Considering the Retrograde Mississippi Freedom of Comment of the Day #2: “Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, This Shouldn’t Be Surprising At All…”

Jesus-Burdens-our-Religious-Freedom

The second Comment of the Day, also on the same post, comes from frequent COTD author Extradimensional Cephalopod. His topic is religious freedom. Here it is…

Human logic is so warped by truisms. Why are we discussing the competition between religious freedom and the principle of respecting others? Once we strip away the artificial distinction between religious beliefs and any other beliefs, everything becomes more obvious.

It makes no sense at all to say that people are free to believe whatever they want but that they should not impose those beliefs on others in public. Society is built on a foundation of mutual beliefs, beliefs about the best obligations we can all impose on ourselves on behalf of each other. Fundamental disagreements or paradigm mismatches about ethics and rights cannot be ignored, because they disrupt the fabric of society itself. (No, gay marriage in itself doesn’t disrupt the fabric of society; the fact that only a small percentage of the population can discuss it respectfully and intelligently indicates the fabric has been looking for an excuse to unravel.)

“Religious freedom” is an excuse to avoid difficult conversations and careful thought, and just sweep the differences under the rug. The only reason that’s possible is because (most) people decided they would prefer to ignore each other rather than kill each other, but that doesn’t make the underlying misunderstandings go away. They show up in politics because the law of the land is the only place where people have no alternative but to deal with each other’s beliefs about right and wrong (or leave the country). If we face our disagreements head on, but with the goal of learning, there is no reason “tolerance” needs to last forever.

I would never tell a person who believes that gay marriage is an offense against a magical energy being that they should keep that belief to themselves, any more than I would ask it of someone who believes that evolution is a more accurate and useful concept than creationism. People who keep beliefs to themselves rarely get the opportunity to learn they’re wrong. Of course, people who never shut up about their beliefs and listen to alternatives never learn either. Ideas should be sent out into the world to stand on their own. Most of them will be torn to shreds, and that’s good. The ideas that don’t survive weren’t useful, at least not by themselves.

There is no way to defend religion as a concept, let alone its exercise, because religion is an arbitrary collection of descriptive and normative beliefs with a lot of people who consider them somehow existentially important. Religion in general cannot be defended ethically or legally, because its beliefs could say literally anything. Any such defense would merely be an excuse to completely ignore skepticism and critical thinking in the name of… somehow being morally superior in a way that critical thinking and skepticism… somehow prevents. However, most (but not all) religions allow critical thinking in ways that don’t threaten their tenets, because the ones that don’t are even more horribly crippled due to their intellectual bankruptcy. Few complain because few know how to think critically, or value the practice.

Continue reading

Political Correctness Delusions #2: The U.S. Military Naming Its Helicopters After Native American Tribes Is A Slur

Military Helicopters 0088

The scourge of political correctness causes many kinds of damage, but the most ominous is that it intentionally greases a steep slippery slope. The effort to constrain private and public expression according to an endlessly versatile definition of “offensiveness”  is a desirable weapon for political activists, grievance bullies, censorious and debate-challenged advocates, weenies, and busybodies. Once one specious argument for strangling another small sliver of free speech succeeds, usually after capitulation in the face of relentless vilification and hounding aided and abetted by the press, this ugly and anti-American faction of the progressive movement just moves on to another target. The process  will never end, although it will get more oppressive, restrictive and absurd. That is, it will never end until a backlash and an outbreak of rationality stops it in its tracks.

The Patent Office’s politically motivated (and doomed) attack on the Washington Redskins was an example of political correctness at its worst, and sure enough, here comes another deluded censor with a related and even sillier grievance. Simon Waxman wrote a jaw-dropping op-ed for the Washington Post arguing that the military’s use of Native American names and works on its helicopters and weaponry is a “slur.” Why, you ask? Because the white man cheated and defeated the Indians using superior fire power, that’s why. Yeah, sure, we pretend to honor their bravery now, but that’s just to salve our guilty consciences.  He blathers…

The message carried by the word Apache emblazoned on one of history’s great fighting machines is that the Americans overcame an opponent so powerful and true that we are proud to adopt its name. They tested our mettle, and we proved stronger, so don’t mess with us. In whatever measure it is tribute to the dead, it is in greater measure a boost to our national sense of superiority. And this message of superiority is shared not just with U.S. citizens but with those of the 14 nations whose governments buy the Apache helicopters we sell. It is shared, too, with those who hear the whir of an Apache overhead or find its guns trained on them. Noam Chomsky has clarified the moral stakes in provocative, instructive terms: “We might react differently if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes ‘Jew’ and ‘Gypsy.’ ”

Continue reading