Thursday, November 8, 2012


"I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in "A," "B," "C," and "D." Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism."
--Barry Goldwater

Generally speaking, the people I work with don't talk about politics much. But some people just couldn't help themselves on election day (especially when Obama won Ohio...), and since I live in a (very) red state, the inevitable anti-liberal rhetoric began to spew. Some of it was amusing in the same way that high school football team rivalries can be amusing. A few comments caught my attention, though, and I feel they are relevant to this blog.

The first comment was by a co-worker who had spent some time in the military, and despite seeming to be some-what in favor of gay rights, thinks repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a huge step backwards for civil rights. Their reasoning is that by repealing DADT, gays will now face more prejudice in the military, which is apparently filled with "not the most politically correct people".

They even gave an example of a gay person they knew personally who was charged with sexual harassment for looking at someone in the shower (something which apparently was impossible when DADT was in place). According to this person, DADT "was there for a reason". This is like saying we should not have ended the segregation of schools in the 60s because some people are racist pricks.

Now, assuming everything this person said about the military is true, the argument that DADT should be in place because it protects gays from some forms of discrimination seems to fall apart upon closer examination. DADT was a band aid on a compound fracture. The root problem is homophobia in the military.

I think the best way to fight prejudice of any stripe is to expose it and make it part of public discourse. This is one of the ways through which Feminists and Blacks gained so much ground in the last century. Superficial and arbitrary laws like segregation and DADT don't help in the long run--they simply allow prejudice to fester.

Anecdotal stories like the gay person in the shower being sued for harassment sounds compelling, but again, it is evidence of the greater issue which DADT was masking. Honestly, even though this person is going through a legal battle over something which should not be an issue, this is still a sign of progress. Without DADT in the way, people can now hash out these disputes through the legal system and begin to set legal precedent in the fight against homophobia. This is very important. As more cases go court, the better our legal system will be able to combat prejudicial suits.

A big part of the problem seems to stem from the rise of Evangelical Christianity within the military. This particular brand of Christianity is notoriously homophobic, so it is no wonder that homophobia in the military would be proportional to it.

Here is a blog post from an American soldier on the first openly gay general in the US military.

The second comment from work which struck me was from another pro-Romney co-worker: "I had a really good feeling about this election. I even prayed about it".

Mormons have a tendency to over-emphasize the power of prayer. By this I mean that they think prayer actually has power. Mormon culture is such that if you sincerely pray about something and have a "good feeling" about it, this counts as an answer to that prayer, and one should assume that god will act accordingly.

I have posted on the failure of prayer before, so I won't go into detail about that. But I would like to point out that because this person had a "good feeling" about this prayer and things didn't pan out, one would think this would be a tally against god's track record. Not so in Mormonism.

Like many other religious denominations, Mormons only keep track of the answered prayers, and then rationalize away any prayers which go unanswered (i.e. "it wasn't time", or "some times god says 'no'"). This is called the "sharpshooter fallacy" (counting hits, ignoring misses), and is especially prevalent among those with strong biases.

So, will this failed prayer challenge the faith of my co-worker? Not very likely. She will probably find some excuse for why god seemingly told her "yes," but didn't follow through. Further down the road she will likely share the experience during a Sunday School lesson as a faith-building trial, which now bolsters her resolve that god is real. Such is the mind-state of the irrational.


Here is Obama repealing DADT:

Here is Bill Maher on DADT (mildly offensive, but amusing):

And, last but not least, an entire episode of the Atheist Experience on the failure of prayer:

No comments: