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January 28, 2014

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They aren't going to "understand the beliefs of religious conservatives on their own terms" because religious conservatives only portray themselves in the best possible light.

Imagine a bank robber who claims he was just picking up the money he was due by right of his great virtue and ability. The insulated secular progressives insist he is a greedy criminal! If only they could understand the robber's true motives of fair pay and justice.

Well, it's sad that those secular progressives are so deluded. They should be more open minded and try to understand the bank robber on his own terms.

The straw man argument is the easiest fallacy to commit, both by secularists and religious conservatives.

This point is made by John Moore. As to his statement: Imagine a bank robber who claims he was just picking up the money he was due by right of his great virtue and ability. The insulated secular progressives insist he is a greedy criminal! Err, the religious conservative also holds to this idea as well. But he will credit the act of illegal bank withdrawals to a sinful nature, making thievery a common temptation (there but for God's grace go I).

Also, it is the notion of us religious conservative that secular progressives are deluded because they do wish to understand the bank robber's plight, and attribute his/her criminality to inequity, social injustice, corrupt corporations, ya-da ya-da.

Now, as to the last statement, such is the force of the straw man. Secular progressives can be tainted as well.

So, where do we go from here?

It's not just this topic. In every debate today people automatically attack their opponents' character. Oppose raising the minimum wage? Greed. Oppose raising social security? You hate the old and want them to die.

Maybe it's the echo chamber most of us live in these days, but people just don't know how to discuss differences of opinion anymore.

John Moore, imagine the bank robber is advocating a society-wide policy that good people ought to be able to take money from others to use for good purposes. Yes, people should argue against this particular bank robber's proposed policy on his own terms by examining the actual argument he's making. The argument he's making is that his "virtue and ability" give him the right to take other people's money in order to do good with it. And perhaps he really believes it. How can you know otherwise?

Regardless, he is wrong about his claim, and his argument can be refuted. One does not have the right to take other people's money by force, even were his description of himself accurate. So your illustration does nothing to refute the idea that ignoring a person's arguments for taking a particular course of action based on a suspicion of their "real" motives is legitimate or helpful.

And incidentally, I would argue that it is precisely the bank robber's argument that is made by those who claim their own generosity and good motives give them the right to take more and more of people's tax money by force to hand out to others. I think you would agree that rather than calling them greedy robbers with secret motivations, we ought to take their arguments at face value and refute their actaul arguments.

Amy, that was a brilliant turn-the-tables move on John's argument - using his own example to boot! Thanks for making my day!

Certainly we should not ignore people's arguments and self-descriptions. We must indeed consider the bank robber's view - but we shouldn't assume he's right.

The bank robber knows better than anyone what it's like to be a bank robber. Should be therefore accept his authoritative statements?

Amy, you seem to be saying that all taxation is wrong. That's a pretty extreme position.

John Moore, I don't want to get off topic, but there is a difference between taking tax money for things provided for all citizens (e.g., the military and police) and taking from some individual citizens to give to other individual citizens. I'm not saying it can never be done, but I do think it's gone past the point of what's moral. (I recommend Bastiat's The Law, if you'd like to think through this some more.)

And I don't think we should assume anyone's arguments are right. Certainly not! I do, however, think we should presume the motivations they attribute to themselves and their characterization of the reasons they offer should be taken at face value and responded to accordingly.

The issue here is that intentions are completely irrelevant. Maybe religious conservatives do not feel like their opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage comes from irrational hatred and bigotry. This is likely so. Never the less, if they are pursuing policies that will make life more economically and politically difficult for gay people and gay families to exist, they are by definition anti-gay. That they sincerely believe that they are virtuous is no shield or defense. Every political action must be weighed solely on it's practical effects on people. Religious freedom is no "blanket shield" from criticism.

Many socialists and communists probably sincerely believed that they were doing the right thing and helping people towards better world. This doesn't change the fact the forced collectivizations they enforced killed millions of peasants and workers.

"Every political action must be weighed solely on it's practical effects on people."

Pretty funny Erkki S., first off, you dont really believe what you wrote here, and second off, you exemplify what the OP is talking about in you comment, summed up by Beckwith's last words:

"The fact that people can’t see this major difference between these two lines of argumentation merely proves they don’t understand the actual arguments well enough to do so."

Erkki,

You have made a valid point in this statement:

>> Never the less, if they are pursuing policies that will make life more economically and politically difficult for gay people and gay families to exist, they are by definition anti-gay.

Now, is this the driving force, or is this the reasoning that the secular progressive attributes to the religious conservative? Are there other reasons why perceived "anti-gay policies" occur?

If I am a religious conservative, I would not assume to have the mind of a secular progressive. So, I would assume that a secular progressive would not have the mind of a religious conservative. We can strive to understand, but the point of the post was not the inability, but the refusal to have the religious conservative's ideas offered.

False attribution leads to false accusation.

>> Every political action must be weighed solely on it's practical effects on people.

Only insofar that such political action is moral and ethical. Actions that marginalize some to benefit others, or stigmatizes some to support a system of governance that withdraws freedoms and rights, such is not proper.

The problem here is, the issue has to be seen in a larger context. Opposing gay marriage is not simply one policy that social and religious conservatives choose to advance simply because they believe gay marriage to be detrimental to society. It is quite clear from their own texts and opinions that at least the hard-line of social conservatives see that society where homosexuality does not outright exist or homosexual displays of love are not seen in public is in their mind superior to that in which they do. It really can not by definition be anything but anti-gay. The Soviet Union never outright banned Christianity except in its early days but they clearly pursued policies that meant to marginalize believers and religious people. This is the only relevant fact when assessing whether the Soviet system was anti-religious.

Now, across the globe, as we are seeing Western and Eastern nations making the painful transition to a truly global market system, we are seeing the breakdown of traditional ways of living. This transition has scapegoated minorities and homosexual people in various countries, as we can see in the recent onslaught of anti-gay activism in Russia and Uganda, and all around the Islamic world. So when religious conservatives paint the "degradation" of society being caused by homosexuality, they will, unwittingly or not, align themselves in line with these hardcore nationalists and fascists who blame minorities for increased insecurity and fuel this bigotry.

Put on this light, the issue of gay marriage is not simply an effort to troll religious people. It is part of a world-wide campaign to fully acknowledge gay persons as part of the society and protect them from marginalization.

Couldn't find the source of the quote, but I remember one journalists remark: If your opinions attract questionable people, you might want to re-check your opinions.

If your opinions attract questionable people, you might want to re-check your opinions.

So guilt by association is not a fallacy?


hard-line of social conservatives see that society where homosexuality does not outright exist or homosexual displays of love are not seen in public is in their mind superior to that in which they do.

Ok – let’s take this statement as true. What does this get you in the argument over same-sex marriage? That people dislike homosexuals so much that they just want to see them suffer? What about a law that would make it illegal for homosexuals to buy ice cream? That would inflict suffering too.

Seriously though, what do you say to one who is a homosexual yet against same-sex marriage? What about their arguments? These people do exist, you know.

When you ask someone about that specific question, generally, you get crickets. There is a very good reason you get crickets: Total ignorance of the case being made. It’s a shame. It’s to be expected.

I’d encourage others to use it. Ask that question. Make the person address the real argument being made.

    Ok – let’s take this statement as true. What does this get you in the argument over same-sex marriage? That people dislike homosexuals so much that they just want to see them suffer? What about a law that would make it illegal for homosexuals to buy ice cream? That would inflict suffering too.

Well obviously there is no way to enforce a law making it illegal for homosexuals to buy ice cream, so that would never come as an issue. But it is possible to make public acts of homosexual relationships illegal. So naturally this is where the conservative effort is.

Like conservatives have even themselves admitted, it all comes down to public acceptance of homosexuality. Naturally, if the conservative thinks homosexuality is immoral, he has every right to try to limit the homosexual influence on the community and in the public sphere. Problem is, there is no way to really do this and come somehow "neutral" on homosexuality or not "anti-gay". Laws do not exist in vacuum of neutralness, they reflect the standards of community.


    Seriously though, what do you say to one who is a homosexual yet against same-sex marriage? What about their arguments? These people do exist, you know.

The same questions need to be asked from him as to anyone else who opposes homosexual inclusion in marriage: what is the motivation behind making gay marriage illegal? If marriage is by definition unattainable by homosexuals, what other legal arrangements should homosexuals have to secure the same rights? If marriage is by definition exclusionary, should government still endorse it?

Erkki

People who experience attractions to the same sex are not at all excluded from marriage and never have been. Marriage is attainable on the same terms for them as all other people. No one is treated differently. No one is looking to make so called "gay marriage" illegal either. There are no serious advocates for making it against the law for anyone to commit to each other and have a ceremony for it.

If you really believe that people want to specifically keep homosexuals from marriage because of their sexual orientation you are very very mistaken. The union of a man and woman serves a singular purpose in society. Such relationships as a rule and by nature produce the next generation. Having a specific institution for these relationships, that is open to all people, is just good public policy.

Erkki

Also, one can be neutral in regards to homosexuality and public policy. No one has to advocate for laws that either promote or make illegal homosexual acts. Such acts can be simply ignored/tolerated/accepted as private choices.

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