The Raving Theist

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Logical Sense

July 5, 2005 | 13 Comments

“[T]here are few issues less important in and of themselves than whether the Ten Commandments should or should not be displayed in public buildings,” says John Podhoretz. In fact, the issue is quite important to Podhoretz, who devotes the entire column to the issue of whether the Ten Commandments should or should not be displayed in public buildings. Ostensibly, he’s upset at the Supreme Court’s inconsistency in ruling in favor of one Commandments display and against another, finding that the judges were “acting idiotically” and declaring that “the nation is in desperate need of some new blood on the court, which in its current composition has lost its ability to reason coherently.” The conflict between the two decisions is irreconcilable, Podhoretz says, noting that “[y]ou can’t make logical sense out of an illogical contradiction.”

But Podhoretz’ love of logic is feigned. What bothers him, obviously, isn’t that the court ruled inconsistently on an issue that he purports to consider unimportant. What really upsets him is that the court didn’t come out in favor of promoting religion in both cases, in favor of promoting systems built upon one illogical contradiction after another. What else would explain this kind of whining:

[Justice] Souter says [the courts are] supposed to take into account what you intend when you put [a Ten Commandments monument] up. If you meant to advance the cause of religion, it’s time for your display to go into the garage. But if your purpose was to pay tribute to law, lawgiving, Western civilization, the Atkins diet or the Spiegel catalogue, or even to David Souter, you may prevail.

Thus, along with all its many powers, the Supreme Court has now granted the American judiciary the power to read minds and discern feelings from a distance. Amazing!

Ignoring Podhoretz’ silliness about the difficulty of discerning people’s intentions in a given case (it’s pretty easy to distinguish between what Roy Moore and The Raving Atheist have in mind, respectively, when tributes to the Commandments appear in their kingdoms), let’s focus on the purpose of the analogy. What he means is that the Aktins diet, the Spiegel catalogue, Western civilization and Souter are all trivial things compared to religion. He’s outraged that religion, apparently to his mind the ultimate form of truth, ends up in the garage.

Podhoretz, however, doesn’t bother explaining why religion is entitled to any respect at all. The standard which abhors illogical contradictions isn’t applied to the very ideas he’s trying to defend. Nor does he announce which faith is the true one, his essay containing but one indirect reference to the importance of the “Judeo-Christian” tradition. But last I checked, “Judeo” referred to some nonsense about Chosen People, killing first-born Egyptians and parting Red Seas, and “Christian” to some incomprehensible tale about a 2000 year old BDSM self-sacrifice which washes away human sin. The Judeo part of the construction rejects the core teaching of the Christian part, and the Christian part rejects the Judeo part for doing so. Both parts are built upon an incoherent or self-contradictory definition of an invisible, omni-everything being.

You can’t make logical sense out of an illogical contradiction, indeed.

Comments

13 Responses to “Logical Sense”

  1. Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator
    July 5th, 2005 @ 4:56 pm

    NOW rallies for abortion rights

    Chanting ?Not the church, not the state; women must choose their fate,? hundreds of members of the N

  2. AK
    July 5th, 2005 @ 10:58 pm

    Take that Podhoretz! Maybe that guy should pray harder to his Judeo-Christian God of his.

    Now how the heck does a Judeo-Christian God even exist? How can God simultaneously be Christ, AND be Christ-denying?

    The deeper I dig, the more illogical it gets. Ugh.

  3. boywonder
    July 6th, 2005 @ 3:18 pm

    Displaying the 10 Commandments in courtrooms should never have been an issue in the first place. It ranks right up there with gay marriage and masturbation as “hot topics”. Why can’t this country focus on things that really matter? Bush’s agenda aside, this crap is all I hear about. Why do all of the stupid people speak up? And why is it that all they care about is displaying commandments (when they don’t mind displaying graven images considered blasphemous)? Gay marriage is even funnier. The idea that marriage is sanctioned by god is a joke. Heterosexuals commit adultery, divorce, commit abuse, covet thy neighbors wives, etc. It is the height of arrogance and hypocrisy to say gays are ruining the sanctity of marriage. Pornography and masturbation is even more dumb. The people who try to censor and sanitise everything society can see and do are the ones that usually have these obsessions in the first place. You notice none of these people obsess about stopping murder or war. They aren’t concerned about the environment or anything else that matters. How is it that religions consistently get everything backwards? I don’t think this is a coincidence. Power and greed seem to rule the people of god. I try to keep in mind that you should hate the religion and not the individual practicing it, but the individuals who do practice religion are the problem. Without anyone to do what religions say, there wouldn’t be any religions. It is this intellectual dishonesty and societies allowance (if not sanctioning of it) that needs to change. How can we get these people to think for themselves? They are willingly and happily giving away their ability to think just to feel good that they belong with the majority.

  4. hermesten
    July 6th, 2005 @ 4:07 pm

    “You notice none of these people obsess about stopping murder or war. They aren’t concerned about the environment or anything else that matters.”

    It may be a little more complex, and subject to other possible phraseology, but you essentially answered your own question when you said: “They are willingly and happily giving away their ability to think just to feel good that they belong with the majority.” –though I’m not conceding that most of them had any thinking ability to give away. Flight from self-identification by group identification is basically what you are alluding to. This process and condition is described in detail by Eric Hoffer in “The True Believer” (where “true belief” applies to more than just religious belief).

    Another aspect to consider is that “sin” is only an effective means of control when everyone is a “sinner.” Most people masturbate. Many people divorce, cheat on their spouses, and covet their neighbor’s wife’s ass –or they know someone who has– so it’s easy for people to self-identify with these behaviors. A negative self-identification –I am a sinner– is a first step towards group identification –everyone is a sinner, and only by self-anniliation can I be cleansed. As an individual I am weak and unworthy, only as a member of a group is my existence justified. I can only be part of the group if I accept the “ethos” of the group (which is not to imply moral conduct, as, for example, you wouldn’t have lasted long in the Gestapo if you didn’t at least pretend to hate Jews).

    Also, condider the fact that a control mechanism like religion serves no purpose if it doesn’t “control.” To be against murder, torture, war, or for civil rights, or the environment, is to oppose those in power on two levels: 1) it impedes their ability to impose their power or reap its benefits; 2) and it creates a permanent force in opposition to authority. Murder is sanctified by the State because the State cannot exist without it. On the other hand, the State has no particular stake in whether people masturbate or consume pornography, and it can go either way depending on the circumstances. In fact, the State would rather have a nation of pornography consumers than an educated plebecite questioning those in power; people make money off pornography, regulating it justifies a larger State and a larger police force, and consuming it keeps people occupied and focused on something other than the legitimacy of State power –all benefits to the State.

  5. boywonder
    July 6th, 2005 @ 5:43 pm

    Thanks, Herm. My rant was more of an exercise in mental masturbation than actual questioning of religion. But you got the point. I know it was way oversimplified, but what are you gonna do? It’s a comments section not a type-athon. I will read Eric Hoffer’s book. I think that one is already on my want list. Are there any other books you would recommend on the subject of sociology, sociotheology, psychology, or sociobiology/ evolutionary psychology or whatever you want to categorize this topic as? It is a big interest of mine.

  6. boywonder
    July 6th, 2005 @ 5:49 pm

    BTW, Hermesten, have you been to atheismonline yet? We could really use your help in putting together the Atheist Encyclopedia. Even if you didn’t want to add pages to it, we could use your input. Your elaboration on my rant above is a testament to that.

  7. Mookie
    July 7th, 2005 @ 3:05 am

    boywonder, check out meme theory, it will help to explain how these ideas relate to one another and how they spread.

    http://www.rubinghscience.org/memetics/dawkinsmemes.html

    A good psychology book regarding this stuff is “Understanding Stupidity” In it, James F Wells details how humans make poor decisions in the name of tradition or the status quo, even when these decisions harm them. There was an online version, which could be found at the link below, but I just checked it and it doesn’t seem to be working right now.

    http://www.stupidity.com/story2/index2.htm

    In regards to the post, . So there!

  8. Rudicus
    July 7th, 2005 @ 9:58 am

    Fortunately the angel Moroni returned to the U.S. and gave me the last 5 commandments that were left on the cutting room floor of the original Bible for brevity.

    11. Thou shalt be mired in hypocrisy at all times.
    12. Thou shalt not think for thineself nor ponder.
    13. Thou shalt become enraged by those thinking for themselves or pondering and smite them accordingly.
    14. Thou shalt not entertain the idea that metaphorical stories written today should be reinterpreted or taken in context given the changing of society in years to come.
    15. Thou shalt sin as much as humanly possible so as to make our lord’s sacrifice worthwhile.

    Some of this may not be a direct translation, since my Aramaic is rusty, and even though Moroni took this info back to heaven and you can’t see it – trust me, it’s true.

  9. MBains
    July 9th, 2005 @ 6:23 am

    What he means is that the Aktins diet, the Spiegel catalogue, Western civilization and Souter are all trivial things compared to religion.

    Well, I’ll give him Souter and Western Civ. But the Atkins Diet?! Trivial?!?! Whacko…

    And that Spiegel cat helped me through many a lonely night! (or maybe it’s to blame for my liking women in underwear…?

    Uh… Good post on contradictions and how people like Pudhurtz really need to aknowledge that they exist before claiming they are always bad. After all, sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t. Either way you are always (a silly) human…

  10. Vernichten
    July 9th, 2005 @ 8:36 am

    “But if your purpose was to pay tribute to law, lawgiving, Western civilization, the Atkins diet or the Spiegel catalogue, or even to David Souter, you may prevail.”

    Here’s the problem. This list of Podhoretz’ does not represent things that the Constitution, and the ideals of the Founding Fathers, specifically guard against. The list of “Commandments” is NOT to be used as governance. If it were, it would be present in the Constitution. The FF had every opportunity to include it.

  11. markm
    July 10th, 2005 @ 10:48 am

    In fact, about half of the commandments definitely could not be enacted into law without violating the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment.

  12. boywonder
    July 12th, 2005 @ 11:07 pm

    Thanks Mookie. Meme theory is something I’ve been hearing a little bit about. I haven’t read much on it, but it sounds like something I should definately know more about. I’ll check your suggestions out.

  13. Dan
    July 13th, 2005 @ 2:21 am

    I try to keep in mind that you should hate the religion and not the individual practicing it, but the individuals who do practice religion are the problem. Without anyone to do what religions say, there wouldn’t be any religions. It is this flag intellectual dishonesty and societies allowance (if not sanctioning of it) that needs to change. How can we get these people to think for themselves? They are willingly and happily giving away their ability to think just to feel good that they belong with the majority.

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