Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/5/2019: Knaves, Idiots, And Fools” [Item #6]

The Horror! It’s an outrage! Send it to Hell! Well, not Hell, exactly, because that would be acknowledging religion. OK, let me start again…

Ethics Alarms used to have its own in-house atheist activist, and this is one of the times that I miss him: he would undoubtedly have a fascinating rebuttal to this Comment of the Day. I’m old enough to remember when Madalyn Murray O’Hair was the most hated woman in America for challenging the Constitutionality of school prayer, and winning.  (Remind me to tell the story of the time I spoke to O’Hair on a call-in TV talk show, posing as God.) Although I have come to agree that she was right (she later said she wished she hadn’t raised the issue), it still seems to me that atheists are more obsessed with religion than most religious people are, and their passionate antipathy borders on the pathological. The SCOTUS case that sparked this COTD is a good example: is it really necessary to attack a nearly one hundred year old war memorial because the design is a cross?

Here is Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on item #6 in the post, “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/5/2019: Knaves, Idiots, And Fools”:

This isn’t the first one of these cross lawsuits, as has been discussed here a few times, and it sure as the devil won’t be the last. The problem isn’t really even with atheism, at least as the title for those who never have believed or choose not to believe in any god or gods. The First Amendment’s about as clear as any law can be that no one here can be forced to believe or disbelieve anything. America is still over 70% religious, and those religious Americans are overwhelmingly Christian, though how strongly so is up for discussion. Those who belong to no particular religion vary almost as much as those who do, from people raised in whatever faith who just drifted away at some point in life and never went back, to those raised without any faith who just never bothered with it, to agnostics, who think the presence of God is beyond knowing, to those who think religion’s all a bunch of hooey and choose to have nothing to do with it. It’s a minority of non-believers who are actively hostile to religion, but, unfortunately, those are the ones that get all the press.

As someone who is at least nominally a Catholic, and as someone who strongly dislikes one particular faith (Islam) I will venture a guess that those who dislike religion generally feel and think about it the way I do about that one particular faith I dislike. We can also both marshal some arguments that sound compelling. I can say that Islamic thought is incompatible with the Western way of doing things, that their history is checkered and shows an unhealthy propensity to impose itself by violence, and that a lot of their holy scriptures are downright scary. However, those opposed to religion generally can also say that ancient religion generally isn’t compatible with a world of the internet and surgery and science, that religion doesn’t have the greatest history generally, and that most holy scriptures are problematic, including the Bible, which, at least in the Old Testament, got the most basic moral question, slavery, wrong. Of course all these arguments are simplistic as phrased, and aren’t so absolute when you look at them in more detail, but that takes time and thought. The difference is, though, if I speak out against Islam, (which I have) I have to tread carefully lest I be deemed a hater, while those who speak out against all religion are not deemed haters. Continue reading

Encore: On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide

[As promised, here is the Ethics Alarms Christmas package, lightly revised, last posted three years ago]

I don’t know what perverted instinct it is that has persuaded colleges and schools to make their campuses a Christmas-free experience. Nor can I get into the scrimy and misguided minds of people like Roselle Park New Jersey Councilwoman Charlene Storey, who resigned over the city council’s decision to call its Christmas tree lighting a Christmas Tree Lighting, pouting that this wasn’t “inclusive,” or the  CNN goon who dictated the bizarre policy that the Christmas Party shot up by the husband-wife Muslim terrorists had to be called a “Holiday Party.”  Christmas, as the cultural tradition it evolved to be, is about inclusion, and if someone feels excluded, they are excluding themselves.  Is it the name that is so forbidding? Well, too bad. That’s its name, not “holiday.” Arbor Day is a holiday. Christmas is a state of mind. [The Ethics Alarms Christmas posts are here.]

Many years ago, I lost a friend over a workplace dispute on this topic, when a colleague and fellow executive at a large Washington association threw a fit of indignation over the designation of the headquarters party as a Christmas party, and the gift exchange (yes, it was stupid) as “Christmas Elves.” Marcia was Jewish, and a militant unionist, pro-abortion, feminist, all-liberal all-the-time activist of considerable power and passion. She cowed our pusillanimous, spineless executive to re-name the party a “holiday party” and the gift giving “Holiday Pixies,” whatever the hell they are.

I told Marcia straight out that she was wrong, and that people like her were harming the culture. Christmas practiced in the workplace, streets, schools and the rest is a cultural holiday of immense value to everyone open enough to experience it, and I told her to read “A Christmas Carol” again. Dickens got it, Scrooge got it, and there was no reason that the time of year culturally assigned by tradition to re-establish our best instincts of love, kindness, gratitude, empathy, charity and generosity should be attacked, shunned or avoided as any kind of religious indoctrination or “government endorsement of religion.”  Jews, Muslims, atheists and Mayans who take part in a secular Christmas and all of its traditions—including the Christmas carols and the Christian traditions of the star, the manger and the rest, lose nothing, and gain a great deal.

Christmas is supposed to bring everyone in a society together after the conflicts of the past years have pulled them apart. What could possibly be objectionable to that? What could be more important than that, especially in these especially divisive times? How could it possibly be responsible, sensible or ethical to try to sabotage such a benign, healing, joyful tradition and weaken it in our culture, when we need it most?

I liked and respected Marcia, but I deplore the negative and corrosive effect people like her have had on Christmas, and as a result, the strength of American community. I told her so too, and that was the end of that friendship. Killing America’s strong embrace of Christmas is a terrible, damaging, self-destructive activity, but it is well underway. I wrote about how the process was advancing here, and re-reading what I wrote, I can only see the phenomenon deepening, and hardening like Scrooge’s pre-ghost heart. Then I said… Continue reading

Movie Poster Ethics: Is This Good Parody, Bad Taste, Blasphemy Or Religious Discrimination?

Well, it sure isn’t religious discrimination, but that’s what some of The Offended are claiming.

This is a poster for a holiday repackaging of “Deadpool 2,” the tongue-in-cheek sequel to the previous tongue-in-cheek Marvel superhero hit, “Deadpool,” featuring the hideously scarred, invulnerable, foul-mouthed and irreverent superhero who routinely breaks the fourth wall to crack jokes.  The poster is a parody of the “The Second Coming,” a painting by Harry Anderson that is inexplicably popular among Mormons, and often hangs at meetings of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here’s the poster’s inspiration:

I

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/14/2018: PolitiFact Lies About The Lie Of The Year, And What’s This Taboo Stuff Bing is Blathering On About?

Good morning.

1. So you think baseball ethics controversies end with the season? Not at Ethics Alarms!

  • Did you know that baseball has its own Colin Kaepernick, sort of? Free-agent catcher Bruce Maxwell can’t find a team, though he was once considered the front-runner to be the Oakland A’s starting catcher.  In 2017 Maxwell,  who is white, became the first and only major leaguer to kneel during the National Anthem. The buzz coming out of baseball’s winter meetings was that taking a knee was enough to make him persona non-grata among baseball owners.

Of course, the fact that Maxwellwas arrested on a gun charge in 2017 and later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and also played poorly last season in the minor leagues doesn’t help. “This is not a Colin Kaepernick situation, said an anonymous source at the meetings. “This is if Colin Kaepernick had knelt for the anthem and also been arrested for a gun crime.”

Except that things like gun crimes are not that big a deal in the NFL…

  • In a debate with baseball commentator Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa inadvertently gave a lesson in why conflicts of interests are a problem while simultaneously showing that he has no idea what a conflict is. Russo correctly protested that Harold Baines, recently a shock election to the Baseball Hall of Fame by a 16 member committee that included  close associates of Baines, was unqualified, and noted that several members of the committee, includiing Baines’ long-time manager LaRussa, had a conflict of interest. LaRussa’s rebuttal: “Do you think the people who know him better than the average expert, fan or even other baseball executives, have actually been teammates with him … when they speak with more knowledge about the type of player he was, I think that speaks more to his credit, not less.”

No, Tony. Those who knew and admired him are biased, and Baines should have been elected or not elected by a panel that knew him no better or less than it knew the other candidates. That Baines’ pals have inside knowledge that he, let’s say,  likes puppies, always held the door open for the manager’s mother, once bailed a team mate out of jail and often played despite a sore toe has nothing to do with his qualifications for the Hall. And LaRussa has a law degree! Maybe this explains his ultimate career choice. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: Harvard And Evangelicals”

Here is yet another Comment of the Day, this one by Alexei, on the post, Ethics Quiz: Harvard And Evangelicals:

I’d say Harvard is not on solid ethical ground. This organization can say the leader was deposed, because she lost the trust of her organization’s members and became inconsistent with their group values. No one is entitled to a leadership position, especially if you lose the full faith and credit of your organization. I wonder if Harvard would also ban the Muslim Students Alliance (I bet they have one) if their leader converts to Judaism, Christianity, or worse becomes an atheist, or even comes out as homosexual. I think they would certainly have grounds for deposing their leadership under such a circumstance. I think you can come up with a lot of examples similar to this.

What if the leader of the Future Female lawyer club says they are now a man. Grounds for dismissal.

The leader of the German Speakers Club forsakes German and starts to have meetings speaking French. Grounds for dismissal.

The leader of the Feminist Club comes out as pro-life. Grounds for dismissal.

Legally, Harvard can probably do whatever they want. But it’s a bad precedent for educating our future thought leaders and political leaders. It goes against the spirit of freedom of speech, association and religion. If we all disregard these freedoms, then we are a stone’s throw away from scrapping them from our laws as well.

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: Harvard And Evangelicals”

 

 The theological discussions that periodically break out on Ethics Alarms are always interesting. Naturally the question of whether seeking out a same-sex relationship justified expelling an officer in an evangelical Christian student group at Harvard sparked one. Here is Rich in Ct’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quiz: Harvard And Evangelicals”:

“Given that someone other than Jesus Christ created the ideology then I cannot automatically believe that proscriptions against said choices are in fact Christ’s teachings. Much of those ideas are old testament ones. Christ’s teachings obliterated many of those old testament ideas.”

It is a fallacy to make these two unrelated but true statements (that Christ did not address homosexuality, and that Christ negated much of the Old Testament), and imply that the current ideology that homosexuals must abstain is inconsistent with Christ’s teachings. It is also a bit weaselly to say that you cannot “automatically believe” one way or the other, but not examine readily available arguments.

Stipulated: I am only arguing what Christianity historically teaches, not whether Christianity is correct or should be accommodated by Harvard or society at large; my goal is only to point out inconsistent theology and history. In the broader context here, understanding what Christ taught and teachings are inferred is important to understand the particular motivation for the student group.

At a minimum, the bible was not written in a vacuum, but within a living culture. The gospels and epistles were written for specific audiences, to address the particular concerns of those groups, not rotely restate what was already collectively understood. Luke, for instance, was addressed to Theophilos (his most excellency). That Jesus Christ was not recorded as addressing a particular topic just means that the gospel authors did not think it needed to be clarified. There is even a catch-all at the end of John stating as much:

“Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written”.

This is not an esoteric concept. We live in our own collective culture. In constitutional law, for instance, justices routinely review contemporary sources to infer the framer’s intent. When we look at the Second Amendment, it was written at time when a rag-tag group of colonies resisted the greatest empire the world had seen to date. When interpreting “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed“, it very clearly echos the Declaration of Independence:

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,…”

The right of the people to resist their government as a last resort cannot reasonably be preserved if weapons are only guaranteed to a “militia” not elsewhere defined in the constitution. The Second Amendment can only be interpreted to mean something else if one ignores the culture and contemporary events that motivated it.

When we look at theology, we must interpret the topics discussed by Christ and the biblical authors in light of earlier theological works. To infer his teachings regarding homosexuality, we must look at his words regarding similar topics, and their relationship with Old Testaments view of homosexuality. Specifically, if we look at Christ’s teachings regarding sex, marriage, and lust, Christ act actually clamps down, rather than liberates. He abolishes Mosaic Divorce, binding married couples for life “what god has joined let no man put asunder”.

This must be interpreted within the Jewish culture; if men and woman are now bound for life, but if as stated in the Old Testament “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination;” it stands to reason that if the man laying with a woman portion of the law were tightened by Christ, then the man lying with a man part were not likely loosened.

However the second part of that line, “they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them….” must be equally reinterpreted in light of Christ’s mercy towards the adulterous, the violator of the vary portion of the law he tightened:

“(Let He Who is without Sin cast the First Stone) Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” – “No one, Lord,” she answered. – “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Now go and sin no more.”

The theologically sound conclusion might be that Christ did not approve of homosexual behavior, but demanded that mercy be shown to them. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Harvard And Evangelicals

At Harvard College, the Office of Student Life has placed the student religious group Harvard College Faith and Action on “administrative probation” for a year after the organization pressured a female member of its student leadership to resign in September following her decision to date a woman.

College spokesperson Aaron M. Goldman announced the move to put HCFA in a statement that read,

“After a thorough review and finding that HCFA had conducted itself in a manner grossly inconsistent with the expectations clearly outlined in [the Office of Student Life’s] Student Organization Resource and Policy Guide, OSL has placed HCFA on a one year administrative probation.”

HCFA co-presidents, students Scott Ely and Molly L. Richmond, elaborated:

“Earlier today, we met with an administrator who informed us that the College would place HCFA on probation, citing our relationship with Christian Union as well as our standards for leaders. The decision to suspend HCFA, though, is almost certainly tied to the Sept. 2017 resignation of a female bisexual former assistant Bible course leader. HCFA leadership asked the woman to step down from her position after they learned she was dating another female student—violating guidelines laid out in the Harvard College Student Handbook, which stipulates recognized campus student groups cannot discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation.”…We reject any notion that we discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in our fellowship. Broadly speaking, the student in this case was removed because of an irreconcilable theological disagreement pertaining to our character standards.”

In other words, the group did not eject the female student because of her sexual orientation, but because the religious group’s principles dictated that same-sex sexual relations were wrong, thus disqualifying her as a leader.  The ejected student herself confirmed to the Harvard Crimson that this was her understanding.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is Harvard on solid ethical ground suspending the group?

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