Tremendous honesty

I have lately found myself hammering people with certain points. See, it is one of the most common tactics to ignore the points of an argument that are inconvenient, so I have found it expedient to only address counter-arguments as long as I also include my most important issues. Namely, I have been presenting Yes on Oppression people (those who seek to deny rights to people by outlawing same-sex marriage in Maine) with a scenario. Since I keep hammering the point, it comes in a few different forms, but it is to this effect:

A group says public prayer is immoral. They are a majority and have codified their morality into law. They have violated your concept of morality. Do they have this right?

Other forms involve me specifically saying ‘Humanists have deemed public prayer immoral (for whatever reason) and they have a majority. With this majority they outlaw public prayer on a moral basis. Have they stampeded over your rights or not?’

The point is that if the person answers that, yes, the hypothetical humanists have trampled the rights of others, then it isn’t logically tenable to say that morality is the core issue. That is how it has been framed by the humanists, but it is not the important reason why their actions are wrong. They can always maintain that public prayer is immoral. To force everyone else to acquiesce to that position, however, is absurdly wrong. It demonstrates no understanding, or at least no concern, for the rights of individuals.

Well, it’s obvious I set up my scenario as a sort of trap. Obviously I know what the response is going to be, so once I get it I can just connect the dots to same-sex marriage. Right? Nope. Here’s the response I got from one person.

You asked me if I would make you a deal… If I would not impose my morality on you if [sic] you would not impose your morality on me. Right? I think I got it close… well thats [sic] a bad deal for me. I want to impose my morality on you. I want to impose my morality on Maine and America. Im [sic] thinking world domination. Why? Because the reality of sola scriptura (the truth of scripture) burns in my heart. I don’t take it as a good idea but the entire purpose of my being. And Christ’s last command to me through scripture was “Go fourth into all the world and disciple nations”… disciple aka teach them what I taught you. Christianity and its morals was never meant to be a “laid back for whoever wants to believe it” religion, but was to go to every ear, and invade society and government and culture as we know it.

Now I am not some radical terrorist Christian, I have just been possessed by the truth and I will lay my life down for the cause of that truth. I will lay my life down for the homosexual to come into the saving knowledge of Jesus, to see them saved, healed, and delivered. Because I absolutely love them, because God loves them.

So I know you wont understand why I do what I do, and stand for what I stand for, I cannot not be talked out of my stance, because I have been possessed by the truth of scripture, and its the greatest reality I live in. Not once have I emailed a homosexual and tried to talk them out of their lifestyle. Not once have I asked you to vote differently than you are planning to vote.

I love you man, now leave me alone.

Emphasis mine.

The honesty is, frankly, frightening. This person believes his morality should usurp my freedoms. This sort of talk is more well-suited for the Middle Ages or the Middle East than 21st America. But the most terrifying thing of all is that this view isn’t so uncommon. Sure, quite a few people won’t be so daring as to outright state hostility toward personal liberties like this, but that is what close to 50% of Mainers (hopefully less) will do November 3rd.

My favorite part, however, is the last paragraph.

Not once have I emailed a homosexual and tried to talk them out of their lifestyle. Not once have I asked you to vote differently than you are planning to vote.

This is far from the point. Trying to convince someone of something through words is far different from what the Yes on 1 people want to do. “Please don’t have sex with other men, sir” is not the same as saying “You are not allowed to do X.” What’s more, if this person had his way, “X” would not only include marriage, but homosexual sex (and probably anything outside the missionary position), not to mention whatever other harmless action his god tells him to hate.

~~~

Update: I came across this written on another person’s page by the same person.

regardless of your belief everyone has an opportunity to vote for what they believe to be right, thank you bill of rights… unless you want to remove that freedom than let the man stand for his convictions.

The Bill of Rights says nothing of what he speaks. In fact, the 9th Amendment destroys his unsubstantial case where it says The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. His right to vote does not mean he should also be allowed to piss all over the rights of people who wish to marry another person of the same sex.

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Rights and why they matter

I have found descriptions of this blog and myself on the Internet where I am labelled a defender of gay rights. That is only superficially true. I am no less a defender of gay rights than I am a defender of straight rights. It is the same fight.

That said, here is a piece I’ve written specifically for those likely to vote Yes on 1 on the upcoming ballot in Maine.

~~~

I want you to really consider the concept of rights. They are far more important than any personal beliefs one may hold insofar as government is concerned. You violate one individual’s rights and you’ve violated the rights of all people.

James Madison espoused a separation of church and state in much the same manner as Thomas Jefferson. He is recorded as expressing these views in these Congressional minutes,

Mr. Madison said, he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience.

And we can go one step further into Madison’s mind with more recordings from the same session,

Mr. Madison thought, if the word national was inserted before religion, it would satisfy the minds of honorable gentlemen. He believed that the people feared one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform. He thought if the word national was introduced, it would point the amendment directly to the object it was intended to prevent.

It’s hard to see how a reasonable person could misinterpret this. Madison obviously rejected the notion that religious beliefs should be codified into law, thus establishing them as the moral directives of other individuals. That is, religious beliefs should not be made law because that essentially makes government an enforcer of religion – and that is far from its role. Good government doesn’t dictate morality.

Moving beyond Madison, a discussion of the concept of rights needs to happen. What is a right? A succinct definition is hard to formulate, but I think a good idea can be created. Something which does not infringe upon another’s rights should be a right. This alone isn’t much of a definition because it assumes the existence of rights, the very thing we want to define. But within a certain context it does give a good approximation of what a right should be; we already have established rights (free speech, religious beliefs, protest, etc), so assuming we agree on many of those, we can ask ourselves, does X infringe upon these? If the answer is “no”, then there’s a good chance that X is a right.

But more is needed. I think it is eminently appropriate to include safety and security as one defining piece of rights. Does X cause bodily harm to me or others? Does it cause me undue financial hardships? Does it put me at risk of life or health? If the answer is “no”, we again have another good indicator that X is a right.

I hope it hasn’t escaped anyone that the previous two paragraphs are speaking of natural rights. These are rights which extend to all peoples, not merely Americans or Europeans or Russians or any one particular group. They are effectually based upon the idea that rights are to be based upon humanity and the human condition (which may extend to other animals, but I digress).

So why are rights so important? I think it should be obvious. If a society (or the world as a whole) goes about imposing restrictions upon minorities or the meek, then the statement that some people are not equal to others is being made. This seems like nothing less than a superiority complex manifested.

Yet restrictions go beyond this statement of superiority. They implicitly say any group can be superior to another. The reasoning behind the superiority isn’t important (whether from religious doctrine or philosophical notions). What matters is that (usually unknowingly) there are people who do not accept the idea that rights are universal. They can’t. They believe that the very concept of rights can be ignored if it runs counter to some other line of thought. Does Religion X say public prayer is immoral? If so and if Religion X’s followers are a majority, they can stampede the rights of those who wish to publicly pray. This can only be because the teachings of Religion X are being claimed to be superior to the rights of others. And this can only be true if rights are not universal and if we agree that morality trumps individual rights. I, for one, disagree.

The Traveler and the Farmer

Traveler: God has been mighty good to your fields, Mr. Farmer.

Farmer: You should have seen how he treated them when I wasn’t around.

Why do atheists care about religion?

Making the pleas

I’ve been pleading with people who I suspect or know will vote “Yes” on 1, the Maine ballot measure that would codify one group’s idea of morality over another, thus damaging the very concept of rights (and, incidentally, keeping it illegal for same-sex partners to marry). Here is one message I made specifically for someone, but it can apply to anyone leading toward oppression.

Even though I’m unlikely to change your mind if you’ve already decided, I still want you to know that no one should impose their morality upon another. That is what “Yes on 1” means. It doesn’t simply mean you are against homosexual sex or relationships. It means you believe it is your place to tell people how they should behave. Look deep within yourself and ask if your rights are being infringed by same-sex marriage. Ask yourself if you will hurt financially or physically. Ask yourself if your religious beliefs can no longer be practiced. Ask yourself if this harms your liberty or life. Does it prevent your personal pursuit of happiness?

As November nears I find myself getting more and more passionate and more and more focused on this issue. I give almost no thought any more to whether or not love matters. I care little about whether or not homosexual sex is moral or immoral (or amoral). What concerns me – and far more deeply than anyone knows – is that this is fundamentally about rights. Infringe upon the rights of one group and you no longer have those rights for any groups; they become privileges. They place one group above another based upon majority rule, not based upon equality and fairness. Rights must be rights for all.