Monday, October 09, 2006

Nipping theocrats in the bud

We're told by our religious conservative friends that all this talk of "theocracy, theocracy, theocracy!" is nothing more than leftist, secularist hysteria, and that conservative Christians have no agenda to impose their religious beliefs on others through the political process. I largely agree that there is more sound than substance in much of the alarmism, and that the accusation of theocracy is really there to mask opposition to policy issues which, while they may be motivated by religious ideals on the part of conservatives, are not in and of themselves religious policies.

However, just because many people are crying wolf doesn't mean that there aren't wolf pups hiding in the underbrush. This looks like a good example of something that religious freedom advocates (which should translate to "all Americans") should not dismiss as hysteria. The Texas Republican party is making a candidate for a judicial seat's alleged atheism an issue in the campaign:
Religion has entered the political fray in a race for an appellate court bench in east Texas.

The Austin-based Republican Party of Texas played the religion card in a Sept. 21 online newsletter. As alleged in the newsletter, Texarkana solo E. Ben Franks, Democratic nominee for a seat on the 6th Court of Appeals, "is reported to be a professed atheist" and apparently believes the Bible is a "collection of myths.'"

But Franks says he has never professed to be an atheist and is not a member of any atheist organization. Franks says no one with the Republican Party ever asked him whether he professes to be an atheist. However, he says he's not surprised by the allegation.

"I'm not surprised at anything anybody says in politics anymore," Franks says.

Anthony Champagne, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, says he has watched judicial races in Texas and other parts of the country for 25 years and has never before seen a judicial candidate accused of being an atheist.

"I've never seen the religious issue pushed that hard," Champagne says.

Champagne says the last time that religion was raised in a significant political race in Texas was the 1960 presidential election, in which the fact that then-Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy was a Catholic became an issue.

"It was a very detrimental issue against Kennedy until he spoke in Houston to the Baptist ministry," Champagne says.

In his address to Southern Baptist leaders, Kennedy spoke out against religious intolerance and told the audience, "I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish," The New York Times reported on Sept. 13, 1960.

The Republican Party notes in its recent newsletter that Article 16, §1(a) of the Texas Constitution prescribes the oath of office for all elected or appointed officials. The officeholder swears to faithfully execute the duties of the office and, to the best of his or her ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state "so help me God."

"I can take the oath," Franks says.

However, the state Republican Party questions whether Franks will uphold the law, stating in the newsletter: "Should Franks be elected in November, one would have to conclude that he will hold true to his out of touch 'atheist' belief system and ignore the laws and Constitution of Texas."


What part of "no religious test" do these people not understand? It is the Republican Party of Texas that is incapable of upholding the laws and the Constitution, namely of the United States.

The thing about theocracy prevention is that you can never sound the "all clear" message.

If the Republicans do end up losing one or both houses of Congress this fall, one good result might be that some of these Constitutionally-ignorant Republican party Neanderthals get the message that "its the religious freedom, stupid!"

55 Comments:

Blogger Peter Burnet said...

And what is the Daily Duck's proposal for dimishing this growing tension between the religious and non-religious in order to promote unity and effective government in these difficult times?

October 10, 2006 5:48 AM  
Blogger David said...

I see. So in this circumstance the fascist oppressors are the people trying to use political speech to inform the voters of a fact that would materially affect the voters' willingness to elect a particular candidate and the forces of freedom are the people trying to use the awful majesty of the law to shut them up.

You're quite right. The enemy has always been Oceana.

October 10, 2006 2:19 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

When did prejudices become facts? Are you telling me it is a fact that athiests are incapable of upholding the laws and the constitution?

Tell me how the position of the Texas Republican party is any different than what the Democrats in the Senate did to John Roberts during his confirmation hearing? Remember that fiasco? They said that he was unable to uphold the Constitution because of his strong Catholic faith. Weren't they just informing the members of the Senate of a fact that would materially affect their willingness to vote for him?

October 10, 2006 2:53 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Peter,
I don't see that I'm under any obligation to diminish the tension. I really couldn't care if these TExas dipwads like me or any other atheist, but I will call them on their open bigotry.

What are you doing to diminish the tension with the seculars up in Canada? Having them over for tea?

October 10, 2006 2:56 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Sort of, actually.

Your country, your choice.

October 10, 2006 4:01 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Yes, Peter, I can see you pulling out the acoustic guitar in your living room as you lead a motley group of High Church Anglicans, Wiccans and CCLA activists in a rousing chorus of "Kumbaya" or "Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore".

We Americans are a little more feisty about religious freedom.

October 10, 2006 4:20 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Funny how you secularists start off by singing odes to tolerance, open-mindedess and the Enlightenment and end up spewing bile.

October 10, 2006 4:55 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

In Texas, it's probably a sign of creeping secularism that someone suspected of atheism might live through the election.

It's true that O'Hair was a Texan, but not being a Baptist used to be a tar-and-feathers offense.

October 10, 2006 5:01 PM  
Blogger David said...

Geez, Duck, are we having a contest for how many red herrings we can fit into one comment?

That the candidate is an atheist is a fact, one that will materially effect the prejudiced electorate.

The voters, exercising their franchise, are not like Senators voting on a judicial nominee, but of course the Democrats are anti-Catholic bigots. That's what the Republicans wanted to highlight for the voters.

October 10, 2006 5:09 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Peter,

For seculars spewing bile you offer a poem as evidence? Can't you at least dig up a real quote by a real intolerant atheist like Richard Dawkins?

Is it spewing bile to call someone who thinks you are incapable of upholding the law solely based on your religious affiliation a bigot?

David,

The candidate's atheism is not a fact, it is an accusation. The candidate denied he is an atheist.

Did you read the article? The Texas Republican party isn't just pointing out a fact (a falsehood in this case), it is making a prejudicial judgment of a man based solely on his suspected religious affiliation. Which is not just a slur against him, but against all nonbelievers.

Speaking of red herrings, what made you introduce the f-word (fascist)? I didn't use the term. Of course they have every right to run their elections on any bigoted position they wish. Did I suggest that the Federales come to shut them down? No. I'm just pointing out that they are a gang of ignorant bigots.

So tell me exactly how the Texas Republican party's position is in any meaningful way different than the Senate Democrat's position on John Roberts?

October 10, 2006 5:46 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Ronald Reagan used to say, every chance he got, that atheists could not be moral.

That's one reason I thought he was scum, but I don't recall any religionists ever calling him to book for it.

Texas campaigns are notoriously rough and tumble. I don't think this example is any worse than average.

For their own sake, I hope the Republicans have checked their guy and certified that he's clean as a hound's tooth.

David and Peter seem to think that this tactic is creditable, or at least not discreditable. OK, but now they will have to explain every time some elected official who is religious (all of them, in Texas) gets caught with his pants down.

That'll keep 'em busy.

October 10, 2006 6:15 PM  
Blogger David said...

Harry: They are sinners, as are we all -- except, of course, the atheists.

Duck: Have you read your post? Franks carefully doesn't deny being an atheist. In any event, if the accusation is false, then that's completely uninteresting. It's just politicians lying to us. The interesting question is if it is true.

Of course, if you don't actually intend that we do anything about the Texas Republican's violation of the constitution and law in order to nip theocracy in the bud, then, well, then I miss the whole point.

October 11, 2006 7:21 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

David,
You nip it in the bud by not letting it become socially acceptable to make such sweeping accusations about the fitness of people to serve in public office based solely on their religious affiliation. You nip it in the bud by standing up for yourself when others slander you. What I intend that people do about it is denounce it. Everyone's religious freedom depends on assuring the religious freedom of everyone else. I denounce religious bigotry when it is directed by secular people against religious, as I have in the case of the Senate Democrats or the statements of Richard Dawkins. I guess, in my naiivete, that I expect religious people who value religious freedom to return the favor.

So what is your position on the Texas Republican's statement? Is it bigotry or not? If not, why not?

And what was that Oceana reference about? I'm totally clueless on that.

October 11, 2006 8:22 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

David, that is not their position. Their position is that atheists are, merely by virtue of their opinions about deity, more sinful than any sort of theist.

Philosophicall, that is a stance impossible to defend.

Empirically, the evidence goes the other way, if there's any trend at all.

October 11, 2006 9:45 AM  
Blogger David said...

Duck: I can't defend every bit of what the Texas Republicans said. The stuff about the oath is just wrong, and I'd guess intentionally misleading.

But I can't believe that you really mean to suggest that voters have no right to know what a candidate believes. Don't you think that having rationally considered reality, thrown off the constraints of ancient superstition and derived your own morality from first principles is an important facet of your life?

Harry: If that's what they said, they were wrong. Atheists are completely capable of mimicking proper religion behavior without having to actually believe.

October 11, 2006 5:41 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Over at Volokh Conspiracy, lawbloggers are all over this, and seem to have succumbed to 'Skokie syndrome,' which is the perversion of 'I may disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.'

They, and you, are defending the 'right' of the voters to know the religion of a candidate.

In a society that actually valued privacy, this would not be taken for granted. A man's religion would be a private matter, the same as whether he loves his wife or married her for money.

If a candidate wanted to proclaim his religion -- usual in Texas -- there's no stopping him. But when somebody else proclaims his religion (setting aside whether somebody else knows), then the important consideration moves from 'is the candidate an X?' to 'what was the motive for Y to say the candidate is an X?'

Just as, when the nazis wanted to march through Skokie, it was legitimate to question whether they were just exercising their sacred right to free speech or attempting to be offensive. They had a right to be offensive, but the key point was not that they were in the right, but that they were offensive.

Most people eventually got that.

One poster at Volokh asked, what if the candidate for judge were a Muslim who believed that Sharia law should be supreme.

But that is not parallel. Not all Muslim jurisconsults in the west DO think Sharia law should be supreme, so even in that case, the rationale for exposing the belief falls short without completing a second step.

With atheists, there is no evidence that any atheist wants to change our legal system to some other system.

As I said at Volokh, you have to sort of admire, in a twisted way, a political party that will make itself look both ridiculous and disgusting in order to elect an obscure judge to an obscure judgeship.

October 11, 2006 8:36 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

Religionists are often capable of mimicking moral behavior, despite their beliefs.

Boy, that was good for a thrill. Can't say it advanced the conversation much, though.

Regardless, you and Peter seem to have ignored

Should Franks be elected in November, one would have to conclude that he will hold true to his out of touch 'atheist' belief system and ignore the laws and Constitution of Texas.

This begs the question: What precisely is it about "atheist beliefs" that renders Mr. Franks incapable paying attention to Texas laws or its Constitution?

As opposed to say, someone who believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible (and would therefore be obligated to murder all, say, Texan Hindus), or any Muslim.

October 11, 2006 8:37 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Further, IIRC, the Nazis made some claims about how certain religious beliefs made their holders a threat to society.

Conceptually, how is that ay different, or any more objectionable, than what is going on here?

October 11, 2006 8:41 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

David:

But I can't believe that you really mean to suggest that voters have no right to know what a candidate believes.

I can't believe you mean to suggest they do.

They have a right to know what he intends to do in the job. They absolutely, 100% do not have a right to know about his private views on the Great Gig in the Sky.

That's entirely his business.

October 12, 2006 1:03 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

David:

I thought these atheists came out of the closet years ago.

Guys, I'd love to stay and chat, but today is Thursday. We slaughter Hindus on Thursday. But, I'll tell you, one of our members is running for Parliament and if any one of those darn Hindus dares ask him what he believes, I'm turning him over to you.

October 12, 2006 3:24 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

October 12, 2006 4:04 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

We slaughter Hindus on Thursday.

Refresh my memory please. What does the Bible say to do to those who worship the wrong gods?

October 12, 2006 7:36 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Are you asking me what I believe we're supposed to do to them, Skipper? None of your bloody business.

Honestly, the cheek of some people.

October 12, 2006 8:16 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

But I can't believe that you really mean to suggest that voters have no right to know what a candidate believes.

Is this one of those rights, like the right to have an abortion, that the Founders felt was so obvious as to not think it necessary to explicitly enumerate in the Constitution?

The voters don't have a right to know. They have a right to ask, and they have a right to draw whatever conclusion that they will from whatever answer that the candidate gives them in return. They have a right to vote for a candidate based on whatever criteria is important to them, whether it be religion, or race, or the color of someone's eyes, or their Zodiac sign. Voters have a right to their own biases, prejudices and irrational beliefs where their own vote is concerned. That is not in dispute here.

The Texas Republicans are not just providing information about his beliefs, they are passing judgments on those beliefs. That is the issue here.

October 12, 2006 8:20 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

Are you asking me what I believe we're supposed to do to them, Skipper? None of your bloody business.

No, Peter, I very clearly asked you what the Bible directs you to do.

The point being that there is, within the Bible or the Q'uran, plenty of reasons to state that Christians or Muslims are compelled to ignore some very important parts of Texas law or its Constitution.

However, I don't then draw the conclusion that Christians or Muslims will go on to do so, because the vast majority are ignorant of, or choose to ignore, those directions.

In contrast, there is absolutely nothing about being an atheist that could lead one to conclude that atheists as a class will ignore the law or the Constitution.

In other words, the accusation is sheer, baseless, religious bigotry spewed without the tiniest notion of irony.

October 12, 2006 10:34 AM  
Blogger David said...

Boy, someone who didn't love you guys like me and Peter do might wonder why you're being so sensitive.

Anyway, I'm not saying this sort of unfortunate speech has to be allowed because of our commitment to free speech. I'm saying this is good valuable political speech.

The water here is a muddied because this is a judicial election. Judicial candidates are prohibited from telling the voters what they most want to know: how the judge will rule on cases the come before him -- a prohibition that I also think is constitutionally troubling if it involves anything other than promising the parties to private lawsuits or the defendant in a criminal trial a certain result. In practice, this means that voters who care about issues (as opposed to cases) likely to come before the court can't know who to vote for to further the issues they care about.

I think that, while far from perfect, atheism can rationally be treated by the voters as an unsatisfying proxy for how a judge would rule if faced with questions of school prayer, the town creche, prayer before Friday night high school football, abortion, gay marriage, etc. This is all part of the left reaping what it has sown by trying to put these issues beyond politics. Voters care about these issues passionately, can't elect politicians to work for their preferred outcome and have to read the tea leaves for judicial candidates.

So I think that the argument for pointing out that a candidate is an atheist is particularly strong in judicial elections.

On some of the other issues:

Would you also think it out of bounds to point out that a candidate (for whatever office) is a Communist? If someone is so sheltered/stupid/irrational as to be able to look at the world and conclude that Communism is a good idea for a principle around which to organize society, shouldn't that be pointed out? (Before y'all claim that the two situations are not parallel, I'd like to point out that much of our success is stemming the spread of Communism came from the fact that it is atheistic, rather than because of the bizarro world economics, which a disturbingly large number of people found alluring.)

Skipper: I trust that you actually can tell the difference between genocidal mania and not electing someone judge. If someone suggested killing all the atheists, I would remonstrate with him urgently.

There is no general commandment for the religious to go out and kill unbelievers. Jews are basically told to ignore them and Christians are told to convert them.

Duck: Actually, this right is what the First Amendment is actually about.

Brit: Of course he can refuse to answer. The right to speak also confers the right not to speak. But there's no right not to suffer the consequences.

October 12, 2006 12:54 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

Skipper: I trust that you actually can tell the difference between genocidal mania and not electing someone judge. If someone suggested killing all the atheists, I would remonstrate with him urgently.

I trust you can tell the difference between cause and effect. The claims that the Nazis made about Jews were sheer religious bigotry, unsupported by any material fact.

While the effects are entirely different, that particular cause is conceptually no different than one would have to conclude that he will hold true to his out of touch 'atheist' belief system and ignore the laws and Constitution of Texas.

Okay, let's presume Mr. Franks is in fact an atheist. What evidence is there in Mr. Franks' record, or for atheists in general, that suggests he will ignore the laws and Constitution of Texas?

Presuming the answer is None, then the claim made about Mr. Franks due to his atheism is sheer religious bigotry unsupported by any material fact.

That sounds perilously close to bearing false witness. Isn't there a command about that?

There is no general commandment for the religious to go out and kill unbelievers. Jews are basically told to ignore them and Christians are told to convert them.

Deuteronomy, Chapter 13: should "your brother … or your son or daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your closest friend" urge you to worship a rival God, then "Show him no pity or compassion … Let your hand be the first against him to put him to death."

October 12, 2006 2:13 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

I think that, while far from perfect, atheism can rationally be treated by the voters as an unsatisfying proxy for how a judge would rule if faced with questions of school prayer, the town creche, prayer before Friday night high school football, abortion, gay marriage, etc.

And why can't John Robert's Catholicism be treated as such a proxy? You would have to agree that the Democrats concernts about it is also valuable political speech. There is no athiest "canon law" that atheists have to obey, as opposed to Catholics. If we're going to play this way, then it makes much more sense to suspect Catholics of faith conflicts with their duty to uphold the Constitution than it does to suspect atheists.

October 12, 2006 2:27 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'Voters care about these issues passionately, can't elect politicians to work for their preferred outcome . . .'

Huh, when did that happen?

Besides, I thought judges were employed to construe the law, not to make it.

I suspect (though I cannot cite even one particular example) that many Catholic judges, who have been or would be asked to, say, rule on a petition based on Roe v. Wade would issue a finding based on the Supco's version of our law, not their personal religious belief about what the law ought to have been.

October 12, 2006 2:48 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Sensitive, David? I think prissy is the word. I can't tell if our friends here are discussing the rough and tumble of electoral politics or Miss Manners' Guide to Polite Dinner Party Conversation.

Do you honestly expect David and I to believe that, with abortion a live issue, you would have no interest in knowing whether your congressional canditate is a fervent Catholic or not and would be offended that anyone would ask him? Remember that ultimate secular sin--hypocrisy.

Of course it is a mark of maturity and political health for people to understand a candidate is not a slave to his religion or creed, but it's a long way from there to asserting some vague "no-go" area on the electorate. If someone wants my vote I can ask him whatever I want and if he declines to answer I can vote or not vote accordingly. I may be insightful or a fool about it all, but that goes with the turf.

Besides, what is all this sniffing like Victorian spinsters with the vapours all about? You fellows should take a page from Hillaire Belloc's reported answer to the heckler who accused him of being a "bloody papist" at one of his rallies. Belloc wipped out his rosary and said:

"Do you see these beads, Sir? I say them every morning when I rise, every midday and every evening before I retire. God willing, I intend to do so for many years. If that offends you Sir, then all I can say is may God spare me the ignominy of representing you in Parliament!"

October 12, 2006 3:14 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Peter,
First you're all upset that I use strong language to condemn religious bigotry in politics, and I should just try to make nicey-nice with the mean Texas Republicans. Now you call us sissies because we can't take the rough and tumble of politics. Does your head hurt when you change viewpoints so quickly?

I can take the rough and tumble, that's why I called them a gang of ignorant bigots. I can give rough and tumble too.

And why is it that you never actuall y pronounce on the theme of the thread anymore, all you do is comment on the way we comment. You're so... meta!

I'll remember the Belloc quote for the next time the mean secularists make you feel bad about the state of your pwescious culture.

October 12, 2006 5:22 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

It seems that Belloc objected to having someone else label him, which is the issue in Texas.

There is a more general issue, which is privacy. Despite what some judges imagined they saw in the Constitution, our organic law is silent about privacy. The right to privacy is part of the informal law, which is, sometimes, no less strong for that.

'A man's home is his castle' is informal law and covers a lot more than the Fourth Amendment does.

Some informal law is bad. The right of an aggrieved Southern gentleman to kill his spouse if he catches her in flagrante was often recognized by juries, if not by statutes.

The 'he needed killin' ' defense is, or was, another.

An excess of lawyers and a general and lamentable trend toward public censoriousness have weakened informal law, but some of it is worth saving. The wall between a man's public behavior and what quaint Victorian gentlemen called 'acting in a merely private capacity' was worth saving.

Religion was on the private side of that wall. My grandfather suggested that the louder a man announced his religion, the less reliance you should put on it. I believe Jesus said something similar.

Over at Volokh Conspiracy, poster Houston Lawyer observes that labeling a candidate with religion is not a test under Article VI.

However, there are some things that it is legal to do that a thoughtful man would choose not to do. Making an issue of religion in a secular electoral race is one of them.

If not out of considerations of politics, then of religion. Should the believer win and later turn out to have clay feet -- all too likely, given that the believer has not denounced the intemperates in his party -- then it wounds the principal of religion, does it not?

That's not a concern of mine, but you'd think it would be of theirs.

October 12, 2006 5:30 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Before y'all claim that the two situations are not parallel, I'd like to point out that much of our success is stemming the spread of Communism came from the fact that it is atheistic

It's not just atheists who can be tied to communism.

October 12, 2006 6:12 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Duck:

As an occasional fan of strong drink, I can assure you it wasn't your use of strong language that offended me. On the contrary, it was your wimpy "Lampchop" defence of the poor oppressed atheist candidate that put me off my biscuits.

You remember Lampchop, don't you? It's nor fair, it's not fair, it's not fair! It's not F-A-I-R fair..."

October 12, 2006 6:40 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Oh, you're not fooling me! Not after your "spewing bile" complaint. Just pick a pose and stick with it!

Besides, I made David break out the f-word. I'm sure he never used that language with our beloved Lamb-Chop. I don't think he's old enough to remember her, though.

October 12, 2006 6:59 PM  
Blogger David said...

Which "F" word? And of course I remember Lambchop. She was delicious.

Skipper: The Nazis would be well within their rights to publicize the fact that a candidate for the Reichstag was Jewish. They were perfectly correct: at that point being a Jew was incompatible with being a German. For that matter, being a Christian was incompatable with being a German. Unfortunately, being an atheist was perfectly compatible with being a German and a Nazi. (Not that the two are identical, just that the sole principle of atheism ("there is no god") is perfectly compatible with being a Nazi.)

You necessarily truncate the passage from Deutronomy:

Deu 13:6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which [is] as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;

Deu 13:7 [Namely], of the gods of the people which [are] round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the [one] end of the earth even unto the [other] end of the earth;

Deu 13:8 Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:

Deu 13:9 But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

Deu 13:10 And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

Note that the Commandment is only to kill apostates, not unbelievers generally, and then only if the apostate is evangelizing Jews. That is a far cry from what you claim, a commandment to kill all unbelievers everywhere.

Duck: Of course Justice Roberts Catholicism was relevent. How could it not be? The only difference is that Catholics are a substantial voting block. Republicans were salivating over the prospect that the Democrats would be stupid enough to argue publicly what they argue privately: that observent Catholics are not fit to serve on the Supreme Court. In fact, I think it would have been dereliction of the President and the Congress' duty to the country not to make Justice Roberts explicitly acknowledge that he can differentiate between his religious beliefs and his secular duty to interpret the Constitution; not that I doubt it in any event, but it is good to have it nailed home.

Harry: I'm not sure where that leaves us. That privacy, in the legal sense, is a modern invention I agree with entirely. That there are social conventions that are enforced more ruthlessly than any law I certainly agree with. That some of those conventions are good and some are bad I also agree with.

October 13, 2006 6:17 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

They were perfectly correct: at that point being a Jew was incompatible with being a German ... Unfortunately, being an atheist was perfectly compatible with being a German and a Nazi.

Correction, David. However, being anything other than an Aryan was incompatible with being a Nazi. Oh, BTW, many Nazis were Catholics.

Note that the Commandment is only to kill apostates, not unbelievers generally, and then only if the apostate is evangelizing Jews. That is a far cry from what you claim, a commandment to kill all unbelievers everywhere.

You are correct, I failed to understand the full import of that passage.

However that leaves my point above untouched: there is, within the Bible or the Q'uran, plenty of reasons to state that Christians or Muslims are compelled to ignore some very important parts of Texas law or its Constitution.

Just to be clear, I don't have any problem with someone accusing Mr. Franks of being an atheist. However, one would have to conclude that he will hold true to his out of touch 'atheist' belief system and ignore the laws and Constitution of Texas is completely out of bounds.

And less justifiable on the facts then if I was to accuse someone of being a Christian, or a Jew, and therefore will hold true to his belief system and proceed to murder evangelizing apostates.

October 13, 2006 6:33 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

This F-word.
I see. So in this circumstance the fascist oppressors are the people trying to use political speech to inform the voters of a fact that would materially affect the voters' willingness to elect a particular candidate and the forces of freedom are the people trying to use the awful majesty of the law to shut them up.

October 13, 2006 8:27 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'Note that the Commandment is only to kill apostates'

Oh, well, that's all right, then.

++++

I want to withdraw my remark about Catholic judges and Roe v. Wade and replace it with Catholic judges and divorce, since Justice Roberts has been dragged into it.

Is the question whether the Texas Republicans were acting legally or acting reprehensibly?

If the Republicans were drooling with anticipation that the Democrats were going to make themselves repellant in re: Roberts, and then they turn around and do the same, what does that say?

October 13, 2006 10:18 AM  
Blogger David said...

It says that in American politics there is a difference between insulting Catholics and insulting atheists.

I have problems with certain of the things the Texas Republicans said. However, they were clearly acting legally.

As a general proposition, I think that it is proper to point out that a candidate is an atheist and, in certain circumstances, an affirmative duty.

October 13, 2006 11:09 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

I think that it is proper to point out that a candidate is an atheist and, in certain circumstances, an affirmative duty.

I agree, it is proper just as it would be to pointing out a candidate is a Muslim, Scientologist, Evangelical Christian, etc.

How is it an affirmative duty?

Just as I would view it as reprehensible to assert a Mormon, because of some contents of the Book of Mormon, will ignore the law, it is also reprehensible to level the same charge, with far less reason, at an atheist.

Which is precisely what makes it religious bigotry.

October 13, 2006 12:39 PM  
Blogger David said...

Skipper: If you know that it would make a material difference to the voters and they are being mislead about it.

I assume what they mean about not following the Texas constitution is that an atheist would be more likely to rule for abortion and gay marriage and against prayer in school.

October 13, 2006 8:41 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

BTW, Duckians, I remind you there are only seventy more shopping days until your winter solstice celebrations.

October 14, 2006 4:28 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

David,

Since you are for full disclosure where facts about a candidate that can make a material difference to a voter's decision are concerned, then how do you feel about a candidate's personal life? You are undoubtedly pleased with the modern political practice of exposing opponents sexual infidelities. Am I right?

October 14, 2006 7:13 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Christmas is a winter solstice celebration. It was merely coopted by Christians to inject some Christian significance into a pagan festival (or was it to inject some pagan appeal into the worship of Christ?) You Christians take credit for all the good ideas.

October 14, 2006 7:22 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Yeah, we know...Christmas, conscience, morality, free will, equality of women, science, etc. We are the masters of legerdemain.

Good thing you straight and narrow types are here to guide us right back to our pagan roots.

October 14, 2006 8:05 AM  
Blogger David said...

Duck: You don't think that the fact that a person cheats on his wife, the most important commitment in his life, allows telling insight into his character?

Look at the people you know who are serial adulterers and tell me how comfortable you are in relying upon their honor, judgment and discretion when dealing with unexpected future crises.

October 14, 2006 9:16 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

I didn't say that it doesn't impact, I'm just trying to clarify your position. So it seems you are consistent on this.

Where do we draw the line, then, on the boundary of private and public? As you replied to Harry above, we're all just sinful people, so it follows that noone is really suited for high office. How far into each candidate's life do we dig in order to expose all of his inadequacies?

October 14, 2006 9:44 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'an atheist would be more likely to rule for abortion and gay marriage and against prayer in school.'

Or not, as the case might be. It strikes me than an atheist judge would be more likely to consider the legal and/or moral/ethical argument for and against and decide on merits than any
Christian. After all, the atheist is not beholden to any dead thinkers.

October 14, 2006 10:29 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Well, there you go Harry. You obviously feel that while it is irrational and outrageous to attribute pre-dispositions to atheists, it is quite reasonable with Christians.

October 14, 2006 11:56 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

well, there's stare decesis, and then there are the folks at Calvary Chapel who look to the bible for a verse to tell them what to do in any occasion.

(Yesterday's question was: I cannot find anything in the bible to tell me about whether to date while a divorce is in process.

Answer from the preacher: There's not a lot in the bible about divorce but we know from fundamental ethical principles that you should go back to your husband.)

An atheist might consider an argument he found in the bible to be worthwhile, but he does not have to defer to it whether it is worthwhile or not. A Christian is not so free.

Or not so Christian.

As some anonymous guy on the Internet put it in a different religious context: The only good Muslim is a bad Muslim.

Same for Christian judges.

October 14, 2006 8:59 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Well, sure. That famous secular open-mindedness is why the Duckians evince such divergent views on social issues. I mean, it's just impossible to predict where Skipper will stand on any issue touching religion or morality, isn't it?

October 15, 2006 3:29 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

He's a grown man and presumably does not change his mind as often as a 13-year-old girl.

His positions are poor predictors of my opinions, however, as we disagree on 2 of the 3 topics you selected.

October 15, 2006 12:31 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

I assume what they mean about not following the Texas constitution is that an atheist would be more likely to rule for abortion and gay marriage and against prayer in school.

I assume what they mean about hold true to his out of touch 'atheist' belief system and ignore the laws and Constitution of Texas. is precisely what they say.

Unfortunately, they have no evidence to go upon. This isn't about deciding how far into one's personal life to intrude, but rather how averse one might be to lying.


If there is evidence a candidate is a serial philanderer, then by all means that becomes part of the campaign.

But to assert that because one is an Evangelical Christian, and is therefore a wife beater, is just a flat out lie.

Just so here.

There is no evidence at all for the claim, and plenty of evidence that a religionist is compelled to ignore the law and the Constitution.

Making it a twofer: an ironic lie.

October 15, 2006 2:31 PM  
Blogger Franco said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

October 23, 2006 8:56 PM  

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