Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Some amazing shit

#1: An informed, cogent explanation about why invading Iraq would be a bad idea... by Dick Cheney in 1998. Seriously.

#2: The brood sow is still at it. Welcome, Duggar child #17 -- another soldier for Christ. But see, there's a problem -- they have ten boys but only seven girls. "We would certainly be open to having more children," said proud papa Jim Bob. "The girls want to catch up with the boys now." Fortunately everything runs smooth as silk thanks to a household schedule and remembering the JOY rule (Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last). No comment. but I really can't wait until the complete biography by Kitty Kelly comes out in a few years after she finishes interviewing the grown kids. I can't even imagine how they will look back on their childhoods.

#3: It never ceases to amaze me that some of the most analytical and best-educated people in the world also carry around a broken set of mental machinery when it comes to thinking about people who are not part of their club. This applies of course to many people of all faiths as well as atheists. The problem is that humans like to have a set of rules to govern their lives and make them feel virtuous. A Catholic friend of mine said it best: "I think many people who are devoutly religious are often that way precisely because they value making clear distinctions between 'right and wrong.' Therefore, the impulse toward moral clarity trumps tolerance for human complexity." In other words, the more closely you adhere to your club's rules, the better a person you are. And it's a short step from feeling virtuous to feeling "morally superior" to people of other faiths, or even people of your own faith who don't follow all the rules as well as you do.

It's so much easier for devout people to interpret things literally -- e.g., fundamentalist Christians believing every work of the Bible is literally true -- than to grapple with the notion of how (as an individual or as a larger community) to follow the spirit rather than the letter of the law without feeling they're on a slippery slope of moral relativism. Or even more radical, to select some rules to follow and some to ignore altogether. It's tough even for secular types. For example, pretty much everyone agrees that "thou shalt not kill" is a good rule to follow, yet we have these debates over abortion and capital punishment, where many religious types oppose the former and support the latter. Where do you stop making exceptions? You can be more consistent by being pro-life and anti-abortion, but then what about killing animals? And if it's OK to kill them for food but not sport, which species are OK to kill, and what methods of killing are permissible and which are forbidden? Ponder these questions until next week's Yak Sermonette.

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