Friday, March 12, 2010

Standing to Challenge the Pledge

"I may have (falsely) claimed that you are a convicted child molester. However, I did not require you to say that you are a convicted child molester, so you cannot say that you were harmed by my actions."

This form of argument can be found in the majority opinion of Newdow v. Rio Linda, where they looked at the question of whether the defendants had standing to challenge the 1954 Amendment to the Pledge that inserted the words "under God."

(See: Ninth Circuit upholds Pledge of Allegiance in public schools)

The dissent argued that the plaintiffs had standing to challenge this law, but the majority disagreed.

Plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the 1954 Amendment because no federal statute requires plaintiffs to recite the Pledge. Even under the School District's Policy, children "may choose not to participate in the flag salute for personal reasons" or they can simply omit any words they find offensive.

Using this logic, Jews would have no right to complain or object to changing the Pledge of Allegiance to say, "one Nation, without Jews" so long as Jews were not forced to cite the offensive words.

Similarly, a pledge of allegiance to "one white Nation, indivisible . . ." would not give blacks any legitimate claim to have been harmed by such a law - even after showing that in the shadow of such a law 99.99% of all elected officials in the country were white, and national polls showed that, in the opinion of white Americans, blacks were the least patriotic of all social groups and considered "the group least likely to share American values."

This is not a posting on what the law says. I am not a lawyer and it is not my interest or intention to provide a judgment on what does and does not count as standing. It may well be true that black people would have no legal standing to challenge a law changing the Pledge of Allegiance to "one white nation."

This is a moral blog, and it is certainly the case that blacks would have the moral standing to condemn such an amendment and to assert that no good person would support it. Jews have a moral standing to object to a Pledge of Allegiance to "one nation without Jews" and to assert that no good person would support it. Atheists have a moral standing to object to a Pledge of Allegiance that defines atheists as unpatriotic, and to assert that no good person would support it.

Yes, it would be one level of wrong for the government to force you to state that you molest children, even though it is blatantly false. However, this wrong is not made right by the government encouraging everybody else to say that you molest children, but grants you the right to refrain from saying the offensive words. You are still going to suffer the harms that come from the attitudes that the government is putting in the minds of everyone else.

You would have solid moral grounds to accuse the government of libel and slander.

Just as atheists have the moral grounds to accuse the government of libel and slander when it decided to teach the American people, and in particular its young children, that a patriot is defined as a person who supports 'a nation under God' - and those who do not support such a proposition are not patriots.

In fact, allowing atheists to refuse to say the pledge does not make the situation better. It makes it far worse. Now, as if to emphasize the assertion that only those who support a nation under God are patriots and those who do not support such a notion are not patriots, we have a scene where those who support the notion pledge allegiance to the United States while those who do not remain seated and refuse to do so.

The government's lesson could not be more clear and forceful if it were to simply post a sign in every school and other government building, "No good American is an atheist, and no atheist can be a good American."

19 comments:

DJ said...

You said " Atheists have a moral standing to object to a Pledge of Allegiance that defines atheists as unpatriotic, and to assert that no good person would support it.".

My question is this; Why do Atheists have a moral standing to object? Based on what?

Im not saying an Atheist cannot be a good person, im just saying they have no logical reason for doing so.

Anonymous said...

"no logical reason for doing so" - you haven't studied much on morality - or read through much else on this blog huh?

DJ said...

Haven't studied much on morality? Did you reach that conclusion simply because i disagree with you?

Im a long way from saying the God of the Bible or Allah, or even Hinduism is the right way to go. Im simply saying that without an absolute moral standard of some sort you have no reason to be a good person.

As an atheist, if you are a good person, you are simply living better than the logical outworking of your worldview.

To be an atheist is to say "I have absolute knowledge that there is no being without absolute knowledge.", which is absurd of course.

How does an atheist define good? I posed these questions to myself over and over again as i moved through this.. I have arrived at my own conclusions, however i do enjoy the occasional debate. I certainly do not mean any harm, if this blog is only for those who agree with the writer i don't mind leaving.

DJ said...

CORRECTION:

To be an atheist is to say "I have absolute knowledge that there is no being WITH absolute knowledge.", which is absurd of course.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

DJ

You are a bigot.

You have opted to adopt a mischaracterization of atheist that is so far from reality that it can only be explained by a need to hold others in contempt by making things up about them.

I have 1600 posts in this blog explaining ethics from an atheist point of view.

You breeze over all 1600 posts and come here with your bigoted assertions of what atheists MUST believe.

You NEED to believe that atheists are the type of people you think of them as being because it is the only way to hold on to your sense of superiority over them.

You have no interest in seeing atheists as they are.

If you were seriously interested in the answers to your concerns, again, you can start anywhere in this blog and start to find answers.

However, my guess is that you have no such interest.

Calvin said...

"You are a bigot."

And you, Alonoz, are a demagogic con-man who debates like crap.

I have doubts as to whether or not you actually believe half of the things you whine about. Perhaps you simply realized somewhere down the line that being a spokesman for disgruntled atheists was a quick & easy way to develop a mini-following of sycophants.

DJ said...

DJ

You are a bigot.

"You have opted to adopt a mischaracterization of atheist that is so far from reality that it can only be explained by a need to hold others in contempt by making things up about them."

Alonzo... Wow an ad-homien attack right out of the box? Way to use logic and reason to put me in my place.

I actually read your FAQ page along with a few others. If you need someone to read 1600 pages of your opinion pieces in order for you to speak to them then i suspect your ego has eloped with your reason.

There homosexual crowd goes straight for the bigot tag as well. Tolerance for all views that do not contradict yours, what say you?

I found this page when a friend, who is about as tolerant of other viewpoints as yourself, decided to posts links to this blog on his Facebook page.

All of your reasons for morality and atheism are great, they are packaged neatly together and have the right buzzwords to give them an air of legitimacy. Thats where they stop.

There is no definition of good without an absolute point of reference. It has been said, "In some societies they cook for their neighbors, in others its the neighbors they cook, which do you prefer?" It sounds like you now have a problem with desires and thwarting, all of those things that you feel compel people to act a certain way. Think about it Alonzo...

faithlessgod said...

Well I was not sure from DJ's first post whether he was ignorant (parroting unconsidered falsehoods) or a bigot (becuase he knew he was spreading falsehoods).

His first response implied that he claimed that he thought he know something about morality but then proceeded as if he were as ignorant as ever. He was now either arrogantly ignorant or a bigot and the divide between them not so distinct.

Alonzo called him on this and DJ's third response absolutely confirms he is a bigot. This is a legitmate ad hominem, judging the person by his argument (as opposed to dismissing his argument becuase who he is).

I am sure any unbiased reader especially one who has experience with DJ's type of "reasoning" would agree.

DJ said...

Faithless; thank you again for proving my point. Neither you, nor Alonzo, answered any question posed. Either one of you could have simply explained why i was wrong, i can accept it if i am.

I have found that when someone cannot simply provide an answer that there is a good chance they don't understand what they are talking about.

I count seven different types of humanism, seven! They all have different ways of arriving at a definition of good. Pragmatism is your only hope, and even then you have to count on the other person agreeing to play by the same rules.

Now if you want to stick your fingers in your ears while stomping your feet and screaming "bigot", "bigot", "bigot", thats fine. I stopped by simply to see if there was a new idea i might be exposed to that my shift my own thinking...

faithlessgod said...

DJ

You only asked one question which was a loaded question and anyone with the slightest understanding of ethics knows it is a ridiculous question which bears false wtiness against atheists.

Alonzo clealry explained why the label "bigot" was warranted and you have not addressed that either.

You have asked no real questions just rambled on and made unfounded assertions. In particular you need to provide an argument behind this assertion "There is no definition of good without an absolute point of reference".

Now if you are not a bigot you will attempt to answer this. Lets see.

DJ said...

A question that bears false witness against atheists? Ive heard of statements providing that kind of witness, never a question.

I looked into your blog, im reading "The atheist argument from morality" section right now.

The use, or your use rather, of the word "bigot" is only to serve as distraction from the questions. Im hardly a bigot...

I did provide the basic tenets of an argument. If there is a such thing as good you are assuming a moral law. If you assume a moral law, there must be a law giver. If there is no such thing as good, then there is no such thing as evil either.

I want to see an objective moral standard provided without an absolute point of reference. My thought is that this is impossible, your free to prove me wrong of course.

faithlessgod said...

DJ

"A question that bears false witness against atheists? Ive heard of statements providing that kind of witness, never a question. "
That is just evasion. A question can contain a statement which can "bear false witness" hence it being a loaded quesion. Are you going to try any more evasions?


"The use, or your use rather, of the word "bigot" is only to serve as distraction from the questions. Im hardly a bigot..."
Your looking at the problem of morality through the lens of athesits versus theists is evidence of your bigotry.That is a distraction from directly addressing the problem of morlaity. If you were genuinely concerned over ths question you would seek the best solution regardless of whether your god was needed for it or not.

"I did provide the basic tenets of an argument."
You only made assertions. I asked you to mkae an argument and you are now attempting to, lets see:

"If there is a such thing as good you are assuming a moral law."
I am make no such assumption. The rest of your argument does not follow until you can establish the necesity of a "moral law".

"If you assume a moral law, there must be a law giver."
No, no natural law needs a law giver this is a non sequitur.

"If there is no such thing as good, then there is no such thing as evil either."
If you mean by "things" something entirely seperate from and existing independently of humans and other sentient beings, that is correct neither exists unless you can provide a succesful argument.
"I want to see an objective moral standard provided without an absolute point of reference."
This is not an argument but a demand. The statements its implies are probloematic.

First you need to establish that there is such an objective moral standard, and not use such a wish that it be that way as an argument from consequences. Even if you do this, it cannot support a god hyphothesis, you would need to establish a necessary connection, and there are pleanty of alternate hypothesis that do no use god, whihc you would know if you had any knowledge of ethics.

Anyway what do you mean by "absolute point of reference"? What do you mean by "absolute"?

Taking the most charitatable intrepretation of your question just look up modern ethics and educate yourself on the real issue. To help look up moral realism, ethical naturalism, reductive naturalism, non-reductive natrualism, utilitarianism, consequentialism etc. etc.

"My thought is that this is impossible, your free to prove me wrong of course."
See my previous answer.

Now what does seem to be impossible is that objective moral values can be groudned in god's eternal nature. That is impossible. Everything you have said indicates you think that morality is dependent in that way on god. You are free to dissent from that but if not then you need to show how this is not impossible.

Scott M. said...

DJ,
I'll take you at your word that you mean no harm so I'll try to address a few of your items if you want. I'm no lawyer or ethicist but I am an atheist and agree wholeheartedly about what Alonzo has said. I've heard the expression, "it's a black thing. You wouldn't understand." This may just be an atheist thing.

You start with "Why do Atheist have a moral standing to object? Based on what?" I think Alonzo was contrasting this to a legal standing. The moral standing comes from the sense of outrage the pledge elicits in me because it relegates me to second class citizenship. I refuse to accept that, so assert I have a "moral standing". By standing up for myself in this matter, I am also standing up for my non-religious children. It's that trying to make the world a better and more just place for them that I claim a moral standing.

Your question sort of implied this "moral standing" had to come from some god-like personality from the "outside". Of course, being an atheist, I reject that sort of "outside" influence.

As for being an atheist making the claim of absolute knowledge, etc. I feel more comfortable explaining this in terms of an analogy (right word?). Can you claim with absolute certainty there is no Santa Claus? So are you an atheist with regards to Santa or agnostic? One cannot of course claim to know everything about the universe but one can claim that given you know only about as much about the universe as I do, you cannot claim to have some special knowledge about Santa or God that I am not privy to. We both know Santa is so unlikely to exists because it would violate all the known laws of physics that within our scope of knowledge I can confidently claim Santa absolutely does not exist. The same applies to any gods you may think up.

Scott M. said...

Calvin,

I've followed your link to see you're a student at Hillsdale College. I've read some of the crap that comes out of Hillsdale and you have no place accusing Alonzo of being a demagogue with sycophant followers. You attend Hillsdale? You, my friend, almost by definition, are an unthinking sycophant.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

DJ

Neither you, nor Alonzo, answered any question posed.

This demonstrates proof that you have no interest in examining your own beliefs about atheists.

As I stated, I have 1600 posts in this blog alone answering your 'questions'. You respond by saying I provided no answers.

Your insistance that none of those seven different types of humanism, or an eighth that you have not yet encountered, could not be right. As if the fact that there are tens of thousands of different religions means that none of THEM could be right.

How many different theories were there explaining the motion of the planets in the sky before one became accepted? Counts like these have no relevance.

Yet, bigots grasp any fact they can, however irrelevant, that helps them to hold on to their bigotry rather than examine their attitudes honestly.

ScottM

DJ I'll take you at your word that you mean no harm.

Scott, please note that bigots seldom see themselves as doing wrong.

Like the slave owners in the 1800s who saw blacks as only fit for slavery, most of these were regular people, who, in all aspects of life outside of the bigotry they learned from their culture and their government, mean no harm and think of themselves as doing good.

In fact, bigots, rather than seeing themselves as doing harm, see themselves as heroes standing up against 'THEM'.

Scott M. said...

Alonzo,
I agree with what you said in your comments. DJ probably is bigoted against atheists and I don't generally argue with people like this because the odds of it going anywhere are almost nil. But I was in a generous mood. I know I've been to web sites with decent intentions, expressed myself poorly and been stomped on for it.

I don't know. Still, I enjoy your blog and you've helped me clarify my thinking about why I'm opposed to the pledge and I appreciate that. I'd still be interested in you dissecting this issue in terms of it being a religious test if it's not an establishment of religion.

wyamarus said...

1. Any 'Pledge' made under duress has no value as a statement of principle due to the use of compulsion.

2. Any 'Pledge' that contains statements which are provable to be false, or present postulates as proven fact or are statistically unsupportable even as postulates invalidate themselves on the basis of their accuracy/validity and become expressions of opinion. Opinion is not the same thing as fact.

3. Morality does not depend on the belief in a Deity. Morality is contingent ultimately on the belief in what is a desirable outcome. The things or practices which fulfill your desired outcome are "moral".

A 'low' moral system stresses the satisfaction of immediate, subjective, personal,and ego-driven desires regardless of the outcome for other co-habiting entities or the environment we exist in. It minimizes both any decrease in viable options for other entities in one's environment,as well as the future effect on one's personal options, for the short-term subjective view. The ego is always operating in present time and does not consider past actions or future consequences because it assumes it is the sole agent of cause.

A 'high' moral system would consider not only the ego-driven desires,but their outcomes for the universe they operate in. The best choices maximize the choices (and potential outcomes) for the maximum number of co-resident entities. This can also be the most efficient course of action in both an abstract as well as a concrete sense. In economics this is referred to as the Pareto principle.

"Economists usually define economic efficiency as Pareto optimality – named after the late nineteenth-century Italian economist Wilfredo Pareto.
A Pareto optimal outcome is one where it is impossible to make anyone better off without making someone else worse off. The idea is simply that it would be inefficient or wasteful not to implement a change that made someone better off and nobody worse off.
Such a change is called a Pareto improvement, and another way to
define a Pareto optimal, or efficient outcome, is an outcome where there are no further Pareto improvements possible."

ABCs of Political Economy, Robin Hahnel

This can essentially be summed up as 'Do No Evil', but it is not always the maximally effective course of action. It does however, provide some kind of objective benchmark to evaluate choices once we step beyond the ego-driven immediate world of self-gratification.

An adjunct to this has to do with the nature of the universe,and does not require any metaphysical abstraction beyond the belief that once it existed, the characteristics inherent in the continued existence of the universe a priori need(desire?) to be self-perpetuating. The universe exists in a tension between the option multiplying condition of increasing complexity and the reduction of the entropic heat-death (no activity,or "life" even at the sub-molecular level). Anything which promotes the resilience of differentiation which comes with increased complexity could be construed as 'good', because it enhances the systemic survival of the universe we occupy. That which reduces those options, both globally (in the universe)as well as subjectively can be construed as 'bad',because even our 'personal' choices have ramifications for the system we exist in, and a diminution in part effects the whole.

Eneasz said...

DJ -
Why do Atheists have a moral standing to object? Based on what?

Based on being harmed. The answer to this is so simple and obvious that it is nearly impossible for anyone to not immediately see this. The fact that you could not see this is why you are a bigot, whether you realize it or not. Only someone with a vested interest in denigrating a group to sub-human status could be so blind.


A question that bears false witness against atheists? Ive heard of statements providing that kind of witness, never a question.

Naturally, that would be impossible. Say, have you stopped raping your daughter?

Andy said...

DJ,

You believe in a God who does not exist. This magical being has the power to change the moral status of rape just by changing how he feels about it. God is able to keep all the pain and suffering rape causes but change how he sees it and magically it will become right.

Or, if God were to instead like rape, it would be right, despite all the pain and suffering it causes.

On what standard can you object to "evil" acts? On the whims or how God just happened to have a disliking of rape? How does this affect the moral status of evil acts?