Thursday, November 24, 2016

Critical Thinking and the Religious Right

"Critical thinking" is the objective analysis and evaluation of a statement or issue in order to form a judgment of its verity.

Franklin Graham is telling his flock that God showed up on Election Day and that is why Donald Trump won.  God wanted him to be His man, His "Cyrus", to lead this country.  (See Isaiah 45.5)  His flock believes that and praises God with joyful song... and vitriolic condemnation of those godless, atheistic progressives who voted against him.  Objective analysis?  That's liberal egghead talk meant to divert one's attention from the real issue of God making America a great Christian nation again.  Judgment of its verity?  Well, Franklin Graham said it and he has the mind and heart of God.  And if you doubt it, well, you're a doubting Thomas and unless you fall on your knees and intone "My Lord and my God!" you will languish in unbelief.  That's in John 20.28.

But the next verse is where we have the Biblical condemnation of thinking critically: John 20.29: "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

Believing without seeing is a blessing.  Believing it when you see it, that's critical thinking.  So if you're a critical thinker, you're at best a backslidden Christian and at worst a godless atheist.  So critical thinking has no place in Christianity.

But wait!  There is a long, long history of critically thinking Christian apologists dating from Paul himself, through Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to C S Lewis, Alister McGrath, and others still alive today.  Are these guys "godless atheists"?  Apologetics is a systematic set of reasoned arguments in justification of a religious doctrine or a scientific theory.  Read the Epistles of St Paul, St Augustine's City of God, St Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica, C S Lewis's Mere Christianity, and/or Alister McGrath's trilogy A Scientific Theology.  Critical thinking itself is really not godless or even progressive.  But listening to evangelicals today, you'd think it is.

There is a video of Gina Rodriguez's interview with President Obama that was taped November 3, 2016 in which she says, "Many of the millennials, dreamers, undocumented, citizens -- I call them "citizens" because they contribute to this country -- are fearful of voting.  So if I vote, will Immigration know where I live?  Will they come for my family and deport us?"

Obama answers, "Not true.  And the reason is, first of all, when you vote, you are a citizen yourself.  And there is not a situation where the voting rolls are somehow transferred over and people start investigating..."

It was clumsily worded, but critical thinking will let you know that the President of the United States would not on television encourage "illegals" to vote.  What he was saying was, first of all, if you are voting, then that is proof you are a citizen, and citizens will not be deported.  Then he went on to say that your voting record is totally confidential and no one is going to give all the addresses of all the Latina and Latino citizens to Immigration to come and hunt down your possibly undocumented friends and family.

Critical thinking will let you realize that if you're undocumented, you can't even register to vote, let alone actually vote.  You need proof of citizenship to register.  You need to be registered to vote.

On the other hand, if you want to smear President Obama and rile up your conservative Christian followers, you'll skip the critical thinking part, hope your audience doesn't know how to use it, and claim that the President made this shocking statement that illegals can safely vote without being followed up on and deported.

Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.  Blessed are they who just take Franklin Graham's word for it and don't analyze or evaluate.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Body Autonomy

Body autonomy.  The idea that the inhabitor of a body has the final say over what uses are made of their body.  You can't even touch someone who doesn't want you to touch them.  If you do, you can be charged with assault.

So what if my kidneys fail and I need a kidney transplant to live.  But the only compatible donors refuse to donate a kidney to me.  I cannot make them.  I have no right to something that is part of their body.  But I'm going to die if I don't get their kidney.

The Pro-Life stance would be they must give me a kidney so that I may live.  But the Pro-Life stance would lose in a court of law.

So an unborn child will die if the mother doesn't continue to provide life support until the fetus is viable.  But, according to the principle of body autonomy, no one can tell that mother that she has to continue to provide life support.

The Pro-Life stance is that she must provide life support until the child is born.  But today, the Pro-Life stance lost in the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

North Carolina's New "Bathroom Law"

North Carolina's new "Bathroom Law", passed in a hurry, blocks cities and local governments from passing antidiscrimination measures that could protect gay and transgender people.  In late February, Charlotte NC passed an ordinance expanding state antidiscrimination laws so that LGBT people would also be granted protection in places of "public accommodation".  The new state law repealed that ordinance, saying no city or local government could amend or expand state law.  It also bans cities and local governments from increasing the minimum wage beyond the state minimum wage.

Now, most conservatives are upset with the federal sex-same marriage law because they consider it "overreach" by higher government.  They say the definition of marriage should be left to state and local governments.  Yet, they don't see North Carolina's state law as overreaching and nullifying city and local government laws.  This seems like hypocrisy at first, until you realize that state Republicans' purpose was not to reserve their own political power, but rather just to hurt LGBT people. 
The new law solves no problem.  There was never a problem with transgender people using the bathroom designed for the sex they identify as.  No one has been raped in a women's rest room by a transgender person who identifies as a woman.  No one's little girl ever shared a bathroom with a "grown adult man" who would like to molest a little girl.
On the other hand, plenty of little boys have been molested in men's bathrooms by "grown adult men" who like to molest little boys.  The law does nothing to stop that.  But that's beside the point.
I think the bottom line is this.  Most North Carolina Republicans think of themselves as Christians, and therefore think that homosexuality is a sin.  And that's fine.  They are perfectly free to think that.  But not all Christians think that.  And for that matter, more than a quarter of Americans are not even Christians.  I'm one of those followers of Jesus that thinks if we're going to ignore the Levitical laws against eating shrimp (Leviticus 11.9-12) or wearing a shirt made of a cotton-polyester blend (Leviticus 19.19), then we can ignore the Levitical law that says a man lying with a man is an abomination (Leviticus 18.22).
The Christians who believe homosexuality is a sin are believing the Bible, but they have no right to punish people who don't believe that way.  In fact, the same Bible that these Christians believe to be the inerrant Word of God says, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Romans 12.19).  Romans is one of the books that really makes a big point about homosexuality being worthy of death.  But humans need to keep their hands off each other because "vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord".

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Fantasy Politics

Walk with me, if you will for a moment, into an imaginary world.  The play world of Fantasy Politics.  The year is 2008.  George W Bush is our lame duck President, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suddenly and unexpectedly walks on.  This gives the conservatives a rare opportunity to ensure a staunchly conservative Supreme Court, a guarantee of right-wing victory in every court decision despite Justice Kennedy's stubbornly moderate swing vote.  Now even if he were to vote with Souter, Stevens, and Breyer, the conservatives would still win.
Now in real life, President Bush appointed 325 federal judges during his 8 years as President, including 2 Supreme Court justices.  Those were John G Roberts and Samuel Alito.  Of the 28 judges appointed in his last year in office, an election year, only one was approved by less than a unanimous vote.  Even though Democrats hated Dubya, they still did their Constitutional duty and, offering "advice and consent", approved his appointees.  The one judge that didn't get unanimously approved was Helene White.  The vote was 63-32 to appoint her to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.  It was not along party lines, but due to purported anomalies in her nomination process.  Bush had made a deal with Democrats to get some of his other nominations approved.
Democrats held a small majority in the Senate in 2008 -- 51 to 49.  Since Supreme Court Justices only need a majority vote to be confirmed, the Democrats, if they voted together, could withhold confirmation of any of Dubya's nominees.  But they did not.  John Roberts was confirmed by a vote of 78-22 and Samuel Alito was confirmed by a vote of 58-42.  In Alito's case, at least 9 Democrats voted to confirm him.  Clearly, Democrats, for the most part, can't be accused of being radical, or of "making Bush a one-term President" or of blocking anything and everything he put forth.  Lots of things got done during Dubya's last year in office.
Okay, back to Fantasy Politics. 
How likely is it that Democrats, that liberals, or the liberal media would claim RBG was murdered by Bush so that he could cement a conservative majority on the Supreme Court?  How likely is it that Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader in 2008, would have announced within hours of her death that President Bush should not nominate anyone, but should let his successor do it.  How likely is it that he would vow to block any nomination by the lame duck President?
If you think any of that is likely, you truly live in a Fantasy World.