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Not Worried About The Rise Of The Religious Right?
Oh, ho-hum...you've got more important things to think about? Well, check out all the parallels between the way the Christian Right talks about gays and the way Hitler and friends talked about the Jews. (Comparison boxes are midway down the page, the purple section.)

Just wondering, but does the KKK get a tax exemption like all these religious groups do? Not that they should, or the church groups should either, but at least the KKK is honest about their intentions.

Posted by aalkon at January 6, 2006 10:19 AM

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Amy, those anti-gay sites/sources in the comparison are very mild compared to these lovely people: http://www.godhatesfags.com/main/ Of course, we non-believers realize that people of god have the highest moral values and especially love kids: http://www.rickross.com/groups/clergy.html

Posted by: Bill Henry at January 6, 2006 6:43 AM

If ever there were a person who was the antithesis of what Jesus was supposed to be -- ie, the ANTI-Christ -- it's Fred Phelps (of GHF.com, above).

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 6, 2006 7:15 AM

Amy, this may be difficult for us, but if we take a "leap of faith" and imagine for a minute Jesus really existed, I see little difference between him and Fred. JC tells us in Luke 19:27 to slay anyone who won't allow him to "reign over them", and when to beat your servant in Luke 12:47 "And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes." Then, too, don't forget, JC brought us the concept of eternal torment which didn't exist in the Old Testament.... I think JC and Fred sound like they'd be great buddies if they were contemporaries!

Posted by: Bill Henry at January 6, 2006 8:58 AM

Amy, why I don’t agree with much that you write here on your blog, I’m always encouraged that you come to your views through honest intellectual effort. However, this latest post is different. In order to make a point, you have engaged the most despicable and lazy of rhetorical devices, the reducto-ad-Hitlerum.

Jonah Goldberg says a lot of things better than I ever could. Please, check out his column on this topic.

http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg090403.asp

Posted by: Fritz at January 6, 2006 9:22 AM

Here's the link again,

www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg090403.asp

Posted by: Fritz at January 6, 2006 9:24 AM

Hmm. Given that the average Joe doesn't know that the Wehrmacht wore "Gott Mit Uns" belt buckles, the reference to Hitler isn't all that "lazy". There are many papers devoted to Adolf's religious views and his manipulation of the masses therewith.

Posted by: Radwaste at January 6, 2006 5:55 PM

More along these lines from Henry Louis Gates:

http://eserver.org/race/blacklash.html

“[...] anti-gay propaganda sounds less like anti-black rhetoric than like classical anti-Jewish rhetoric: both evoke the image of the small, cliquish minority that nevertheless commands disproportionate and sinister worldly influence."

Posted by: Lena (currently freezing her jiggly white ass off in NYC) at January 6, 2006 10:04 PM

So . . . if I compile a list comparing the rhetoric that a small group of people used about the Terri Schiavo case (I remember someone around here calling her a "human turnip") with Nazi rhetoric about "life unworthy of life," you'll post it here, right? I mean, just to show how truly scary the entire "liberal" right-to-kill-human-turnips movement is . . .

Posted by: Artemis at January 6, 2006 11:17 PM

Do you not understand the difference between a movement of people against an entire people and various people who think it's wrong to keep a brain dead woman alive? In the end, science proved us turnip callers right. But, it sounds like you're a believer in the Great Pumpkin, so there's no persuading you with rational arguments, right?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 7, 2006 7:12 AM

Fred Phelps is a dyed in the wool Democrat. So maybe the problem isn't religious nutters, but Democrats. Democrats are always saying that gays are "born that way." But Democrats also vehemently support abortion. Maybe all Democrats want to abort all gay babies? Sounds nutty, but no more than suggesting that Christians want to kill all gays. Even when sodomy was illegal in many states it wasn't a capital crime.

Still, even if those few fundamentalists like Phelps had their way and were able to kill all gays, it wouldn't match the number of people slaughtered by your secular philosophy.

Posted by: nash at January 7, 2006 11:55 AM

There's no such thing as a "secular philosophy."

And let's look at a highly rational man -- Bertrand Russell. How many people were slaughtered because he wrote that it's irrational to believe in god? Then there's Sam Harris, a more recent entry into the "please don't believe in unproven crap" canon. If there's anybody who's passionate about bringing peace to the world, it's Harris.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 7, 2006 12:15 PM

First, since you're typically interested in accuracy and reason, let's remember that Terri Schiavo was NOT brain dead. Look it up.

Second, I don't see the difference between trying to prove the profound scary-ness of some amorphous and ill-defined religious right by comparing a small group of their statements about gays to Nazi statments about gays and doing the same with respect to an equally amorphous right-to-kill-human-turnips movement and the euthanasia policies of the Nazis. In your zeal to throw in the Great Pumpkin zinger, you seem to have forgotten that whether I believe in the Great Pumpkin has no bearing whatever on the point I made. But it makes for a witty kind of evasion, doesn't it?

Science, as far as I know, has never been able to prove *any* moral propositions right or wrong.

Posted by: Artemis at January 7, 2006 2:45 PM

And let's look at some words from a speech by that highly rational man, Bertrand Russell: "We used to think that Hitler was wicked when he wanted to kill all the Jews. But [John] Kennedy and Macmillan not only want to kill all the Jews but all the rest of us too. They're much more wicked than Hitler ... They are the wickedest people that ever lived in the history of mankind."

I congratulate you for not believing in the Great Pumpkin but you might want to reconsider your faith in that "highly rational" St. Bertrand.

Posted by: Artemis at January 7, 2006 3:15 PM

There's no such thing as a "secular philosophy."

You base your world view around your belief that God does not exist and that true morality can be discovered by man through rational thought. That's your damn secular philosophy.

Posted by: nash at January 7, 2006 3:19 PM

Sounds like ridiculous hyperbole, Artemis, and it's unsourced, and left without context. I would never rubberstamp everything any person says or thinks.

I would, however, suggest you drop your big book of fairy tales and pick up a copy of Why I Am Not A Christian, which is a rather marvelous work.

Don't have time to debate the rest of your ill-reasoned hooha now, but somebody please take over -- on science not proving moral propositions wrong, etc. In brief, "Thou shalt not covet one's neighbor's wife," for example, is not something you can prove or disprove.

Moreover, it is he who comes with the extraordinary claim that has the burden of proving it.

I'm all for an interesting debate. This one has taken on a remedial quality. Please discover the exciting world of rationality and return after you do.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 7, 2006 3:29 PM

[The quote is from Roger Kimball's book, Lives of the Mind, and he got it from a biography of Russell]

Again, what does the big book of fairy tales have to do with it, O Rational One?

If my hooha is so ill-reasoned, it seems the time you took to post your comment would have been all that was required for you to refute my ill-reasoned hooha. So I'll go with the ill-reasoned assumption not that you can't be bothered to refute my ill-reasoned hooha but that you *can't* refute it.

"In brief, "Thou shalt not covet one's neighbor's wife," for example, is not something you can prove or disprove."

-- You're exactly right, and that was my point, but you don't seem to be reading very carefully. You claimed that science proved the turnip callers right. Perhaps I misunderstood the meaning of your claim. Science proved that Terri Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state, yes, but I believed that all along. Science did not and cannot prove that it was right (absent clear evidence of her wishes) to kill her.

Now perhaps you could enlighten us about the exciting world of rationality and explain to us how that little Nazi analogy exercise you linked to scientificaly or statistically proves the scary-ness of the "Christian right." I mean, if it's so basic, you should be able to explain with a few swift and devastatingly rational strokes of the keyboard.

I'm awaiting the rational coup de grace.

Posted by: Artemis at January 7, 2006 3:45 PM

And since you're so concerned about fairy tales,why not stop believing the fairy tale about Schiavo being brain dead? I might be tempted to think, if I wasn't aware of your great reverence for science and rationality, that you were a little unclear, scientifically speaking, on the concept of brain death.

Posted by: Artemis at January 7, 2006 3:48 PM

Hi Artemis --

I'm sure that someone from the disability rights movement (or whatever it's called) has already compared a group of statements from the "right-to-kill-human-turnips movement" and the euthanasia (eugenics?) policies of the Nazis. And it's possible that such a comparison would shed more light on the Nazi-Christian Right analogy.

Call me old-fashioned, but I don't think that good scientists concern themselves with moral propositions at all -- or even with "proving" hypotheses. (Russell was a mathematician, not a scientist, right?) I can't imagine any scientist worth his or her lab coat trying to prove that it's right or wrong to pull the plug on anyone. If they have opinions on such issues, I'd hope that they'd offer them as opinions rather than science.

Amy -- Why did you say 'There's no such thing as a "secular philosophy."'? Perhaps we're using different definitions of "philosophy"?

Posted by: Lena at January 7, 2006 5:34 PM

Hi Lena,

I agree with you that good scientists shouldn't concern themselves with moral propositions -- or at least they shouldn't do so in the context of their scientific research -- but I wasn't suggesting that they should. I was merely responding to Amy's comment that science had proved the "turnip callers" right. She's correct if she meant science proved PVS, but she's incorrect if she meant that science proved what was the ethical or moral course in the Schiavo case.

Scientists have as much right as anyone, of course, to comment on moral propositions, but I think it should be understood that when they do so, they are not commenting as "experts" on the subject.

Posted by: Artemis at January 7, 2006 6:11 PM

Lean,
I meant that there's no one "we all believe this" philosophy for rational people. People are secular simply by virtue of not believing in The Imaginary Friend of one kind or another, which is a negative. Simplistic people believe that being an atheist means you lack a moral code. They couldn't be further from the truth in my case.

And PS, I only read your comment above in this latest group, because I'm working on a little interior/exterior design for my writer cave, so I have to run out, but thank you for picking up the slack here! You said what I meant (about the weird notion that scientists would be in the business of proving philosophical questions).

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 7, 2006 6:46 PM

Hi Artemis --

Although Amy did claim that science proved the "turnip callers" right, I don't see where she said that "science proved what was the ethical or moral course in the Schiavo case."

Hi Nash --

I think there are plenty of people who support access to safe and legal abortion, but who also have reservations about the procedure on some kind of emotional level. I also know gay men and lesbians who don't believe that their sexual orientation results from being "born that way." They don't bring these conflicts and caveats into the public debate about rights because they know they'd be shooting themselves in the foot. You might call it hypocrisy, but others will call it political savvy. Isn't that interesting?

Posted by: Lena at January 7, 2006 7:46 PM

Lena,

Here's what Amy said: "Do you not understand the difference between a movement of people against an entire people and various people who think it's wrong to keep a brain dead woman alive? In the end, science proved us turnip callers right. But, it sounds like you're a believer in the Great Pumpkin, so there's no persuading you with rational arguments, right?"

That entire statement -- which, as I have pointed out, contains the scientifically *incorrect* assertion that Schiavo was brain dead -- seems to suggest that "science" has somehow proven that it's wrong to keep a "brain dead" person alive, but that my putative belief in the Great Pumpkin renders me incapable of accepting the rational arguments of science. I'm open to being shown how I've misinterpreted the statement . . . How do you interpret it?

[I'm assuming that when Amy says "brain dead," she really means someone in a persistent vegetative state (which is NOT brain death), but as Amy's the stickler for rationality and scientific accuracy, I'm surprised that she hasn't admitted her error.]

Posted by: Artemis at January 7, 2006 11:43 PM

Oops, I mis-wrote. Persistent Vegetative State. Memory isn't one of my strong suits. She did have irreversible brain damage, and she was about as functional as a turnip.

I would have corrected my error sooner, but I sometimes tear myself away from the computer and go out into the world, only to be frightened by the boorish and irrational back into my writer cave.

Why do you believe in the existence of The Great Pumpkin?


Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 8, 2006 12:15 AM

When did I say I believed in the Great Pumpkin, and what does my supposed belief in the Great Pumpkin have to do with my criticism of your sloppy reasoning with regard to the Nazi analogy?

By the way, I missed the part where you explain how that stupid little exercise is statistical and scientic proof of the scary-ness of the "Christian right."

Posted by: Artemis at January 8, 2006 9:34 PM

There is a connection between science and morals. It hinges on the question of where morals come from. The scientific approach would be to look for a natural explanation of moral values - perhaps through evolution, perhaps not. But this view gives moral values a different significance than if you think they are a statement of the values of your creator.


As with all arguments of this form, the religious approach fails to hold water, for me at least, because it doesn't actually explain anything; it merely moves the question one level further away. Where did God (or whoever) get his morals from?


I've written a short naturalistic model for morality. It's short enough to post here, if anyone's interested. Then we could compare different approaches for deciding things like the Terry Schiavo case. Of course - just to be clear - this is not The Secular Moral Code (TM).

Posted by: Norman at January 9, 2006 2:05 AM

Just a side note really - I've always thought that atheists with strong moral codes are more impressive than Pumpkin-believers with strong moral codes. The atheists do the right thing simply to do the right thing, not for fear of being sent to some Hell if they're bad or for the rewards of the Great Pumpkin Patch if they're good.

And I was raised in Germany, grew up hearing horror stories about WW2, and I can't tell you the chill that went through me the first time I heard the words "Homeland Security" used here in the US after 9/11. The Nazi analogy seems disturbingly accurate to me for many of the goings on of the last few years.

Posted by: Kimberly at January 10, 2006 7:06 AM

Um, Kimberly, you seem to have a rather rudimentary understanding of theology, philosophy, and -- for that matter -- of atheism. Many, though not all, atheists base their moral codes on an idea of enlightened self-interest. They're moral because being good to others works out best for them -- nothing wrong with that philosophy but it's certainly not less selfish or more admirable than the moral codes of many religious believers.

Posted by: Artemis at January 10, 2006 12:58 PM

P.S. to Kimberly: I'm glad to hear about the "chill" that went through you the first time you heard the word Homeland Security. More empirical, scientific evidence that the Bush administration and the "religious right" are ooooooh, scaarrrry!

And the chill that went through me when I heard people say that Terri Schiavo's was a "life not worth living"? De facto proof that the "turnip-callers" are Nazis, right?

Posted by: Artemis at January 10, 2006 1:02 PM

Hmm, typed a reply but it didn't go through - I must have screwed it up.

Artemis, I wasn't trying to provide any empirical evidence against the religious right. Frankly I think people like Pat Robertson provide plenty of that. I was merely saying how I felt. I'm sure other people felt comforted by the idea of Homeland Security looking out for them. I most emphatically did not, which was the only point I was making.

I must say the fact that it only took two sentences from me for you to realize I have only a rudimentary understanding of theology, philosophy and atheism shows remarkable perception on your part. I feel (there's that word again) properly chastised.

Of course if you reread said sentences, you'll see I wasn't referring to all or even some atheists, but merely to those who have a strong moral code - subjectively, from my viewpoint. I wouldn't presume to know how all atheists come by their moral codes, or even presume to know how many have them.

Of course if you read up on atheism, you'll see that while some of them do indeed act on an idea of enlightened self-interest, some act from genuine concern for their fellow human beings, some act from reasons known only to them, and some exhibit no moral code at all. They're like, human beings and stuff.

Sorry to be flippant, but the subject Amy was bringing up, the persecution of homosexuals by some religious groups, is an important one to me. The only thing you've said about the subject is:

-By the way, I missed the part where you explain how that stupid little exercise is statistical and scientic proof of the scary-ness of the "Christian right."-

You're welcome to complain all you like about the effectiveness of the Nazi analogy, but you know very well that the purpose is simply to shine a light on the situation. I'm personally for anything that does. Picking on the minutia doesn't change the underlying concern.

Posted by: Kimberly at January 11, 2006 10:16 PM

Actually, Kimberly, I *don't* know very well that the purpose is simply to "shine a light on the situation." If Amy wants to *claim* that that's the purpose, that's all well and good, but then I might wonder why her comments imply that Science and Reason are on her side. They may be, but this post demonstrates no such thing.

Posted by: Artemis at January 12, 2006 11:42 PM

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