Category Archives: My (largely correct) religious views

Trump:  shockingly unaware of how the First Amendment works.

If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you.

The free speech clause and the establishment clause: both a mystery to Trump. Or maybe he’s just planning a bullyocracy.


What the fucking hell: “In U.C.L.A. Debate Over Jewish Student . . .”

In U.C.L.A. Debate Over Jewish Student, Echoes on Campus of Old Biases –*

I don’t have time for a well-thought-out blog post, so I’m going to express my views, even more than usual, though profanity.

What the fuck?  How did we get to the place where a bunch of entitled little shits at a prominent university, ostensibly full of smart people, could question a student’s fairness based on her religion.

I blame:

  1. The students.  Grow up, get your heads out of your asses, and think like decent human beings, not self-important Judgers of the Universe.  You’re 20ish.  Know, now, that you don’t know shit.  Think before you talk.  Maybe even consult a grown-up before you talk.
  2. A sound-byte culture in which it’s always less than a step from reasoned disagreement to ad hominem vilification.  Disagree with American policy?   You’re unpatriotic, a “fifth column.”  Disagree on middle-east policy?  You’re a suspected Mossad agent and/or ISIS sympathizer.**  Believe that women should control their own bodies?  You’re a baby-killer.  Think that we should perhaps consider the growing life inside the woman’s body?  You’re “fighting a war on women.”***  I’m sure there has always been plenty of invective to go around — since the invention of the swear word in prehistoric times — but it seems now that this the culture kids are steeped in.  They grow up on the internet perhaps thinking that the self-righteous, self-centered and generally nasty world of internet comments is normal or OK.
  3. Whatever passes for history teaching these days.  How the fuck could these smart kids get to their early 20s and not get — viscerally — that what they were doing was deeply, deeply wrong.  Any sort of reasonable instruction in the holocaust and the civil rights movement should have made this assaholic move impossible.

I’m concerned that these — and likely other — factors caused these kids’ brains to turn off and their sound byte/talking head/internet troll training to take over.   I sentence them to a intensive course in 20th Century History and a serious time out.


* I truncated the headline in my blog title because once you get to “debate over Jewish student,” you’re in “what the fucking hell” territory.

** I guess the “and” side of the “/” is fairly unlikely.

*** I’m not suggesting false balance (“and now over to Dr. Schmuck, for the flat-earther position”), but merely that when discussing even those views we personally think are utter horseshit, we stop and think about the substance and keep the discussion on that level.  I’m just fucking tired of media talking shrieking heads and what it’s doing to the culture in which we hope to raise a rational next generation.


Creationists Complain Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’ Isn’t Giving Them Airtime

Creationists Complain Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’ Isn’t Giving Them Airtime.

Also not featured on “Cosmos”:

  1. The Earth is flat.
  2. The sun revolves around the earth.
  3. The Earth is sitting on the back of a giant turtle.
  4. Life emerged from a giant hollow reed growing from the first world into the second world, which at the time was already occupied by Cat People.
  5. An invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe “after drinking heavily”.


By the way, #4 comes from the site which has awesome animations of some of the world’s creation stories.

Which beatitude was that?

You know, the one that said that rich dudes who withhold their religious-oriented charitable donations to bribe the previously-infallible pope to get him to stop hurting rich people’s feelings will inherit the earth?

Via Talking Points Memo:

{Image:  two photographs side by side, one of an older, balding man in a suit speaking into a microphone; the other of Pope Francis, in a white robe and yarmulke.  Both photos show the respective men from the mid-torso up.  The headline above the photos reads "Billionaire Home Depot Founder Says Pope Francis Is Alienating The Rich."}

Billionaire Home Depot founder Ken Langone has a warning for Pope Francis.

A major Republican donor, Langone told CNBC in a story published online Monday that wealthy people such as himself might stop giving to charity if the Pope continues to make statements criticizing capitalism and income inequality.

Guess the eye of the needle was larger than originally thought.

Another slam-dunk case for the Anti-Butthead Act

A bakery near Denver is refusing to make a cake for a same-sex couple.  While this is covered by the state’s anti-discrimination laws, it would also be an excellent case for my proposed Anti-Butthead Act.  According to the Denver Post,

The shop’s owner, . . .  [stated] that he has a strong stance toward the biblical view of marriage between one man and one woman.

I’m wondering if Mr. Phillips checks the Biblical-compliance status of his other customers.  Does he ask his one-man/one-woman couples if they’ve had sex before the marriage.  Awkward!   Adultery and coveting of neighborhood wives?  Also awkward!  Theft?  Does he do a criminal background check?  How about honoring mom and dad?  He needs to check on that, too, right?

This falls solidly within the black letter of the Anti-Butthead Act’s mandate: “Don’t be a Butthead.”  Or, in the words of the colleague from whose Facebook post I blatantly stole this idea, “Just make the fucking cake, you dope!”

The upside down logic of executing Nathan Dunlap

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler lives in an upside down world where strapping someone to a gurney and injecting him with lethal chemicals is “courageous” and deciding not to do this is “cruel and unjust.”

In a letter to the governor supporting the execution of Nathan Dunlap, Mr. Brauchler

questioned the motives and ethics of those who have argued on Dunlap’s behalf, and those who diagnosed and treated him for mental illness.

“Questioned the motives”?  Questioned?  The motive is, um, to keep Colorado from executing Mr. Dunlap.  Not sure what’s in question.  It’s right out there in the open.

Pause for disclosure of my motive:  My view is that the death penalty is wrong and that my state should not execute Mr. Dunlap.  Even if you generally favor or are undecided on the death penalty in the abstract, however, there are many, many reasons why it would be wrong in this case. You can read the clemency petition here, write to Governor Hickenlooper, or call him at 303-866-2471.  5280 magazine published a long article in 2008 that spelled out the history of the case.

Back to snarking on the DA.

Mr. Brauchler decries the “abandonment of professional ethics.” The ethics of trying to keep someone alive?  I don’t think that word means what he thinks it means.  I have scoured the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct and can find nothing suggesting it is unethical to urge the governor not to kill someone.

The DA characterizes as “convenient ‘scientific’ epiphanies” — the scare quotes around “scientific” are his — the now widely-accepted conclusion that Mr. Dunlap had a severe, undiagnosed mental illness when he committed the crime for which he is to be executed.  The diagnosis at which Mr. Brauchler sneers is one that has, since Mr. Dunlap’s sentencing, been confirmed and treated by Department of Corrections doctors.

More scare quotes.  Can’t you just see him wiggling the first two fingers of each hand when he complains that

our state’s leaders are asked to accept as ‘objective’ evidence the conclusions of the anti-death penalty movement’s ‘best and brightest’ experts, and to ignore their obvious collaborative biases . . .

Well, the movement does have some excellent (“best”) and very smart (“brightest”) people, who work together (“collaborate”) to do what they think is right (“bias”?).  Ouch!

And his letter

called assertions by the defense that race plays a role in imposing the death penalty in Colorado “vile, disgusting and offensive.”

Those are the adjectives you use when you don’t have facts.  In fact, as of 2010, 41% of prisoners under sentence of death in the US were black, while only 13.6% of the population as a whole is black.  There are three people on Colorado’s death row; all three are black.  Studies in other states have shown that blacks killing whites are much more likely to get the death penalty than any other permutation, and that prosecutors are much more likely to seek the death penalty for black defendants.

Ultimately, it is the racism in our criminal justice system that is vile, disgusting, and offensive; not the act of calling attention to that fact.

The clemency petition provides measured, fact-based arguments why it would be a very bad idea to execute Nathan Dunlop. Many people, of many different faiths and backgrounds, agree with this:

Dunlap letters

All the DA has to offer in return is a salad shooter of insults: cruel; unjust; slap in the face; questionable motives; unethical; “objective” “scientific” evidence; collaborative bias; vile; disgusting; offensive.  And the unsupported pronouncement that Mr. Dunlap “took the lives of four Colorado citizens, and justice requires he now pays with his own.”

There is no good reason for this execution; just the satisfaction of the primitive desire for revenge.  Guess that’s my bias.

Paul Ryan is not pro-life

Three things before I start.

1.   The title is pretty misleading, but I’m a partisan and did not feel like titling the post “Adam Gopnik is wrong about Paul Ryan.”  It’s my blog — I get to do that.  And there’s plenty of Ryan-bullshit-calling, too.

2.  Adam Gopnik is one of my favorite writers.  Seeing his byline on a New Yorker article means it will have a wealth of interesting information and delightful prose.*  You are going to find this hard to believe when (if) you finish reading this post, but I really do like his writing.  How can one resist a writer who understands — and deftly conveys to the rest of us — that this year’s election is like a 70s comedy:

Romney seems like the smug country clubber in a hundred National Lampoonish movies, the one Chevy Chase takes the girl away from, while Paul Ryan … seem[s] exactly like the authority-pleasing, solemn student-body president who either gets pantsed midway by the stars of “Porkys” or else blissfully turned on to grass in the final reel by Bill Murray.

Gopnik is a fantastic and entertaining writer.  He just went seriously off the rails in the post I’m posting about.

3.    Paul Ryan is not pro-life.  However devoted he may have been to the “bean” that would someday be his daughter and to the right of all similarly situated beans to develop for at least the first nine month of their being, his policies — taken together — will lead to far more death than life.  His Medicaid cuts alone will leave millions of children, adults with disabilities, and older folks without necessary medical care and equipment. Many of them will die as a result.  Ryan is the poster child for the brilliant Barney Frank insight that Republicans “believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth.”

That out of the way, this Adam Gopnik New Yorker blog post is seriously misguided.  I have three major problems with it:  First, that it treats religious faith differently from the other sources of moral reasoning that inform people’s lives; second, that it ridicules sincerely-held pro-life views; and third, that it isolates abortion from the sort of moral and political reasoning that has brought great liberal progress to our country.


Gopnik tees off the following Ryan quote from the vice-presidential debate:

I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do.

Gopnik believes

That’s a shocking answer—a mullah’s answer . . .

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to take Ryan’s comment on its face.  As such, no, it’s not a mullah’s answer; it’s a human answer.  Ryan stated that “our faith informs us in everything we do.”   Ryan’s faith is an integral part of who he is and how how he thinks about the world.  I’m guessing that Gopnik would not object if a woman explained that her gender “informed her in everything she did,” or similarly, an African-American, a gay man or lesbian, a person with a disability, or an immigrant to this country from another.

Ryan’s faith informs his views on abortion.  Gopnik does not explain the sources of his opposing views on that subject, but let’s call it his philosophy — of the appropriate balance of the rights of the mother and the developing child, or of the appropriate role of government.   And let’s give both men credit for having seriously thought through their opposing views and holding them sincerely.  It is not fair or appropriate to ask Ryan to put aside his faith, while those whose views develop from non-religious sources are free to bring them to bear on political discourse.

Gopnik continues:

Our system, unlike the Iranians’ . . . depends on making many distinctions between private life, where we follow our conscience into our chapel, and our public life, where we seek to merge many different kinds of conscience in a common space. Our faith should not inform us in everything we do, or there would be no end to the religious warfare that our tolerant founders feared.

Gopnik is correct that we all have to come into the common space understanding that our views are not the only ones – not the only correct ones – and to seek to merge different kinds of conscience into a working set of laws and policies.  He would be correct about Ryan, then, if Ryan had used the verb “dictate” instead of “inform.”  If this is what Ryan meant – that his faith doesn’t just inform but dictates unwaveringly everything he does in his role as congressman or vice-president – it is deeply wrong and unAmerican.  Taking the words as spoken, though, Gopnik is wrong that “there would be no end to the religious warfare that our tolerant founders feared” if faith informs the moral decision-making of some part of our nation.  Indeed, what of the large number of liberal Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other religious folks whose faith informs – even dictates – a position of tolerance and mutual respect.  Is that, too, to be left outside the realm of civic discourse?

Which brings me to SECOND.

Gopnik moves (at dizzying speed) from denying the role of faith in public discourse to ridiculing opposition to abortion to a sort of reductio ad mullahrum** that compares anyone who would oppose abortion to those who would support the worst of radical Islamism.

The ridicule.  Gopnik notes (correctly) that deciding what is a “life” is tricky, then adds:

It is this double knowledge that impacts any grownup thinking about abortion: that it isn’t life that’s sacred—the world is full of life, much of which Paul Ryan wants to cut down and exploit and eat done medium rare.

Seriously:  “grownup”?  There is so much packed into that one adjective, including intolerance for the sincerely-held views of a large swath of the grownup population of this country (that is, the sort of intolerance Gopnik is writing against); and exactly the sort of arrogance that makes people hate liberals.***

Would it also be over the top to point out that this is also its own bizarre reductio?  And all I can do is apologize for this but let’s call it reductio ad steakum.  Because your ribeye was once alive, you are not permitted to value any sort of life that is not a fully-conscious adult human?

Here’s the reductio ad mullahrum.  Gopnik accuses Ryan of oversimplifying the question of what is life:

The cost of simplifying this truth is immense cruelty . . . This kind of cruelty—cruelty to real persons, killing the infidel in order to hasten him into heaven, stoning the fourteen-year-old girl in pursuit of some prophet’s view of virtue, forcing the teenager to complete her pregnancy to fulfill a middle-aged man’s moral hunches—is the kind of cruelty that our liberal founders saw with terror.

One of these is not like the other.  Requiring a woman or girl to carry a pregnancy to term is not remotely like killing an infidel or stoning a fourteen-year-old.  We can disagree on whether it is the preservation of potential life or an unconstitutional imposition on the rights of the woman.  It is not, in fact, the taking of life in the name of religion.

And THIRD, Gopnik’s overall point demeans the sort of moral reasoning that opposed (and still opposes) slavery, Jim Crow, homophobia, totalitarianism, and other oppressive systems.  Why was it OK for Martin Luther King to lead us out of Jim Crow, informed by his faith, and speaking in explicitly religious terms, but not for a modern-day believer to speak in those terms about his or her pro-life views?  For Jim Wallis, Carrie Ann Lucas, and other progressive Christians to work for social justice informed by their faith, but not conservative Christians?  We may disagree about the conclusions – and call bullshit when faith-based moral reasoning turns into hypocritical hot air –but it is deeply misguided to exclude faith from public political discourse.

Finally, however, speaking of hypocritical hot air:  if faith is to participate in the arena of public discourse, it has to be able to hold its own.  It cannot be hermetically sealed from criticism and bullshit-calling.  And it is pure bullshit to believe in life from conception to birth.  If Ryan’s Catholic faith informs his pro-life views on the question of abortion, he should answer for why his faith does not similarly inform his views of the budget.


* Apparently not everyone shares this view.  Perhaps Wolcott does not like competition in the delightful prose department.   Personally, I think delightful prose is one of the few things you can *never* have too much of.

** Like it?  My attempt at a modern-day “Reductio ad Hitlerum”:  “a term coined by conservative philosopher Leo Strauss in 1951. According to Strauss, the Reductio ad Hitlerum is a logical fallacy that consists of trying to refute an opponent’s view by comparing it to a view that would be held by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party.”

*** Have you ever walked into a Whole Foods and wanted to commit ritual suicide by organic carrot?  Me too.  That’s why people find us annoying.  Not sure what we can do about it except point out that (1) we’re right; and (2) conservatives are even more annoying.
UPDATE: Edited for typos.