Monday, October 29, 2018

The Pittsburgh shooting

The idea that it is OK to hate somebody because who they are has gained currency over the last few years.

But this comes from the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.

Leader of Islamic Center of Pittsburgh announces Muslim community has raised more than $70,000 for synagogue attack victims and their families. "We just want to know what you need ... If it's people outside your next service protecting you, let us know. We'll be there."

Want to know how to make America great again? This is it.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Does the law on noncontradiction apply straightforwardly to moral statements?

 Perhaps to help understand the question of moral objectivity better, let's try this question. If one person believes that the earth is round and the other thinks it's flat, only one of them can be right. If one person believes that adultery is always wrong, and the other believes that it is sometimes right, can both of them be right about it, or can just one of them? Does the law of non-contradiction apply straightforwardly to moral statements. (The law of noncontradiction states that a statement and its contradictory cannot both be true.)

One reason why we might not want to apply the law of noncontradiction to a statement would be if we thought the statement was incomplete as stated, or if we thought, in the last analysis, the statement was not really a statement at all. For example, if I were to say "McDonald's hamburgers are preferable to Burger King's" we probably mean that we ourselves prefer McDonald's burgers to Burger King's, or as we might put it, we really mean to say "McDonald's hamburgers are better than Burger King's for me." In which case, if someone else said "Burger King's burgers are better than McDonald's for me" they would not be contradicting you, just expressing their own preference. Of maybe these are not statements at all, but are simply cases of emoting. 

But what about our moral statements. If someone says "Abortion is wrong," are they just saying something like "I don't like abortion," or are they saying something more than that. Can our beliefs about abortion be wrong? Or is it more like the Burger King case? And if you think it's like the Burger King case, how about this one: It is wrong to inflict pain on little children for your own amusement. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

I'm sorry, but it's not all about abortion

For many Christians, it seems to me that politics is all about abortion. They insist that because there are fetuses out there who are being killed, we must subordinate all other considerations to this one issue. Even if the President enlisted the help of a hostile foreign government to get himself elected, even if the President they elect and the Supreme Court Justice that he nominated committed sexual assault, even if the President plays on unjustifiable fears of foreigners and in order to keep his party in power, even if that same President says a federal judge cannot be trusted because he's Mexican, even if he makes fun of a disabled reporter and even removed Braille from the elevators in Trump Tower (I mean, who does that?) even if his party's  policies would rip health insurance away from millions of Americans, such as those with pre-existing conditions, even if the President is prepared to deny evident facts and the universal consensus of the intelligence community, even if opposes even reasonable attempts to keep what are basically machine guns out of the hands of mentally unstable people, even if he put someone in as Secretary of Education whose stated purpose it is to destroy the public education system, even if he got into the political arena by raising unfounded and racist aspersions about the duly elected President's birth certificate, even if he called countries in Central America and Africa, countries of course consisting of mostly black and brown people "shitholes," even if the President pretends to be a self-made who only got a small loan of one million dollars (which he had to pay back) when in fact he was constantly propped up by his wealthy father, even if he and his father had to commit massive tax fraud in order to receive money from his father without paying a hefty tax bill, even if he refuses to let the public see his tax returns, so that the people can see who he might be beholden to when he takes office, even if he disrespects our traditional allies but kisses up to every dictator on the planet, even if a journalist for an American newspaper is brutally murdered by one of those countries run by one of those dictators, even if he began his campaign by supporting a ban on people in virtue of how they worship God, we've got to, as Tammy Wynette would say, "Stand by our man" since he is going to put in enough "pro-life" Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, and then we can get laws against abortion.

Now I realize most Trump supporters will disagree with large parts of the above description of our beloved President. But in so many discussions I have gotten into, the bottom line for many people is abortion, and they imply that even those who disagree with everything else that Trump does should nonetheless support him because he supports pro-life. (He declared himself "totally pro-choice in 1999, so either he reflected on the matter carefully in the interim, or he decided that supporting the pro-life position would be helpful to him in his political career. I suppose it is only the incorrigible cynic in me that leads me to think it's the latter, not the former).

When you mention evidence of Trump's wrongdoing and manifest unfitness for the Presidency, his defenders, almost every time, either start rehearsing all the things Democrats (particularly Hillary Clinton) have done wrong (Benghazi, the e-mails, the Clinton Foundation, Monica Lewinsky, Juanita Brodderick, Paula Jones) or else they play the abortion card. If Trump were to shoot five people to death on Fifth Avenue, they would just say, "But at least he's pro-life." As for the Hillary strategy, they don't seem to understand that the question of the President's fitness is a separate question from anyone else's fitness. If the worst happens to Trump and he is impeached and removed, Mike Pence, not Hillary Clinton, will become President.

But as a Christian I have to argue that, no, the end does not justify the means. What sent Communism, in many countries into a moral black hole is the idea that there is some great good to be accomplished, and whatever bad things we do in order to bring in the Great Kingdom of the Socialist Paradise will all be worth it because that kingdom is so great.

My own abortion position is complicated, and many would accuse me of making something complicated that ought to be simple. I am not happy with either party's treatment of the issue. I think abortions are always bad, most of the are wrong, but I have qualms about using the criminal law to discourage them (while not using other means at our disposal), and I completely reject the Originalist Argument against Roe, which means I think that abortion laws are constitutionally possible only if there is a constitutional amendment, or an legal argument that it is provable that fetuses are persons. That is not the basis on which Roe has traditionally been challenged. (I'll be happy to cover this in detail in another post.)

My biggest political issues are:

1. Presidential accountability. I want the President, of whatever party to be held accountable for what he does, to be investigated to the fullest extent necessary for any wrongdoing that might show him to be unfit for the Presidency.

2. Health Care. There must  be no returning to the old system that, in the name of capitalism, discriminated against people who earn their living by part-time jobs, and those who have pre-existing conditions.

3. Education.  Supporting, not undermining the public education system.

4. Gun control. Surely there are things we can do to keep weapons of mass murder out of the hands of people who are likely to harm innocent people.

5. Religious Freedom. This could be higher, I suppose, but those who have religious views that are not politically correct should be allowed to express them, and they should not be forced to engage in activity that praises relationships they don't agree with. On these matters, I tend to side with Republicans rather than Democrats, and depending on the candidates it was conceivable that I could have voted for the Republican in 2016. The nomination of Trump fixed that but good, for me.

Voting would be tough if I had to vote on abortion alone. But I didn't have to.  As a Christian, it is wrong to have tunnel vision. All political parties are coalitions, which accept some things that we as Christians can believe in, and others of which we have doubts. We never were, and never will be, the moral majority. There are people in the Democratic party who don't just believe that abortion should be legal, they think abortion is good. This is very, very wrong. There are people in the Republican party, including our President, who think that greed is good. I am sorry, it isn't. Many Christians have tunneled in on a few moral issues, when there are many. This is, I think, tragic, and harmful to the credibility of Christianity.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Peter Singer: Soul-Winner for Jesus

Here.  Apparently this woman, from Oxford, left Singer's lectures with "intellectual vertigo", which drove her eventually to Christianity.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Trump made his money through tax fraud. Does anybody care?

Apparently not.  Or maybe people think that whatever comes from the NY Times can be safely ignored.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Large-earthers and small-earthers

Actually, the idea that people who were critical of Columbus were flat-earthers is a well-known historical mistake. Everyone knew the world was round. There were two types of people, those like Columbus whom we might call small-earthers who thought you could get to the Indes after a relatively short trip, and large-earthers, who thought there was a large ocean to cross and that it would not be cost-effective to have lots of ships sailing West to get to the East. The large-earthers were right, of course, but Columbus made it into the history books because there was this other continent between Europe and Asia on the Westward route, what eventually became know as the Americas.