Let sleeping culture warriors lie, please…

I’m beginning to suspect that the Left is dissatisfied at the prospect of an election about real national priorities, and is conspiring to get the Culture Warriors of the Right — heretofore MIA — to enter the 2012 fray.

I’m just going by the top three stories on my most recent email from The Slatest:

Federal Appeals Court Deems Prop 8 Unconstitutional

But backers of California’s gay marriage ban are expected to take their fight to the Supreme Court.

Komen VP Resigns in Wake of Planned Parenthood Dispute

Karen Handel defends her work to cut funding to the group, saying it was the best for Komen and the women it serves.

University Selling “Morning-After” Pill from Vending Machine

Students at Shippensburg University now have easier access to Plan B emergency contraception.

Think about this for a minute, people…

The Culture Warriors of the Right have been pretty quiet lately. Their guy in the GOP presidential contest, Rick Santorum, hasn’t caught fire, in fact has been totally an also-ran since Iowa. It was looking like we might have a presidential election about national security and the economy, which I’ve gotta say, would be nice for a change.

So what happens? Culture Warriors of the Left sue to get a court to overturn a public vote on a hot-button issue, and get a favorable ruling from a panel of… the 9th Circuit. This of course will now be taken all the way to the Supremes (who on the right would ever be satisfied with the judgment of the 9th?), assuring that this attempt to overturn a public vote by judicial fiat (talk about waving a red flag at a bull!) will blaze on through the election.

Some of their comrades then go totally ballistic over a decision by one private organization not to help fund another private organization. These Culture Warriors freak out to such an extent over what — $680,000? And the ramifications continue, with everybody on all sides all worked up.

As for the third thing… I don’t know. I’ve been to Shippensburg a number of times, and I’m trying to square this with the images I have of Amish people riding up the High Street in horse and buggy, and Civil War re-enactments. This is a whole new wrinkle…

All I can conclude is that the left just wasn’t happy with the Culture Warriors of the right being all dormant. It’s like there is a concerted effort to make the 2012 election about all this Kulturkampf stuff. Which I, for one, would not appreciate. And I don’t think it’s a good idea for Obama’s re-election chances to get the right’s Culture Struggle machine all hot and bothered.

Oh, you know what the fourth story on the Slatest email was? It was this:

Santorum Poised for 2 Wins in Tuesday’s GOP Contests

But with no delegates up for grabs, the Iowa winner will need to be content with PR victories.

Coincidence? Well, yeah, I think it is a coincidence. But those of us who would rather this election be about something other than abortion and sexuality and the like still eye such developments as all of the above with foreboding.

The good news is that the White House appears to be trying to take down the temperature a bit, on one thing it can control. It may dial back on its recent ham-handed effort to make Newt Gingrich’s ravings about a “war on the Catholic Church” seem to be true. That’s good. I like the sound of that. No-Drama Obama, that’s what I want to see. This was yet another completely unnecessary fight (and with a demographic that the president needs to keep in battleground states, which made it seem particularly weird).

Next, could we all talk about Iran and Israel and Afghanistan and consumer confidence? Throwweights, perhaps? Please? Anything but this hyperemotional stuff…

146 thoughts on “Let sleeping culture warriors lie, please…

  1. `Kathryn Fenner

    The “Culture Warriors” are gay people who want to marry the person they love, lots of people who value the services Planned Parenthood provides (only 3% are abortion, btw), including the breast cancer screenings Komen funded/funds, and college kids who goofed (like that never happens) and want to avoid the abortion wars. Real people with real problems, not pandering politicos and religious zealots who want to impose their morality (at least their public positions on morality) on people’s private lives.

  2. Lynn T

    Gee, Brad, I can’t imagine why folks aren’t willing to drop issues that are central to their lives so that they won’t get the unstable types on the opposing side all excited.

  3. Brad

    As I said, all this hyperemotional stuff.

    Anybody remember the VPS treatments in Brave New World? The idea was that all stressful elements of life had been eliminated, which actually wasn’t good for people physically, so they had to undergo Violent Passion Surrogate treatments (essentially, an artificial infusion of adrenaline) now and then to give their emotions a workout, for the sake of their health.

    That’s what I think of when I see a sudden upsurge in these kinds of issues. It’s like someone, somewhere, has decided to give the nation a VPS treatment…

  4. Brad

    Here’s a bit of blog trivia…

    That Shippensburg column that I link to above was the very first column that I posted, with links, on the blog at the same time as publishing it in the paper. The headline was “Today’s column, souped-up version.

    From then on, I got frustrated with people for reading only the dead-tree versions of my columns. The links, and video, and supporting materials, and deleted paragraphs and pictures and audio and other stuff I was unable to put in the print version just made the whole experience richer. I thought, anyway.

    So every week, I begged people — go read it online, please…

  5. Brad

    And Kathryn, how are these initiatives from the left not a case of “pandering politicos and (ir?)religious zealots who want to impose their morality” on the nation?

  6. Doug Ross

    Komen didn’t realize that their “grant” was really an obligation to never cease giving under threat of public extortion.

    The 3% of services statistic is bogus when a service is defined as handing out a pill or performing an abortion. And an abortion typically would involve providing many services.

  7. Brad

    At least the Onion thing (which, I have to add, Kathryn also brought to my attention via email) invokes humor. Sick humor, but humor nonetheless. We could do with more of that.

  8. Silence

    @Burl, Brad – Loved the Onion article and the congressman’s response. My favorite though was when the Bejing Evening News picked up the Onion’s “Congress Threatens To Leave D.C. Unless New Capitol Is Built” article and ran it as factual. Classic!

  9. tired old man

    The bus has left the station on these social issues with too many people having friends and family who are gay or who have made a personal and private decision on abortion.

    The professional political backgrounders — the PR people, the “consultants” — on both sides keep these issues alive because both political party’s primaries are run to the extremes. (And without real regard to these created issues, as witness SC evangelicals heartily embracing Newt and all his historical issues regarding wives and women.)

    The Susan G. Komen situation is heartbreaking to those of us who have lost mothers, wives, sisters and daughters to breast cancer. A deliberate decision was made against the interests of Komen — and its interests are focused on defeating breast cancer, and enlisting any and all who fight breast cancer (and not picking a fight with an outfit that does fight breast cancer).

    Mitt Romney probably lost the 2012 election when the commented on the Komen situation. He had an opportunity to talk about his issue, which is that government is too big and spends too much and taxes too much. He should have said the Komen situation is an excellent example of what happens when you take your eye off the ball and forget your primary issue.

    Instead, he wandered into the abortion issue (and there can never be any true resolution to the dilemma it presents) and likely lost the vote of many a person who really cared about cutting back government, but just knew of too many times when abortion was the right answer and too many times when abortion was the wrong answer — and knew that they did not have the wisdom to address the issue personally, let alone for a stranger.

    Just saying …

  10. Juan Caruso

    Some insult shamelessly and stereotype opposing “right” cultures (religious zealots, unstable types) with precisely the ease with which they pretend to grant every fringe parasite and deviant an erstwhile welcome into the cult of an imaginary, socialist utopia.

    Either show us your model of that utopia or take your pills and tolerate debate as you have ostensibly been educated to do.

    Doug Ross, thank you for simply ignoring the shallow ranting and nailing the Komen thing on its head.

  11. Burl Burlingame

    Today, President Obama said, if we invite super bowl winners to white house, we should invite science fair winners as well.

    I am awaiting the outraged, sputtering blowback from the Ragged Right.

  12. Phillip

    “It was looking like we might have a presidential election about national security and the economy, which I’ve gotta say, would be nice for a change.”

    Maybe my memory is faulty, but surely the last two Presidential elections (at least once we reached the general election stage) were primarily about national security/role of US in the world, and the economy. And certainly this one will be.

  13. Bart


    Some politicians are a lot more gullible than others. Many years ago when I lived in Virginia, the governor, Linwood Holton, was the object of a practical joke phone call. Someone got his private line number and called, pretending to be someone in the Nixon White House. They told his secretary that the president wanted to meet with him at a time later in the day. Holton dropped everything and dashed off to Washington to meet with Nixon. When he arrived and announced he was there for the meeting, naturally everyone was surprised and as a good gesture to a fellow Republican, Nixon did meet with him for a few minutes.

    That is the very reason I had cast my vote for the Democrat, Bill Battle that year. Battle had common sense and was a good leader, Holton was a total joke.

    Holton is now a Democrat supporter.

  14. Brad

    Phillip, you’re right. I exaggerated. Poor wording. After the awful elections running from the late 80s through 2000, we did focus more on actual priorities (in terms of what’s relevant to the job of president) in 2004 and 2008.

    I guess I’m pushing harder, and hoping for an election FREE of the culture stuff. I’m getting greedy.

    I just kinda get the jitters when I see a series of headlines like that. And it was worse than I said. After I was done with the post, I noticed that the next item after the Santorum one was ALSO a Culture War thing. So, if you count Santorum in the category, that’s five in a row.

    You know where “U.S. Shutters Embassy in Syria” ended up? No. 8. Admittedly, it was a day or so old at that point, but still — it was the biggest real news on the list.

    Now true, Slatest tends toward the lurid, the unusual, the sort of story that stimulates conversation at the water cooler, rather than ranking news by importance. But that is little consolation.

    I’m reminded of the way I felt Sunday morning when the lede story in my newspaper was about some snotty kid sending out Tweets in support of underage drinking, and the news of Russia and China preventing action against Syria in the U.N. (the kind of major news you seldom have on a Sunday) was on page A3.

    One begins to despair for perspective…

  15. Brad

    Oh, and let me point out… Culture Warrior Santorum won in three states last night.

    Yeah, I know he was expected to be strong in those places, so one might say it was as “dog-bites-man” as that panel of the 9th Circuit acting predictably.

    But still — all three? Including Colorado? Dismiss them all you want, but that’s four states where he’s won, compared to three for Romney and one for Gingrich.

  16. bud

    The birth control debacle with Catholic sponsored organizations is a much bigger issue than the closing of the Syrian Embassy. Not sure why that’s particularly important given that the overall unsettled situation in the middle-east is nothing new or newsworthy really.

  17. bud

    Mitt is struggling. Sure he is dismissive of these losses and he’ll probably still win the nomination. But this does not bode well, especially given the light turnout, for GOP prospects in November. Nate Silver pointed to the elections of 1976 and 2004 as particularly relevant comparisons. Both were close but the tepid support for Ford and Kerry respectively probably cost them the election.

  18. Brad

    Bud, it doesn’t get bigger than this developing situation. For the U.S. to take this step right after what happened with the Russians and Chinese should make everyone sit up and take notice.

    Here’s something that gets me… Most Americans just don’t pay attention to these developments until it blows up in their faces.

    And when it does, and it’s time to go to war, all of a sudden there are all these people going, “What? Where did THAT come from? Dammit, you warmongers are always wanting to send the troops in, every time I turn around, and it just always comes out of NOWHERE…”

    Not that we’re close to that point here. But these are the kinds of things that happen before you get to that point. I just wish people would pay attention so they’re not taken aback when things degenerate to the point that force is used.

    As much as a year before we invaded Iraq, it was clear that we were going to, if you read the few journalists who paid attention to what was being said and done in Washington with regard to foreign affairs. And yet all that year, through late 2002 and early 2003, I kept watching my fellow Americans turn one by one in that direction and go, “Huh? Invade Iraq? What the… Where’d THAT come from?”

    I hear that to some extent as we face the increasing likelihood that someone — most likely Israel — WILL be taking military action against Iran’s nuclear capability, possibly quite soon. As in, maybe this spring. (If you listen to NPR, there are days when it seems like they talk of nothing else.)

    And when they do, the storm will break: “WHAT?!? Those crazy, bloodthirsty Israelis just went and attacked another country, that was just minding its own business…” and so forth and so on.

    Which I’d really rather not hear. The military option against Iran is a particularly unattractive one, and remains so even as it looks increasingly inevitable. No one, including Israel, will be happy about it. So it would be nice if the grief Israel has to take for it is at least well-informed.

    So I wish people would pay attention.

  19. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Brad– Why are the initiatives from the left not imposing morality, etc.?

    If you don’t want to marry someone of the same sex, use birth control, get breast cancer screening, don’t. No one’s making you, but frankly, if the Right doesn’t back down, I’m ready to go for a strict two child limit. Overpopulation is a serious issue, and has been for a long time. I’m willing, for now, to live and let live on oversized families, but keep pushing, and you’ll see some real culture wars!

  20. Phillip

    If the firestorm kicked up by the original Komen decision were really just something generated by the so-called “left,” it surely in our overall-conservative country would not have been such a big deal. The truth, of course, is that Planned Parenthood enjoys wide bipartisan support among women nationwide for their overall mission. And even if you are talking about the abortion aspect, it is also true that maintaining some access to abortion rights under certain circumstances is still supported across party lines. So although Brad would like to reassure himself with the thought that it was just those “comrades” (nice touch, there) among the “Culture Warriors of the Left” who made all the fuss, it’s precisely because the Komen Foundation took so much heat across-the-board, especially from women, that they were shaken to the core. Sure, Doug, it was their right to pull the funding, but it’s also the right of those displeased by the decision to register that opinion. Like Obama’s original decision on contraceptive services vis-a-vis religious institutions (EJ Dionne has a typically thoughtful take on this), Komen’s decision was just plain dumb. So no, Brad, the heat Komen took did not just come from the Left. You can’t dismiss it away so casually. Access to affordable health services for women is not a left/right issue, but Komen sent an unfortunate signal that tried to make it one.

    As for “nailing the Komen situation,” it now seems increasingly clear from internal communications that it wasn’t really THEIR decision much, anyway. The Board never wanted to pull the funding, a subcommittee recommended against it. Karen Handel pushed for it knowing the firestorm it would create, caring perhaps less about Komen’s mission than her own political prospects, thus all of this allowing her to resign, go on Fox immediately, and position herself more favorably among the religious-right in her Georgia-based political career. And it looks like she got what she wanted.

  21. Brad

    I guess I’m supposed to laugh at Kathryn’s Swiftian assertion, but I didn’t think Swift was very funny, either.

    The “same-sex marriage” issue is indeed, at its core, one of forcing a particular moral view upon society. It has absolutely nothing to do with tolerance, or live-and-let-live, or anything of the kind. We passed that point in our society a long time ago — unless there are anti-sodomy laws or something of the kind being enforced today, and I’m not hearing about it.

    Demanding marriage of society is not about what two people do together. It’s about what the society does. It’s about what society participates in, by giving its recognition and imprimatur. Two people can go on and do whatever they like. But giving it the stamp of “marriage” is precisely about what the society does, not about what the two people do.

    This is as plain and as obvious as anything can possibly be. So yes, this is about both sides having a vision of morality and trying to make society as a whole AGREE with it, give its stamp of approval.

    One side initiated a long-term campaign, a couple of decades ago, to bring about this change in SOCIETY, not in the behavior of individuals. The other side has resisted that change, and tried to pull SOCIETY back in the direction it prefers.

    That’s what this is about. Everything else is rhetoric and strategy, ploys designed to stir people’s emotions one way or the other.

  22. Silence

    @ Kathryn – I’m with you on the population control. I propose that congress pass an ex post facto law limiting individuals to one child each, and couples to two children each. The excess children could be donated to a local food bank à la Swift or utilized in a similarly productive manner.
    I suggest that we immediately go to Arkansas to dispatch 89% of the Dugger children.

  23. Silence

    Is it just me, or is it possible (political views not withstanding) that Joel Lourie (D-Richland) and Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) were separated at birth?

  24. bud

    Most Americans just don’t pay attention to these developments until it blows up in their faces.

    And when it does, and it’s time to go to war, all of a sudden there are all these people going, “What?

    You’ve got it exactly backwards. These are the types of events that we pay TOO much attention to. We have no reason to side with one side or the other in Syria. Let them work it out for themselves. If the Russians and Chinese or whoever wants to make this an issue fine, let them have at it. Whichever strongman emerges will want to deal with the rest of the world once it’s all over. We really don’t need to bother obsessing over stuff like this.

    On the other hand, the birth control issue is very serious. We have an organization called the Catholic Church behaving like a bully right here in the United States. If the law of the land is that an employer provide insurance that pays 100% for birth control then they should obey the law of the land, period. Why should they get a pass? The federal government intervened in Utah when they wanted to legalize polygamy. Now we have a practice that is extremely reckless, denial of birth control, the federal government is intervening and the Catholic Church is trying to get around the law.

  25. `Kathryn Fenner

    I am very serious about overpopulation. It is a serious issue. People, especially resource-hogging Americans, should have no more than two children.

    I don’t see how two gay peoples’ getting married has any impact on YOUR moral choices.

  26. `Kathryn Fenner

    I also believe any rational opponent of abortion should welcome easy birth control. People are not going to stop having sex just because the Pope says they should have children whenever they do. Even Catholics.

  27. Phillip

    Oh, please Brad. Yes I’m sure there are some poorly-informed people who, if we go to war in Syria or Iran, will say, “Huh?” and all the other questions you posed above. But there will be also a lot of poorly-informed people who will say “Huh? where? we’re at war? Yee-ha, go America, kick some butt.”

    Conversely, if we do enter armed conflict in Syria or especially Iran, you cannot ahead of time preemptively characterize opposition to such military actions as the result of being “ill-informed.” There are plenty of us out there who are well-informed, pay a LOT of attention to world affairs, who do NOT think that war with Iran is necessarily “increasingly inevitable.” Here’s an example of what we are thinking these days.

  28. bud

    Just as a brief aside the WW I era came to an end yesterday with the passing of Florence Green. She served as a young waitress in the RAF in the last months of that conflict and was the last veteran of any kind to have served. Maybe the reason we fight wars, no matter how ridiculous the cause, is to have heros and an excuse to build statues and memorials. Too bad we can’t find a better way to produce heros.

  29. Steven Davis

    I don’t have a problem with a couple having 10 kids if they can afford it. What I do have a problem with is a single mom with 4 kids (by 3-4 different men) that can’t afford to support herself and expects me to pick up the tab.

    @Kathryn – Since you and your husband don’t have children, can your neighbor have your two allotment?

    The population of the United States is declining, but the number of women having litters of kids is increasing.

  30. Brad

    Phillip, I was reacting to Bud’s lack of interest in Syria, regarding it as of less compelling public interest than birth control. And I was saying that was a problem.

    As for Kathryn’s “I don’t see how two gay peoples’ getting married has any impact on YOUR moral choices.”

    I’m going to try again: Two people — gay, straight, what have you — can go off and do what they like, and call it what they like. But if they want me and the rest of society to call it the same thing, and act toward it in the same way, then YES, absolutely, it’s about my choices.

    And the particular case we’re talking about here involves not accepting the choice that California made, and trying to force, via the courts, the people of California to make a different choice.

    Just as, since Bud insists on pontificating about it (wait: only the Pontiff can pontificate, right?), the Sebelius mandate involves dictating to the church what moral choice IT will make, and forcing it to put its money behind that choice.

    All of this is so obvious, it still amazes me when smart people can’t see it. And yet they don’t, and SAY they don’t, and we go on and on and on and on about it. And I hate every minute of it.

    Earlier today, a good friend emailed me to argue with this post, SPECIFICALLY with my saying the left is stirring the pot in these instances. I told him that in such situations, whomever has the finger pointed at him will point at the other guy and say HE started it. And on the level that I’m dealing with in this post, I don’t care who’s starting it, I just want it to stop.

    I HATE talking about this stuff, because almost no one (on left OR right) ever looks at it from the same perspective that I do, and all sorts of people get really emotional, and then they try to make ME emotional, by suggesting that three of my children shouldn’t be alive, and when I try to dismiss it as satire, telling me they’re dead serious.

    And these are my FRIENDS.

    You see where this stuff leads?

    Of course, such attempts to pull everything to an emotional point is related to the pernicious notion, very popular on the left, that people who do not subscribe to the “correct” views and emotions would FEEL differently if they found themselves in different circumstances. You know, the “if someone you loved were gay, or pregnant, or whatever” you would have a completely different view.

    Which is nonsense, which I utterly and completely reject. And furthermore, find insulting.

    I THINK, therefore I am… not ruled by how I FEEL about how something affects ME. I think that if I’m going to go around espousing social and political views based completely on how they affect me and mine, then I have a moral obligation to shut up and retire from the forum.

    And yet, intelligent people whom I respect will at times assert, or at least imply, the opposite: That only those who are, or can be, personally affected should have a say. (How many times have we heard that asserted with regard to abortion?)

    Look people, if you don’t want to know what I think, then get those people who keep dragging this stuff into the public forum to please stop doing so. You won’t have to hear from me about it anymore, and I’ll certainly be happier.

    Because I freaking HATE talking about this stuff. And I only do it about once every 1,000 times it comes up. I did it in this case because it seemed like this stuff was coming at me like a solid wall, and I felt compelled to say, ENOUGH!

    If we’re going to talk about our feelings, those are mine. You can thank me for sharing later.

  31. Brad

    Oh, and more feelings…

    One reason I seldom opine about these things is that I DO know people whose feeling would be hurt by my position, because they are SO emotionally invested in an opposing opinion. And I hate that. They’re nice people; I don’t want them to feel bad.

    And you know what? I think there are a lot of people like me, who feel buffeted by this stuff, and don’t want to talk about it (partly because it might make somebody feel bad), and they stay out of it, and the field is left entirely to the shouters on both sides, and it becomes a matter of who can shout the loudest, or who can most successfully maneuver the OTHER side into a position that is socially unacceptable and beyond the pale. And the emotional stakes become so huge that people like me (unless they are, like me, compulsive bloggers who can only stay silent on an issue so long), who might be able to lower the temperature a bit if given a chance, generally surrender the field.

  32. Brad

    Steven is referring there to one of a couple of comments of his that I disallowed.

    Here’s one of them: “Nobody cares what the St. Pervious Church of Pedophilia/Catholic Church has to say anymore. I bet 90% of the country couldn’t tell you who the Pope is right now.”

    I let Bud say stuff like that, under my famous double standard, because we know who he is and he’s a made guy.

    But you know, I should have approved Steven’s, just so Bud could see how close Steven’s views are to his own…

  33. Mark Stewart

    We’re having some fine weather today, don’t you agree?

    Blandness often isn’t any better…

    If we don’t collectively and continually hash out the questions that define society, then none of us is a part of one.

  34. Tim

    The Catholic Church currently operates in some 28 states that require contraception coverage in healthcare plans. They haven’t shut down. And let’s be clear. This isn’t like this is about just Church Secretaries, Priests and Nuns. This could involve Big Business Catholic sponsored institutions, like Universities and Hospitals. How many non-Catholics (let alone most Catholics) work at Providence who might want contraceptive coverage?

    Should evangelical institutions require faith healing over medical treatment? Can Scientologists who own a coffee shop be able to exclude psychiatry?

    All laws have an element of a moral imposition. In a single payer world, which would include coverage for Priests and Nuns, and like minded Catholics, they would be paying income taxes to support it, wouldn’t they, or would they get an opt out of that, and any other law that they find morally objectionable?

    But in any event, I bet that they will get their exemption.

  35. Brad

    I’d run off and live on a desert island, except that I’ve been watching “Lost” on Netflix.

    Any of y’all watch it? You know what the first thing they did was, after finding themselves plopped down in the middle of paradise? They started finding stupid stuff to divide them.

    Not that I hold up “Lost” as an example of how actual human beings act in the real world. But that part seems pretty true to life.

  36. Brad

    Interesting thing about that… when I was very young and antisocial, I used to long to go live on a desert island, with just a few people of my own choosing.

    I outgrew that. I got married, had kids, got involved in my community, and eventually (after shaking off that bogus insouciance that journalist affect) started to care passionately about the society in which I live. I came to believe that our lives have meaning in terms of how we relate to other people. Which is what causes me to so vehemently reject libertarianism, which is all about “me and mine” being walled off from any responsibility to the larger world. I see in it my own unlamented selfishness.

    To double back… I just remembered something about “Lost.” You realize that NONE of those characters had any strong connection to anyone in the “real” world? Nobody back home pining for them, no one that it pained them to be separated from. They were all emotional free agents. Which is standard for TV and movies, which greatly prefer single people because of their potential for painless romantic entanglements. But this was remarkable. There was one married couple, and they were both on the island.

    Which meant that, while in the first season or so they gave a lot of lip service to wanting to get home, there was no emotional intensity invested in that, which left them all free to devote themselves fully to the many weirdnesses of the island.

  37. `Kathryn Fenner

    @Brad– You think you are Spock, but you are just rationalizing your feelings. You FEEL that marriage is only between a man and a woman. At one time, people felt that marriage should only be between people of the same race (many still do).

    Many people felt that slavery was just fine, and rationalized it–“It’s in the Bible!”

    Fortunately, the demographics favor my views–young people increasingly favor marriage equality. They certainly favor contraception.

  38. Steven Davis

    “But you know, I should have approved Steven’s, just so Bud could see how close Steven’s views are to his own…”

    Yet so distant in the other 99% of our discussions. Bud and I just don’t have the love for the Catholic church the way you do.

  39. Brad

    “You FEEL that marriage is only between a man and a woman…”

    Hold on. Let me scan all of human history with my gigantic computer brain, and see how all people at all times have defined “marriage”… nope, turns out that I’m objectively right.

    The status quo ante this very recent argument was, indeed, what you say I FEEL it was. So we are, indeed, talking about giving a new definition to a term. And we’re still having the discussion, unfortunately. It’s not over. I wish it were.

    Oh, and I FEEL about the “race equals gender equals sexual orientation equals whatever cause one advocates next week” argument the way I do about the “if only it affected YOU you would feel differently” argument. I don’t see it as legitimate. I see it as a bid to render one’s debate opponent morally illegitimate by clothing one’s own side of the debate in the saintly vestments of a COMPLETELY different issue.

    Race is about as different from gender, and gender is about as different from sexual orientation, as complex human factors can possibly be. They’re not even apples and oranges, which are both, after all, fruit.

    You may (or may not) hold the right position on all three. But not because one leads to another, because they don’t. You have to think them through separately, to do justice to each.

  40. `Kathryn Fenner

    All throughout human history, there were slaves, until there weren’t (actually, I think there still are some slaves in the Third World). Just because something has always been done a certain way, doesn’t make it right.

    Of course, you can distinguish anything that isn’t exactly like something else. The old Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the other” used to amuse me and my brother as we’d pick and justify one of the items that was not the obvious “not like the others” one.

    I think race, gender, sex (not the same thing as gender), and sexual orientation are all congenital conditions.

    I think many of us are arguing on the “maybe if it affected you personally” side to counteract your dismissive “just more culture warrior partisanship” take. I liked what Lynn T. said best.

    None of these issues actually affect me personally. I am heterosexual and postmenopausal. I do think that one’s perspective on issues can change as one’s life experiences change–one may believe one is ever so rational, until something happens.

    The old saw about a “conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged and a liberal is a conservative who’s been indicted” is all too often true. Tevye came to see that maybe tradition wasn’t all it was cracked up to be (to cite a fictional source as you so often do).

  41. Tim


    It’s Wiki, so probably only 85%-95% right. Marriage is pretty much 1 Man/1 Woman, but not exclusively. Sacramental aspects move in and out of fashion. Property rights/chattel slavery aspects are pretty strong.
    Other stuff we think about it as being ‘gospel’ are all over the map, and the farther back you go, the weirder it gets, until you arrive at Old Testament, which, while we tout our lineage of Adam and Eve, it features way more Adam and Eve and Eve and Eve’s servants, and Adam kills Eve’s first husband, steal’s Eve, etc.

    Same sex couples were fairly common in the Ancient World, the one familiar in the foundation period of Christianity.

  42. Burl Burlingame

    Must be tough operating a modern medical center or program backed by medieval religious zealots. (I define “zealot” as anyone who insists that YOU operate by THEIR religious principals.)

    Imagine what it’s like being a doctor in a Christian Science hospital.

    More than half the states in the nation already have similar laws on the books, and they operate without controversy. Where were the Ragged Right when THOSE laws were enacted? And they are laws because the rules deal with public health and public dollars.

    There’s a heck of a difference between “being forced to” and “being allowed access to.” The rule here in Hawaii is that Catholic hospitals, although they disallow contraception advice and care, are supposed to provide the patient with information about such care elsewhere. Then it’s the patient’s choice.

    Actually, there’s a simple solution. Catholic hospitals just need a warning label, similar to cigarette packs: WARNING; MEDICAL SCIENCE SUPERSEDED BY DOGMA IN THIS ZONE.

  43. Mab

    ~Mab’s 2 shekels~

    So to be a “made guy” Steven and his drivers license would have to meet you at Al’s Upstairs for a glass of H20? Or maybe email you an age-regressed portrait of him in a high school chess tournament?

    Face it, Brad. You.are.zenophobic.

  44. Doug Ross

    “which is all about “me and mine” being walled off from any responsibility to the larger world.”

    You keep repeating this mantra about libertarians as if that will make it come true. It’s not.

    I am about as pure a libertarian as you will find and I have always been actively engaged in the community. Libertarianism is about not forcing people to accept YOUR beliefs particularly by having a government collect money to fund activities that a government should not do.

    Libertarians are about limited government. That’s it. It’s not about limited social interaction.

    I think Ron Paul is a pretty good example of what a libertarian should be. Are you going to suggest that his decades of medical practice were an attempt to wall himself off from the rest of the world?

    Libertarian does not equal selfish no matter how many times you try to sell that baloney.

  45. martin

    Sorry, but I think the original gay marriage stuff in San Francisco in 2004 was used to maximum effect by the culture warriors against John Kerry. I KNEW he was going to lose when that stuff exploded. I had no doubt. The white people who go to church to learn how to vote are far more numerous than the black people who go to church to learn how to vote and they have much narrower interests, mainly related to sex.

    And, I don’t think Bush’s Solicitor General Ted Olsen, one of the lawyers “for” gay marriage in the California case, is anywhere near the left. He may just have a good feeling how long it takes for things to move through the court system and how to try to time them to national elections. But, that goes way beyond…I don’t know, he may be part of that vast right wing conspiracy.

    I gave a report on Paul Erlich’s The Population Bomb to a political science class in 1971. Over-population was bad then and god awful now. Just think of the wars and famines in Africa that are the direct result of overpopulation in the past 40 years alone. Look at the slums of Brazil. Look at India, Pakistan, Egypt. OMG.

    This contraceptive craziness with the Catholic Church…this is not about the Catholic Church, it’s about the businesses the Catholic Church in America own and make billions from, a goodly portion from Medicaid and Medicare.
    The point is whether those businesses are above and beyond the law and able to get away with discriminating against their female employees when/if this law takes effect. Obviously, with a gaggle of Opus Dei types on the supreme court – which I no longer capitalize, as you can see – we know which way they would come down if it got that far.

    There is an all out assault on women’s rights going on in this country and the contraceptive issue is the most blatant example.

    And, here’s how Antonin Scalia feels about the equality of women under the Constitution from Politics Daily:

    Fielding a question from California Lawyer magazine, the justice said: “…Certainly, the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.”

    The magazine headlined its interview with Scalia “The Originalist.” If society wants to ban sex discrimination, he said, “Hey, we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up to date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box. . . . That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing their demands on society.”

    Scalia had prefaced his answer, “Yes, yes, sorry to tell you that . . .”

    In a high court ruling 15 years ago, Scalia made his views known on gender discrimination. He was the only justice dissenting in an opinion halting the 157-year-old all-male tradition at Virginia Military Institute.

    Women got the vote decades after black men. To say their civil rights struggle in not comparable to civil rights for blacks and other racial male minorities is absurd and reminds me of the post you had a few weeks ago about a childhood friend referring to you as an officer’s son and you not grasping that you were part of an “elite” class because of that. You’re missing it re: gender, too.

  46. `Kathryn Fenner

    @Burl– I do not wish to be treated in a Catholic hospital because of their position on euthanasia, among other things. I want the best MEDICAL care—science-based. If I wish to refuse certain interventions, I have that right.

    Jesus is not my health insurance!

  47. Herb Brasher

    Same sex couples were fairly common in the Ancient World, the one familiar in the foundation period of Christianity.

    Which is precisely why St. Paul took up the topic in writing to churches, but I don’t think he ever considered trying to impose a Biblical standard on the population at large. Not that it was ever an option.

    Interesting that when Brad does bring up these and similar topics, the discussion is often far more lively than the ones he’d rather discuss.

    I kind of prefer to stay out of it, though, because as Brad says, “I think there are a lot of people like me who don’t want to talk about it (partly because it might make somebody feel bad), and they stay out of it . . . .” Yes, but not just because it will make somebody feel bad, but because it is almost impossible to discuss at all. Nobody listens to what the other person is really saying on this stuff. And those who might possibly be listening seem to have their minds already made up, anyway.

  48. bud

    Now let me get this straight. Notre Dame University is funded, at least in part, by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has, as part of its doctrine, a prohibition on the use of contraceptives. And even though a large number of Notre Dame’s employees are non-Catholic AND even though a majority of Catholics reject the contraceptive ban Notre Dame believes it is exempt from the policy requiring insurance to pay for contraceptives. So that in a nutshell is what the issue is.

    What possible value is there in a prohibition on contraceptives in the 21st century when the earth is increasingly burdened by too many people? And yet it is beginning to look like the administration has no recourse but to cave. It’s political suicide to continue. And the country is much worse off because of what a bunch of reactionaries dressed in clown suits say is “church doctrine”.

  49. Karen McLeod

    And of course, Brad, you’d see marriage as holy partnership and marriage as chattel acquisition as the same thing. Oh yes, and “a man and a woman” isn’t quite what it used to be (and how many wives and concubines did Solomon have?).

  50. Brad

    Paul Ehrlich? Really? You’re kidding me, right? You gave that report in 1971, and you know what? That was the last time Ehrlich was taken seriously.

    I don’t think I’ve heard his name mentioned much since then, except in the context of People Whose Predictions Turned Out To Be So Wrong, It’s Embarrassing.

    One of his most notorious chestnuts: “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

    FYI, I went to check 11 years later than that date. It was still there.

  51. Brad

    OK, that bit of scorn toward Ehrlich aside, I’d like to call your attention to something…

    Do a little critical analysis of what has been said in this thread. Have you seen me say anything about anybody I disagree with that compares, in terms of hostility or insult, to the things that have been said about the group that I belong to, namely the church? You know, the “medieval… reactionaries dressed in clown suits.”

    The really gross prejudice aimed at my faith by people who regard themselves as liberal people continues to be stunning. Once, it was the Ku Klux Klan that went off the deep end when it came to demonizing Catholics. Now it comes from a whole different direction. And it doesn’t abate. I realize that what I’m saying here was a cliche long ago — I was hearing “The only acceptable prejudice today is anti-Catholic prejudice” 30 and 40 years ago — but it remains startlingly true.

  52. Brad

    Oh, and to stick up for a fellow Catholic — what was wrong with what Scalia said? Of course the basis for banning sex discrimination has been statutory, rather than constitutional. Why else would there have been a drive for the ERA — a drive that sort of lost steam as the movement’s goals were achieved legislatively. No one would have pushed for the ERA to begin with if the principles were already seen as existing in the Constitution.

    Your reaction to what Scalia said seems more a gut thing. His saying gender equality is not set out in the Constitution seems like a dis to you, like he’s not properly revering the subject matter, and you react against it. Basically, it’s like, “No feminist would say that, even if it’s true, so therefore he is the enemy for saying it.”

    And THAT is what I hate about Culture War stuff and identity politics. Anyone out there who wants to characterize me as a “hater,” well, that’s what I hate — the fact that you can’t make a neutral observation about these subjects without being viewed as part of, and I quote, “an all out assault on women’s rights.”

    Say what? What, in the words you quoted from Scalia, even lifts a little finger against women’s rights, much less launches an assault, even much less an “all-out” one?

    WHY can’t we have calm, rational discussions about these things? If you say, “Well, hold on, let’s take a moment to look at this,” you’re some kind of monster?

    It’s quite distressing for those of us on the receiving end of such anger. But worse than the anger, I’ll say again, is the thought that someone is actually feeling HURT by something that I’ve said, even though I have no desire whatsoever to hurt that person.

    There are people I care about, good friends, who I know are hurt by my honest views on the idea of the term “marriage” being applied to same-sex unions. So when these subjects come up, I cringe. I want it to go away, because at some point I know I’ll have to be honest about what I think, and I know that what I say won’t be taken as I mean it. I’ve had too much experience with it.

    And that’s why I… and here’s that word again… hate seeing these topics keep coming up in the public sphere. And why I panicked when I saw these issues dominating that Slatest report (a feature that usually has a good feel for the topics thatwill be “talkers” in our public conversation), which is what caused me to break my usual silence and step up and say… and here was my point… that I certainly hope this election is about things other than these.

    Herb gets my meaning; he FEELS the same things I feel about this. All of us have feelings when these things come up; the sad thing is that it’s so difficult to move beyond those feelings, to thought.

  53. Tim

    Brad, looking back on this thread, I saw maybe 2 comments from 2 people (Kathryn and Burl) that may have been slightly over the top. The rest seemed to me to pretty fair game issues, so the wounded wing about Catholic prejudice doesn’t fly. But that’s just my point of view.

    You brought up this topic, which, is in part, about the Catholic Church wanting an exemption from a law, based on its moral tenets. You don’t address any points about it excepting the law in 28 states, or about other institutions wanting similar exemptions, or what other things should people be able to exempt from their taxes on moral grounds.

    No one is denying Catholics the right to vote, hold office, or discriminating against their place in society, etc. Two Catholics are running for President, strongly holding out their faith as key to their campaigns. 5 are seated on the Supreme Court, 4 of whom were probably seated in part because of their strong Catholic beliefs. If you don’t want to hear criticisms of something you hold dear when it wades into the swamp of public discourse, cover your ears. And definitely avoid looking at what Catholics like Andrew Sullivan have to say. Once the Church, any Church, involves itself in the public arena, it can’t claim its exempt from criticism, from what I see here, its all above board stuff, so spare the KKK stuff.

    But I understand… We know that Evangelicals, Mormons, Scientologists, Jews, and Muslims are all getting a free pass… Oh, wait.

  54. Brad

    You’re missing the obvious, Tim. You note that comments from Kathryn and Burl were over the top. I was thinking more in terms of Bud and Steven, but let’s talk about Kathryn and Burl.

    They’re both friends of mine. With Burl, it goes back more than 40 years (although I’m still not sure that Burl really remembered me from then when we reconnected a few years back — I was only at that school one year). They’re good people. I deeply appreciate them, and their contributions to this blog.

    But even THEY said things that you termed “over the top.” In any case, set it aside. I’m not nursing grievances here, even though you seem to think I am. Kathryn is fond of saying, as Martin did above, that I am so steeped in privilege (somebody should tell my bank account that) that I am blind to various slings and arrows. In any case, I don’t feel embattled or put down or in need of defending. I’ve never been comfortable in a victim role.

    My point in bringing up the anti-Catholic prejudice — which I was aware of before I was Catholic, by the way (and perhaps it even played a slight role in my conversion, a desire to be something other than a sleek, invulnerable WASP) — was to point out the contrast between that and what I have said about these sensitive issues.

    I was just saying, look at me; I’m a nice, sensitive guy here (“I’m sensitive as s__t! I throw up before I go on stage!” said “John Lennon” in “Magical Misery Tour,” which you really should hear if you haven’t), not a Blue Meanie. Just for the record.

  55. Brad

    Oh, and as for your mentioning of other groups — you’re right; evangelicals take a lot of scorn from the forces of enlightenment as well. Although instead of being cruel, hierarchical, medieval, sexually twisted mysogynists like us Catholics, they are generally dismissed as unforgivably stupid. Tell me if I’m right, Herb.

    Thankfully, overt antisemitism has become unfashionable, unless, of course, the Jews in questions happen to be Zionists, or merely want Israel to be allowed to defend itself. (It will be… interesting… to see what happens when Israel takes action to stop a regime that wants it to cease to exist from obtaining nukes.)

  56. Tim

    Fair enough. Just reading what you wrote seemed like you were feeling abused. I try pretty hard to stick to real issues and avoiding feelings, “ad homs” (its my new abbreiv’), or “ad rel’s”.

  57. bud

    Oh, and as for your mentioning of other groups — you’re right; evangelicals take a lot of scorn from the forces of enlightenment as well.

    Let’s not forget the atheists. THEY are the most scorned. It’s even been put forth to adopt legislation banning atheists from holding public office.

  58. Phillip

    Tim, you forgot atheists, who are STILL constitutionally barred from serving as governor of South Carolina, for example. When I see 5 atheists on the Supreme Court, 2 atheists running for President, etc., then I’ll be impressed.

    And Brad, “anti-semitism” may be generally unfashionable in most of the Western world, thankfully. And But demagogic accusations of “anti-semitism” against those who might disagree with this or that policy of the state of Israel are VERY much in fashion these days. And as you realize I’m sure, anti-Zionism is not the same thing as anti-semitism.

  59. Doug Ross

    Well, I personally feel you treat libertarians the same way you apparently feel liberals treat Catholicism. But, I know, you’ve THOUGHT about it for a long time so that means you REALLY understand libertarians.

  60. Steven Davis

    Brad the Catholic church is more closely resembles an organized crime family than any other organization that I can think of. What other religious organization has their own police force? Do Lutherans, Baptists, or even the for profit church known as LDS have their own police force, enforcing their own laws? I’ve seen first hand how the Catholic church deals with felons such as child predators (also known as Father XXX). The Catholic priest molested a 12 year old girl in my small hometown. He was wisked away by the Bishop in the middle of the night and eventually placed in another parish. Turns out the molestation in my hometown wasn’t the first, he did it before and that’s how he ended up in my home town. The Catholic church knew about him, did nothing but move the problem to another community and this was the Catholic church’s solution to the problem. The man should have been in prison, and the father of the girl pretty much had to be threatened by the local police department that he’d be the one serving life in prison if he did anything. This happened in the early 1980’s, and we’re still hearing stories about the Catholic church employing known child molesters.

    If this is the type of organization you see yourself and your family wanting to belong to, by all means attend church daily and listen to the local likely pedofile preach the Catholic’s version of the word of God.

  61. Steven Davis

    Interesting… none of my posts are now appearing. Even after I post them they don’t appear as being in the “waiting for approval” state. Did Brad finally get a new feature added to the blog… the “blocked” feature?

  62. Steven Davis II

    Looks like Brad has implemented a blocking feature. Steven Davis posts do not get posted, Steven Davis II posts do. Interesting, I guess talking bad about the pedofile laced religion known as the Catholic church will get your account blocked. I wouldn’t expect it to be any other way, since that’s how the Catholic church would handle it.

  63. Burl Burlingame

    These are called “wedge issues,” not because they open a door but because they pry people apart.

    Am I over the top? Probably. But I’m not anti-catholic, I’m just intrinsically opposed to ANY religious group determining public policy for the population at large.

  64. Karen McLeod

    Herb, the last time I checked, what Paul was having troubles with were the temple prostitutes of both varieties. Part of his dislike for prostitution and homosexuality had to do with it was linked with pagan religion.

  65. Steven Davis

    So what’s the deal? One user account worked the next didn’t.

    Try this again with the original one.

  66. Brad

    Steven, if you hadn’t mentioned it, I wouldn’t have known. I checked, and three comments of yours had gone into the “spam” folder. That means that what happened a couple of days ago to someone else — I want to say it was Mark Stewart — apparently happened to you. Probably sometime this morning.

    Sometimes I approved comments on my iPhone, and sometimes when I’m using my finger to scroll through them, I hit one of the buttons that sends it to Trash or Spam. I saw that happen yesterday to Mark, and went in and brought it back.

    I VERY often put Steven’s comments in the Trash folder. But that’s intentional. This was not.

  67. `Kathryn Fenner

    FWIW, I wasn’t exaggerating. What I posted are my sincere beliefs. I am getting annoyed at how we are supposed to bend over backwards to be tolerant and inclusive and respectful of anyone’s religion, but dare someone have a sincere, rational (I might add) belief that runs counter to a popular religious one and it’s “over the top.”

    Since I was about 8 and read a book about the population explosion (I was a precocious reader), I have been very concerned about overpopulation, and as I got older, realized that a large family in the Third World, with life expectancy and environmental impacts what they are there, is somewhat defensible, a large family in the developed world, especially resource-hogging America is immoral.

    Likewise, I believe that we have the right to refuse medical treatment and give a “Do Not Resuscitate” order. Using extensive resources to extend a life that has very poor quality and no hope of becoming better, over the wishes of the holder of that life, in a world where there’s not enough medical care to go around is also immoral.

    I am also not anti-Catholic–many relatives are Catholic, for one thing. I agree with Burl, though, that no religious group should determine public policy in this country.

    As I am not the first to say, if you don’t want to use birth control, DNR orders, etc., don’t. No one is making you. Just don’t get in the way of others who wish to.

    If the “Church” of Scientology were the predominant religion, we’d be having a discussion on mental health care funding.

  68. Tim

    “Let’s not forget the atheists. THEY are the most scorned. It’s even been put forth to adopt legislation banning atheists from holding public office.”

    I am pretty sure that this is the current law in SC.

    South Carolina, Article 17, Section 4:

    No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.

    Now, its highly doubtful that a challenge would pass Constitutional muster, even with our current Supreme Court, but we have already made it a public commitment to protect our amazingly well run state government from the dangers of the Godless rationalists. As for Wiccan’s, or Hindu’s, not sure if A Supreme Being works for Multiple Supreme beings. Of course, I am curious if someone challenged those of us who adhere to a Trinitarian conception would pass muster. Would actually love to see the General Assembly begin to tackle some real Theological issues like this.

  69. Brad

    Well, Bud, I can’t imagine what’s wrong. None of yours are showing up in Spam.

    I looked for Steven’s missing posts, and they were all in “Spam.”

    And Kathryn, maybe you and Burl could enlighten me as to which Church this is that is trying to dictate national policy to the rest of the country. We HAD been talking about the Catholic Church, which is objecting to the STATE trying to dictate what sort of religion Catholics will be allowed to practice — you know, whether Catholic institutions will be allowed to BE Catholic. Which is pretty much the opposite of what both of y’all just said.

    Also — and this is just a matter of idle curiosity; I’m not trying to argue — do you have information indicating that Providence and other Catholic hospitals don’t honor DNR requests? I don’t know either way, but if that’s the case, I’m unaware of it.

  70. bud

    Brad what many posters are saying is that separation of church and state is not an absolute. For those of us who find it extremely dangereous, to the point of being immoral, to make it more difficult for sexually active persons to obtain birth control this fight with the Catholic Church is one of those areas where the government should intervene. Don’t we intervene if a Johovas Witness child needs a transfusion? Don’t we intervene when a church that believes in faith healing allows a child with an easily treatable disease denies that treatment? Don’t we allow the government to step in to prevent polygamy? How about snake handlers? Should we allow them to practice their religion in an unfettered manner? Seems like what we’re talking about here is where the government should interfere in religious doctrine. Seems like the actual church is a good place to make the exception for birth control. The other institutions are quasi-public institutions that should abide by the law when it comes to medical practices.

  71. Brad

    All that population-control stuff made my blood run cold well before I was a Catholic. It’s so… well… cold-blooded. The very idea of the state doing ANYTHING to control population makes me shiver. Maybe I shouldn’t have read The Wanting Seed by Anthony Burgess (he of Clockwork Orange fame).

    Or maybe I shouldn’t have read about policies in China, or about the war on girls there and in India and elsewhere.

    Maybe then it wouldn’t creep me out so much.

  72. bud

    Thanks Tim. I was unaware that legislation had actually passed. Brad did you editorialize on that legislation when it was in the works?

  73. Tim

    BTW, The Article was ruled unconstitutional in 1997, opening the floodgates to the secular flood that followed.

  74. Brad

    What legislation, Bud? Are you referring to the constitutional provision Tim referred to? I expect that dates to 1895 — unless I’m misunderstanding the reference…

  75. Steven Davis II

    “South Carolina, Article 17, Section 4:

    No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution. ”

    What about this whole separation of church and state?

    I guess as long as there’s no set “Supreme Being” that there shouldn’t be that big of a problem. I could say I consider a wad of paper as my Supreme Being.

  76. Mab

    Steven — that is your clue that the government is “mirroring” you. Your post first goes to the government and then to Brad. It happened to me on many blogs — just hit “submit” 2, 3, 4, or 5,000 times. Let EVERYBODY know what you have to say.

    That’s my tinfoil hat theory and I continue to like it.

  77. bud

    Apparently I’m confused. I distinctly remember a discussion, fairly recently, regarding a requirement in the State’s constitution that required a belief in a supreme being in order to be governor. Was that a discussion about repealing that provision from the 1895 constitution? Without going too far into the weeds the point is that atheists are a class of people that is often held up for ridicule and scorn. Probably more so than even Catholics.

  78. Steven Davis

    Mab – That sounds like a good tinfoil hat theory. I wonder if Brad would mind if I just submitted everything 20-30 times?

  79. Brad

    And as for atheists being “held up for ridicule and scorn,” even “more so than than even Catholics,” not in the circles in which I move.

    And on the ridicule part… I can’t remember when I’ve ever heard an atheist joke. Although there was one that was pretty funny that I can’t quite remember that had the concept of atheism in it, but was really about Unitarians. Something like, “You hear about the Unitarian who became an atheist? He couldn’t decide which God not to believe in.” That’s not it. It was something like that, though, only funnier.

    I tried Googling it, but was unsuccessful. I did run across this, though:

    Q: How many Unitarians does it take to change a light bulb?
    A: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is wonderful. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your light bulb. Present it next month at our annual Light Bulb Sunday Service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, 3-way, long-life, and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

  80. Brad

    Which isn’t nearly as good as:

    Q. How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: That’s not funny!

    Punchlines should be short, generally speaking…

  81. Brad

    Steven — yes you are, and I can’t figure out why. I keep clicking on “not spam,” and it restores that comment, but then it happens again.

    This is beyond my technical expertise. How about using the II until I can sort it out?

  82. Tim

    Espicopalians and light bulbs….

    It takes 2. one to change out the old lightbulb, and one to say how much better it was than the new lightbulb.

  83. Burl Burlingame

    I think KF and I are most annoyed that this is a bogus dog-whistle issue that is a settled concern in most of the nation, and has been raised simply to create confusion and division. And it’s working.

    But it also bothers me that, at its core, this issue is about an organization’s “right” to discriminate against a certain class of citizens. Doesn’t matter that it’s Catholics (this time).

    This is also federal, not state. I think the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies, which just might support the Catholic bishop position.

    On the other hand, courts have struck down American Indian religious practices regarding peyote use. Upon the scales of the law, there should be no difference between a hallucinating Hopi and a Catholic bishop in the pockets of the wingers.

  84. Brad

    No, it goes like this:

    Q. How many Charlestonians does it take to change a lightbulb?

    A. 12. One to change the bulb, and the other 11 to sit around talking about how GRAND the old bulb was…

    Of course, some of these Charlestonians will be Episcopalians…

  85. Herb Brasher

    Although instead of being cruel, hierarchical, medieval, sexually twisted mysogynists like us Catholics, they are generally dismissed as unforgivably stupid. Tell me if I’m right, Herb.

    Well, yes, but sometimes we deserve it. And what is most disturbing is that we let our faith and values get compromised with prevailing political philosophies and revisionist history and science.

    I’d like to think we pursue truth for the sake of the truth, but in order to do that, we have to be able to listen, and I’m not sure we are very good at that.

    Still, I’m grateful for evangelicals like Nathan Hatch (president of Wake Forest U.) John Stott (recently deceased former rector of All Souls Church in London) and others who do think and act as evangelical Christians in the modern world.

  86. Herb Brasher

    In other words, I may be overly pessimistic, but I think that at the present time Catholics are better at living out their faith than we are.

  87. `Kathryn Fenner

    How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?

    Two, one to mix the drinks and one to call the electrician.

  88. Tim

    Yours is better. I can’t tell jokes. Mine is limited to one that always cracks me up…

    A horse walks into a bar. Bartender asks “Why the long face?”

    That’s all for me.

  89. Burl Burlingame

    Ironic, ain’t it? This “new” law mirrors the 2000 ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act that employers who don’t provide (not “force”) contraception coverage are in violation of Title VII of the Equal Rights Act. This has been the rule for the last 12 years. The only thing Obamacare makes different is that religious organizations can make an exemption. As usual, people are yelling at the president for doing something that is the opposite of what he actually did.

    And, I wonder, how do y’all feel about pharmacies that refuse to fill legitimate prescriptions because the pharmacist has decided they’re not in his interpretation of Scripture?

  90. bud

    With 105 comments and counting it’s obvious the social issues are very important to folks. But I doubt this will have much affect on the election. The camps are pretty evenly divided.

  91. bud

    Brad, you suggested that atheists don’t get ridiculed. But just yesterday Rick Santorum was equating atheism with communism. I had forgotten that but that was one of the driving forces behind all the anti-communist rhetoric during the cold war – that they (communists) were diabolical atheists.

  92. Doug Ross

    Isn’t the issue regarding the Catholic hospitals abut whether the government can force those hospitals to offer insurance coverage that makes access to birth control covered 100% rather than with a copay or as part of the deductible?

    Shouldn’t we EXPECT individuals to take some responsibility for paying for the means to prevent unwanted pregnancies? I’m baffled as to how asking a woman to pay somewhere between zero (abstinence, rhythm method, getting the guy to buy condoms or grabbing a bunch of free ones from all sorts of places) and $15? dollars a month is such a heavy burden that the government feels it must make this a “freebie” for all women.

    Maybe contraception (especially when not married) should take a little more precedence over, say, cellphones, cable TV, a couple trips to McDonalds, a movie and a bag of popcorn, downloading a couple apps on your iPhone?

    Obama started a war over a trivial issue. He’s going to back down on this one.

  93. Brad

    No, Burl, this is not the record for comments on a post. We’ve had one or two others break 100 recently.

    To get to records, you have to go back to the days (on my old blog, actually, so I don’t know whether to count it) when I didn’t moderate comments. At least once, and maybe more than once, I broke 300.

    But that’s because the commenters took it off on tangents. There would have to be several rather hotly contested tangents to get to those kinds of numbers.

    Oh, and how do I feel about someone who refuses to fill a prescription because it violates his or her conscience? Just fine.

    Sigh… and I had hoped to wrap this up with the jokes from Tim and Kathryn. This is another reason why I dread a campaign on such subjects as these. We all dive down a rat-hole together, and don’t get anywhere. I prefer to see energy expended on issues that people who disagree MIGHT reach agreement on.

    And Bud — that’s not ridicule; that’s criticism. Remember, that’s how we got on the jokes tangent. I said I couldn’t think of any atheist jokes. Atheists may come in for heavy criticism and condemnation, but not so much ridicule…

  94. Doug Ross

    “And, I wonder, how do y’all feel about pharmacies that refuse to fill legitimate prescriptions because the pharmacist has decided they’re not in his interpretation of Scripture?”

    I am fine with that. It’s a business decision to give up that revenue. It’s not discriminatory as the decision impacts all customers.

  95. Brad

    Do y’all SEE how much these culture conflicts distort the political landscape? They even make Doug and me agree on things… 🙂

  96. tim

    you could say that about virtually any issue, including coverage of insulin and cholesterol meds for people who are obese, smoking cessation patches for those who choose to smoke, etc., emergency treatment for people climbing mountains, brain injury treatment for people crashing motorcycles without wearing a helmet.

    Frankly, given your expressed views on this topic, you should be encouraging any means for improving or encouraging birth control, since the unwanted, neglected babies cost you a whole lot more.

    It also begs the question about how far conscience objections can extend, since the Bishops were also pressing for any Catholic employer would be allowed an exemption, which would extend to any private company.

    Currently, institutions that primarily employ people of a given faith (i.e.Churches, religious secondary and elementary schools, etc.) already have this exemption in place. It doesn’t cover those that are sponsored or affiliated in governance, hospitals, for instance. It also doesn’t extend to a private business that is owned by someone claiming to be of a given faith. These last 2 are what the Bishops are pressing for.

    So taken to this level, does the Jehovah’as witness employer sponsored plan at a dry-cleaner get an exemption from covering blood transfusions for non JW employees? Are we to pay for coverage of faith healers like Christian Science dictates? Does Tom Cruise get to refuse to pay for psychiatric care for any non-scientologist employee? Does Jenny McCarthy get to refuse to pay for vaccinations for any of her employees?

    I realize you are opposed to the entire notion of mandated health care coverage, but setting that aside, where do conscience objections end? By definition, any tax is a publicly approved confiscation to pay for something you don’t voluntarily give to or necessarily agree with.

  97. SusanG

    How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?

    One, but the lightbulb must really WANT to change.

  98. bud

    Atheists may come in for heavy criticism and condemnation, but not so much ridicule…

    Ridiculed or criticised seems to be a difference without a distinction. Sort of like Tomato vs Tomauto.

  99. Mark Stewart

    But then Doug would (probably) be fine with Pot dispensaries while Brad would (probably) oppose them.

    Culture is a muddy thing.

  100. Burl Burlingame

    When Brad and Doug agree on something, that’s a mighty fine joke right there. Time to move along, move along, particularly since the administration and the Catholic hospitals have already come to a compromise on the issue, like the adults they are.

  101. Doug Ross

    Straight from the mouth of the President today:

    “”As a citizen and as a Christian I cherish this right,” Obama said. “I saw that local churches did more good for a community than a government program ever could.””

    Amen, brother!

  102. `Kathryn Fenner

    @Doug–few pharmacists are self-employed any more. It’s an employee pharmacist who does not want to do his job dispensing prescriptions because it violates his beliefs. When it’s birth control, some of y’all have no problem with that, but what about a Scientologist who wouldn’t dispense mental health meds? A Christian Scientist who wouldn’t dispense any meds? A feminist who wouldn’t dispense erectile dysfunction meds? (ha ha)

    and just because you don’t know any jokes about atheists doesn’t mean they are held up to plenty of scorn and derision. Google “Why hate atheists” and you get pages of You Tube rants….

  103. `Kathryn Fenner

    and, having grown up in Baptist Central, churches can also do a lot of harm in a community. Furthermore, it isn’t right to expect churches to take care of all our problems. They may do a great job. They usually do. But, just as a lot of you are afraid of the strings that come with federal aid, churches are, rightly, allowed to attach all manner of strings to their aid.

  104. Doug Ross


    Like I said, there are options for contraception that range from free to very cheap to the price of a couple cups of coffee per month. You don’t have those options in all of the other bad examples you gave. A better analogy would be having insurance pay for fish oil capsules for people with high cholesterol or calcium pills for pre-menopausal women. I don’t think most people would support using insurance funds to make those “free”.

    Contraception is cheap. Just get married. HA HA HA (in case my wife is reading this).

  105. Doug Ross


    So if a pharmacy is part of a large chain, there would be other pharmacists who could provide the meds, right? No big deal.

  106. `Kathryn Fenner

    There aren’t multiple pharmacists on duty. My friend’s husband works for Walgreen’s and he’s the only actual pharmacist on duty at a given store. Fortunately, he’s a good liberal Methodist and does not see the need to police the doctor patient relationship.

    OTC contraception is nowhere near as reliable as prescription versions, either theoretically or as used.

  107. Brad

    As Burl said, the president has backed down on the thing with the Catholic institutions, in a way that allows him to keep some of his dignity.

    Maybe Joe Biden ‘splained the situation to him. Fellow mackerel-snapper Kathleen Sebelius wasn’t any good on that score. I see that the pres had her stand next to him while he made the announcement. She looks, in the photos I saw, like she’s in pain, like she’s on the rack. (No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!)

  108. Doug Ross


    There are literally hundreds of pharmacies around to cover anyone’s needs. Every Target, Walmart, Publix has one. There are Walgreen’s across the street from CVS all over the place.

    Access to prescription contraceptives is easy. Living by principles is hard.

  109. Tim

    I thought my analogies were pretty good, so, just calling them bad doesn’t add up to an effective argument.

    Sort of like this:

  110. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Doug–Why should people have to go to multiple sites to get their Rxs filled–which is not a good idea, btws–I use one pharmacy so any drug interactions can be flagged?

    As you might imagine, I have strong opinions and beliefs on the ethics of all sorts of things, and while I wish I could impose them on all y’all, I am smart enough to realize that isn’t a good idea.

  111. Brad

    Kathryn, are you listening to yourself?

    So why is it that you want to impose your values on that pharmacist, or want the government to do it for you?And you get indignant at his or her refusal to fall into line?

    Can you really not see what you’re saying here?

  112. Scout

    Ok, so if there was a religion that had a core belief centered around murder or human sacrifice, would they get a free pass from the government to go around killing people? I don’t think so.

    If the Catholic Church chooses to run private businesses that employ non-Catholics, then I don’t see why they should be able to force their beliefs on said non-Catholics. They could I guess choose to get potential employees to sign some waiver that by agreeing to be employed there they are submitting to being governed by certain beliefs that involves giving up access to birth control that they would have otherwise have. Nobody is making them work there. Maybe these institutions would lose otherwise good employees who want such access. At any rate, employees would be making an informed decision. I guess that would be sort of the libertarian view. Let everybody live by their own choices no matter how it affects everybody else.

    Because that becomes the issue then, if that exception is allowed it doesn’t really address the point that if society has decided that access to birth control is important and necessary for the good of the society, why should some get a pass on that? It’s kind of like the vaccination thing. If too many people opt out of getting vaccinated for whatever reason, vaccinations lose their public health value when the percentage of unvaccinated people in the population reaches a certain level. When there is a conflict – what is more important – the good of the whole group or the individual’s right to act on their own beliefs?

    I’m a little perplexed by the contradiction between the positions that gay people should not be able to get married because marriage as an institution between a man and a woman is a community standard, and therefore gay people should submit to it, whereas if access to birth control is a community standard, Catholics should get a pass rather than having to submit to it. Most likely I’ve misunderstood or mis-stated somebody’s position.

    I don’t have anything against Catholics. On the whole, I have a lot of respect for Catholicism. I would feel the same way if United Methodists, of which I am one, wanted an exception of some sort too.

    I apologize for the rambly unfocused nature of this post. I blame Mucinex D.

  113. Brad

    Scout: “Ok, so if there was a religion that had a core belief centered around murder or human sacrifice, would they get a free pass from the government to go around killing people? I don’t think so.”

    Precisely! Now you know why I’m opposed to abortion. Just because someone else believes that abortion is acceptable in a given situation doesn’t mean I should stand by and allow that life to be snuffed out.

    That, of course, is the fallacy inherent in the “pro-choice” position. Those who hold it believe that it’s a “live-and-let-live” proposition, as in “I may not believe in abortion myself, but I can’t stand in the way of someone who does, or someone at least who makes that choice.”

    But it isn’t. It’s a live-and-let-kill proposition.

    A pro-choice friend once put it particularly well, in acknowledging that he saw my position (while continue to disagree with it, because no one EVER gets converted by argument on this issue): He said it was like saying, “I’m adamantly opposed to lynching, but that doesn’t mean I have the right to stand in the way of someone else who believes in lynching, or believes he has a particularly good reason in a given circumstance to engage in lynching.”

    Which, I think we can all agree, is an argument that doesn’t stand up.

    At this point Kathryn will say, as she has so many times, that a fetus is less than human — or that, while it may be genetically human, we don’t have the same moral burden to protect it as would be the case with someone who is fully human.

    Well, Ben Tillman felt the same way about the Negro.

  114. Brad

    Also: “I’m a little perplexed by the contradiction between the positions that gay people should not be able to get married because marriage as an institution between a man and a woman is a community standard, and therefore gay people should submit to it, whereas if access to birth control is a community standard, Catholics should get a pass rather than having to submit to it. Most likely I’ve misunderstood or mis-stated somebody’s position.”

    Where you’re failing to understand is when you think the same-sex “marriage” issue is about the two gay people and what they are allowed to do or not do. It isn’t. It’s about what society as a whole does or doesn’t do. That is central to this, for people on both sides of the issue.

    The two people can do what they like, have whatever relationship they like and call it what they like. No one is standing in the way of that. It’s not an issue here. This is instead about what SOCIETY as a whole does, what society calls it, what society acknowledges.

    Why is it that I keep hearing people discuss this as though they don’t understand that fundamental point?

  115. `Kathryn Fenner

    Brad– If the pharmacist doesn’t want to use birth control for moral reasons, s/he is free not to do so. the pharmacist has no right to interfere with the legal use of a prescribed drug. We cannot have ethical armies of one out there. We agree as a country what is permitted, through our representatives, and then we have to let others do what they will. We can choose higher personal standards, but we have no right to impose them on themselves.

    and this, despite a low grade fever–is “can you hear yourself” the best argument you can muster?

  116. Brad

    “Can you hear yourself” wasn’t the argument. All those other words were the argument.

    Each of us is a moral army of one. Each of us has to make decisions. That’s why, even when we have a draft, there’s an out for conscientious objectors.

    And I’m sorry you’re not feeling well. If I were a pharmacist you needed to fill an antibiotic prescription, I’d dispense it to you.

  117. Scout

    I do think I understand your point of view about gay marriage. I think you are saying two gay people can do anything they want in a relationship, they just can’t call it marriage unless society agrees to see it that way….because that is the community standard, right? What I’m asking is, if that statement of your position is correct (and I realize I may not have your position stated quite right…but…) given my understanding of that position, why would that same rationale not apply to the Catholic university/ contraception thing. You’re saying that the dissenting view needs to submit to the community standard. If you accept that access to birth control is a standard of the society, then why should Catholic sponsored private institutions not have to submit to this standard and provide access to birth control to their employees, who may or may not be Catholic? (just as gay people have to submit to not calling their union marriage – if both are society’s standards.)

  118. Doug Ross


    I didn’t suggest going to multiple pharmacies. There are plenty of options. Within five miles of my home in tiny Blythewood, I can think of at least a half dozen pharmacies. There’s no burden on the consumer to pick one that meets the needs. One of them will surely take the business.

  119. Doug Ross


    Let’s go through your bad examples.

    Insulin for diabetes: Treatment of a disease.

    Cholestorol medicine: Treatment of a condition known to cause life threatening conditions.

    Smoking cessation patches: Are they really covered by insurance? If they are, they shouldn’t be.

    And which of the above are “free” with no copays? That’s the point of the contraception furor. Obamacare makes it free. It shouldn’t be free for anyone.

  120. martin

    A pharmacist has the right to abide by his conscience when dispensing medication, but not a woman who wants to control her life by deciding when to procreate. Got that.

  121. `Kathryn Fenner

    Thanks, except I believe this is viral, and I eschew antibiotics for viral infections and wish everyone else would, too, but it is their right to create superbugs.

  122. Brad

    No, Scout, that’s not my point at all! In trying to characterize my position, you say, “they just can’t call it marriage unless society agrees to see it that way.”

    As I said before, they can “call it what they like.” What is at issue has nothing to do with what the two people do or say or call their relationship. It’s about what occurs OUTSIDE the relationship, where it interacts with the state and the community at large. When the couple is asking EVERYBODY ELSE to call it marriage, that’s where the issue occurs. That’s when the rest of us have a decision to make.

    Do you see what I’m saying? It’s about what the rest of us choose to do, NOT about those two people. This is what it’s ALWAYS been about.

    The Culture Warriors on one side want to make the society as a whole — either through legislation or judicial action — call it “marriage.” The ones on the other side want to keep that from happening.

    What this issue has always been about, whether you are on the pro or the con side, is society’s attitude toward homosexuality. The idea that two people can do what they like was established long ago. This is about whether the rest of society will put an imprimatur of approval upon it.

    The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” issue was the same. Only a tiny proportion of gay people would ever have been affected by it. That’s because only a tiny portion of the society at large has the desire to serve in the military (and I know of no reason to suppose that gay people want to serve in proportions greater than the society as a whole). So only a small minority of a small minority had any stake in this personally.

    But millions of people felt passionately about it because it was about acceptance of homosexuality; it was about knocking down a barrier (no matter how minor or esoteric the barrier) to homosexuality being regarded as the same as hetero. That was what an editor I once worked with would have called the “emotional center,” it’s what made it resonate with so many people.

  123. Brad

    And Martin, no, you don’t got it, if you’ll excuse the ungrammatical response.

    The right to refuse to participate in an act that you regard as immoral is as different as night and day from whether someone should be allowed to destroy the life of another, for instance.

    And if you’re only talking about contraceptives, then yeah, that’s up to the individual. It’s up to an individual whether to use them, and it should certainly be up to another individual whether he or she helps pay for them or is involved in dispensing them.

  124. `Kathryn Fenner

    People want the same legal protections marriage affords. Some of those people love people of the same sex. Why not let them marry, too. If marriage is a good thing for two opposite sex people, why isn’t it a good thing for two same sex people?

    If you are in the “tiny proportion” of people affected, it matters a whole lot to you whether you lose your career or you can marry your beloved.

  125. Scout

    See, I knew it was possible I hadn’t stated it to your satisfaction, but I still feel like I get your point because to me the difference between my way of stating it and yours seems negligible. I meant my words to mean what your words mean to me also. I said “they just can’t call it marriage unless society agrees to see it that way.” And you said, “When the couple is asking EVERYBODY ELSE to call it marriage, that’s where the issue occurs. That’s when the rest of us have a decision to make.”

    I thought I was implying that they were asking everybody else to call it marriage too when I said “unless society agrees to see it that way.” Of course they could call it anything they want but it would be meaningless if society didn’t agree.

    So I think I understand.

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