Tag Archives: Religion

Vice

31 Oct

I’d like to talk a little about Vice. I’m for it. Or, rather, I’m against being against it. The older I get the less persuaded I am that the laws intended (ostensibly) to rein in Drug Use, Alcoholism, Prostitution, and, Pornography do any good in any way commensurate with the harm that they cause.

And the thing is, there are people clamoring to add things to the list of Vices that say volumes about the impulse to control that motivates the Crusaders. People are Crusading against Genetically Modified food, against High Fructose Corn Syrup, against Sugar. A Crusade against Tobacco has been going on nearly as long as I’ve been alive. Some of these Crusades appear, for the moment, to have  some  basis in fact, but many of them are simply the prejudices of the Crusaders, which they want to impose on everybody.

Now, this is hardly new. Read just a little history and you are sure to encounter previous Morals Crusades; factory owners who forbade this and that, Prohibition, and so on. And, often, we take a very superior attitude toward these moralizing ancestors. And then go right out and do the same thing in the name of “The War On Drugs” or “The Obesity Epidemic”.

(Aside; how the hell can we have an Obesity Epidemic? An epidemic is a widespread occurrence of a communicable disease. Is that why the thin people are so hysterical? They think they’re being exposed to Fat Germs?)

In my Cranky opinion the difference between a Victorian Christian busybody pestering people about drink and church attendance and a Modern Secular busybody who wants to restrict what people eat is not visible to the naked eye. I can understand some genuine concern about Prostitutes and Drug Users, but the laws that are used to “Help” them don’t seem to achieve much good, and do appear to have all kinds of unpleasant fallout. The War On Drugs costs huge amounts of money, is the primary cause of most of the SWAT raids gone bad that you can read about on the internet, and attempts to ‘close loopholes’ that previously allowed people the authorities were “sure” were guilty have brought us “Asset Forfeiture”. And Asset Forfeiture is, frankly, the return of the Sheriff of Nottingham without the colorful Medieval costumes. I can accept that drugs like Cocaine, Heroin, and even Marijuana ruin lives. So does alcohol, but it only took us thirteen years to realize that banning that was a huge mistake. Why can’t we drop this idiotic “War? If legalizing everything is a mistake, we can always ban it again.

The current panic about “Human Trafficking” is simply a long discredited Victorian Witch Hunt being recycled by modern Feminists (look up “White Slavery”), and actually accomplishes little other than to place women accused of being prostitutes into the paws of people who absolutely will not listen to them, unless they stick to the Human Trafficking Hysteria script. Who does this actually help? Is it mean of me to suggest that the driving force behind it is a bunch of crabby women who are waking up to the realization that some men would rather pay for sex than put up with THEM?

As for Gambling, where do agents of the Law get the unmitigated gall to raid poker games when every state in the Union is running a Numbers Racket? That’s what a State Lottery really is, except that the traditional Mob run racket offered better odds and probably had more honest books.

Vice isn’t crime that one person visits on another. Vice is what we do to ourselves. It arguably isn’t good for us, but the history of Government attempts to stifle it isn’t impressive. In fact it’s often revolting.

The progress of civilization is seen in the degree to which the common man is able to tell all the people who want to order him about (for his own good) to climb a tree. Anti-Vice Crusades do not forward civilization.

Funding the Arts

6 Sep

I recently had a small argument with my step-mother-in-law. Now, the woman is a saint, on numerous grounds. But she is also a reflexive Liberal. For years she sported a “FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS VOTE REPUBLICAN” bumper-sticker, and couldn’t understand why it bothered me, until I pointed out that the sentiment it expressed was that it was acceptable to interfere with somebody’s right to vote simply because you disagreed with their politics. Once I put it in those terms, that sticker came off.

I was complaining about ‘public art’ that was deliberately insulting, and she said “Well, I think that society should support the arts”, as if that clinched matters. And, with the help of a “Drop it” from my Lady, I did manage drop it. But I can’t agree with her.

I love museums and public art galleries. I always have. And, like most people who benefit from public funds, I would like to see the government continue to pay for my fun. Which isn’t the same as believing it’s right that they do so.

The NEA funds a lot of ‘edgy’ art. New art, that hasn’t had the test of time. Art that, in some cases, seems aimed at outraging some of the people who pay for it (If you have another explanation for Andres Serrano’s PISS CHRIST, I would love to hear it). Now, I have no use for people who might want to prevent others from making artistic statements, however offensive.  But there is a big difference between not censoring something, and paying for it.

It’s easy to dismiss the complaints of people you don’t like. And the intellectual Left really doesn’t like Christians who take their religion very seriously. Oh, they’ll welcome pacifist Christians when it’s time to protest a war, but the idea that Jesus Christ was a savior, and that immersing a figure of him in urine is insulting …. well, they don’t really have a lot of sympathy.

And neither would I, although I was raised Christian and respect the religion. But the NEA is tax money. It is collected from people under the threat of prison.

Throughout history, rulers have used tax money wrung from the peasantry and spent it on whatever art they damned well pleased. And if the peasantry took offense at the Art their betters bought for the palace, well, that was what the executioner’s axe was for. But we are supposed to be a republic. The idea that a social elite gets to decide how to spend tax money on non-essentials like art without giving consideration to who may be offended is, in itself, offensive.

Now, if the people who believe that society should support the arts are willing to stand by when something that offends them gets funding, that would be a matter of principle, and I would respect them. Not agree with them, but respect them. And, frankly, I strongly suspect that my step-mother-in-law falls into that category. But I also strongly suspect that a substantial number would have a hissy cat-fit if they discovered that the NEA was funding the restoration and exhibition of, say, THE BIRTH OF A NATION or TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. Both are widely regarded as legitimate works of art. Wildly offensive, true, because of what they celebrated, but art nonetheless.

So, where do you draw the line? Should we carefully not offend Islamic sensibilities with paintings of Mohammad? And how is that different from Serrano’s little in-joke? And if the answer is only that, thus far, for all the attempts of various pillocks to draw parallels, Christians don’t assassinate people for drawing pictures, and Islamics do.

The other issue is, if ‘art’ cannot exist without support from tax money, what makes its support worthwhile? We are not a poor nation. We support a great deal of art, voluntarily. And, bluntly put, I have small patience with those denizens of the Art World who disparage anything that is popular enough to survive without public monies.

Tax money supports Opera, but not Heavy Metal. Why? Tax money funds the exhibition of works by Roy Lichtenstein. Why not the originals of newspaper strips and comic books? The whole issue of spending tax money on luxury items like art is full of pits and hidden land mines.

Frankly, if the Liberal Intellectual Left wants to go to exhibits of art like PISS CHRIST, they should expect to have to pay for it out of their own pockets. They are not, by and large, poor. Certainly not by global or historical standards. Sure, if the money is not collected from the Great Unwashed they will blow it on art that THEY like (or, you know, food). And that art might be in dreadful bad taste. But, lets admit it, so is a great deal of art in prestigious museums now. And I’m not talking exclusively about recent art, either. I mean, how many renditions of THE MADONNA AND CHILD can you really look at before they start resembling Elvis on black velvet?

Abortion Wars

13 Jun

Let me start out by saying that I believe that Abortion should (with some carefully delineated exceptions) be legal. I do not believe that a fetus is human. For that matter, I am unconvinced that a newborn is human. However, I don’t think that I can prove either of these positions. Further, I am not persuaded that anyone else can either. Whenever the subject of abortion comes up on any of the several Blogs I read regularly, someone is bound to assert that Religion should not have anything to do with determining the limits or legality of abortion. Frankly, I find such assertions ridiculous on their face. What science actually knows about how the brain works is far from comprehensive, and what science knows about what makes each personality distinct can be inscribed on the head of a pin with a jackhammer. Since the core issue of abortion is when is a fetus a human being, and therefore when is it murder to terminate a pregnancy, any position is necessarily a matter of faith.

As matters stand, abortion is legal in all parts of the United States. But it is also under siege in almost all States, and its defenders appear to be unwilling to examine the motives and positions of their opponents with anything approaching honesty. Pro-abortion (or “Choice”) believers are far too prone to spin conspiracy theories about Religious Conservatives and their theoretical desire to “control women’s bodies”; they seem incapable to coming to grips with the simple proposition that anti-abortion (or “Pro-Life”) believers sincerely believe that all abortions are infanticide. One can, if one wants to make the effort, corner Pro-Abortion advocates into admitting that IF a fetus is human, and abortion is infanticide, then just about any action taken by Anti-Abortion advocates would be justified…but it makes no long-term impression. They either cannot or will not absorb the idea that their opponents might legitimately believe a different set of assumptions.

And this is why we are going to lose legal abortion in my lifetime.

Put bluntly: if the Anti-Abortion forces are right in their basic assumption about Abortion (that a fetus is human) then abortion is evil. At the same time, if the Pro-Abortion people are right in their basic assumption (that a fetus is not human), that has nothing to do with whether opposition to abortion is evil as opposed to simply mistaken. For opposition to abortion to be evil (which, frankly, is a position that the Pro-Abortion forces have taken) one has to assume that the Anti-Abortion forces are knowingly wrong about the humanity of a fetus and that they lie about their motives. There isn’t really a whole lot of evidence to support this view, and adopting it badly distorts Pro-Abortion strategy.

Because they (mostly) believe their own propaganda about Religious fanatics who want to control women, the Pro-Abortion faction is fighting bitterly to keep late-term abortions legal, and to stop the passage of parental notification laws. Both these positions are political poison.

No matter how well justified, late-term abortion looks like infanticide, will always look like infanticide, and tends to slide into infanticide, as the trial of Kermit Gosnell illustrates. By opposing legal limits of late-term abortions, Pro-Abortion advocates undermine their positions elsewhere.

Parental Notification is popular. Outside of the conspiracy fantasies of the Pro-Abortion extremists, the idea that a minor child should be able to undergo a significant medical procedure without parental approval or even knowledge is simply a non-starter. No amount of political ranting is going to convince any parent that a school nurse who isn’t authorized to give out aspirin without parental approval should have the authority to arrange an abortion for their daughter without telling them. I can, just barely, imagine a situation where getting a girl an abortion without telling her parents would be a good thing to do, but in each case I have managed to come up with a much better solution would be to get the girl made a ward of the court. In any case, situations that would actually justify not notifying parents to the satisfaction of the general public are very rare, and do not justify opposing parental notification laws because such laws are going to be passed and the cost of opposing them is the alienation of too many voters.

If it was simply the self-injury that the Pro-Abortion side does in public popularity by these positions, I might be able to shrug; most movements include a small but vociferous faction apparently bent on persuading the world that their cause is championed by a bunch of nuts. But the Pro-Abortion advocates are allowing their positions on these issues to drive them to take stances that are simply indefensible.

Kermit Gosnell is almost a caricature of the classic image of a back-alley illegal abortionist. Defending him may be simply a knee-jerk reaction based on never letting the Anti-Abortion position have a win, but jot makes the Pro-Abortion advocates look like they are far more interested in making sure minority babies die than in protecting the lives of minority women. Planned Parenthood has always been tainted by its founders dabbling eugenics, and this just smells like more of the same. If tolerating the existence of a pesthole like Gosnell’s clinic, and a butcher like Gosnell himself, is what is required to ‘allow minority women access to abortion’ then a major part of the point of legalizing abortion evaporates.

Similarly; attempts to evade existing parental notification laws are political disasters waiting to happen. Abortion is not a risk-free procedure. Sooner or later Pro-Abortion activists who try to help teens evade such laws are going to end up with the dead body of somebody else’s child on their hands. A child who – at least in the public mind – would not be dead if not for the interference of Pro-Abortion busybodies.

It is far too easy to forget that in any representative form of government, being right is not, politically speaking, enough. It is possible, even fairly common, to be right and still need to compromise. And if your actions show that a compromise with you cannot be trusted – by, say, you and yours cheerfully breaking laws that were legally arrived at – then your opponents have no reason to compromise with you.

The Pro-Abortion movement must learn to police its own, and to accept that its opponents have legal and moral rights. Or. It. Will. Fail.

Religions and Societies

30 Apr

Part of the ongoing Culture Wars (and there is always an ongoing Culture War, unless a society is stagnant) is the battle between Intellectual Atheism and Christianity. Naturally both sides are playing the victim card for all they are worth, and just as naturally a lot of the arguments on both sides are so much eyewash.

I was raised as a Protestant Christian, though I have agnostic tendencies. I have never really considered Atheism; I see too much Art in the world to be convinced that there is no Artist. I cannot, therefore, be an impartial judge. But I can make some observations.

Societies founded upon Protestant Christianity are, at least to me, clearly preferable to any of the present alternatives. Catholicism has a historical tendency to produce cultures where the vast majority of people are peasants, and conditions are such that they will stay peasants. Buddhism sounds very nice in theory, but Buddhist societies are also full of peasants, and the peasants in Buddhist societies tend to be treated like farm animals. Islam, at least at the moment, is dominated by violent mobs. Hindus, for reasons that I can’t get my mind around, tolerate the Caste system (*spit*).

Protestants created the first western societies where the spread of literacy was a social priority. They formed the first anti-slavery movement that was not, at base, a slave’s revolt. Theirs are the first societies to even pay lip service to the rights of women and minorities. I don’t know why this should be so, but it is plainly in evidence.

By contrast, Atheists, in the wake of the 20th Century, have a great deal of explaining to do. The U.S.S.R. was an Atheistical society, and so was Mao’s China. Both slaughtered people with an enthusiasm that would have at least startled the most bloodthirsty Spanish Inquisitor. It seems to me that by asserting the nonexistence of Gods, Atheistical societies remove a major check on the rapaciousness of the State, which promptly acts with the kind of calm restraint associated with a column of army ants. Communist (and therefore Atheist) societies murdered between 85 million and 100 million people in the Twentieth Century, according to THE BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM (Harvard Press). That is at least an order of magnitude worse than anything any other Religion had managed.

There are plenty of swine who call themselves Christians, the Westboro Baptist Church being a prime example. And Christian societies have a great deal to be ashamed of. But Protestant Christianity is still head and shoulders (and a good deal of the abdomen) above anything else available. Maybe Atheism can produce a nation sized society that doesn’t end up using mass slaughter as a tool of Statecraft, but I want to see it before I believe in it. The 20th Century, with its litany of (Communist) Stalin, (Communist) Mao, and other little tin-pot Communists too numerous and depressing to mention, has worn out any benefit of the doubt to which Atheism might once have been entitled.

Atheism

5 Apr

Many of my opinions are affected by my beliefs about Atheists and Atheism, so I though I’d lay some groundwork;

1) Atheism is a religion, to the extent that the word can be usefully defined. It is based on a belief about God or Gods that is not subject to rational argument and which cannot be proven through logic.

2) Pretending that Atheism is not a religion does two things for Atheists. It allows them to impose on other religions restrictions which they escape, and it makes them feel morally superior to the rest of us slobs. The latter may safely be tolerated; it is, after all, an effect of nearly all religious belief, at least for some of the adherents. The former, however, should be opposed at all turns. “Separation of Church and State” (a phrase, BTW, that does not appear anywhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights) should not be made an excuse for forcing communities to pretend that they are communities of Atheists.

3) Atheists like to puff and blow about the viciousness of religions; the various “Holy” wars, the pogroms, persecutions, and inquisitions. The 20th Century saw several Atheistical States rise.  Most of them practiced mass murder as a tool of statecraft, and those mass deaths absolutely swamp anything done by any other religion in any comparable length of time, throughout human history.

As for myself? I was raised as a Protestant Christian, though I have agnostic leanings. What is an Agnostic? Somebody who isn’t sure of what he believes, and who declines to take the insecurity that engenders out on other people by proselytizing.