All Posts Tagged With: "religion"
I watched the Inauguration here in London with the other students in my program, a group of mostly non-Americans happy about Obama’s election and ready to join in the celebration. The experience was not particularly different from what it would have been like to watch with a group of friends in the US, with one notable exception: the surprise and distaste for the religious overtones throughout the ceremony.
Not his endorsement of Barack Obama. The endorsement is all well and good. It will consume some news cycles and run down the clock, and maybe even persuade a few moderates who are on the fence. But I think we should take a step back from the campaign for a second and look at two things Powell said that are only peripherally related to this election. They are deeply important points and Powell put them very eloquently. Read more…
Kathy Boltini stood back from her apartment window so the people on the sweltering street below couldn’t tell she was naked. They didn’t look up anyway—they were more interested in their drinks and the waitresses at the Brass Tap’s outside tables. She swiveled to look at the man in her bed—he was still sweating, so she turned the thermostat down before going back there.
“Honey, was that last time too much for you?” she asked, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“No, sweetie,” Glenn replied. “I must have strained my shoulder yesterday when I was playing hoops. I’m not as young as I once was.” He grimaced as he tried to move it.
She climbed atop him, a sheet between, and reached out—working on both of his shoulders at once. He relaxed, smiling up at her.
I happen to not be a hater of the Catholic Church, but I know that many of you are, so I wanted to ensure that you did not miss this news. The Reverend Christopher Layden of the campus Catholic Church, St. John’s, has been arrested for selling cocaine. The AP article, “Ill. Priest Accused of Dealing Coke from Rectory: Catholic priest on the University of Illinois campus pleads not guilty” provides more details. We all wear deceptive robes.
I want to say from the outset, I am extremely reluctant to discuss this whole matter of Obama’s recent “bitter” comments, with which I’m sure everybody’s familiar. There is an obvious and explicit desire on this blog to discuss things that are important and interesting. The trouble is that oftentimes, situations will arise in which a news story is both wholly irrelevant and highly reported on. It is a struggle to know how to deal with those things. On the one hand, they deserve to be ignored. On the other hand, to ignore them entirely is to leave the issue to be discussed only by demagogues and political opportunists. So it’s a tough spot for somebody who tries to engage in value-adding commentary rather than noise, even if only on a meager blog like this one.
All that throat-clearing by way of saying I’m gonna talk about this, but I think it’s really dumb.
What I want to talk about in particular are two instances of the same criticism of Obama’s comments that I encountered within a few minutes of one another. It’s a criticism not without merit (unlike, say, Hillary Clinton’s absurd grandstanding). First, Tyler Cowen, in a post that is only partially critical, notes that “guns and religion do not closely track economic decline.” Second, I asked on G-chat what co-contributor Billy thought about the subject, to which he in part replied:
him saying that economic conditions compel their frustrations was dishonestbecause i don’t honestly see the correlation between economic conditions and religion or hunting, but it is possible to see a nexus between economic conditions and anti-immigrant or anti-trade sentimentsthose people would be just as religious and prone to hunting no matter the state of the economy
As I think is made clear by this clip, Obama’s argument is not that people hunt and believe in Godbecause they are in dire straits economically. Rather, it’s that people who are in dire straits economically base their votes on the fact that they hunt and believe in God. It’s not a causal relationship between being poor and having particular values; it’s a causal relationship between being poor and voting based on those values. The argument is that these people don’t trust politicians to actually help them recover from their economic problems, so they just vote for the politician who is saying that the traditions and values that they can rely on will not be assaulted and taken away (even if that politician in reality makes their economic problems worse).
Is that a generalization of the rural working class and the rural poor? Yes. Is it a generalization that in large part relies on the assumption that this is a group of people (though not theonly group of people) that is not invested in the details of public policy? Yes. Does that make it elitist and out-of-touch? I don’t think so.
Whatever one can say about Obama’s statements, I don’t think one can fairly listen to his tone and find anyjudgment of the type of people he’s talking about. Indeed, he tends to make this argument as a way of criticizing the Democratic elite for not being respectful and conscious of the cultural values he’s talking about. These people are busy working at whatever jobs they can find, trying to raise their families as best they know how, he seems to be saying. We have to do a better job communicating to them, and more importantly, when we do get in power, we need to actually help them.
In the end, it’s about delivering the goods – Democrats, because of their stances on cultural issues, cannot win over these voters unless they can be trusted to help improve these voters’ lives. But Democrats have failed to do that in any really big way since the days of FDR (and, to a lesser extent, LBJ). Given the current political conditions in the country, I suspect Obama will get his chance to deliver those goods starting next January. We’ll see how he performs.
I know this blog has seen its fair share of religious debate, so I’m reluctant to even write this post, but a friend of mine called me out via e-mail and requested my public rebuttal of this claim by John Gray (via Andrew Sullivan) about “contemporary atheism”:
Zealous atheism renews some of the worst features of Christianity and Islam. Just as much as these religions, it is a project of universal conversion. Evangelical atheists never doubt that human life can be transformed if everyone accepts their view of things, and they are certain that one way of living – their own, suitably embellished – is right for everybody. To be sure, atheism need not be a missionary creed of this kind. It is entirely reasonable to have no religious beliefs, and yet be friendly to religion. It is a funny sort of humanism that condemns an impulse that is peculiarly human. Yet that is what evangelical atheists do when they demonise religion.
I’ll try to keep this short: I don’t have a problem with a “missionary creed,” whether it be on the part of atheists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, or whomever. The reason I found this debate between Andrew Sullivan and Sam Harris so interesting was not just because it allowed me to read Harris’s best case supporting atheism, but also because it allowed me to read Sullivan’s best case supporting faith. There are any number of reasonable, enlightened people out there who can lay out a persuasive argument in favor of religious belief, and not only do I not have a problem with those people trying to make that argument to me, I find the discussion stimulating and worthwhile.
What I object to is the attempt by many religious people to remove that discussion from the realm of reasoned discourse entirely, as though there is something peculiar about religion that frees it from the burden of having to respond to criticism. We should all, of course, be tolerant and respectful of one another’s views, whether political, philosophical, or religious. And there are obviously people of all political parties, philosophies, and religions who are decidedly not tolerant and respectful, with atheism being no exception. But I don’t believe that because many atheists want to engage in a public exchange of ideas on the subject of religion, and because atheists think they have a persuasive case to make in their favor, that this necessarily makes them intolerant or disrespectful, any more than the works of St. Thomas Aquinas are intolerant or disrespectful.
Buck already covered Obama’s speech and voiced a pretty much identical opinion to my own. But I just wanted to note this: at this point, we have seen Obama give probably the best speech on the confluence of race and politics, as well as the best speech on the confluence of religion and politics, that we have seen in at least a generation, not to mention one of the greatest speeches at a party convention, which itself might be described as one of the best speeches on the confluence of partisanship and politics. He’s also written one of the few political books by politicians that people seem to actually like.
Yes, those are all just words. But they’re also ideas – ideas of great substance that possess a power and a depth and a level of nuance that most politicians dare not express. Obama’s presidency would make history in a number of obvious ways, but I’m beginning to suspect that its greatest contribution might just be that it creates a successful model for other politicians to treat Americans as though they are actually intelligent human beings. Or maybe this will just be unique to him. Either way, this is a moment to savor.