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Going to war

From the Los Angeles Times:

Faith 'War' Rages in U.S., Judge Says

A Bush nominee central to the Senate's judicial controversy criticizes secular humanists.

WASHINGTON — Just days after a bitterly divided Senate committee voted along party lines to approve her nomination as a federal appellate court judge, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown told an audience Sunday that people of faith were embroiled in a "war" against secular humanists who threatened to divorce America from its religious roots, according to a newspaper account of the speech.


"There seems to have been no time since the Civil War that this country was so bitterly divided. It's not a shooting war, but it is a war," she said ...

"These are perilous times for people of faith," she said, "not in the sense that we are going to lose our lives, but in the sense that it will cost you something if you are a person of faith who stands up for what you believe in and say those things out loud."


The Advocate quoted Brown as lamenting that America had moved away from the religious traditions on which it was founded.

"When we move away from that, we change our whole conception of the most significant idea that America has to offer, which is this idea of human freedom and this notion of liberty," she said.

She added that atheism "handed human destiny over to the great god, autonomy, and this is quite a different idea of freedom…. Freedom then becomes willfulness."

Is Brown is saying that humans must not be allowed to be their own masters, that they must hand their autonomy over to God? Is that what conservatives believe?

Maybe. Today Liberal Quicksand quotes Ronald Reagan:

Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience...without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure.

One has to wonder about the inner character of someone who needs external incentives to do the right thing. (One could also wonder, in a Kantian fashion, whether there's anything particularly admirable about doing the right thing for selfish reasons.) Or, as a quote attributed to Einstein puts it:

Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

Maybe man is in fact in a poor way. There are some conservatives who seem to think that the only thing standing between humans and uttery depravity is biblical law. During last year's Senate campaign in Illinois, Alan Keyes said that laws against gay marriage were necessary to prevent society from embracing the "selfish hedonism" of homosexuality. To which talk show host Bill Maher responded:

Which kind of makes it sound like he would like to suck a cock, but he just has a little too much discipline.

Actually, it sounds to me like those who proclaim the moral necessity of divine commands not only have the desire to engage in what they consider immoral acts, they don't even have the discipline not to--thus the need for external restraints.

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