Neither Moral nor Majority

This post is by Jesse Galef, who works for the American Humanist Association

James Dobson is throwing in the towel.  He announced on his radio program:

I want to tell you up front that we’re not going to ask you to do anything, to make a phone call or to write a letter or anything.

There is nothing you can do at this time about what is taking place because there is simply no limit to what the left can do at this time. Anything they want, they get and so we can’t stop them.

We tried with [Health and Human Services Secretary] Kathleen Sebelius and sent thousands of phone calls and emails to the Senate and they didn’t pay any attention to it because they don’t have to. And so what you can do is pray, pray for this great nation… As I see it, there is no other answer. There’s no other answer, short term.

I’m sure that the Senate paid attention.  They listened to you and still disagreed.  It’s called “living in a society with other people.”  You’re not always calling the shots.

I’ve been on the air for 32 years and I’ve never seen a time quite like this. It just illustrates what happens when we don’t have what the Founding Fathers referred to as checks and balances, where the excesses of one party or one branch of government limit the reach of power hungry and self-serving people and keeps them form doing things that are harmful to the country. That’s the way the system was designed.

…[today] the radical left controls the executive branch through the president, and the Congress… and the Judiciary through the courts… now they control it all, including every department of government.

And why, Mr. Dobson, do you think the left controls the legislative and executive branches of government?  Because your fellow citizens voted them in.

I shouldn’t be too snarky.  I understand the sentiment.  I do.  During the Bush administration, I called and wrote my representatives but knew that the policies I hated would probably continue.  Feeling helpless is not pleasant.

But that’s what it means to be in a democratic society.  If you truly believe that the new hate-crimes bill is “utter evil that’s coming out of the United States Congress” then you should do what you can to persuade us.  You haven’t done a very good job of it so far, but that’s no reason to give up.

So please, tell me the secular reasons our government should prevent same-sex couples from marrying.  Tell me the secular reasons we can’t use embryonic stem-cells for medical research.  Tell me the secular reasons not to teach our children about contraceptives.

If you care about our country, persuade us of your point of view.  Don’t just pray.

About Dr. Denise Cooper-Clarke

I am a graduate of medicine and theology with a Ph.D in medical ethics. I tutor in medical ethics at the University of Melbourne, am an (occasional) adjunct Lecturer in Ethics at Ridley Melbourne, and a voluntary researcher with Ethos. I am also a Fellow of ISCAST and a past chair of the Melbourne Chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality. I have special interests in professional ethics, sexual ethics and the ethics of virtue.

  • Spurs Fan

    Actually, I like Dobson’s advice for the religious right. Don’t send emails, write letters, or be active politically. Just pray. Keep on praying.

  • Pamela

    And here I’m thinking it isn’t as radically left as it should be.

  • http://www.rationalitynow.com Dan Gilbert

    I wonder if Mr. Dobson was so disheartened when the right-wing had complete control over the government for four years during the Bush administration. Somehow, I think not.

  • Dickie Puller

    what Dobson doesn’t realize is that over the top zealots like him are a big part of the reason that the other side has all the power now

  • http://thinkingforfree.blogspot.com Eamon Knight

    Isn’t there some law down there about tax-exempt charitable organizations engaging in political speech? Does Dobson still have tax-exempt status?

  • ungullible

    Oh sure, he wants checks and balances now. But not so much when Bush & Co. were running roughshod over the Constitution.

    You reap what you sow….

  • http://www.americanhumanist.org Jesse Galef

    Eamon Knight:

    Here’s how the piece in USNews ended:

    What’s remarkable about today’s broadcast is that Dobson plainly states that the only way for Christians to start winning again politically is for the GOP to regain power. He makes no effort to avoid coming across as a Republican activist. For a long time, Dobson went out of his way to keep up the appearance of being above partisan politics. As he enters what may be the twilight of his broadcasting career, he appears to care less and less about maintaining that image.

  • EndUnknown

    @Pamela: EXACTLY! I wish we could actually get a left leaning person in office(instead of the right of center on a global scale ‘liberal’ dems)

  • Gabriel

    Well of course someone Like Dobson would view the hate crimes bill as evil. He has made a comfertable living for 30 years through hate. He spews hate like I spew carbon dioxide. I really, really, hope that all of his unquestions followers listen to his advice and pray and pray and pray and only pray. I hope they don’t write, call or visit their reps.

  • billybee

    He’d better watch what he is saying. This call to prayer is coming dangerously close to “testing Gawd”….a big no no.

  • Ubi Dubius

    Dobson is very wrong when he says liberals control the courts. The Supreme Court is overwhelmingly Republican (without looking it up, I think 7-2), the same is true of all of the Federal Courts. This is a result of 7 of the last 10 Presidential terms being filled by Republicans and a Congress that has generally let the Presidents’ picks stand. Even when a particular pick is opposed, the replacement pick has the same judicial philosophy as the rejected nominee. With lifetime judicial appointments, it will be quite a while before the balance in the courts is restored. The fights in the courts over President Obama’s policies and the Democratic Congress’ legislation will be epic.

    State courts are a mixed bag.

  • Spurs Fan

    The Supreme Court is overwhelmingly Republican (without looking it up, I think 7-2)

    The U.S. Supreme Court is currently 4-4-1, or 5-4, depending on your viewpoint. Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito are the clear conservatives, while Ginsberg, Stevens, Breyer, and Souter (retiring) make up the more liberal voting block. Anthony Kennedy is more moderate and seems to be the all-important “tie-breaking vote” in controversial cases, though I think he sides with his conservative colleagues a bit more often.

    I’m not sure about the breakdown of the lower Federal courts, but I surmise that you are correct. I’m quite certain that those of here in the 5th Circuit (Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) have very conservative federal judges.

    No matter the exact breakdwon, you are correct: The Courts are not as “liberal” as one might think. They only become so when Dr. Dobson disagrees with one of their decisions. :)

  • Mathew Wilder

    If only I could believe the RR was really giving up…

  • Ubi Dubius

    Appointed by Republicans: Stevens, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, Souter, Kennedy.

    Appointed by Democrats: Ginsberg, Breyer.

    7-2.

  • Spurs Fan

    Appointed by Republicans: Stevens, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, Souter, Kennedy.

    Appointed by Democrats: Ginsberg, Breyer.

    7-2.

    Sure I get that Ubi Dubius. But in no way would anyone classify Stevens or Souter as anything remotely close to a Republican/Conservative mindset. Quite the opposite. The point still stands that Dobson’s straw man “liberal judicial system” is bogus, but we have to be honest about ideology here.

  • Miko

    While I probably disagree with just about everything Dobson has every said, your democracy-worship is just as bad. Democracy is at best a tool that can be used to help us reach as close to a consensus as possible. It isn’t an overwhelming moral force of nature that should be used to control our lives. We don’t need to take a vote on every nuanced detail of our private lives.

    Take the debate on torture, for example. It may be (and is) the case that the anti-torture side is bringing up lots of good points and slowly winning the battle while the pro-torture side seems to have trouble telling the difference between reality and the latest episode of 24. But, even when we win this battle, the fact that we actually had to have the discussion and take a vote on it will indicate that we’ve already lost a much bigger war.

    Let’s not forget that “liberal” comes from the Latin liberalis (“befitting a free person; pertaining to freedom”). When the U.S. calls ourselves a liberal democracy, we’re highlighting the fact that we temper the extremes of democratic mob-rule with the liberal principle that there are some things you just don’t have the right to vote on. (As a Ninth Amendment absolutist, I would say that most aspects of our current political discourse fall into this category, but that’s another issue.)

    To take your examples, it doesn’t matter whether there are secular reasons to stop gays from marrying or not, because their right to marry trumps your power to vote about it. It doesn’t matter whether there are secular reasons to stop scientists from using stem cells in research, because their right to do so trumps your power to vote about it. It doesn’t matter whether there are secular reasons to prevent people from telling their children about contraceptives, because their right to do so trumps your power to vote about it.

    Now, I think that persuasion is one of the noblest tools we have and agree that it should be the main form of discourse in the polis. The problem I see is that your view only involves persuading 50.1% of the people to overwhelm the other 49.9% and dictate “Here’s how things are going to be” to them, which is not the kind of society I’d like to live in. Why not stick with persuasion and leave your second stage (coercion) out of it? Gay marriage opponents can try to persuade gays not to get married; those that are persuaded can choose not to marry while those who are not persuaded can marry if they feel like it. The health nuts currently trying to ban trans fats can instead persuade people not to eat them; those that are persuaded will stop while those that are not will continue to consume them. And so on. Most of the political issues of the day would go away if we could all just agree to let each person make personal decisions for themselves and leave the group politics to the issues that aren’t decidable by each individual for him/herself. And that’s why we(‘re supposed to) have checks and balances. And that’s why it’s a good thing to have checks and balances. And that’s why we should all come together to oppose Obama’s executive power grabs, just like we all came together to oppose Bush’s executive power grabs.

  • Richard Wade

    Mr. Dobson sounds like he could be depressed, which carries the risk of suicide. I suggest two things:

    1. He should go talk to an army chaplain.
    2. Atheists should pray for his swift recovery.

  • Miko

    @Ubi/Spurs: the fact that we can even talk about the partisanship of the Supreme Court just goes to show how messed up our current procedure for selecting justices really is. That said, I don’t think the labels liberal/conservative fit too well and the labels Democrat/Republican most definitely don’t. (And if you take “conservative” in its original meaning of “wanting to preserve a strong central government with near-absolute power” and “liberal” in its original meaning of “wanting to protect the rights of individuals to freely decide how to live their own lives,” the court is currently conservative by 8-1, with Kennedy as the only dissenting liberal vote.)

  • http://students.washington.edu/secular Walker

    Sounds to me like Dobson is trying to scare his conservative base into action. Hell, fearmongering works for Fox News on the population at large, why not use it at home?

  • Michael Nietzsche

    Hey Dobson…. Eat shit and bark at the Moon, you fucking DOG!

  • Michael Nietzsche

    Dear Mr Wade…. if I’d pray for anything, I’d pray that Dobson exits the planet quickly with a rapid suicide!

  • Richard Wade

    The effect that I had in mind.

  • llewelly

    When the U.S. calls ourselves a liberal democracy …

    Miko, I was with you until you entered the fantasy land in which the US calls itself by the dirty word ‘liberal’.

  • Brooks

    Isn’t praying to God to intervene and change the minds of people to become bigots like them a violation of freewill? And how does having like what, five whole states out of all 50 legalizing gay marriage somehow mean they’ve lost?

  • Maria

    Great post Hemant. :) I think Dobson should just pray and do nothing else, lol


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