‘Freedom is often most delicious when it is extended’

Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta points us to a column in the (Ind.) Journal & Courier by Baptist minister Steve Viars, calling on Tippecanoe County commissioners to approve the zoning application for an Islamic center. Viars sounds like a Baptist minister in this column — citing Roger Williams and the First Amendment in an op-ed that reads like a sermon:

Refusing to grant this request simply because the petitioners are followers of Islam would be contrary to our country’s cherished ideals of religious liberty and the importance of the separation of church and state.

… Celebrating the presence of other religions at home is the logical extension of the sacrifice our countrymen have made around the world. Freedom is often most delicious when it is extended to someone with whom you disagree. Our heroes did not fight to protect and promote one particular religious point of view. The fruit of freedom is diversity and a rich tapestry of culture and beliefs.

“Most delicious.” I like that very much. That’ll preach.

* * * * * * * * *

Laura Conaway reports on another, not-so-delicious development regarding church and state in Indiana, and says “This is what theocracy looks like“:

Three Indiana state senators, all Republicans, have introduced a bill that would allow schools to require the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer every morning, if they want to. …

The Lord’s Prayer bill says the point is to help “each student recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen,” but you can get out of reciting it if you or your parents want.

The bill comes with a fiscal impact statement … so we can see the cost and revenue from introducing religion into the classroom. Expected expenditures are local, officials write: “There could be some minor impact in deciding the version of the Lord’s Prayer to use; however, it should be able to be done within existing resources.”

Conaway has a bit of fun with this question of “deciding the version of the Lord’s Prayer to use,” recommending that it be recited in Aramaic. But it’s not at all funny that these Hoosier hegemons think it’s appropriate to have government officials decide and decree how everyone’s children must pray. And to whom they must pray. The school board would be assigning every pupil an official “Lord.

The specific problem the bill’s sponsors acknowledge — which version of this prayer? — refutes the political grandstanding that lets them pretend that some vague “Judeo-Christianity” ought to be privileged as the majority religion. Once you mandate the exclusively Christian Lord’s Prayer, the conceit of an inclusive Judeo-Christianity crumbles, elevating Christians above Jews. And the further business of determining which version of the prayer will be the official version forces the local school board to pit Christian sect against sect, elevating and privileging one denomination or tradition over all the others.

I suspect that Indiana state Sen. Jim Tomes hasn’t really thought this through. Tomes, the primary sponsor of this bill, is Roman Catholic. I don’t think he realizes that his bill would almost certainly have the effect of establishing and privileging an explicitly Protestant version of the Lord’s Prayer and, thus, establishing and privileging some form of Protestant Christianity as the official state religion of Indiana.

Tomes’ website lists some of the organizations he’s been involved with, including Indiana Right to Life, Gun Owners of America,** 2nd Amendment Patriots. Groups like those have a long history of, and an interest in, making sure that their followers don’t acquire a meaningful understanding of the Constitution. Groups like those have a long history of, and an interest in, promoting the mythmaking nonsense that “activist judges kicked God out of our schools.”

My guess is Tomes really believes that stuff by now and thus, having been well and truly bamboozled, he really doesn’t understand either what his bill would entail or why it is and ought to be unconstitutional — which is to say illegal.

I’d further guess that the only way to get Sen. Tomes to see past that bamboozlement would be to have him visit a public school somewhere in the heartland of Posey County. “And now, children,” the principle would say in the crowded auditorium, “let us begin our assembly by reciting our Lord’s prayer.”

And then, in perfect unison, all the children say, “Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar …

Short of that happening, I doubt someone like Tomes can be made to understand what the First Amendment says or why it says it.

* * * * * * * * *

Ginger Strivelli provided just that sort of vivid demonstration to a North Carolina school system. The headline in the local paper read “Woman not allowed to drop off pagan books at Asheville area school.” A more accurate headline might have said something like, “Pagan mom schools Christians on Golden Rule, First Amendment.”

The Buncombe County (N.C.) school system allowed the Gideons in to distribute free Bibles to students. Strivelli complained that the public school shouldn’t be handing out Christian texts to her Pagan children. If you let Christians groups give out their stuff, she said, then you’ll also have to let Pagan groups give out our stuff:

… School officials said they would allow for the availability of her materials, just as they did the Bibles from a local group of Gideons International.

When Strivelli brought the Pagan books to the school Wednesday morning, she said she was told “a new policy is being crafted.”

“I’m not surprised a bit. That’s fully what I expected,” Strivelli said. “Basically, they were calling my bluff thinking I wouldn’t bring in the books.

“They’re changing the policy, which is wonderful. They shouldn’t [allow] it, but they shouldn’t have done it to start with. That makes it unfair after they have given out Christian propaganda.”*

The school system needs a “new policy” here, not because the old policy wasn’t working, but because it seems there was no old policy. Strivelli had both basic fairness and legal precedent on her side when she challenged the school by saying that if they allowed the Gideons in to distribute Bibles then they’d also have to allow other religious groups to do the same.

“Sauce for the goose …” is more or less the legal standard for these questions of equal access. Strivelli provided the school system with a deliciously vivid illustration of what that means.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* I sympathize with why she’s fired up here, but calling the Bible “propaganda” isn’t accurate. The Bible is far too massive, messy, elliptical and sometimes confusing, contradictory, ambiguous, dull, strange, off-putting and offensive to ever function as propaganda. No one designing a work of propaganda would ever include anything as mind-numbingly boring as all those genealogies in Numbers or Matthew. Or anything as cryptic and weird as, say, the end of Zechariah. Calling it that also runs counter to the essential basis of Strivelli’s argument here, which is one of basic fairness, reciprocity and mutual respect — the Golden Rule.

** Added: Here is Gun Owners of America. Here is an archive of its founder/leader’s columns over the years. Like the “Constitution Party” to which Larry Pratt has many ties, and like the “sovereign citizens” whom Pratt praises as “Constitutionalists,” the GOA talks about the Constitution a great deal, but not in a way that betrays any comprehension of what it says or what it means.

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  • Anonymous

    The specific problem the bill’s sponsors acknowledge — which version of this prayer? — refutes the political grandstanding that lets them pretend that some vague “Judeo-Christianity” ought to be privileged as the majority religion. Once you mandate the exclusively Christian Lord’s Prayer, the conceit of an inclusive Judeo-Christianity crumbles, elevating Christians above Jews.

    If they want it to be Judeo-Christian, let them alternate “The Lord’s Prayer” with the recitation of the Amidah — in Hebrew.  That’ll end the entire practice by the second day.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder how many people legitimately think about Judaism when they use the phrase “Judeo-Christian values” or “Judeo-Christian beliefs”.

  • Anonymous

    Face meet palm.

    I’m consistently surprised at how many Roman Catholics in this country do not even know the history of their damn religion here in the US.  That they were considered vermin by the Protestants who were here.  That they fought tooth and nail to be considered as legitimate citizens.  That enforced Protestant prayers in taxpayer funded schools was something that their grandparents and great-grandparents fought against.

    All of that whitewashed away by the alliance of conservative Catholics and conservative Evangelicals in their push to fight liberals.

    If it weren’t for the fact that this bill would mostly harm children in Indiana, I’d be inclined to let them go ahead and pass it.  Let’s see open religious fights between Catholics and Protestants in this country the way it was during the 19th and early 20th century.  Let’s get those differences back out in the open and make sure that Catholics understand that even though they may belong to the single largest Christian sect in the country, they remain outnumbered by Protestants in general.

  • Lori

     I’d further guess that the only way to get Sen. Tomes to see past that bamboozlement would be to have him visit a public school somewhere in the heartland of Posey County. “And now, children,” the principle would say in the crowded auditorium, “let us begin our assembly by reciting our Lord’s prayer.”
    And then, in perfect unison, all the children say, “Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar …”  

    I think a better parallel would be to have the children recite the Shahada, roughly, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His messenger”
     

  • Michael William Busch

    They could listen to the entire Adhan, although that would take a little longer than one run-through of the Lord’s Prayer (and would normally be done just before sunrise).  And it would have the same problems of which of the several versions to use…

    Tomes et al. have to know how nonsensical their bill is, especially since the requiring the Pledge of Allegiance in school has repeatedly been ruled unconstitutional.  Would they have submitted it simply as a way of making some statement, with no anticipation of it ever being approved?

  • Lori

     
     Would they have submitted it simply as a way of making some statement, with no anticipation of it ever being approved?  

     

    Yes. It makes a statement and also set them up to be “oppressed” by “activist” judges/ That’s always a boon to Right wing fund raising and this is an election year. I suspect it’s also a bit of a stalking horse for the “right to work” bill the GOP is on the verge of pushing through in an attempt to destroy unions in the state once and for all. This Lord’s Prayer nonsense will draw everyone’s attention and outrage, allowing the fair more critical and damaging union-busting bill to continue to be ignored. 

    I’m currently living in Indiana so I feel pretty confident about this. We’ve gotten almost totally ignored in the shadow of the Wisconsin protests and OWS, but to quote a much-tweeted OWS sign, “shit is fucked up and bullshit” here. 

  • http://jdm314.livejournal.com/ Mad Latinist

    Maybe the fātiḥah?

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Y’know, normally I just nod along in agreement with Fred, muttering “You tell’em what it’s all about, dude!”… but today, Fred, you just said something either blatantly untrue or flat-out ignorant, and pissed me off.

    …Gun Owners of America, 2nd Amendment Patriots. Groups like those have a
    long history of, and an interest in, making sure that their followers
    don’t acquire a meaningful understanding of the Constitution.

    No. Just no. The NRA, the GOA, and similar organizations have a MAJOR interest in making sure their members, law enforcement officers, the judiciary, and the legislature have a correct and meaningful understanding of the Second Amendment–that as the writings of the Founding Fathers attest, the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, not a fuzzy, meaningless “collective right of the state to raise militias but that means we can take guns away from individuals we don’t like the color of approve of” that the advocates of unilateral disarmament would have you believe.

    To say the exact opposite takes either willful ignorance on a par with Jerry Jenkins, or deliberate deceit such as you have been condemning for months in your blog. You might want to rethink that paragraph, okay?

  • http://rightcrafttool.blogspot.com/ Sign Ahead

    I’m not sure I agree with this. Thanks to a gift from my father, I receive the NRA’s political magazine every month. There’s a lot of heated, highly questionable rhetoric in there that has absolutely nothing to do with the Second Amendment. Admittedly this is my only consistent exposure to the NRA, but to me it looks like their arguments are rely more on resentment and ignorance than they do on correct and meaningful understanding.

  • Lori

     
     Admittedly this is my only consistent exposure to the NRA, but to me it looks like their arguments rely more on resentment and ignorance than they do on correct and meaningful understanding.  

     

    I have little to no exposure to the other groups so I don’t know how they compare, but I’ve found that the NRA makes a lot more sense viewed as an advocacy group for gun manufacturers than for gun owners. As such their goal is to keep people all stirred up and buying more guns, not to provide substantive debate on issues. 

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    The NRA, at least, has an educational agenda as well as a civil rights one. They have educational programs on the 2nd Amendment and on gun safety, and promote sport-shooting and sport hunting as gun-related hobbies. The NRA went political when politicians back in the 1960s-70s got very aggressive about dismantling second Amendment rights after the Kennedy assassinations. There was quite a bit of controversy within the organization at the time, as many of the old-timers who had been comfortable with the NRA as a hobbyist association for hunters and target-shooters were less comfortable with it as a civil-rights activist organization.

    Personally, I’m glad the NRA did, as the ACLU seems to persistently ignore abridgment of 2nd Amendment rights. The organizations together do seem to complement each other nicely as far as protecting Constiutional rights.

    I’ll concede that the fund-raising/PAC arm, the NRA-ILA, seems to think that hysterically crying wolf is a great way to milk money out of people, and that’s why I don’t contribute money to them any more. Quite a few charities make the same mistake–when I get the same fund-raising letter year in and year out with a tearjerker story about they desperately need a contribution from me or they will go under/this kitten will starve/orphan children will be tossed out into the street… I get tired of them playing ‘hit the emotional hot-button bingo’ and just toss the solicitation letters unopened. Too bad such organizations can’t just explain how much they need and what they need it for and where it’s all going…

    Now if you want to see something that was for the benefit of gun manufacturers, read the Clinton-era so-called “Assault Weapon Ban”. Actually read the bill and the appendices, like I did at the time, and realize the dirty little secret that Congress sneaked by the public at the time: the bill only bans cheap Chinese and Russian imports. American gun manufacturers were carefully exempted. “Bill for the Protection of American Gun Manufacturers from Cheap Imports” is what it should have been called…

  • FangsFirst

    Now if you want to see something that was for the benefit of gun manufacturers, read the Clinton-era so-called “Assault Weapon Ban”.
    Actually read the bill and the appendices, like I did at the time, and realize the dirty little secret that Congress sneaked by the public at the time: the bill only bans cheap Chinese and Russian imports. American gun manufacturers were carefully exempted. “Bill for the Protection of American Gun Manufacturers from Cheap Imports” is what it should have been called…

    What?
    No it didn’t.
    The TEC-9? The AR-15? The Mac-9 through Mac-12?Those are domestic designs! There was an additional (later) expansion that was primarily foreign weapons and, indeed, the original bill’s specifically banned weapons are primarily foreign, but those manufacturers were, uh, Israeli, Italian, Belgian, Austrian *and* Chinese/Russian.

    If there are any more specific provisions that somehow loophole other American manufacturers (which I’m not seeing, but it’s possible they’re in there somewhere), at the least there are some that were specifically banned.

    I don’t understand what your point was in all of those statements, even taking it as hyperbole for the instances where an absolute statement you made is provably false.

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    It’s been years since I looked at it, but did you check the appendix of exempted manufacturers?

  • FangsFirst

    It’s been years since I looked at it, but did you check the appendix of exempted manufacturers?

    Everywhere I’ve looked, I can’t find one. I went to Wiki first (for all its reputation, so long as an article is nicely cited it’s usually at least a good starting point) then started just googling around for it. I finally found an extremely comprehensive discussion of it (which finally listed the specifically banned designs, which were all the usual suspects, mostly listed above–TEC-9, Mac-10, Uzi, etc) and it still didn’t say anything, then listed the later addition about specific foreign models designed to accept military magazines.

    “Nuker”-type activists tend to terrify me into silence, so I’m very shy
    of posting in any kind of activist blog–but sometimes I get excited
    about something, and post without thinking/researching.

    You sound like me (such places *terrify* me, which is why I was reluctant to post here on various issues for a very long time and still feel unsafe around a few things) so let me just add:
    I went and looked this up because I thought the idea of exemptions was reasonable, and the idea was galling too me, so I decided to see what the details were, or if it was (hopefully!) some kind of interpreted exemption. But I couldn’t find the exemption list, manufacturer-oriented, at least.

    I did find out it was monstrously stupid and pointless as it got so specific it became irrelevant as soon as it went into effect (Hey look! Let’s unshroud and unthread the TEC-9 barrel! Now it’s legal! It’s the AB-10!) though.

    (sidenote: I’m generally speaking non-violent and pacifistic, but I don’t shun guns or gun-owners or anything anywhere near that. I am obviously relatively interested in guns, in fact. So I’m definitely not piling on anyone simply for being a gun-owner.)

    PS: from what I’ve seen, the “nuking” is quite a rarity here at this point. Most everyone seems willing to try to talk to people first about most things. these days, at the very least.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Good grief! It seems like folks are really getting off-track.

    you just said something either blatantly untrue or flat-out ignorant, and pissed me off.

    What did he say again?
    Groups like [ the NRA ] have a long history of, and an interest in, making sure that their followers don’t acquire a meaningful understanding of the Constitution.
    What’s untrue about that?

    “Long history”? Well, if the NRA wasn’t very politically active prior to the 70’s, then that’s a history of 40 years. Maybe that doesn’t qualify as “long” by your standards. I don’t think it’s “flat-out ignorant”, though.

    “an interest in making sure that their followers don’t acquire a meaningful understanding of the Constitution”? It seems like you’ve already ceeded the point that the NRA does a lot of fund-raising by scare tactics. (“crying wolf”) I’m sure you’d also acknowledge that those tactics don’t work as well on persons who are well educated on the actual facts of a situation.

    If the NRA and similar groups depend on fund raising, and that fund raising’s efficency is dependent on fear and ignorance of its members, then wouldn’t that meet the definition of having an interest in keeping them ignorant?

  • Anonymous

    I’m just confused why the NRA keeps coming up. If Fred was really taking a swipe at them, wouldn’t he have mentioned them by name, rather than the relatively obscure GOA? The GOA, like many militia groups, “common-law courts”, sovereign citizens movements, and other such groups, have a quaint understanding of the Constitution that has little to do with the actual words of that document and quite a bit to do with cloaking their own selfish and venal interests in pious words.

    They don’t want to pay income taxes, so they decide to revise history so that the 16th Amendment wasn’t properly ratified. They don’t want to pay their traffic tickets, so they take a good hard squint at the seal on the courtroom wall and decide that, because of the way it’s facing, it’s some kind of maritime court that has no jurisdiction over them. None of that is out of the Constitution; it’s just something that people make up to get out of their responsibilities.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    I’m just confused why the NRA keeps coming up. If Fred was really taking
    a swipe at them, wouldn’t he have mentioned them by name, rather than
    the relatively obscure GOA?

    Dragonness Eclectic, who was the one who went after Fred for this one, name-checked the NRA.  On a charitable interpretation it was an accidental addition.  On a non-charitable interpretation it was an intentional conflation of the (obscure and really controversial) GOA with the (well known and at least somewhat benign, if overbearing) NRA.  So Fred went after the dude for his professed connection to the extremists and Dragonness Eclectic decided to get cute and say, “How dare you attack the NRA like that, you lying liar!”

    It’s, um, it’s not a good tactic.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    It’s, um, it’s not a good tactic.

    Oh, I should probably finish the thought there:

    See, now we’re arguing the relative merits of the NRA and the relative accuracy of Fred’s assertion in relation to an organization he did not mention at all.  So, basically, it’s a redirect based on a fallacious accusation of an ad hominem attack with a dose of poisoning the well thrown in for flavor.  A zest of poison, if you will.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, if that wasn’t a mistake then it was an extremely devious tactic. If you can’t assail someone’s point directly, change it entirely and hope that no one actually notices. It didn’t quite work here — probably because it takes all of a few seconds to scroll up and reread the relevant passage.

    It probably would be a better tactic if these articles weren’t in text form.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    probably because it takes all of a few seconds to scroll up and reread the relevant passage.

    Or just read the quoted part and notice that NRA didn’t appear in it anywhere…

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    I also pointed out that many charities use similar tactics. Including, I’ll add now, charities I consider perfectly valid, good causes (as far as I know). They just seem to be stuck in the “must push emotional hotbuttons” mode. Perhaps it works well enough on other people–it used to work on me, but I finally realized I was being manipulated emotionally, and I resented it.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    @DragonessEclectic:disqus Thank you for your response. There are a fair number of ‘drive-by-commentors’ who don’t stick around for the discussion. I appreciate that you took the time to read, consider, and respond.

    Lots of charities use appeals to emotion in their fundraising. The issue is the relationship between their claims and the truth. Gun clubs often make claims along the lines of “the government is going to take your guns”; those are claims that aren’t just patently false, but depend on the audience being wholly ignorant of the Constitution and the case law.

    There are other charities that use ’emotional hotbuttons’ for fundraising; in my experience, if their claims don’t stand up to the evidence, or even rely on ignorance, while the cause might remain good & valid, I no longer consider the organization to be. (see also: PETA)

    I am a bit sensitive to attacks on gun owners and “outdoors” (i.e. hunting/shooting/fishing/etc) culture, because it’s been going on for decades and we’re always stereotyped as moronic, beer-swilling rednecks–and nowadays “fundamentalist nutjob” gets added to the mix.

    I don’t go for ‘moronic, beer-swilling rednecks’ (I like beer!) and I don’t buy in to “nutjob” either, but the problem is that this issue has conflated some very disparate groups.

    The outdoors folks (hunting/shooting/fishing/etc.) have some overlap with (but aren’t the same as) the self-defense/concealed carry group, and both share a spot in the Venn diagram with the target-shooting/history/collector sets.

    If the goal is outdoor sporting, then gun safes and gun locks for home storage are good ideas that shouldn’t be fought tooth and nail. Same thing for waiting periods, and restrictions on ammunition and clip sizes. If evolution produces a deer that requires a teflon round to bring down, we’re all in real trouble. Folks who like shooting guns at targets instead of game, and folks who like collecting guns for their manufacture, craftsmanship, and history, also shouldn’t be objecting to reasonable public safety measures. I mentioned clip sizes earlier because that was one effect of the Assault Weapons Ban. Someone engaged in competitive target shooting shouldn’t care if a handgun’s capacity is 9 rounds or 15.

    It’s that middle bunch. The self-defense folks. And not all of them. A lot of those folks are rational, reasonable people who don’t fetishize firearms as power-symbols or engage in protracted imaginary struggles against a mythical, shadowy oppressive government. Folks who consider “open-carry” laws a privelledge best not exercised, who don’t buy into the nonsense of “an armed society is a polite society” don’t get slapped with labels. They too recognize that there are reasonable, often-evidence-based restrictions on firearm ownership.

    It’s the ones who openly carry to political rallies. The ones who talk about “2nd Amendment solutions” to “activist judges” or “watering the tree of liberty”. The ones who buy guns expecting to shoot not at targets or live game, but “jackbooted thugs”, and who put up signs on their homes like “this house protected by Smith & Wesson”. It’s the ones who talk about a “growing need for self-defense” despite violent crime being at a 30-year low. The folks who think laws requiring gun locks and/or gun safes are an intolerable intrusion of their rights are often the same ones who think seat belt laws are a violation of rights.

    I get that there are a lot of reasonable, responsible gun owners out there. But as long as you let the extreme folks be your spokespersons (and the NRA, with Heston’s “cold, dead hands” remark as their president) then you’ll get tarred by their reputation. (See also: Fred Clark vs. evangelicals)

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    I’m not actually a drive-by commentator, I’m a lurker who followed Fred over from the original Slactivist blog for the “Left Behind” deconstructions. I just don’t post much because I am prone to Foot-In-Mouth disease, like today. I post a little bit more over at Slactiverse, and sometimes in Ana Mardoll’s blog. “Nuker”-type activists tend to terrify me into silence, so I’m very shy of posting in any kind of activist blog–but sometimes I get excited about something, and post without thinking/researching.

    Self-defense is a very valid reason for keeping a gun (says the woman who has lived alone at various times in her life) and requirements for gun locks and gun safes are directly obstructive to that purpose. I also think seat belt laws are none of the government’s business and stupid, but the Tenth Amendment does give states the power to enact stupid laws.  I wear a seat belt because it’s proven effective in reducing your chances of being killed or maimed in an auto accident, not because the law says I must. There weren’t seat belt laws back when I started to wear one. (It’s a stupid law because it is unenforceable and it’s not the state’s business if you do something stupid that hurts no one else. There’s a lot of things I don’t think are the government’s business.

    Heinlein had a point with “An armed society is a polite society”. He missed the fact that sometimes you need to be rude. At one time I bought into the “shadowy oppressive government” conspiracy thing… but I held down one too many government contracting jobs. I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh, decades ago, but came the day when he was talking about stuff in the news that I actually knew something about–and he was jeering at all the callers that tried to explain how he was wrong. I knew Limbaugh was wrong, and that the callers he was sneering at as “left-wing program callers” were right. Started to realize that maybe Limbaugh was full of shit, and definitely intellectually dishonest, and stopped listening to him. I can’t abide someone who is intellectually dishonest in an argument.

    Hey, don’t diss Moses! :-) Charleton Heston was pretty awesome. He did the best Cardinal Richelieu in the best Three Musketeers movies ever!

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Self-defense is a very valid reason for keeping a gun…

    “very”? I’ll agree it’s a valid reason, but not that it’s a “very valid” reason.

    Violent crime is at historic lows, while the risk of accidental firearm discharge (including not only the obvious cases, but also firing at household members and guests due to mistaken identification) remains relatively constant to owner training and firearm ease-of-access.

    …requirements for gun locks and gun safes are directly obstructive to that purpose.

    Gun safeties are directly obstructive to that purpose as well, but I’m assuming you recognize the value in reducing the risk of accidental firearm discharge offsets the relatively minor obstruction in use.

    The underlying themes here are “risk assessment” and “cost/benefit analysis”; these are (fortunately) factual issues where real statistics and evidence can be gathered. It turns out gun locks greatly reduce the number of accidental firearm discharges, including those that result in injury or death of the owner, household members, or guests. Unless you can show statistics that display a similarly dramatic offset in effective use of firearms in self defense, I consider the evidence compelling in the interest of public safety.

    I wear a seat belt because it’s proven effective in reducing your chances of being killed or maimed in an auto accident, not because the law says I must.

    Good. I’m glad to hear that you’ve made an informed, educated decision based on the evidence and the real risks involved. However, you’re in the minority. Human beings aren’t very good at assessing risk*, or estimating probability**; our mental processes tend to create a lot of false positives, especially when the risks have a strong emotional component like fear.***

    it’s not the state’s business if you do something stupid that hurts no one else.

    No man is an island. Every person in our society has an effect on others, and as a society, we’ve agreed that in general****, it’s better if people don’t die if it can be reasonably prevented. If you go to the ER, even if you don’t have any money or health insurance, the law requires the doctors to give you life-saving treatment. We do put boundaries on what constitutes reasonable versus unreasonable efforts, but simply by passing laws (enforcement nonwithstanding) some people’s behavior will change, fewer people will die, and can we really not agree that’s a good thing for society?

    Oh, and I aint sayin’ Heston’s a bad guy. Just that someone saying “you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” might not be the best representative of a proud and noble tradition of outdoor enthusiasts, sportsmen, and collectors.

    *Exhibit A: drunk drivers
    **Exhibit B: State-run lotteries, and the continued existence of Las Vegas
    ***Exhibit C: Shark Week!
    ****In order to not get horribly bogged down, can we agree to skip the euthanasia/capital punishment exceptions?

  • Matri

    I also think seat belt laws are none of the government’s business and stupid

    Irony. It is funny.

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Yes, and?  I said seat belt laws are stupid (because they are unenforceable, and unenforceable laws are a license for police harassment of people they don’t like, aka ‘selective enforcement’), not that wearing a seatbelt is stupid. Wearing a seatbelt is a Very Good Idea.  You can make a bad law in a good cause, you know.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    A friend of mine (who posts here once in a blue moon) asserts that the NRA is pretty much the firearms industry’s domestic marketing wing, with the ‘gun-owners rights’ being merely a cover story.

  • P J Evans

     Once upon a time – forty or fifty years ago – the NRA wasn’t a lobby for guns, but an organization of hunters and plinkers, and their magazine was actually interesting to read. Bow, however, all they seem to be interested in doing is promoting gun ownership (not hunting or even target shooting for pleasure). Tehy sure don’t care about any part of the Constitution except the 2nd Amendment, and they’re not at all interested in its introductiory clause (‘A well  regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state’ – remember, they intended that we not have a standing army.)

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Actually, NRA has 3 main magazines, each for their different constituencies: American Rifleman for shooting enthusiasts, American Hunter for hunters, and America’s 1st Freedom for 2nd amendment activists. Also, I’d rather not argue the “collective right” vs. “individual right” issue of the 2nd amendment tonight– spent too many late night hours doing that on talk.politics.guns back in the day and don’t have the energy or spare time anymore. Got to love the old Usenet groups, though–both the talk.origins (Evolution vs. Creationism) and talk.politics.guns FAQs were/are fantastic resources hashing out all the standard arguments and debunking the bad ones.

  • Lori

    America’s 1st Freedom for 2nd amendment activists.

    And this right here is the problem. The fact that the NRA refers to guns/the 2nd Amendment in this way is, IMO, evidence of exactly what’s wrong with the NRA. Guns are not in any logical sense America’s first freedom and telling people that they are is simply a way to get them to vastly over-value guns. That serves as a very handy way for them to manipulate public sentiment in favor of the interests they support, but it doesn’t exactly make them trustworthy. 

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Dragoness Eclectic, you might want to step back, take a deep breath, and consider what you’ve written. I’ve clipped a few bits, and added emphasis:

    The NRA… [has] a MAJOR interest in making sure [persons in power] have a correct and meaningful understanding of the Second Amendment

    Correct according to whom?
    Meaningful by whose standards?
    That’s what Fred is pointing out: they only want people to know the 2nd amendment as defined by the NRA.

    …the advocates of unilateral disarmament…

    Flag on the play. False dichotomy, strawman. 15 yards, repeat down.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    No. Just no. The NRA, the GOA, and similar organizations have a MAJOR
    interest in making sure their members, law enforcement officers, the
    judiciary, and the legislature have a correct and meaningful
    understanding of the Second Amendment–that as the writings of the
    Founding Fathers attest, the right to keep and bear arms is an
    individual right, not a fuzzy, meaningless “collective right of the
    state to raise militias but that means we can take guns away from
    individuals we don’t like the color of approve of” that the advocates of unilateral disarmament would have you believe.

    You know what’s funny about your response?  You jumped up to defend the NRA, an organization that Fred didn’t even mention and made this all about the NRA’s political lobbying on behalf of the 2nd Amendment.

    The GOA makes the NRA look positively liberal and enlightened in their activities.  They’re the PeTA to the NRA’s Humane Society, cloaking a radical political agenda in the guise of “awareness” and “protection.”  For the love of crap, the GOA gave Ron Paul a C+ on gun rights and predicted that Obama “will be the most anti-Second Amendment president in the history of America.”  Do you remember that gun buying frenzy after Obama took office because he was going to take away all the guns?  I sure do.

    The GOA does have a long history of making sure it’s members don’t acquire a meaningful understanding of the Constitution.  All they want people to know is, “Only the 2nd Amendment matters and the government is going to take it away any minute now.”  That is completely impossible because of the Constitution.

    Furthermore, I have a hard time seeing the militia movement we have as being anything closely approximating a “well regulated” anything.  It’s a bunch of freaked-out survivalists and pretend soldiers who are stockpiling arms to defend themselves against their own government.  It’s only in their own minds that that accomplish that bit about engaging in maintaining a free state for which a militia is necessary, especially since the only real freedom they’re interested in maintaining is the freedom to own the guns the government isn’t actually coming to take away.

    But, y’know, other than that, you’re totally right and Fred is totally wrong.

    Also, I have no idea what the 2nd Amendment Patriots are, but I’m guessing by their name that they’re focused entirely on continuing the grand tradition of declaring themselves the only real-true Americans and telling anyone who disagrees with them to GTFO of the country.  But, y’know, maybe they’re totally reasonable human beings who just accidentally used a pair of obvious right-wing buzzwords in order to define themselves.

  • hapax

    I wish that the article had included a reference to the exact “Pagan books” in question.  I wanted to make sure that they were included in my library’s collection.

  • cyllan

    A bit of digging shows that Llewellyn press had previously offered the following  books to distributed:

    Silver RavenWolf’s Teen Witch and Solitary Witch. Dorothy Morrison’s The
    Craft
    . Christopher Penczak’s Sons of the Goddess. Pagan Visions for a
    Sustainable Future
    . Thea Sabin’s new book Wicca for Beginners. Joyce and
    River Higginbotham’s Paganism.

    I confess that I am very woefully behind on pagan reading, so I can not recommend any of these books one way or another except to say that I am personally not a fan of Silver RavenWolf’s books.

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    I’ve read Silver RavenWolf’s Teen Witch, which mostly convinced me that ritual magic is another sort of prayer, or prayer is a kind of ritual magic. Her name/pen-name makes it hard to take her seriously, though; it’s unfortunately reminiscent of fluffy-bunny Wicca Sues in fanfiction.

    No Scott Cunningham in the mix? I wonder why not?

  • Albanaeon

    How about an atheistic version…

    Our Reason,
    Which resides in our head,
    Thank you for our progress.

    Thinking will be done,
    knowledge will be won,
    by examining what the facts say.

    We got our own fricken bread,
    which science pretty much produced,
    and won’t ask for forgiveness
    for the things we’ll say about fundamentalists,
    but hope we won’t meet one today.

    For today,
    we are the power,
    the future,
    the real hope for humanity,
    Now and forever.

    Alrighty then…

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I actually am rather fond of P.Z. Myers “Atheist’s Creed”, though the last two stanzas might be a bit much for school children.

    An atheist’s creed
    I believe in time,
    matter, and energy,
    which make up the whole of the world.

    I believe in reason, evidence and the human mind,
    the only tools we have;
    they are the product of natural forces
    in a majestic but impersonal universe,
    grander and richer than we can imagine,
    a source of endless opportunities for discovery.

    I believe in the power of doubt;
    I do not seek out reassurances,
    but embrace the question,
    and strive to challenge my own beliefs.

    I accept human mortality.
    We have but one life,
    brief and full of struggle,
    leavened with love and community,
    learning and exploration,
    beauty and the creation of
    new life, new art, and new ideas.

    I rejoice in this life that I have,
    and in the grandeur of a world that preceded me,
    and an earth that will abide without me.

    edit: fixed line breaks and other formatting wierdness.

  • hapax

    @ChrisDoggett:disqus:

    You might be surprised that I could recite that creed with the same “passionate sincerity” that I bring to the Nicene Creed.

    Of course, I probably define many of the words used differently than does Myers.  Still, I *also* define many of the words used in the Nicene Creed differently than did the Church Fathers.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Of course, I probably define many of the words used differently than
    does Myers.  Still, I *also* define many of the words used in the Nicene
    Creed differently than did the Church Fathers.

    I doubt you would need to, actually.  PeeZed is surprisingly level-headed and reasonable.  You know, when he’s not being a thin-skinned, reactionary ass.

    That creed looks like it’s coming from one of those level-headed and reasonable places.  And nothing in it looks like it should be a problem for someone willing to confront their own preconceptions head-on (which, ironically, is a grouping that does not include PZ all the time.  The man has some impressive blind spots).

  • Anonymous

    That Atheist’s Creed is generally reasonable, although there are a few places where I have to disagree or redefine the words involved until they are almost the exact opposite of what the author intended. (“We have but one life, brief and full of struggle” for instance specifically excludes both afterlife and reincarnation.)

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    (“We have but one life, brief and full of struggle” for instance specifically excludes both afterlife and reincarnation.)

    So…that’s a couple words in one line, which, at least to me, is somewhat fewer than hapax’s original “many.”  I’m still not seeing an overall problem.

    I was just responding to hapax’s seeming surprise that PZ would say something with which she could agree.  His reputation for unreasonableness amongst the non-New Atheist set is legendary, after all.

  • hapax

    I was just responding to hapax’s seeming surprise that PZ would say something with which she could agree.

    Oh, I’m not surprised that Myers says things I agree with.  (I read his blog semi-regularly)  Usually I find more points of congruence when he’s talking about evolutionary biology. :-)

    It really wasn’t all that many things I’d have to redefine.  I’d agree that we have “only one life” — I just think it has a lot more, mmm, phases than I think Myers does.

    Biggest caveat I’d have to make is that I believe that there are Real Entities not contained by “this world” and “this universe.”  Of course, the creed as written doesn’t explicitly address this question, let alone the nature of those Entities, so I could cheerfully recite the creed in good conscience.

    (Actually, I rather like it.  It makes some important points, and is gracefully expressed.)

  • Benjamin Lee

    Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, living as though you’ve only got one life to lose is good practical advice.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, living as though you’ve only got one life to lose is good practical advice.

    It varies. I sometimes find that living as though I have eternity ahead of me helps me avoid making mistakes that feel much more tempting when I think this is all there is. 

  • Lori

     
     And nothing in it looks like it should be a problem for someone willing to confront their own preconceptions head-on  

     

    A majority of religious people would have to define human mortality and having but one life quite differently than PZ does. Unless by “confront their own preconceptions head-on” you mean “stop believing in the soul and an afterlife of any kind”. 

  • Anonymous

    While the bible is not propaganda as it is written, it is what rhetoricians refer to as “pre-propaganda.” Propaganda is not something that just materializes out of thin air and convinces people to feel/act a certain way. There has to be considerable, consistent groundwork done in order to prime the population into accepting the propaganda.

    The bible is a perfect example of pre-propaganda. It makes a series of claims about the universe and how people should live their lives, but those claims are muddled and confusing. It has a huge cultural cachet, but with little lay person knowledge.

    A skilled propagandist can easily swoop in and utilize the bible and the culture that has built around it for his own purposes. Something we’ve seen over and over.

  • Miles

    I agree, I would characterise it by saying the bible is a tool of propaganda. It is a symbol, the most potent type of tool for the propagandist. It speaks to people without ever having to understand it.

    Fred is right when he says “The Bible is far too massive, messy, elliptical and sometimes confusing, contradictory, ambiguous, dull, strange, off-putting and offensive to ever function as propaganda.”

    But how many people actually read it, understand it, remember it? At least remember it enough to know that most of the catch cries, slogans, and quotes used out of it to justify some prejudice or another is out of context, contradicted or just plain made up.

  • Thrownaway

    I think it would be neat as a Religious Studies ritual to cycle through representative prayers of various religions.  Not for general school requirements, though, as anyone in Religious Studies is usually there by choice.

    Or require all students to recite the Litany Against Fear.  Imagine four hundred or so elementary school age children reciting this in perfect unison: 

    I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.
    Okay, that would actually be kind of creepy.

  • Dan Audy

    I think it would be neat as a Religious Studies ritual to cycle through
    representative prayers of various religions.  Not for general school
    requirements, though, as anyone in Religious Studies is usually there by
    choice.

    Where I live in Canada due to the lack of the Establishment Clause we don’t have the whole ‘wall of separation between church and state’ that the US does.  As such our local city council opens each session with a prayer which cycles through each faith or denomination that volunteers to take part.  It does still lean very heavily towards Christianity with its dozens of denominations and sects but still gets solid representation from religions that have smaller representations locally.  I know that both Shia and Sunni muslims are represented, Baha’i’s, Sikhs, and Buddhists too.  Wiccans had a spot but the one solo practioner who had volunteered went into University and couldn’t meet the schedule anymore and none of the other Wiccans know/care/are able.

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    Sorry to go off-topic, but…

    Hey, Fred, did you see this? I like how the comments are basically a hundred voices yelling, “DUH!”

  • Matri

    Wow. Seriously?

    That a newspaper even needs to ask that question? And is themselves unsure of how to proceed on it?

    New York Times, turn in your credentials. You’re already well past on your way to becoming a supermarket tabloid rag.

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    Lots of people are incredulous, but given all the criticism of modern journalism Fred’s posted before, I wouldn’t be surprised if he considered [the fact that the question was asked] and concluded “Nothing I didn’t already know.” In fact (nyuk nyuk nyuk), I wouldn’t be surprised if he took it as GOOD news, because it’s out in the open now, with a clear and overwhelming consensus.

    What I’d really like to know is whether he thinks this massive response will actually do anything.

  • P J Evans

    That’s the response pretty much everywhere. How the heck did he get to be an editor???

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    I found this version billed as “the Atheist’s Lord’s Prayer” which it isn’t, really – the author of the prayer clearly believed in a god, just not a very nice one.

    Our Father Which Art In Heaven, While We Suffer In Hell
    Hollow is thy name on the lips of hungry children
    If it is your will being done on Earth, is it also so in Heaven?
    Oh how we labour for our daily bread
    May we forgive you your trespasses against us
    And your agents who perpetuate these sins in your name
    I will never follow you or commit acts of evil in your name
    Even though you tempt me with the promise of immortality
    For your kingdom has become corrupted
    Your power a poison
    And your glory the glory of false God
    Amen

  • LE

    Sigh. It’s not really relevant except as an example of where crap like that stuff in Indiana inevitably ends up, but…

    Back in the day, my mom was a teacher in the public schools in West Philadelphia.  Back then (this was the late 50s/early 60s) they were _required_ to do a bible reading every day.  I’m fairly sure they were also required to use the KJV Bible (I know they couldn’t just pick the one they wanted – see the Nativist Riots and the origin of Catholic Schools in the US for attempts to challenge _that_ one).

    So my Roman Catholic mom got to pick a reading out of a Protestant version of the Bible for her class of students that was about 60% Jewish.  Being a thoughtful person, she at least attempted to always pick from the Old Testament.  Lots of teachers didn’t even bother to do that much.

    It took a long time to get that crap out of the schools.  Every time I see something like this I want to pound my head into a wall from frustration (or, perhaps more productively, pound people like Sen. Tomes into a wall).

  • Emcee, cubed

    The NRA actually isn’t mentioned by Fred, so worrying about whether they fit Fred’s description doesn’t really mean anything.

    And the GOA, which Fred does mention, was created because they think that the NRA allows too many restrictions on the second amendment. (I only found this out from my quick research about it just now. Good grief, do they think people should be allowed to purchase and carry Howitzers? You pretty much have to if you think the NRA isn’t protecting the second amendment enough.) So guessing Fred’s description is pretty accurate.

  • P J Evans

     Well, if you go for the most extreme possible position, you could argue that individuals should be allowed to buy and own nuclear weapons. Which at least might get someone to stop and think.

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Reductio ad absurdum can fall flat when dealing with human, social issues because “it’s more complicated than that”. 

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    The NRA and other such outfits make their hay out of promoting the conceit that mortal heroism is the baseline, natural essence of Real American men. (Eco’s Ur-Fascism, point 11).  It also appeals to the vanity of suckers by defining liberty as the absolute feudal lordship of every man/father over his family and property; by assuring them that their manful willingness to make war on the evil rabble is the only thing protecting they and their families from certain doom. So that mothers and children will therefore be forever dependent upon and subservient to their masculine power to destroy. 

    And yes,  the gun manufacturers crying all the way to the bank with cash gained from ‘responsible investments in home defense; as well as the lobbyists getting rich off the donations of strangers, (For no greater service than scaring the hell out of them.) probably has more than a little to do with all of this. 

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    I was incorrect about the GOA; you are incorrect about the NRA. Somehow I don’t think promoting concealed carry for women–which neutralizes the physical advantage aggressive men have over women–is making “mothers and children… forever dependent upon and subservient to their masculine power to destroy”.  The rest of the text leading up to that appears to be a rant about some strawman I’m not familiary with.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It is of interest to note that “gun-crazy Americans” was a common trope as far back as the late 1800s to the point where Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes briefly comment on the need to memorize all the gun manufacturers based in that country.

  • Anonymous

    Can’t wait to see how this school prayer thing goes.  I mean, given that a large part of the reason that schools in urban (read: diverse) areas got rid of teacher-led prayer and Bible reading was because Protestants and Catholics fought over which versions to use.  I mean, even saying “Lord’s Prayer” shows how it’s divisive, because nearly all Catholics I know call it the “Our Father” (which is what I learned to call it in CCD).  

  • http://caffinatedlemur.wordpress.com/ caffinatedlemur

    My sister (who goes to a Jesuit-founded school) always has to stop short during their Our Fathers because the Protestants tacked on a bit at the end and the Catholics didn’t, if I remember right.

  • http://thetalkingllama.wordpress.com/ SketchesbyBoze

    In fairness to Strivelli, Gideon Bibles often come with propaganda added.

  • Anonymous

    I would love to have my local government post the ten commandments in some inappropriately official context.  It is a good bet that the commandments would be divided differently than they are in my tradition.  There could be endless fun with demands that they post the “correct” version.

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Erm, okay, I think I flew off the handle here. I did take “..and organizations like that” to mean “including the NRA”, which was not actually mentioned and I guess Fred would have said ‘NRA’ if he meant the NRA. I’d vaguely heard of the GOA before as an organization like the NRA that thought the NRA wasn’t political/activist/aggressive enough, but I’m the one who didn’t do the research here.

    I am a bit sensitive to attacks on gun owners and “outdoors” (i.e. hunting/shooting/fishing/etc) culture, because it’s been going on for decades and we’re always stereotyped as moronic, beer-swilling rednecks–and nowadays “fundamentalist nutjob” gets added to the mix. It’s a stupid stereotype; some of the fiercest advocates I knew for the right to self-defense and the right to keep and bear arms were the denizens of Usenet’s alt.gothic.

    I was wrong about the GOA and accused Fred of not doing something that it turns out I had not done myself: research the issue before speaking. I apologize.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    The Lord’s Prayer?  Don’t you know that it is as generic and universal a prayer as can be crafted?  (Link goes to what I wrote upon learning that someone actually used that claim as an argument in court.)

  • Anonymous

    restrictions on the second amendment. (I only found this out from my quick research about it just now. Good grief, do they think people should be allowed to purchase and carry Howitzers? You pretty much have to if you think the NRA isn’t

    If you can carry a howitzer, I don’t think anyone’s going to try to stop you from doing it, lest you punch a building to death or something.

    Honestly, I think the probability of artillery being used in any sort of crime is pretty much… nonexistent.  After all, if you can afford a howitzer, you’ve got more efficient ways of getting away with whatever you please – those things are not cheap.

    Besides, it’s already legal to own a tank, if you want…

    Erm… not that I neccesarily think that making it legal to own howitzers is a good idea.  I wouldn’t want my childish desire for pretty kabooms to get in the way of actual policy.

    Someone engaged in competitive target shooting shouldn’t care if a handgun’s capacity is 9 rounds or 15.

    Some target shooting contests (practical shooting) involve a large number of targets that must be shot quickly, so a large magazine could be beneficial… just saying.

    If evolution produces a deer that requires a teflon round to bring down, we’re all in real trouble.

    Aw, but shooting a deer with 30 7.62 high explosive armor piercing rounds is so much fun!

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    I also think seat belt laws are none of the government’s business and stupid

    What’s stupid about wanting to minimize a) the number of people hurting themselves accidentally and b) the number of people who go flying through their windscreens in a crash?

  • P J Evans

    What’s stupid about wanting to minimize a) the number of people hurting
    themselves accidentally and b) the number of people who go flying
    through their windscreens in a crash?

    And minimizing the number of people who suffer brain injuries that require expensive lifetime care.

    Anyone else ever see stories of rollovers with people dying when they’re thrown out of the vehicles? Or teenagers dying or being severely injured when they’re thrown out in a crash? That’s why we have seat-belt laws.

  • Matri

    That’s why we have seat-belt laws.

    It says a lot about us humans when we need to legislate common sense survival instincts and make them mandatory.

    It says even more about us humans that there are some of us actively opposing the use of safety equipment.

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    By that argument, you can justify laws restricting any and all behaviors that might be dangerous. Do you really want laws dictating your cholesterol count? Should sky-diving and horseback riding be outlawed? Should motorcycles be banned? Should you be required to have training and a license to swim? To hike cross-country? People die every year doing all of those things.

    Wearing a seat-belt is a good idea; making it a compulsory law is not. As currently implemented, seat-belt laws are very selectively enforced, which is a bad thing for laws. To make them properly enforceable would require rather excessive government intrusion into personal privacy.

  • Matri

    By that argument, you can justify laws restricting any and all behaviors
    that might be dangerous. Do you really want laws dictating your
    cholesterol count? Should sky-diving and horseback riding be outlawed?
    Should motorcycles be banned? Should you be required to have training
    and a license to swim? To hike cross-country? People die every year
    doing all of those things.

    Are you aware that you are using the exact same modus operandi that “slippery slope” Christianists just loooove using?

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    When I was a child, any kid could just ride a bike.  Nowdays there are towns where children are legally required to wear a helmet and knee guards just to ride a bicycle. That isn’t “slippery slope”, it’s way beyond stupid.  It’s part of a blind, blundering, long-term trend to legislate away anything that can possibly kill you, to trade freedom for immortality–and it’s ultimately futile. You can’t outlaw Death. I don’t think my freedom and your freedom is worth trading away for nothing.

    In the same vein, I’m also against county bans on fireworks. One, it’s a stupid government intrusion on humans enjoying themselves (People are having fun, we must ban it); two, they aren’t that dangerous if you take half-way decent precautions; three, around my neck of the woods it’s so blatantly unenforced and unenforceable that it’s hilarious. People just go across the county-line, buy fireworks, and shoot them off at home anyway.

    Unenforceable, intrusive laws that the majority does not like are bad law. They become a license for the authorities to harass selected groups they don’t like, and they encourage contempt for the law in general. Also, philosophically, I don’t think it’s the government’s job to hold my hand and protect me from my own willful, informed stupidity. It *is* the government’s job to set standards and enforce them.

    (i.e., a food A or drug B must meet defined standards of content and cleanliness to be sold as A or B, and any claims about A or B must be verifiable and any hazards of A or B must be documented. It should not, in my opinion, be the government’s business to say that A or B is forbidden to use, possess or sell at all.)

  • Lori

     
    When I was a child, any kid could just ride a bike.  Nowdays there are towns where children are legally required to wear a helmet and knee guards just to ride a bicycle.  

     

    Heh you kids, get off my lawn. 

    I’m old enough to have grown up without bike helmets and guards are well. And I had a friend in elementary school who died after being hit by a car. There were many other kids like her, even well after the technology existed to protect them. Those children basically died of ignorance and/or stubbornness—the iignorance and/or stubbornness of their parents

    The government didn’t pass helmet laws just to wreck your fun. They passed helmet laws because kids shouldn’t die of easily preventable causes just because they had the poor judgement to be born to parents who care more about nostalgia for the good old days and keeping the gu’mint out of their business than they do about protecting their kid. 

     People are having fun, we must ban it  

    This makes you sound like a child. 

    I don’t even have the patience to go through the whole fireworks ban issue, so I’ll just make two points. First, this sentence really says a great deal more than I believe you thought it did (emphasis mine) “they aren’t that dangerous if you take half-way decent precautions . Second, fireworks don’t only hurt the person who doesn’t take half-way decent precautions. The person who gets hurt or the property that catches fire doesn’t always belong to the person having the fun. 

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    And I had a friend in elementary school who died after being hit by a
    car. There were many other kids like her, even well after the technology
    existed to protect them. Those children basically died of ignorance
    and/or stubbornness—the iignorance and/or stubbornness of their parents.

    …and this has what to do with forcing kids to wear helmets & knee guards when biking?  No helmet in the world is going to save your life if a ton of rolling steel hits your body. Surviving that is a matter of luck and how fast the car was moving–neither of which is affected by the presence or lack of a helmet. Seriously, you might as well have argued that we must wear helmets to protect kittens–this was a blatant appeal to emotion: “Think of the CHILDREN! If you are against being regulated and controlled in every aspect of your life, you must hate children! Don’t complain that it doesn’t make sense, because CHILDREN!”

    People are having fun, we must ban it  </quote

    This makes you sound like a child.

    No, it makes me sound vaguely like Mark Twain. It’s a quick & dirty summation of the puritanical attitudes of an awful lot of state & local lawmakers, from the time of the actual Puritans forward. Historically, you get even more effort towards prohibition if it’s an activity practiced more by an oppressed minority than the white majority.

    First, this sentence really says a great deal more than I believe you thought it did (emphasis mine) “they aren’t that dangerous if you take half-way decent precautions .

    Nothing in life is perfectly safe. Even sitting still doing nothing can
    kill you from deep vein thrombosis. Trying to legislate away all risks
    is folly, and destructive to freedom.

    Second,
    fireworks don’t only hurt the person who doesn’t take half-way
    decent precautions and the property that catches fire doesn’t always
    belong to the person having the fun.

    “Half-way decent precautions” include keeping a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher handy. The group shooting off fireworks is responsible for what the falling embers do, including putting them out. At least that’s the way we handle it at the in-laws July 4th get-togethers.

    Fire is intrinsically dangerous. Using fire is part of what makes us human, and not just apes who are good at running. If you say that most people can’t handle fire and should not be (legally) trusted with it, than you are saying that most people are dumb apes and not quite human.

    That’s the other thing that annoys me about trying to prevent all injuries and death by forbidding anything hazardous: it’s the government saying “You aren’t an adult to be trusted to act rationally; instead, you are a stupid child or subhuman and we must tell you what to do for your own good.” Yeah, no.

  • Lori

     
    …and this has what to do with forcing kids to wear helmets & knee guards when biking?  No helmet in the world is going to save your life if a ton of rolling steel hits your body.   

     

    She died of a head injury and current helmets likely would have saved her life. Unless you’re going to go full fatalist it doesn’t make sense to act as if everything is just random and precautions don’t matter. random. 

    Frankly, I don’t give a horses behind if you or any other adult old enough to make informed decisions for herself opts not to wear a helmet when biking. I’m not a big supporter of motorcycle helmet laws for the same reason. I think you’re stupid if you don’t wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle, but if eating bugs means more to you than protecting your skull, enjoy the tasty insects. 

    I don’t feel the same way about kids. Not every instance of “thinking of the children” is wrong. 

     
    “Half-way decent precautions” include keeping a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher handy. The group shooting off fireworks is responsible for what the falling embers do, including putting them out. At least that’s the way we handle it at the in-laws July 4th get-togethers.  

    Way to totally miss the point. I neither said nor implied that safety precautions don’t exist. My point is that many people don’t follow them and when they don’t they often hurt other people. You’re arguing from “ain’t nobodies business if I do” about something that does tend to make itself other people’s business. 

      
    Fire is intrinsically dangerous. Using fire is part of what makes us human, and not just apes who are good at running. If you say that most people can’t handle fire and should not be (legally) trusted with it, than you are saying that most people are dumb apes and not quite human. 

     

    Fireworks are not merely fire. You know that. Stop trying to put words in my mouth. 

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    I hate disqus and I cannot get editing to work and why doesn’t it recognize the quote tag? Bleh. I’m getting tired of fighting with Disqus.

    Fireworks are not merely fire. You know that. Stop trying to put words in my mouth.

    Well, actually, that was one of the issues you raised, which comes down to people being careless with stuff that catches things on fire:

    the property that catches fire doesn’t always belong to the person having the fun.

  • Lori

    This is your argument? That all things which can cause something to catch on fire are equivalent and that having the opinion that not all of them are  safe is the same as saying that people are dumb apes and not quite human?

    OK. I’m done with this, because it isn’t worth the time or the energy. 

  • Jamie

    In the same vein, I’m also against county bans on fireworks. One, it’s a
    stupid government intrusion on humans enjoying themselves (People are
    having fun, we must ban it); two, they aren’t that dangerous if you take
    half-way decent precautions; three, around my neck of the woods it’s so
    blatantly unenforced and unenforceable that it’s hilarious. People just
    go across the county-line, buy fireworks, and shoot them off at home
    anyway.

    So you’re saying it’s not plausible for someone to be injured by fireworks? I get what you’re saying regarding the helmets and seatbelts laws, since the primary harm in those cases is usually to the person who chose not to use them. But the fireworks thing — I don’t really see how (unless proper safety measures are taken, which isn’t always guaranteed) it’s any safer to use them than it would be to fire a gun wildly into the air.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > It *is* the government’s job to set standards and enforce them.

    Philosophically, I agree with you. As long as “Dr. Awesome’s Miracle Elixir” is clearly labelled as not having any actual medicinal properties and resulting in painful lesions in three out of five people who consume it, part of me wants to say “Great! Go ahead and sell it. Anyone who actually buys the crap and takes it deserves what they get.”

    Pragmatically, though… I’m not so sure.

    What about someone who gives it to their kid? Does their kid deserve what they got? Well… no, I’m not convinced the kid does.

    What about someone who doesn’t read so good? Do they deserve what they get? Well, um…

    What about someone who is desperately ill and can’t afford real health care and just ends up doing something stupid out of fear and desperation?  Um…

    I get that we all draw that line in different places, and you may not draw it where I do. But collectively, we draw that line somewhere.

    And then we decide that the people who didn’t deserve the painful lesions should be somehow compensated for that undeserved penalty, because in general we approve of helping each other out when shit happens to us that we didn’t deserve.

    Which costs money.

    And at some point we realize it would have been a hell of a lot cheaper to just not let snake-oil salesmen sell snake oil. Not to mention avoid a lot of suffering, and maybe even encourage genuine health, both of which I’m also philosophically in favor of. And that maybe increased health, reduced suffering, and money have more weight than the snake-oil salesman’s freedom to sell Dr. Awesome’s Miracle Elixir.

    Now, if we want to ignore pragmatism and go with pure theoretical philosophical considerations, and we want to say that individual freedom (however trivial the domain) outweighs individual suffering (however avoidable), then I can see deciding the other way. But it’s not clear to me that passing laws based on impractical philosophical considerations, especially when it increases the amount of suffering in the world, is the right way for us to manage our lives.

  • FangsFirst

    Also, philosophically, I don’t think it’s the government’s job to hold
    my hand and protect me from my own willful, informed stupidity.

    Here’s my problem with anti-sealtbelt-law and other “stop trying to protect me from myself” sentiments–something I forget half the time as I think, “Okay, I see your point, it isn’t too enforceable”–but Lori reminded me.

    So, we have people without helmets, we have people without seatbelts, they are mostly putting themselves at risk. Okay.

    What about when someone like Lori’s childhood, bicycling friend who died from being hit by a car?

    Who is actually affected by that death? Only people who made the decisions regarding helmets? No. The child is obviously affected. The parents are most likely affected. Friends. Other family. Classmates (coworkers, if we change the age group).

    You also affect the person driving the car. Sometimes, stuff happens, and sometimes that car (or the other car, if we go back to seatbelts) didn’t do anything wrong. Now, though, they killed a kid or another drive or whatever, because that driver or biker wouldn’t wear a helmet or a seatbelt.

    Yeah. I’m sure, “What an idiot, he/she should have been wearing a helmet/seatbelt!” will be great consolation for the horrific thought that their actions led to someone’s death. And if they were driving like a sane person and the unseatbelted person was driving like a lunatic? Or was suddenly distracted and made the unusual movement so no one was the complete moron “at fault”? And they have a decent element of empathy? Why the hell should some jerk’s “willful stupidity” leave them traumatized for the rest of their lives by the idea that they unintentionally killed someone? Nevermind the understandable emotional response of the friends and relatives that will probably lead to condemnation of this person because they need *someone* to blame for the loss of their loved one?

    My point being: it doesn’t even come down to only those related in some way to someone dying from not following those laws. You can’t just strip that away and say just, “Well, it sucks for the parents and I feel bad for them, but they raised their kid to be an idiot who didn’t wear a helmet.” Because the other people involved may have had zero to do with that, and they don’t deserve to have someone they care about die, or be responsible for someone’s death that could have been avoided.

    I get the unenforceable part and the risks derived from that, but “protect me from myself” and “hurts no one else” simply aren’t true.

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    They would be just as upset if someone deliberately killed themselves by throwing themselves in front of the car. Nor would they be any less traumatized if someone illegally died of not wearing a seatbelt or helmet.

    You do know that “someone else might be traumatized by stupid things I do to myself” is not a reasonable basis for LAW?

    Depending on your personal philosophy, it is a reason for you to decide to not do stupid things to yourself–if you care about your actions hurting other people, then you won’t do them. If people in general think that getting yourself stupidly killed and leaving your relatives to grieve is a dickish thing to do, and you don’t want to be thought of as a dick, you won’t do willfully stupid stuff.

    However, saying “Because something you do has a remote chance of upsetting some hypothetical person, we must make laws with penalties like fines and jail time that forbid you from doing things that are physically harmless to anyone but you” is a bad basis for making law.  Fines and jail time are pretty upsetting, too. I don’t think people deserve to be legally penalized because they don’t protect themselves adequately.

    I think laws are serious things. They shouldn’t be created or invoked without careful consideration of what the consequences, both good and bad are.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    “Okay class, time to recite our Lord’s Prayer.  Repeat after me…
     
    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!
    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!
    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

  • Anonymous

    Fearless Son, I think you just “Elder Godwinned” yourself…

    There probably should be a Godwin-type law for Lovecraftian horrors.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    There is something to be said for “doom-and-gloom” laws helping add to a sense of alienation from previously widely accepted fun things to do. Such things as laws effectively extending the reach of private property onto the sidewalks and streets mean that even just walking around a city block, or aimlessly “cruising your car” can now be interpreted variously as “loitering”, “vagrancy”, “soliciting for a prostitute”, “interfering with people entering a business” or some other loose interpretation fastened upon the act by a police officer in the right (wrong?) frame of mind.

    This tendency to regulate the social sphere ever more strictly is clearly a reaction to loss of sense of control over the economic sphere. Even “innocent” laws like mandating more and greater safety precautions for everything can carry the feeling of encasing all people in a bubble of foam allegedly for their own protection and it’s no surprise that the reaction to that from some people has been that for laws which affect only the individual disobeying them (e.g. helmet and seatbelt laws) they argue they should damn well get to make their own decisions about the extent of their personal safety in their day to day travels.

  • Anonymous

    Violent crime is at historic lows, while the risk of accidental firearm discharge (including not only the obvious cases, but also firing at household members and guests due to mistaken identification) remains relatively constant to owner training and firearm ease-of-access.

    Do you mean ‘accidental discharge remains constant to training (i.e., it has not decreased over time), or despite training (i.e., it doesn’t matter how well trained you are, the risk is the same)?  Because I can’t quite tell.

    In the same vein, I’m also against county bans on fireworks.

    I’m not a big fan, either… the exception I can see is when there’s a high fire risk, or in cities (where the problem is as much noise as the danger.

    What about someone who doesn’t read so good? Do they deserve what they get? Well, um…
    What about someone who is desperately ill and can’t afford real health care and just ends up doing something stupid out of fear and desperation?  Um…

    These sound more like problems in and of themselves, than problems with the law in question.


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