Repost: Non-acceptance and intolerance

I am reposting a something I wrote from a couple of years ago because it seems that people – and by that I mean stupid conservatives – don’t seem to get the simple distinction between non-acceptance and intolerance. What makes this especially interesting is that most of these people are so-called libertarians, so one would think they would get it: there is a difference between not liking something and preventing someone from doing or believing something one does not like. But then, libertarianism is just a fancy word for the economically greedy nowadays.

Here is the post.

Time and again I find myself coming across people who think they’re making some grand point when they call me (or those who share my views) intolerant. It is utterly evident that these people have no working definition of “intolerance”. They are completely unable to make even the simplest of distinctions (which fits with why they tend to be conservative).

The most common instance of this has to do with same-sex marriage. It’s a definitional fact that those who oppose same-sex marriage are bigots. They deny that marriage is a right for all and base their conclusions on a lack of acceptance for homosexuality. This lack of acceptance, though wholly ignorant and pathetic, is legally and morally acceptable on some level because it does not infringe on the rights of others. However, the conclusions based on that lack of acceptance are morally reprehensible and (more relevantly to government) legally unsound. They are non-acceptance turned intolerance. And intolerance is the cornerstone of bigotry.

With that in mind, it should be obvious that those in favor of same-sex marriage are not intolerant, even if they think homosexuality is wrong. The time when it is appropriate to describe someone as intolerant is also the time when it is appropriate to use the word “bigot”, such as with anti-same-sex marriage people. They have infringed upon a person’s rights.

It can’t be helped that the word “bigot” is perfectly suited for the subject, but there seems to be some confusion with its use. The word itself does not equal intolerance. No one is infringing upon anyone’s rights or freedoms or liberties. No one is forcing Catholics (the bigoted driving force behind Maine’s recent bigotry) to accept anything. More over, no one is forcing anyone to do or believe anything whatsoever which infringes upon anything remotely important (i.e., rights, freedoms, liberties). Calling a bigot a bigot and not letting them get their bigoted way is not intolerance.

The confusion here is mind-boggling. It’s as if people have no ability to distinguish simple concepts. What’s more, when non-acceptance shows up as a lack of respect, people further believe there is intolerance afoot. Puh-lease. If I say, for instance, that the belief that God created the Universe in the middle of the well-established civilization of the Sumerians is, in fact, a very stupid thing to think, I am not being intolerant. Where have I infringed upon anyone’s rights? Where have I stopped someone from having the freedom to hold such a stupid thought? The answer is that I have not done that. It’s simply that I, as well as most educated people, cannot give deference to such silly things. That’s a lack of acceptance, not intolerance.

Stubborn bigotry

The Supreme Court got rid of all bans on interracial marriage in 1967. Unfortunately, it took two states over 30 years each to formally get rid of the statutes they still had on the books. Both states – South Carolina and Alabama – had to go through the process of a vote because of how their constitutions work. In 1998, 38% of South Carolina voters said they did not want to remove the ban. In 2000, 41% of Alabama voters said the same thing. Those numbers were shockingly disgusting. People like to hold on to their bigotry, quite apparently.

Now the same thing is going on in Kansas:

Members of Kansas’ gay community aren’t happy as lawmakers in Topeka, KS, have decided to leave on the books laws banning homosexuality.

Laws banning gay sex have been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the law remains in place in Kansas.

An effort to repeal the law was killed this week, leaving gay and lesbian Kansans outraged…

The House Judiciary Committee was considering a bill to clean up Kansas’ criminal code when a pair of lawmakers, Jan Paul from Hutchinson and Lance Kinzer from Olathe, removed an amendment from the bill that would have repealed the law banning homosexual acts.

Got that? People were considering cleaning up Kansas’ ugly past, but Jan Paul and Lance Kinzer said they prefer to keep things dirty, filthy, and ugly.

“I think their motivation is pretty clear,” said Thomas Witt, chair of Kansas Equality Commission. “They don’t like gay people and they’re going to make sure in the eyes of the law we’re still considered criminals.”

I get angry when…

Via another blog, I have come across an old post by Greta Christina that explains so-called atheist anger. You should read the whole post.

I get angry when believers accuse atheists of being intolerant for saying things like, “I don’t agree with you,” “I think you’re mistaken about that,” “That doesn’t make any sense,” “I think that position is morally indefensible,” and “What evidence do you have to support that?”

Except instead of being called intolerant, the charge is usually “closed-minded” or even “bigoted”, the latter of which is a massive misunderstanding of what bigotry is.

Can’t we have our bigotry? Pleeeaaassse?

Republicans in Iowa want their judges to be purely political figures, making their decisions based upon lay opinions, not law.

Several Republican state lawmakers said Friday that they will try to impeach four Iowa Supreme Court justices who joined in a unanimous 2009 ruling that legalized gay marriage in the state.

The effort, led by newly elected House member Kim Pearson of Des Moines, comes about six weeks after voters removed three other justices from the seven-member court after a campaign that focused on the gay marriage ruling. Those three justices were up for retention elections, in which voters have the option of ousting judges near the end of their terms.

Pearson said the remaining justices should be impeached because they overstepped their authority and violated the state constitution when they overturned a state law that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. She claimed the court ruling infringed on the Legislature’s role in making laws.

This is a political stunt that isn’t going to go anywhere given 1) the fact that Democrats, the party of mostly non-bigots, still control the Iowa state Senate and 2) any amendment needs to pass in two elected Legislatures back-to-back. It won’t happen and these Republicans know it. What they’re doing is preying on the anti-gay fears of voters in a traditional mid-Western state.

There are dozens of states which passed pro-bigot amendments to their constitutions after gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts. Even though it isn’t any fun to give praise to states that are literally ruining lives, they made the smart decision in terms of how to stop two people of the same sex from getting married. The Republicans in Iowa need to suck it up and accept that sometimes women love women and men love men and they deserve the legal protections that can only be had in marriage, and too bad if you didn’t pass your own pro-bigot amendments years ago.Your supreme court made the correct legal and moral decision.

Racism through proxy

Didn’t you know? The racist past of 20th century America wasn’t based upon cultural oppression, poor education and high illiteracy, the loss the economic viability of slavery, religious tolerance and encouragement for slave holding, segregation, rural isolation, or any of those well-known things. Nah. It was based upon eugenics.

Frequently, when seeking a legal precedent for same-sex marriage, advocates will cite the Supreme Court’s rulings against anti-miscegenation laws. Those laws, which existed in a number of states in the early half of the 20th century, prevented people of different races from marrying. The primary Supreme Court ruling in question was Loving v. Virginia which effectively rendered unconstitutional all laws against interracial marriage. Interestingly the specific law it dealt with, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, wasn’t based on ‘racism’ per se, but on scientific ideas of eugenics, an idea derived from Darwin’s evolutionary theory, a product of the scientific and legal consensus in the 20′s and 30′s.

You got that? Racism – that thing that existed long before the abolitionist Darwin came along – wasn’t really the basis for the Racial Integrity Act. Heck, how can a law be racist if people try to justify in other ways? I mean, no one wanted to quiet down all those civil right leaders because they were black; it was really because they were uppity. Or all those women who wanted to vote? Well, gee, let’s be fair. No one was against them voting because they were women; it was really because they were hysterical. Or those Injuns. Golly shucks, it wasn’t because they looked different and dressed funny; it was really because they were so savage.

What the above blogger – to no one’s surprise, I’m sure, Jack Hudson – is willfully missing is that eugenics was never much of a scientific idea as it applied to humans. When it comes to animals, we use it frequently because we put less value on the lives of, say, livestock. That makes it more acceptable to say it is of high value for a cow to produce copious amounts of milk; we haven’t given the cow much value in the first place, so we have no particularly diminished anything. With humans, we tend to start with a high base value. Whether that’s right or wrong is another question, but it’s what people tend to do.

Let’s say we have two sorts of scales. We have a universal scale we use to measure species against each other. It’s a rather detestable, arbitrary scale, but the reality is that we unconsciously use it all the time (it’s okay to torture a moth, but not a bird, usually). Then we have a local scale which measures individuals against each other. Say each scale runs 1 (low) to 10 (high). On the universal scale we almost always rank humans as having the highest value of 10. We may, however, rank other animals very highly. A baboon, for example, may be a 9. This provides for two distinct base lines; we start humans at a high base value than other animals.

This high base value comes with a number of usual stipulations. Treat all humans fairly, all humans deserve freedom, do not kill any human, etc. But once we apply the local scale, we may put restrictions based upon actions and behaviors. Deranged killers do not deserve their freedom. On the universal scale they’re still a 10 by virtue of being human, but they may rank as a 1 on the local scale.

What eugenics did was change the fundamental ranking of humans; it altered our universal scale ranking. No longer were humans 10 simply by being human. They were instead ranked by the same arbitrary measures used to place baboons and leopards below humans in the first place.

But in order to get to the point of ranking humans as non-humans based upon race – and this is a crazy one – racism had to exist. The prejudices and bigotry of civilizations did not spring from any scientific idea: look at the Christian-induced Dark Ages. A severe lack of science did nothing to stop the de-valuing of individual human lives.

In the time during and after Darwin, racism flourished. From this – not evidence, knowledge of genetics, or any known mechanisms of evolution – eugenics arose. Science was the faux veneer abused to make it all look legitimate. Evolution had nothing to do with the matter. But even if it did, this is all an ugly, dishonest, creationist rhetorical tool. Associate evolution with something bad and, well, it just must be wrong! Just ignore the fact that evolution is a scientific fact, void of anthropomorphic values, while eugenics is nothing but a reflection of racist values.

The rest of this ugly, ill conceived post goes on to quote a philosopher of bigotry, Francis J. Beckwith, about same-sex marriage.

“It is clear then that the miscegenation/same-sex analogy does not work. For if the purpose of anti-miscegenation laws was racial purity, such a purpose only makes sense if people of different races have the ability by nature to marry each other. And given the fact that such marriages were a common law liberty, the anti-miscegenation laws presuppose this truth. But opponents of same-sex marriage ground their viewpoint in precisely the opposite belief: people of the same gender do not have the ability by nature to marry each other since gender complementarity is a necessary condition for marriage. Supporters of anti-miscegenation laws believed in their cause precisely because they understood that when male and female are joined in matrimony they may beget racially-mixed progeny, and these children, along with their parents, will participate in civil society and influence its cultural trajectory.

Most of the emphasis is in the original piece itself, but note mine in bold. By nature. You know what that is? It’s an invocation of Natural Law theory. That’s the silly little theory that says the good is what is natural. What it really tries to do is say that human action is bad because it presupposes that humans are somehow not a part of Nature. But it isn’t honest enough to come out and say it. And what’s worse, it is entirely impotent to explain why same-sex marriage is bad but flying across the country in a giant metal tube is good.

Beckwith is saying the analogy drawn between anti-miscegenation laws and anti-gay marriage laws fails because the former was meant to prevent reproduction while the latter has a different basis. This misses the whole point of the analogy. Historically it’s very important to understand the reasons behind discrimination. Practically it matters less: discrimination is discrimination is discrimination. How one wants to rationalize bigotry doesn’t really matter, what with Lady Justice being blind and all.

But if Beckwith really wants to disseminate the reasons for gay discrimination, the reality is that bigots place their opposition to marriage equality in their religious-based sexual immaturity, their ignorance of what it means to be gay, and the one big thought that goes through their minds, “Yucky!”.

A legal netherworld

Same-sex families suffer from the ridiculous patchwork of laws the U.S. has regulating marriage. Most states are allowed to forego the Full Faith and Credit Clause and pretend as though a couple legally married in, say, Iowa is really single. This presents massive problems in family affairs, when tax season comes around, and for basic human decency.

That’s been a problem for Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand of Mobile, Ala. They married in California in September 2008 during the brief period before same-sex marriages were banned there by a ballot measure, Proposition 8.

It was a whirlwind wedding trip, and the couple promptly returned to Alabama — a state unlikely to recognize same-sex unions without some sort of federal mandate that for now seems far away.

Even with a marriage license, Searcy has been unable to complete a second-parent adoption and is not recognized by Alabama as a legal parent of the couple’s son, Khaya, whom McKeand gave birth to in 2006. Yet despite that rebuff, there’s no talk of moving out.

“We’re from the South — this is our home,” Searcy said. “If everybody moves to states that recognize it, how are we going to change?”

Day to day in Mobile, there’s little practical benefit to being married, Searcy said, though she and McKeand enjoy referring to each other as “my wife.”

“One of the biggest things — now that Khaya is talking — he’s constantly going around telling people, ‘My mommies are married,’” Searcy said. “He’s really proud of that. Seeing that through his eyes, that’s pretty special.”

This is the most obvious blight on American history since segregation. Do read the entire article; it offers a lot of insight into the practical side of marriage, effectively rebuffing the claims of bigots that same-sex couples can just get around not being married through other legal arrangements.

Christians jail gay couple

In overwhelmingly Christian Malawi two men have been sent to prison for 14 years for being gay.

The harsh sentence was immediately deplored by human rights groups around the world, but Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa, in reading his judgment, seemed adamant in his ruling. He said he was especially offended that the two lovers celebrated their relationship in public with an engagement party.

“I do not believe Malawi is ready at this point in time to see its sons getting married to other sons, or cohabitating, or conducting engagement ceremonies,” the magistrate said. “Malawi is not ready to smile at her daughters marrying each other. Let posterity judge this judgment.”

Posterity will judge this judgement precisely the same as the majority of today’s generation judges 19th century America. There is no reasonable justification for what Malawian Christians are doing to Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza – hence the use of religion to bring about yet another horrendous event in history.

The nation’s clergy have been united in condemning the gay couple. “God calls homosexuality an abomination, which is greater than a simple sin,” the Rev. Felix Zalimba, pastor of the All for Jesus Church in Blantyre, said Thursday. He said church and state were aligned in agreement: “These two must repent and ask God’s forgiveness. Otherwise, they will surely go to hell.”

Aww, that’s so sweet. I guess Malawian Christians are just looking for out the spiritual well-being of the couple.

Malawi is a welfare state that suffers from massive poverty. That poverty, as demonstrated here, goes far beyond monetary woes. And while the educational system has improved dramatically over the years, it still lags severely; it’s about what one would expect from a so-called third world nation. This presents a dilemma. Donor nations might be tempted to withdraw funds in protest of such fervent bigotry, but that would act to also cause harm to all the people who just need clean water and enough food.

I say do it.

Remove all monetary funds from the nation. Still donate food and practical goods, but force it to come up with its own cash. No nation of any common sense ought to be donating money that’s going to partially go towards funding prison operations in Malawi.

Better yet, let’s not just give direct resources; let’s also direct funding. Promote secular ideals and education. Make the nation more than 80-some percent literate; the power of the Catholic Church was long centered on the low literacy rates around the world – someone who cannot read is powerless to fight the lies of priests. The Malawian Christian tragedy is no different.

What’s really ugly about all this is just how obvious it is that religion is the fuel to this fire. This is an extension of the sort of religious fire that burns in the U.S. against gays. In Maine it took roughly a decade to make it illegal to fire someone for being gay. (‘You want to work that cash register? No, faggot!’) In most other states, it remains legal to fire based upon sexual orientation. People who hate gays want to strip them of their basic rights – and more importantly, their basic humanity. The only impediment in the U.S. to the criminalization of homosexuality is the civil libertarian strengths of the Constitution. (Not to be confused with economic libertarian strengths: no such thing exists.) Without those influencing the very cultural of America, who knows just how far the religious would take their bigotry? Perhaps a high rate of literacy would help hold back criminalization to this extreme, but it’s difficult to say. After all, a number of states have had laws which made sodomy a crime.

Another significant issue in the bigotry of Malawian Christians is the lack of separation of church and state. Without any barrier, any rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, religious dogma holds an undue sway on government. Those who are silly enough to think freedom of religion somehow doesn’t also inherently mean freedom from religion ought to reflect on the jailing of Chimbalanga and Monjeza. Their fate has in large part been dealt to them by religion and its entanglement with government.