Tuesday Night Links

Echidne examines the consequences of shrinking government to the point that it can be drowned in a bathtub. She looks at what spending cuts have done to the FDA, which is conducting just half the food safety inspections it did three years ago (link). I don’t want to blow government out of proportions; I just want to increase it to the size that I can ride the subway without being infected with cholera, eat uncooked chicken without getting salmonella, and walk under a shed without worrying about the possibility of a collapse.

Ezra writes about free trade; although he has populist sentiments, he’s fairly pro-trade. In a heated argument between Brad DeLong and Jeff Faux, he comes down clearly on DeLong’s side after Faux dodges a legitimate question about free trade’s positive effects on China. Ezra takes Faux to task for ranting about Chinese domestic economic policy for being bad for the poor. Why impoverishing China by slapping tariffs on it will cause its government to change its policy when similar sanctions against other countries have miserably failed is beyond me.

Samhita asks whether it can truly be called feminist empowerment when women in Pakistan protest the demolition of illegally built mosques. The people on the comment thread tend toward realizing that, to quote EG, “Women are a huge segment of the population, and no social/political/religious movement would succeed without any support from women. But that doesn’t make the movement inherently feminist.”

Jenny explains why it’s not a feminist duty to support Hillary Clinton. Just like I don’t accuse anyone who opposes Obama of hating black people and anyone who opposes Richardson of hating Hispanics, so do I oppose allegations that opposing Clinton is something sexist. The proper feminist or antiracist or pro-gay or pro-atheist thing to do is support a candidate based on real issues, regardless of gender/race/sexual orientation/religion. Feminism doesn’t exist to empower Hillary Clinton, but to empower the 3,249,999,999 women who aren’t so powerful as to have a shot at becoming the most powerful person in the world.

Lindsay writes about the difference between the left-wing American blogosphere and the right-wing one. While the left-wing blogosphere seeks to turn itself into part of the Democratic Party, featuring a motley crew of policy analysts, movement activists, fundraisers, and screamers, the right-wing blogosphere only engages in scalping of the type Donahue did to Amanda.

Ruchira reproduces an article about Tehran that seems to strike the correct chord in depicting the city as highly cultured and developed and at the same time suffering from a fundamentalism problem. This isn’t Kandahar or even Baghdad we’re talking about, but a modern city that doesn’t have many ingrained problems a revolution won’t solve.

Brent notes that Mitt Romney is hardly the only person in the US who thinks atheists can’t be Presidents. A clueless law professor at Colorado University rants about atheists from about every imaginable angle, including coming out in support of Romney’s bigotry. Brent takes him to task for spouting inanities about atheists’ morality.

Skatje takes down arguments for preserving the Pledge of Allegiance so that you don’t have to. Hitting the nail right on the head, she says, “An oath of loyalty is something you see in totalitarian regimes, not something you’d expect in a nation that prides itself on freedom. In a classroom with children from as young as age five robotically chanting at a flag every morning, I’d also expect a big silver screen on one of the walls. I’ve already written about nationalism. Submission and obedience to a government is another leg of it.”

Tyler rants about excessive moderates who in order to look centrist compare atheists to fundamentalists. Unlike Tyler I don’t care enough for Dawkins to get agitated when someone does a hatchet job on him, but I do care enough for reality to see that atheism is as extreme as fundamentalism to the same degree that supporting full racial equality is as extreme as apartheid.

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18 Responses to Tuesday Night Links

  1. muppt says:

    Richard Dawkins should lighten up and smoke some pot.

  2. j4jesus says:

    From what objective basis would an atheist make his or her decisions as President? I have no doubt that many atheists live quiet, simple, “moral” lives. In fact, there are probably many atheists who live lives that are far more “moral” than many professing Christians. I have never, for example, met an atheist who would murder their neighbor to steal the neighbors television. My questions is “why?” The answer is usually that it is wrong or immoral. But who says so? It’s natural law, some would say. But why should natural law have anyway sway over the way I behave. Some would say, “because it’s good for youand for society.” Why should I be concerned about what is good for me and good for society. Without God – when it all comes to naught – its all about me and there’s really no legitimate reason for it to be about anyone else but me. So, again, I ask the question: from what moral basis would an atheist make his or her decisions as President?

  3. Ran Halprin says:

    Moral is an atheist invention. Religion has no moral, it has commandments. A religious person won’t murder because his religion says he shouldn’t, only an atheist would employ moral in order to avert from murder.

  4. j4jesus says:

    Have to disagree. Religions have commandments, but more importantly they offer a matrix from which the person adherent to the decision can make moral decisions. It is possible, for example, to read the New Testament and derive at a method for making decisions about issues that may not be addressed specifically via the commandments in scripture. I would refer you to Richard Haye’s excellent work on New Testament ethics.

  5. Lynet says:

    Why should I be concerned about what is good for me and good for society. Without God – when it all comes to naught – its all about me and there’s really no legitimate reason for it to be about anyone else but me.

    Wouldn’t you say that the same thing is true with God? After all, if you were unconcerned about what was good for you, you could just break “God’s law” and suffer the consequences. Why should you care? If you were unconcerned about your society, you could just break human laws. Why should you care?

    The fact is, you do care.

    Why do we (atheists) behave morally? Well, it has to be at least partly because we care, too, even in the absence of any opinion from God on the matter.

    This isn’t the only reason atheists give for acting morally, but it’s an important one.

    Without God – when it all comes to naught – its all about me and there’s really no legitimate reason for it to be about anyone else but me.

    With God, are things any better, or is it still about you? Is the only reason you behave morally due to the fact that you are scared that God will punish you if you don’t? Or would you like to say that you care about behaving morally to the point where you would do the right thing even if you knew no-one would punish you for it?

    Atheists can be pretty hard-line about morality. Some of us would like to say that, if the only reason you do something good is out of fear that you will be punished if you don’t, then it wasn’t really good in the first place.

  6. j4jesus says:

    How about this . . . I don’t do good because I am afraid of God. I do good because, as a Christian, the resurrected Jesus inhabits my life and compels me to live as he lived. It’s not just about commandments and codes, its about a life given to Him. Without that then I might well do good things simply because I was afraid, but I’ve never really met many Christians who did a lot of good because they were afraid of God.

    But, I ask the question again: if there is no God, then why do you care? And why should I care that you care about society or the world if their is no God?

    Again, I don’t do good out of a fear of being punished. I do good because of a deeper love growing in my heart and life.

  7. Tyler DiPietro says:

    But, I ask the question again: if there is no God, then why do you care? And why should I care that you care about society or the world if their is no God?

    Because the idea that a lack of belief in god(s) leaves one to simply “not care” by default is a complete non-sequitor.

  8. Lynet says:

    if there is no God, then why do you care?

    Because I care. I don’t need a prior reason to care about things.

    I do good because, as a Christian, the resurrected Jesus inhabits my life and compels me to live as he lived… because of a deeper love growing in my heart and life.

    Believe it or not, the fact that I am not a Christian does not stop me from loving the world or from wanting to do good.

    And why should I care that you care about society or the world if their is no God?

    Are you saying you don’t care if I care? Or are you saying that, if there was no God, you wouldn’t care if I cared?

    I think you should care that I care about society and the world even though I believe there is no God, because I think you should recognise me as a moral being, despite the fact that I am an atheist. However, I can’t force you.

  9. Alon Levy says:

    From what objective basis would an atheist make his or her decisions as President?

    From what objective basis would a theist make his decisions as President? After all, theistic morality isn’t based on any consistent principles, except “God says so.” Some theists believe God tells them to agitate for civil rights or throw the British out of India. Others believe it tells them to fly planes into buildings or murder gays.

  10. j4jesus says:

    We are dancing all around the question I have. Why should an atheist care? Why should an atheist be moral? Why does “caring, loving, acting justly” have value if you are an atheist? By what standard do you judge the behavior of another person to be moral or immoral. If an an atheist is moral, then there must be some sort of standard or principle that is being used to determine what sort of behavior is or is not appropriate. Believe it or not this is a legitimate question. I’m not trying to argue with anyone or prove a point. I just want to know.

    Now in answer to the question in the immediatley previous post, as a Christian I would rely upon an ethical matrix that is derived from solid, literary critique of scripture. Believe it or not, most Christians do not make decisions simply because God tells them so. It takes place after a legitimate, thoughtful study of scripture as a dynamically inspired document.

  11. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Believe it or not, most Christians do not make decisions simply because God tells them so. It takes place after a legitimate, thoughtful study of scripture as a dynamically inspired document.

    In other words, obscuritanism is a valid basis of morality. Either the Bible is true in it’s moral percepts, or it is not. If you pick and choose you have no firmer ground than anyone else. Think about what allows to pick and choose from the Bible.

  12. Alon Levy says:

    Now in answer to the question in the immediatley previous post, as a Christian I would rely upon an ethical matrix that is derived from solid, literary critique of scripture. Believe it or not, most Christians do not make decisions simply because God tells them so. It takes place after a legitimate, thoughtful study of scripture as a dynamically inspired document.

    That’s no different from taking any self-contradictory hold text and basing one’s morality on its hermeneutics. Communists do that with the writings of Marx and Lenin; Christians do that with the Bible; American nationalists do that with the writings of the Founders. In all three cases, it’s not so much a real ethical discussion as an exercise in who can project his own biases onto the sacred texts the most adeptly.

  13. Troublesome Frog says:

    We are dancing all around the question I have. Why should an atheist care? Why should an atheist be moral? Why does “caring, loving, acting justly” have value if you are an atheist?

    Simply put, most of us are human and have empathy for our fellow human beings. I do not steal from others because I understand the suffering it causes those people and I would not have others steal from me. There are rare people who lack that empathy or have had it trained out of them, but most people are perfectly capable of understanding the consequences of their actions and projecting those consequences onto themselves.

    By what standard do you judge the behavior of another person to be moral or immoral. If an an atheist is moral, then there must be some sort of standard or principle that is being used to determine what sort of behavior is or is not appropriate.

    I measure a person’s morality based on their regard for others, even if the people they’re cruel to aren’t me. It’s like the saying, “If a person is nice to you but mean to the waiter, he is not a nice person.” That covers just about every moral question that’s meaningful to me. It doesn’t bother me when people eat shellfish or pork or drink alcohol or watch dirty movies.

    To me, the more important question is, why should mandates from a deity be moral? So God says that I shouldn’t steal. Why should I listen to God? I happen to agree with that rule, but I find the argument that an unseen entity doesn’t want me to steal less morally compelling than the argument that society would fall apart if we all stole things willy nilly and we’d all be unhappy.

    I would argue that allowing an outside entity to impose moral codes without any discussion or rationale is a dangerous source of public policy. Sure, we’re probably all OK with not murdering people and stealing their stuff, but what about when the moral code requires banning music and dancing or mandates ritual sacrifice? I don’t see a reason to believe that good public policy decisions are made when society’s shared moral code isn’t up for discussion its members.

  14. Ruchira Paul says:

    Agree with Troublesome Frog – more or less.

    At the risk of earning Alon’s ire for blogwhoring, I am linking to a related post and the ensuing discussion at my own blog. (check it out if you have the time or the inclination).

  15. Lynet says:

    Well, I make a legitimate, thoughtful study of ethical theories such as utilitarianism, Kantianism, ethics of care, and so on. I don’t consider such things divinely inspired so much as representing some of the most interesting human thought on the matter. In considering these issues I also trust my own internal moral compass. I have some sympathy with a notion of ethics that grows out of an interaction between theory and practice: start with the theories that make sense to you, see what happens when you apply them to the real world, decide if this is helpful, modify theories accordingly, and start again.

    Does that help?

  16. j4jesus says:

    Thanks for the replies. What remains most interesting to me is that the picture most folks seem to have of Christianity really is the Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson types out their in the world who wouldn’t know what it really meant to have a legitimate, dynamic understanding of scripture, inspiration and literary analysis if God smacked them in the face with it. What Lynet is describing is very similar to the way that most trained, evangelical pastors make their decisions. By the way, I think that God also does not want society to fall apart which probably explains why their are commands like that in scripture and the ever famous teaching from Jesus that loving God via loving one’s neighbor is the chief of all of his commands. By the way, I am not – nor ever have been – an advocate for censorship. When you get right down to it, the reason that so many have such a horrible impression of Christianity is that Christians have attempted throughout time and eternity to apply Christian principles by legislating them. That just is not what I see happening in scripture. The early church was a movement; not an institution, and the message of Jesus – despite how off base many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians are – transcends political parties and government.

  17. sony nex-5 says:

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  18. nike acc says:

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