Thursday, August 21, 2014

Your Weekend Reading

I'll bet you haven't visited Batocchio over at the Vagabond Scholar nearly as often as you'd like, and now maybe your feeling a little guilt, maybe worrying that the crossing-guard or ushers there might recognize you ask you a buncha embarrassing questions about where ya been, and why haven't you been around and so forth.

But nothing could be further from the truth.  Batocchio has always been one of nature's noblemen and kind to all, even the lapsed and the wayward.

And lemme tell you, now would be a very good time to head over there, grab a corner booth and settle in for a nice, seven-course meal of well-researched reading.

The appetizer is free --

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You're Intolerant of My Intolerance!

Discussions about gay marriage and other LGBT rights, as well as the recent Hobby Lobby decision with its issues of religious belief, have occasionally featured an argument that amounts to 'you're intolerant of intolerance.' Sometimes that argument appears verbatim, or almost so. For instance:
"I should be able to express moral views on social issues, especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years — without being slandered, accused of hate speech, and told from those who preach 'tolerance' that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I'm in the public square."– Kirk Cameron in 2012

"But you're saying we need to tolerate the intolerant!" — I see that objection every time I write something critical of liberaldogmatism and bigotry.To which my stock response is: Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying — because that's what liberalism is, or should be, all about. Toleration is perfectly compatible with — indeed, it presupposes — disagreement. That's why it's called tolerance and not endorsement or affirmation.
– Damon Linker in 2014
Although such arguments are often sincere, I'd contend they don't survive close scrutiny. John Holbo recently wrote a good post responding to Linker, and pieces earlier in the year from Henry Farrelldjw and Scott Lemieux (one and two) also cover the subject nicely. (The Cameron link above goes to a solid rebuttal by John Aravosis.) Here's another crack at the issue myself (cribbing from some older pieces), on the off-chance a different framework helps. Basically, I'm suggesting that the 'you're intolerant of intolerance' argument stems from a semantic disconnect, ignoring power dynamics and failing to distinguish between beliefs about personal conduct and beliefs about how the overall system should work. There's also confusion about a tolerant system (legal rights) versus public manners (social and cultural norms).
For the rest of this well-laid table of delights, go here.

Right now.


Lawrence said...

I read this on Digby a couple of days ago. She doesn't have comments, so I'll say it here. These sound arguments about pluralism an tolerance will have no effect on religious conservatives. You probably already knew. I want to discuss why. The christian right believes they are being harmed by gay people. They practice a debased religion that is actually a belief in witchcraft, expressed with christian iconography. They believe their god will curse America, tank the economy, natural disasters, plague, etc, for the sin of not harming gay people*. For many, the preferred program is to use social stigma, economic boycott, and actual violence in order to force gay people to make themselves invisible. They must not exist. For others murder is the preferred solution. Note that some in the first group would rather join the second group, but think the first option is the best deal they can get.
The tell for dangerous religions is their need to police blasphemy. If this god person is who they claim, He will settle up with me in His own way and time. If memory serves, the Nazarene left instructions to that effect. If the faithful have opinions about blasphemy that pass their lips in public, beware. Really, these christians would be happier as Muslims. Islam has a tradition around spreading the faith by conquest. It also has (bonus) an explicitly inerrant holy book. And (surprise!) it's the same god. And Jeshua isn't even dead. Marnatha WTF! Religions interact with the cultures they spread into. India gave Buddhism to China, and then checked back in and said 'You're doing it wrong.' Culturally self confident CHina replied 'Shut it!' I have offended and confused people by suggesting that the christian right and the Taliban are the same people. 'James Dobson never chopped off anybody's head you filthy libtard.' No, we don't solve our differences that way here. For now. Make no mistake that many of them chafe at the restraint of democratic social norms. They don't bother to code it much anymore. And not all of them. Not everybody brings extra rocks to the stonings. Some just stand in back and hold your coat for you. Some just look the other way. "Stubborn sinners. If only the let the lord into their hearts..."
*The list of people the christian right wishes to harm is hardly limited to gay people. That was the extent of Battochio's analysis. If you are reading this, assume you are on the list.

Batocchio said...

You're extremely kind, DG, but one reason folks might not have stopped by is that I haven't been writing much this year or last. I can blame Digby for the recent flurry of activity. (I did manage to work in a few apropos DG links in the current crop.)

Batocchio said...

To Lawrence – I agree with most of your take on the religious right. I thought it was clear that they don't only wish to harm gay people (if I'm reading you correctly), and that was just the main focus of this particular post. But hey, I could have been clearer, I guess (it was a late night and I had to wrap up). That was at least my fifth loooong post on this general subject, and the previous one (the "privilege" link) discusses, among other things, Bob Altemeyer's study of religious authoritarians and how the issue is not that they haven't really thought through the logical consequences of their position – they simply want dominance, not equality. I don't expect to change their minds.

Damon Linker is an interesting case in that he supports gay marriage, but is still rushing to defend anti-gay activists and attack liberals as intolerant. He's a former social conservative himself. I'm guessing he's in the selective outrage mode that often afflicts frequent DG target Andrew Sullivan – his former pals are being criticized, he thinks they're not entirely bad people, he feels that's the charge and gets defensive on their behalf, etcetera. (He did the same with the Hobby Lobby decision I mentioned in my opening and that some of the links I provided discussed in greater depth – he celebrated it.) Unfortunately, given the excellent posts I linked directed at Linker (he read at least one of them), I don't think he's liable to change his mind, either. (David Frum has – he wrote some remarkably dumb arguments against gay rights in the past – but I suspect his conversion mainly results from putting his finger to the wind, or maybe due to personal acquaintances, not deep reflection. But I could be wrong.)

All that said, since the stereotypical liberal often frets that he or she isn't being fair to the opposition – even to raging assholes – I thought a slightly new framework and vocabulary, and a few simple graphics, might be helpful. But hey, there's always John Stuart Mill, John Rawls and some other heavyweights on the general subject of "tolerance" and its seeming "paradox." Anyway, thanks for the comment. Peace!

Neo Tuxedo said...

Batocchio makes reference to a post of his that discusses

Bob Altemeyer's study of religious authoritarians and how the issue is not that they haven't really thought through the logical consequences of their position

Actually, to repeat a comment I tried to leave on that post, I submit that they have thought through the logical consequences of their position, or at least made irritable mental gestures in the direction of rearranging their prejudices. It's just that they do that "thinking" with

an outlook similar to that of the ancient Hebrew who knew, without knowing much else, that all nations other than his own worshipped 'false gods'. He did not need to know that these gods were called Baal, Osiris, Moloch, Ashtaroth, and the like: probably the less he knew about them the better for his orthodoxy. He knew Jehovah and the commandments of Jehovah: he knew, therefore, that all gods with other names or other attributes were false gods. (George Orwell, "Principles of Newspeak")

The reason they support mandatory Christian schooling in a majority-Christian country and oppose mandatory Islamic schooling in a majority-Muslim country is because, like General Boykin, they know their God is a real God and "Allah" is an idol. They have, as far as they're concerned, the only God who could possibly be true; all other gods, and all other modes of worship, are inherently false or meaningless or both, and must be completely eliminated even as abstract concepts.

How do you get through to people like that? As someone who's surrounded by them on all sides here in Chambersburg, PA, I find myself thinking that you don't; you just make preparations for when they die off and you'll be able to act without having to coddle their emboldened ignorance.