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What war on religion?

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William Crawley | 11:19 UK time, Thursday, 8 December 2011

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas whose presidential run has been described by some as "George W Bush -- the Sequel", has used his latest TV attack ad to respond to President Obama's "war on religion". Which leaves some commentators scratching their heads wondering, what war on religion? Others have dismissed the ad as a desperate (and homophobic) attempt by Perry to persuade American evangelicals to get behind his campaign. Watch the ad here.

Here's the text of the TV ad:

"I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian," the Texas governor says. "But you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I'll end Obama's war on religion. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again."

Comments

Page 1 of 7

  • Comment number 1.

    "gays can serve openly in the military" Thats priceless. How dare they get their legs blown off in Afghanistan! He'll put a stop to that. Its bigotted, (what about somebody whos gay, christian, and a patriot. Its stupid, its scraping the barrel. I was going to mention a third point but I've forgotten what it was.

  • Comment number 2.

    Rick Perry simply does not understand separation of church and state nor does he understand that everyone is born equal. The choce people in the US have to make is between people of Rick Perry's views and people whose war on religion is evidenced by

    Hillary Clinton

    or

    Barrack Obama

    The republican/Democrat (in terms of foreign or fiscal policy) is not the distinction here but simply the respect shown to their fellow human beings whether they agree with them or not.

    Rick Perry is basically saying that not allowing his religions views to dominate in politics and public life and to be the basis of laws is an attack on religion. What he actually means it is not allowing his religion special privileges. He can't hack that.

    Like has been said before

    Religious persecution is just how the religious feel when they can't boss us around like they used to.

    The last thing about Perry - he is saying war on religion does he mean all religion or just his?

  • Comment number 3.

    Rick Perry scares the crap out of me.

  • Comment number 4.

    America is going down the pan fast as the religionists are breeding much faster than the normal folk, and have been doing so for a generation or two now. That can only lead to continued deterioration as the likes of Perry become more and more likely to be elected by the growing number of idiots over there. Unfortunately, rather than just ruining their own country, they'll have a negative effect on the rest of the world too.

  • Comment number 5.

    Dave (@ 2) -

    Religious persecution is just how the religious feel when they can't boss us around like they used to.


    Who are "the religious"?

    Please clarify who you are talking about, and why.
  • Comment number 6.

    This is Perry we're talking about after all.

    Perry whose strategy for combating drought in Texas was to pray to God for rain. When that failed he switched to Plan B - pray to God for rain again.

    Meanwhile his officials were purging official documents of all reference to climate change: https://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/14/rick-perry-texas-censorship-environment-report

    Apparently it's unchristian to believe 'anything' those scientists tell us.

    (Some of them are probably gay too.)

  • Comment number 7.

    Dave

    Rick Perry simply does not understand separation of church and state nor does he understand that everyone is born equal...Rick Perry is basically saying that not allowing his religions views to dominate in politics and public life and to be the basis of laws is an attack on religion.

    One might want to argue that religion and the state should be separate, such that religion should have no influence on the state, but that is not the same thing as supporting the separation of church from state, which I suspect Perry would endorse. So a distinction ought to be drawn between religion (something which is not necessarily institutional) and the church (something that is necessarily institutional).

    The issue at stake is the nature of political community and the formation of its laws. What, for instance, is a just law?

    Perry believes that homosexuals should not be allowed to serve in the military. This prohibition, apparently, arises from his Christian faith. Let's suppose that's accurate. Why would such a law be unjust?

    I know of several possible responses but I'd be interested to read your thoughts.

    For the record, if I was an American I'd more than likely vote for Ron Paul. I don't agree with him on everything but I have less disagreements with him, than with the others.

  • Comment number 8.

    Nobody denies Perry's right to hold whatever theological views he holds. The question is whether he's right to introduce those views into a political campaign and whether a politician's particular theological views should become the law. perry is quick to challenge the right of islamists for enshrining their religious views in law; can he consistently do the same?

  • Comment number 9.

    Which is the point I tried to make William, it is not a war on religion but rather that his personal religion is not getting the privilege it had or he thinks it deserves.

  • Comment number 10.

    William

    The question is whether he's right to introduce those views into a political campaign and whether a politician's particular theological views should become the law.

    That's too pointed, why should anyone's views become law?

    perry is quick to challenge the right of islamists for enshrining their religious views in law; can he consistently do the same?

    That depends on how Perry accounts for rights. Are rights political or natural or both? What of the individual? What of the community?

    But insofar as he believes that laws derived from his ' Christian faith' are superior to Islamic law it's hardly inconsistent to argue for the former and against the latter. Moreover, Perry's theological views informing his political opinions is not equivalent to something like Sharia. And to the best of my knowledge Perry is not a Greg Bahnsen Theonomy type.

  • Comment number 11.

    Andrew,

    Perry believes that homosexuals should not be allowed to serve in the military. This prohibition, apparently, arises from his Christian faith. Let's suppose that's accurate. Why would such a law be unjust?


    The reason it would be unjust is because it is based on belief rather than reason.

    Was the law banning interracial couples being married just because it arises from the Christian faith of the lawmakers?

    I would say no it was not just.
  • Comment number 12.

    7,

    ..that is not the same thing as supporting the separation of church from state, which I suspect Perry would endorse.

    Perry 'believes' that homosexuals should not be 'allowed' to serve in the military
    Let's suppose that's accurate.


    Priceless... 'wisdom' built on shoddy supposition.

    You suspect he would 'endorse' separation of church from state- Perry started his presidential campaign with a prayer rally!... hardly a separation of religion & politics.

    I haven't watched his ad attack, but the pic looks like he wants to strangle someone... America's in a dicey situation right now and there's no bigger threat to the US constitution than religious frenzy. The rise of white supremacist Christian fundamentalist groups are politicising their influence through Republican Christian conservatives whose goal is to replace the Constitution with biblical law. The Dominionist movement are having success with the notion America was founded as a Christian nation- and with support from groups like the Tea Party- dreams of collapsing government to reshape it into a Christian, family-values theocracy.

    The problem clearly isn't all Christians but the question remains- where are the Christian voices who are not fanatical extremists. Do speak out against a fundamentalist threat in the same way they speak out about liberal, secular threats? Given the choice of supporting the Constitution or the bible, it would be interesting to note how many devout Christians would opt for the Constitution.

    Michael Weinstein, President; Military Religious Freedom
    “In our country, Christianity – in this case, specifically, Fundamentalist Christianity – has no special legal ‘place of honor’ or favoritism over any other religious faith or lack of faith, whether Wiccanism, or Islam or Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism – Christianity is just another religion that receives Constitutional protection".
    He also states in the Constitution & Bill of Rights just sixteen words is what has separated church and state; religion and law, for over two hundred years. It’s a fragile separation; if America wants to ignore that freedom and surrender it to 'Whatever Comes Next', then as a country, they're free to become the next Iran

    The Perry effect- Unbridled and unregulated corporations and untaxed wealthy while pursuing ruinous defense spending and war; money that went to so-called entitlement programs going to churches instead.

    Teaching of creationism, with implication that we are all morally accountable to the fundamentalist idea of God; teaching of Mosaic law in public schools; banning of teaching about other religions or moral codes.

    Revisionist teaching of history; obsessive repetition of mythical American purity; Religious monopoly on K–12 education funds; Bible “experts” determining what is taught.

    Court-imposed revisionist view of “separation of church and state” that distorts original meaning of First Amendment by claiming the First Amendment applies only to Christians soldiers of Christ.

    Laws against anything that might “tempt” children away from a strict fundamentalist interpretation of behaviour and morality & perfectly indoctrinated Christian Stormtrooper children. Minorities deprived of ethnic pride, equality, and opportunity- Minorities put firmly in their place as second-class citizens.


    However, If I were to vote 'Republican', Ron Paul is a decent choice, nice to agree with you on something :p
  • Comment number 13.

    Here's a link to a useful series called 'Christ and culture'. There's quite a few parts, if you're going to listen to only a couple make sure to include the introductory remarks, as this sets the scene.

    https://reformedforum.org/category/christ-and-culture/page/2/

  • Comment number 14.

    Andrew, no.7;

    "For the record, if I was an American I'd more than likely vote for Ron Paul. I don't agree with him on everything but I have less disagreements with him, than with the others."

    Amen to that.

  • Comment number 15.

    Dave

    The reason it would be unjust is because it is based on belief rather than reason.

    I don't accept the opposition but okay.

    So it's not the law as such but the reasons given for the law?

    Ryan

    Perry 'believes' that homosexuals should not be 'allowed' to serve in the military Let's suppose that's accurate.

    Actually that's not what I said.

    Perry believes that homosexuals should not be allowed to serve in the military. This prohibition, apparently, arises from his Christian faith. Let's suppose that's accurate.


    Perry believes that Christianity warrants a law against homosexuals serving in the military. I find that questionable but let's suppose there is warrant...why would such a law be unjust?

    You suspect he would 'endorse' separation of church from state- Perry started his presidential campaign with a prayer rally!... hardly a separation of religion & politics.

    A separation of religion and politics it is not, but that is not the same thing as separation of church and state.

    However, If I were to vote 'Republican', Ron Paul is a decent choice, nice to agree with you on something :p

    Well it had to happen at some point.
  • Comment number 16.

    ”The question is whether he's right to introduce those views into a political campaign and whether a politician's particular theological views should become the law.”

    Here’s one response (among others which could be made).

    I’m no fan of the church seeking to use the social law to pursue a theological agenda, which is a different thing from Christians, or much anyone, playing a full and positive role in society or arguing for a particular moral or political position (last time I looked we’re all free to do that). What makes a person a Christian is not holding to a particular set of moral or political beliefs (which may or may not be shared with non-Christians, and, yes, that is the word belief); rather what makes a person a Christian is faith in Jesus, which, and this is a critical point, can be imposed on no-one.

    In other words, ‘Christian’ law does not make a Christian nation, or individual Christians; it seems to me then that one of the implications of this is that Christians ought to be able to distinguish between any moral or political cause they may be involved in, and their distinctive calling to proclaim what we call the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Another is to recognise that Christianity is not a cultural religion; rather, Christianity is for all cultures, and is practised in and by all cultures. Christianity does not need to impose a certain style of clothing, or food, or politics, or social custom in order to communicate it’s message; thus there can be, and are, Western Christians, Chinese Christians, Arab Christians, Nigerian Christians and so on.

    Christianity has, of course, moral implications (for all cultures), and when these morals come into conflict with the wider non-Christian society, things get tricky. It seems to me however that the initial point provides Christians with a guide - we cannot legislate for, ‘faith in Jesus’; and where, and if, Christians are ‘attacked’ they always, always have another response: forgiveness, mercy, grace. As I've said many times before, 'cultural Christianity' pails into insignificance in light of these.



    And an aside - a politician's particular theological views would (rightly or wrongly) only become the law if sufficient people voted for the politician and the law passed all the checks and balances, which would make it more than the 'politician's' views.

  • Comment number 17.

    Ron Paul:

    "I don't accept evolution as a theory".

    "The greatest hoax that's been around for hundreds of years is 'global warming'."

    He may have sensible policies on gay issues but it's the same old anti-science, 'appeal to the lowest common denominator' garbage on everything else.

  • Comment number 18.

    16. peterm2 wrote:

    "...what makes a person a Christian is faith in Jesus, which, and this is a critical point, can be imposed on no-one"

    Hi Peter,

    I disagree with you. I'm a 'Christian' and I don't even believe in God, never mind in the continued existence of a 1st century apocalyptic Jewish preacher.

    Holding to a set of moral beliefs is exactly what classifies me as a 'Christian'. It's an entirely cultural concept. But my moral views are roughly based on the basic Christian (actually pre-Christian) concept of 'do as you would be done by'.

    As for the gay military issue: I remind everyone that Jesus is not quoted anywhere as personally condemning homosexuality. However he is quoted several times explicitly condemning divorce, except in very specific circumstances.

    What are Perry's views on divorcees serving in the military, I wonder?

    Somehow I doubt these pious 'Christians' in the US are too worried about that. So much for Jesus.

  • Comment number 19.

    What a strange exchange in the responses here...

    Andrew, No. 7. You say:

    "One might want to argue that religion and the state should be separate, such that religion should have no influence on the state, but that is not the same thing as supporting the separation of church from state, which I suspect Perry would endorse. So a distinction ought to be drawn between religion (something which is not necessarily institutional) and the church (something that is necessarily institutional)."

    You want to draw a line between "religion" and "church" it seems. You see, the First Amendment of the US Constitution refers to "religion", and if I'm not greatly mistaken, churches are always of one or other religion.

    It says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    If there's anything in US law that can be called canonical, it is the Constitution, and thankfully its authors had your concern covered. The distinction which might be made is between "religion" and "religious views".

    Which brings me to William's perplexing response.

    He says: "The question is whether he's right to introduce those views into a political campaign and whether a politician's particular theological views should become the law."

    There is no "question" as to the "rightness" or otherwise of any view a politician may decide to campaign on. There are political campaigns afoot to legalise paedophilia. Perry can campaign on any barminess he wants.

    But the law on this in the US is unequivocal. It is unconstitutional that any law be made which would establish a politician's claimed religious belief or church affiliation. End of story. This, for Andrew, is "too pointed", but I'm afraid it's been settled for a long, long time. The US Constitution is one of the sanest pieces of law ever written (whatever misgivings one may have about the Second Amendment).

    The story here is quite simply that Perry has very cheaply deployed a couple of buzz words (gays, the military) as if these buzz words resonate with a homogeneous (religious) voting bloc. No such bloc exists. It seemed to under Bush but it simply doesn't. In fact these are the only two "issues" where the interests of a very diverse range of conservative interests (almost) always converge (even then for different reasons).

    And thanks to Bush, these buzz words don't work any more, because these disparate groups all thought they were going to get their apple pie and eat it, and none of them did. Each of them is disaffected for their own innumerable reasons.

    It's electioneering. As much as we might like to see Americans as a bit thick, they're generally not. I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering about Perry's apparent forgetting a couple of the five major the planks of his own campaign. There was this other Texas governor recently who kept forgetting important stuff like that who became president for two terms. What was his name again? You know, the "Christian right" loved him for it, the good ol' boy...

  • Comment number 20.

    If you forget what your own name is at a Rep. electoral rally but say you don't trust evolution you endear yourself to the crowd.

    If you can't remember your own policy issues but cast aspersions on a whole group of people because of their sexuality you're carried shoulder high from the building.

    If you can't point to Libya or even Canada on a map, but say 'global warming is a hoax', you're provisionally treated as an ideal GOP presidential candidate.

    "That's my kinda guy. I don't know where Canada is either!"

  • Comment number 21.

    Perry's campaign team is working (like all political campaigners) on the Rumsfeld principles which are actually quite sound, except when applied to people:

    "There are known knowns; there are things we know we know." [Trans: Social conservatives care about defence and the family, and by extension, the Big Gay Assault on the family.]

    "We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know." [Trans: Conservatives agree on lots of things around barbecues, but it depends on the neighbourhood.]

    "But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know." [Trans: What was I talking about again?]

  • Comment number 22.

    newdwr #18

    Hi!

    Yes, we disagree, and we’ve done so before on this point; so perhaps what we might try to do is to come to some agreement about the words we use to label ourselves.

    At the moment both of us are using the label, ‘Christian’, in different ways, yours, ”entirely cultural”, and mine that which includes a moral understanding and extends to ‘faith in (a living) Jesus’.

    The reason I use it in this way is because of the reference in Acts 11, where it speaks of those who went to Antioch to tell “the good news about the Lord Jesus” (Gospel), and where “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch”. In this context, specific things were said about Jesus and the church.

    Having said that, the label doesn’t bother me much; use the word Christian, ‘follower of Jesus (the Christ)’, a theist who considers that Jesus is God, a member of the church of Jesus, whatever - the point I’m making is pretty clear, as is yours.

    What I do find interesting is that for whatever reason, the word ‘Christian’ still carries with it (for a significant number of people anyway) a certain value which people wish to retain and identify with - be it for votes or whatever. All of which is fair enough, but if your moral views (on which we’ll probably largely agree) are “actually pre-Christian” why do you make the point you do?

    BTW This theist wouldn't necessarily withhold his vote from someone just because they identified as an atheist.

    And AboutFarce makes a useful point: "Perry has very cheaply deployed a couple of buzz words". It would be a pity if AF is right. On the, "No such bloc exists", he's spot on.

  • Comment number 23.

    22. peterm2:

    I understand what you mean when you refer to Christianity as your 'faith'. Clearly it's not my 'faith' in that sense.

    'Christianity' is a convenient hook on which to hang my moral outlook. It's the faith I grew up with, and in which I feel comfortable. I think Christianity has had a net positive influence on the world and on me.

    Like most people, Christian or otherwise, I try to observe Christianity's most basic moral philosophy ('do as you would be done by'). I think *that* is a good idea, even though Christianity inherited it from elsewhere.

    So I suppose my reason for calling myself a cultural 'Christian' as opposed to a cultural 'Jainist' or 'Buddhist' is purely... cultural.

  • Comment number 24.

    Tell you what. I'd be more concerned about a fundamentalist Confucian or Taoist at the minute, but thankfully, there can be no such thing. Or can there? Well yes, actually, there can. Check out the best quotes from Confucius and Lao Tzu. Find me one that doesn't match something Jesus said for magnanimity. Find me one that some "benevolent" ruler couldn't enforce justifiably and elevate to ultimate virtue. Find me one that couldn't be used to enforce any sort of social order one may prefer - given a little time.

    Then compare notes - the Confucians and the Christians - or whatever. The Confucians are only allowed to use the Christian texts and vice-versa. Pick your favourite "reason" from the other's text to justify your complaint against their dominating you. When you've done that, pick your own favourite (obviously compassionate and want-the-best-for-you) quote from your own text justifying why they should listen to you.

    A great parlour game. The best parlour game that ever was.

    And oh! How heated it can get!

    Pictionary? P-hah!

  • Comment number 25.

    AboutFarce

    You want to draw a line between "religion" and "church" it seems. You see, the First Amendment of the US Constitution refers to "religion", and if I'm not greatly mistaken, churches are always of one or other religion.It says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    Well yes, but it does say the 'establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...'. So there's two questions, first, what does it mean by religion and, second, what does it mean by the establishment of religion? Bearing in mind, at the time, there were several different models of the relationship between church and state; Anglicanism, the establishment principle of the Westminster Confession, New England puritanism and the 'separation of church and state'. Interestingly the American Presbyterian Church revised the WCF chapter on the civil magistrate (23) in 1789 to remove the establishment principle.

    The distinction which might be made is between "religion" and "religious views".

    I'm not opposed to that distinction. My use of 'religion', without quibbling, is probably equivalent to what you mean by 'religious views'.

    But the law on this in the US is unequivocal. It is unconstitutional that any law be made which would establish a politician's claimed religious belief...End of story.

    That's a gloss on the establishment clause.

    This, for Andrew, is "too pointed", but I'm afraid it's been settled for a long, long time.

    That's not what's too pointed. William restricted his question to one's theological views informing one's jurisprudence, but why the the restriction to theological views only?

    The story here is quite simply that Perry has very cheaply deployed a couple of buzz words (gays, the military) as if these buzz words resonate with a homogeneous (religious) voting bloc. No such bloc exists. It seemed to under Bush but it simply doesn't.

    I agree with this.

  • Comment number 26.

    Anyway, back on topic. Perry's conversion to radical evangelicalism is rather recent. Funny that.

    His stance on abortion is outrageous.

    See here: https://www.tnr.com/article/politics/94334/rick-perry-isn%E2%80%99t-just-pro-life-governor-he%E2%80%99s-anti-choice-zealot

    And here: https://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/sep/01/rick-perry-abortion-doctrine

    Legislation he tried to rush through in Texas would have forced women to have sonograms and various other probings:

    From the Guardian: "This important sonogram legislation ensures that every Texas woman seeking an abortion has all the facts about the life she is carrying," he bleated, "and understands the devastating impact of such a life-changing decision." In other words, women need to be put through unnecessary vaginal probing, condescending lectures and 24-hour waiting periods, because without all this harassment, they might not realise that if they have an abortion, they won't be having a baby."

    Anti-abortionists' (false) concern for women's mental health after abortions has been shown to be baseless in a recent study - the biggest ever carried out - of hundreds of thousands of women to determine whether or not abortion actually does have a negative impact on their mental health.

    It doesn't. What does have a bad effect on them is unwanted pregnancy. Surprise!

    "Having an abortion does not increase a woman's risk of suffering mental health problems, according to the world's biggest review of the issue.

    It makes no difference to a woman's mental health whether she chooses to have an abortion or continue with the pregnancy, researchers found.

    [...]

    Prof Kendall said: "There is a separate debate, which is about the ethics and about legal abortion, illegal abortion, the physical consequences, which are not part of our report.

    "We are simply saying that with regard to the mental health outcomes, we should now shift our attention to the problems associated with unwanted pregnancy, not abortion."

    See here: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/09/abortion-mental-health_n_1138424.html

    So a couple of canards are blown out of the water with this one. The "concern" for women is actually contempt for women.

    And the "concern" for bay-bees is quite apt to lead to disaster too. I don't know about you, but given that we know infancy is the time when we need most nurturing, I'd be concerned about how much nurturing a woman with mental health problems who didn't want her baby could give. Is it too much of a stretch to wonder whether such a woman might end up resenting her bay-bee? Psychologists have long known that resentment needn't be outward to still be manifest, and this WILL cause neuroses in the child. Is it too much of a stretch to wonder how many instances of straight-up child cruelty result from inadequate mothers in this perfect storm of circumstances?

    This study shows that it is the "pro-life" jackboot position that is by far more likely to have "devastating consequences" than abortion, and that informed women are less likely to need them in the first place. But no, he wants infantilised women and more trauma by the look of it. But because he's religious, that equals a Good Thing.

  • Comment number 27.

    Will (@ 8) -

    The question is whether he's right to introduce those views into a political campaign....


    "Right" according to what yardstick?

    The American Constitution?

    Democracy?

    Some idea of "secular morality" (whatever that is)?

    It seems strange to me that we can champion democracy and yet won't accept the implications of it. Any shrewd politician will appeal to his prospective electorate - it happens everywhere, surely! Perry has as much right to do this as anyone else, but isn't it interesting that when a Christian acts in a way that is no different from any other politician, somehow it becomes a "problem"?

    I don't agree with Perry's views on homosexuality, but I'd love to know where this "secular morality" comes from by which such people are being castigated. Who is the secular "Moses", where are his tablets of stone, and why should we obey them anyway?
  • Comment number 28.

    AboutFarce (@ 26) -

    And the "concern" for bay-bees is quite apt to lead to disaster too. I don't know about you, but given that we know infancy is the time when we need most nurturing, I'd be concerned about how much nurturing a woman with mental health problems who didn't want her baby could give. Is it too much of a stretch to wonder whether such a woman might end up resenting her bay-bee? Psychologists have long known that resentment needn't be outward to still be manifest, and this WILL cause neuroses in the child. Is it too much of a stretch to wonder how many instances of straight-up child cruelty result from inadequate mothers in this perfect storm of circumstances?


    And so the way to prevent neuroses developing in the child, and the way to protect it from cruelty is to kill it in the womb.

    Murder is therefore seen as the ultimate solution. How very kind and compassionate. Beautifully neat and tidy. Problem solved.

    Well done.

    The "wisdom" of atheism. What would we do without it?
  • Comment number 29.

    Murder? Who said anything about murder?

    Do you think I'm wrong? If so, why? Spare me the emotive language.

  • Comment number 30.

    AboutFarce (@ 29) -

    Murder? Who said anything about murder?

    Do you think I'm wrong? If so, why? Spare me the emotive language.


    Ah, so you are not talking about the killing of innocent people (a.k.a. murder)?

    Good. I take it therefore that you are pro-life?

    Gosh, you had me worried there for a minute.

    As for "emotive language"...

    I suppose one shouldn't really get emotional about the killing of the most innocent of people. I mean it's not something to get het up about, is it? I am sure there are more important things in life to worry about, like the latest Champions League result, or something truly important like that.

    How very very silly of me to lose control like that....!
  • Comment number 31.

    We weren't talking about whether an embryo or a feotus or a blastocyst is a human. Those arguments have been had.

    I asked you if you thought I was wrong, and if so why. Twice now you've tried to divert the course without meeting a single point I made head-on.

    But I'll stop you there, I really don't have any intention of getting into one with you. Almost two years ago I did that a few times and got precisely nowhere. You seem to have gotten your Latin wrong, because all you display is "vanity without logic".

    In the past couple of days I've been reading your exchanges with Peter Klaver, who has been much more assiduous a contributor to this board than me (well, I read as much of your contributions as I could stomach) and was partly bemused and partly dismayed to see him bemoan the fact that he has been at this sort of exchange with you for years - literally years.

    I would forecast that if we did decide to distinguish - as science does - between blastocyst and embryo etc, and I then drove home the point that the massive study I linked to above found the negative *human* impact of jackboot pro-lifers is incurred entirely by the women whose rights they deny - then you'd start trotting out your line about the "philosophy of materialism" or some such. As Klaver has observed, you have an apparently inexhaustible arsenal of foo-foo in your acme elephant gun.

    Yes, I suppose that's where I *would* be headed if I were to continue, since you've already studiously avoided the major points I made and the evidence I gave supporting them above.

    Professor Steve Jones, biologist, had it right: "To wrestle with a blancmange is, in my experience, a mistake. Pink, sickly and smug, the sugary pudding happily takes any number of blows, absorbs the attack, quivers a bit and comes back – unperturbed – as a blancmange.

    Creationists have the same talent. For them, evidence is of no interest. I once told someone who used the enormous gap in the fossil record between the chimp-human ancestor and modern chimpanzees as evidence against evolution that it had been partly filled: an ancestral chimp half a million years old had just been found. His face lit up: “See,” he said. “Now there are two gaps!”"

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/6202333/The-Greatest-Show-on-Earth-the-Evidence-for-Evolution-by-Richard-Dawkins-review.html

    So you warm up and shadow box and provoke all you like, because I'm going back to my old rule of not wrestling with blancmanges and only engaging in discussions where I might actually learn something and engaging only with people who are open to things I might be able to put them right on. That excludes you. Good day!

  • Comment number 32.

    AboutFarce @31,


    Good post - I have read, learned and will leave the blancmange to quiver.

    Thank you.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think Rick Perry does a decent job governing Texas but he's not my pick for president. I like John Huntsman.
    The pro-life legislation Gov. Perry supported had an opt-out clause for women who did not wish to view the sonogram of their pre-born child.Information to the contrary is media hype.
    No patient can be forced to look at xrays or sonograms, but responsible physicians generally share those images with a patient so that they can be informed in their healthcare decisions.
    There is a reason abortionists do not want women to see their unborn child.It's just common sense.
    Abortion clinics are overwhelmingly located in minority neighborhoods.And not by coincidence.
    If you want women to remain uninformed & treat them paternalistically, by all means keep them in the dark through this type of treatment.

  • Comment number 34.

    @26.AboutFarce,
    There are conflicting studies out there re. the effect of abortion on women's mental health.The BBC features one view. Here's another from the British Journal of Psychiatry:" Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995–2009"
    Priscilla K. Coleman
    "Results: Women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81% increased risk of mental health problems, and nearly 10% of the incidence of mental health problems was shown to be attributable to abortion. The strongest subgroup estimates of increased risk occurred when abortion was compared with term pregnancy and when the outcomes pertained to substance use and suicidal behaviour."
    Full text in link:https://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/199/3/180.abstract

    Data can be used in different ways to affect the outcome of a study.Like the old saying: " Figures don't lie but liars can figure." And I think to be fair, there are many factors that would make either conclusion for this topic questionable.
    None of which, though, concerns the morality of the action & the rights of the unborn child. Just the well being of women, which continues to be at risk.

  • Comment number 35.

    @ Ms Cracker, 34.

    Thankyou for the link to the study by Priscilla Coleman. The first thing to say is that Ms Coleman's methodology has been heavily criticised, but I'll come to that in a minute.

    Ms Coleman's study, although large, was still only half the size of the one I cited.

    Also, you seem to have overlooked an important detail in your own quote: "Women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81% increased risk of mental health problems, and nearly 10% of the incidence of mental health problems was shown to be attributable to abortion."

    You don't have to look too carefully to see that less than 10% of the mental health problems was shown to be attributable to abortion. The woman was looking at drug addicts, for instance, many of whom have mental health problems anyway, and lumping them into her 81% figure as "women who had an abortion had mental health problems".

    Ms Coleman, it seems, was cooking the books somewhat.

    So we go and take a closer look at this study. On the link you provided, you should scroll down and look at the responses from Ms Coleman's colleagues.

    Well, she broke protocol by not declaring an interest: it turns out she's an anti-abortion campaigner.

    She also omitted a measure for publication bias in her meta analysis. This was carried out by her colleagues using two measures. Both returned strong evidence for publication bias in her research.

    Her colleagues not with concern her admission in her own study that she made no attempt to weed out bad research she used. They quote her thus: ""The highest quality studies had findings that were mostly neutral, suggesting few, if any, differences between women who had abortions and their respective comparison groups in terms of mental health sequelae. Conversely, studies with the most flawed methodology found negative mental health sequelae of abortion."

    They conclude: "We believe that as a result of these features the paper falls far short of best practice in the execution of publication-standard meta- analyses."

    These criticisms are all from just one response, which you can read here: https://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/199/3/180.abstract/reply

    There are many right there on the link you posted.

    Your anti-abortion campaigner seems to have been less than honest about her interest in this issue, and published flawed research and used bad methodology to match her agenda. As you say: "Data can be used in different ways to affect the outcome of a study." Quite.

  • Comment number 36.

    * Fourth paragraph from the bottom should read: "Her colleagues *note* with concern..."

  • Comment number 37.

    AboutFarce (@ 31) -

    Yes, I have to concur with Dave, when he described your post as "good". It was "good": a very good act of capitulation.

    I regret you feel unable to "put me right" on anything, but it's not clear to me what I need to be "put right" on exactly (perhaps coming to the glorious realisation that there is absolutely no point to human existence? Yeah. Good one!). Trying desperately to impose your particular philosophical prejudice on me doesn't count, of course. Since there is precisely zero evidence to support the claim that "there cannot possibly be an intelligent creator", then I suspect your task must be pretty daunting.

    Is that answer "blancmangy" enough for you?

    As for the abortion issue, I have addressed the point you made. Killing is not the answer to the problems of childhood. Furthermore, the only point at which YOUR philosophy can possibly judge when a person becomes human is at conception. Have you ever heard of something called "the genetic code"? Presumably not, by the sound of it.

    But then, if I were you, I would steer clear of "matters of information" as they concern living systems, because information is not the friend of naturalism.

    Now I wonder where information comes from? Hmmm. That's a difficult one...

  • Comment number 38.

    I don’t think Perry, Paul or Huntsman will be the GOP’s candidate.

    Present company excepted I’m sure, I hope between the atheists’, agnostics’ and the Christians’ current reactions to one another (pendulum swing and all that), a path isn’t paved for the government in the future to be controlled by a religion whose tenet is such that its religious laws are truly interchangeable with government/society’s laws. Thank goodness for the writers of the constitution.

    ------------------------------------

    Re abortion:

    On the HIV thread, Theophane wrote: “Abortion isn't a big deal for the likes of you and i, but it means the world to unborn children.”

    I disagree. To the unborn, it’s short-lived in the womb if it’s anything. To the rest of us, it’s the world. What happens to a great portion of the next generations of people raised by single mothers who chose the harder choice? Due to the Great Option (which I’m all for having the choice, btw), society practically washes its hands of society’s future. Society doesn’t have to make a space for the mother to work at a man’s salary, etc. (she chose the wrong option – well, good luck!), and she can rely on welfare (aka government’s assistance) or charity (a community’s private investors). Gee, that was easy. 20 years later, Oops!

    I 100% do not think abortion should be illegal. People think they’re talking about women’s rights. They’re only half right. Unfortunately even the religious can’t get off the baby train and onto the women train to solve this, because women are second class-ish (I apologize for the indulgent self-pity :-P). So it’s going to take both/all sides.

    Note: I think the answer to the vicious cycle is probably somewhere around fathers/father figures. Still thinking that one out.

    ------------------------------------

    Lastly, Perry’s problem re both the abortion sonograms and mandatory HPV vaccine is his ‘opt out’ positions. He needs to make it so people can ‘opt in’ to what he wants, if he doesn’t want to keep getting struck down.

  • Comment number 39.

    @35. AboutFarce :
    I agree with you in that all sides can use data to reach conclusions which further an agenda. It's very difficult to sort through studies without bias affecting the result.This works for studies on both sides of the issue.

  • Comment number 40.

    38.At 18:37 9th Dec 2011, marieinaustin wrote:
    I don’t think Perry, Paul or Huntsman will be the GOP’s candidate."
    *******
    Me neither, but I can still hold out hope.
    You have a good weekend! Keep warm, it's been very chilly here in the South.

  • Comment number 41.

    This might fall under the "biased study" category coming from a Pro-Life site, but it's a very interesting article (aired on NPR) about how fetal cells remain with a mother perhaps for life & possibly act as stem cells to repair the mom's body:

    "Fetal Cells Cross Placenta, Stay With Pregnant Mom for Life"
    “In a teaspoon of an ordinary pregnant woman’s blood… [are] dozens, perhaps even hundreds of cells… from the baby,” according to a Tufts University researcher. Lab studies done “over and over and over and over” of mother mice with diseases (ovarian, endometrial, and cervical cancers) show that fetal cells rush to the places where they’re needed in the mom. "
    Full Text in Link:


    https://www.lifenews.com/2011/12/09/fetal-cells-cross-placenta-stay-with-pregnant-mom-for-life/

  • Comment number 42.

    The point, Ms Cracker, is that research conducted with the necessary rigour produces data which is worthwhile for clinical use. Since my last posting I've looked at the wikipedia entry on this woman and she's up to her neck in controversy and, as observed by her colleagues, hasn't taken even the slightest step to adhere to best practice. She is a stooge. A lot of the 22 studies she looked at in her meta-analysis were conducted by - wait for it - herself. Her competence is seriously in question. If it's not then her integrity is. She's just not credible and as such the American Psychological Association has discounted her research.

    The same does not - as you suggest - apply to all such research. Otherwise we wouldn't have any. This woman is agenda led. She is not interested in what is best for women and her output corrupts the effort to discern what that is. I find that pretty despicable.

  • Comment number 43.

    Something that may be of interest to you Ms Cracker. It's an in-depth article about the manoeuvrings of the anti-choice movement, heavily supported by Perry, to abuse confidentiality laws around clinical situations so they can use federal funds (illegally) to proselytise. Not for them what is in the best interests of the women concerned. No, they're out to "save souls" and sew guilt. It touches on the ridiculous claim I've seen that family planning centres that provide abortion facilities are deliberately put in ethnic minority areas as part of some ethnic cleansing project.

    https://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/5372/blankets%2C_booties%2C_and_jesus%3A_spiritual_war_on_the_uterus_in_rick_perry%E2%80%99s_texas/

    Perry is applauded by his fans as actively instigating these religiously motivated, illegal activities here.

    And I fail to understand how you can possibly "hope" for a candidate who can't even manage to remember a mere five of his central policies, even when they're neatly packaged as soundbites. Unless of course you happen to think that because someone claims to be religious, they must necessarily be a very good person. And I don't see how that follows either. In fact it seems like idiocy.

    Now if I were a Gulliver and all this idiocy was taking place in some far off Brobdignag I'd be happy to let the giants get on with whatever floats their boat. But unfortunately, US elections have a direct impact on my life here in Liliput, to the extent that we're skint, on the verge of moving out of Europe, in debt to our eyeballs because of a system of deregulated finance copied from the US, staring into a political abyss, fighting wars the US led us into (illegally), suffering (and I choose that term advisedly) from a resurgence of religion in the 21st Century because of quarrel with Islamists provoked initially by the US.

    So listening to talk of a "war on religion" in all of this, with the prospect of another even more genuine zealot than Bush getting into office there, ostensibly because he goes to church, really makes me seethe. I hope you don't mind my saying so.

  • Comment number 44.

    Yet another thread taken over by life issues. I think it might be time to clamp down on this sort of thing Will...

  • Comment number 45.

    Whatever do you mean?

  • Comment number 46.

    Perry as a lucha libre wrestler :p. He certainly has the tan for it ;)
    Perry says will deport all detained illegal immigrants

    Recent polls show Perry running in fourth or fifth place among Republicans nationally, and about sixth in the relatively moderate state of New Hampshire.

    But ongoing problems with sexual misconduct accusations against rival Republican Herman Cain could arguably encourage some conservative voters to take a second look at Perry.

    Perry's endorsement by Joe Arpaio, who claims to be "America's toughest sheriff," was designed to rebut criticism of his immigration policies.

    Arpaio has drawn national attention for creating all-volunteer armed posses to sweep for illegal immigrants in Arizona's Maricopa County.
  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 48.

    Rick Perry clearly has no clue what's going on in his own country. In US public schools children *can* pray, it's just that we simple don't *force* them to pray. The only rational explanation for this specific ad is that he's either clueless about this fact, or he thinks that the average American is. Either way, I certainly don't want someone like that as my President.

  • Comment number 49.

    need to be very careful what I write in an effort to be balanced, for if there was a war on religion I would in principle support those waging that war. Religion is evil, Faith on the other hand is not evil. see how many people have die in northern Ireland because of their religion, and how many have killed because of their religion.

    It is notable to me that the GOP (grand olde party) Republican party which always it seems sides with the Christian Lobby is the most un-Christlike party in its policies. It is always against increased social welfare and medical support to the poorest in society. The parable of the Good Samaritan means absolutely nothing to it, which is so 'Christian' when one reads a part of the bible one does not like, just ignore it.

    We need less religion in this world and more people of humanity. Remember it was not religion that motived William Wilberforce, (he was a bible believer Christian, whose bible justified slavery), it was his humanity.

    In this war on religion I presume the opposing side is called 'humanity'

  • Comment number 50.

    Gerry,

    I would agree with you, it is not faith that is the problem but what they do with it.

    One of the banners which was complained about at Belfast Pride last year by some christians was "Jesus save us from your followers". Apparently this was blasphemous but what I found interesting was that these people who complained just couldn't see the irony. It was a play on the famous Gandhi quote I believe.

  • Comment number 51.

    One of the most gratifying things to me about being gay is the immense trouble I cause to the religious merely by being. Nothing more to it. Just exist. It's a great natural corollary. But my rejection of it is based on a lot more than that religion victimises and stigmatises me as a homosexual. They've painted themselves into their own corner on that one. Their problem there is quite their own, and their quarrel is with the law, rather than with homosexuals directly. I know they just want to tell me that my condition of being is immoral, but this contention is based on the claims of their books and tortuous corruptions of philosophy in order to deduce some sort of "natural law" from them.

    So their argument that by my condition of being I am immoral is fatally undermined, a) by the fact that their books are full of all sorts of hokum, and so any claim based on them should be taken with a bucket of salt, and b) their philosophical claims, and their ideas about natural law etc, are also demonstrably false.

    I have a much greater problem with their thirst for power. I have a much greater problem with the inordinate amount of "respect" they get - wholly undeserved, given that their notions are barmy.

    I have a problem with the amount of means they are given to propagate their cant.

    I have a problem with the intrinsic divisiveness of said cant.

    I have a problem with the fact that in their political activities - such as this narrative of victimhood we are seeing at the minute, and their laughable claims about attacks on religious freedom - they are almost always dishonest. If not plainly dishonest, then underhand and sneaky.

    Religion is evil, says Gerry, but faith isn't. But most believers define their faith according to the framework set up by some religion, whether they observe or not. "Faith" is insidious. It erodes the impulse to think and question, the two most important activities humans can engage in.

    Finally, and following on from that, perhaps my biggest objection to religion (as is demonstrated neatly by Gerry's view on faith) is that it hijacks and parasitises the "spiritual" or (perhaps better) "mystical" impulse. That is a deep human impulse, religions claim a monopoly on it, and it was present in us before religions came about, particularly the frankly ridiculous monotheisms. Religion itself attests the enormous potential power this impulse has as a binding force for good, but for that religion needs to be swept out of the way and people need to recognise this trait as a commonality.

    The classical masterwork on this is William James's Varieties of Religious Experience, but there are fascinating discussions in contemporary books such as Matthew Alper's The God Part of the Brain and Nicholas Humphey's Soul Dust.

    I am an atheist. Militantly so. I am a fully paid-up member of two national organisations which work to keep religion in its place - at home or in church. But I do not hold this position at the expense of one of the best and most interesting parts of my being human, so the smug retort that often comes from the religious when asked awkward questions, that I "just don't geddit" about their religion defined faith, because it's so ineffable, elicits a further, somewhat rueful roll of the eye heavenward from me. Because, you see, I do actually. I just have enough cop-on and an open enough mind not to have to dress that ineffable mystical sense up in so much damaging, backward, insidious, divisive, often hateful, Bronze Age mythology, which to me is something like sacrilege. A blasphemy.

    I reject religion with my very "soul".

  • Comment number 52.

    AboutFarce

    tortuous corruptions of philosophy in order to deduce some sort of "natural law" from them.

    I recall you saying somewhere you had a good knowledge of Aquinas. Are you familiar with the work of 'new' natural law theorists such as Germain Grisez, John Finnis and Robert George, if so what are your thoughts (beyond being tortuous, of course)?

  • Comment number 53.

    I've encountered Finnis of course and heard of George. Never heard of Grisez. I never claimed to have a "good" knowledge of Aquinas (that would be a bit of an arrogance on my part).

    When I was talking about tortuous natural law theories I had catholic natural law theory very much in mind, which makes direct claims to moral absolutes.

    Finnis' work is on legal theory, which is tentative and speculative (which is fine by me) and no such claim to moral absolutes are made in it, and his work exists within a large milieu and living debate.

    Put very simply, my objection to natural law theories are firstly, their implicit pretensions to certainty. They all seem to fall on the horns of Hume's Fork. This is particularly true when you look at the astonishing things contemporary science is telling us about "nature" - of ourselves (brain science is truly breathtaking at the minute from my reading of popular work), our world (Darwinism dispels any notion of will, good or otherwise, in the natural world, which undermines "natural" law) and the cosmos.

    The most interesting work in philosophy at the minute is in responding (although it struggles to keep pace) with the new knowledge science is bearing. The implications of this are so profound that Stephen Hawking ventured that philosophy itself was dead now, and has nothing further to offer but in response to science.

    Neuroscience is particularly fascinating here because it is casting serious doubts on our notions of free will - which as you know underpins all our considerations on ethics, particularly if you subscribe to natural law theory. Have a look at some of the literature on neurolaw for instance.

    How can we base a moral order on "nature" when the nature of nature keeps confounding us?

    I shrink from scientism as I shrink from any certitude, but since the more we learn the less we know, "natural law" can't be anything but extremely shaky, extremely fallible, and very prone to looking a lot like what the lawmaker would wish it were.

  • Comment number 54.

    I shrink from scientism


    Wot's scientism ?
  • Comment number 55.

    I meant by it a kind of dogmatism, especially by non-scientists with an exaggerated trust that science is the be-all-and-end-all of knowledge and how we come to it.

  • Comment number 56.

    Peter (@ 54) -

    Wot's scientism ?


    Answer: the self-refuting fallacy which undergirds the philosophy on which the dogma of atheism depends, namely, the idea that science is the only method of acquiring knowledge.

    Question: Why is it "self-refuting"?

    Answer: Because there is no scientific experiment or empirical observation that can demonstrate that it is true.

    Self-contradiction is the strongest proof possible that something is false.

    And yet despite this indisputable fact, we "anti-atheists" are accused of "not having any evidence".

    The fight goes on...
  • Comment number 57.

    AboutFarce

    Thanks for the reply.

    I've mostly read George, and some of Finnis; haven't made it to Grisez yet but I gather he's important for both gentlemen. George, for the most part, is also dealing with legal theory.

    I rarely know what is meant by certainty, there are very few things in this world that are not open to doubt. So I wonder, if natural law theory is to be kicked to one side because we cannot be certain of its premises then what can stand in its place? And I don't ask this in defence of natural law, it is a subject on which I am undecided, but of the more general issue of scepticism and how it relates to a constructive theory.

    Having cogent reasons to doubt natural law is after a different order. So if neuroscience, taking your example, undermines a given view of humanness or human nature on which a theory of natural law depends then that, I think, would be a good reason not to accept natural law theory.

    Neuroscience is definitely on my reading list. Could you recommend anything in particular on neurolaw?

    On free will I'm guessing you mean the libertarian variety. I'm a Calvinist - perhaps I should say an Augustinian - so I don't think we have libertarian free will. And this does raise issues for ethical theory. You mention natural law as an example. One of the oddities of historical theology is how natural law became the provenance of Roman Catholics and biblical ethics - for want of a better term - became associated with the Reformed tradition. This was in part owing to anthropological differences between the two on the nature of human freedom and the extent of the fall. Natural law and natural theology are currently going through something of a resurgence in Reformed theology (after it being panned by Barth, Cornelius Van Til and, although less widely known, Gordon Clark), with chaps like Paul Helm, David Van Drunen and Stephen Grabill arguing the case - historically and theoretically.

  • Comment number 58.

    Yeah AboutFarce; all that stuff Andrew said - what do you think about that?

  • Comment number 59.

    Here's an article in the Washington Post- Something rotten in Iowa
    Britain used to called them 'rotten boroughs', says Richard Cohen-

    Until the Reform Act of 1832, more than 100 members of the British Parliament were elected from districts that had very few people. These were called rotten boroughs and, while they no longer exist in England, at least one of them does in the United States. It is called Iowa.

    Every four years the Rotten Borough of Iowa holds its presidential caucuses. Next year, the only real contest will be in the Republican Party. Last time, 119,000 Iowans participated in the GOP caucus. This amounted, according to Curtis Gans, director of American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate, to 0.05 percent of the national electorate — or, to put it another way, 1/20th of 1 percent. If the next president is a Republican, there’s a pretty good chance several dozen people in Iowa will have been instrumental in choosing him or her.

    Iowa Republicans are a pretty conservative lot. In general, they abhor abortion, gay marriage, Obamacare, the Departments of Education, Energy and Commerce, NPR, support for the arts, the East Coast, the West Coast, strictly secular education, illegal immigrants and their children, the mainstream media and — after reading this — me. But because conservatives dominate the Iowa GOP and because the caucus is the first contest of the election year, they enjoy disproportionate influence over the national party.
    Over & above Iowa, little doubt remains as to whom America's elected representatives really work for- lobbyists. $5.6m spent by ConAgra and Schwan (big food companies) lobbying lawmakers to re-class pizza as a vegetable. Lobby is just a polite way of saying 'bribe'. Will US lawmakers ever stand up to lobbyists & in the case of Perry- It's clear he's just run back to the safety of his own clan with their narrow tribal & racial prejudice, tail between legs, as his campaign falls apart
  • Comment number 60.

    Andrew, I've posted this link a couple of times already, but it might offer a less anthropocentric view on natural law- Lee Worden, University of California, Berkeley wrote a paper 'A Study in Coevolution, Planetary Sustainability, and Community Structure'

    Since evolutionary theory often naturalizes narratives about selfishness, altruism, free riding, and so on, and gives authority to proponents of individualistic, ahistorical social theories, perhaps these results can be of use to more institutionally or politically minded theorists, and in creating space for exploring scenarios of collective governance that are not supported by Hobbesian narratives of greed and competition.
  • Comment number 61.

    Andrew,

    For an overview of where neuroscience is at I can't recommend VS Ramachandran enough. He's at the top of his game and very accessible. The Tell-Tale Brain is his newest book (this year), and the earlier, very highly acclaimed Phantoms in the Brain deals with what his science can tell us about how consciousness and notions of self appear to be formed in the brain. On the back of the latter book he gave the BBC Reith Lectures in 2003 which you can still listen to here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/lecture1.shtml and if you google Phantoms in the Brain you can find an entire TV series on YouTube.

    I haven't read any whole book on neurolaw specifically, discussion of it features heavily in contemporary discussion of neuroscience generally, but sitting in a pile of as yet unreads is a book called Who's In Charge? by Michael Gazzaniga. A great place on the web for articles, debates and video is the Edge Foundation's website. Here's Gazzaniga's page there, with links to his most recent contributions on the right of the page. https://edge.org/memberbio/michael_gazzaniga It's a truly great project and well worth a look if, like me, you're often groping around in the dark trying to get a grasp on new issues.

    A philosopher who's kept a close eye on neuroscience is Jonathan Haidt. Search at Edge or TED for his talks and essays.

    You may recoil slightly, but in his latest book, The Moral Landscape, Sam Harris argues for "a science of morality". I've read the book and disagree fundamentally with the thesis, but Harris's scientific training is in neuroscience, and since he's something of an ardent self-publicist, he's got a lot of people smarter than him to bash his ideas about. A very interesting series of video talks can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+great+debate+can+science+tell+us+right+from+wrong+&oq=the+great+debate%3A+can+science+te&aq=0&aqi=g1&aql=1&gs_sm=e&gs_upl=7280l18013l0l19470l34l25l1l2l3l1l593l6359l1.6.8.3.0.4l22l0

    He brings together scientists and philosophers to give individual responses to his thesis and then debate them with each other. Beats TV as far as I'm concerned.

    Hope you find the time to get into some of this. I can't get enough!

  • Comment number 62.

    @ Theophane, 58.

    What do you think about the new Andy Pandy? Kinda like The Water Babies I thought. But sillier.

    What do you think about, hmm, geckos? Yeah, what do you think about geckos.

  • Comment number 63.

    This article from the Wall Street Journal is a couple of weeks old, but still pertinent- President Obama can't win by running a constructive campaign, and he won't be able to govern if he does win a second term.
    Obama's had a rough ride- picking up the pieces from Bush jnr's administration as well as having to confront far-right ideology & religion intermingled with covert racism from the likes of the Tea Party & GOP, but for the interests of the country & the Democrats...

    ...he should abandon his candidacy for re-election in favor of a clear alternative, one capable not only of saving the Democratic Party, but more important, of governing effectively and in a way that preserves the most important of the president's accomplishments. He should step aside for the one candidate who would become, by acclamation, the nominee of the Democratic Party: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  • Comment number 64.

    Just a note on 'gayness'.

    I was at a stag weekend on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland a couple of months ago. The 'best man' was there with his partner. They were both men - so they were gay, obviously (even I'd worked that out by the second night).

    The thing I'd like to say is that the whole situation felt very 'natural'. As a bunch of people we all got on fine. We all understood one another. Our behaviour as a group (pack?) was consistent with similar groups of men I've been a part of for over 30 years.

    OK, we all referred to the pair as "the ladies"; but they assured us that they didn't mind this. If they had minded, we wouldn't have done it. Homosexuality is a natural aspect of the human condition, as far as I can see. I hope to attend their civil partnership next year.

    Why do lunatics like Perry get away with lambasting gay people? Jesus is never quoted as mentioning homosexuality. He is stoically silent on the subject. Yet he mentions divorce on numerous occasions.

    How many divorcees are in the US military? Has Perry ever asked that question?

  • Comment number 65.

    He started his campaign with a prayer vigil alongside SPLC certified hate groups with former ties to the KKK & instead of wondering how his approach to & performance during the campaign could somehow be to blame he attributes it to a 'war on religion'. Nothing like rich, white people talking about how oppressed & maligned they are, lamenting how religiously inspired bigotry might not be what the country wants or needs. Re divorce, Newdwr, interestingly Anita Perry retained the services of Austin divorce lawyer, Becky Beaver in 2004.

    In 2004, The Austin Chronicle ran an article on this & counterpunch.org relayed coverage by saying

    “At the very moment, late February, that President George W. Bush let the world be known that if he were governor of Texas, he would insist that the sacred vows of holy matrimony could be exchanged only by a man and a woman, that he would press for a constitutional amendment insisting on this, at that very moment Austin, the state capital of Texas, was convulsed with charges that the current Republican governor’s wife Anita Perry has been on the verge of suing her husband Rick Perry for divorce on the grounds of infidelity, said infidelity possibly being with someone of the same sex as Rick. On one account Anita Perry has engaged the services of Becky Beaver, ‘the most notorious ballbreaker divorce attorney in Austin.’

    “On Tuesday, February 24 [2004], we learn from our friend Michael King, city editor of the weekly Austin Chronicle, a small group of protesters (almost outnumbered by reporters and photographers) gathered at the Governor’s Mansion for what was disingenuously billed as a“support rally” under the theme, ‘It’s OK to Be Gay.’

    “In a tolerant and forgiving world what Rick might or might not have done behind Anita’s back, would be for him and Anita and maybe the other party to discuss, but our world is neither tolerant nor forgiving and there may be a hypocrisy issue here.”

    “Last spring Perry endorsed and signed the Defense of Marriage Act,a statement by the Texas legislature that it believes gay and lesbian Texans deserve fewer rights than other citizens. The Texas GOP’s platform declares that ‘The party opposes the decriminalization of sodomy.’ Further diminishing the possibility of any ambiguity on this issue, the platform also declares that ‘The Party believes that the practice of sodomy tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.’ Perry approved the statement, and all candidates who run as Republicans in Texas have to sign it, or forfeit financial support by the party.”
    Sounds like a pretty harsh culture to be a part of- why should anyone have to sacrifice their career for anothers 'belief' about sexuality :s
  • Comment number 66.

    AboutFarce

    Thanks for the recommendations. I'll try to read some of them over the next few weeks.

  • Comment number 67.

    I was Best Man just over a year ago and I have to say it was a nightmare. I will not be accepting such an honour ever again! The nightmarishness was multi faceted but I'll stick to the main stuff. The whole thing was presented to me as a light-hearted formality, not to be taken too seriously. Both atheists, the happy couple would have a catholic wedding as an excuse for a party primarily, but also to keep parents happy. Groom's mother is very devout, bride's parents ditto (her father had been in for the priesthood before he got distracted from his studies by mum).

    In short, bride's parents didn't like me at all. I couldn't care less but it was palpable and stressy. Disapproval began some months before the wedding when we were all together at Christmas and groom (via me) had taken an interest in Darwinism and collects books anyway so I got him an original sixth edition of Origin. At some point someone must have told papa I'm gay (with me most people don't twig), then he went from cold to freezing, the only warmth at all being in snarky, sparky little asides.

    The churchy bit was appalling. Rehearsal the day before and groom and I had been drinking. He has slightly less capacity than me and was probably nervous too so he got drunk, I didn't. But the blame for this situation was laid squarely at my feet. Groom hadn't met the priest before (great friends with bride's parents). His father had passed away and he is fairly staunch in his atheism so he refuses to call the priest "Father" So-and-So, opting instead to just bark at him by his surname (which did tickle me I confess). I imagine the sycophancy toward the priest from the others made up for it.

    So we ran through the ceremony. Sit. Stand. Kneel. Put your left leg in, your left leg out...

    I wouldn't be taking communion, so I thought I'd just remain in my pew for that bit. But no, they've got a whole rigmaroll for that. Anyone who doesn't feel they can take communion still has to go up to the altar, cross their hands over their chest, and they'll receive a blessing. That's even worse.

    The day came. Sat, stood, knelt. Communion. We're in the first row. First up there to be administered our lump of Jesus. Groom eats him. As does bride. Priest fully expecting me to eat him too, deep in concentration, doesn't notice that I've crossed my chest, stabs me in the mouth with the bit of Jesus, which promptly breaks in half leaving him with half a wafer poked in my face and half on the floor, not knowing whether to bless me, pick up Jesus or what. So he blesses me and I say "thanks" for some reason.

    I could go on but it's been gruelling enough just recounting this much. Suffice it to say I was vaguely traumatised and hadn't even got near speech time yet. And if you're ever in such a situation (I believe a lot of non-believers still like to get married in a church) and they tell you it's not to be taken seriously, don't believe them. A sort of Big Day syndrome takes hold. They end up taking it very seriously indeed. All those promises and all those witnesses. Believe me, it all gets very serious indeed when the crunch comes. This will render your original speech useless. But that's another story.

  • Comment number 68.

    newdwr (@ 64) -

    Jesus is never quoted as mentioning homosexuality. He is stoically silent on the subject. Yet he mentions divorce on numerous occasions.

    How many divorcees are in the US military? Has Perry ever asked that question?


    We have our strong disagreements on a range of issues, but I thoroughly agree with the point you have made here. There is an appalling moral inconsistency in the use of the Bible by many Christians as concerns homosexuality.

    This is the main reason why I refuse to jump on the Christian "anti-gay" bandwagon.
  • Comment number 69.

    @Andrew, 66.

    I just came across this interview with Gazzaniga: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=free-will-and-the-brain-michael-gazzaniga-interview&print=true

    Cook: Do you think that neuroscience, as a field, needs to tackle these questions? That is, do you consider free will an important scientific question?

    Gazzaniga: We all need to understand more about free will, or more wisely put, the nature of action. Neuroscience is one highly relevant discipline to this issue. Whatever your beliefs about free will, everyone feels like they have it, even those who dispute that it exists. What neuroscience has been showing us, however, is that it all works differently than how we feel it must work. For instance, neuroscientific experiments indicate that human decisions for action are made before the individual is consciously aware of them. Instead of this finding answering the age-old question of whether the brain decides before the mind decides, it makes us wonder if that is even the way to think about how the brain works. Research is focused on many aspects of decision making and actions, such as where in the brain decisions to act are formed and executed, how a bunch of interacting neurons becomes a moral agent, and even how one’s beliefs about whether they have free will affect their actions. The list of issues where neuroscience will weigh in is endless.

  • Comment number 70.

    A thread on W&T just wouldn't be complete without LSV falsely attributing some statements to the pro-science non-believers on the blog here. He said, quoting a bit from another Peter

    "Wot's scientism ?

    Answer: the self-refuting fallacy which undergirds the philosophy on which the dogma of atheism depends, namely, the idea that science is the only method of acquiring knowledge."

    Can you cite many posts by atheists on the blog here who have stated that science is the only method of aquiring knowledge? I recall myself and some others saying that science is often a very good way, or the best way, to acquire knowledge. But not that it is always the only way.

    It just you attributing false statements to others again to discredit them, isn't it?

  • Comment number 71.

    Peter Klaver (@ 70) -

    Can you cite many posts by atheists on the blog here who have stated that science is the only method of aquiring knowledge? I recall myself and some others saying that science is often a very good way, or the best way, to acquire knowledge. But not that it is always the only way.


    Oh yummy! You've dared to venture into the area of epistemology. You are a brave chap.

    So given that the empirical scientific method studies nature, and given that you acknowledge that such a method is not the only way to acquire knowledge, then it follows logically that it is impossible to say that nature is "all that exists", or that nature is all that we can know exists, since our only epistemic relationship with nature is by means of sense perception.

    Given its complete dependence on the philosophy of naturalism, it is beyond me how the dogmatic claim of atheism can survive such a conclusion.

    I am so pleased that light is at last beginning to dawn in the darkness.

    Of course, you can ignore the verdict of reason and continue to follow the philosophy of naturalism. You can do this by means of something that atheists mistakenly refer to as "faith".
  • Comment number 72.

    My goodness LSV, you are so badly handicapped in a moral and intellectual way. :(

    First thing to note about your post is that it didn't answer the questions put to you at all. Can you cite many posts by atheists on the blog here who have stated that science is the only method of acquiring knowledge? You were falsely attributing statements to people weren't you?

    And then the misreasoning in your post, it is almost painful to read. Of course we can gain insight in other ways than the empirical scientific method. For instance, recently you've made a bad cock-up about omnipotence. The knowledge that your idea of an omnipotent god is plain wrong was not derived from any scientific experiment. It was a matter of asking the right questions that very simply show the idea to be self-contradicting.

    Your conclusion that other ways of acquiring knowledge show there is more than nature is of course not supported in any way, that is mere wishful thinking on your part. On the issue of omnipotence, it does the exact opposite in fact. Reasoning doesn't show something outside of nature, but it can be used to disprove some of thiose idea.

  • Comment number 73.

    Peter Klaver (@ 72) -

    My goodness LSV, you are so badly handicapped in a moral and intellectual way. :(


    Ignoring the obvious (and predictable) ad hominem tone of this rather immature and insulting comment, it betrays a belief on your part in the existence of certain standards by which you can judge me to be "handicapped". So please do elucidate...

    1. The moral standard by which you judge me. Where does it come from? How does it possess objective validity? On what basis can you expect other people to accept it?

    2. The intellectual standard. I assume that this is "reason", to which you are appealing. Please clarify this, as "the opinions of your favourite scholars" don't count, of course, as that is subjective (and therefore in the domain of what is mistakenly termed "faith").

    First thing to note about your post is that it didn't answer the questions put to you at all. Can you cite many posts by atheists on the blog here who have stated that science is the only method of acquiring knowledge? You were falsely attributing statements to people weren't you?


    You are talking about "atheists" saying things that may be logically inconsistent with their own worldview, whereas I am talking about "atheism", and the logical implications thereof. There is a huge difference, that seems to have eluded you.

    To try to get this simple distinction through to you, suppose I made the following statement (for the sake of argument):

    "I am an atheist who believes in God."

    Now, I have said that "I am an atheist". Because I have identified myself as "an atheist", therefore - according to your kind of reasoning - everything else I say about myself must be true of atheism. Therefore, since I have said "I believe in God", that means that atheism involves a belief in God!

    Of course, this is utterly absurd. But this is an extreme example of the kind of facile reasoning I have encountered on this blog and elsewhere from atheists. Let me give you an example. Adolf Hitler said that he was a Christian. According to some people, that means that Christianity is responsible for what he did, such as his policy of the extermination of the Jewish race. Since Christianity is built on Judaism, since Jesus himself was a Jew, and since Jesus stated clearly that "Salvation is of the Jews", then it follows logically that it is impossible to be a Christian and a hater of the Jews. Therefore, when Hitler claimed to be a Christian, he was, of course, lying. But if I dared to point this out, out comes the "No true Scotsman" nonsense (never mind the irrefutability of my argument!). The "No true Scotsman" idea is a fallacy anyway, because if it were not, then no one could tell me that I was not a true atheist, even though I said that I believed in God (to use the above hypothetical example)!!

    So when I say that "atheism" says something, I am not talking about what certain atheists claim to believe (which may or may not be consistent with their atheism), but I am talking about the logical implications of atheism.

    Given atheism's rejection of the concept of the "supernatural", then it follows that atheism affirms the philosophy of naturalism, namely, that "nature" is all that exists. This is the realm that we perceive empirically. The statement that "only the reality that we can perceive empirically exists" implies that "all knowledge comes to us by means of the empirical method". If we allow for any other means of acquiring knowledge, then the claim that "only the empirically discerned reality exists" becomes invalid. This therefore has serious implications for atheism, of course.

    Now you may find logic painful to read, but some of us actually do not have a problem with logic. If logic is too painful and difficult for you, then you can always crawl into the comforting arms of fantasy and subjectivism.

    I have already answered the omnipotence problem, but I realise that it is impossible to get someone to see, who refuses to open his eyes. It really makes me wonder what you are so afraid of, frankly.
  • Comment number 74.

    The floor needs wiping Peter. There's your mop.

  • Comment number 75.

    Peter Klaver wrote in post #72 that there are other means of acquiring knowledge other than science. Now what does he identify as "another method"? Let's look at the following comment:

    Your conclusion that other ways of acquiring knowledge show there is more than nature is of course not supported in any way, that is mere wishful thinking on your part. On the issue of omnipotence, it does the exact opposite in fact. Reasoning doesn't show something outside of nature, but it can be used to disprove some of thiose idea.


    This comment shows that "reasoning" is a method that he is prepared to accept.

    Now I find it very strange that this very same Peter Klaver once wrote concerning my arguments:

    ...why don't you put a stop to your 'evidence from reason' posts...?


    So the big question is:

    Does Peter Klaver actually believe in "reason" or not?

    Or is it that he believes in "reason", but not in "evidence from reason"?! If so, then what is "evidence-free knowledge", if reason is a valid source of knowledge??!

    Or is this just a huge U-Turn that he hoped no one would notice?
  • Comment number 76.

    If I could bottle it and sell it as an emetic I'd make a fortune.

  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 78.

    That's very odd indeed. A posting which is probably the most on-topic in the entire thread - which addressed the "war on religion" both in the US and with reference to Northern Ireland - is deemed to have broken the House Rules. I can only think of one reason for that, which is that I named an MLA, but the source is in the public domain, so if this was the concern then it's unfounded. In any case, I'm quite sure the MLA would stand by what I said of him. He makes no secret of it.

    I'll try again to post this entry, sans MLA name, below. Otherwise it'll have to be when this moderator is off duty tomorrow.

    Is there any chance of an explanation for this removal? I mean, there would be better grounds for removing no.76 above it...

  • Comment number 79.

    1st edit...

    Anyway, and more to the point. This "war on religion" stuff seems to be something of a new tactic taken up with increasing gusto by religious people of a certain smell. I remember reading research by Queen's sociologists conducted with evangelicals - including some MLAs - when European human rights law was to be incorporated into UK law in 1998.

    Three named MLAs responded jointly [this is where I named one, I couldn't remember the other two, and I really can't be bothered to go and hunt out the source]. I remember being struck dumb on reading that, while they hated the prospect of human rights law, and its implications for Christians to discriminate and still look good, they intended to deploy the religious freedom protections to "use their weapons against them". I kid you not. That plumbed new depths of cynicism as far as I was concerned.

    So we've had endless futile court cases taken up and supported by organisations like Christian Concern (Lilian Ladell, that BA trolley dolly, the nurse with the crucifix, etc) which have been enthusiastically taken up by the Mail and the Telegraph, but which, when you look at the whole story, any lawyer (indeed any non-lawyer) could see as plain as day hadn't a chance.

    Naturally, all these cases were lost when they came to court.

    But I'm beginning to suspect that these cases were brought to court by people with full knowledge that they would lose, so they could then claim Christians are being persecuted. This does seem to be the trend, to the extent that in the latest case brought by Christian Concern's legal arm, the judge scolded them for wasting court time and resources bringing idiotic cases before the court. Anyone who looks at the detail of these cases can see them for what they are.

    There is protection for freedom to express any opinion based on religion or deeply held belief in UK law. At the time the law was being figured out for the statutes this was trumpeted as being protection mainly for muslims who might feel threatened by the wider provisions. But hardly any muslims have taken any cases under it. It has been exploited solely by Christians, mostly who want to be able to persecute gay people, but also to force their beliefs on people dying in hospital and such. (What a time to pick! I think I might even hit a woman if I had the strength in such a situation.)

    Now the Americans seem to have taken the baton in this, as I read about what are basically pro-bullying provisions (mercifully stopped) in Michigan state law, in this story:

    "Who Would Jesus Bully?"

    In a move not widely reported outside of Michigan, the Michigan State Senate passed the country’s first pro-bullying bill on November 2. At first, it was an anti-bullying measure not unlike the laws passed in many other states. But under the perverse influence of a few far-right opportunists, legislators led by State Senator Rick Jones (R, of course) became convinced that the law would somehow persecute those noble enforcers of Christian—I’m sorry, “Judeo-Christian”—values in our nation’s high schools: bullies.

    Thus, at the eleventh hour, additional language was added to the bill exempting any bullying if it was done on the basis of “a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction.” In other words, you can bully the faggot if the Bible tells you so.

    Find it here: https://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/sexandgender/5390/who_would_jesus_bully/

    War on religion? What's wrong with this picture? The day the Bishops' Bench is replaced with a Gays' Bench in the House of Lords I might take some note of this claim.

    Until then this seems like the mewling typical of them - playing the victim - in their seemingly endless fight for dominance at the expense of practically everything else that doesn't chime with their pathetic world view.

    Where would they have us?

  • Comment number 80.

    You get an explanation if you appeal.

    I appealed a few weeks ago over a 'eunice post'. It was enlightening. I'm afraid, unlike your sans MLA, there was no salvaging it.

  • Comment number 81.

    Must have been the MLA then. But I still say that was a lily-livered decision. This, after all, is a man who puts "creation science" DVDs in all his colleagues' pigeonholes at Stormont.

    Out of interest Andrew, as an apparently reasonable sort, do you feel persecuted as a Christian? If so, how?

  • Comment number 82.

    AboutFarce,

    Ah.... now I know who he is - he of the 6000 year old Giants Causeway signs?

  • Comment number 83.

    BTW,

    I am glad your post gut through sans name, very succinct appraisal. I was aware of the pro religious bullying legislation in Michigan. One of the democrats described it as a document on how to bully and get away with.

  • Comment number 84.

    AboutFarce, 62;

    If, as i suspect, you're the same poster with whom it was my good fortune to exchange views earlier this year, i seem to remember you're no stranger to acting a bit 'chigh-ildishly' yourself on occasion - but of course maybe you've grown up since then.

  • Comment number 85.

    I've been thinking a bit (the meat took three hours) with all of Vanity without Logic's whitterings about philosophy this and that, what philosophy these war-on-religion Christians seem closest to, because it certainly isn't Christian. The basis of their claims is that their way of life is superior, and their morality is superior, and as superior beings, they argue for their total freedom, to persecute gays for example, or impose themselves to swing a deathbed conversion.

    There is nothing in this of the supposed humility of Christ. Nor is there any charity. Nor compassion.

    There is the beautiful irony though, which should give them pause, that they are if anything Nietzschean. Mr Antichrist himself.

    Follow me on this a bit. Apart from the famous assertion "God is dead" in Thus Spake Zarathustra, these Christians who feel themselves to be at war are aligned with Neitzsche in his prescription in that book.

    "You should be such men as are always looking for an enemy -- for your enemy. And with some of you there is hate at first sight.
    You should seek your enemy, you should wage your war -- a war for your opinions. And if your opinion is defeated, your honesty should still cry triumph over that!
    You should love peace as a means to new wars. And the short peace more than the long."

    Or try this:

    "Our destiny exercises its influence over us even when, as yet, we have not learned its nature: it is our future that lays down the law of our today."

    And what is Christ if not an Ubermenche? A superman? And aren't Christians always on about how they are trying to live like Christ? Is there a "will to power" in this desire to be like their hero?

    "Liberalism is the transformation of mankind into cattle."

    "And nothing evil grows in you any longer, unless it is the evil that grows out of the conflict of your virtues. My brother, if you are fortunate, then you will have only one virtue and no more: thus you will go more easily over the bridge."

    I suppose this beautiful irony is diminished a little (but only a little) when you take into account that Nietzsche's father was a pastor. The German kind. But what a distillation of fiery protestantism he presented, just minus the Jesus bits, the compassion bits, the cast-the-first-stone bits. And how much are these moderns really Nietzschean. Be like Jesus. Be like a god. Trample the man who gets in your way. Woe betide. He'll get his.

    "I teach you the Overman. Man is something that shall be overcome."

    What an interesting little observation. If I say so myself.

  • Comment number 86.

    (Hello Dave.)

    Theophane, you're going to have to be a bit less cryptic.

  • Comment number 87.

    67. AboutFarce:

    Thanks AF. Laughed out loud at that!

    The guy I'm referring to managed to hold it together very well. Possibly the fact that his two sisters are also gay, and attended the celebrations with their partners, helped.

    It made for an interesting reception. There was an entire table of lesbians. The best dancer in the place by far was the Best Man's partner, who had a queue of women waiting to dance with him.

    It was also an RC wedding, and the groom (my brother in law) decided not to play ball and refused to read out a Bible quotation on the grounds that it was "gibberish". I have to say the priest was lovely and very understanding.

    My 21 year old son wasted about £20 trying to chat up one of the lesbians (none of us had the heart to tell him).

    Let's just say it was a wedding and reception none of us will forget in a hurry.

  • Comment number 88.

    Tssk! If I had £1 for every £20 I saw wasted on a lesbian...

  • Comment number 89.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules.

  • Comment number 90.

    Not as less cryptic as that Theophane. Go for the one in the middle.

  • Comment number 91.

    War on religion or war on women?

    From Huffington Post:

    "The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may be one of the quietest, yet most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill, with political allies that have enabled them to roll back decades of law and precedent.

    Over the past two years the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has launched one of the most extreme assaults on women's choice the U.S. has seen in decades. Republicans voted twice to slash federal family planning funds for low-income women, moved to prevent women from using their own money to buy insurance plans that cover abortion, introduced legislation that would force women to have ultrasounds before receiving an abortion and, most recently, passed a bill that will allow hospitals to refuse to perform emergency abortions for women with life-threatening pregnancy complications.

    But the erosion of women's rights didn't begin with the GOP takeover. President Barack Obama's health care reform law contained some of the most restrictive abortion language seen in decades.

    Lift the curtain, and behind the assault was the conference of bishops."

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/01/the-men-behind-the-war-on_n_1069406.html

  • Comment number 92.

    It's not strictly speaking a 'war on religion', but rather the cynical exploitation of religion (witness the secular mockery of Christmas), allied to a war on the most vulnerable (unborn children, the dying), and clearly in fact a war on the womb.

  • Comment number 93.

    I have some questions:

    1. How is there "exploitation of religion"?

    2. a) What is the "secular mockery of Christmas" you speak of? b) How does it constitute "exploitation" of religion?

    3. Did you read the Huffington Post article I linked to above? How does it sit with you that the Council of Catholic Bishops are engaged in illegal lobbying of the US government, forcing laws based on hardline Catholic ideology, which unrepresentative even of the mainstream of catholic opinion in the US, and is forcing the denial of the fundamental rights of women, as well as threatening healthcare legislation that was decades in the making?

    It's funny that the women at the butt of this are also calling it a "war on the uterus".

    How, I'd love someone to explain to me, given the inordinate power religious interests wield, can they possibly claim victimhood?

  • Comment number 94.

    @43. AboutFarce,
    Thank you for your comments.
    I very much support pregnancy help clinics.We have one locally that does great work & helps moms find jobs, housing,childcare,clothing, etc.Many mothers & children's lives have been changed by our center.
    The presidential candidate I'm holding out hope for is John Huntsman, not Rick Perry.
    By the way,Gov. Perry is actually quite a pleasant looking man. Not at all sinister as in the photo chosen for this thread.

  • Comment number 95.

    @91.AboutFarce :
    All I can say is thank God for the Catholic bishops.They're consistantly the one group who holds out for what is right no matter how counter-cultural or politically inconvenient.They offend both left & right wings.Good for them & God bless them.
    I wish our presidential candidates would take a cue from them.

  • Comment number 96.

    You're catholic, so presumably you are in agreement with catholic doctrine to some extent. Your freedom to assent to that doctrine is enshrined. But it is unjustifiable for the leaders of one religion to impose that doctrine on all and sundry, especially in the underhand way the bishops in the US are doing it - because it is illegal. It simply is not justifiable that religious leaders direct state policy. They are unelected and unaccountable. Furthermore, we are talking about womens' health here. We are talking about infringement on intrinsic, fundamental rights.

    And by what stretch of the imagination can the Catholic Church call itself a moral arbiter with a straight face, given its conduct worldwide and at an institutional level in the child rape and torture its henchmen perpetrated?

  • Comment number 97.

    @96.AboutFarce:
    Most of what the Catholic bishops support is considered liberal & subversive by conservatives, especially non-Catholic Republicans.So it's kind of amusing to see them portrayed as a clerical version of the Tea Party instead of the pro-union,pro-Obama healthcare,Papist, immigrant loving do-gooders many fiscal-conservatives fear.
    I'm encouraged that our bishops continue to challenge the complacent folk on both ends of issues.
    Women's health is a smoke screen.Pregnancy involves two patients.
    The Catholic Church can call itself a moral force just as Penn State University can call itself an institute of higher learning, & the Boy Scouts can call themselves a positive influence on youth.

  • Comment number 98.

    I think making abortion illegal is no more a solution than marrying women off or keeping our faces/heads covered. Totally nonsensical (sorry to offend the hidden).

    However, there is no war on women without there being a war on humanity. By humanity, I mean everyone. I believe there’s a connection between abortion and the feminization of poverty, and the feminization of poverty doesn’t mean only women end up poor. We’re all paying for how women are perceived and for how that pesky issue of pregnancy is treated. Until Woman is addressed (and I think both sides have to acknowledge things they don’t want to),…..Nothing.

    As for me, I get to pay for charity, welfare AND yippee even my real estate taxes pay for abortions. Lucky me, just keeping the mess rolling along.

  • Comment number 99.

    Here's a much more obvious war on religion on the North/South Korea border:


    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16129633

    The Christmas tree is a pretty secularized symbol of Christianity for North Korea to react to so violently.We have Mennonite friends who view Christmas trees as a pagan carryover & would never allow one in their home.
    I think North Korea's barking up the wrong tree.

  • Comment number 100.

    Concerning abortion...

    I remember once being sent some information that included a photo of an aborted foetus, which I will attempt to describe as follows: the foetus was clearly recognisable as a male child - looking absolutely no different from a newborn baby; this little boy had been decapitated, and his right arm amputated at the shoulder. The three parts of his body: head, arm and the rest were neatly laid out on a table, presumably to make sure that everything was there, and that nothing had been left in the mother.

    Needless to say, when I saw this photo I was not only overcome by a sense of the sheer evil of what was the most cowardly and brazen act of state sanctioned murder - the murder of the most helpless and innocent of people - but also total amazement that any nurse or doctor could possess such a total lack of basic humanity, as to perform such an operation and even retain their sanity when checking that all the body parts were there.

    How anyone can come on this blog and start talking nonchalantly about the "rightness" of abortion rights, choice, and women's rights etc, in the light of this holocaust, never ceases to amaze me.

    One day there will be a reckoning... (do go ahead and mock to your heart's content, you who don't believe that - it's a luxury that won't last forever...)

 

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