Monday, December 17, 2007

A Few Random Notes

This is one of those days in which I do not feel like writing an essay on any given topic. I just want to chat about a few things.

Romney’s Atheist Appointments

As you know, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is under fire for demanding that there be a religious test for government (freedom requires religion), in the same speech in which he condemned religious tests for government (thou shalt not hold my Mormon beliefs against me).

He has now explicitly said that he will not bar atheists from holding judicial and cabinet appointments – that a qualified atheist can be appointed to one of these positions.

MR. RUSSERT: So if you determined that the most qualified person for the Supreme Court or for attorney general or secretary of education happened to be an atheist or an agnostic, that wouldn't prevent you from appointing them?

GOV. ROMNEY: Of course not. You, you, you look at individuals based upon their skills and their ability, their values, their intelligence. And there are many who are agnostic or atheist or who have very different beliefs about the nature of the divine than I do, and, and you evaluate them based on their skills. But I, I can tell you that I, I myself am a person of faith and, and respect the, the sense of the common bond of humanity that comes from that, that fundamental belief.

Of course, a ‘qualified’ candidate is a candidate who believes that our rights come from God.

From Romney’s “Faith in America” speech:

Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests.

I can hear Romney speaking about his tenure in office in hindsight. “I am not a bigot. I would have been more than happy to appoint an atheist to one of these positions. However, it had to be a candidate that realized that faith is necessary for freedom and that our rights come from God. Unfortunately, I could not find a qualified candidate for the job.”

Huckabee and the Family

Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee is getting some press recently for signing a letter in 1998 saying that women should submit to their husbands.

"You are right because you called wives to graciously submit to their husband's sacrificial leadership.

“Sacrificial leadership” is a leadership style where the leader sacrifices some advantage for the sake of gaining the support of followers. The “sacrificial leader” makes it a point to do more than those who follow him, and to accept less in return. In exchange, the others accept his (and ‘his’ is definitely the operative word here) leadership, allowing him to make the decisions for the group. Followers have a reason to do this given their greater share of the benefits of that leadership.

Yet, none of this changes the fact that leadership should go to the person who is best qualified to be leader, regardless of the style. Even where “sacrificial leadership” is a legitimate leadership strategy, nothing in this justifies the claim that the husband must be the leader and the wife must be the follower. If the wife is better skilled at figuring out a plan that benefits the family – if her plans have a greater chance of success and impose less risk, then why is it that the wife must submit to the (inferior) plans of the husband?

In most families, I would wager that the husband and wife have somewhat different strengths and weaknesses. This will allow one to be the better planner and leaders in his areas of comparative advantage – and the other the better leader in her areas of comparative advantage. The rational couple would recognize these strengths and weaknesses and yield to the better mind in relevant situation. It is simply false (and bigoted) to hold that the husband is the best decision maker in all instances.

Huckabee and Science

Also this week the Climate Change conference ended in Bali, Indonesia. The United States was widely recognized to have been a major obstacle to progress at that conference. Again, the American government has shown that putting a few more million dollars into the pockets of key campaign contributors is worth the destruction of whole cities.

Former vice-President Al Gore suggested that the conference attendees reach some sort of agreement without the United States – that they leave the U.S. sections of the treaty blank to be filled in at a later date, when America is being governed by sane and moral individuals. However, Gore is assuming that, in 18 months, America will be governed by a sane and moral individual.

Huckabee’s performance to date suggest that he has one of the weakest grasps of reality of all Presidential candidate. There is no indication on his part that he can pick up an article in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and even understand the context in which that article was written. Salon reports Huckabee as saying:

"Oh, I believe in science. I certainly do," he said. "In fact, what I believe in is, I believe in God. I don't think there's a conflict between the two. But if there's going to be a conflict, science changes with every generation and with new discoveries and God doesn't. So I'll stick with God if the two are in conflict."

A “fool” is a person who can be easily tricked. Huckabee is a fool. His inability to understand simple science means that he will not be able to sort the good science that comes to him in debating an issue and junk science. This inability to tell the difference – inability, even, to say what science is – will make it easy for individuals to pass junk science as good.

Gore suggested this strategy because he did not want to see the attendees tying themselves to a bad treaty for 5 years. Rather than negotiate a bad treaty with the current Administration, he thought it better to negotiate no treaty with the United States with the hopes of getting a sane treaty in 2 years.

Yet, getting a sane treaty in 2 years depends on having somebody in the White House who can listen to scientists explaining the global warming problem, understand what they are saying, understand the options, and pick a solution based on the best available evidence.

Huckabee is not capable of understanding the science behind any serious problem this nation may face, including global warming. Thus, he is not the person who can make an informed real-world contribution to this issue.

Religious Boycotts

Yesterday, I mentioned the way that religious organizations are throwing around their economic weight to make sure that no mention of views other than theirs gets a hearing beyond the narrowest audience. They do so, in part, by protesting that any statement that questions their perfect knowledge and moral virtue is cast as an insult, and from that they demand an economic boycott against those who have dared to suggest that they were fallible.

They get a portion of that substantial economic weight because the rest of us are forced to contribute, one way or another, to their war chests.

The lie is that ‘secularists’ are trying to remove all sign of God from the public square. The truth is that ‘secularists’ are trying to get greedy sectarian hands out of their bank account.

The Pledge of Allegiance is a daily advertisement, targeting children, promoting the God product over all other products that the child might buy into – in a country that says that it is wrong for the government to establish a religion. If, in place of “In God We Trust” on the money and on the walls of public buildings, we placed the slogan, “GE: We Bring Good Things to Life,” we would see this for what it is – the use of government property for putting up billboards for advertising religion over non-religion. Some of those government-funded billboards are brightly lit, like any commercial neon sign, designed to attract the potential customer’s attention to the message. That message being “Buy God,”

At which point, the people who “sell God” use their economic power to help make sure that no competing message ever gets posted – because anybody who dares to suggest that the Christian message might contain a flaw is “insulting our religion” and worthy of condemnation.

Godless Short Stories

Yesterday’s posting has caused me to think of a project that might be worth while. And, if some organization were to take up this project, I would be pleased to make a cash contribution towards its success.

The project is a short-story contest, with prizes to the winner. The contest is for short stories that boldly assert that there is no God and that counters some of the lies and sophistry that denigrate atheists in pop culture. The stories are aimed for young children and, in fact, there should be several contests for several age groups. The winning stories will be bundled together and offered as a book – self-published if necessary.

Of course the religious right will protest about a “stealth campaign” to sell atheism to children. They would be wrong. I am talking about a campaign that is not the least bit stealthy. I am talking about a campaign that virtually shouts that it is just as permissible to create literature that presents atheism in a way that children can understand as it is to create a child’s bible or other religious literature that targets children.

Let them scream. Screaming will just mean more advertizing.

This should be taken up by an organization that is set up to receive donations, because one of the things that I will then do is write a few posts explaining the need for people to make contributions to this project. It will require cash contributions to be offered as prizes, and it will require a great deal of labor to read and judge the stories. Plus, some contributions should go to the organization itself for being an organization that would run a contest like this.

Like I said, I will be more than willing to volunteer time and money to such a project. Really, what I would like is a reputable organization set up to receive and disburse money to handle the bank account.

1 comment:

Megan said...