Thursday, February 9, 2012

Arguing with Intelligent Imbeciles

Social networking has its advantages and disadvantages.  Among the latter are the occasional dispute one gets dragged into with someone you think is an imbecile; perhaps an intelligent imbecile, but an imbecile nonetheless.

That's a harsh judgment, and I'm sure I'm wrong about the person I disputed with, who I don't even know.  But, uses of government power inspire passions for and against, and those who meet the outrage of those imposed upon with "tut-tut-you've-got-it-all-wrong" protestations are apt to provoke a reaction.  

I fell into the trap the other night on a facebook friend's post--another person I don't know--and want to unburden myself of the exchange.  It angered and frustrated me, and left a bitter taste in my mouth.  Ptooey.

Undoubtedly, it's not the last argument I'll get into this election year, given that President Obama keeps pushing, pushing, pushing.  The names have been changed to protect innocent and guilty alike.  The exchange started, thus:  
Mr. Bennet: Why is it that liberals insist that atheists be protected from any sign of religion, say a kid voluntarily invoking Jesus's name in commencement speech or a Nativity scene on public property, but believe that Christians should be forced to subsidize, not merely tolerate, things they find to be immoral?
I was shutting down the computer, anxious to see a movie with my family when I saw it.  I was already in a bad mood over the Obama Administration's most recent outrage against people he considers to be bitter clingers to the their guns and religion.

That would be the ObamaCare directive mandating that everyone cooperate with evil--according to their own lights, which they are entitled to under our system of government--by funding it.
Me/Mr. Darcy: Because they are bigots. If it weren't religion they hated, it would be something else. 
I picked up Democracy in America last night, and de Tocqueville underscores a rich and applicable irony in his 12th (and last) introduction. The Church, which has been a prime mover in the epochal movement towards equal conditions found itself at odds with the means and movement that swept democracy into France. Meanwhile, citizens for liberty found themselves attacking the Church and religion against their own principles because they identified the Church as an enemy of democracy. The Church realized long ago that it can live with any democracy that leaves it space to be itself. Citizens for liberty have yet to learn that just because the Church teaches things they don't like, that doesn't give them the right under our Constitution to shut it down or harass it.
That's when my night got darker.  Someone reminding me too much of Gary Wills began pontificating in response to the original question-framed lament.

Enter Mr. Collins:
Because you're simultaneously exaggerating this "atheist" sensitivity and failing to understand the separation between church and state embedded in the Constitution. There are certainly watchdog groups who complain about things that don't really bother anyone, but it has been in REACTION to the attempt at overreaching since the so called "moral majority" took control under Pat Robertson's political machine. Their agenda was more than to allow "In God We Trust" to stay minted on our coins or to keep "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, they affirmatively attempted to merge their form of Christian teaching into public classrooms where teachers should lead the entire class in Christian prayer. So you see a push back to such radicalism.
On the issue of health care, you're free to disagree with the principle of an individual mandate, but you'd be wrong on the fundamentals of the economics behind health care. I'm sorry if you don't want your church members to be covered for birth control but the good news is that they certainly don't have to take any. Moreover, your church can self insure if they so choose. But they can't ask to opt out of the mandate to purchase private health insurance if they also want to participate in a society that would pass the costs of the uninsured on to the rest of us. I have no doubt the Christian Scientists are really having a difficult time with this considering they think almost every form of modern medicine is a sin against God.
I forgot to add -- you already do subsidize birth control in so many ways it makes the rationale silly. You're using false outrage over money as a guise for the fact you don't want any women to have access to birth control and you also seemingly don't trust the members of your own church to follow church teachings.

Would you even try to frame an argument that eliminates subsidizing every road to a pharmacy, Bennet??
I took offense at his answer for many reasons, including his dismissal of the grievance as an exaggeration; pedantic ascription of any misconception to Bennet's ignorance; tendentious and specious rendering of history; smug air of superiority; flippant disregard for my Church and its teachings; mischaracterization of a conscience issue as a money issue supposedly cloaking a misogyny issue; and his snarky insult, again, of my Church.

God forgive me, I took the bait.
Collins, you're wrong on your history. Christian prayer in public schools was the norm until the Court read it your way in 1963. The secular humanist attack on religion in the public square long antedates the moral majority, which is merely reaction. 1925's Pierce case indicates that anti-Catholic bigotry was already a social force, though not a successful one in that instance. 
1947's Everson case--Roosevelt's lefty court--marks the foray into anti-Catholic bigotry that has resulted in what Bennet decries: an understanding of the Wall of Separation that always works against the Catholic Church, and never the State that beats on it incessantly.

Your blithe dismissal of the tyranny inherent in narrowing the exception for a violated conscience makes me assume that you don't mind a little tyranny, as long as it doesn't gore your ox. 
There are simultaneously too many suppositions and restrictions loaded into your conclusion about the economics of health care to make it worth while trying to unpack it all for you. Suffice it to say that a market approach to health care would be the best way to achieve what we all say we want: cheap, affordable and good health-care for everyone. 
Most conservatives suspect that when liberals strive for government control of healthcare, its really control they're after, not health care.  The HHS mandate proves the point.
Unfortunately, I had entered a futile discourse with that species of person second in obnoxiousness only to the guest that wouldn't leave (reference to John Belushi's skit on SNL): the heavily indoctrinated, semi-automatic retorting machine with too narrow a mind, too prejudiced a view, and too much time on his hands.  Collins responded:
Darcy, we can go back to Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Dansbury Baptist's who were begging him for clarification because they were seeking safe haven from the congregationalists.

You can review any and all of our founding documents and you won't find one single reference to the divinity of Jesus. This simply is not a Christian nation, it is a secular nation; where the government is to pay equal respect to every religion or lack thereof.

The long and windy history of the issue doesn't change that and it doesn't change the fundamental meaning of the Constitution. I live in the buckle of the Bible belt and from my view I can assure you that religion is live and well. You have your tax breaks. You have your privacy. You have your freedom. You even have many of your values embedded into law. Congratulations. You should rejoice.

You're wise not to try to unpack my statement of economics on the individual mandate. You're not so wise to fling the word "tyranny"around so loosely. I suppose under your line of thinking, any form of taxation is a form of tyranny. In that spirit, we have been such tyrants to senior citizens who rely on social security and Medicare -- a tax payer funded health delivery system with a 1% overhead that still runs massive deficits because of the soaring cost of private care.

It's also interesting how the conservative position evolved on this from the Newt and Dole proposals for an individual mandate to their new position that agrees with your claim of tyranny. *Head Scratch*
The challenge regarding explicit references to Jesus in the founding documents tipped me to the man's problem: Christophobia.  Like too many secularists, he opposes the Catholic Church because it teaches in the name of the person with whom his real fight lies, Jesus Christ.

Note the non sequitur: if there is no specific mention of Jesus, this is not a Christian nation.  Ergo, if someone at the time of your birth didn't specifically mention your mother, the woman you think of as mom isn't your mother.

Fallacious reasoning aside, intellectual integrity would require that he consult constitutional history beyond just the secularist rendering of it he's comfortable with.  A perusal of Zorach v. Clausen (1952), for instance--which maintained that "We are a religious people whose institutions presume a supreme being"--would be enlightening.  He undoubtedly knows the quote from Bowers v. Hardwick.

Moreover, the point isn't that Christianity deserves special treatment under its founding documents.  It's that it doesn't deserve special maltreatment because it teaches a different doctrine than that favored by the Leftists in power.  

Non-mentions of Jesus are inapposite to the issue, as are non-mentions of Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed or Zarathustra.  No group deserves to be singled out by using law to coerce it to cooperate with evil.

It is one thing to be a secular nation, which doesn't need to treat Christianity as an enemy.  Secularism is another concoction entirely, one the founding fathers didn't imbibe.

The difference is analogous to the one between science and scientism, utility and utilitarianism, etc.  The narrowing of an insight to a single, obsessive interpretive focus is ideology, and nobody does that better to worse affect than secularists, feminists and other anti-Catholics.

Note his idea of a secular nation: one where government pays equal respect to religion, irreligion, and anti-religion.  That interpretation hasn't worked too well for religion, which always gets the slight end of a double standard.

On the other hand, it's been a great scam for atheists, and those who fear Jesus Christ.  The government treats all religions with equal disregard and, in the age of Obama, contempt.  The burden falls disproportionately on Christians, because we constitute a vast majority of the country.

By now, I was losing what little patience I had.
Collins, your interpretation of Jefferson's letter is the official secular version. My point was that the Supreme Court rejected that interpretation, and that the Constitution was not utilized to extirpate religion from the public square in conformity with secular lights until 1947.  Justice Black is your man. Unfortunately for the rest of us, Roosevelt's first pick for the Court was a Catholic-hating Ku Klux Klanner.

The US has always been a religious nation. The federal constitution respected that fact by staying neutral as to a national Church, which most European nations had experience with. It was understood that the States could establish Churches--9 of them had an established church at the time of ratification. The limited federal government was to stay above the fray, not jump into it to squash every religious expression that rubs up against public money. It is only after the civil war amendments and the doctrine of incorporation that the federal government assumed its gargantuan proportions and deigned to run roughshod over the religious sentiments of people, ironically and unhistorically in the name of Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists.
Darcy, there's no other interpretation of the letter's content. The only question is regarding it's significance. But I don't even need the letter. Our founding fathers were deliberately trying to flee a society where religion was imposed by the government. Many of the members were atheists and/or Deists. If you can find me ANY reference to Jesus in ANY of our founding documents, please cite it for me. In fact, when the motion was raised to offer the opening of each day's session with a morning prayer (I believe by Ben Franklin), it was soundly defeated.
It was downhill from there.

Collins, it's not wisdom that prevents me from teaching you economics. It's boredom. For the record, I do not equate taxation with tyranny. I equate the squelching of consciences that will not conform to the zeitgeist with tyranny. All that the federal government gains by forcing Catholic hospitals to cover contraception and abortifacients is the rush one gets from exercising raw, coercive power on perceived enemies. The economic benefits from capturing the 5%-or-so of health plans that don't already cover lust sins is negligible. The point is to make the church bend to the Leftist State's libidinous will. Everyone should be able to see through their own prejudices to understand that. 
You're simply wrong on the history. Most of the members were believers living in states with established churches. Think about that for a moment before blurting cant from the secularist handbook.

If you'd like, I'll be happy to send you something I wrote about the practice of Thanksgiving initiated by George Washington to commemorate passage of the constitution you say is so protective against religion. 
There have always been anti-religiouys grumps in America. They've (you've?) only had the upper hand for the past 50 years. Is recognition of the historical tenuousness of your claims what makes you so reluctant to see tyrannical bigotry against Catholics when your government practices it?

BTW, this conservative has never been for socialized medicine or anything resembling it. Neither is Newt Gingrich my man now, nor Bob Dole then.
America's roots are so secular, in fact, that the Pilgrims gave thanks to "God" in 1621; President George Washington gave thanks to "Almighty God" in 1789; President John Adams gave thanks to "Almighty God," the "Redeemer," and the "Holy Spirit" in 1798; President Thomas Jefferson gave thanks to "that Being in whose hands we are" in 1805: President James Madison gave thanks to the "Great Parent and Sovereign of the Universe" in 1813; and President Abraham Lincoln gave thanks to the "Almighty Father" and "Divine Majesty" in 1863.  Presumably, all of this was done in public to flee government imposition of religion.

Wow. Well, the economics behind health care certainly is not boring to me, but alright. I'm glad you don't think general taxation is tyranny. You're using colorful language to say precisely what I said above -- you're using the false outrage of money (as you say, the negligible economic benefits) as a guise to push your religous agenda into the forum of medicine. You don't think God likes birth control. So, if it's really not about the money, then just tell your women not to take the pill !! Or you have the option to self-insure. But private health insurers are going to offer coverage for contraceptives.

And I'm sorry you're simply wrong on Newt. Not only did he support an individual mandate to purchase health insurance, he hosted seminars you can watch on Youtube going into great detail about the economics behind his reasoning.

The economics is an absolute no-brainer. And even he knew that until he pretended to forget when he decided to run for President.

Please. Grumps? Please look at who it is that's complaining.

The Constitution does reflect society. It isn't a dead, static document like textualists would like.
Gadzooks! This man really can't see that it is the principle regarding the limits of State power over individual consciences and the Church, not the money, that is at issue.  He knows nothing about the protective Wall of Separation that preserves the Church from State intrusion, which is how Roger Williams and other pre-revolutionary leaders used the metaphor.

There is none so blind as he who will not see.  Secularist indoctrination has so truncated my interlocutor's understanding that he imputes coercive intent to people he is content to have government coerce.

To his mind, the State does not push a secularist agenda onto medicine and private institutions by mandating that people opposed to contraceptives, abortions and sterilization cooperate with evil by subsidizing them.  On the other hand, a private institution that won't subsidize activity it believes to be intrinsically evil, even though it hires people who engage in it, is guilty of pushing a religious agenda.

Even if that contorted way of viewing reality were correct, is there some reason why a religious institution shouldn't be able to make reasonable rules in its own house?  When the government makes it illegal to act in accordance with one's principles, or when it presumes to tell people whose arguments have a much longer and more illustrious pedigree than its own that their beliefs are neither reasonable nor permissible, it has badly (dangerously, tyrannically, unconstitutionally) overstepped its bounds.

Nobody has to work for a Catholic institution.  Is it too much to ask people who do to pay for their own sex lives, or if they need someone else to pay for them, to choose another employer?  To answer in the affirmative would be the height of folly, and illustrate an overblown entitlement mentality in full blown metastasis.

Barring a miracle conversion on his part--on the part of those who think like him--there is no way these disagreements will be resolved without great turmoil and strife.  The usual price of peace--that religious believers accept whatever abuse, indignity and maltreatment is thrown their way--has become too expensive in President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Kathleen Sibelius, Janet Napolitano, Van Jones, and Kevin Jenning's America.

At the end of the day, President Obama's State must cede so that Liberty for people who aren't Statists, deviants, feminists or revolutionaries (in a word, normal people) may once again breathe freely.  Yet, Collins thinks it is the Constitution that must live and breathe--in Justice Brennan's felicitous and self-serving turn of phrase--so that more liberty may be taken away from religious people and redistributed to sexual libertines and assorted anti-Catholic bigots.

I'd had enough:
Collins, you're not understanding me. And, it's Saturday night and I'm going to watch a video with my children rather than explain why an individual mandate may be the best way to spread an ever escalating cost onto to an overburdened and underserved populace, but it directly impedes development of a system that produces cheap, affordable, available and good health care for everyone.
I know that Newt was for that. I said that I wasn't for Newt.
Finally, there is absolutely nothing false about my outrage. And, you and your's had better understand that before you push any further. The Catholic-hating left is so far out of American bounds as to be a menace to liberty.

Good night, Collins. We can pick it up some other time. I can't help making a final remark on Justice Brennan's living, breathing constitution, though, which remarkably only breathes with its Left lung.
I forgot to mention that even were Statist healthcare a great idea, we can't afford another entitlement program. We can't even afford the ones we had before ObamaCare.

I'm not suggesting your moral outrage is false, I'm saying your financial outrage is -- and you've admitted that much. Bennet's original post complains not that birth control is available, but that you are subsidizing it. That's a financial objection. And as I said, there's no more of a subsidy of birth control under health care then there is of public roads that lead to pharmacies. 
I don't know or associate with anyone who hates anyone including Catholics. So I take exception with that tone.

Good night, Darcy. We can end at an agreement on the left lung. I guess the only question remains whether it should breathe or not.

One approach to contitutional interpretation I've found insightful is the observation that general principles aren't just necessary to actually give meaning to the content of the words in the document, but it's actually required to give the document it's legitimacy.

The original Articles of Confederation required that every state agree to overrule it. But the constitutional congress only required 9 out of 13 states to ratify in order to make the document binding. Only if you apply a broader principle of popular sovereignty can one argue for the Constitution to even possess the supremacy we all agree it has.
Who has the time or energy to dialog with someone whose every thought is controvertible?  I certainly don't.  It is especially distasteful when the other person is a clodpoll, and pedantic bore.

He took my reference to the paltry financial contribution Catholic plans would make to funds available for sin-care--which indicates that lowering the per/capita cost of it cannot be the motivation behind the ObamaCare directive--to be an admission that my outrage was financial in basis.  What an imbecile, intelligence notwithstanding!

I overlooked the tendentious remarks regarding what I had supposedly admitted to; the gravamen of my objection; his taking exception to my tone (which reminded me of George Stephanopoulos's complaint to Cokie Roberts about pro-lifers: "It's the tone, Cokie, it's the tone."); his sleight-of-hand appropriation of the Constitution's legitimacy without an examination of whose meaning, what content, and which principles are the legitimating ones; etc.

I was briefly tempted to answer with a quip about Madison's "Memorial and Remonstrance," which secularists have invoked since the 1940's to justify their finding of a freedom from religion in the 1st Amendment that explicitly protects freedom of religion.  The gravamen of Madison's jeremiad was financial: that it's none of his State's business to force people to pay for something religious (or, by extension, anti-religious) that they might object to--in that instance, proportionally distributed tax revenues to Virginia churches for sustenance of clergy.

I thought better of it, and happily watched a movie with my children.  I think it was Roman Holiday, a superb film.

A recent Facebook exchange between the same two people, which I stumbled onto while digging for the one quoted above, involved the same principle: government's invidious discrimination against Christians.

I wonder why Christians are supposed to fund abortion and birth control and support same sex marriage but atheists and liberals don't have to put up with Nativity Scenes on public property?
Is Rockefeller Square private property ?? There's a MASSIVE Christmas Tree right on that public park.

And you're not required to support gay marriage. You can just support convicted murderers and rapists get married for the fourth or fifth time. That's how fundamental the right is.

Nobody has ever asked your Church to perform a gay marriage.
Note the same response as before: what you think just isn't real.  You're imagining things.

Despite the ACLU's annual assault on public creches, and the Supreme Court's opinion in Allegheny County v. ACLU (1989) (holding that a creche on Pittsburgh's Allegheny County grand staircase violated the U.S. Constitution, but that an 18 ft. Hanukkah Menorah placed just outside of the building next to a 45 ft. Christmas tree didn't), there is apparently no discrimination against Christians in federal law or constitutional jurisprudence.

Just because every sinew of Statist muscle is perpetually flexed towards coercing the Church to bend to its will, Catholics have not been forced, yet, to perform gay marriages. Alleluia.  That alone is an indirect proof of the existence of God.

Nevertheless, the secular bigots don't get it.  They never will.  I'd just as soon spend my time reasoning with a baboon as I would with a Liberal.  The baboon's mind is more open, and consequently more capable.

It's time for another tea party in America, one that makes 2009-2010 look like a mild remonstrance by comparison.  Freedom-loving Americans will understand that it's not just about the money.


  1. Please be careful that your hate for "liberals" does not gobble you up and make you do things worse than calling an obviously intelligent person an imbecile. :-(

    1. This makes no sense. Collins was a typical internet idiot, willing to engage in fallacious argument, twist facts and history, and willfully distort his interlocutor's position so that he could continue to mouth babble. Life is too short to respect the intelligence of people like that.