Thursday, December 31, 2009

Burden of proof: An illustration of the concept

Our fates are controlled by invisible mystical elves living in the Andromeda Galaxy. Prove me wrong. Have you explored every part of the Andromeda Galaxy in which there might be mystical elves? Even if you have, you might have overlooked them because they are invisible. It will not do to say that this faith contradicts physics or logic, since the elves, being mystical, are bound by neither. Finally, even if you do find counter-evidence, the elves could have planted it there either to test our faith or to give themselves an excuse to damn anyone they don't like.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Boo hoo for the Boy Scouts.

It seems that yet another public entity is breaking off its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America over the BSA's discriminatory policies. Even if we stipulate that private, religious organizations have the right to discriminate against gays and nonbelievers, I still find it impossible to sympathize with the BSA.

The BSA do not want to be a private, religious organization; they want to be a private, religious organization when it suits them. Unfortunately for them, the First Amendment mentions no such possibility. If they are private and religious under the assembly clause, they are also private and religious under the establishment clause. I said as much when Boy Scouts of America v. Dale was being publicly debated; people laughed at the time, but it turns out that I was right.

I could have told you that.

According to this article,
One reason for the shift in attitudes, some political scientists contend, is a rising number of gays acknowledging their sexual preference openly in various walks of life, from workers on factory floors to Hollywood stars.

“More and more people have been coming out,” said Sean Theriault, a political scientist at the University of Texas who tracks gay politics. “Ten years ago, you could talk to a lot of people who didn’t know a single gay person, and now, especially in the cities, you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know anyone who is gay.”

I could have told you that. In fact, I did say so in 1990, and I got a lecture from a high-ranking member of ACT-UP on how daft I was for thinking such a thing. Again, where do I sign up to be one of the talking heads?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Let's learn from the pros.

Stephen Colbert's epic pwnage of Andy Schlafly shows how it's done. How effective would that interview have been if Colbert had just hit Schlafly with a lot of politically correct glurge about how Mother/Father God just wants to give us all a big group hug? Instead, Colbert answered Schlafly with Schlafly's own ideas and answered Scripture with Scripture. While no one expected Schlafly to deconvert on the spot, a fence-sitter could easily see how Schlafly applied both the Bible and his own conservative ideas only when they suited him.

Contrast that with an interview that I once watched with an openly gay Episcopal priest who theologically was the fluffiest bunny who had ever fluffed out his bunny fluff. That priest kept whining that he didn't want to talk about the Bible and, in doing so, badly lost a debate that he should have handily won. Since his most vigorous interlocutor was an African-American woman, he could have just reminded her of what the same literal Biblical interpretation that she used against homosexuality would say about both slavery and the role of women. Yet he did not do so, and since he put forth no argument to justify himself, a fence-sitter could reasonably have concluded that no such argument existed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Same-sex marriage and freedom of religion (2)

This letter to the editor argues that whenever secular law disagrees with a church's marriage law, that church still "has a constitutional right to follow its beliefs," even when that church is receiving public funds. Therefore, I propose to start my own church, get a public contract, and then declare ex cathedra that no marriage is valid in the eyes of the Invisible Pink Unicorn unless the spouses have paid our church an honorarium of $50,000. If anyone dares criticize me, I'll play the religious-bigotry card.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gay cliché? Moi?

Ever notice how the people who so loudly claim not to be gay clichés are so often the biggest gay clichés around? One acquaintance claimed that he was not stereotypically gay and as evidence stated that he worked out. I am not making that up.

Why believe in things that make it tough on you ...

especially if you don't genuinely believe in them at all? Many people complain that a religious organization regards them as inferior for being LGBT or female, yet remain in that religious organization and presumably even throw something into the collection plate. Such people give the sanction of the victim to that organization.

Some such people justify their continued involvement in Catholicism by claiming, usually without proof, to have some special insight into the true meaning of Catholic doctrine that has somehow eluded the Catholic hierarchy itself for almost two millennia. That attitude is just silly. Like it or not, Catholic doctrine is not whatever you decide it is, but what the Catholic Church decides it is. Either you accept the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, or you do not. When I decided that I did not, I preserved my intellectual integrity by leaving Catholicism.

Others claim that they are working to reform a religious organization from within. Good luck with that. Some of the finest theological thinkers in Christian history either could not or would not reform their churches from within and ended up founding new denominations. Moreover, a church that survived the Reformation has little to fear from the cheap publicity stunts that so often pass for protests against Catholic doctrine. We must weigh the probability that such publicity stunts will achieve their goal against the probability that they will have unintended consequences - something that the nimrod who dropped the Eucharist on the floor of the cathedral evidently forgot to do.