An anonymous member of the studio audience wrote to say,
Why do you insist on such wild, disproportionate rhetoric about evil and bigotry? Nobody but the choir is going to be persuaded by that sort of thing.
First, I do not write to persuade people. I write to defend particular propositions that I hold to be true. People who are motivated to persuade others will be tempted to use fallacious reasoning and lies when they are effective. That is not my motive.
Second, I do not consider the language either wild or disproportionate. When I make these claims I hold them to be true. I may be wrong, but the accusation of error is different fro the accusation of making an intentional or reckless distortion.
Let me explain why.
The practice of morality is the practice of using praise and condemnation (and reward and punishment) to promote malleable desires that people generally have reason to promote (desires that tend to fulfill other desires) and inhibit malleable desires that people generally have reason to inhibit (desires that tend to thwart other desires).
To engage in the practice of morality (which this blog does) without engaging in the practice of praise and condemnation is a contradiction in terms.
The term 'evil' in this context applies to people who have malleable desires that people generally have reason to inhibit. It also applies to people who lack malleable desires that people generally have reason to promote. Selfishness and negligence represent evils that consist of a lack of a concern for the welfare of others (thus a lack of motivation to act in ways that prevent the thwarting of the desires of others).
Thus, to the degree that a person is evil, to that degree the person is a legitimate target of praise and condemnation aimed at inhibiting the desires that the agent possesses.
A slight evil – an evil that tends to inhibit a few weak desires – is deserving of weak condemnation. Whereas a stronger evil – an evil consisting of malleable desires that tend to thwart the strongly thwart the desires of others – makes the agent the legitimate target of harsher degrees of condemnation, and perhaps even punishment.
'Bigotry' on this system is having an unjustified hostility towards the interests of a group of people defined by some common characteristic such as gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, club membership, eye color, and the like. The worst bigots are actively hostile to the interest of the members of such a group. A milder form of bigotry (though still evil and thus worthy of condemnation) is found in those who are simply indifferent to the harms their projects inflict on members of a group.
One of the ways we can identify a bigot is by looking at the reasons an individual gives in the defense of actions that are hostile to the interests of the members of some group. If the argument contains absurd premises and blatant fallacies, we can deduce that the agent is not being motivated to adopt the conclusion by the force of reason. Rather, he has a desire to embrace that conclusion (a conclusion hostile to the interests of some group) and is grasping at whatever straws present themselves that give that conclusion an appearance of legitimacy.
The person who says that a pro-attitude towards gay marriage implies a pro-attitude towards marrying children and animals is making an absurd claim. The right to engage in contracts of any type (including marriage contracts) is legitimately limited to competent adults. Such a person is clearly motivated by a desire to embrace a conclusion hostile to the interests of homosexuals into embracing such an absurdity.
Another trick that people use to give their bigotry an appearance of legitimacy that I have been writing about recently is they assign their bigotry to God. They create God in their own image, which means they create a God that is just as good or just as evil as they are. Anti-gay bigots create a God who is an anti-gay bigot and then use this attribution to justify their own bigotry.
A person with a desire to embrace conclusions hostile to the interests of some group is a bigot. A bigot is somebody who has desires that people generally have reason to inhibit through condemnation. Thus, it follows that bigots are evil.
Moral terms, in this sense, serve two purposes. One is that they describe a natural state of affairs – that a person has characteristics that people generally have reason to promote or inhibit through praise and condemnation. They also at the same time contain the praise or condemnation that they report to be justified.
So, when I say that a person is a bigot I am making a descriptive claim that the agent has desires that are hostile to the interests of a group of people and that people generally have reason to condemn. I am also at the same time condemning those people who have such a desire. So, I efficiently accomplish both tasks at the same time.
My statements about bigotry and evil that I made with respect to the passage of Proposition 8 are both descriptively accurate and intentionally condemn those people to which the accusations apply. If anybody has reasons why they are not descriptively accurate, I would like to hear those arguments.
I wish to make it clear that condemnation, in this instance, applies not to Christians or people who believe in God or even people who supported Proposition 8. It applies to those people who embrace the absurdity that supporting homosexual marriage implies supporting marriage to children and animals. An atheist who supported such an absurdity would be just as much of a bigot as the Christian.
If I were to over-generalize my conclusion and use it to try to persuade people to be hostile towards a whole group, when it applies in fact only to a subset of that group, then I would also be a bigot. That would make me, at least to some degree, evil. As such, it would make me deserving of condemnation (as some atheists certainly are).