anti-gay rights advocate (left)

Martina Navratilova, the 18-time tennis Grand Slam champion, wrote an “open letter”  to the Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park (Do arenas read letters? I did not know that!) as the Australian Open, always played there, looms in January. Navratilova, a feminist and gay rights activists, argued for removing Court’s name from the venue, despite her undeniable status as a ground-breaking female tennis star, because of Court’s recent statements  hostile to gay marriage, lesbians, and the transgendered.

In the letter, which is as diplomatic and mild as such a letter could possibly be (and Martina has always been an excellent writer), Navratilova says that her position is not based on Court’s “headline-grabbing comments in 1990 when she said I was a bad role model because I was a lesbian.” However, Navratilova focused on Court’s “statements she made in the ’70s about apartheid in South Africa,” in which she opined that ” South Africa dealt with the “situation” (meaning people of colour) much better than anywhere else in the world, particularly the US,”  and, more recently, her anti-gay, anti-trans positions. The 74-year-old  Court had said she would boycott Qantas airline “where possible” in response to its support of same-sex marriage, saying, “I believe in marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible.” This week, interviewed on  a Christian radio station, Court said “tennis is full of lesbians” and that older players lure younger ones into gay sex. Court also said that transgender children are the work of “the devil.”

Concludes Martina’s open letter to the arena:

It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe. Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights (note to Court: we are human beings, too). She is demonising trans kids and trans adults everywhere….How much blood will be on Margaret’s hands because kids will continue to get beaten for being different? This is not OK. Too many will die by suicide because of this kind of intolerance, this kind of bashing and yes, this kind of bullying. This is not OK.

We celebrate free speech, but that doesn’t mean it is free of consequences – not punishment, but consequences. We should not be celebrating this kind of behaviour, this kind of philosophy. The platform people like Margaret Court use needs to be made smaller, not bigger.

Which is why I think it’s time to change your name.

This is as well-argued a case for one side of the issue as anyone could make.

Here’s the other side: Margaret Court’s name was placed on the arena because she was a great tennis player and a pioneer in her sport, not to honor her political and social views. She still was a great tennis player. That hasn’t changed.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Do Margaret Court’s political views and anti-LGTBQ statements create an ethical obligation to remove her name from Margaret Court Arena?

Continue reading

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“The Keepers,” The Catholic Church, And Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

I began watching Netflix’s new “true crime” series “The Keepers” last night. I may not last through all seven episodes. In addition to the documentary story-telling methodology, which moves at the pace of a slug-race, the story of how unsolved murder of a Baltimore nun might  be part of  (yet another) horrific cover-up by the Catholic Church made me so angry and frustrated that I quit in the middle of the third episode. The series makes the case that the nun, Sister Catherine “Cathy” Cesnik, was killed because she was about  to reveal ongoing sexual abuse of young teenage girls by the priest running the Archbishop Keough High School for girls.

The abuse and the extent of it is not speculation. As in so many other places, the Catholic Church in Baltimore eventually paid millions in damages to multiple victims of multiple predator priests who the Church moved around the  region—so they could molest and assault new victims—rather than handing them over to law enforcement. It is hard to imagine any priest worse than Father Joseph Maskell, however, if even some of the allegations against him are true. Victims say he used student files and illicit police connections to target teenage girls who were already being sexually abused. He manipulated them using a sick combination of religion, guilt, hypnotism and intimidation, sexually abused them, and even delivered some over to members of the Baltimore police department for more abuse.

The documentary focuses on the school’s Class of ’69, though there must have been equally abused girls before and after. The conspiracy of silence began to crack in 1992, when an especially  victimized member of the class suddenly realized that she had repressed memories of horrible experiences, and finally complained to the Baltimore Archdiocese, setting off the kind of despicable Church defensive strategies too familiar to anyone who has seen “Spotlight.”

This documentary isn’t good for my state of mind. It makes me wonder not only if all is lost, but also if all wasn’t lost long ago. I was raised in a largely Catholic community. I am not religious, but as an ethicist I recognize the important, civilizing role religion has played in teaching and enforcing moral principles for the majority of the public for whom ethical analysis is too challenging. Episodes like the Father Maskell scandal raise questions that I rebuke myself for asking, like “How can this be?” “Jane Doe,” the star witness in the documentary, is still a devout Catholic. Her immediate response to every dilemma is to pray. I don’t get it. She was savaged, threatened and abused by a priest that she knows the Church allowed to prey on the vulnerable students entrusted to him. Why would she still trust the Catholic Church?

Why would anyone? Continue reading

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