14 November 2017

Roy Moore and the holy war on the right

The accusations against Roy Moore have opened up a considerable divide on the right wing.  Old-line establishment Republicans (notably in the Senate) and sites like NRO have called on Moore to drop out, or for the party to back a write-in candidate.  But others have taken a different view.  37% of Alabama Evangelicals say the allegations make them more likely to support him, with a further 34% saying they make no difference.  One of my regular right-wing reads, traditionalist-Catholic LifeSite News (which had praised Moore's anti-gay and anti-abortion stances to the skies), ignored the accusations until yesterday, then finally posted this attack on their credibility.  Alabama's state auditor cited the Gospels to justify Moore's alleged behavior.  More than fifty Alabama pastors apparently signed a letter supporting Moore (see comment below from Marc McKenzie).  Breitbart, of course, is firmly in Moore's camp, posting article after article defending him and trashing his Republican critics.  The numerous commenters there almost all take the same positions, with startlingly greater vehemence.

What's striking to me is how closely the divide over Moore on the right correlates with the religious/secular divide.  The very people who generally exhibit an outright obsession with Christianity's sexual taboos are going all out to defend a man plausibly accused of sexual misbehavior that would have them foaming at the mouth with condemnation in most cases.  It's reminiscent of their willingness to overlook Trump's sexual and other moral transgressions.

This isn't really so surprising.  First, they've had plenty of previous opportunities to practice such hypocrisy.  Consider the many leading Christian Right personalities who have been caught in illicit behavior -- Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, George Rekers, Josh Duggar, Ted Haggard, a few zillion Catholic priests, and on and on.  Nor are such transgressions rare among less-prominent clerical figures.  But the importance Christianity gives to repentance and forgiveness provides a ready-made template for cutting the holy men plenty of slack, while that same fixation on the mental state of the "sinners" leaves little room for attention to their victims, who are reduced to mere stage props for the central story of the victimizer's fall and redemption.  Moore, whose long record of vehement hostility to gay rights, abortion, and separation of church and state puts most fundie preachers in the shade, fits this template perfectly.

Second, the Christian Right inevitably assesses politicians somewhat pragmatically, more interested in what they would do with power than in their personal morality.  If a politician credibly promises to attack gays, support creationism in the schools, force women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, and widen the holes they are always trying to gnaw through the Establishment Clause -- then they're willing to forgive him a great deal in other areas.  This accounts for the still-solid Evangelical support for Trump, who (unlike Moore) has never made much pretense of being personally religious.

So what's Breitbart's angle?  It's not an explicitly Christianist site.  However, I suspect that most of its readers are Christianists.  Its commenters are usually quick to defend hard-line Christian views, especially hostility to gays and abortion, whenever such subjects come up.  As for Bannon, I have no idea how religious he personally is, and I don't think it matters.  I stand by my description of him as "Trump with brains".  He has forcefully condemned secularism and atheism, and called for the re-imposition of "Judeo-Christian" "traditional values" upon Western culture, reversing the enlightenment and liberation of the last 400 years.  Whatever his ultimate goals, he knows where within the American right wing the most fierce and fervent culture warriors are to be found.

As for that old-line secular Republican establishment, don't count on them to act as a bulwark against the holy war Moore and people like him represent.  As I've observed before, they are cowards.  For all their obvious disdain for Trump, throughout 2016 they made only the most feeble and tentative efforts to stop him from claiming their nomination and then the Presidency.  Now that ten months in office have confirmed that he's as unqualified and dangerous as he seemed, these same establishment Republicans show no sign of getting on board with impeachment until Robert Mueller provides ironclad proof of what's already been obvious to every sane American for months.  And perhaps not even then.  They fear the wrath of the enraged Trumpanzee masses too much.  If Moore wins the election -- which is still a real possibility -- I expect they'll cave to him just as they did to Trump, and welcome him into the Senate as if all their current tough-sounding talk had never happened.


Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Great analysis. I've linked to it on P.E.

I, too, had a difficult time trying to figure out why the Evangelical Christians supported sexual predators and obvious religious charlatans like Trump and Moore, and then I read an actual quote by a Moore supporter where he said that he'd have voted for Moore for the senate even if he had shot President Obama.

There's not much anyone can do with that attitude except hope they all die out doon and that the younger, more enlightened take their place. I doubt anyone, no matter how clever, can introduce reason to that sort of irrationality.

14 November, 2017 12:09  
Blogger Kevin Robbins said...

It'll be a happy day when the only state a Republican can get elected in is Alabama.

14 November, 2017 14:16  
Anonymous Marc McKenzie said...

A well-written post--but a slight correction: the letter that was signed by the 50+ pastors turns out to have been...a fake. It appears that Moore's wife forged it, and that multiple people on the list are demanding that they be removed from it.

Still, I have to say that I sincerely hope that what is going on with Moore and the GOP for that matter drives the final nail into the coffin of the "Both parties are the same!" nonsense I keep seeing. You don't see Democrats doing anything like this.

14 November, 2017 17:44  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: Thanks for the link. That seems to be widely the case with modern fundamentalism (and hard-line Catholicism) -- morality as normal people understand it has been completely eclipsed in importance by the taboo system. Hate gays and abortion, and anything is forgivable.

Kevin: And an even happier one when even Alabama has woken up.

Marc: Thanks, I've noted the error.

Anybody who could cling to both-siderism after the rise of trump is utterly beyond hope, I think.

15 November, 2017 07:51  
Blogger Daniel Wilcox said...

Strong points. And you wrote, "What's striking to me is how closely the divide over Moore on the right correlates with the religious/secular divide. The very people who generally exhibit an outright obsession with Christianity's sexual taboos are going all out to defend a man plausibly accused of sexual misbehavior..."

It's even more absurd than that. Because in the past Christian leaders obsessed on Bill Clinton (and others) "sexual misbehavior" BUT all of those ethical choices were with adults.

Even Christian leaders' past defense of Newt Gingrich (who twice committed adultery, once when his wife at the time was dying of cancer!:-( isn't as bad as this current hypocrisy.

This Christian defense of Moore is much more like the Roman Catholic response to priests having sexual relations with young teens.

How could anyone defend a Christian leader, a 32 district attorney, who has alleged sexual relations with a 14 year old who had told her mother that he would watch over her?!
(Of course, his legal 'out' is that he didn't go all the way. BUT that was also true of the priests who did sexual actions to the young teens.

So really nothing new here. Christian leaders have been defending fellow Christians who engage in sexual misconduct for many years.

WHAT surprises me is the nearly complete condemnation of Ray Moore's actions by secularists (after you ferret out their hostility to right-wing politics).

Heck, in the last couple of years, I've gotten lambasted by secularists for stating that sexual misconduct--even rape!--is really ALWAYS wrong. In contrast, these secular leaders claim that all ethics are "subjective."

Some even claim that various unethical actions are only about subjective "like" or "dislike." According to them, even enslavement, slaughter, rape, etc. are no different than not liking coffee or tea or soda.

We need to promote the view of the Humanist Manifesto III, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Enlightenment view of thinkers such as Thomas Paine--
that humans have
"inherent value"
THAT ethics are real and molestation, sexual misconduct, statutory rape and adult rape are ALWAYS wrong.

15 November, 2017 07:59  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Daniel: For fundamentalists, it seems entirely a matter of whose ox is being gored. Accusations against, say, Bill Clinton or liberal Hollywood figures are automatically true and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Accusations against fellow fundamentalists are automatically lies and, even if they're true, whatever they did isn't really all that bad.

Many of the abuse cases involving Catholic priests, by the way, involve boys considerably younger than the teens, and unambiguous use of force.

I would be curious what "secular leaders" have claimed that "enslavement, slaughter, rape, etc. are no different than not liking coffee or tea or soda" (and I mean actually claiming that in clear language, not just saying something that can be remotely interpreted that way). The only people I can recall ever hearing saying such things were Satanists (and those individuals were very much fringe figures even among Satanists).

We have pretty solid evidence now that morality is an evolved instinct in humans -- it's inborn and doesn't require philosophy to support it (I've posted about this a couple of times). That a few individuals are apparently born without morality should be seen as a type of birth defect; that rather more individuals act against morality out of self-interest is no more surprising than the fact that we are capable of defying other instincts for various reasons.

In my own writing I use the word "morality" to mean this real morality, while using the word "taboo" to refer to the random and arbitrary prohibitions imposed by local religions and cultures -- against eating pork, homosexuality, trimming one's beard, speaking certain words, working on certain days of the week, etc.

If secularists are unanimous in condemning Moore, I'd attribute that partly to a good awareness of the distinction between morality and taboo (fervent religionists tend to conflate the taboos of their own religion with moral absolutes), and partly to the fact that most secularists are liberals, or at least not radical right-wingers, and thus have no vested interest in supporting someone like Moore.

15 November, 2017 08:56  
Blogger Daniel Wilcox said...

Infidel753, I'll respond to your thoughtful comment with a list (that way I don't start writing a long article by me in your blog comment box:-) (My wife always emphasizes to me to give her the "short" version.)

#1 I completely agree with your statement, "For fundamentalists, it seems entirely a matter of whose ox is being gored."
Look at evangelist Franklin Graham's statements about President Trump's bragging about committing adultery, and "grabbing"...etc.
Graham dismisses that as minor! But then in the same sentence calls Obama and Hilary "godless"!

#2 As for the priests, all the cases that I read-- a bunch-- dealt with, not little children but older kids, especially 12-13 year olds.

But I am not an authority on this. What url would you recommend which documents the fact that most of the priests' molestation were of young children?

#3 I hesitate even now (for the same reason in my first comment) to give you all the documentation because usually in the past, such discussions end up in legalese and the semantic jungle. Let me think on it some more. And I will need to search my computer files for the various statements by secularists. Bob Seidensticker at crossexamined

#4 I pretty much agree that morality came about through evolution. Heck, so did the human ability to think, reason, and compute, and invent, etc. BUT that doesn't mean that thinking, reasoning, computing, etc. aren't real.

Also, I have difficulty with secularists who claim that morality ONLY came through evolution. First, according to nearly all scientists, (including famous scientists who are theists), evolution as a process isn't "purposeful" in the sense that math is.

Secondly, if there is no basis for ethics inherent within reality or transcending matter and energy, then there is no basis for any version of ethics. Even Richard Dawkins, in several books and interviews, emphasized that he wouldn't want to live in a society based on evolution because evolution is often cruel, wasteful, and so forth.
(By the way, Dawkins did appear to agree that even rape isn't really wrong, but is only a subjective view. This occurred in an interview. I'll try and find the shocking interview. Dawkins, of course, is opposed to rape. Though I find his approving of mild molestation by a professor horrific:-( As an educator, besides being a human being, I think that any form of molestation, sexual relations with teens, etc. are ALWAYS WRONG.

#5 As a former anthropology major at university, I am very familiar with concepts such as "taboo." It appears that we agree on this.

#6 Then you wrote, "If secularists are unanimous in condemning Moore, I'd attribute that partly to a good awareness of the distinction between morality..."

BUT that is the shocking part to me, is that so many secularists DON'T think real "morality" exists. I first encountered this incredible view studying Sartre, Nietzsche, and other non-Enlightenment thinkers at university (the U of Neb., and Long Beach State).

One of the individuals I admired back then was a Marxist graduate student who to a very strong stand against injustice, etc.

In contrast, almost weekly I run across secularists now who make the horrific claims that I mentioned.

15 November, 2017 11:18  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Daniel, thanks for your response. Just for the record, I want to confirm that for me those kinds of questions (#1) are not just a matter of whose ox is being gored. I don't make excuses for people on "our side" when they are guilty of genuinely heinous things. See for example my obituary for Ted Kennedy.

#2: I haven't kept a lot of links about the Catholic priest molestation cases, but I've read a lot of stories about them over the years, the majority from outside the US. There have certainly been a lot of them involving boys around 8 or so. What age range predominated, I wouldn't know. As one example, this report on a large number of cases in Australia says the average age of victims there was 11. Certainly lots of cases I remember reading about in Europe and the US were younger.

#3: I did look at some of the links in your e-mail that seemed relevant. The people who were claiming that the Holocaust is morally comparable to preferences in trivial things are nuts, in my opinion, but this is the kind of rubbish that a few people generate when they get bogged down in airy philosophical abstractions instead of the pragmatic and concrete. Very few people do that (I certainly have no interest in it), and people that do are not typical of any general group of people, secular or otherwise. Using the same kind of abstract arguments, a person could equally well "prove" that love, hate, fear, etc. are unjustified on some abstract level, but so what? Those feelings are very real and most of the time we know well what causes us to feel them, just like with moral feelings. Most secular people never bother their heads with such meaningless word-games, just as most Christians, Muslims, etc. don't.

15 November, 2017 16:21  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

#4: By the same token, yes, morality did arise entirely by evolution -- there's nothing else it could have arisen from. And just like "thinking, reasoning, computing, etc.", yes, it is very real and the fact that it arose through evolution does not conflict with that. I can't imagine why it would. All our other instincts, and all the physical details of our bodies, arose through evolution, and they are certainly real.

It also doesn't matter that evolution is not purposeful. Evolution is an inevitable process in pretty much any population of organisms with heritable traits which work the way such traits do in life on Earth. It naturally tends to maximize traits which are conducive to survival under the prevailing conditions. It doesn't need to be purposeful to do that, any more than gravity needs to be purposeful to form stars and planets. (And as I argued here, yes, morality is a trait "conducive to survival under the prevailing conditions".)

Dawkins's point about not wanting to live in a society "based on" evolution reflects a similar observation. As his books emphasize, the process of evolution generates a vast amount of animal suffering. A human society which did nothing to mitigate the struggle for survival of the fittest would do the same. Evolution is a description of what does happen, not what should happen (science doesn't deal with "should" issues in that sense). Evolution is unpleasant and shouldn't be taken as a model to imitate. That doesn't change that fact that it is what happens under natural conditions.

(Fair warning: Dawkins is probably the person I admire most. I have most of his books and have read them cover-to-cover several times.)

#6: My remark about secularists here referred to people like the politicians, bloggers, and members of the public who have condemned Moore's alleged behavior, not the kind of navel-gazing twits you were arguing with.

I think I somewhat misunderstood what you were saying about "secularists say X-Y-Z" because I misjudged the type of debate you were referring to. As I said, I'm interested in the practical and pragmatic. I post about moral issues like "if the Catholic Church is so infested with people who engage in child abuse on a large scale, that means there's something fundamentally malignant about it". I'm not interested in arguing about things like "can we prove child abuse is bad" -- that kind of question reminds me of, as some wag once described it, "arguing about whether it's OK to shout 'theater' when you're in a crowded fire". Most people I deal with, secularist or otherwise, are the same way. Secularists who "don't think morality exists" are "so many" only in a very narrow and non-representative context.

15 November, 2017 16:21  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

PS: For another example of what I mean by not wanting a society based on evolution, or nature generally, see here. It really doesn't matter to me whether things like illiteracy, ignorance, famine, lack of modern medicine, etc. are "immoral" -- most people would say they aren't, strictly speaking. The point is, they cause suffering and it's in our nature to want to minimize suffering.

15 November, 2017 16:29  
Blogger Daniel Wilcox said...

Thanks for recommending your article on nature! Gets the point across very well.

I'm going to keep that handy for all the people I meet who speak so appreciatively of "Mother Nature."

And you wrote, "Dawkins is probably the person I admire most. I have most of his books and have read them cover-to-cover several times.)"

I've read 8 of his books. What a brilliant biologist and powerful writer! (My BA is in Writing. I wish I had the ability to write such lucid prose on difficult subjects.

Have you read The Ancestor's Tale?
I think that tome on the history of evolution by Dawkins is one of the 5 best science books of the last 50 years.

15 November, 2017 21:16  
Anonymous PsiCop said...

Re: "As for that old-line secular Republican establishment, don't count on them to act as a bulwark against the holy war Moore and people like him represent. As I've observed before, they are cowards."

Yes, they're cowards ... and then some! They largely created monsters like Moore. They've courted militant Christianism for decades. They tolerated hypocrisy among them for almost as long. They did it because rank-&-file Christianists voted for them, reliably. They were an electorate that granted them control over government (both federal, and most of the states).

Put more metaphorically, needing someone to work some magic in their favor, they let the genie out of the bottle, got their wish (i.e. political power), but now want the genie back in the bottle so they can run the show without him. Well, it doesn't work that way! The genie doesn't want to be bottled up again. He plans to do what he wants, and has made the GOP "establishment" his slaves, now.

They, and they alone, created the mess they now find themselves in. They can try to fix it, but being the cowards they are, you can bet they'll refuse (aside from occasional lip-service).

16 November, 2017 08:13  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Daniel: Thanks! And yes, I've read The Ancestor's Tale several times. A very effective work.

PsiCop: Yes, the monster is out of control and turning on its creators. They should have anticipated that, but foresight isn't their strong point. I guess they're too fixated on the past.

16 November, 2017 15:43  
Blogger Dave Dubya said...

We are talking about people who would literally vote for a Hitler over a Democrat.

"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life." - Adolph Hitler "My New World Order" - Proclamation to the German Nation, Berlin, February 1, 1933

On October 10, 1936 Heinrich Himmler created the Reich Central Office for Combating Homosexuality and Abortion, or Special Office (II S), a sub-department of Executive Department II of the Gestapo.

They drink the same kool-ade "good Germans" drank in the 1930's. They believe Trump's lie about "very fine people" marching with Nazis in Charlottesville. Not only CAN it happen here, it is happening here. It's only a matter of degree, opportunity, and the obstacles in that pesky Constitution.

Besides the abundant "Christian" hate for liberals and anyone they don't understand, there's another reason for this disconnect of morality and reason.

The hypocrisy of far Right fundamentalists is also explained by the fact most of them are authoritarian personalities. Double standards are found in every strata of their "morality".

It's OK if you are Republican (IOKIYAR) also applies to authoritarian fundamentalists.

I highly recommend John Dean's book "Conservatives Without Conscience" for a brilliant examination of what makes them tick.

17 November, 2017 12:36  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

people who would literally vote for a Hitler over a Democrat

All too apparent, given the nature of Trump's campaign.

The Nazi regime also banned the works of Darwin and of the German evolutionary biologist Ernst H├Ąckel; works which disrespected Christianity; and those which expressed a hedonistic or non-traditional view of sexuality. All very much in the same spirit as the modern fundamentalist right wing in the US.

There's an abundance of hypocrisy in the upper reaches of the Saudi and Iranian theocracies as well. More birds of a feather.

17 November, 2017 17:02  
Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Authoritarian birds all the way. They are everywhere.

It's an alarming fact that over 20% of a given population has authoritarian personality
tendencies, whether as leaders or followers.

We know who they are.

Aldous Huxley's sane society in "Island" separated child bullies and "Peter Pans" for remedial training in compassion.

Our society has yet to understand what authoritarianism really is. It's not taught in school and not mentioned in corporate media.

This is what I would teach our citizens and students.

The Rise of American Authoritarianism

by Amanda Taub

March 1, 2016

A niche group of political scientists may have uncovered what's driving Donald Trump's ascent. What they found has implications that go well beyond 2016.

17 November, 2017 18:21  

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