Links and Comments: Bruni on ‘religious liberty’; love vs hate; godless kids do just fine; Biblical law; anti-science senators; Pinker on Shakespeare; io9 resources

Catching up: From a week ago Sunday’s New York Times, Frank Bruni, Your God and My Dignity.

He captures better than I can the response to Jeb Bush’s demand to (as Michelangelo Signorile put it) ‘Respect’ My Opposition to Your Civil Rights Because ‘Religious Liberty’ — concerning same-sex marriage and religious scruples.

About why the existence of people who are unlike Christian Biblical fundamentalists, their mere existence, is not a threat to their religious liberty. Unlike vice versa. Gays are not threatening to shut down Christian churches. But Christians are happy to denigrate gays, especially Christian politicians.

Several likely [Republican] candidates — Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee — get a special gleam in their eyes when they’re denigrating gays, and Huckabee has perfected a stew of homophobia and puerility, on display in a new book of his that sounds like a collection of recipes by Paula Deen expressly for the N.R.A.: “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy.”

Christian fundamentalists in this country are practiced at claiming marginalization and oppression. “They’re always saying they’re kept out of the public square, and that’s baloney,” said Marci Hamilton, a constitutional law expert and the author of “God vs. the Gavel.” “They’re all over the public square.”

Interesting sideline: COLORADO: Wingnut Files Discrimination Complaint Against Pro-Gay Bakery

Some of the right-wing outrage in recent months has involved incidents in which bakeries, run by God-fearing Christians, have refused to bake cakes for the weddings of same-sex couples, on the grounds that their religious beliefs condemn same-sex couples. This kind of discrimination has not held up against the law, but here’s a curious reversal: someone went to a gay-run bakery in Denver and ordered a cake with numerous anti-gay slurs, and the bakery refused — though it did offer to bake the cake and provide an icing bag so the buyer could write those slurs himself. The bakery got hit with a discrimination complaint.

I’m thinking that legally, the two cases might be equivalent. But morally? (Does anyone have a moral sense here, or do Christians have no moral sense aside from what they read, very selectively, from Leviticus?) The Christians who disapproved of a wedding cake for a gay couple were against love. The Denver bakery who refused to make a cake covered with gay slurs was against hate. Those are not moral equivalents.

An op-ed from Thursday’s LA Times, by Phil Zuckerman, ‘Godless’ kids turn out just fine, nicely summarizes the theme of his recent book Living the Secular Life, which I read closely and blogged about here.

Far from being dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless without the security and rectitude of religion, secular households provide a sound and solid foundation for children … For secular people, morality is predicated on one simple principle: empathetic reciprocity, widely known as the Golden Rule. Treating other people as you would like to be treated. It is an ancient, universal ethical imperative. And it requires no supernatural beliefs.

I saw something today about how some religious folks point to North Korea as an examplar of an atheistic society. On the contrary; per the Washington Post, North Korea begins brainwashing children in cult of the Kims as early as kindergarten. Which is to say, North Korea is an ideologically driven culture that shields its citizens from outside points of view; it’s a cult of veneration of its leaders. Not unlike Orthodox Jews and Christian parents who home-school their children, in order to shield them from outside views.

On the contrary, as Zuckerman points out, the relatively atheistic societies in the world, those in Scandinavia, have the highest standards of living:

Democratic countries with the lowest levels of religious faith and participation today — such as Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Belgium and New Zealand — have among the lowest violent crime rates in the world and enjoy remarkably high levels of societal well-being. If secular people couldn’t raise well-functioning, moral children, then a preponderance of them in a given society would spell societal disaster. Yet quite the opposite is the case.

Alternet and Salon’s Valerie Tarico notes:

If the Bible were law, most people you know would qualify for the death penalty. The same can be said of the Quran.  The same can be said of the Torah. Believers who claim that Islam or Christianity or Judaism is a religion of peace are speaking a half-truth—and a naive falsehood.

At Slate, astronomer Phil Plait considers that Yup, a Climate Change Denier Will Oversee NASA. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

He’s refering to Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

“The GOP controls both sides of Congress, and is also the arguably the most anti-scientific group of politicians this country has seen in decades.”

And, via Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish, Steven Pinker identifies a passage from Shakespeare that presages modern psychological thinking about our limited understanding of the real world: that a man is “most ignorant of what he’s most assured”.

Finally, two resources; io9’s George Dvorsky has two posts recently, 8 Logical Fallacies That Fuel Anti-Science Sentiments and The 7 Most Intriguing Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of God, that explore familiar philosophical arguments in a casual way amenable to the 99.99% of the population who’ve never particularly thought about these issues before, and who succumb to the local mores and religions of their communities without thinking about them in any particular way.

(The broader news, e.g. about the Supreme Court agreeing to hear several cases involving state-sanctions against same sex marriage, which might portend a striking down of all such laws, just as all such laws about mixed-race marriage were struck down 50 years ago, is so widely reported I don’t need to comment.)

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