“Judeo-christian values” — already tried that

(Note: hover over the green, underlined words for their definitions.)

I was listening to NPR the other day interviewing Trump supporters asking them why they support Trump. Several of the interviewees mentioned a time in the past like in the late fifties when we had “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Leave It to Beaver” …

Life was ordered, homogeneous, and harmonious because everyone was wanting the same thing for the same reasons based on the same belief system and the same worldview. So many Conservatives want a “return to a nation of judeo-christian values.”

I can understand that. When everyone believes the same thing the same way and they want all the same things, there’s no friction.

Well, there was, and is, friction. But any dissent is considered evil or rooted in psychological dysfunction or Satan, and treason or unpatriotic, and thus easily ostracized.

“Judeo-christian values” was the ingredient, or agent, of homogenization. It was the common frame of reference to judge who was in and who was out. Who was a saint and who was a deviant. It was only a mechanism.

Still, I get it — I get how agreement can result in unity. What I don’t get is the reference to judeo-christian values. Just because so many shared them, does not mean that was the source of Harmony.

Harmony at the expense of individual beliefs and Liberty is not stability. It is forced calm. It is a mechanical delusion, wherein as long as the machine is operating smoothly, we believe everything is fine.

I think we do need to find another unifying agent, something to aspire to beyond being “the devil you know.”  I don’t think that judeo-christian values is something we should return to, if in fact they had ever been in reality a source of love, goodness, and righteousness. They don’t get us more than the illusion of unity.

We were certainly not a nation of love and tolerance. Belief in Christ was used more as a weapon rather than a light. Fear, control, bearing false witness, and ostracism were the tools of choice.  “Values” were based in judgment, fear of punishment or reprisal, rejection, separation, and privation. Homogenized “christian” society demanded mindless or uncritical obedience.

And everything was white.  On the NPR program, they interviewed 60-something Black folk who only ever saw the nuclear white family. They actually marveled and hollered, “Look, there’s a negro on TV” when a “colored person” was featured.  Mixed couples were ostracized and harassed.  Women had their place, and it wasn’t in the boardroom.

Even depictions of Christ were/are white and very European-looking.

People who are calling for the return of Christian “values” über alles are pining for homogenization … forcing everyone to think the way they think and believe what they believe using the lowest bar available that they can immediately identify with.  They’re tired of “political correctness,” an evil that forces mindless consideration for the feelings of people different from you.  So much effort, and so much exposure of one’s bigotry.

I don’t think that unity of thinking and worldview is a bad thing. But forcing me to believe in your warped version of Christ is never going to happen. Your Christianity is nothing that I want to aspire to.

There has to be a better way than your “Way,” which allowed for Christian-justified segregation, slavery, lynching, lobotomies, and so forth.  All human evils polished with “it’s God’s will.”

…I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant, a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point may be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely more because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations.

And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt. A political programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future. To attach to a party programme — whose highest claim is to reasonable prudence — the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication.

~C.S. Lewis

As for religious rule, I’ll take my chances with Christ’s return to establish his kingdom before I accept the perversion of Grace offered by Christians in their supreme arrogance in thinking they can institutionalize righteousness and, most perversely of  all, in their own corrupt image.

Epistemic closure is an act of will

Just reviewing what epistemic closure is…a good 2010 NYTimes article: “‘Epistemic Closure’? Those Are Fighting Words

It’s a very good read.

Reading a logical analysis of ‘epistemic closure’ — the logic topic — on http://plato.stanford.edu, there is an argument against the existence of epistemic closure: 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘳𝘨𝘶𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵 f𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘯𝘢𝘭𝘺𝘴𝘪𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘒𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘭𝘦𝘥𝘨𝘦.

I think we MUST concede that there is a logical definition, and then there’s its non-logical application. It’s precisely 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 there is lack of analysis of knowledge that there is closure.

Or better still, you can “analyze” what you 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 is knowledge (when it’s not knowledge) and simply reinforce “truth” of what you believe (bias confirmation) or just add volume to the muck of what you believe is fact.

What we mean by closure is that new knowledge based on analysis of facts (existing “knowledge”?) or even the willingness to consider facts outside your echo chamber is non-existent or seriously (willfully) inhibited.

With epistemic closure, when there is cognitive dissonance, people “resolve” the dissonance in favor of what fits the narrative they want to believe or that fits within what they think they “know.”

The existence of “death panels” was a shining example. Without critical evaluation of facts (like actually reading the bill), you hear “death panels” from a demagogue; and no amount of presenting facts works to dissuade you from believing such a thing exists. It echoes well with both what you want to believe and what you think it fits “logically” into what you think you “know.”

Understanding epistemic closure

Re: Epistemic closure comes back to haunt the GOP

Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion, or what we call “knowledge.” Epistemic has to do with knowledge or the degree to which to which we validate it.

When you limit what constitutes truth, even the possibility of truth, or where truth can be found, you have closed off an important part of how we gain knowledge. This is bias.

When you use ways of thinking that don’t follow implications (what is logically implied by honestly evaluating how one thing leads to another or what needs to be true for something to exist [entails]), you have effectively created an echo chamber.

Now imagine the combination. Most often what happens with his system of thought is you rationalize away a possible truth (cognitive dissonance) because it doesn’t fit what you want to believe (bias) by either distorting the implications to fit your bias or denying it outright.

This is epistemic closure.  You have built a seal around what you allow yourself to know.

Cartoon reasoning

Montana Republican Greg Gianforte, running for governor:

There’s nothing in the Bible that talks about retirement. And yet it’s been an accepted concept in our culture today. Nowhere does it say, ‘Well, he was a good and faithful servant, so he went to the beach.’ It doesn’t say that anywhere. The example I think of is Noah. How old was Noah when he built the Ark? 600. He wasn’t like, cashing Social Security checks. He wasn’t hanging out; he was working. So, I think we have an obligation to work. The role we have in work may change over time, but the concept of retirement is not biblical.

The “word” retirement never made it into the bible, but a translation of a Hebrew word (yakach, Isaiah 1:18) did get rendered as reason, and I don’t see any attempt to live up to that concept!

Several things wrong with Gianforte’s way of “reasoning”:

  • If we assume that Noah was 600 yo when he built the ark as fact, that is an “is” statement. Gianforte transfers that to an “obligation,” which is a “should” statement. That is a fallacy called “the Naturalistic Fallacy,” where in the middle of an argument, you change an ‘is’ to a ‘should’.
  • Noah supposedly lived to be 950 years old. Let’s say that 1000 years old is the top and let’s say 100 years old is the top today. He was 600 years old when he built the ark, which would make him, by our standards, 60 years old. He was not retirement age.
  • Finally, he makes the statement « There’s nothing in the Bible that talks about retirement. »
    This type of fundamentalist thinking gets to argue that what is in the Bible is instruction and what isn’t in the Bible is also instruction. The Bible also has nothing to say about lunch breaks and vacations or maternity leave. It says nothing about who gets to drive a car or what rules of the road we should have. The argument of non-existence because it wasn’t mentioned assumes that the Bible is exhaustive in what one needs to know and do; and what isn’t mentioned is therefore prohibited.

What Gianforte is doing is a farce of reasoning. It barely rises to “thinking.” It’s a form of arrogance: attributing unto himself an understanding and skill he does not actually possess. And if he does, this is not an example of either.

This would be comical if it didn’t have the capability of adversely affecting the lives of so many people.  It’s like watching a satire cartoon that exaggerates religious idiocy, except that it’s real.  I can only image that the One God allows this to happen (that idiots speak for Him without correction) because, if we don’t question what we’re hearing, we get what we deserve.

For another example of this type of reasoning, except about the Bible specifying limited government, read this post.

The plank in the eye is blinding

I find it sadly “funny” that extremists don’t see themselves as extreme, whether Muslim, Christian, or political.

From Erick Erickson, the “most powerful conservative” in the country as deemed by Fox News — here is what passes for logic by this Tea Party Patriot:

A publisher published something that offended. It mocked, it offended, and it showed the fallacy of a religion. It angered.

So the terrorists decided they needed to publicly destroy and ruin the publisher in a way that would not only make that destruction a public spectacle, but do it so spectacularly that others would think twice before publishing or saying anything similar.

The terrorist wants to sow fear. The destruction of an individual is not just meant to be a tool of vengeance, but a tool of instruction. It shows others what will happen to them if they dare do the same. It is generates self-regulating peer pressure. Others, fearing the fall out, will being to self-police and self-regulate. They will silence others on behalf of the terrorists. Out of fear, they will drive the ideas from the public square and society will make them off limits.

It is not because the ideas are bad, but because the ideas offend a group that can destroy and tear down.

So when a publisher published something that mocked and offended a group prone to offense at such things, something had to happen.

The terrorists did what had to be done to publicly destroy and ruin the offender.

So they demanded the Mayor of Atlanta fire the Chief of the Fire Department for daring to write that his first duty was to “glory God” and that any sex outside of heterosexual marriage was a sin.

And the terrorists won in Atlanta.

Notice, he sets a powerful stage provided by the tragedy in Paris; he raises a specter of extremism and imposition of extreme views on a society. Then he points to a religious zealot in a public job trying to create what the Fire Chief believes is a righteous atmosphere and equates that to the monstrous picture he just painted.

This is type juxtaposition is done by demagogues to make connections as though they were comparable similarities, no matter how thin. It’s the fallacy of False Comparison. It illustrates perfectly how low is intellectual bar. Critical thinking be damned — it’s for the “elite,” or at least people who don’t want to be conned.

This political leader is the same intellectual powerhouse that tweeted

Given how many people are raped in college, I’m amazed the President wants to send more people there.

Granted, he characterized this as a “joke” and told people who were shocked to “get over it.”

When a glass is jostled, whatever it is full of splashes out. This “leader” has no filter (or splash guard, as it were). And to dismiss a comment as a “joke” when really it supports a characterization he wants to make of someone (Obama), it’s insidiously funny. Insidious being the operative word here.



Black Christian Pastors’ Hubris

Re: Black Christian Pastors:

  • “you are my enemy”
  • “It’s time to take our nation back.”
  • You can’t compare gay civil-rights struggles to black struggles

It suddenly occurred to me: “protecting beliefs” has no boundaries. If you think that marriage is only between male & female because your religious beliefs, that’s fine. If you also believe that the institution of marriage is established by your god; the U.S. is a Christian country; and that, therefore, laws should be Christian-based, it makes sense that you might think that in fighting the progression of same-sex marriage, you are “protecting your faith.”

But your faith is personal. And to extend it to the entire country is dominionist and, frankly, self-absorbed.

Those such as Pastor Roland Caldwell declare as “enemies of God” and therefore “my enemies” all those who believe their faith is about living the life of Christ, not trying to structure a nation to conform to their own beliefs.  Their enemies are the same people who believe in fairness and equality for all tax-paying citizens of this same nation.  To those self-righteous who arrogantly claim to know the mind of God with authority to name who His enemies are, I say you’ve overstepped or stepped over the living-by-example and grace-as-light foundation of the person whose name you have soiled, whose light you have tainted, whose Grace you have horrifically misrepresented.

You want to use the word “enemy”? Then you are an extremist. Thankfully, the rational voices of Christianity, while obviously silent, vote. And your trying to shame them into your Taliban-like tribe I expect will backfire. It’s too bad extremists become the face and voice of Christianity, just as they do with Islam. On that point, you have just another element of hypocrisy as part of the expression of your “faith.”

Have you declared a type of civil war within the domain of Christianity? If so, then you are its poison and its demise. How many more factions in the country will simply despise you, while you then cry “persecution!”  You are more Christian than other Christians?  There are degrees of salvation and righteousness?  (Like the Benham Brothers being “too Christian for HGTV”?)

Arrogating the -ism

When you talk about how gay struggles can’t be compared to black struggles, it’s hard to know when you have drifted from the context of slavery to the concept of racism. You use them interchangeably. Continue reading

Racism compared to Anti-SameSex Marriage

CrookedTimber is one of my favorite blogs because of the depth and breadth of thought and discussion that occurs on nearly any topic imaginable.

Anyhoo, in the topic “Let’s bury – I say, let’s bury the hatchet, but not in anyone’s head, boy” (by John Holbo on April 19, 2014), the subject is: is anti-same-sex-marriage stances comparable to racism?

I appreciate John’s attempt to establish a starting point for behavioral, political, traditional, and psychological discussion of racism. He basically starts by saying racism is about hierarchical dominance and bigotry is about hate. Continue reading