Monday, June 25, 2018

What is “Revelation” for Jordan Peterson?




A few quick comments on Anna Marchese’s interview with Jordan Peterson for the Jesuit review America. The interview, published in April, garnered attention because Peterson discussed one of his own experiences of God, sparked in the presence of a sculpture he’d completed. Here I want to address more general issues. And so: the interview as a touchstone for giving my own (tentative) Christian take on Peterson.

In this interview, I think Peterson’s off the mark in a few formulations, but in general he gets it: he gets the deep structure that makes the West what it is; he gets that this is not merely a cultural detail of our Western past, but a fundamental element of the West that is non-negotiable, as the presence of water is non-negotiable if one wants to call something a “lake”.

Also, as Peterson sees, the West’s understanding of the Logos is a realization vis-a-vis Being that means the West is onto something: which is to say that losing the trail will also mean losing whatever else works about Western civilization, which is now (in my view and I think Peterson’s too) running on fumes left over from previous centuries.

I think Peterson is off, however, on various things. In this interview, he’s off when 1) he speculates about what preachers believe or don’t believe. Sure, there are pastors and priests that fit his description, but these are certainly not all pastors and priests. When it happens, it’s mainly a matter of three things: a weak formation; a lack of drive; a lack of intellectual acumen. Which is to say that there are plenty of pastors who haven’t grasped truths Peterson himself has grasped. Is that any surprise?

He’s also off when 2) he speculates on why so many churches are nearly empty. It’s not that the churches aren’t “modernized”, but rather that Western societies are still too much under the spell of Enlightenment scientism. I suspect that spell may be starting to wear off, though I may be wrong. Post-Enlightenment science has made the West strong; simultaneously, post-Enlightenment scientism has weakened it. We need to jettison the scientism while continuing to practice the science.

Typical for a North American, Peterson also 3) puts too much stress on preaching as the essential thing that happens in churches, while ignoring the centrality of ritual and sacrament. That’s an unfortunate result of dominant Protestantism.

In more general terms, I believe Peterson’s biggest problem is that he takes Jung’s archetype theory too seriously and doesn’t take the possibility of revelation seriously enough. Yes, he uses the term revelation, but I suspect he doesn’t mean by it what orthodox Christians do: namely, that it is the Triune God that reveals, not a process of archetypal instantiation. Peterson, if I’m correct, still seems uncertain how this revealing God would be distinct from something in the Self. Oddly, for me, he keeps repeating that “the West is right”, but seems to think this is a matter of a certain learning process the West successfully went through, or a certain serendipitous instantiation of archetypes in the West’s stories that led to an intellectual leap. Of course, in my mind, if “the West is right”, it is because of more than just a lucky instantiation.

At least one of my learned friends thinks I’m misinterpreting Peterson, and insists his thinking is closer to mine that I realize. That may be so. In any case, I do think we’re very lucky to have Peterson. Has there been a secular public intellectual in living memory who can speak so compellingly on certain Christian fundamentals? Yes, it’s only certain Christian fundamentals, but Peterson’s ability to hit these truths home so clearly is a gift to us. I pray for a gift of grace to him that may convert him to the fuller Christian vision. Perhaps, if my friend is right, Peterson has a fuller Christian vision than I realize. In fact I have great respect for his project, and admiration for his tenacity and political insights, but have my doubts on this latter point. I will keep following his work and encouraging others to do so.

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Idiots / 白痴: A Public Service Announcement 英/中



IDIOTS

There are idiots in every country in the world. Idiots can be annoying or even dangerous. The total number of idiots in the world at present is unknown, but this number, whatever it is, is certainly very high.

Sometimes idiots can even become national leaders. In that case millions of people will suffer.

It is important to know how to recognize idiots and to know what kind of idiots they are so that you can protect yourself and your loved ones from danger or many wasted hours.

But I don’t really want to write about idiots here. What I want to write about is pandas. Pandas are not really bears like most people think. They are cats pretending to be bears. Pandas are large, stinking vegetarian cats posing as bears. They do it to appear special.

If you see a panda doing its usual roly-poly act in a park, do not approach it to take photos. Do not waste time warning others gathered round it. They are likely already under its rollicking spell and will not listen. Get yourself and your family to another park as quickly as possible.

Pandas should be illegal. The only thing worse than a panda is a kung-fu panda. And the only thing worse than that is a kung-fu panda in 3-D.

How long are you going to let them fool you? They are going to eat through all the bamboo forests in the world and then they will start eating domestic livestock and children. There are videos to prove this.

That pandas are cats and not bears should be obvious to everyone. All you have to do is look in the encyclopedia.

In fact cats are not even mammals. What they are is reptiles that have evolved fur so as to appear to be mammals. Cats may seem cute when you look at them, but this is just an act. When humans are not looking cats commit all manner of evil and unhygienic acts.

If you see wild dolphins in the ocean, you may want to swim near them, but this is not a good idea because wild dolphins might not like you and also sharks often follow dolphins because they feed on them.

If they think you are being a pain, wild dolphins can kill you by butting you with their heads. But even if the dolphins ignore you, the shark may interpret your swimming which is less graceful than the dolphins’ as the movements of a dolphin having a seizure, and it then may attack you because it thinks you are easy prey, which is just about right, you dumb New Age fuck.

Some authorities believe cats are actually trying to take over the universe.

Chameleons that have not encountered predators for a long time may become so lazy that they forget how to change color. Such chameleons are good for nothing and do not even deserve to be called chameleons.

We hold these truths to be self-evident.

Eric Mader
2011

白痴

在這個世界上,每個國家都有白痴。有時候白痴真的很煩人,甚至可能帶來危險。目前全世界的白痴總人口數雖仍無從得知,但不管這數字究竟是多少,必定非常之高。

白痴甚至可能當上國家領導人。在這種情況下,千百萬的國民都要遭殃。

為避免自身和親人遭逢不測或浪費太多時間,知道怎麼 辨別白痴,並能看出對方屬於哪一類型的白痴就是兩大關 鍵。

不過,這篇要談的其實不是白痴。我想討論的是熊貓。

熊貓並非大多數人所認知的那樣;牠們不是真正的熊,而是假扮成熊的貓。熊貓是種又大又臭的貓,終日茹素,性喜扮熊。牠們想藉此建立自己的風格。

如果你在公園看到熊貓耍起一貫的翻跟斗伎倆,千萬不要上前拍照。也不要出言警告那些圍觀的人,因為這麼做只是浪費時間。他們很可能已經中了熊貓的嬉耍魔咒,聽不進你的苦勸。請儘快和你的家人前往別座公園。

熊貓根本是目無法紀。而比熊貓還讓人束手無策的,恐怕就只有功夫熊貓了。不過比起功夫熊貓,3D 的功夫熊貓 更是令人一籌莫展。

你打算被這些熊貓愚弄到什麼時候?牠們遲早會吃光這世上所有的竹林,接下來就輪到家禽家畜和孩童了。有相關影像可以證實這項說法。

熊貓是貓不是熊,這應該是明擺著的事。去查查百科全書就能當下立判。

說真的,貓連哺乳動物都不算。牠們其實是為了看起來像哺乳類,才會演化出毛皮的爬行動物。貓的模樣或許挺可愛的,但那些都是作秀。一旦沒人觀看,貓就會幹出種種卑劣兼缺乏衛生的醜行。

你在大海裡看到野生海豚,會想游到牠們身邊吧?但這可不是什麼好主意,畢竟野生海豚不見得會喜歡你,而且,以海豚為食的鯊魚通常就尾隨在後。

要是野生海豚看你不順眼,用頭頂你一下你就一命嗚呼了。但就算那些海豚不理你,後頭的鯊魚也可能把你那不如海豚優雅的泳姿理解成海豚癲癇發作時的動作,繼而開始攻擊你— 因為牠們覺得你很好下手啊,而鯊魚這麼判斷也大抵無誤啊你這蠢到家的新世紀大草包。

有些研究權威認為貓真的在想方設法,企圖奪取這個世界。

許久不曾碰上肉食性動物的變色龍,很可能就此怠惰而日漸遺忘改變體色的方法。這種變色龍真的有夠窩囊,簡直汙辱了牠們變色龍的名字。

我們相信這些真理都是不證自明的。

枚德林
寫於二○一一年

* * *

English:

This and many other important public service announcements can be found in from Eric Mader’s Idiocy, Ltd.. Check it out at Amazon. Dryest humor in the west.

中文:

《白痴有限公司》: 還有犀牛、蝙蝠、obasans 、長頸鹿 、真英雄、台北秘史 and more. 你可以在台灣買到:

at Books.com

at 誠品

at 金石堂

Like my Facebook author page: Eric Mader 枚德林

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Reminder! / 注意事項!




Reminder

Cows moo, dogs bark, sheep bleat, horses neigh, donkeys bray, cats meow, ducks quack, roosters crow, lions roar, wolves howl, ants are quiet, pigs grunt, elephants trumpet, hyenas laugh, hens cackle, llamas are usually quiet, moths are very quiet, crows caw, pigeons coo, mice squeak, trout are quiet, moles are quiet, chameleons are quiet, bears growl, oxen low, whales sing, salamanders are quiet, stag beetles are quiet, bass are very quiet, owls hoot, crickets chirp, parrots talk, impala are quiet, manatees are quiet, haddock are excruciatingly quiet, snails are quiet, lobsters are quiet, centipedes are quiet, sloths are quiet; porcupines resist all our efforts at communication: they are quiet; dace are quiet; salmon are quiet; earthworms refuse to tell us what they know: they are quiet; flounder are quiet; termites are quiet; after all our coaxing the mayflies remain quiet; hedgehogs are quiet; turtles are quiet; both the carrot and the stick have proven of no avail: walleyed pike persist in a dogged and perverse silence that apparently nothing will break.

注意事項

乳牛會哞,狗會汪,綿羊咩咩叫,馬聲嘶嘶,驢聲喔喔, 貓會喵,鴨會呱,公雞會高啼,獅子會怒吼,狼會嚎,螞蟻很 安靜,豬聲侯侯,大象會嗷,鬣狗會笑,母雞咯咯咯,大羊駝 通常都保持沉默,蛾一向非常沉默,烏鴉嘎嘎嘎,鴿子咕咕咕, 老鼠吱吱吱,鱒魚不會出聲,鼴鼠不會出聲,變色龍不會出聲, 熊會低聲咆哮,公牛的嗓音低沈,鯨魚會唱歌,蠑螈靜悄悄, 鍬形蟲靜悄悄,鱸魚非常安靜,貓頭鷹會呼呼叫,蟋蟀會唧唧 叫,鸚鵡會講話,黑斑羚寡言少語,海牛寡言少語,黑線鱈寡 言少語到令人尷尬的程度,蝸牛不太說話,龍蝦不太說話,蜈 蚣不太說話,樹懶不太說話;豪豬完全抵制我們為溝通所做的 一切努力:牠們默不作聲;代斯魚默不作聲;鮭魚默不作聲; 蚯蚓拒絕交代自己知道的一切:牠們悶不吭聲;比目魚悶不吭 聲;白蟻悶不吭聲;我們連哄帶騙後,蜉蝣依舊不言不語;刺 蝟不言不語;海龜不言不語;事實證明,不管人們來軟的、玩 硬的都沒用:一意孤行,堅持封口到底的大眼梭子魚,顯然不 會因為任何事而打破沉默。

English:

This piece is from Eric Mader’s Idiocy, Ltd.. Check it out at Amazon. Dryest humor in the west.

中文:

《白痴有限公司》: 還有犀牛、蝙蝠、obasans 、海豚、真英雄、台北秘史 and more. 你可以在台灣買到:

at Books.com

at 誠品

at 金石堂

Like my Facebook author page: Eric Mader 枚德林

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Muñoz vs. Deneen: Whence Our Parade of Horribles?



For discussion…

A blog post by Rod Dreher brought my attention yesterday to a new critique of Patrick Deneen’s hard-hitting Why Liberalism Failed. I didn’t think that critique, by Deneen’s colleague Vincent Philip Muñoz, delivered anything like a decisive blow. It’s a strong essay, no doubt, but seems to me more a matter of pleading than dispassionate analysis of where we are at. Leaning on the Founders’ good intentions, it describes a ship that has already sailed, one replaced by a new ship built by new shipwrights who have fudged the original blueprints to match their new priorities. And I suspect that possibility of fudging was too much there in the original Founders’ blueprints. As I also suspect the sleek new ship presently leaving harbor is not seaworthy.

Muñoz’s essay, well worth reading in full, is not strong enough in my mind to dislodge Deneen’s arguments.

But one of the commenters on Rod’s post, using the pen name Haigha, weighed in as follows:

The burden is not on Muñoz to prove that liberalism does not inevitably lead to the contemporary parade of horribles; the burden is on Deneen to prove that it does inevitably lead there. His argument doesn’t come anywhere close to doing so. As an empirical matter, we have one single iteration of the Enlightenment and the subsequent history of Western civilization. There’s no compelling reason to think that if we had more iterations, the results would necessarily be this way. The United States was doing quite well, and was more liberal than it is now, until the early 20th Century. Who knows what would have happened if there had been no WWI, or if the conflation of women’s rights, sexual libertinism, and male-female sameness had been foreseen and stamped out early, or the conflation of science and atheism? Since he obviously can’t prove his thesis empirically, Deneen is left with logic. Here, again, he fails by a mile. As Muñoz notes, the bad things that he claims are inherent in liberalism simply are not, as a logical matter. Take a look at this speech by President Coolidge. He explains the logic of liberalism properly understood, and how it not only is not incompatible with Christianity, but is in fact the most Christian system, because the Christian assertion of universal equal dignity necessarily leads to the conclusion that human interactions should be primarily consensual. The logical distinction between saying, “I have no right to prevent you from doing X”, and saying, “If X floats your boat, that’s great!”, is obvious and elementary. For Deneen to be right, he has to collapse that distinction, and he can’t.

I notice that Rod and Deneen both like to talk about global capitalism as if it’s something qualitatively different from what existed in the past. It’s not. Our economy was infinitely freer and more “liberal” in the Nineteenth Century. Global capitalism is just the result of advances in technology and wealth that enable us to engage in the specialization and exchange that make us rich on a much broader scale, and with more participants. Capitalism has advanced with technology, in spite of increasing statism, not because of it.

As for Casey, the Supreme Court is not, in fact, the authoritative interpreter of the Constitution. It has the indisputable final word only with respect to the disposition of individual cases or controversies where it has jurisdiction. The other branches need not respect a Court ruling that purports to strike down a statute on a blanket basis, or grant itself jurisdiction at the margins. And even if the Court were authoritative, that would not be remotely sufficient to establish that the Constitution is compatible with whatever the Court says, since the Court can obviously get it wrong.

Dreher: “For you conservative readers who believe that classical liberalism can be saved, I’m eager to know how you think that might be done, given the cultural realities of our post-Christian age.”

One of the reasons I’m attracted to this blog is that I have the same instinct that animates “The Benedict Option”: That the bulk of the population is too far gone, but that a smaller, core group might be able to keep the faith. If that’s true of orthodox Christianity, it may also be true of classical liberalism. Bring together those who understand that the equal dignity of men and women does not imply sameness; that “you may” does not imply “you ought”; that fences are generally there for a reason; that the scientific method neither is nor implies an ontology or a metaphysics; that we have unchosen duties. Teach those truths to each other and to our children. Build networks for cross-patronization and support. Gather geographically. In time, maybe even build up a great enough concentration to press for autonomy or independence.

In short, make classical liberalism part of the BenOp. There need be no paradox–Coolidge and the men he cites certainly wouldn’t have seen one.

My reply lower down in the thread:

@Haigha gives the most concise, hardest-hitting critique of Deneen I’ve yet seen anywhere:

The burden is not on Muñoz to prove that liberalism does not inevitably lead to the contemporary parade of horribles; the burden is on Deneen to prove that it does inevitably lead there. . . . [We] have one single iteration of the Enlightenment and the subsequent history of Western civilization. There’s no compelling reason to think that if we had more iterations, the results would necessarily be this way. The United States was doing quite well, and was more liberal than it is now, until the early 20th Century. Who knows what would have happened if there had been no WWI, or if the conflation of women’s rights, sexual libertinism, and male-female sameness had been foreseen and stamped out early, or the conflation of science and atheism?

And:

[President Coolidge] explains the logic of liberalism properly understood, and how it not only is not incompatible with Christianity, but is in fact the most Christian system, because the Christian assertion of universal equal dignity necessarily leads to the conclusion that human interactions should be primarily consensual. The logical distinction between saying, “I have no right to prevent you from doing X”, and saying, “If X floats your boat, that’s great!”, is obvious and elementary. For Deneen to be right, he has to collapse that distinction, and he can’t. Exactly. This is certainly much better put than Muñoz puts it. If you have your own blog, Haigha, or write elsewhere, I’d love to know. In different forums, I’ve been trying to argue this last distinction to no avail for quite some time. Of course the answer is always: “If you don’t affirm us and agree with us as to what truth is, you are quite simply a bigot, your bigotry clearly comes from your religion, don’t you know about separation of church and state, you don’t belong in the public arena,” blah blah blah. Bland emotive assertions accompanied by no understanding of the separation clause. And yet, sadly, this understanding of the American project now gets a pass from tens of millions of Americans.

I fully agree with Rod and others here (cf. @pjnelson) that what we are witnessing is not a conflict between religion and secularism, but rather a conflict between different religions. On the one hand, orthodox Christianity; on the other, a new religion of the Perversely Desiring Self. I can honestly say that what troubles me most in recent years is the fact that our elites and our courts are not secular enough. They are showing themselves adherents of a new religious vision, the Rainbow Cult, one with its own martyrology, its own rituals, its own sense of the divine. That divine is located not in any old desiring self, such as most of us, but rather in, let’s say, a teen drag queen who takes the moniker Divine, and who comes out “bravely” as intersex and gay at the same time. And if ze was ever rejected by ze’s parents or “backward” elements in ze’s community, all the better. Ze is already in this new cult a St. Sebastian on digital canvas, pierced by the arrows of normie evil.

One might not agree with me that Obergefell and what followed represents the rise of a new religion. But I’d ask: Would any other group besides our now worshiped LGBTQwerty tribe have been given the right to redefine an institution as fundamental as marriage? Because, in my view, they did not in fact “expand marriage rights”. What they did is redefined marriage itself. Would any other tribe have been able to do this, out of the blue as it were, after little more than a decade of rallying? I highly doubt it. It could only happen because of a certain something the LGBT cause had picked up in the meantime. That something is a kind of religious aura, a Kool-Aid charisma that had already infected our culture on coast and coast (rather than from coast to coast, as the latter included a Middle America then still mostly unflooded by said Kool-Aid).

And this is why I wish our elites had stuck more to their secularism. That they had not become proselytes of a bizarre new cult.

But to return to the question of classical liberalism and its role in our present, Rod puts it like this:

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that most Americans today were religiously engaged. Would that have stopped the kind of liberal economics that have eviscerated communities? Or the other cultural developments that have deracinated modern people? I don’t see how. Whether the Founders realized what liberalism was capable of or not, the fact is that the deepest principles of liberalism are antithetical to the kind of virtues necessary to sustain liberalism. It’s a paradox.

I think this is basically right, and so, regardless of Haigha’s brilliant critique, I still incline more toward Deneen’s argument as offering something essential. Which is not necessarily to say that we have any better choices at the moment than liberalism. Perhaps Haigha is right that we need to focus on developing Benedict Options for both the orthodox religious and for those who still support classical liberalism.

I’m aware that Haigha, in some respects, is presenting a position similar to Muñoz’s. But I’m interested especially in Haigha’s stress on the alternative historical possibility that American culture had foreseen the results of “the conflation of women’s rights, sexual libertinism, and male-female sameness … or the conflation of science and atheism,” as I’m also interested in the following: “The logical distinction between saying, ‘I have no right to prevent you from doing X’, and saying, ‘If X floats your boat, that’s great!’, is obvious and elementary. For Deneen to be right, he has to collapse that distinction, and he can’t.”

I’d be curious how Deneen himself would respond to these various critiques. Of course in his book he makes very clear that hatching any ambitious new political blueprint to replace liberalism would be dangerous and likely self-defeating. But what would he say to Haigha’s arguments? Further: Is there any value in a Benedict Option of classical liberalism, if only as a means to temper the excesses of late liberalism?

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Jack Phillips, Rainbow Cultism, and Culture



If you're seeking arguments against LGBT Fundamentalism, some of my ideas may help. I’ve been fighting this fight for years.

I’m a Christian, deeply opposed to most of the “progress” made by the LGBT movement since 2010. I have gay friends I love and admire, but the movement that claims to represent them--no. If I oppose what I call “Rainbow Cultism”, then, seeing it as a kind of cultural cancer, this is not because I think individual gays or lesbians themselves are a cancer. Far from it. What I oppose in fact are developments in the LGBT movement as a whole, and most especially three things:

1) the attempt by the LGBT movement to censor or punish orthodox religious people for not “evolving” as regards their views of marriage (NOTE: We will not be evolving. Sorry);

2) the LGBT movement’s shift from basic civil rights for gays and lesbians toward the whole sick panoply that is the “trans” movement or the “gender identity” movement;

3) the LGBT movement’s bizarre assumption that it has a mandate to teach Americans as a whole the meaning of sex and gender.

To be clear, as a person who believes in pluralism, I support the right to love whom you want; the right to speak what you believe; the right, in this case, not to be fired or harassed for identifying as gay, etc. I’m an old-school American as regards what is tolerable in a free society. My strong opposition to the LGBT movement derives in part from what I now see: that movement increasingly stepping on the rights of other Americans who do not accept its ever-shoddier ideological dictates. In a free society, people can choose their path in life, but cannot force others to affirm that path. The LGBT movement no longer gets this.

I hope the following dialogue is helpful for those who see the serious problems I see. It came about in the context of the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop case in the Supreme Court, in which the court ruled in favor of Christian baker Jack Phillips (which was clearly the right ruling) but unfortunately declined to clarify certain key questions that, in my view, it should have. Our Supreme Court, though ruling for Jack, kicked the can down the road on the issue of free expression. This is unfortunate.

Though Christian myself, I find it more useful when arguing these issues with secular liberals to cite facts that are more world-historical in nature. Christians who want to defend the Christian understanding of marriage in face of criticism from secular liberals cannot expect to make headway by quoting the Bible. They need a wider historical perspective. The fact is: Our understanding of marriage as Christians has certain fundamentals in common with the understanding of marriage across cultures and religions on every continent. Knowing how to use this wider human picture is essential in weakening the LGBT argument that one we only opposes same-sex marriage because of some "narrow Christian bigotry". Looked at in historical context, it is not in fact our thinking on marriage that is eccentric or narrow, but rather that of the secular liberals.

The dialogue started when a friend of mine posted the following on Facebook as his general takeaway from the Supreme Court decision. I don't find his point all that interesting. The thread, however, allowed me to present, more concisely than usual, my own thinking on the Rainbow Cultism we Americans have been subjected to for at least a decade now. And so I’m posting it here.

Eric Mader

STEVE posts: Let me summarize the issue of refusing service, from a Supreme Court point of view. No shoes, no shirt, no service. A-OK! I refuse to serve you. A-OK! I refuse to serve you because __________ . Anything after the word "because" is subject to laws. Some answers are OK. Some are illegal. This is the complicated nature of our society. Grow up and deal with it.

ERIC: Among the people you know, Steve, who needs to “grow up and deal with it”? I’m guessing you mean, in this Masterpiece Cakeshop context, that we religious people need to grow up. Of course I see all this differently. In my view, it all depends on the nature of the service. If the service involves creative or custom work, and that creative work offends the provider’s deeply held beliefs, then the provider should be able to opt out. Period. Otherwise, no.

And this is why, yes, I would also say it’s "complicated". The problem with liberals is, when it comes to their precious LGBT crowd, they think nothing can be complicated--that "bigots" just must say Yes to everything, or they deserve to be punished. This has become clear as day, and we traditionalists will no longer accept it.

When a few years back a bakery in Colorado (yes, the same state!) refused to bake a custom cake with Bible verses on it, and the customer reported religious discrimination, did Colorado authorities sanction the baker, enroll him in forced “diversity” classes, demand monthly reports back on his progress in understanding civil rights? In fact--surprise!--the Colorado authorities recognized the right of the baker to refuse. On grounds of conscience. They said the bakery had the right to refuse to do work if they disagreed with the message.

But things are very different when we have our precious little gays being offended. Jack Phillips was subject to the full weight of state sanction. It's a glaring double standard, and it can't stand. Because, again, it's complicated; and it is so because we’re dealing here with freedom of conscience and balancing rights. On this front it’s our arrogant liberals who need to grow up. And the Supreme Court needs to get it right. Which they so far did in only half measure.

Myself, btw, I see no problem with allowing a committed atheist designer to refuse to do design work for a religious organization. As I of course see no problem with the reverse. I support liberty in creative work. Period. The main reason the left does not, in these recent cases, is because, again, they have to see their poor little gays always get their way on everything. It’s become unbalanced, un-American.

STEVE: Actually, on this one, Eric, in terms of your main arguments, we more or less agree. I do however think there are “conservatives” that need to grow up, as well as “liberals” that need to grow up.

DAVE L.: What would be great would be if the bigots could just post signs at their places of business, so the rest of us would know which businesses to avoid. Personally, I think discriminating against anyone who offers to pay you for services, is simply bad business. But if you're going to be an asshole toward your fellow human beings, don't cry about it when the rest of us boycott you and put you out of business.

ERIC: The point, Dave, is that "bigot" has become a hollow term. It used to be pretty clear who bigots were--people filled with a visceral hatred of X group--but now the term is used to apply to anyone who maintains some religious or philosophical refusal to ascribe to any of a long list of recently minted liberal platitudes, even if, like Jack Phillips, their refusal to conform is entirely civil. Thus: Some people believe that two women can marry each other. Others, on the basis of a massive, universal human background of belief and practice, believe that, no, marriage is only between man and woman, by definition. The latter are supposedly bigots. But one could just as easily define the former, who get nearly apoplectic in the face of the latter’s belief, as bigots. It's the "marriage equality" people who are ruining careers, who are out to shut down and censor those who disagree with them.

Resentment can be seen coming from either side on this issue, and on others too (cf. immigration) and there's no objective, scientific litmus test to prove who is right. In short, 1) everyone is a bigot and thus 2) the word loses its meaning. Only those who manage to think current liberal ideology is transparently true (i.e. dumbbells with no historical or anthropological depth) think the term is unproblematic.

There should be nothing wrong with standing by one's principles. If one has strong beliefs in one or another direction on any of these questions, and if one has any principles, one isn't going to want one's creative work used to celebrate what offends. And rightly so.

Anyone who wants to refuse to do work for a cause he/she doesn't believe in is, according to you, an asshole. I don't see it that way. Though I do happen to think you are being an asshole here--an asshole operating, as is usually the case, on craven, shallow principles about what is good in humanity. For instance, you seem to think that business, the mere process of bringing in money no matter from whom, is a ”good" to which all else should take second place.

[Follows some rather ad hominem nastiness between myself and Dave L., which I don’t find interesting enough to include.]

JIM R.: Opposition to same sex marriage comes from a massive and universal human background and practice?! In fact, opposition is based almost universally on religious dogma and ignorance. [Jim includes a link, which I won’t include here. You can look it up if you want:]


ERIC: You’re flat wrong, Jim, sorry to say, and it's a direct result of being almost astoundingly myopic in historical scope. Across all continents, for the millennia of recorded history, marriage customs varied enormously, but two things remained virtually universal: 1) marriage was only between male and female; 2) marriage was linked to the legitimation and raising of children. To list the cultural groupings whose understanding of marriage met these two criteria would produce literally hundreds of entries. These criteria even held for many cultures, such as the ancient Athenians, that accepted homosexual love. They never mixed up homosexual love with marriage. Why not, do you think? Because they were “bigots”?

Against this massive historical record, you can count on one hand the pre-1990s cultures that recognized any sort of same-sex unions as marriage--you can count them on a hand missing a couple fingers in fact. Sorry to say, but the very fact that you refuse to accept this "massive and universal human background" and then in the next phrase refer to "religious dogma" as a basis for opposition to same-sex marriage demonstrates how shallow your historical perspective is. Note: Before the 18th c. West, no culture had ever even theorized a clear distinction between secular and religious. The facts are overwhelming: If we look at the total human record and ask "Is marriage only between male and female or is it also, sometimes, same-sex?" the answer we get is literally 99.8% in favor of the former. What's more, still today the large majority of the world's population lives in countries that don't recognize same-sex marriage. But yes, I know: You and many other Westerners, with your HuffPost links, you are liberals, and because you take your liberalism too deeply, you assume for your own relatively young culture a universality that it does not, in my view, actually have. Like many other Americans, you're liable think these other nations and their deep cultural roots are just "ignorant" or prey to "religious dogma". Myself I see something very different. I'd say that most of us Western liberals are prey to our own "religious" sort of dogma, and a narrow dogma it's turning out to be.

Thus: One may try to argue for same-sex marriage on civil rights grounds, given current social conditions in Western societies, but to argue for it on any anthropological or historical grounds can only be a massive fail. Because it is not just "conservative American Christians" that beg to differ with liberals on same-sex marriage. No, it is the whole of human cultural history: Buddhists, animists, Maya, Hittites, Javanese, Confucians, Zulus, Celts, etc., etc. And me with them.

You seem to be friends with D.A. Nice to meet you, Jim.

JIM R.: Civilized societies have also accepted the practice of slavery for longer than they haven't. Does the length of time it was an acceptable practice make it morally on par with those who think it isn't? Are those who oppose it just ignorant of its tradition and history? If something is universally accepted for a certain period of time, can it ever change or do we continue to accept it because that's how it's been for so long?

Nice to meet you too, Eric. I enjoy the dialogue.

ERIC: Yes, mentioning slavery is one way of parrying, though I don't think it's all that persuasive. Those who see marriage as a social institution fundamentally about 1) the biological male/female divide in humanity and 2) the biological facts of where children come from and who should be responsible for those children aren't arbitrarily oppressing people. They're merely sticking to biological grounds. Slavery is quite different, don't you think, or do you suppose slavery had some identifiable biological ground?

We might use your kind of argument in the following way. See if you think it holds water.

1) Motherhood is a fundamental human good.

2) Thus everyone should have the right to be a mother.

So far no problem, right? But what if we take the next step and argue, from the mere fact that motherhood exists, that:

3) Everyone should have the right to be a mother, including men.

Now we have a problem. We are offending against biology and the meaning of motherhood. The fact that some men might desire to be mothers is to me irrelevant. My answer would be: "Tough luck, Dave. Find something else." And I wouldn't feel in the least guilty about giving that answer either.

So to get back to your allusion to "slavery", the way you used it, you might pop in here and say: "Just because only women were mothers in the past doesn't mean we have to restrict motherhood to women in the present. I mean, we also practiced slavery for much of human history. Does that make it right?"

I'd say you were wrong using this kind of argument. I'd say you were mixing fundamentally different phenomena, trying to pass off apples as oranges. Or rather, in this case, plastic apples as oranges.

Why do I lay this out like this? Because in my view this argument for a man's "right" to motherhood is a sleight of hand similar to the arguments for same-sex marriage. They both misconstrue the concept of rights and offend against the meaning of words. And note that my raising this motherhood argument isn't a fanciful slippery slope either--because, voila, following "marriage equality" like Tuesday follows Monday we see just this these arguments appearing. In both cases, we have a rebellion against the meaning of human fundamentals and an assault on language itself.

I think we shouldn't have started on this path to begin with, and I say path because the whole LGBT movement is proving itself to be just that--a path, with same-sex marriage as the major mistaken point of departure for the whole trek. Note how the path keeps extending with the continuous addition of letters: it was LGBT, then LGBTQ, now it's LGBTQIA. I even saw something about how a K was being added. For what? Sex with Kindergarteners? Kangaroos? I don't know and I don't much care. These days, if it has a rainbow flag on it, I'm nine times out of ten going to be opposed. This Rainbow cult is proving destructive on so many fronts. It is unsustainable, glaringly so. Though they preen themselves on their intellectual sophistication, I predict it's going to be Western liberals who are proven "ignorant" in the long run. Too many of us in the West have come to believe that liberal egalitarianism is a Get Out of Jail Free Card for all things, even for nature itself.

In any case, I hope you at least recognize that my initial mention of a "massive and universal human background" on marriage is in fact very tangible.

Cheers. I also enjoy the dialogue.

MARY S.: The important distinction is whether the traits the business owner objects to are immutable or not. So it’s ok to refuse to serve white supremacists, barefoot people, people who are drunk and disorderly, etc. It’s illegal to refuse to serve disabled people, racial minorities, women, LGBT people, etc. because they can’t change those facts about themselves.

ERIC: I do think your distinction is an important one, Mary, though I also think it is a mistake on various grounds to claim that LGBT people possess a trait or traits that are immutable in the same sense that, say, sex or race is. This is especially true in the case of the new warped ideology of "gender identity" as opposed to sex. The degree to which sexual orientation or gender identity is innate vs. acquired is still an open one. Is that true of race or sex? Obviously not. What's more, LGBT is, unlike race, defined more by behavior than by any discernible physical trait. So all in all, I'd say that while your distinction is important, your easy inclusion of the LGBT spectrum within the "innate" side is off-base. You may also have something to say on my arguments above with Jim R.

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MORE COWBELL: Here's some perspective from what seems to me a pretty middle-of-the-road, reasonable Canadian woman. Worth watching:



Books:

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.