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A favorite argument of the Confederate monument defenders is that those who are trying to take them down are destroying history. They we are whitewashing it. That we are making future generations ignorant of history by destroying them, and that they will be the poorer for it.

170817_POL_RobertELee-WhiteHistory.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

My governor, Governor Abbot of Texas, just weighed in on this issue on Wednesday.

“But we must remember that our history isn’t perfect,” Abbott added. “If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Instead of trying to bury our past, we must learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future.

What my governor, and all like him overlook, is that these monuments were never about history.  History is best taught in museums, in schools, in books, in articles, on historical tours, all of which can provide the context and details that will allow a person to understand the history.

A stone or metal statue can and does do none of that.  What they do instead though is show what values a society values   They provide a tangible form to intangible societal beliefs and ideals.

This is something that those who created and raised these monuments understood.  It is why they so often have inscriptions that make this very plain, such as that that once was on the Battle of Liberty Place monument (taken down in 2017).

McEnery and Penn, having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people, were duly installed bb this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant –Governor Antoine (colored).

United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the south and gave us our state.

Values, not history is what is being shown here.

The same holds true for the vast majority of other statues and monuments. When not explicitly inscribed in the monument, it is explicitly inscribed in the words of the newspapers and speeches of the time on why this or that confederate monument was raised.   A testament to white supremacy.  A testament to white superiority.

This should be something so obviously true that there should be no dispute. A monument to honor the Confederacy – an almost country created to preserve and protect the ideal that whites can own blacks as easily and as morally as they can own a dog and the ideal that whites are supreme race – can be nothing else.

These were not monuments to men and history. They were monuments to the ideals of white supremacy. Their primary intent was not to remind people of a historical person or event, but rather to remind both whites and blacks of their place.

These monuments were raised to promote the values of the Klu Klux Klan. They were raised to promote the values of Jim Crow.  They were raised to promote the values of white supremacy.

Those values are, or should be, our shame now.

 

I have always been puzzled at the claims that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, that Christian values and thought were responsible for our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, our nation, that the existence of the United States required and still requires a foundation of Christian thought and belief.  After all, in my readings of the Bible I have never found any mention of democracy or republic as an ideal, only monarchies and theocracies.

Nowhere in the Bible did I find support for the ideal that the people being ruled should be the ultimate source of government.  People having inalienable rights was totally Bible and Constituionabsent. Which is probably why, although there were small bits and pieces of what would contribute to a democracy in time scattered here and there across Europe, there were no democratic governments for Christendom’s first 1700 years Only monarchies.  Christian monarchies.

In fact, I will go a bit further than saying that Christianity was not the source for the ideals founding the United States.  I will say that the ideals underlying the founding of our nation were ones that went against much of those in the Bible.  In fact, they still do.

A good illustration of this truth is the 10 commandments. The same 10 commandments that the Christian right wants posted in all schools and courtrooms and taught in all schools, and which they claim as foundational to all morality and our country.   Oh, for the record, I am using the 10 commandments as listed in Exodus 20: 2 – 17 and organized according to most Protestant denominations and not the Catholic or Jewish.  And, since it was the most prominent and used version during the time of the United States founding, I am using the King James Version of the Bible.  Amazing how many explainers you have to put in when discussing a supposedly perfect and inerrant book.  This link provides a look at the different Biblical 10 Commandments for Christians.  Jews have their own version, as can be seen here.

 

 

Commandment the First:   “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

The US Constitution:   Article VI:  The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Ummm, okay.  Having a hard time seeing how this commandment can be meshed with the idea of religious freedom.  How do you get the right to believe as you think best from having no other gods?  In the United States you can worship and pray to Allah five times a day, dance with and worship Shiva, feed and worship Ikenga at your home shrine, ask Birrahgnooloo to send a flood, sacrifice a goat to Zeus, dance naked in a glade with other Wiccans, or not believe in any god.  And, not only not get arrested or burned, but are still eligible to hold public office, even the Presidency.  This commandment seems mighty un-American to me.

 

 

Commandment the Second:  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

The US Constitution:  Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Again, just as with the 1st commandment, I’m having a hard time seeing how this commandment can result in or even be considered compatible with the parts of the Constitution mentioned.  In fact, given the Catholic Church’s liking of images of saints and apostles and Mary and Jesus, it is no wonder that this commandment does not even appear in their version of the 10 Commandments.  And, since they have been allowed to continue to keep those images and have not been outlawed, it seems that this commandment too is not enshrined in our Constitution.

 

 

Commandment the Third: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

The US Constitution: Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;  or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press

Again, hard to see how this commandment could result in that Constitution.  In fact, in my reading of the Constitution and all its amendments I find nothing prohibiting using God’s name in vain. Of course, if they had they would have violated the free speech amendment I just mentioned.

church reflection state

 

Commandment the Fourth:  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all they work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shall not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

The US Constitution;  Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

Again, there is nothing in the Constitution requiring that the Sabbath day be a day of rest, ever, for anyone.  That is left up to the individuals.  In fact, during President Andrew Jackson’s time, he received a petition from a group wanting him to stop Sunday mail deliveries.  He politely refused based upon this separation of church and state.  And oh man, not even cattle can work.  I assume working dogs and horses are OK though.

 

Commandment the Fifth:  Honour thy father and thy mother:

The US Constitution:  Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

And, again, nothing in the Constitution requiring anything of us in regards to our parents. But, as noted above, there is the separation of church and state.  Considering some of the founders’ relationships with their parents, I think I can understand that, totally.

 

Commandment the Sixth:  Thou shalt not kill.

The US Constitution:  Article I, Section 8, Clause 18:  The Congress shall have Power To Constitution…make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

 

This is one of those commandments that is in every civilization, culture, and society.  Murder is frowned upon, usually severely.  This includes both Christian and non-Christian governments, and governments that pre-date both Christianity and Judaism.  For example, the Law Code of King Hammurabi’s from around 1771 BCE states:  “If the wife of one man on account of another man has their mates (her husband and the other man’s wife) murdered, both of them shall be impaled.” While the penalties may vary, every culture and government has laws against murder.

This just seems to be one of those good and necessary ideas required for a government to survive and have a chance of prospering.  In fact, all federal laws against murder are based on and inferred from  the necessary and proper clause of the Constitution quoted above.

In other words, not really exclusively Christian at all.

 

Commandment the Seventh:  Thou shalt not commit adultery.

The US Constitution:  Nothing. Got nothing.

There is nothing in the Constitution about adultery.  Many states have laws passed against adultery, misdemeanors for the most part, but a few felonies. But, our Constitution, our government’s founding document, has not a word or implication about adultery.  Which, again, given the active nature of some of our founders with women both willing and unwilling, is perfectly understandable.

 

Commandment the Eighth:  Thou shalt not steal.

The US Constitution: Article I, Section 8, Clause 18:  The Congress shall have Power To …make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Again, as in killing people, this just seems to a one of those good ideas necessary for the creation and sustaining of a government, whether it be Christian, non-Christian, or pre-Christian.  Again, from King Hammurabi’s code of law: “If any one steal cattle or sheep, or an ass, or a pig or a goat, if it belonged to a god or to the court, the thief shall pay thirty fold; if they belonged to a freed man of the king he shall pay tenfold; if the thief has nothing with which to pay he shall be put to death.”

Again, there is nothing exclusively Christian about this one.  And any federal laws against stealing are again inferred from the necessary and proper clause of the Constitution.

 

Commandment the Ninth:  Thou shalt not bear false witness. cross on top of american flag flagpole

 

The US Constitution:   Nothing.

 

Nothing in the Constitution against lying.  Oh, when under oath you can’t lie. However, the First Amendment section about free speech has been understood to not only protect mistakes but outright lies. After all, politicians would be struck speechless if it were otherwise.  Look at trump, liar supreme.  So, nope, another commandment bites the dust.

 

Commandment the Tenth:  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbors’ wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass (are asses allowed to work on the Sabbath?), nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

The US Constitution:   Nothing. 

Hmmm, I thought one of the bases of capitalism was wanting what your neighbor has.  And, again, not something I see mentioned in the Constitution.  Besides, how in the world would you monitor and enforce this, especially in our capitalistic society?

 

 

In Summation

In looking at this, you can see that our Constitution, our ideals, are in direct conflict with several of the commandments.  And, in several of those that they are not in conflict with – stealing, bearing false witness, and murder – such prohibitions are present in every civilization and country both now, then, and throughout history.  Laws that sort of follow those commandments were set up not because they were Christian, but because they were the type of common sense laws all countries need to survive, regardless of religion.

Bottom line, while it is true that when our government was created it was a country with a strongly Christian culture, Christianity did not undergird the forming of its government.  A purely secular government was purposely created, one that was meant to, and largely did, protect the right of every person to believe as they best see fit.

With the ever growing closeness of the Christian Right and the Republicans and with trump’s pandering to the Christian right, that protection is in danger.  It’s funny how so many of these Christians are warning of the takeover of our country by Islam when our country is actually in greater danger of being turned into a Christian theocracy by these conservative Christians.   I think the Bible says something about logs and specks and eyes that might be relevant.  This would be ironically funny if such blindness was not also a grave danger to our country.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how people can so firmly and almost invincibly hold to beliefs despite all the evidence against that belief.  This includes young earth creationists, climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, flat earthers, holocaust deniers, and many others.  There are many ways they manage this, and I imagine I’ll be blogging about others later.  However, this particular defense against reality mechanism was highlighted for me by a recent discussion I had with a trump supporter about the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General’s report on “Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation”.

In this report Inspector General Michael Horowitz looked into whether the FBI’s investigation of people associated with trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and their possible coordination with the Russian’s to effect the 2016 election was justified.  This was done in response to trump and Republican claims that this FBI investigation was totally and absolutely a political witch hunt and was without foundation.

While IG Horowitz’s report severely faulted the FBI’s handling of various aspects of the investigation, it did found that political bias was not the cause of the investigations and that there were good and sufficient reasons to launch these investigations, and for the results. As one headline put it, it found that the investigation was not pretty, but it was not a witch hunt.

Please note, it did find evidence of political opinions on some investigators, which most people have, and in a couple of instances, the possibility of political bias.  However, these were not sufficient to dismiss and taint the investigation as solely or even mainly a political witch hunt, especially since there was a great deal of positive evidence for the need for the FBI to investigate.  Further, for the vast majority of the investigators IG Horowitz found nothing in regards to political bias.

Now, also please note that it is not my intent to go over this again.  Instead, I am using a rather long discussion I had to illustrate a Defense Against Reality tactic.  This tactic is one that I have called blots.

As the old saying mistakenly says, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Below is one of those pictures, a photomosaic. A picture that, when you look closely at the individual pixels, you find that each pixel is a picture.  In this case, the picture of the Mona Lisa consists of pixels showing other works of art.

mona lisa

Now, when discussing the report with the trump supporter I kept reiterating that IG Horowitz had found that the investigation was well founded and was not the result of political bias.  In other words, no political witch hunt, as he said in his testimony.  That is the picture.  However, this trump supporter kept finding pixels in that picture that he claimed supported his belief that there was no basis for this investigation other than politics and that it was a political hatchet job.  Mainly this person quoted from bits of the Congressional hearing with IG Horowitz in which he said he either did not know in regards to some political motivation or said that there was political bias here and there.

NefertitiWhile the pixel is quite often true, it is not the whole picture.  What this trump supporter did is rather like taking the pixel of the bust of Nefertiti embedded within this Mona Lisa and claim that the whole picture is about Nefertiti.  Or, to take the several landscapes and say this picture is a landscape.

This person took, maybe,100 words from IG’s testimony to support his belief that trump and his campaign were the victims of the deep state.  I provided well over 1,000 words taken from both testimony and report to show that they were wrong, that this investigation was well founded and not a political attack.  However, this trump supporter clung to his pixels like a man clinging to an oar in a stormy sea and would not let go.  This trump supporter would not even admit that IG Horowitz’s conclusion was that the FBI investigation was not a political witchunt, insisting that he did find that it was politically motivated.  This despite the words of IG Horowitz both from his report and his testimony to Congress that it was not.

When this happens, when a pixel is taken for the whole, I call it a blot.  A more accurate sentence from the above paragraph would have been that this person “clung to his blot” instead of clung to his pixel.  This is because blots are mistakes, they are stains, they are imperfections that mar and distort the whole picture. They hide the true picture. Imagine the Nefertiti bust I mentioned being enlarged so that it takes up 2/3 of the picture above – that is a blot.  And that is what this trump supporter was doing.

This blotting is a common tactic used among many different people.  As I mentioned above, creationists do the same.   As do anti-vaxxers, and climate change deniers and landscape 4others.  What makes this all the more fun is that they usually cling to more than one blot in order to obscure and deny the whole picture. The reason why people cling to their blots instead of the picture varies.  And is not something I will go into here.

To a certain extent we all hang on to our pixels, the pieces that make up the larger picture.  One of my favorite pixels from climate change is the fact that the CO2 produced through natural events and causes has a different chemical signature than that produced by human activity, and that  the increase in CO2 levels we are seeing is almost totally CO2 produced by human activity. In my case, I call it a pixel, because it is a piece of the picture of climate change and does not distort the whole.  It does not obscure and mar what is actually happening.  That is not to say that I, unknowingly, harbor a few bblots of my own. I imagine we all do.

However, we need to beware of our pixels, because if the picture changes we need to let them go lest they become blots.  This is something people as a whole have a difficult time with, especially with pictures they value the most.   However, while natural, it also prevents needed actions and can even encourage actions that are actively harmful (anti-vaxxers).  So, beware the blot, and when pixel turns blot, then out, out damn blot.  Otherwise they make conversation damnably difficult.  And actions too.

Since the United States was created in 1776 it has been at war. I am not referring to the we-hold-these-truths-to-be-self-evident-cover-620x350many short wars that have punctuated its existence: the war of 1812, the Civil War, WW 1 & 2, Vietnam, and all the other named wars. Instead, the war I am referring to has been one long continuous war, one whose existence was foreshadowed by the ideals that created the Revolutionary War and were then given form in the Declaration of Independence. This foreshadowed war flamed into existence by the creation, ratification, and implementation of our flawed Constitution.

The ideals? Ones that most people already know, at least by word.

  • All men are created equal.
  • All men have the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  • That the power of government derive their powers from the consent of the governed.

The ideals expressed within our Declaration were given flesh and substance by our Constitution.  As is usual when ideals are translated into reality, a great deal was lost in Freedomtranslation.  Not all men were treated equal, even under the law. In fact, inequality of the most brutal kind was actually protected by the Constitution.  And, despite Abigail Adam’s words to her husband to not forget the women, women were forgotten.

The war I am referring to is the one to close the gap between the ideals and the reality of our Constitution, our government, and our society.  The two sides are those who believe that the gap between ideal and reality should be closed, and those who are fighting for the status quo, for the way things are, for a world of gaps. It is one that we are still very much engaged in and, indeed, are in the middle of a reversal, something I will discuss more later on in this blog.

Like all wars, there have been successful battles and lost ones, advances followed by reversals.  It seems that human society acts much like Newton’s universe, for every action an equal and opposite reaction.

In regards to slavery, some of the advances include the founding of the world’s first abolition society in Pennsylvania in 1775,  the Gradual Emancipation Act passed in Pennsylvania in 1780,  the passage of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, the creation in Philadelphia of the first independent black organization/mutual aid society, the joining of several state and regional antislavery societies into a national organization in 1794, the first independent black churches in 1794, the passage of the federal Slave Trade Act of 1794, several attempts by both blacks and whites to organize a slave insurrection, Congress outlawing participation in the African Slave Trade in 1808, the creation of the Underground Railroad, and much more.

But, there were reversals and defeats too, starting with the creation of the Constitution which allowed the institution of slavery to continue and flourish, enshrining the idea that not all men are equal.  Other reversals include such things as the 1793 passage of the fugitive slave law, the passage in several slave states of laws that made organizations and speech promoting abolition illegal and punishable by expulsion or prison, anti-black and anti-abolitionist violence against blacks and abolitionists in free states such as Pennsylvania,  the taking away the right to vote from blacks in the revised Pennsylvania state Constitution in 1838, the Compromise of 1850, the repeal in 1852 of the Missouri Compromise, the Dred Scott decision, and others.

As most know, this battle on this front resulted in the Civil War and ended in bloody victory with the passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, the passage of the first Civil Rights Act in 1876, the passage of the 14th amendment granting blacks citizenship and the passage of the 15th amendment granting black men the right to vote,

The problem with all such victories is that they are never complete and become the impetus of an opposite and, at times, equal reactions.  In this case, the reactions were the creation of the KKK, the numerous Jim Crow laws, the lack of protections for blacks across the country as well as the lack of help for those who were freed from slavery with no possessions, no money, and limited opportunities, the separate but equal ruling and much more.  This front of the war continued on, with the side of regression holding the upper hand for the most part, through both laws and terror, for almost 100 years. And, although great strides were taken with the Civil Rights movement of the 50s, 60s and 70s and the Civil Rights laws passed then, victory has still not been achieved.  The nature of the battle and the front has changed, but the battle to view and treat blacks equally as whites is still on-going.  In fact, it is an ironic truth that the very success of the Civil Rights movement has led to a new tactic by those against full equality – the belief that victory has been achieved and nothing further need be done.

This war though has several fronts, two old and one new.  The other older front is the battle for women’s rights. As with the battle for racial justice and equality, it too had its victories and defeats, its advances and retreats. In fact,  in the beginning there was a tight alliance between those organizations promoting the rights of women to vote and the anti-abolition movement, with women and men often active in both.  Both Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth were two such individuals.  However, the split between the two occurred early, when in 1840 the American Anti-Slavery Society split over the issue of public involvement of women, with one group against having women involved and saying they should have no formal role.  And, after passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, the abolitionist societies disbanded and their members no longer actively supported the women’s suffrage movement.   The women were on their own.

Many today do not realize how hard fought that battle was. It officially started in 1848 with the Seneca Falls women’s rights convention.  For the next 100 years these women tried to educate the public of the need for women to have the vote. Petitions were created and given and Congress was lobbied for the passage of a Constitutional Amendment; most of which were largely ignored. After all, why should these male politicians pay attention?  Women couldn’t vote, and their place was in the bedroom creating a baby, and in the kitchen feeding the children and her husband.  Some women tried to vote, or even run for office, in the hopes of forcing a Supreme Court ruling. They successfully forced a Supreme Court ruling in 1872. However, the court ruled against them.

Around the turn of the 20th century, more active measures were taken – mass protest and demonstrations, with a great many women being arrested and jailed.  And, when those women then went on hunger strikes, they were force fed.  Eventually, they succeeded in getting the vote with the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920.  However, just as gaining the right to vote was not the end of the war for blacks, so too gaining the right to vote did not end the war for women.  Having the vote was not the same as being equal, and just as with blacks, women were still considered inferior.

Laws and standards and mores existed which served to enforce women’s inferior status.  They could not go into certain jobs and what jobs they could get paid less than men’s.  Even doing the same work, women were paid less than men. Women were considered the ward of their husband or other male relative and usually could not enter into financial agreements by themselves.  Husbands were allowed and often expected to beat their wives if they got out of hand (think of the many movies in the 1950s and 1960s in which the women were spanked with the message she deserved it, or the commercials of that same time).   College was a rarity and taking science and engineering and other such masculine courses discouraged.  Women, like blacks, learned that being able to vote did not make them equals in the eyes of government or whites or men. Further, sexual harassment as well as rape was usually considered the fault of the woman.  And thus was created the Feminist movement.

gender-equality-sandpit-photo

Recently, there has been a third front on the war to live up to the ideals of our founding.  This one is attacking the restriction of the rights of those who do not follow the norms established for heterosexual desire, identity, and attraction, the LGBTQ.  Although the conflict and laws and debates have been around for millennia, in the US the push for equal rights for the LGBTQ could be said  to have started in 1924 with the founding of the Society for Human Rights, the first gay rights organization.  In 1950 another gay rights group, the Mattachine Society was formed.   In 1955 the first lesbian rights organization in the US was formed, the Daughters of Bilitis.

Laws against homosexuality have existed since its founding in the US. However, as gays started speaking out more and worked to gain societal acceptance new laws and actions were taken in reaction.  In 1952 the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual listed homosexuality as a “sociopathic personality disturbance”.  In 1953 President Eisenhower signed an executive order banning homosexuals from working in the federal government. However, in 1969 the one event that most people have heard of in regards to gay rights, the police raid of Stonewall Inn in New York City  launched the gay civil rights movement in the US.

After years of strife – Matthew Shephard, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, California’s Proposition 8 – a series of important victories in this war occurred. In 2003 the Supreme Court struck down homosexual conduct law, in 2004 the first legal same sex marriage in the US took place in Massachusetts, in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that legally married same sex couples are entitled to federal benefits, and in 2015 the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot ban same  sex marriage.

Human-rights

However, as with women and blacks, this was not the same as being considered and treated equally.  In fact, this was still in the process of being worked out amid much opposition before being derailed in 2016.  And the work to just protect the lives of transsexuals, never mind protect their rights, was just beginning before 2016.

The year 2016, the year that the forces of the status quo, of inequality, of regression struck back. And did so supporting a most unlikely champion – a man of limited intellect and ability, rich and spoiled, abrasive and abusive.  A man of towering inflated ego. trump.  At first glance trump seems an unlikely champion for a group that wants a return to “traditional values”, since he has never exhibited any such thing in his personal life, nor has he demonstrated any commitment to a belief outside of pure self-interest.  However, he knows how to condemn and demean, to attack and push and tear down.  He knows how to harness the emotions of anger and fear. He knows how to destroy.  The fact that trump has no idea how to build matters not, because those supporting him do not want something built, they want something destroyed.

From eight years of a black president, of significant gains in regards to LGBTQ rights, continuing gains in regards to minorities and women, we are now going backwards.

I started this by stating that this war has been about making this country meet the ideals of its founding. However, I freely admit that many, probably most, and possibly all, of the founders and creators of the Constitution and the US would be horrified at where this push to live up to the ideals they espoused has led. Many would be against women voting, against blacks being equal, and feel disgust at the thoughts of LGBTQ equality.  However, they are the product of their times, no matter how great and visionary.  And they were visionary, visionary beyond their ability to accept. Although I do think some might have accepted all of this, whether they would have or not though doesn’t really matter.  The ideal of equality for all humans has an existence separate from them.  One that it is up to us to continue to form and create.

After such a long war, and after having made such significant gains, it is no wonder many of us are fatigued and stressed, seeing hard won victories for our fellow citizens and humanity in general being torn down and destroyed; seeing the pain and the suffering engendered by this reversal.   However, I agree with Martin Luther King Jr. that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I agree because of what I see in history, both of the world and of the United States. Even with the reverses since 2016, we are still further towards the realization of our nation’s ideals than we were during its founding, than at the dawning of the 20th century, and even than during the turn of the 21st century.  I also realize from history that progress is most often three steps forward and two steps back, each step labored and often bloody.  Although frustrating and depressing at times, there is some comfort to have that we are doing better than the universe with our reaction being slightly less.

A final thing I know. Just because I see this in our history does not mean that there is some mechanism that will ensure this journey will continue onward, that we will not fall back and back and back and not move forward again.  Whether it does or not depends on us, on our individual actions.  I know that many are tired, I know that I am tired of what I see going on, that there are times I have to take some time to turn away from what is happening or else despair. For so many to support this man, and these actions….  I had thought us at least slightly better than this.

flowers on longest war

At the same time, I know that I also have to come back and move forward to change things, to help us take those three steps forwards before the next two steps back are upon us. All  in all, a good New Year’s resolution.

Many people, too many, deny that slavery and the history of discrimination and Jim Crow since slavery have an impact on the current challenges facing blacks.

Let me rephrase that, most white people deny that slavery and the history of discrimination and Jim Crow afterwards are an important part of the challenges facing Irish slavesblacks today.  Most blacks, though, are very well aware of this.

In this blog I am not going to go into the hows and whys of this.  Instead, I am going to focus on one of the “facts” used by those who deny this reality to defend their denial of reality.  It is just one of several arguments used to show that slavery was not nearly as bad and as impactful as is being made out.  The argument is that the Irish were slaves too, and treated horribly in the US and faced discrimination, yet look at those Irish now!  These good old white boys rose above their troubles.  Their slave past does not impact them today. So should the blacks rise above their troubles, and their slave past does not impact them today.  Although not usually expressed so baldly, that is, in essence, the argument.  Which, of course, says something about those making it.

This myth starts something like this, from  “Irish: The Forgotten White Slaves” by Ronald Dwyer.

They came as slaves: human cargo transported on British ships bound for the Americas. They were shipped by the hundreds of thousands and included men, women, and even the youngest of children.

Whenever they rebelled or even disobeyed an order, they were punished in the harshest ways. Slave owners would hang their human property by their hands and set their hands or feet on fire as one form of punishment. Some were burned alive and had their heads placed on pikes in the marketplace as a warning to other captives.

……

King James VI and Charles I also led a continued effort to enslave the Irish. Britain’s Oliver Cromwell furthered this practice of dehumanizing one’s next door neighbor.

The Irish slave trade began when James VI sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World. His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies.

By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.

Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.

…….

They’ll come up with terms like “Indentured Servants” to describe what occurred to the Irish. However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle.

As an example, the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period. It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.

African slaves were very expensive during the late 1600s (£50 Sterling). Irish slaves came cheap (no more than £5 Sterling). If a planter whipped, branded or beat an Irish slave to death, it was never a crime. A death was a monetary setback, but far cheaper than killing a more expensive Africans.

The English masters quickly began breeding the Irish women for both their own personal pleasure and for greater profit. Children of slaves were themselves slaves, which increased the size of the master’s free workforce.

Even if an Irish woman somehow obtained her freedom, her kids would remain slaves of her master. Thus, Irish mothers, even with this new found emancipation, would seldom abandon their children and would remain in servitude.

In time, the English thought of a better way to use these women to increase their market share: The settlers began to breed Irish women and girls (many as young as 12) with African men to produce slaves with a distinct complexion. These new “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves.

 

Wowza. That’s quite a story.  And those white guys came bouncing back after all of this.  So, what are you whining about blacks? it is obvious that slavery then has no effect on how things are today.  Look at the Irish.

Black man beaten in 1920s

The picture on the left is actually that of breaker boys working for a Pennsylvania coal company in 1911.  The picture on the right is of a black man being beaten in the 1920s.

However, while this makes a nice story, it is more story than fact.  What is more, even if every word of this were true, it still overlooks a great many important differences.  So, to start, let me just go over those differences first before discussing what this narrative gets wrong.

First, blacks were slaves for a much longer period of time than the Irish were indentured servants.

Second, after they became free, blacks still faced severe persecution and discrimination – from voting to where they could live, to how they lived, to their education.  Irish, some, for a short period of time. But, when you look at the extent of it, and the time, not so much.  Even the most blatant forms of legal discrimination against blacks continued up until the 1960s and 70s.  The Irish, not even close.

Third, it is fairly easy to tell who is black, even after four or five generations.  The Irish, well, not really.  So, if you can’t identify the Irish from the rest of the white folks, how are you going to discriminate against them?  Blacks, well, that is relatively easy.

Now, let me deal with the article itself. First, here is the historical basis from which Dwyer then uses to pervert history.

Those fleeing Ireland due to extreme poverty did come over in great numbers and did so as indentured servants.  Something many poverty stricken Europeans did.  In fact, half of those immigrating to the colonies from Europe were indentured servants, not just the Irish.  This indentured servitude of many of the Irish in America is the truth at the base of the lies.

Now, I love the neat little verbal trick Dwyer did by mentioning indentured servitude and then implying and dismissing it as nothing more than an excuse for a horrible reality.  However, he does not deny that it is true.  Instead, Dwyer he just says that they were treated like human cattle.  Which is both true and not true.  They were treated horribly, most indentured servants were.  However, they were not treated totally like cattle.  The people who were, were black.

Let me go over some of the differences between indentured servitude and chattel slavery, which is what the blacks experienced.  Chattel slavery is when a person is a slave is a slave forever, as are their children, their children’s children and so on forever and ever, amen.  It is an inherited condition, inherited along with that person’s skin color. Chattel slaves have the status of property, not people.  In fact, when lists of property were done up, those lists included slaves along with cattle, chairs, and so forth.  Slaves have no rights, not even the right to life.

servitude contract

Indentured servitude occurs when a person signs a contract to provide work to a person or company for a certain set period of time. During that time they were in a condition very similar to slavery, but one that had limits and in which they still had some rights.  Also, the servitude only applied to them, and not to their children.  Servitude was not inherited. After their period of service was done, they were free, and were often given plots of land too.  Although, during the time of their servitude, they could own no property and were not paid, afterwards they were free but impoverished.

This is a nice article about indentured servitude in the colony of Virginia to provide a bit more information about the history and use of indentured servitude in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Let me also note that at the time the indentured servants were sometimes referred to as black slavery 1slaves. However, not all forms of slavery are alike. That of the indentured servant was of limited duration, not inheritable, and did not reduce them totally to the status of property.

As for the specific differences between indentured servitude and chattel slavery;

First, the great majority of indentured servants entered into their contracts voluntarily.  Some were forced into their servitude as punishment for crimes, but those were very much the exception and not the rule.   Blacks had no such contracts. They were all forcibly taken.

Second, the contracts the Irish signed usually lasted from two to seven years.  In other words, there was a limit to their servitude.  It also did not apply to their children.  Blacks were slaves forever, as were their children.

Third, indentured servants had the legal status of human being.  Blacks did not.  They were considered to be nothing more than property, on a par with cattle. Blacks had no rights and could be killed without consequences.  The Irish indentured servants had legal rights, and could even take their masters to the courts if mistreated.  Not so the blacks.

Now, let me state that indentured servants were mistreated. They could not move or live anywhere without their master’s permission. They could not marry without their master’s permission. And the work they did was often long, hard and, occasionally, dangerous, and one often carried out by slaves too.  Here is an interesting thought to think upon. Dwyer said that the Irish indentured servants were cheaper than blacks and so were used more often.  And yet, despite this claimed fact, indentured servitude died out.  Chattel slavery based on skin color did not. Hmmm.

Moving on to the factual errors in this narrative, they abound.  There are more factual errors, in fact, than factual accuracies.

Dwyer states that the Irish slave trade began when King James VI sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to America, and that his Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners to be sent overseas and sold to the English in the West Indies.

  • There is no Proclamation of 1625. There is a Proclamation by James I in 1603 that problem people were to be deported beyond the seas. But, it does not specify just the Irish and applies to all people.  This proclamation, though, was used during the English Civil Wars to deport thousands of Irish men, women, and children to America.

The numbers Dwyer provides do not add up.  In the above, he states that King James VI sold 30,000 Irish prisoners.  He also states that between 1641 to 1652 the English sold 300,000 Irish people as slaves.

  • During the whole 100 years of the 17th century number of Irish immigrants to the West Indies is estimated to be around 50,000 people. The number of Irish immigrants to both North American and the West Indies between 1630 and 1775 is estimated at 165,000.  There is no basis at all for the 300,000 number over just a ten year period.  Even during Cromwell’s time, forced deportations from Ireland to the West Indies are estimated to be between 10,000 – 12,000 people.  Dwyer’s numbers are a mystery, and are very much off from the reality.

Dwyer claims that there were more Irish slaves than blacks were sold than blacks during the 17th century.

  • This one is, as you should be expecting by now, wildly wrong. During this time there were an estimated 10 to 12 thousand Irish indentured servants. According to the Slave Voyages Database, there were over 1.8 million – repeat, million – blacks sold as slaves by European during the same time period.

Dwyer claims that a 1637 census showed the 69% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.

  • If you look at the actual census you will find that 69% of Montserrat’s population were indeed Irish. Or rather, 69 % of the white population.  And of that Irish population, the vast majority were not indentured servants.  What, you thought the only Irish in American were indentured?  Nope, many had the resources to immigrate to American without having to indenture themselves.

I am not going to bother going through each and every claim.  That would fill several blogs, as Dwyer’s article, and the claims of those who believe in the Irish Slave myth, contains more errors and lies than truth.  Suffice it to say most of these claims are either made up of whole cloth, or have ignored certain facts – such as the one about Montserrat’s population.   In other words, this claim is bogus and is done to deny the real effects that slavery, Jim Crow, and discrimination have on our society and government today, and to also protect the feelings of those whites who feel threatened by this reality.

Final Thoughts on the Forms of Racism

Racist is a descriptor that most do not believe applies to them, even those who are actually racist.  One of the many ways in which those who are racist can honestly believe they are not is due to the many meanings racist can assume.  Some racists are out and out white supremacists who believe all other races are inferior, advocate for limitations on blacks, and often will not associate with blacks. Most Americans are not that type of racist.

However, other types of racists exist; more subtle (in comparison with the KKK and the Aryan Nation) and better able to blend in and disguise themselves as being enlightened.  Yet still damaging to people and society. One such variety has black friends, Jewish friends, Hispanic friends, and strongly believes all people should be treated equally regardless of race.  Which sounds fine, until they go on and say that racism is not a real problem today and then deny its many real world effects.

To better be able to deny the on-going problem with racism we have in the United States, these people often try to downplay the effects of slavery, to minimize its impact on todayJim crow 2 – they do this too because they feel that they are being personally attacked when racism and slavery are brought up.   This Irish slave myth one such way such people protect their views, and avoid considering the possibility that they actually may be racist.

I once had a discussion with such a person who put the problems that blacks have that I attributed in large part to our racist past and slavery to being a problem with black culture.  When I pressed this person on how did black culture become this destructive, as he saw it, to blacks?  I asked what forces shaped it, what forces maintain it?  I received no answer.  To him, it was all about personal responsibility and had nothing to do with society, government, and history.  And, I would assume, since on average whites do better than blacks, blacks just aren’t very good at assuming responsibility for their actions; whites are better about manning up and moving up.

Yeah. Right.

 

 

There is a common belief among Americans that businessmen make good political representatives; that since good businessmen know how to run successful organizations, that this will transfer over to making our government run better. Those who believe this usually also believe that government should be run more like a business. However, despite how common this belief is, it is also mistaken.

Government and businesses are very different entities, with different goals, different methods, and different resources. Because of these fundamental differences, were government to be run like a business it would fail. Now, this does not mean that a person with a business background cannot make a good political representative. It does, though, mean that this background does not give them a leg up on any other background, or will make them more likely to succeed.  It can, if they are not aware of these differences, be a serious flaw and cause them to make grave mistakes.

So, how is government not like a business. Oh, as the old poem goes, let me count the ways. Or, rather, in the interest of brevity, let me just count one of the many ways, the one that is the primary difference.

Business exists to make a profit. Yes, they may and should provide a needed service or businessproduct and they may be concerned about quality and efficiency, however, all of this is in service to the goal of making a profit.  All of the words and work to provide customer service, to treat employees as valued resources and so forth, are all means to an end – profit.

Governments do not exist to make a profit. They exist to provide needed services and benefits to its citizens. Governments exist to provide security to its citizens, stability in daily lives, protection from unnecessary risks and dangers, means to peacefully resolve conflicts between citizens and organizations, and more. Law Enforcement, food and workplace safety, Armed forces, a justice system, roads and highways, education and more are the primary concerns of a good government.  While a government needs to be a good steward of the money it receives, it is a good steward not in the name of profit, but in the name of the people.

While pushing, promoting and protecting business is a part of this caring for the welfare of its citizens, it is not the primary focus of government, or at least it should not be. The belief that what is good for business is good for America is wrong, and dangerous.

Consider the fact that profit is the goal of a business. If it can be got by cutting corners on workplace or consumer safety, corners will be cut. If profit can be got by forcing competitors out of business and becoming so large that there is no longer any competition, then competition will be gone. If deception in advertising or terms of loans can increase profits, then deception will be used.   All is fair game if it increases profit. A look at the end of the 19th century and the beginnings of the 20th century provides a fairly accurate picture of this at work, when business was largely unregulated by government.  Even today, examples of this can easily be found – tobacco for example, or the opioids.

To meet its primary function of protecting the welfare of its citizens, government has to regulate business. It has to create and enforce laws that protect workers, consumers and even the smaller businesses from the unfair practices of larger and more powerful ones.  This means that businesses may find it somewhat more expensive to operate, and lose efficiency in following those regulations. But, that is a necessity if government is going to fulfill its primary responsibility.  Yes, there will be times when some of these regulations may be too burdensome. Those will have to be evaluated.  Much worse though would be not regulating at all. And not recognizing this reality is why sometimes businessmen who become political representatives become a danger to those they represent.

trump is an example of this sort of mindset, a rather extreme example, but, nonetheless still one. He views all relationships solely from the point of view of profit. NATO, public lands, environment and so forth; if it is not profitable or reduces profit, then it has to go. No matter if it is good for the country and citizens, it is not good for business and profit.  And this is a dangerous view.

WE the people.png

This means that there always will be, and always should be, tension and conflict between business and government. Their goals are different. One, business, is centered on profit for a particular business. The other, government, is a much broader goal, one that encompasses all citizens and people within its borders.  The welfare of the people as a whole should always be more important and take precedent over that of profit for a business.

This means that arguing that it is bad for business, that it creates a burden on business, that it will decrease profits are not sufficient in and of themselves to stop regulations, stop enforcement of regulations, to undo regulations.  Instead, the first and foremost question should do these regulations support and promote the welfare of We the People.  The welfare of we the people seems to have been forgotten by many today, or, at least sent to the back of the bus, in favor of business uber alles.  This is especially true within the White House, and among Republicans.  That needs to change before the United States changes from a nation of We the People to one of Business Are Us.

Something many of those on the right like to argue is that the United States is not a democracy. Instead, they, correctly, point out that we are a republic.  They like to do this most often when the subject is either the Electoral College or the fact that trump won with three million less votes than Hillary.

What has always befuddled me when I encounter them making this distinction is the fact that those making it are arguing that the United States is not also a democracy.  And yet, they then go on to use rhetoric and quotes as if we are a democracy.   It is an interesting contradiction in their speech, one that I do not believe most are aware of.

Before going further, let me start by stating that the United States is indeed a democracy. people voting 2A Democracy is any form of government who gets its legitimacy from the will of the people, usually through elections.  The form that this takes can vary – from the direct democracy of ancient Athens to our Constitutional Republic Democracy to Parliamentary Democracy to Presidential Democracy and others.  The common factor is that they all derive, either directly or indirectly, their legitimacy from the governed.

When conservatives deny that our government is a democracy, they are using only one possible version of democracy, the direct one where people directly vote on issues.  On this, they are correct. But, they then go on to pretend that there are no other forms of democracy, and that a Republic is not one.  I wonder how they would classify a Republic then – a dictatorship? a monarchy?

They will often claim that our founders did not use the word democracy in describing the government they had created and often use Madison as a prime example. However, this claim is not quite right.

First, let me point out that during the late 18th century the exact definitions of democracy and republic was in a state of flux.  They are quite correct that Madison did reject the use of Democracy – the actual term used was “pure democracy” – to describe the new government, and preferred the word Republic.  But his contemporaries disagreed with him on not calling their new government a democracy. – and indeed he was not entirely consistent either on this distinction, which I will touch on in a bit.

For example, James Wilson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, elected twice to the Constitutional Congress representing  Pennsylvania, and one of the first Supreme Court Justices appointed by President Washington, in November of 1787 wrote that the Constitution “in its principles,…it is purely democratical: varying indeed in its form in order to admit all the advantages, and to exclude all the disadvantages which are incidental to the known and established constitutions of government. But when we take an extensive and accurate view of the streams of power that appear through this great and comprehensive plan…we shall be able to trace them to one great and noble source, THE PEOPLE.”

John Marshall, who played a key role in getting the Constitution ratified in Virginia, was appointed Secretary of State in 1800 and then became our fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and widely considered one of the most influential of all the justices in our history,  wrote, during that ratification battle in Virginia, that the “Constitution provided for ‘a well regulated democracy’ where no king, or president, could undermine representative government.”

And then there is the fact that the political party founded by both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson was called the Democratic Republic Party.  It seems, as I mentioned earlier, that not even James Madison was consistent on this distinction.

There is also France’s Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1835 – 1840 four volume report to the world about the United States’s grand experiment in self-government, a book titled “Democracy in America”, in which he stated that the United States was indeed a democracy, the world’s first representative government where “sovereignty of the people” was its fundamental principle.

If more proof is needed that the founders knew they had created a form of democracy, look at the beginning of the Constitution – “We the people…”  Those words describe the root of all democracies.

Freedom

Many more examples can be provided, but suffice it to say, our founders would not take issue with calling our republic a form of democracy.

Those who make this false distinction have many issues with the idea of a democracy, considering it a threat to the rights of those in the minority – and they are right to an extent, although their idea that a republic is not also a threat to the rights of those in the minority in society is very much wrong.  However, I am not going over that with this blog. Instead, I am pointing out a contradiction in their speech and thinking.

On the one hand, when talking about the fact that trump won without the consent of the majority or about the electoral college, they stress that our government is not a democracy.  However, they then to on to claim out trump represents the will of the people, how he is for the people, how they and those like them constitute “We the People”.

The idea of representing the will of the people is an idea associated with a democracy, a democracy that they deny we are.  Their language changes dependent on what they want it to support.  When they want to downplay trump’s wealth and actions, and to explain land votingall the heat against him, they say he represents the people and that the elites don’t like this. When they want to defend the legitimacy of his presidency despite receiving three million less votes (and yes, he is legitimately our president) and  defend an institution that serves no useful function and whose elimination would threaten no one’s rights and to justify including land as voters and to ignore and blow off the fact that trump lost the popular vote by three million people they then change their language and claim we are not a democracy.  “We the people” becomes for them “We the land”.

This is partly the reason that trump is in so much trouble currently. We are indeed a democracy. And in a democracy, when someone wins with three million less votes, then they have a large problem to overcome if they want to accomplish their legislative goals.  It is why most politicians would have made an effort to reach out to those who did not vote for them. But not trump. And not the current crop of Republicans. Instead, they played for their much smaller base, and made no overtures and attempted no discussion with those who represent that majority of Americans, those who are the real “We the People”.

This, along with his corruption, his ignorance, his egotism, is one of the reasons why his approval rating has never taken off, despite having a good economy. A rather amazing fact that.  It is also why the Democrats came back strong in 2018, and why more people support impeachment and removal than are against it.

trump was elected despite the will of “We the People”, and then made no effort to acknowledge that reality. In a democracy, this leads to bad things for that person.

This week I thought I would blog about something other than politics: my thoughts on a book called “The Amorality of Atheism” by Giorio Roversi.  Although there is a great deal in this that I disagree with, and even on those items which he and I agree, we often have different takeaways and slants I am going to focus on just a couple of area (otherwise this would be at least a three part blog).

First, I will discuss aspects of atheism and morality that Roversi gets wrong. It is a common mistake made by many Christians with views similar to his. Then I will discuss one practical aspect of his views in regards to church and state.

There is one important thing to keep in mind, something that many do not, and that is that not all atheists think and believe alike, no more than all theists do. What follows here are just my views, and, although they are shared by many atheists, they are not shared by all.

 

Mistake Number 1: Source of Atheist Morality

Our atheist does not seem to realise that the very concept of acting freely is entirely incompatible with the atheistic-materialistic view that our actions are determined only by our genes, and nothing else but our genes.

Giorgio Roversi, “Amorality of Atheism”.

 

Our atheist contends that he is guided by his conscience. But what he calls conscience is in fact the voice of his genes…

Giorgio Roversi, “Amorality of Atheism”.

 

 

Many, and I imagine most, atheists do not believe that the source of our morality lies totally and only in our genes.  I know I don’t.  I view morality as being something generated by our own human nature, as being the result of us being both highly social and highly intelligent creatures. Our sense of empathy is innate. Our sense of justice is also largely innate, as is our sense of fairness. However, alone, they are not enough to wind up with morality.  That took large societies.

When we created societies those societies became methods for enforcing, teaching and building upon these innate tendencies, tendencies which are necessary in order to even have a society. And our creation of societies and working in groups was and is an essential method for us to survive.

Now, you may ask, why do we need to teach and pass on something that is innate? Because it is also part of our nature to be selfish and to look out for our own interests. These are not necessarily bad traits, and they too have survival value, but they do need to be controlled and managed. Those societies which managed to control the latter tendencies and promote the former are the ones that survived and grew. Religion arose with the creation of large societies as a means to do this.  These larger societies consisted of many different family groups, family groups in which other family had been the main and only loyalty. To overcome that and provide a new, larger identity, without which this larger society would fail, religion came into being.  Not the only method, but a strong one and important one.

Now, I do not mean it was a cynical calculated way to provide this new identity. But, its growth coincided with the growth of ever larger societies. Morality was a necessity to have a functioning society to begin with, it would be natural to then merge it with religious ideas and beliefs about ultimate matters and use that to support moral teachings.

This is why, as Roversi correctly stated, that all governments until recent times identified with a religion. In fact, many early civilizations there were so intertwined that it really was not possible to split them in two.

Another related mistake that Roversi makes, one that many other Christians make too, is mistaking the results of evolution with the process of evolution. Although he does not spend much time on it, he does talk about trying to logically derive morality from the evolutionary process.  However, that is a waste of time for a couple of reasons.

First, the process is not important in regards to morality.  Like the rest of the universe, the process doesn’t really care, it just is. What is important is the result of the process. And in our case, that was a highly intelligent and highly social creature, which fostered and necessitated morality, in a manner that I already discussed above.

Next, and this is the mistake he makes throughout the whole book, and it is one mistake that many make, including atheists, trying to find a way to use logic and reason to create morality.  Morality is not the result of either reason or logic.  Oh, both can be useful in working out difficult and complex moral issues. However, morality, at its base, is a result of emotions and long reason. We, humans, are not naturally logical and reasoning. We are emotional creatures first, and reasonable and logical later.

Trying to infer a moral position from this and that is a rather fruitless task if it does not start with human emotion.  I don’t rape and kill, not because I reasoned my way to not doing so.  I don’t torture and kill, or for that matter cheat others and steal, because I do not want to.  Reasoning comes in later to explain why I don’t want to, and how such emotions are the result of the interactions of our genetic traits of empathy and fairness with our society.  But, most of us come to our moral positions first and reasons why later.  Like love and beauty, and what foods we like, we experience it first, and, should we wish, reason about it afterwards.  To go against those feelings is to go against yourself.

 

Mistake Number 2: Religion and Government

 

The undermining of Christian faith, systematically pursued by Western cultural and political elites, does not lead to some sort of secular Utopia with its own “neutral” morality, but to the rise of religious beliefs other than Christianity, which will bring their own – often opposite – moral values.
On the clean slate of atheism anything can be written, even sharia law.”

Giorgio Roversi, “Amorality of Atheism”.

 

Multiculturalism is the choice not to have a culture, because choosing a culture implicitly means to choose a religion. It is the assertion that Christianity, or any religious faith, is irrelevant and can be easily and harmlessly disposed of, because a supposedly “secular set of values” is ready to take its place.”
Giorgio Roversi, “Amorality of Atheism”.

 

Roversi’s views about the proper relationship between religion and government are not only wrong, but dangerously wrong. Religious freedom only came about when government became secular.  Whenever a government identifies with a religion then all other religions become second class and suspect. Those who are of a different religion than the one the government identifies with become suspect.  And often persecuted.

For example, how do you think atheists or Muslims would fare under a government which identified itself with Christianity?  And just one version of it (reading his book it is clear he does not think much of more mainstream Christians, and even less of liberal Christians, or conservative Christians who support the separation of church and state).

Let me say that anytime a government identifies with one religion – and it doesn’t matter the religion; Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Atheism, Hinduism, Judaism, whatever – then its citizens no longer have equal rights and persecution and discrimination starts up based on a person’s religious beliefs.  Rather than detail all this, as this blog is getting long, let me just refer you to one of my earlier blogs “What Most Have Forgotten”.

Part of the problem is that Roversi conflates two different uses of secular. In one, and the one he writes against, promoting secularism in not only the government but in society at large, and using the power of the government to do so.  I agree with him that this is wrong and should not happen. The other usage though means that the government is secular and does not identify with any religion, and this includes atheism. It allows people to believe as they like and does not promote one view over another.  This is what a secular government should be if we really want our liberties protected.

I have to say this was a very frustrating blog to write – there is so much wrong here that disciplining myself to just keep on these selected topics and not talking about his idea that totalitarian governments were the natural consequence of atheistic thinking or his misrepresentation of Aldous Huxley,  Camus and Bertrand Russell’s ideas, among others, was challenging.   I would say read the book yourself and discover the joys of poor thinking and reasoning, but it really isn’t worth it.