Friday, May 8, 2009

Christian Nation Debate in American Culture and Media

Here are a few segments from different media outlets debating the "Christian Nation" nonsense. The first clip is a debate between Christopher Hitchens, a renowned author and atheist v. Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council. Interesting back-and-forth, but I think Hitchens clobbers him:



And this from Sean Hannity on Obama's comment that America is not a Christian Nation:



OMG, Hannity! Are you seriously that stupid???

79 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

But America is---or at least was---a Christian nation in some meaningful sense. At least the polls say so, meaning Hitchens and President Obama don't speak for the American people on this issue.

And Hardball stacked the deck by putting a mere politician up against a sharp intellectual.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I find Hitchens to be very amusing and he's obviously smarter and better at arguing in the theoretical and personal sense.

However, I don't think Hitchen's claims are any stronger than Blackwells. Hitchens makes some big errors in his assertations. If you listen carefully he says Ben Franklin was an atheist which is as wrong as anything David Barton has ever published.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, but the difference is that we won't have any posts called "David Barton: Liar."

[Guess who's #1 on Google for those keywords? Congratulations, American Creation.]

bpabbott said...

I don't think either Obama or Hitchens have claimed that America is not, or was not, a Nation of whose citizens are/were predominantly Christian (Tom, if my inference of you implication is incorrect, please correct me).

The message I infer from each is that the USA is neither a Theocracy, nor a Nation whose government treats its citizens differently as a result of their religious conviction, or lack thereof.

Regarding Blackwell, I agree there is no precept of a separation between faith and state ... and wish he'd ended his talking points there (I think he had gotten the best of Hitchens at that point but appeared eager to over-reach there after).

In any event, I think it is improper to expect our governing representatives to leave their personal religious inspirations and motivations at home (and don't recognize such sentiments from the posters or commenters here).

Although I do expect our elected representatives to respect and protect the law and not attempt to find loopholes for the preferential or prejudicial treatment of particulal religious establishments and/or sentiments.

I agree with Lindsey, Hannity's comments are stupid ... However, I think Hannity knows that and is pandering to his ratings ... at least I hope so, but then again human incompetence & ignorance knows no bounds :-(

bpabbott said...

I'm OT (again) ... but regarding "liars" ... I googled "'our founding truth' liar", and found American Creation is followed closely by Rush Limbaugh is a corpulent dickbag liar ;-)

Pinky said...

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What the heck?
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You don't see beyond the blather? You don't understand what is actually going on here?
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Pinky said...

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Hitchens is a elitist nut and Hannity is a Neo-Con dork--Same thing.
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bpabbott said...

Pinky,

I agree that Hitchens comes off as an elitist here. He doesn't always, but (to be honest) I think he was drunk when this video was shot ;-)

Your qualification of Hannity is spot on (imo) :-)

Brad Hart said...

Am I the only one who thinks Hitchens looks like comedian Ron White? And that Hannity looks lite the evil dude from the Smurfs?

Christian Salafia said...

Gargamel? Hahaha! Now that's funny Brad!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Well, to put my serious two cents in...

I think that atheists don't realize that they do have faith, but not in tradition, or text, but REASON. Reason, as an absolute becomes highly problematic, as scholars within one discipline will dicker over specificities that others are oblivious to...it is only within those scholarly paradigms that the questions are even considered...that is why reason cannot be THE basis of one's foundation. And that is why faith in reason ALONE is a shaky foundation, in fact, no foundation.

On the other hand, faith in faith is just as shaky and wrong headed. It is wacko kooky, like the Taliban...revelation with no reason...so, I would much rather err on the side of Hitchens, than the "kooky wacko"...:)

Brian Tubbs said...

I think Obama was trying to convey that the US is comprised of religious diversity and that its government is secular. This is pretty much the same assurance that Adams and co. were trying to make via the Treaty of Tripoli.

In truth, though, the United States has long had (until the 1960s anyway and still at least partly) a monotheistic government - "institutions which pressupose a Supreme Being" (as the late Justice William Douglas put it).

And its population has always been majority Christian.

Brian Tubbs said...

Also...

Setting aside the radical wing of Islam, most Muslims in the world don't object to the United States being predominantly Christian.

What they have a problem with is that the United States (as they see it) is increasingly morally bankrupt - and is spreading its immoral influences around the world. This is why we're called "the Great Satan."

Pinky said...

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Well, Brian makes an important point by reminding us that the population has always been made up of a Christian majority.
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But, here's the kicker, Brian: Christianity has changed and changed drastically over the decades and, from what I'm reading by Barry A. Shain, it sure isn't at all like it was during the Founding era.

And, to go further, I can seriously vouch that it isn't the same Christianity I knew sixty years ago.

This seems to be the major point everyone is missing here.
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Christianity changes just like everything else.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

No, Ben, what I wrote was that is---or at least was---a Christian nation in some meaningful sense. The US government is legally secular, but even the government's customs, stuff like swearing an oath on the Bible, have had Christian character.

And of course some state governments had overtly Christian features.

Moreover, a nation is more than its central government, or its government period.

Pinky said...

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"The US government is legally secular...".
Who am I to go against any, but, where, in U.S. Supreme Law, do you find THAT gem, Tommy?
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jimmiraybob said...

In truth, though, the United States has long had (until the 1960s anyway and still at least partly) a monotheistic government...Brian,

Government is not a person. It has no soul. I doubt that Jesus of Nazareth spent much time contemplating how governments were to enter into the kingdom of God.

It would really be a lot easier and more fruitful if some kind of separation could be found between humanity and its institutions.

We obviously have a government constituted as a secular entity to govern most effectively in a pluralistic society - it was then, it is now. There may always have been a Christian majority of citizens but that shouldn't and doesn't give them a special priority in governmental affairs. Whether a tyranny of the majority or a tyranny of the minority it's still tyranny.

Now if we had a royal monarch constituting the government we could speak to the state of his soul and by extension the religion of the government, but those were the old days. God-anointed kings got the boot. Don't blame me, look to the founders and all those who fought bled and died to get there and keep it there.

When in the history of America hasn't there been Christians of every stripe (many a nominal one at that), atheist, agnostic, Jew, Muslim, pagan, deist, theist, and everything else under the stars?

You say we - the nation - have gone to hell in a handbasket (so to speak). If you look below the surface of the high school and college survey text books you'd see that we've always waged a back and forth struggle with corruption and immoral behavior. General Washing lamented the behavior of his troops. The American government supported prostitution, or at least looked askance, during the Civil War to ease war-time stress if you will.

Today's world, at least in more scientifically advanced and affluent nations, have all but eradicated disease. We grow more and safer foods. When we eat meat it's not a 50/50 chance of dying. Our workers work safer and live longer and healthier lives. We can leave our shores and help those abroad in need. We live in a far more secure society than ever before. We have washing machines and telephone and TV (for better or worse).

We are not perfect but we are far far from a cesspool.

There will always be someone that will condemn us as a bastion of immorality and corruption but that would not change if we were a Christian nation of a Muslim nation of a pagan nation.

We are a nation of mostly good people that want to do well for themselves, their families, their neighbors and people they've never ever met and never will (look at disaster relief efforts worldwide).

And do you know who "we" are? We're Christians, and Muslims, and atheists and deists and Hindus and agnostics and theists and Mormons and non-theists and Christopher Hitchenses and that other guy whose last name starts with a B and Jews and everything else under the sun. Yes, even secular humanists.

And you know what. Any and all are every bit as likely to come to your aid or your family's or you community's. You know how I know? Because it happens every fricken day in America and it always has. Any one of them are as likely to be as ethical and as moral and as stand up as the next.

What Christian Nationalists and Dominionists and many conservative Fundamentalists want to do in America today is claim the government and all its coercive power in the name of Christ. I don't recall where running governments is covered in Scripture. Did I miss that?

In short, we are a diverse, pluralistic peoples and have thrived under a secular Constitution and secular institutions. Staffed of course by many good and bad Christians, and Muslims, and atheists and deists and Hindus and agnostics and theists and Mormons and non-theists and Jews and everything else under the sun. Government is a product of many people and many faiths. Christians have no special track record of being able to do it any better than anyone else.

Hanging the ten commandments in the courtroom does nothing to advance the cause of eternal salvation - it's just marking territory.

Yes, I did drink an extra cup of coffee this morning. Why do you ask?

Now, back to the revolution.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

jimmiraybob,
Do I hear applause? At least in "my camp"!!!

Pinky said...

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Pretty good, Jimmyray.
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Pretty good.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

You've got it backwards, jimmiraybob.

It's the courts that are using the coercive power of the state to undemocratically enforce values that are not shared by the majority of the American people. Your bogeymen simply object to that.

As for the Dominionists, they're small in number, and their chief influence is in being used as a tool to slander a far greater number of people, Christians who don't vote the way you do.

As for your rainbow of religions, the Founding didn't quite go down that way, although it's a happy fiction. And the Muslims in particular who have made their way to our shores sought out a nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles.

But I did like your sort of pro-American speech. A welcome change from the usual from your side of the aisle.

Jonathan Rowe said...

It's the courts that are using the coercive power of the state to undemocratically enforce values that are not shared by the majority of the American people.I don't think the courts are the problem; they have neither the power of the sword nor of the purse.

If anything the courts don't strike down enough "democratically" enacted legislation because remember we are founded to be a "republic" not a "democracy." I'm saying that tongue in cheek because of course, we are a type of democracy. But one that has many republican checks on democratic rule. Courts striking down legislation in the name of political liberty is entirely consistent with the Founders' vision and the very opposite of "tyranny."

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I think that none of us, unless we are some sectarian sect like the Amish, a monk, or some cult, live as if the sacred and secular is totally seaparated, for we do live in the world and must interact with it, at some point. Faith is about what one thinks and does in good conscience in regards to life. So, faith is not about what, where, when and how, but faith, just IS.

Some believe that faith must be in a particular creed, belief, religious doctrine, religious behavior, moral commitment, or other such identifying factors. Faith is about confidence in and for and about life, understanding it gift and giftedness. So, faith is not about religion, tradition, or particular commitments, because faith is "whatever" and faith is what justifies and faith is what sanctifies, for faith does cause us to see a particular way, but it is an individual way of seeing and being in the world, living life under the sun....

Angie Van De Merwe said...

HURRAH FOR POLITICAL LIBERTY!!!

Tom Van Dyke said...

I don't think the courts are the problem; they have neither the power of the sword nor of the purse.

The courts have the power of the sword, Jon. The executive branch is charged with enforcing their decisions, but that's a technicality.

________________

because faith is "whatever"...

No, Ms. Van De Merwe. It is anything but. The true and the good is not "whatever."

for faith does cause us to see a particular way, but it is an individual way of seeing and being in the world, living life under the sun...

No, Ms. Van De Merwe. What you describe is a belief in one's own reason, emotion and passions as the true and the good.

The Founders were appalled at man being the measure of all things. That was the French Revolution, not America's.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It is a matter of the liberal versus the conservative understanding of liberty. Liberty is just as the liberal view, as government is to protect civil liberties, against discrimination, unjust judgments, etc.

Whereas, the conservative view would provide the protection of society from unjust acts of criminal behavior, which the law is to protect.

So, is the law about protecting individual rights, in civil liberties, or about law protecting society from unjust and immoral people? That is the discussion of social issues concerning progressives and conservatives, and always has been...

The Founders disagreed as to the centralization of government, which was (I believe) considered the conflict between the conservative and liberal view..

Conventional morality always underwrites society's right, while the liberal view underwrites the "right" of appeal to society for change and justice...

bpabbott said...

Tom: "The courts have the power of the sword, Jon. The executive branch is charged with enforcing their decisions, but that's a technicality."

The legislature writes the law, the executive enforces the legislated law, and the judicial judges the enforement of the law.

If the Judicial gets it wrong the legislature is able to clarify by further legislation.

In any event, the executive has the option of enforcing the law as legislated (they may choose not to). The judicial may set aside the enforcement, or the law itself. The process is designed to reduce the reach of the law.

The sword belongs to the executive, but the judicial may disarm the executive.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Ummm...maybe I should say that faith can be in tradition and the understanding of that particular tradition within a cultural frame, or faith can be in a text of a tradition which is understood in some way as supernaturally inspired, or faith can be in experience and life, or faith can be in reason and rationale. Most of us (and I think the healthy ones) have faith in a combination of these...to help frame faith's content. But, how that is mixed is different from person to person..

Angie Van De Merwe said...

bpappot,
Thanks. Isn't it wonderful that such balance is admitted in our government so that no one branch can have "all authority", as there is accountablity!

Tom Van Dyke said...

No, Ben, you're completely eliding my point. The executive MUST enforce the judicial branch's decrees.

Neither can the legislature overturn the judicial branch's decrees of what is constitutional and what isn't.

________________

Conventional morality always underwrites society's right, while the liberal view underwrites the "right" of appeal to society for change and justice...

There's merit in what you say, Ms. Van De Merwe. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a man who was admired on both sides of the aisle, noted,

"The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself."

I would not want our discussions to turn into mindless partisan grenade-throwing. The tension is necessary, and at its best, productive.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

If culture is the determinant of success, then we are back to the family....or tradition. Which tradition? And what understanding of religious traiditon, the conservative or the liberal? I will think about this one..

Pinky said...

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It would really be a lot easier and more fruitful if some kind of separation could be found between humanity and its institutions.
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Problem.
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What do we mean by that word, institution? What is instituted?
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An institution is the enshrinement of some basic societal value--the institution is the creation of the value system that is built on a specific foundational value. So, the Educational Institution is the encapsulation of a specific value the pertinent society holds as basic to the culture involved. Everything within any particular institution is relative to that foundational value.
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For example--and to point up one of the most serious problems of post modernism--in the Educational Institution, part of the value system is discipline and it runs all the way through the institution. It is what is so obvious here at this blog site. Some want to adhere to the discipline and some want to go off on some ideological tangent to make their points.
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To separate humanity from institution could be likened to separated a person from their lungs. You can't do it.
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Unless I misunderstand your point, Jimmyray.
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????

Pinky said...

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The reader can easily see what happens when discipline is removed from the Educational Institution. It has happened in our own culture. Other institutions have encroached on the Educational to break down the idea of discipline as though it is mean.
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Early on, when a child first entered the Educational Institution their first lessons were all about discipline during the Founding Era. Now, it seems discipline is nothing more than an interference to individualism.
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This is an example of how we have changed.

Tom Van Dyke said...

What I hope jimmiraybob is saying [and what Moynihan intimates] is that a nation is not only its government, but its underlying society as well. When they are one and the same [one in the same], we have statism, and true liberty is impossible.

In fact, that undergirds the Truman quote I posted, and is also a strong theme in Tocqueville.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "No, Ben, you're completely eliding my point."

No Tom. Just because I disagree with you doesn't mean I'm being sophisitic and/or eliding your point. I may misunderstand your point, but that is entirely different.

Tom: "The executive MUST enforce the judicial branch's decrees."

As it is, one of the executive's responsibilities is to execute the law, there is very little they "MUST" do. The only manner by which the executive may be unwilling forced to compel with any directive is by impeachment, and it is the Legislative that originates cases impeachment.

Perhaps we are talking past eachother? ... can you give some example that illustrates you point?

jimmiraybob said...

“An institution is the enshrinement of some basic societal value…”By institutions I merely meant government and the mechanisms that preserve social order and security. I think that “enshrinement” is too limiting:

en•shrine
tr.v. en•shrined, en•shrin•ing, en•shrines
1. To enclose in or as if in a shrine.
2. To cherish as sacred.

enshrine
Verb
[-shrining, -shrined] to contain and protect (an idea or right) in a society, legal system, etc.: the university's independence is enshrined in its charter


Although laws, charters and constitutions, enshrine certain principles, the sense of institution that I meant is more in line with the sense used below by Jefferson and Madison:

“We have heard of the impious doctrine in the old world, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the new, in another shape — that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed to the views of political institutions of a different form? It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object.”

--James Madison, Federalist No. 45, January 26, 1788

"I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions [jrb - note the distinction between the law and the institution] must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the same coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

-- Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1810

This broader definition of institution is from Wikipedia:

“Institutions are structures and mechanisms of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals. Institutions are identified with a social purpose and permanence, transcending individual human lives and intentions, and with the making and enforcing of rules governing cooperative human behavior. The term, institution, is commonly applied to customs and behavior patterns important to a society, as well as to particular formal organizations of government and public service. As structures and mechanisms of social order among humans, institutions are one of the principal objects of study in the social sciences, including sociology, political science and economics. Institutions are a central concern for law, the formal regime for political rule-making and enforcement. The creation and evolution of institutions is a primary topic for history.”

jimmiraybob said...

What I hope jimmiraybob is saying [and what Moynihan intimates] is that a nation is not only its government, but its underlying society as well. When they are one and the same [one in the same], we have statism, and true liberty is impossible.That sounds pretty smart. I'm going to go with it, although it might go beyond what I was saying at the moment.

Pinky said...

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This broader definition of institution is from Wikipedia:Maybe I didn't mention I was applying a sociological definition of Social Institution.Their are any number of social institution; but, one thing's for sure. I wouldn't put too much stock in Wikipedia; although it is a big help--no doubt.
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It seems only natural that when we're discussing American creation that we are speaking of things in a sociological sense. This is the area where history and sociology come together. One cannot truly be explained without the other.
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Pinky said...

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Even so, the very idea of institution implies that whatever it is, it most certainly is based on something of great value.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Perhaps we are talking past each other? ... can you give some example that illustrates you point?Absolutely, Ben, on the subject of race----the judicial branch ordered desegregation. After Brown v. Board, Ike sent in the federal troops to Little Rock, actually a great moment in American history.

http://www.americaslibrary.gov/cgi-bin/page.cgi/aa/presidents/eisenhower/littlerock_1

Also, there was a judicial order with the Kansas City schools that required spending a ton of dough to even up the inequities, making policy, not just interpreting the law.

Fact is, the executive can drag its feet on enforcing the judicial branch's edicts, but it cannot contravene them.

The judicial branch is the only one that can order the others around. This has often been a good thing in practice, especially on race issues, but in principle, it defies the notion that the branches are co-equal. Even FDR and his Democrat congress were short-circuited by the SC on some of the more radical aspects of the New Deal.

The other two branches can't say boo to the judicial, unless you have a counterargument.

[Article III of the constitution, perhaps? I leave the homework to you for a change, Ben.]

jimmiraybob said...

"You've got it backwards, jimmiraybob.

"It's the courts that are using the coercive power of the state to undemocratically enforce values that are not shared by the majority of the American people. Your bogeymen simply object to that."
I do not have it backwards. I did not say that the religious right have control of the coercive power of the state (or the courts). My argument was that they want it and are actively seeking it. This is not my opinion. It is easily documented. In their own words.

"As for the Dominionists, they're small in number,..."How many American revolutionary leaders were there in proportion to the population? Take this concept and apply it to the every other revolution throughout history.

"...and their chief influence is in being used as a tool to slander a far greater number of people, Christians..."Although I agree that it's unfortunate that the fringe bespoils the rest, but let's not pretend this is a one way street. There are many Christian leaders and groups that speak against the more radical and politicized religious right. They are usually slandered in similar ways.

...[Christians] who don't vote the way you do.For every vote that I've cast there are Christians that have voted the same way. Gee jimmiraybob, how do you know that? Well, it's complicated, but I think that it is because I know and associate with Christians. Although I do concede some of them vote differently than I do too. Maybe these are the ones you were referring to. Of course they're wrong to do so.

"...your side of the aisle."At first I was a bit miffed that you would presume to know what side of what aisle that I was "representing," I decided that you may be making a comment about the market. In my local supermarket I prefer the soup aisle. The next aisle over is baking and some pots and pans. On the other side of that aisle is fluffy stuff like candles and umbrellas and such. I am proud to represent soups against umbrellas. Thank you very much.

"...to undemocratically enforce values..."The courts are not democratic. I believe that would be the point. As to "enforce values," I don't know what you mean.

"But I did like your sort of pro-American speech."

What can I say, I'm a giver. But stop being so begrudging, it was a very pro-American Speech.

"A welcome change from the usual from your side of the aisle."Again, I assume you mean the soup aisle..

Tom Van Dyke said...

It seems only natural that when we're discussing American creation that we are speaking of things in a sociological sense. This is the area where history and sociology come together. One cannot truly be explained without the other...

Even so, the very idea of institution implies that whatever it is, it most certainly is based on something of great value
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What, are you going all Edmund Burke on me now, Pinky? That's Burke's core argument---not that institutions are sacred in themselves because they might be stupid---but that it took us thousands of years to get out of savagery, so we should be damn careful before tearing out pillars lest the whole thing crash down.

There are plenty of pillars we could do without, and some we'd be better off without. But our sociology is so complex that nobody can say for sure which pillars are which.

Burke was all in favor of change---

"A State without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation."

But he also wrote

"To innovate is not to reform."

and

"A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors."

Your call, Phil. Nice to hear from you.

jimmiraybob said...

Pinky,

Although I wouldn't suggest that Wikipedia is a good primary source it can be valuable. In the instance of the definition I linked to, I saw nothing wrong with using it - with the recognition that it not be the end all and be all.

It contained a sociological sense and this:

...as well as to particular formal organizations of government and public service...which is what I was getting at (within the broader definition). I could have been clearer but it's been a long and tiring weekend. Call me lazy but don't call me late to dinner.

Pinky said...

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Tom claims, But our sociology is so complex that nobody can say for sure which pillars are which..
Sociology is the study of human beings and our groups.
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Our sociology is as complex as we are--it is us.
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I guess I had a little of Burke in Humanities 101. Mostly that was it--other than some reading here and there.
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bpabbott said...

Tom,

I understand your thought. However, I think the "MUST" is over-reaching, and the reference to the Judicial's interpretation as an "edict" is as well (imo).

The Separation of Powers" is well documented. The power you associated with Judical (edicts and such) are unknown to me. Perhaps it is your associated terms that have clouded the issue for me.

Can you explain what you imply in more conentional language? Spefically, of the powers itemized by Wikipedia which one or ones do you associate with the power of "edict"?

Pinky said...

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My bad, Jimmyray.
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Don't give it a second thought.
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So, talk about the separation you referenced.

bpabbott said...

JimmyRayBob,

I've enjoyed reading your posts today, perhaps we have similiar tastes in soup as well? ... anything in particular you'd like to recommend ;-)

Tom Van Dyke said...

I did not say that the religious right have control of the coercive power of the state (or the courts). My argument was that they want it and are actively seeking it. This is not my opinion. It is easily documented. In their own words...

Oh, let's argue this one, JRB.

TVD:...[Christians] who don't vote the way you do.

JRB: For every vote that I've cast there are Christians that have voted the same way
---And I maintain that dragging in the Dominionists with GOP evangelical voters is a slander. [For the record, the Dominionists want America to choose theocracy, not to impose it by force. So let's clear up the fogginess.

---And JRB, please don't let's insult each other's intelligence with nonsense. I think the principles of Christianity can persuade a good-conscienced fellow to vote Democrat. 25-45%, I make it, and half-plus of Catholics.

My mom, God rest her soul.

I was pointing out that you seem to have an animus against Christians who vote opposite the way you do, albeit out of religious conscience, the same as you. This seems unhelpful.

I continue to defend religious conscience for voting and public policy. If the "social gospel" and Obamaism becomes the law of the land---and survives the coming electoral backlash against it in the next 2-4 years---so be it.

It won't become the law of the land without the support of the religious vote, even if it's only 25-45%, joining the secular humanist vote.

Hey, I'm easy. We true Americans are like that.

[As for your pro-American speech, I used the words "sort of," because somehow you couldn't resist mentioning some of America's sins. Countenancing prostitution among them, JRB. Interesting, that.]

Tom Van Dyke said...

Nah, Ben, I don't want to play. I'm lazy too like JRB. I have no problem understanding him even when he's technically imprecise.

When you read the other fellow with good will and not ill, it happens easily.

And as JRB righteously notes, Wikipedia is OK as a common language, but when things get more, um, nuanced, it's useless.

Now, perhaps I overloaded the terms "decree" and "edict." But not egregiously, nor pejoratively. Because when I use more neutral language, my point tends to get elided, ignored or trod upon. And so, I'm selecting several rhetorical items from your and JRB's aisle.

Judiciously, of course, as is my custom.

_____________
I guess I had a little of Burke in Humanities 101. Mostly that was it--other than some reading here and there...

Well, Phil, I certainly wasn't saying that you were copying Burke. You're getting there on your own.

__________________

jimmiraybob said...

I've enjoyed reading your posts today, perhaps we have similiar tastes in soup as well? ... anything in particular you'd like to recommend ;-)Thanks. I think chicken soup. I'm hoping we can all get behind chicken soup.

jimmiraybob said...

And I maintain that dragging in the Dominionists with GOP evangelical voters is a slander.TVD, yes, I conceded this. Not all Christians support or approve of the Christian nation or dominion movement. That's why I tried to make the distinction that there is a "...more radical and politicized religious right" and that some Christians stand firmly in opposition. I didn't even mention the GOP or evangelical Christian. It's just like not all secular humanists fall into the same mold as Hitler or Stalin but that doesn't keep a fair number of religiously fervent persons from making the connection. Get a grip. It's a tough world out there.

I was pointing out that you seem to have an animus against Christians who vote opposite the way you do...No. If I convey that, then I apologize for being sloppy or someone is reading more into what I say than I intend or both. When I wrote this, "Of course they [Christians that vote differently as I do as opposed to those who vote the same]'re wrong to do so" I debated putting a smiley face at the end to give a sense of lighthearted jest. Although I'm not by nature a smiley-face kinda guy I will make more frequent use in the future just to be safer.

To go on the record I don't choose my friends based on political or theological persuasion and that appears to be reciprocal. It makes for much more interesting get togethers.

I have no animosity toward religion in general and freely acknowledge the significant role that is has and does play in our national drama.

We true Americans are like that.

I'll assume that you thought about putting a smiley face at the end of this.

As for your pro-American speech, I used the words "sort of," because somehow you couldn't resist mentioning some of America's sins.Ditto the smiley face assumption. Because we all know that we must first acknowledge our sins before seeking redemption.

Countenancing prostitution among them, JRB. Interesting, that.Please feel free to expand on this thought. Interesting? How so?

jimmiraybob said...

And as JRB righteously notes, Wikipedia is OK as a common language, but when things get more, um, nuanced, it's useless.Yes! Common ground. So sweet.

bpabbott said...

Tom had you begun and ended your reply as ...

[...] perhaps I overloaded the terms "decree" and "edict."... that would have clarified all for me. Thanks for including that.

Why you felt it necessary to inject the unsubstantiated critique of Wikipedia, to defend your transgressions by accusing JRB and me of similar transgressions, and to paint us as ideologically bonded to the side of the aisle across from yours, is beyond me.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

My 'intuition' tells me (not Wiki) that perhaps, the view of the early settlers on what "law" meant was important to ascertain. Some believe covenant was understood as "decree" from God that demanded obedience, as He was king. Others viewed covenant (law) as an edict that was changeable, by man, in social contractual terms. It all depended on the understanding of God's Sovereign Rule...in today's society, scienc has all but undermined one's understanding of a personal interventional covenanatal God...thus the science/relgion debate about God, man, history, social structures, etc....very complex indeed. Fortunately, we have the freedom to pursue such subjects, unlike in countries where academic freedom is not allowed!

Tom Van Dyke said...

I dunno. Do the teach the critique of "scientism" in our public schools? Aquinas?

I don't see much academic freedom at all.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "Do the teach the critique of "scientism" in our public schools?"

As far as I know, they do not.

Personally, I find the subject (scientism) philosophically interesting. However, as far as I know philosophy is uncommon, or nonexistent, in public education.

There are certainly subjects that are not taught in public schools do that might be if they were not good reason for the courts to conclude that they would/could be used as a Trojan horse for religious instruction.

In any event, we should also realize that there is no (little) academic freedom in the public school curriculum. Academic freedom is encouraged at the university level where the students are legally responsible aduts, and are free to choose their classes and their proffessors. In public schools the curriculum is determined by the local school board and state under constraint of the law, with the intended goal of providing a good education to all. It is not a place for debating what is good sceince and what is not. It is a place where what has been established to be good science (by scientists) is to be instructed, and (as far as I know) there is nothing in the science curriculum that does not qualify as solid science.

In any event, I do recognize education in the US is not what it should be, and I'd prefer the government be much less involved (I'm a libertarian when it comes to primary and secondary education). Hence, I'm all for voucher programs, and am disappointed that they have become (or have become percieved to be) a Trojan horse for funding religious instruction.

Brian Tubbs said...

Jimmiraybob,

Your long speech several posts up, which appeared to be a response to mine, was a little off-subject. I think you read more into what I wrote than what was actually stated.

I didn't say that America has gone to "hell in a hand basket." You're putting words in my mouth.

I said that the Muslim world objects to how our culture has influenced their culture - and they (the Muslim world) perceives our culture as being immoral.

What's more, I said that the US was founded in a monotheistic context, and this is easily defensible via the historical record. YOU responded to that by implying I was advocating evangelism of governments. I never said any such thing. In fact, I agree with YOU that Jesus' Gospel isn't meant for nation-states, but rather for people.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Trojan horse, Ben? The Trojan horse was scientism, the only "neutral" explanation of our human existence.

It owns our public school system. But it's a philosophy itself.

Remember we discussed Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia teaching the "proofs" of God in ethics class?

Hah. How laughable now, and how far from the Founding.

As for the state of our universities, they're even worse. That's why our Mr. Rowe, no fundamentalist or even religionist himself, pumps "The Closing of the American Mind" by Allan Bloom. [Bloom was no religionist either...]

Tom Van Dyke said...

A righteous clarification in my view, Mr. Tubbs.

Notes: I do not know how we might discuss Islam in the context of the Founding---and I and we largely have not---but there are fundamental philosophical, theological and metaphysical differences from Judeo-Christianity.

What are those differences, Tom?, Ben might ask. Beyond the scope of this blog, Tom might answer to Ben. Look it up for yrself.

As for Mr. Tubbs' statement

What's more, I said that the US was founded in a monotheistic context, and this is easily defensible via the historical record...

America was indeed founded on monotheism---in the least the First Congress writing the Supreme Court oath of 1789 to include "so help me God."

One God. Not many. It's true that Congress left a loophole to affirm, not swear, and invoke no God if the individual chose. We Americans are cool that way. But the normative was "so help me God," and Mr. Tubbs need only point at the Declaration of Independence to prove his point.

Pinky said...

.
America was indeed founded on monotheism---in the least the First Congress writing the Supreme Court oath of 1789 to include "so help me God.".
If America was Founded on monotheism--the idea of a single god--who and what was or is that god?
.
Too much of the theoretics.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "[Science] owns our public school system. But it's a philosophy itself. [...] As for the state of our universities, they're even worse."

Tom, that is all rhetoric.

I think you're applying the term scienctism in an improper context. You appear to be using it in a ad hominem manner.

There are some areas of great debate as to whether science may be applied. Such areas include "interpretations of life, such as philosophical, religious, mythical, spiritual, or humanistic explanations."

I infer this not what you speak of. Perhaps you can offer an description of what you do refer to.

jimmiraybob said...

Brian,

Thanks you for your response and clarification. My comment makes more sense in response to, "...the United States has long had (until the 1960s anyway and still at least partly) a monotheistic government..." than to your clarification of, "...the US was founded in a monotheistic context." My point was that government, consisting of institutions governed by constitutions and laws, is separate from the people that make up the government and that while the people that make up the government (or are governed) may practice a monotheistic religion, that does not make the government monotheistic. The government, our government, is constituted to make no distinction favoring or discriminating one over the other based on the individual’s preference for monotheism, polytheism, spirit worship or non-theism.

Yes, it is true and I do not dispute that America has a long tradition of Christian and/or monotheistic influence. And I agree that that should be recognized. At the same time I don’t think that the positive contributions and influence of the non-theist or polytheist should be overlooking when it comes to the weave of our national blanket, a point that many people violently dispute (I should mention, I do not know any polytheists). But thankfully, owing to our constitutions and laws, I and my fellow citizens have the right and ability to make these assertions without fear of banishment to the wilderness, or stoning, or pressing, or hanging, or burning.

“What they have a problem with is that the United States (as they see it) is increasingly morally bankrupt - and is spreading its immoral influences around the world. This is why we're called ‘the Great Satan.’"I did not see anything in your commentary that refuted the notion that the US is “increasingly morally bankrupt.” What I saw in this and the statement quoted above was implicit agreement that, at least since the 1960s, moral bankruptcy is on the rise in the US. While I agree, you did not specifically say “hell in a handbasket,” generally, and from a Christian perspective, a decline in morals is a pathway to hell. Technically, however, I do not know if handbaskets would be involved.:) My apologies for putting words in your mouth.

I still contend that hard-line conservative Islamists (especially the radicals and politicians that exploit Islam) would still be calling us the great Satan even if we were a perfect Christian nation. It’s what they do. And by “they” I am not branding all of Islam or its adherents. I would also contend that we do no good when “we” brand Islam the false religion and castigate their profit as a child molesting murderer – what “our” hard-line conservative Christianists (especially the radicals and politicians that exploit Christianity) have and continue to do. I don’t think that we should shape our debate on whether we are being called the great Satan.

"YOU responded to that by implying I was advocating evangelism of governments."I don't believe that I said anything about evangelicism but maybe the implication is there. Again, my concern was the explicit statement that ours is a "monotheistic government."

I would add one more thing, America was founded in a monotheistic context in regard to religious expression. But America's founders drew upon a wide range of religious and non-religious resources in constituting our system of governance. America is grounded in the best wisdom of the ages that could be mustered at the time. And this too is easily defensible via the historical record (or else it would get a little dull around here).

Tom Van Dyke said...

Scientism---materialism---is a philosophy, Ben. It's the only one taught in our schools. It can ask what, but not why, much less Who.

Outside of science itself, if George Washington's inaugural address crediting Divine Providence for the Founding of America [and hoping for its continued blessing] is taught in our schools, then I'll modify my remarks a little anyway. But I suspect it's not taught.

bpabbott said...

Tom, thanks for the clarification.

In any event, the term scientism does not necessarilly imply a favoritism to non-material philosphy. Rather it is a critical descriptor indicating the improper application of scientific understanding.

As such scientism may be used by those, who may or may not be, expert in science to describe the misapplication of science by those who know enough to be dangerous. Perhaps the best example I'm aware of is the application of the theory of evolution in support of Eugenics.

Of course there are many theologians who use the term as a critique of the position of new atheism regarding the present science vs religion debate.

In any event, you can see that my understanding of the term is differnet than how you used it.

Thanks again for clarifying.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Under the Christian scheme, eugenics is unthinkable. For others, it seems quite thinkable, for instance, by the professor of bioethics at Princeton University:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer

Mr. Singer is an entirely reasonable man; an opposition to eugenics is clearly not self-evident under scientism.

Brian Tubbs said...

Jimmiraybob,

I agree IN PART with the Muslim world's indictment of America's moral values. (Note that it isn't simply the radical Muslims calling us "the Great Satan," but mainstream Muslims are doing so).

Just one example...the United States is the largest exporter of pornography in the world today. More money is spent on pornography each year than all the NFL, NBA, and MLB combined!

But...there are other values as well that the United States is exporting that I agree with (which many Muslims do not).

In general, I believe the U.S. has made great progress over the years in many areas. And I also believe we've stepped BACKWARD in some areas.

The record is mixed.

Brian Tubbs said...

Jimmiraybob,

Prior to the 1960s, I don't think many people would've challenged my saying the United States had a "monotheistic" government, meaning a government that officially recognized the existence of God.

Does this mean that ONLY monotheists are worthwhile citizens? Of course not. I agree with you that many people outside of any monotheistic faith context have made contributions to America over the years.

That doesn't change the fact, however, that the government of the United States (all three branches) had NO problem - for most of our history - invoking God. And they did so in a clear, monotheistic (and dare I say "Judeo-Christian") manner.

Pinky said...

.
Brian,

As I recall, the idea that our government had anything to do with religion or that it might be the other way around was far from the mind of most Americans.

During the Second World War Era, I guess there was a little acceptance of the idea that religious people had some call to go public with their prayers; but, other than that, things were pretty silent when it came to any public display of religiosity. Mostly, religion was seen as something Catholics were trying to impose on the public through movies starring Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald as Catholic Priests. That was upsetting to most Baptists.

Except for Kate Smith belting out, God Bless America, on the radio as her signature song.

But, when J.F.K. ran for election and won, that's when the idea of religion in government started to grow.

jimmiraybob said...

"That doesn't change the fact, however, that the government of the United States (all three branches) had NO problem - for most of our history - invoking God. And they did so in a clear, monotheistic (and dare I say "Judeo-Christian") manner.And when did this stop? I've been around since the 50s and can distinctly recall the invocation of monotheistic and specifically Biblical sentiments right on up to today. People continue to express faith unhindered.

Well, relatively. There was a Hindu prayer that was read to the Senate a couple of years ago that was shouted down and disrupted by zealous Christian-right activists. Congress, one of those three branches of government, was attempting to give a major yet minority (in America) faith a voice, which was opposed by a Christian group.

The modern Christian right are not interested in this idea that "monotheism" ought to have a place at the table. There's no interest in plurality. Islam is a monotheistic religion and what Christian, right or left, looks forward to the day a Muslim is president (witness the hysteria over Obama). This was a direct assault on religious conscience.

I do not know why a religion would want to claim any government to begin with. Do you really want to own the actions of government? In America before the 60s? Now? I don't see the benefit.

If it were me, I'd want to keep government as far from my religion as possible.

bpabbott said...

Tom,

I stumbled across the site, Spiritual Science Research Foundation, and was reminded our our discussion on scientism ;-)

Of course this is in no way comparable to Eugenics, but it occurred to me that what we call scientism is often the result of the promotion/pursuit of some ideology.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I think there is an ideology. Not just the New Atheism, but an anti-sectarianism [don't want the fundies seizing our schools!] which is righteous, but throws the baby out with the bathwater, that of theism, specifically monotheism which was very much a part of the Founding.

Now, there's also an ideology usually called "Christian nation," that wants more than monotheism, it wants to restore the favored place that Christianity held at the Founding. In my view, it DID have a favored place on the whole, but not an unambiguously favored one. There were still people like Jefferson, and as I recently quoted Andrew Jackson, he held Christianity at arm's length [although many many others like Jasper Adams and Justice John Marshall did not]. In other words, there IS some juice to the Christian nation claim, at least in my view, but it's not an airtight claim. Neither do I think that Christianity as "first among equals" can get any real traction these days since the nation is clearly more demographically diverse.

As for scientism, my concern is that it's taking over the culture, the society, aided by the strong arm of government, to which I strenuously object.

And if you can give me any good argument against Peter Singer from your POV, not the theistic one, I'd like to hear them. I think Dr. Singer is unimpeachable with reason alone, hence my opposition to scientism.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Re pornography,

I teach a Business Law I class that studies a plethora of different bodies of commerical law, but focuses mainly on contracts. We have one chapter on constitutional law which briefly teaches the First Amendment. There I go over the court created FA doctrines like "commerical speech" receives intermediate scrutiniy. I also discuss Miller v. CA. and the legal standard for obscenity.

And I always ask the class: Okay, we are going to talk about pornography and obscenity in this Business Law class; how do the think pornography is relevant to "business law" in a general sense? And the answer is. It's a business. Not just a business, but a BIG business.

On a personal note I don't see much harm in pornography; though there is some sick stuff on the Internet. I don't count the mainstream Ron Jeremy/Jenna Jameson hard core pornography in that "sick" box, though.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "[...] if you can give me any good argument against Peter Singer from your POV, not the theistic one, I'd like to hear them. I think Dr. Singer is unimpeachable with reason alone, hence my opposition to scientism."

Beyond knowing Peter Singer is a controvercial utilitarian, I'm not very familiar with him. In fact, I had to use a quick google to remind myself of who he was.

In any event, two questions; (1) do you see Peter Singer as practicing "scientism"? and (2) Do you refer to a specific postion of his?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes and yes. His system of values is indeed utilitarian, although he takes them to an extreme [albeit an entirely rational extreme]---with consciousness, not humanity, as the holder of "natural right." An adult dolphin has more rights than a 6-month old baby [human].

The problem for me is, if you, Ben Abbott, a materialist yourself, cannot refute him---and I don't believe you can---then Singerism is in our future in some form if all we give the kids are the poor tools of scientism/materialism.

Indeed, Sweden has just said that abortion for sex-preference alone cannot be made illegal under their notion of "rights." Bye-bye, little girls. This is not quite the hell of eugenics, but you can see it from there. It's bad enough that societies like China and India do it under the table, but what we're seeing in Sweden is the state giving the practice its tacit approval.

And since we routinely abort for birth defects even here in the US, don't tell me that eugenics hasn't already stuck its nose under the tent.

bpabbott said...

@Tom

In my opinion, Singer's most controvercial position is with regards to infantside. Given his premise, he has a solid argument. Although I do think his secular preference utilitarian perspective can be applied to the solution of many socio-political problems, I'm very skeptical it is the proper moral philosophical tool when it comes to infants born with birth defects ... and while I do not have a problem with abortion, under particular circumstances, I'm also skeptical that his favored philosophical tool is appropriate for making such a decision as well.

If one is interested in refuting his position, I recommend a one-two punch.

(1) Don't settle: Universal philosophies tend to be non-optimumal, and those that produce optimimal results tend not to be universal. To achive both may appear impractical, but the perfect solution will forever ellude us if we satisfy ourselves with an imperfect solution.

(2) Better tool: Look for a solution that is more suitable for the problem at hand. This means abandoning Singer's preference utilitarian.

Notice that this embraces the materialistic perspective, but that it is underlined with the pursuit of perfection (generally associated with a religious endeavor).

Essentially the idea is to demonstrate that the proposed solution is lame (imperfect).

Einstein sums it up nicely; "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." In fact, anyone who seriously wishes to confront such "scientism" should carefully read Einstein's essays, Religion and Science / Science and Religion (those essays are a good read, btw).

Brian Tubbs said...

Jimmiraybob,

I don't believe those protesters should've disrupted the Senate's proceedings when the Hindu leader opened in prayer.

However, as a correction, Hinduism is NOT a monotheistic faith.

Brian Tubbs said...

Pinky and Jimmiraybob,

Monotheism was distinctly and emphatically present in the US government from the founding era through the mid-20th century - and was relatively UNCHALLENGED.

In the mid-20th century, monotheism was challenged, particularly in academia and the courts. And that challenge has only intensified since.

Yes, monotheism is STILL present today in the US government, but it is slowly being rolled back in favor of a completely secular public square.

It's this completely secular public square (with absolutely no reference to God whatever) that I oppose. And the Founders would also oppose it - with the POSSIBLE exception of Thomas Paine and (if you stretch to call him a Founder) Ethan Allen.

Clearly, George Washington would have no problem with monotheism in our public square, though. After all, according to GW, "religion and morality" are "indispensable" to "political prosperity." And, says GW, you can't separate the two!

If you wish to disagree with GW, be my guest. But I count myself in good company when I say that I share his sentiments and believe they should govern the United States today.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Preference utilitarianism: Since what is good depends solely on individual preferences, there can be nothing that is in itself good or bad except for the resulting state of mind. Preference utilitarianism therefore can be distinguished by its acknowledgment that every person's experience of satisfaction will be unique.---Wiki

You've got to be frigging kidding me, Ben. "Nothing that is in itself good or bad except for the resulting state of mind."

After they euthanize me as a drain on the state's healthcare system as my decaying body is a threat to its stability, I'll have no resulting state of mind atall.

In fact, let's gas all our Alzheimer's folks right away.

I was willing to leave our Founding heritage to materialist/atheists like you against Singerism, but I dunno if defend me from it, the eminently reasonable person that you are.

But you do write

Notice that this embraces the materialistic perspective, but that it is underlined with the pursuit of perfection (generally associated with a religious endeavor).

Essentially the idea is to demonstrate that the proposed solution is lame (imperfect).

Einstein sums it up nicely; "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
...which falls back on religion, yes? Perhaps I won't be exterminated afterall. I sure hope so. I'm counting on you, you devious believer, you.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "You've got to be frigging kidding me, Ben."

Don't mistake my polite comment for respect or agreement with Singer's philosophical position.

Personally, I find Preference utilitarianism intellectually stimiulating, but a poor framework for most practical implementation. Its best "utility" appears to be getting people riled up ;-)

Regarding Utilitarian philosophies, I like Desire Utilitarianism much better.

However, my thoughts on such things are just thoughts, I have no intention of promoting such philosophies for the solution of the worlds problems ... although if there is a problem for which it is the best tool, it should be applied.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I just wish that you could rebut Singerism, using reason alone.