FMA Dead But Not Forgotten

It’s not very surprising, but there are already at least 44 senators who have “come out” against an anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment. Only 34 would have been required to block it.

That’s good.

But, just as the amendment would have been a symbolic misuse of the Constitution to exclude homosexuals from a part of social life (even if it wouldn’t ban civil unions), so is Bush’s support of such an amendment a symbolic misuse of his office (even if it doesn’t pass).

Deductive Reasoning

I was reminded by some bad logic on TV today of this joke:

Neighbor 1: Hi, there, new neighbor, it sure is a mighty nice day to be moving.
New Neighbor: Yes, it is, and people around here seem extremely friendly.
Neighbor 1: So what is it you do for a living?
New Neighbor: I am a professor at the University; I teach deductive reasoning.
Neighbor 1: Deductive reasoning– what is that?
New Neighbor: Let me give you an example. I see you have a dog house out back. By
that I deduce that you have a dog.
Neighbor 1: That is right.
New Neighbor: The fact that you have a dog leads me to deduce that you have a
family.
Neighbor 1: Right again.
New Neighbor: Since you have a family I deduce that you have a wife.
Neighbor 1: Correct!
New Neighbor: And since you have a wife, I can deduce that you are heterosexual.
Neighbor 1: Yup.
New Neighbor: That is deductive reasoning.
Neighbor 1: Cool.

Later that same day…

Neighbor 1: Hey, I was talking to that new guy who moved in next door.
Neighbor 2: Is he a nice guy?
Neighbor 1: Yes, and he has an interesting job.
Neighbor 2: Oh, what does he do?
Neighbor 1: He’s a professor of deductive reasoning at the University.
Neighbor 2: Deductive reasoning– what is that?
Neighbor 1: Let me give you an example. Do you have a dog house?
Neighbor 2: No.
Neighbor 1: Fag!

Christianity

I’ve been thinking about Andrew Sullivan’s description of the Gibson movie. It reminded me of something that has always bothered me about Christianity.

First of all, let me say that I’m not trying to offend anybody. I’m no Christian scholar; these are just some lay impressions that could well be mistaken.

It seems to me that the film is all about Jesus’ suffering (real or imagined). Many people have said that it helped them get deeply in touch with what their faith is all about. This strikes me as disturbing.

Christianity seems to glorify pain and suffering, and condemn human nature as evil. This seems like a screwed up basis for morality to me. I think we should value joy and success, not pain and suffering. We should recognize that people can be, and have been, vicious and cruel; but that’s the product of poor choices, not a fundamentally sinful nature. Many people make better choices independently of religious teaching. Yes we have villains, but we also have heroes. Lots of them. And we should be proud of our achievements, not ashamed of them; and particularly not ashamed of pride itself.

Christianity seems to teach people to identify with those who tormented Jesus. “We’re like that.” “We did that to him.” “He died for us, because we’re so unworthy.”

Well, I’m not like that. I wouldn’t have done that. And not because somebody is promising me eternal life. It’s because it makes sense to me to treat people better than that. I want to enjoy my life, and the fruits of positive relationships with other creative people. I don’t want to torment them. Hurting them doesn’t help me. I see value in them, and I don’t want to destroy value. Maybe
Christianity has more appeal to people who don’t think this way.

One other thing that bothers me is this obsession with how terribly Jesus suffered. Not only don’t I understand why that should affect how one relates to his teachings, but it doesn’t even seem coherent to me. If he suffered terribly, it must have been because he chose to. Surely somebody who can change water into wine could ease his own suffering, right? Even without miracles, didn’t he have a sufficiently exceptional mind to mitigate the effects of the torture? If he couldn’t, wouldn’t that make him less worthy of worship rather than more?

UPDATE: Here’s somebody with a similar problem with this story.

Sarcasm

I like sarcasm.

It can be funny, insightful, and powerful. But, often, if you’re trying to make a point, it should be followed-up by positive claims so that people can judge whether you have a reasonable alternative to what’s being criticized.

I thought about this when reading Lileks’ Bleat today. It’s clear that he doesn’t like Howard Stern’s style of entertainment and that he thinks there should be higher standards. But, his snarky tone makes it difficult to understand how he thinks his (and others’) taste preferences should be supported.

I listen to Howard Stern occasionally. I admit that much of his show is unappealing to me. But, many people enjoy more of his stuff than I do and I don’t think they should be denied access to it because it doesn’t meet somebody’s standard, or because children might hear it. And, once in a while, he does say some interesting things that most other broadcasters would be afraid to say. But, even if I didn’t think that this was so, the fact that that many people choose to listen to it is evidence enough for me that it offers something valuable, and that legal restrictions against it would be bad.

Getting back to sarcasm. I think that it’s a bit cowardly to limit your criticism to making a strawman argument look silly. If you want your opinion taken seriously by thoughtful people, you should be willing to make positive claims that can be considered, and criticized.