Christians, Eeeww!

So I am sitting in the break room at work today eating my lunch.  There are two coworkers also there, and the TV is on.  There is a commercial for a dating site, which prompts the following dialogue out of the blue:

First coworker:  Dating sites!  There are all these dating sites.  There is even a dating site for Christians.  Christians think they are better than other people, but they aren’t.

Second coworker:  They are actually the worst.

First coworker:  And the popes!  Eeewww…!!!

I could have said something to them.  I could have complained to management that I felt excluded or something.  Such complaints are a handy excuse these days for shutting some people up and/or sending them to mandatory re-“education”.  But I still believe in free speech, even if some don’t.  I think offendedness is too eagerly and too often used as an excuse for eroding people’s rights.  I will not help that pernicious process.  But it makes me wonder what sort of tribalistic bubble my coworkers live in that they automatically assume that someone they don’t really know (i.e. me) wouldn’t find their bigotry objectionable.  And I can’t help adding this to the long list of instances where those who talk as if tolerance and diversity as the only moral absolutes show that they do not truly believe in those things.  And that is a problem.

Easy targets for the englightened and sophisticated

The director and co-producer of Angels and Demons have carefully avoided showing Muslim characters in a negative light.  This while making two movies depicting the Catholic Church as anti-reason, anti-science and riddled with hypocrisy.  Maybe it’s simple hatred of Christians, or maybe it’s because they know that offended Catholics won’t be bombing their homes or slitting their throats.  In any case I won’t be paying money to see any movie made by either of them again.

Praising with faint damnation

With the growing stir caused by Ben Stein’s movie Expelled, Joe Carter has some thoughts on why the issue of Intelligent Design refuses to go away. 

Scientific ignorance?  Not when the theory of evolution has had a monopoly on the classroom since the 1960s.

Closed-mindedness caused by a priori commitment to religious fundamentalism?  I see no evidence for that, nor do I see closed-mindedness existing on only one side.  Indeed, the whole premise of Expelled is that evolutionary orthodoxy is maintained through a ruthless suppression of dissent.  I hope to get a chance to see the movie and see what sort of case Stein makes for that.

Carter claims –and I have thought this for some time– that Intelligent Design recieves a major boost from the actions of its critics.  People like Richard Dawkins act every bit as much as closed-minded religious zealots as those they rail against.  Their reaction is an essentially emotional one: too angry and threatened to even take the time to understand what it is they see as a dire threat to humanity.  Where those who do science busy themselves with asking questions about the natural world and seeking to answer those questions empirically, the anti-ID crusaders fight tooth and nail to make sure that you and I believe the right things– things that go well beyond the pale of empiricism.   They bear not a little resemblance to medieval inquisitors; only the tenets of the orthodoxy have changed.  They have stared into the Abyss and the Abyss has stared back into them.  Although our tools and toys get increasingly complex, when it comes to human nature there apparently is nothing new under the sun.

Carter has more thoughts on ways that Intelligent Design is given impetus by its critics, and all three posts deserve reading.  His #1 reason is something that I witnessed while pursuing my BS in microbiology, back when what is now called the Intelligent Design movement was in its infancy.  Intelligence or education are no safeguard against closed-mindedness.  In bygone years this was recognized, and was justification for the academic ideal of freedom of enquiry.

Seen this before?

I’m starting to see some parallels between the recent raid on the polygamist compound in Texas and the raid on the Branch Davidian compound in the same state a decade ago. In both cases, these communities (funny how that word sounds less menacing than “compound”) were assaulted by heavily-armed law enforcement in response to allegations of child molestation. In the case of the Davidians we discovered –after authorities went in guns blazing– that local authorities had already investigated those accusations and found them groundless. In the current situation with the polygamists, it turns out that the justification for the raid, an anonymous call for help from a sixteen year old girl forced to marry against her will, turns out to be fraudulent. In the meantime another community of nonconformists has been liquidated. Oops again.

This raises some troubling questions. Since when do we liquidate communities on the pretext that individuals within them are alleged criminals? How far are we going to pursue this “logic”? Arrest all residents of Las Vegas? Nuke L.A.? In the nornal course of events, arrests are made of specific individuals on specific charges based on specific evidence. But apparently accusations of child molestation are sufficiently emotionally-laden that we don’t question it if the authorities summarily violate the civil rights of hundreds of weirdos citizens.

The issue becomes thorny when we consider the alleged practice of teenage girls marrying older men. Given that many states allow girls under eighteen to marry under specific circumstances, though this varies from one state to another, it seems that the essence of the problem is that these people are doing things that are considered aberrant by the standards of mainstream culture. We don’t blink if thirteen year old girls are told how to have sex and provided condoms and/or abotions without parental consent –again, your state may vary– but allowing them to marry is beyond the pale. We’re all for cultural relativism and diversity up to a point; then we reach for some firepower.

Another thorny question is how we separate freewill from environment in such cases.The alleged teen brides say they enter into these marriages consentually, but is it consent when they are taught from birth that this is what God expects from them or that God’s “prophet” tells specific girls to marry a specific man? And this group’s “prophet” is seen as just that: his words are the voice of God and to question his orders is to court your eternal doom.
On the other hand, how different is this from our own kids being trained daily through TV, movies, radio, games and (for those who read) books that what is truly important in life is to seek material pleasure and base decisions on feelings: an attitude that is incredibly profitable to mega-corporations who are ready to sell our kids anything from hot new fall fashions to Britney Spears albums to political ideologies?

Is it really unacceptable to teach kids what choices to make, or is it only unacceptable when they are taught to make choices that conflict with our own views or biases? This is relevant not just for some cousin-marrying nut jobs living among the Texas sagebrush. There are some who want to make it illegal for any parent to teach their religion to their own children. They even invoke the same language as the CPS workers in Texas: they say it’s child abuse. No, not forcing your kid to marry some middle-aged polygamist dude. Teaching religion to your child is itself abusive under any and all circumstances. Do we really want social workers, backed up by State Troopers, to have the authority to decide which ideas parents may teach their children and which ideas they may not?

See, the dirty little secret is that our society is not tolerant and diverse.

People who are truly nonconformists have their families separated or killed based on accusations that nobody bothers to pursue under due process of law because they turn out to be bogus. Tolerance and diversity often as not are merely pretexts for telling people –religious nut jobs primarily– to shut up. Sometimes it’s “Shut up… or else.”

Currently, given that the original justification for the raid was false, the children of this cult are to remain separated from their parents on the basis that

the teachings of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints jeopardized children.

Jeopardized means “places in potential danger”. See, if you’re some wacko nonconformist, the state doesn’t have to prove that your kids actually have come to harm. They only have to speculate that they might. But if you’re a good conformist –if you look, act, talk and think the same as everyone else– then that’s normal and you have little need to fear the inquisitors rounding you up in the middle of the night and charging you with heresy.