Tag Archives: Liberalism

Earlier today, in a comment I put on the internet, I wrote, “I’d tell you the details but I’m trying to keep it short. Not my strong point.” To which someone replied, “You would tell us the details but you won’t. ok. Your response is a bunch of blah blah blah nonsense. You must live in CO and are evidently stoned as your babblings say nothing……” I took that as an invitation to elaborate, so I did. It was rather long and it occurred to me that I might as well make a post of it.

I grew up in a highly left of center environment. My own parents were very moderate, but many of my friends parents and my teachers were on the left. I went to a small liberal arts college of the sort conservatives make fun of. At that point, most of my political views were things that could be described as received ideas rather than ideas that I had developed on my own. Basically, I had been taught and believed the basic left wing view that I mentioned above about the oppressors and the oppressed. The best summary of this view I’ve read was in The New York Review of Books, it was a quote from Corey Robin:

Since the modern era began, men and women in subordinate positions have
marched against their superiors in the state, church, workplace, and
other hierarchical institutions. They have gathered under different
banners—the labor movement, feminism, abolition, socialism—and shouted
different slogans: freedom, equality, rights, democracy, revolution. In
virtually every instance, their superiors have resisted them, violently
and nonviolently, legally and illegally, overtly and covertly…. Despite
the very real differences between them, workers in a factory are like
secretaries in an office, peasants on a manor, slaves on a
plantation—even wives in a marriage—in that they live and labor in
conditions of unequal power.

The reviewer, Mark Lilla, calls it “history as WPA mural.” That’s a funny quip, but that’s the history I was taught.

The first chink in the armor came when I was reading an article about a West African immigrant in France who was arrested for mutilating his daughter’s genitals. Was the French government oppressing him because it was an evil colonial power trying to ban the practices of other cultures, or was the father a big bad patriarchal oppressor. The leftist view of the world didn’t give me the intellectual tools to understand this.

Well, that was in France and didn’t concern me, so I more or less forgot it, at least for a time.

Then, browsing in a bookstore, I picked up “The Wealth of Nations.” I can only describe it as revelatory. Most of my friends at that time were some flavor of socialist and the notion that capitalism was inherently evil was taken for granted. Still, I found Smith’s arguments very convincing and this kept me from ever advocating a socialist economy. Of course, that alone put me to the right end of the spectrum among my social cohort. I was far from alone there, but still I was at one end, especially when you consider about a year or two later I’d be hanging out in the East Village in New York with anarchists living in squats. (I never lived in a squat myself. I’m much to fond of hot and cold running water.)

Okay, so now I’m in my early twenties, hanging out with some far left radicals, I still sort of believe the “history as WPA mural”, but I don’t think a socialist economy will help alleviate economic injustices because full fledged socialism doesn’t work well.

Then we have a lot of racial tensions in New York. This is the era of “The Bonfire of the Vanities.” The rise of Al Sharpton. Tawana Brawley. Howard Beach. Bensonhurst. Crown Heights.

As these fights were raging, I was reading. David Hume. John Rawls. John Locke. Immanuel Kant. John Stuart Mill. There was no rhyme or reason, just curiosity. Then Crown Heights. That was the moment that my WPA mural came falling down.

The Crown Heights riots followed a series of incidents in a neighborhood that had a large number of African Americans and a large number of Hassidic Jews. A Jewish man ran over with his car, and killed, a young black boy. During the riots that followed, a young Jewish man was beaten, stabbed and died. Another man, mistaken for being Jewish, was shot and killed. A black friend who had grown up in Harlem came over to my place. I remember he was crying and said, “My people. Why are they doing this?” My response was, “They’re not your people. Just because you have the same skin color doesn’t mean they’re your people.”

Prior to this, I had struggled myself with my own ethnic identity. This moment for me confirmed a feeling I’d been having regarding myself for some time at that point, that the individual was ultimately more important than the group to which he or she belongs.

In many ways, I may have been constitutionally predisposed to embrace individualism being the sort of person who never quite fit in. I’ve often said that I identified with the boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, always asking uncomfortable questions. Adults described me as having an “artistic temperament” which I understood was not a compliment. Furthermore, as my own ethnic identity was ambiguous, I had no natural “tribal” group. In situations in which people split up into ethnic groups I would often find myself standing alone. If I was lucky, I would find myself in a group of other people without larger groups, with the one Chinese kid in school, the Puerto Rican kid, the Afro-Caribbean, the Malaysian, the black kid adopted by white parents, and we’d have our own little group of people with no group. I solved this ethnic identity problem by concluding that there was only one race, the human race, and that race or ethnicity was mostly a curiosity and not necessary to an individual’s well being.

Until that night, that had been my own internal solution to my personal problem, but, that evening, with my friend up crying all night – it would get so late that he would wind up falling asleep on my living room floor – I began to realize the wider, one could say political, implications of what had previously been my own personal solution. Simply put, the individual was the most basic level of society. Groups could be broken down and divided into groups, but the person, the human being, was the indivisible unit of society.

I must apologize if my reasoning seems unsophisticated and naive. I was developing my ideas for my own personal use and not as a Ph.D. thesis. Indeed, I have never discussed them at this length. I have always wanted to study political science so that I could share ideas in a more coherent manner, but have not yet done so. I would say that my ideas about individualism owe most to John Stuart Mill. Of course, since Locke’s beliefs about individuals is the basis of our own system of government and echos of his ideas can be heard clearly in the Declaration of Independence, shadows of his ideas were certainly in my mind before I actually studied his ideas. I found Locke to be exceedingly congenial. That is not, I suppose, a good argument to defend his position against other, but I was only trying to make sense of the world for myself. The ideas of Locke that I liked concerned his emphasis on human rationality, on reason, on empiricism, the idea that legitimate government arises from the consent of the governed, the separation of church and state, and the limits of government.

Around this same time I read the Federalist Papers and began to appreciate more fully the liberal foundations of our own system of government.

Yet, the world had long since advanced from the time of the Enlightenment, many of those advances were depicted in the now degraded WPA mural. One of the great criticisms of liberalism from the left was its inability to address the very struggles depicted in the hypothetical mural. I had told my friend that he had did not belong to the same “people” as the rioters in Crown Heights. Today, Janet Napolitano would probably see that as a “microaggression.” In fact, it is a political statement and Janet Napolitano and I apparently subscribe to different political philosophies.

The word individual is derived from the word indivisible. By definition, a group can be divided, but an individual cannot. Groups do exist, but they are divisible and malleable. They are not inherent in ourselves, but are defined by our relationship to other people. So, what does it mean that my friend thought of blacks as “his people” and saw the people rioting in Crown Heights as belonging to that group. It is only tangentially related to skin color since he would not consider Australian Aborigines who may be equally as dark as “his people.” Meanwhile, “his people” would certainly include some very light skinned people. “His people” has its roots in a common history, people who were brought to North America and the Caribbean as forced labor, mostly from West Africa and mostly during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Ask anyone who has been called a “coconut” as a child and it is evident that group is easily divisible. The existence of the group is contingent on a particular set of circumstances. Their ancestors in West Africa probably did not see themselves as a unified group. When confronted with a shared difficulty like racial bias, it makes sense for the individuals to unite to combat that difficulty. Groups are not inherently negative, they can certainly have utility, but it is important to remember that they are contingent, malleable and divisible.

Liberalism is what provides the moral reasoning to oppose racism. Racial divisions are inherently collectivist ideas which consider the group to which a person is assigned to be defining and limiting characteristic of that individual. Those of us who are steeped in Western individualism are naturally horrified by the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum, the Jewish man who was killed during the riots. We do not view it as justice to kill one person as a collective punishment for a group to which he belongs, nor do we see the group as being responsible for the actions of one member.

Furthermore, individualism is the only way different groups can cohabit the same polity with some reasonable degree of harmony. In a multi-ethnic society, without individualism, we would have a variation of Hobbes’ vision of each against all, although instead of being each person against all it would be each group against all other groups.

Individualism is the core of liberalism and comes with attendant freedoms. The most essential is the freedom of conscience, which leads directly to freedom of speech.

Another core component of liberalism is autonomy.

It’s getting late and I should wrap this up although it is far from adequate, then again, writing a political manifesto off the cuff is not something I am asked to do everyday.

Looking at the dates of the events I mentioned in the first part of this comment, I see that this process took a longer period of time than I realized, about a decade that spanned the period from my late teens to my late twenties. Soon, I married and moved to Canada. By that point, many of my ideas were well in place.

For most of my adult life, I was an independent, not registered with either political party. Around the year 2000, I felt, as many people do, politically powerless. I decided to register with a political party so I could participate more actively. The “culture wars” were picking up a head of steam at this time and the Republican Party was taking a huge lurch towards the right. In the past, I had voted for Democrats more frequently than Republicans, although I never saw myself as a party person and tried to evaluate each candidate individually. Still, aligning myself with the Democrats seemed like an easy decision. At that point in time there were still some people in the Democratic Party that called themselves conservative Democrats and I felt near the center of the Democratic Party.

Since that time, the Democrats have shed their more conservative members, which occurred a couple of election cycles ago. I didn’t particularly mind that much since I didn’t see it as an ideological issue at the time. Many of those conservative Democrats were accused of being more concerned about the well being of corporate donors than their constituents. However, that put me in a conservative position relative to the rest of the party.

Within the past year or two, however, the radicals have come to the forefront and some people who seemed to be liberals have revealed themselves to be steeped in radical ideology. Conservatives might not recall that at the beginning of President Obama’s tenure, attacks from within the party came principally from the left. The incident that comes to mind which most sums up that period is when Obama’s press secretary Robert Gibbs referred to critics as “the professional left.”

“The White House, constantly under fire from expected enemies on the right, has been frustrated by nightly attacks on cable news shows catering to the left, where Obama and top lieutenants like Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel have been excoriated for abandoning the public option in healthcare reform; for not moving faster to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay; and for failing, so far, to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military.” Source.

Perhaps I have not been paying attention, but I’m not entirely clear on what has occurred to prompt this leftward shift. Has Obama always been radical and just pretended to be more centrist in order to get elected and, now, no longer facing an election he can finally do what he wants? Have left wing activists, like Occupy Wall Street, pushed him to the left?

If it was only Obama, I would not be too worried. However, listening to the presumptive nominee, the entire Democratic Party seems to have taken a great big leap away from the liberal principals on which this country was founded to a more radical position, leaving me a person without a party.

A couple of years ago, I was sitting in a cafe in Paris when I happened to strike up a conversation with an Australian woman sitting next to me. At some point, she brought up Sarah Palin and went on for quite a bit about how ridiculous she was, a position with which I agreed. After continuing a little bit longer, she finally said, “What ever happened to her?” I said, “She wasn’t elected. She had no real support, so she disappeared.”

This time around, the media is having fun with reality tv star Donald Trump. As far as I can tell, Donald Trump is supported by Republicans who are angry with the status quo of the party and want to send a message. I have no reason to believe that he has even a small chance of winning the general election. However, he satisfies the need everyone has to gloat and go on about how stupid the unwashed masses are, the unwashed masses being, as best as I’ve been able to discern, everyone but the speaker. It’s a ritualized routine everyone is comfortable with.

Another routine which people left of center have enjoyed throughout my entire life is the one where they say how stupid Americans are for being afraid of socialism. We, so the Kabuki theatre of the left goes, barely understand what the word means and we are automatically scared to death when we hear it. This is then followed by a self-congratulatory pose for being so much more well-informed than the strawman.

These routines are so well ingrained in our political discourse, if discourse is the right word, sometimes we continue to say them long after there is much substance behind them. Will the conventional wisdom that U.S. citizens automatically run when they hear the word “socialism” change now that Bernie Sanders is drawing huge crowds, 28,000 people in Portland, Oregon, and 27,500 in Los Angeles?

The idea that citizens in the U.S. tend to be jumpy about the word socialism is not simply a myth. While we may support specific social programs, we tend to back away from a full-blown Socialist ideology. According to Wikipedia:

Initially, “socialism” referred to general concern for the social problems of capitalism regardless of the solutions to those problems. However, by the late 19th century, after waves of revolutionary movements, “socialism” had come to signify opposition to capitalism and advocacy for a post-capitalist system based on some form of social ownership.

In the United States, you can often find support for the former and very little support for the latter. Conservatives have made much use of the blurred definition by referring to specific social programs they oppose as “socialism.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Jason L. Riley points out that “no one is saying Bernie Sanders can’t win because America isn’t ready to elect an avowed socialist as president, which might have been the case not too long ago.”

This is a dramatic change in attitudes. I can’t help speculating that this change has been brought about by the rhetoric of the far right. For six and a half years now, the right has screamed relentlessly that President Obama is a Socialist. This generally has left people to the left of center laughing and shaking their heads. Compared even to me, a moderate liberal, Obama might as well be a moderate conservative. The far right has screamed “The President is a Socialist,” and the general population must have noticed that the sky has not fallen. Ironically, by calling every move to address any social problem “socialism”, without any nuance or explanation, the right may have taken the sting out of the word. Also, they may have confused the distinction.

Riley continues:

If the Democratic Party once felt the need to distinguish itself from socialism, that no longer seems to be the case. When Mr. Sanders entered Congress in 1991, “Democrats initially balked at accepting a Socialist in their caucus,” according to the “Almanac of American Politics.”

He goes on to say, “in this age of Obama, the senator is just another liberal with a statist agenda.” This is routine rhetoric that we’ve come to expect over the past few years. Sanders calls himself a socialist, Sanders often votes with the Democrats, Obama is a Democrat, therefore Obama is a Socialist. Riley may mean this to reflect badly on Obama, but the ultimate effect is to make Socialism less scary and normalize it for the U.S. public.

As an intellectual, I’m not really thrilled with this confusion. I believe that ideas matter, although it may not always be evident in the heat of a political fight when people will say anything to win. Blurring the lines between Liberalism and Socialism, between Leftist Radicalism and Liberalism, makes it difficult to discuss what we believe. Still, I’m not afraid of Socialists and if the slogans of the right have made a self-described socialist electable, I must say I find that very funny.

Oh – the only poll I could find that pitted Sanders against Trump has Sanders winning.

I just wrote an email to someone:

Don’t know why I’m writing you. I’m guessing that you haven’t written back because you are working odd hours and, it would appear, trying to quit smoking, not because of my politics. Still, I’m feeling really funny. I just altered a post, not because I changed my mind, because if I write what I really believe I think I will have no friends. What does this mean? Am I a coward? Am I a hypocrite? Should I pretend to believe things I don’t, things I’ve read about, even obsessed about, so that I will still have friends?

Then I deleted the email.

I’m not having an emotional crisis. I’m not feeling suicidal or even depressed. I’m not even having an intellectual crisis because I, in fact, do know what I believe. I am feeling very alienated because I seem to be the only person on earth that believes this. I look around, and on the left opinion seems to be unanimous. I tried reading things on the right, and although they disagree with the left on this issue I disagree with them even more. And I’m writing vaguely because I’m even afraid to say what the subject is.

Some months ago, I was inclined to agree with the left. Then I read a few things and I began to have doubts. In the meantime, the subject picked up ground on the left and more people have become swept up with it. I read even more. I became more and more convinced that the left was wrong in a great many particulars. Positions have hardened. “You’re with us or against us.” I think it’s an extreme position, but the on the left it is mainstream. Any attempt at nuance is taken as being “against.”

I’m not neutral. It’s not like, say, FGM, which I think is a really bad idea and I’m incredibly glad that I have a clitoris, never experienced the pain of having it, or any other part of my vulva, cut and can still enjoy sex. However, when women from cultures in which they do that say they don’t want to be saved I think, “Cool. I didn’t really care that much.”

This, on the other hand, is something that cuts much closer to home, something about which I have very strong feelings and regarding which it is very hard to look away or bury my head in the sand. Yet, I can’t talk about it.

Are there any moderate liberals remaining out there, or has everyone become a radical?

Several times in the past I have linked to Maryam Namazie’s blog. She is, among other things, a spokesperson for the organization Fitnah, a women’s liberation organization with a particular interest in the liberation of women living in Islamic societies. From their website:

Fitnah is a protest movement demanding freedom, equality, and secularism and calling for an end to misogynist cultural, religious and moral laws and customs, compulsory veiling, sex apartheid, sex trafficking, and violence against women.

In their regular publication, Unveiled, this month they have an interview with Kenan Malik which I found particularly interesting. Elsewhere, I have written about how multiculturalism presented a challenge to the leftist political views with which I had grown up. The Salman Rushdie affair seemed to have played the role of catalyst in Malik’s political transformation that female genital mutilation played in my own.

In the interview, Malik addresses a subject that has been of much concern to me, that of freedom of speech. I have been disturbed by the call for censorship under the guise of limiting hate speech. As I see it, censorship is inevitably the prerogative of those who have power. Malik’s reasoning mirrors my own. From the interview:

Any kind of social change or social progress necessarily means offending some deeply held sensibilities. ‘You can’t say that!’ is all too often the response of those in power to having their power challenged.  To accept that certain things cannot be said is to accept that certain forms of power cannot be challenged.

…. The importance of the principle of free speech is precisely that it provides a permanent challenge to the idea that some questions are beyond contention, and hence acts as a permanent challenge to authority. This is why free speech is essential not simply to the practice of democracy, but also to the aspirations of those groups who may have been failed by the formal democratic processes; to those whose voices may have been silenced by racism, for instance.  The real value of free speech, in other words, is not to those who possess power, but to those who want to challenge them.  And the real value of censorship is to those who do not wish their authority to be challenged.

Malik’s most recent book, From Fatwah to Jihad, discusses the rise of a fundamentalist form of Islam that has arisen in UK against the backdrop of multicultural policies. I haven’t yet read this book, but it looks very interesting, especially in light of my interest in how multiculturalism, due to the fact that it considers the group to which an individual belongs as being more important than the individual himself, is inherently illiberal and dehumanizing.

Apparently, The New Republic has teamed up with a British publication and they are now sharing material. The first article I’ve read is beyond being inauspicious. I take for granted that publications, especially those that deal with politics, will regularly publish things with which I disagree. However, the shoddiness of this article is beyond compare. It’s “The New Intolerance” by Cristina Odone, and it’s so awful that I don’t know where to start, except by picking up the phone and cancelling my subscription.

She starts with a dramatic statement.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was trying to discuss traditional marriage—and the state was trying to stop me.”

In my mind, I see her standing there, at a cocktail party. Little black dress, a glass of plonk in hand. A giggly, glowing, younger female friend sidles up to her. The friend holds out her left hand. There’s great big diamond ring on her finger. “Guess what!” she giggles. She seems so adorable and so happy.

Cristina puts a supportive arm around her friend. “Congratulations!” she cries.

No sooner have the words left her mouth than the door to the party is kicked in. Blam! The assembled party goers gasp in fear. “It’s Judge Dredd.”

I’m eager to read the rest of the story, how she was hauled before the courts and sentenced to hard labor for expressing her support. Um. Not quite.

Quickly, right after that first line that makes your heart race, she changes the subject. She says that she supports “traditional marriage.” She doesn’t bother to define that. Let’s call this undefined contract “Odone marriage” so I can get rid of the quotes. However, whatever Odone marriage may be, she is disingenuous when she says that her concern is to support it. There are many ways she could support it, but giving talks trying to prevent marriages between individuals of the same sex strikes me as an odd way to go about it. What she is doing is not supporting marriages of which she personally approves, but she is trying to prevent marriages of which she doesn’t personally approve. Not the same thing.

It turns out that “the state” wasn’t trying to stop her at all. Organizations who do not believe that the only marriages in the world should be Odone marriages did not care to host a conference. So, the first sentence is a lie. The state wasn’t trying to stop her, at all. Several organizations, which were not the state, did not want to be complicit in her efforts to stop marriages she doesn’t like. They would not let Christian Concern use their premises for a conference.

The title, “One Man. One Woman. Making the Case for Marriage for the Good of Society”, could hardly have sounded more sober.

That it sounds sober to Odone hardly makes it so. It puts me in mind of a post about my own marriage I recently wrote.

Before we go further, we should take a look at the group who organized the conference, Christian Concern. They are not, as the name might indicate, a support group for Christians suffering from anxiety. Christian Concern was founded by evangelical activist and young earth creationist Andrea Minichiello Williams.

Christian Concern states, that as a result of society turning its back on Jesus the growth of ideas such as “secular liberal humanism, moral relativism and sexual licence” has led to “widespread family breakdown, immorality and social disintegration.” The organisation views the “fruit” of ideas that are alternative to Christianity as “rotten” and seeks to remedy the situation by engaging politically with a broad range of issues, including: abortion, adoption and fostering, bioethics, marriage, education, employment, end of life, equality, family, free speech, Islamism, religious freedom, the sex trade, social issues and issues relating to sexual orientation.

Ironically, considering that they currently think not being aided in the theocratic agenda is “intolerance,” Christian Concern opposed the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006, which created “an offence in England and Wales of inciting hatred against a person on the grounds of their religion.”

The conference was finally held in “the basement of a hotel.” That makes it sound rather clandestine, but it also makes me curious to know their budget. I’ve only ever been to London once, but I distinctly recall that hotels in central London are quite expensive.

The Christian Concern had difficulty finding a venue to host its conference which did finally come off. Odone now feels that her “rights as a taxpayer, citizen and Christian had been trampled.” This melodramatic retelling of a rather mundane matter of a right-wing extremist group trying to find a venue for a conference, which they eventually found, is not her point. It’s only the introduction, a heavy-handed attempt to arouse the reader’s sympathy and emotions and to portray the writer as a persecuted, marginalized minority.

Well, I guess the wealthy and coddled are a minority, although I don’t know if I would call them persecuted an marginalized. She was born in Nairobi to a World Bank official. Her father was Italian and her mother was Swedish. She attended a private school in the United States and a boarding school in England. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be so marginalized. Poor dear.

Then, the article veers off the well-trod path of poor propaganda into the wilds if incoherence.

Only 50 years ago, liberals supported “alternative culture”; they manned the barricades in protest against the establishment position on war, race and feminism. Today, liberals abhor any alternative to their credo. No one should offer an opinion that runs against the grain on issues that liberals consider “set in stone”, such as sexuality or the sanctity of life.

Does she understand the word “liberal?” The New Republic is very much a liberal magazine, so I’m surprised that they would publish, or republish, an article with such a confused view of the term. Liberals did not support “alternative culture” out of some weird impulse to just be in opposition to the prevailing society.

Just a quick aside. Odone doesn’t mean the sanctity my life. I know what “sanctity of life” really means. It means I should have had a fist land in my face on a weekly basis because I was knocked up by an abusive man. She’s so concerned about great injustice of the “state” preventing her from speaking, but she probably wouldn’t flinch at the notion that my own life should have been a living hell because she thinks a three-week old embryo has more sanctity than an adult woman. An embryo that would have almost certainly turned into a child growing up in extreme poverty with two emotionally messed up parents both of whom had bad tempers. Forcing two people into a future they didn’t want is exactly where her support of one man/ one woman marriage ends.

She seems to miss the fact that liberalism a word that covers several strands of political thought with a similar origin in ideas about individual liberty. I am not familiar enough with liberalism in the UK to be able to speak about it intelligently, so I’ll limit myself to liberalism in the US, since her accusations would apply equally well to liberals here. The belief in the importance of individual liberty leads liberals to be highly supportive of civil rights. Odone may see the equality liberals seek as “superficial”, but I do not. The fight for equal rights is one of the core values for most liberals, although we may often disagree on the best means to that end.

In the early years of the western liberal state, self-governance was generally reserved for only men, usually men of a certain race and class, although the specifics of that varied by location. As the liberal project has progressed over the last two or three centuries, the categories of individuals included in this group of competent adults capable of self-governance has expanded to include women, people of color and individuals not owning property.

During the course of the twentieth century, many liberals have focused on the liberty of previously marginalized groups beyond the bare bones of the franchise. The ability of women to control their reproduction, and therefore control their lives, is one. The freedom for consenting adults to enter into a marriage contract is another.

I believe that religious liberty is mean­ingless if religious subcultures do not have the right to practise and preach according to their beliefs. These views – for example, on abortion, adoption, divorce, marriage, promiscuity and euthanasia – may be unfashionable. They certainly will strike many liberal-minded outsiders as harsh, impractical, outmoded, and irrelevant.

By this point in time, I believe we all know that the people who make this complaint are not speaking the truth. They do not want simply the right to speak. The want the right to force others to behave according to their own ideas. There is no sanctity of life, only domination over others. They do not want to bear a child they didn’t want to conceive themselves. They want others to do so. They don’t want to be put up for adoption themselves. They want others to be so. They don’t want to remain in a loveless marriage themselves. They want others to do so.

Yes, you are harsh. The life to which you would have seen me condemned would have been a living nightmare. You are not merely outmoded. You are cruel, callous, sadistic and sick.

So why force the closure of a Catholic adoption agency that for almost 150 years has placed some of society’s most vulnerable children with loving parents?

As someone who was adopted, I object to being treated as a pawn in this manner. Don’t care for me as a fertilized egg if you won’t care for me as an adult. Catholics oppose contraception.

Finally, Odone gets to her real point. She sides with the people who would like to overturn the Enlightenment. Will somebody please tell me, what kind of horrid ultra-conservative rag is The New Statesman?

Churches were every­where – one for every 200 inhabitants in the High Middle Ages – and oversaw every stage of life: “hatch, match and despatch”.

Yes, we all know how famously wonderful the Middle Ages were. I mean, how the fuck do I even argue about a point so absurd? How the fuck does The New Republic publish this tripe? Can I have a job? Really.

The Founding Fathers crossed an ocean to be free to practise their faith.

This is simply wrong. Generally, the Founding Fathers are considered to be the people who signed the Declaration of Independence and worked on the Constitution. The people who “crossed an ocean” were other people. Many came here in the pursuit of profit. Many poor people came here as indentured servants. Those who came over here for their faith tried to found a theocracy. We generally don’t consider them Founding Fathers. I have roots that go back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony on one side and to Jamestown on another. Don’t try to tell me about my history.

Church attendance has slumped to less than 30 per cent. Only in two Greek Orthodox countries, Cyprus and Greece, does the overwhelming majority of the population attend services regularly (98 per cent and 96 per cent respectively). Europeans may walk in the shadow of church spires but biblical literacy is so unusual today that a recent survey found that, of 900 representative respondents, 60 per cent couldn’t name anything about the parable of the Good Samaritan, while only 5 per cent of people could name all the Ten Commandments.

So? There are lots of things Europeans no longer do. Bull Baiting. Pogroms. Witch Burnings. Debtor’s Prisons. I bet you don’t thatch roofs as much as you used to or heat your homes with peat fires.

She then goes onto extol the attitudes towards religion in the U.S. There is so much that is a problem with those two short paragraphs I’d need to write another post the length of this already long one in order to talk about it. Please pardon me if I skip it.

Next up (Sorry for the rough segue, but she changes focus yet again.):

Can the decline in the social and intellectual standing of faith be checked, or even reversed? Yes. Ironically, believers can learn from those who have come to see themselves as their biggest enemy: gays.

Think of how successful gay rights activists have been, in both Europe and America. Twenty-five years ago, Britain’s first “gay pride” march took place in London. It was a muted affair, remembers the campaigner Ivan Massow, which “struggled to fill half of Kennington Park and a disco tent”.

Perhaps, but the first gay pride parade in New York followed Stonewall, which was anything but a muted affair. Gay pride started with people fighting back for their lives. If Odone doesn’t know anything about the history of the contemporary gay rights movement, maybe she shouldn’t use it as a model.

She then goes on in a way that I can only imaging that she’s hallucinating.

Practising Christians, Jews and Muslims should also step forward into the limelight, dismantling prejudices that they must be suspect, lonely, losers. Believers should present themselves as ordinary people, men and women who worry about the price of the weekly shop and the size of the monthly mortgage. They should not appear to be religious zealots or gay-bashers or rabid pro-lifers. They should reassure critics that religious people are not a race apart – but just happen to cherish a set of ideals that sometimes places them at odds with the rest.

Notice the use of the word “appear.” They may be gay-bashers or rabid pro-lifers, but they should lie and dissemble. They should hide their true goals.

Let outsiders see the faithful as a vulnerable group persecuted by right-on and politically correct fanatics who don’t believe in free speech. Let them see believers pushed to the margins of society, in need of protection to survive. Banned, misrepresented, excluded – and all because of their religion? Even the most hardbitten secularist and the most intolerant liberal should be offended by the kind of censorship people of faith are facing today. If believers can awaken a sense of justice in those around them, they may have taken a first important step in reclaiming the west as an area where God is welcome.

Notice the clumsy attempt at propaganda. People who believe that freedom of conscience is best protected by a secular state are turned into “hardbitten secularists.” I would be greatly offended by that kind of censorship if it was happening. When someone says, “I am a Christian,” and the police come along and bash his head with a billy club, when the churches are raided and Christian must meet in secret, when they are in need of a Christian “out” campaign, then I will see them as persecuted. Until then, this hand wringing is laughable.

Communities will no longer be able to rely on the selfless devotion of evangelists and missionaries who happily shoulder the burden of looking after the unwanted, the aged, the poor.

Oooh, I’m shaking in my boots. The amount that religious organizations contribute to aid for the poor is a drop in the bucket compared to government programs. I’m far more worried by conservative who want to dismantle government programs than by religious people taking their ball and going home. Besides that, I’m not even sure what she’s talking about. Does she mean if religious people don’t get their way in the political sphere they won’t help out the hungry. Not very, ahem, Christian, I’d say. Or does she mean if the individuals who would have been nominally Christian in a world in which people are forced to profess belief whether they believe or not would give significantly more to a church than they would to charities without a religious affiliation? (Don’t forget, most money given to religious organizations, although technically charitable donations, do not go to aid to the poor.)

Religion has long been synonymous with authority. This was no bad thing when, for millennia, traditional hierarchies were respected for ensuring that the few at the top protected, organised, and even ensured the livelihood of, the many at the bottom.

Is Downtown Abbey rotting your brains over there?

Bloodthirsty authoritarians from Hitler to Pol Pot drove a tank through this vision: they turned authority into authoritarianism.

Right. Because until Hitler everything was hunky-dory. Everyone knew their place. The rich took care of the poor and the poor… aw… fuck it. This is just too crazy. Anyway, I’m just getting too worn out now.

(Note to self: Nothing this crazy woman can do can hurt you. She’s totally impotent. This has no real effect on your life. It’s okay. Deep breath. Calm down. She can’t make you go to her church. She can’t make you believe in her god. She can’t even stop you from having sex. Oh, right. Marriage. I forgot. That’s what this whole smoke screen was about in the first place. She can hurt people. She can impose her views on them.)

The whole thing is just hideous. Just hideous. I’m really upset that a magazine I support has chosen to lend their weight to this garbage.

Earlier in this post I put in a link to a video about the Stonewall Uprising. If you don’t know much about the incident, I really recommend watching the video: The American Experience: The Stonewall Uprising. It’s inspiring.

Two benches facing one another inside an outdoor structure made of rough hewn logs.Researchers now think that polyandry, a woman marrying more than one man, was a more common social system than previously thought. From The Atlantic: When Taking Multiple Husbands Makes Sense.

For people who are interested in the more theoretical ideas having to do with liberalism, there’s an interesting debate going on in South Africa right now about whether or not the concept of ubuntu is compatible with liberalism. Why Ubuntu Is a Liberal Value: @zilevandamme; What’s Behind Liberalism’s Unseemly Attack on Ubuntu: The Modular Man ; Liberalism, the Democratic Alliance and Identity: Synapses

In the New York Review of Books, Russell Baker discusses how the resurgence of wildlife in North America has been caused by our changing attitudes towards nature and has, in return, changed our attitudes.

I have decided to request to join the Atheist Blogroll. I probably won’t be posting on that particular subject especially often, but I think it’s a good idea to identify myself as an atheist just to get across the notion that we exist, we’re pretty diverse and we’re interested in a whole lot of things. It’s important to let people know that people who don’t believe in the existence of any gods consist of more than just a handful of authors and active members of the atheist blogosphere. Since I’m not a former Christian, I won’t be spending much, if any, time criticizing that religion. Although, I haven’t been put on their blogroll yet, I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be, so I went ahead and posted the badge in the right hand column. The link will take you to a list of blogs maintained by atheists. Since you don’t have to write about atheism, you just have to be an atheist, I think it’s a good idea for people who post about a variety of things to think about joining.

Again, if anyone wants to share links of interesting things they’ve come across recently, please feel free to post them in the comments.